Friday, August 21, 2015

Light House Road & Sard

Booth's Cannery beside Fisherman's Wharf, c. 1910. (Sanborn Map)
The Pacific Grove Extension of the Monterey Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad's Coast Division was first constructed in 1889, with a new end-of-track installed at the sand quarry at Lake Majella. Initially, much of the area through which the railroad passed along this branch was sparsely populated and the railroad, for whatever reason, decided to place regularly-spaced flag-stops along the extension on its way to Pacific Grove. The second such station, after Custom House, was called Light House Road. While the precise location of this stop cannot be determined with certainty, since it was only an Additional Station and never a full-fledged stop, it can be guessed that it sat along a 0.1 mile stretch of right-of-way that paralleled today's Lighthouse Avenue near Fisherman's Wharf. At the time there was little built in that area, but the small McAbee Beach below the right-of-way did serve as a place for fishermen to moor their boats. Regardless the purpose, the station did not last and disappeared as early as 1891 from all company records, it's place in the history of the Monterey Branch generally forgotten.

Booth's Monterey Packing Company, c. 1905. The railroad tracks can be seen passing behind the cannery. (See Monterey)

By 1896, things in this area were picking up. The fishing industry in Monterey was growing rapidly and a man named Frank E. Booth, a former cannery owner along the Sacramento River, decided to establish the first cannery in the town. Not entirely sure what he was doing, Booth began by canning salmon at a small facility in town. This haphazard cannery burned down in 1903, possibly due to arson by disgruntled workers who wanted him to can sardines. In response, Booth purchased the waterfront property of H.R. Robbins, a San Franciscan who had built his own cannery beside Fisherman's Wharf in 1901 but failed to make a profit. Booth doubled the size of the cannery and expanded the types of fish he canned. His new venture was called the Monterey Packing Company.

The back of the Monterey Packing Company in 1940, just prior to demolition. The railroad tracks in the foreground may mark the location of Sard station, or that may have been slightly further down track. Photo by Don Ross.
(WPA Federal Arts Project / San Francisco Museum of Modern Art)
Booth's methods were crude and not overwhelmingly healthy, and the stench from his cannery led the town to mandate that all future facilities be built downwind along Ocean View Avenue, a place that would become known as Cannery Row. Although his facility was now much larger, his canning ability was still wanting. In response, Booth hired Knut Hovden, a professional fisherman, to reform his facility and improve its machinery. To expedite the canning process, he invented a soldering machine that would quickly seal the cans of fish and automated the cooking and cutting process. Booth also hired a fleet of Sicilian fishermen to catch the fish for canning. Within a few years, Booth owned a second cannery. He shipped 70,000 cases of cans in 1912 alone. The Monterey sardine, the especially long species of sardine native to the Monterey Bay, was first exported to Asia by Booth in 1915. Booth doubled the size of his cannery again in 1910, expanding it out over the water beside the wharf, while also expanding the wharf itself to support the increased demand for fish. Demand for Monterey sardines soared in 1914 when the import of French sardines—the most popular type at the time—were halted by France due to World War I. This quickly allowed the Monterey Packing Company to become one of the premiere fish canneries in California. It also sparked a cannery-building boom along Cannery Row, with many of the new facilities founded by former employees of Booth. Booth expanded his operations to throughout California and Oregon, eventually operating five canneries in Centerville, Monterey, Pittsburg, Reedsport (Oregon), and San Francisco.

Fire at sea, with Booth Cannery at left, 14 September 1924. (Dan Freeman)
The Monterey Packing Company—and indeed all the canneries in the area—reached their height between 1918 and 1928. The Southern Pacific Railroad, which had a right-of-way directly beside Booth's facility, noticed this rise in popularity. When precisely railroad service began to his cannery is not known, but by 1928 a special station was registered on employee timetables just for Booth. The name of this station was Sard—presumably short for Sardines. It was the only formal station between Monterey and Hoffman Avenue. The timetable did not mention any siding or spur, but it did allow passenger service and freight, the latter of which was probably facilitated via a freight-loading platform affixed to the back of the cannery. It had two scheduled passenger stops per day, and all freight must have been negotiated as it was not included in the freight schedule. The stop was very short-lived, disappearing probably in 1930 following the economic crash that sparked the Great Depression.

Booth's Cannery beside Fisherman's Wharf, c. 1935. (Fine Art America)
The cannery struggled through the Depression just like many of the others, but the return of tourism to the area meant that the cannery, located beside the wharf, became an eyesore to tourists while it also fouled the water and the air. The Monterey Packing Company cannery beside was finally shut down in May 1941 after the City of Monterey denied its lease renewal. The cannery burned down in December 1941, during demolition. Nothing remains of it today. The Monterey Bay Coastal Trail passes directly through the former property, paralleling Lighthouse Avenue as it heads toward Cannery Row. 

