|Castroville and Del Monte Junction on a 1915 USGS map.|
The town's lots were sold at auction to anyone who could build upon them in 1870 and the Southern Pacific Railroad passed through the settlement two years later, in 1871. At the time, this was the railroad's primary route between San Francisco and Los Angeles, though in later years it would become a part of the Salinas Sub-Division of the Coast Division. At the same time, Castro became county supervisor for the region and money began trickling in to help develop the community. By 1875, the town had 900 residents operating out of two hotels, five mercantile stores, three saloons, a flour mill, two blacksmith shops, a newspaper, two churches, and many other structures. A post office was established by 1873, bolstered by the presence of the railroad. Castro hoped to attract the Southern Pacific into turning its small station into a full-fledged freight yard, but Salinas was cheaper and the railroad set-up shop there. For a time, Castroville was just another stop on the route between Gilroy and Salinas.
Castroville developed over the next century as a mostly agricultural stop, with Chinese laborers brought in early on to help in the fields and to clear out sloughs and marshes. Claus Spreckles maintained a number of sugar beet fields in the area, and used both the Southern Pacific and Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad to haul his goods to Watsonville or Spreckles for processing. In 1922, Andrew Molera planted artichokes in Castroville and it has since become their primary industry, known worldwide.
|Castroville Station's long freight house in 1948. The hay-day of Castroville is at an end and the station is primarily a stop|
along the Monterey Branch and the mainline. (Wilbur Whittaker)
Castroville served as second function beginning in October 1874 as the northern terminus of the Salinas Valley Railroad, which ran to Monterey. This narrow-gauged private road was sold to the Southern Pacific Railroad in December 1879, who standard-gauged it within a few years and merged it completely into the parent company in March 1888.
Sometime around 1913, the popularity of the Monterey Branch, popularly known as the Del Monte Branch for the Del Monte Hotel, grew so large that the Southern Pacific renamed Castroville to "Del Monte Junction". The station reverted back to Castroville in January 1929 when most of the regular service between Castroville and Pacific Grove was replaced by bus service.
The main customer at Castroville was always the agricultural industry, and today there is still one spur to a former local industry located near Commercial Parkway. Other spurs still exist as well, with traces of even more visible on overhead satellite views of the large freight yard. While Castroville no longer has a station structure, it does still function as a holding yard for some nearby businesses, and both a siding and a spur remain operable and in use. Meanwhile, the now spiked track to the Monterey Branch, which still exists in a disconnected state, parallels parts of Del Monte Avenue on its southern end.
Official Railroad Information:
Castroville Station was 110.4 miles from San Francisco via Gilroy and San José and 10.0 miles from Watsonville Junction. It first appeared on the earliest Southern Pacific timetables of the route. By 1899 it had full telegraph and phone service, a class-A freight depot with a platform, and a 6-siding yard with a water tower. In 1940, the yard had expanded to include over a mile of siding and spur trackage. With realignment of the tracks in the late 1940s, the station shifted to 106.5 miles from San Francisco. A wye was added to the stop around 1960. Passenger service to the stop ended prior to 1974, at which time the yard had 6,300 feet of siding and spur space.
Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36˚N 45' 29.18", 121˚W 44' 38.48"
Castroville Station was located at the northeast corner of Del Monte Avenue and Blackie Road along what is now Cara Mia Parkway. The structure has since been removed. The freight yard itself parallels the entirety of Del Monte Avenue, beginning just south of where State Route 156 crosses the tracks.
Citations & Credits:
- Clovis, Margaret. Images of America: Monterey County's North Coast and Coastal Valleys. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.
- Rice, Walter and Emiliano Excheverria. Images of Rail: Rails of California's Central Coast. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2008.