Official Railroad Information:
The Light House Road flag-stop appears to have been a very short-lived station, being listed on the initial Pacific Grove Extension timetable in 1889 but gone from the Southern Pacific Officers, Agencies & Stations book by 1899. It was listed in public timetables in 1890 as a permanent "Additional Station", although only in the capacity of an unscheduled flag-stop. It does not appear on either 1889 or 1891 public timetables. It's precise location is not known, but the only place where Light House Road (not Lighthouse Ave.) and the right-of-way meet is along a 0.1 mile stretch beginning just west of Fisherman's Wharf.
The Monterey Packing Company at its maximum extent, c. 1940.
When Sard first appeared in timetables is not presently known to this historian. It was not listed in the 1926 Agency book, nor the 1930 book. It was present on the May 6, 1928 Coast Division Timetable at 126.0 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José. It was also 4.0 miles from the end-of-track at Lake Majella. Sard offered both freight and passenger service but had no on-site facilities and no listed siding or spur (although it may have had a private spur). It was gone from timetables from 1937, although it may have disappeared earlier.
Distance view of the Booth Cannery and Fisherman's Wharf, with the
railroad tracks passing in the foreground. (Fine Art America)

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.604˚N, 121.894˚W

The site of Sard Station is immediately beside north of where Lighthouse Avenue emerges from the tunnel. It can be most easily accessed via the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. While some of the cannery's foundations remain in the water of McAbee Beach, no sign of the stop survives.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, August 14, 2015

Custom House

Just 0.2 miles to the northwest of Monterey Depot, comfortably sitting at the foot of Old Fisherman's Wharf, a flag-stop by the name of Custom House took residence. The station first appeared in late 1889 immediately beside the Old Customhouse along the Southern Pacific Railroad's Monterey Branch extension to Lake Majella. The track originally terminated at roughly the location of Custom House, only extending to the Pacific Grove area in August 1889. In an effort to promote this new trackage, the railroad listed it under a separate header called the "Pacific Grove Extension", although the idea did not last for more than a few years. Custom House, along with Cypress Park, may have been stations added specifically to improve the footprint of the extension in timetables. While there was extensive passenger service to the stop in the first full year of operation (1890), by 1891 no passenger service was listed at the stop and it probably was abandoned within a few years.Oliver Collection. J. K. Oliver, photographer. Credit: Monterey Public Library, California History Room
Custom House station site in 1897 showing four people waiting for the train.
(Photo by J.K. Oliver / Monterey Public Library)
Another view of Custom House during the failed 1897 constitutional convention. (Photo by Charles C. Pierce)

The Old Customhouse immediately beside the Pacific Grove Extension track, c. 1900.
The importance of the stop aside, the customhouse itself was one of the most important places in California's history. The so-named structure was built by the Mexican government in 1827 beside the Port of Monterey and just below the presidio. It was a Spanish colonial adobe structure with two square two-story turrets at the ends of a long single-story hall. Balconies at the ends and alongside the ocean-side of the building gave wide views of the port and the Monterey Bay. For 19 years, the customhouse served as the primary import station for Alta California, where customs duties were collected by foreign ships trading on Mexican soil. Thomas O. Larkin expanded and improved the structure in 1841 to a state that roughly corresponds to its look in the photograph above, replacing adobe walls with wood paneling. The site's most famous event occurred on 7 July 1846, when Commodore John Drake Sloat lowered the Mexican flag and replaced it with the United States' stars-and-stripes, thereby declaring California a territory of the United States of America. Since Monterey was the capital of the Mexican state at that time, the customhouse represented one of its primary governmental centers.

The customhouse c. 1890 with Captain Thomas G. Lambert and his wife, the residents of the building
from 1868 to the mid-1890s. (Aztec Club)
The customhouse in 1902, with streetcar tracks in the foreground.
The U.S. government took possession of the building and continued to use it until 1868. For the next 25 years it became a private residence until becoming abandoned in the early 1890s. The structure began to deteriorate but the appearance of the adjacent railroad tracks in 1889 may have prompted the structure's reevaluation. Indeed, naming the Fisherman's Wharf stop after the structure alone may have been an act of recognition that this building was important. What the stop was used for, if anything, remains a mystery. Whether it was primarily a freight stop for the wharf and its patrons, or a stop to access the downtown area, it never became popular. The stop disappeared by 1898. However, the structure attracted the interest of locals who wished to improve the waterfront and restore historical structures.

Southern Pacific special X2581 running beside the Old Customhouse on 22 July 1951. (Wilbur C. Whittaker)
Abandoned and increasingly dilapidated, the customhouse underwent a long-overdue restoration by the the Native Sons of the Golden West at the turn of the century. In 1901, the state commissioned a broad restoration project to reclaim deteriorating historic structures across California. The restoration of the Old Customhouse, as arguably the most important such structure in the state, was completed in 1917. In 1929, it became the first California State Historical Landmark, although it did not receive a plaque until 1 June 1932. In 1930, the State Division of Beaches and Parks took over the property and opened it to the public. The structure still stands immediately beside the former railroad right-of-way, a part of the Monterey State Historic Park established in 1970 (the building itself became a national landmark in 1960). When open, the customhouse is the home to the park's museum and administrative office.

Official Railroad Information:
From late 1889 to roughly 1895 the stop was located between Monterey and Hoffman Avenue, approximately 126 miles from San Francisco via Castoville, Pajaro, Gilroy, and San José. Passenger service to the station disappeared in 1891, after which the stop probably went into permanent disuse.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
The Old Customhouse today. (Ezio Armando/Flickr)
36.603˚N, 121.893˚W

The site of Custom House is located on the oceanside of the Old Customhouse along the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail, which marks the path of the old railroad right-of-way. The station site itself was probably immediately at the base of Fisherman's Wharf, on the northern edge of the customhouse. Since there was probably never any structures associated with the stop, nothing remains of the stop to be seen today.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, August 7, 2015


Map of the Monterey station and yard, 1913. (USGS)
The city of Monterey was not always the bustling hub of tourism it is today, but it always has been an important part of California's Central Coast. Discovered by Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino in 1602 and founded in 1769 by Gaspar de Portolà, the city served as the capital of Alta California from almost the beginning. The name probably derives from the city of Monterrey in Nuevo Léon, México, which itself was named after Our Lady of Monte Rey, the mountain in question being named after Saint Louis IX of France (San Luis Rey de Francia). Francisco priest Junípero Serra established a permanent settlement there the following year within the bounds of the Presidio of Monterey. In 1777, the city became the capital of all of California (Baja and Alta) and remained that way until Alta California was ceded to the United States. On July 7, 1846, the US flag was raised over the custom house and the city's history as a part of the United States began.

Unlike many other places in California, Monterey actually lost some of its prominence post-annexation. The city ceased to be the capital of California, replaced in quick succession by San José and Benicia before finally settling permanently at Sacramento. The town remained relatively small and isolated, with its fishing industry providing its primary income. Numerous piers and wharves pierced the adjacent Monterey Bay, supplying shipping and fishing services. It was beside these that the railroad first established itself in Monterey.

The narrow-gauged Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad first entered the scene in 1874, cruising in a fairly direct path from Salinas. It allowed local farmers, fishermen, whalers, and other merchants to finally get their products quickly to market via the Southern Pacific Railroad mainline in Salinas. Conveniently, the arrangement worked so well that the Southern Pacific purchased a bankrupted Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad in 1880, soon realigning the branch line from Salinas to a junction at Castroville.

The original Monterey Station depot building with adjacent freight warehouse, c. 1890.
The railroad tracks ran directly alongside the shore just in front of the entrance to what is today Fisherman's Wharf and Municipal Wharf #2. While no tracks ran down the short wharf, a relatively large freight yard was built that stretched along five block-lengths of city streets. A siding ran the length of this area while additional short sidings and spurs supported the station. Wharf #2 at that time was the Pacific Steamship Company pier, much like Gharky's Wharf in Santa Cruz, and it catered to steamships that travelled up and down the coast. The heart of the fishing industry was slightly to the east of the station in a district that today is known as Cannery Row. It was there that cargos were provisionally loaded onto waiting box cars to be organized at the Monterey depot (in later years, they would be packed and loaded for shipment on-site behind the canneries). The Union Ice Company kept an ice house between the pier and the station for use by refrigerator cars.

Men returning home from World War I, c. 1919. (The Wharf Marketplace)

For many years, the Southern Pacific kept the original simple depot structure of the M&SVRR. It was composed of a single rectangular shack with a few windows and a few doors cushioned between the mainline track and its siding. On the platform behind the station, the freight depot stood, a windowless wood-paneled barn. Neither were impressive so it was not surprising that the Southern Pacific sought to replace them with one of their cookie-cutter standard-guage structures. The new building included telegraph services, a passenger and freight office, and an on-site agent available any time. The structure grew, too. By 1940, it had expanded into quite an impressive facility. One third of the building was a two-story agent station, ticket office, telephone and telegraph office, and living quarters. The remaining two-thirds were used for freight storage and supplies.

Monterey Depot on a busy day in April 1940. (Wilbur C. Whittaker)

In the 1910s, the fishing industry exploded in growth and dozens of canneries opened along the railroad right-of-way between Monterey Station and Pacific Grove. Monterey Station became a major stop along the line, but freight stops sprang up along the branch to cater to the individual canneries, with the largest freight yard established in Pacific Grove, where the trains could be turned around. Thus, Monterey was never the largest freight yard on the line nor did it have the largest yard space. Its spurs and sidings fluctuated from as little as 650-feet of spur space (in addition to its siding) in 1907 to over 6,000 feet in 1937.

A passenger train waiting outside Monterey Depot, c. 1950s. (Dave Hambleton)
World War II destroyed the tourism industry in Monterey, with the Hotel Del Monte purchased by the US Navy, and the fishing business ended suddenly at the same time when the sardine schools disappeared from overfishing. In response, the railroad depot was partially demolished with the two-story section removed entirely leaving only the much smaller, single-story portion remaining. A patio was added along the track side of the building to shelter waiting passengers. This small station no longer included an on-site resident and seems to have been mostly used for storage, although a small agency office was maintained at least some of the time.

Monterey Depot, much reduced in importance exactly a decade later, April 1950. (Wilbur C. Whittaker)
Passenger service along the Monterey Branch had been dwindling since 1941 but it finally ended in April 1971 when the last Del Monte train passed beside Monterey station. Freight services, continued for another seven years, ending at last in 1978 when the branch was reduced to Seaside. Tracks still pass beside the station today, but they are paved over by the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail. The depot building remains behind, a railroad station miles away from the nearest track. For many years it was abandoned and decaying, but it has recently been repurposed by The Wharf Marketplace as a permanent farmers' market.

Official Railroad Information:
Monterey Station beside the mainline and a spur in 1974. (Dick Leonhardt)
The Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad established the first station at the base of the Pacific Steamship Company pier in 1874. This structure was replaced in the 1880s after the Southern Pacific Railroad purchased the line. By 1899, the station included telegraph service, a freight and passenger office, an A-class freight platform, and a 13-car (650-foot) spur. The spur was reduced throughout the early 1900s but the total yard trackage increased to 5,500 feet by 1930. At this time, the station was located 125.7 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José. The maximum size of the trackage was 6,100 feet reached in 1937 before the size began to shrink. In 1963, the yard size was down to 1,470 feet of trackage and it remained this size until the station closed in 1978. Passenger service had ended in 1971.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.60˚N, 121.89˚W

Monterey Depot still stands today at the base of Monterey Municipal Wharf #2 (with Sapporo Japanese Steakhouse at its base) and beside the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational Trail. It serves as the home of The Wharf Marketplace and is accessible during normal business hours.

Citations & Credits:
• "The Wharf Marketplace".

Friday, July 31, 2015

Del Monte

The Hotel Del Monte, like so many other large resort complexes built in California in the 1870s and 1880s, was the product of the Big Four. Charles Crocker erected the hotel in 1880 on 20,000 acres of railroad land just to the southeast of the Monterey pier. It was designed from its first day as a railroad stop and the Southern Pacific Railroad erected that stop nearby with carriage service running to the hotel for each and every train. Indeed, it was via the railroad that most guests came to the hotel and it was via railroad advertising such as Sunset Magazine that people knew about the hotel. The main building of the hotel was a luxurious structure built by SP-architect Arthur Brown, Sr., and done in the Tudor-style with a tall tower and Alpine entry building. Its gardens and grounds reached all the way to Carmel, 8.5 miles away, and included a golf course that would later become Pebble Beach, a race track, a polo field, and a scenic seventeen-mile road through it all. The original structure, shown in the stereoscopic photograph below, burned down in 1887.

The original Hotel Del Monte in Tudor-style, c. 1885.
The second hotel opened in 1889 and replicated the style of the first. It was this rendition that became the most well known. To accompany the new structure, a large bath house was built at the beach, and other facilities were expanded as well. In 1906, the San Francisco Earthquake damaged parts of the hotel, killing two people, but repairs were made and the hotel soon reopened. The hotel became world-renowned, with its own dedicated scheduled train, the Del Monte Express (originally the Del Monte Limited), cruising into the property daily. A small food distributor in Oakland was hired to make special products just for the hotel, a company that would one day be named Del Monte Foods.

An advertisement for the 2nd Hotel Del Monte, c. 1890. (Brancroft Library)
The Southern Pacific sold the hotel and its vast properties in 1919 to Samuel Finley Brown Morse, who ran it as a private hotel. Morse immediately began erection of a new Roman-style freshwater pool near the hotel and added eight other structures to the property. Disaster struck the hotel again in 1924 when it burned to the ground. Many of the detached structures survived and the hotel itself reopened two years later with architects Lewis P. Hobart and Clarence A. Tantau designing the new structure. The architects chose not to return to the Tudor style of before but adopt the Spanish-revival style that was popular at the time. This is the version of the hotel that still stands today.

Del Monte Station, April 1940. (Wilbur C. Whittaker)
Details of the original track-side station are scarce, but the new structure built for the 1926 hotel exists in photographs. The station was located on the north side of Del Monte Avenue across the road from the hotel grounds. It was composed entirely of an open-air passenger shelter with elaborate Spanish arches all around it and a terra cotta tile roof. A double-track passed beside the station on the north side and the 1913 USGS map shows at least one spur and two additional sidings beside the station. Two more short spurs broke off just to the west of the station, with on heading into the hotel grounds for a short distance. By at least the 1920s, the station was within the yard limits for Monterey Station, which was slightly to the west, but it does not seem to have been within those limits in 1913. Over time, the number of sidings and spurs was reduced until only one siding remained, as is barely visible in the photograph below. The Del Monte Express became just the plain-old "Del Monte" in 1927 and once the navy took over the hotel in 1941, the special train hardly even catered to the hotel anymore, despite its name. The navy did not need the stop in the same manner the hotel did and, although it remained on timetables until the reduction of the line to Seaside in 1978, few passengers seemed to use the station and it was reduced to a flag-stop in the mid-1950s, a sorry fate for a station that helped finance and justify the entire Monterey Branch for so long.

A Del Monte excursion train parked beside the depot in 1949. (Wilbur C. Whittaker)
The United States Navy leased the hotel at the start of World War II and it would never again be used as a public hotel. In 1947, the government purchased it outright, including most of the surrounding lands, and established the United States Naval Academy's postgraduate academy there in 1951. The main hotel structure was renamed Hermann Hall and all of the other buildings have either been converted into houses or offices or been demolished.

Official Railroad Information:
The second Hotel Del Monte, c. 1920. (Bancroft Library)
Del Monte appeared on Southern Pacific documents from 1880 onwards. It was located 124.9 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José, and was 5.1 miles from the Lake Majella end-of-track. The station never had a platform and was, therefore, usually designated as a low-class freight station, although there freight cars do appear to have stopped there at times, perhaps for catering or building purposes. By the late 1920s, the station was included within the yard limits of Monterey and was recorded as having 119 carlengths (5,950 feet) of trackage, although this undoubtedly included trackage located elsewhere along the yard. A note in a 1930 station book states that the station included a private siding owned by S. Ruthven, but no further details on this are presently known. The station remained on timetables until the branch was shortened in 1978, but regular passenger service to Del Monte ended in April 1971 when the Del Monte train ran for the last time.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
The third Hotel Del Monte, as seen today as
Hermann Hall at the Naval Postgraduate Academy.
36.600˚N, 121.874˚W

The site of Del Monte Station is a parking lot located across Del Monte Avenue from the eastern end of Cunningham Road along the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail. Interestingly, the footprint of the station shelter remains behind with the original floor still present. There does not appear to be any plaque describing what the foundation was for, however. The siding tracks are also still present, directly across from the station foundation and paralleling the paved trail (which is built atop the mainline track). They continue for a short distance to the east before disappearing under the trail and a longer distance to the west. Access to the hotel itself is available through the Naval Postgraduate Institute and may be restricted. Many of the former hotel structures are used today for military purposes. Check if you are interested in touring Hermann Hall or any other former hotel facilities.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, July 24, 2015

Del Monte Bath House

Hotel Del Monte Bath House, c. 1910. [Bancroft Library]
The Hotel Del Monte was privileged to have two passenger stops for its facilities in the early years after its erection. The primary station is the topic of another article, but just to the northeast of it was the "Del Monte Bath House" stop. Bath House was fairly unique among Southern Pacific Railroad stops because it did not appear on employee timetables (whether it appeared in agency books is not known to this historian). It opened in 1890 as a passenger-only flag-stop catering to visitors to the hotel's luxurious bathing facilities and gardens. The idea of metropolitan flag-stops was not unique, but it was a specific characteristic of Monterey within the Monterey Bay railroad network. The stop had no sidings or spurs and the very location of it is not certain.

A bit more is known about the bath house itself. The bath house was the last item built following the 1887 fire that destroyed the original Hotel Del Monte, probably opened in 1889. It sat across the railroad tracks and beside Del Monte Avenue on 24 acres of beachfront property, with a pier and saltwater pump situated in the Monterey Bay. It was designed very similarly to the Miller-Leibbrandt Plunge in Santa Cruz which was constructed soon afterwards, incorporating a mix of interior baths, a large heated saltwater pool, changing stalls, and a small restaurant. Ocean swimming facilities were also included, as well as access to the pier. The pool was knocked out of commission during the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and it was closed until the summer of 1907 when a massive renovation and expansion repaired and improved the facility.

Advertising page from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, c. 1910.
The bath house closed in 1924 when the second hotel burned down, and a new Roman-style bath was installed closer to the hotel later that year. A petition was lodged for the City of Monterey to purchase the property and old bath house for public use. Unfortunately, others wished to purchase the property and subdivide it for beachfront homes. When the bath house burned down in 1930, the realtors got their way and the area became a residential and commercial block for decades. Since the 1980s, the city has been repurchasing the properties and demolishing them in order to reclaim the beach, but it has been a slow task and is not entirely completed. Del Monte Beach at the end of Surf Way marks the site of the bath house, while the subdivision between Del Monte Avenue and the beach is what is slowly being removed.

A curious side-note: a large otherwise unimportant warehouse just to the northeast of Casa Verde Way has all the appearance of a railroad freight station and the arrangement of its parking lot and proximity to the tracks suggests that it once was serviced by the railroad. Further research is required to determine what precisely that structure was used for and when it operated.

Official Railroad Information:
The station is recorded for the first time as a flag-stop on public timetables in 1890, but did not appear on 1891 public timetables. It also did not appear in the 1899 agency book or in any later books. No other information is known from railroad documents at this time.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.60˚N, 121.87˚W

The site of Del Monte Bath House station is near the intersection of Del Monte Avenue and Casa Verde Way. Further details regarding the site are not known. The Natales Auto Service Center sits on the western side of the road while an unmarked freight structure sits on the east side. The Monterey Bay Coastal Trail marks the site of the railroad tracks, the tracks themselves being paved over.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, July 17, 2015


Retreat spurs on the 1947 USGS map of Seaside.
The history of the station known as Vidrio and, later, Retreat, is one of the most mysterious of all those located on the Monterey Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad's Coast Division. Located along Del Monte Boulevard just 0.6 miles northeast of the Del Monte Hotel and southwest of Laguna del Rey (later renamed Roberts Lake), the station began its life as Vidrio around 1905. The station was initially a private C-class freight and passenger stop, presumably for the Vidrio family, a local family that is otherwise not mentioned in currently accessible sources. Southern Pacific records do not mention any other information on the stop and, indeed, it disappears from agency books in 1910.

At some point between 1911 and 1926, a new station appears at the same site as Vidrio, this time under the unusual name Retreat. Initially the revived stop had no services listed in agency books and it was only in 1930 that it was upgraded into a full A-class freight stop with platform. At this time, it first was listed as the site of an Associated Oil and Standard Oil property. From the information visible on aerial photographs and maps, the stop catered to a collection of large, round oil-holding tanks presumably owned by the oil companies. These did not appear on maps in the 1910s, so they must have been installed in the 1920s or afterwards. To support the oil services there, a pair of northeast-oriented spurs were installed beside the mainline, capable of holding 9 cars initially and eventually 13 cars (640 feet).

Retreat is unique for being the only station on the Monterey Branch that never had scheduled service and was generally exempt from even flag-service (although technically a few trains could stop there, if requested). In 1940, the station was reduced to an additional stop where it remained from that point onward. In 1954, the station was included within the long yard limits for Monterey Station, but that made no impact on the stop itself. Other than a freight platform, there appear to have been no other structures at the station. Since it was a private stop, a sign may not have even existed. Not surprisingly, no images of Retreat have so far been found.

Railroad service to Retreat ended in 1979 when the Monterey Branch was reduced to Seaside. The oil services there were abandoned at some point as well, leaving today only impressions on the ice plant-covered sand where the oil tanks once stood. The railroad tracks have since been either removed or buried here with much of the area around the property developed to some degree. The property itself is now mostly Monterey State Beach, although the heart of the oil operation is closed to the public.

Official Railroad Information:
The site of Retreat as seen on Google Earth.
Vidrio first appeared in agency books around 1907 with no platform or services. In 1909, it was designated a C-class freight station but it then disappeared from books in 1910. By 1926, the station had returned renamed Retreat. In 1930 an A-class freight station with a platform was present, privately owned by Associated Oil and Standard Oil. It appeared on timetables in this time 124.3 miles from San Francisco via Watsonville Junction, Gilroy, and San José. It was also 5.7 miles from the Lake Majella end-of-track. The first reported spur at the site was 8 carlengths (400 feet) long, but that was later upgraded to 13 carlengths (640 feet) by 1951. It was reduced to an Additional Station in 1940 and added to the yard limits of Monterey in 1954. It was still present on timetables in 1979 when the branch line was truncated to Seaside, at which point the stop was abandoned.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.6˚N, 121.9˚W

The site of Retreat is located at the junction of Del Monte Boulevard and the access road for Monterey State Beach. The road is the former oil company service road and skirts around the former oil tank enclosure, which is closed to the public. Nothing of the stop remains and the tracks have been either pulled or buried beneath the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail.

Citations & Credits:

  • Southern Pacific Railroad Agency Books and Employee Timetables, 1899 to 1983. (Courtesy George Pepper, Duncan Nanney, and the California State Railroad Museum Archives).

Friday, July 10, 2015

East Monterey & Seaside

Seaside, as shown on the 1947 USGS Map.
The Salinas Valley Railroad passed through the future town of Seaside as early as 1874, but it wasn't for another 14 years that the city came into being. In 1888, a New Yorker, Dr. John L.D. Roberts, founded the East Monterey subdivision in 160 acres of land he purchased from the his uncle, David Houghton. Roberts hoped to reap some profit off of the nearby Hotel Del Monte when he built his subdivision. By 1891, East Monterey had a post office and a Southern Pacific Railroad stop on the Monterey Branch of the Coast Division.

The railroad conveniently passed directly through the heart of East Monterey. The composition of the station structure is not currently known to this historian but records show that a station was present for the town. Beside the tracks, a siding of variable length—no longer than 500 feet—paralleled the mainline on the west side. A short spur running to the freight platform and station, meanwhile, sat on the east side of the mainline, just beyond the northern end of Hillsdale Street.
Seaside subdivision plan, c. 1908. This map shows the extension of East Monterey into the "Seaside Addition",
which marked the community's transformation. (Fine Art America)
The railroad tracks in Seaside, 1917. (City of Seaside Archives)
East Monterey became Seaside prior to 1899 and grew slowly into a middle-class American neighborhood. Then, rather suddenly in 1910, Roberts decided to invite the US Army to set up camp on a part of his land. Camp Gigling was established two years later and many of the original residents of East Monterey moved out in response, disliking the sudden military presence on their doorstep. In 1914, Seaside was decisively turned into a military town. When the US entered World War I in 1917, the base went into full operations. After the war, the community continued to decline into what many saw as a lower-income town, marring the reputation of Monterey and Pacific Grove. The Great Depression did little to help this as many settled in the town since property values were low. Because of the settlers and the military base, the community became one of the most multi-racial areas along the Central Coast. By the time World War II began, many of Fort Ord's families and auxiliary staff lived in Seaside and this fact continued until the base closed in 1994. In 1954, the town incorporated into its own city, independent of Monterey, and it has continued to grow since World War II. Seaside continues to be a mixed-ethnicity community but it is no longer low-income, today supporting many established hotels, a golf course, CSU Monterey Bay, and a naval academy.

Railroad service to the station increased through the 1930s and 1940s, probably reaching a height in the 1950s before declining rapidly as regular passenger services ended. Freight service to Seaside remained intermittently, although what it serviced is not entirely known. Numerous small freight concerns existed in the area but changed frequently. Which, if any, of them used the Seaside freight platform after 1954 is unknown currently. The station became the end-of-track when the branch was truncated in 1979 and remained on timetables until the abandonment of the branch by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1999. When the station structure was removed is currently unknown.

Official Railroad Information:
East Monterey probably first appeared around 1889 with a class-A freight platform. It was renamed Seaside by 1899. In the 1920s, the station's platform was downgraded to a C-class freight stop, meaning it had a platform and siding but no other facilities. The stop was located 123.3 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José. It was also 6.7 miles from the Lake Majella end-of-track. Initially, it offered both passenger and freight service and included a 10-car (~500 foot) siding at the stop. The siding shrunk down to ~450 feet by 1940 and then ~250 feet by 1951. Regularly-scheduled passenger service, except for specials such as the Del Monte Express, ceased in 1963 and the siding disappeared from timetables at the same time. In 1979, the Monterey Branch was cut back, with Seaside becoming the new end-of-track. The station remained on timetables until the closure of the branch in 1999.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.61˚N, 121.85˚W

The site of Seaside is beneath the Cardinale Nissan dealership on Del Monte Blvd. The parking lot marks the extent of the spur and station property while the siding ran from the end of Holly Street to just southwest of where the right-of-way passes over Contra Costa Street. Access to the right-of-way is largely open in this area, except for the Nissan dealership.

Citations & Credits:
  • McKibben, Carol Lynn. Images of America: Seaside. Arcadia Press, 2009.

Thursday, July 2, 2015


Prattco Spur as shown on a 1948 USGS Map.
In the years just after the end of World War I, activity in the area of East Monterey, modern-day Seaside, was on the rise. It was in this environment that Clarence "Sandy" Pratt established his Pratt Rock and Gravel Company sand quarry on the beach along a spur of the Southern Pacific Railroad's Monterey Branch.

Prattco began operations in East Monterey in 1921 where it ran a single-pit quarry on the beach, nestled between two small sand dunes that still sit there today. The original quarry was serviced by a short 5-car spur that ran alongside the main track with the freight platform situated between them. In the early 1940s, the spur was lengthened considerably, running between the dunes and toward the Monterey Bay 750 feet. This length apparently was too long and it was shortened slightly, to 640 feet, by 1954. While no formal station structure was located there except for the platform, the station did accept passengers and even occasionally had scheduled service. Its location close to Fort Ord Village likely made it a closer stop for some local residents.

In 1950, Prattco was purchased by Pacific Cement & Aggregates, Inc., which used the sand from this quarry for concrete, blasting powder, and stucco. PCA scraped medium-grain sand off the beach and the dunes for processing on site, where it is sorted and blended. Lone Star Industries, Inc., a major aggregate supplier on the Central Coast, eventually purchased all of PCA, including the Prattco plant. Lone Star continued to use the quarry for many more years, with it finally shutting down at the end of 1986. The spur was spiked at some point soon afterwards and it is unclear if the tracks still sit, although aerial imagery shows the path of the spur. Regardless, Prattco remained on timetables until the abandonment of the Monterey Branch in 1999.

Official Railroad Information:
Google Maps satellite view of the Prattco spur today. The spur is gone, as is
its switch, but the imprint of it can still be seen in the sand dunes.
Prattco first appeared in agency books in the late 1910s. It was recorded as having a class-C freight station, including a short platform. Employee timetables reported in the 1930s that Prattco was located 122.1 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José. In addition, it was 6.2 miles from 7.9 from the Lake Majella end-of-track. Both passenger and freight services were offered at the stop, although the station was primarily a freight stop for the Pratt Company. A 5 carlength spur (~250 feet) was installed at some point and lengthened into a 15 carlength (~750 feet) spur in the 1940s. It was reduced to its final length of 640 feet around 1954. The station was demoted to an "Additional Station" in the 1940s but returned as a regular stop in 1963. Freight service to the station persisted after the end of passenger service, only formally ending with the closure of the branch in 1999.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.62˚N, 121.84˚W

The site of Prattco is in Sand City just to the right of the Fremont Boulevard southbound exit of State Route 1. The Monterey Peninsula Recreation Trail passes beside the site, as well. Access to the site is ambiguously restricted, but a lack of development in the area suggests trespassing is not discouraged. The old Prattco road, now covered in sand, can be found at the northern end of Fremont Boulevard.

Citations & Credits:

Friday, June 26, 2015


The Work Wood Yard, c. 1895, with Thomas in front (Pat Hathaway)
At the turn of the twentieth century, the area near what would become Fort Ord was largely undeveloped property. Nearby in Pacific Grove, however, a Scotsman named Thomas Albert Work was making a name for himself. He was an investor and promoter, a man who wanted to see his town becoming something special. Young and presumptuous, the man began his life at the age of 17 as the owner of a feed store and wood yard in 1886. His business expanded exponentially over the next two decades, bringing him wealth and regional fame. By 1903, he had erected the first motion picture theatre in Monterey, sacrificing his credibility for the hope of filling a growing niche. His investment paid off wonderfully. He became involved in local politics and took on investors. His theatre was still at the center of city life into the 1930s, during which time he was also the president of the First National Banks of Pacific Grove, Salinas, Monterey, and Carmel, as well as the city's treasurer. He also purchased vast tracts of land and many rival businesses over the decades, becoming the equivalent of Frederick Hihn on the Monterey Peninsula. 

Map showing Workfield Siding just south of the Fort Ord loop, 1948. (USGS)
But in western Monterey, he had another project located directly beside the Southern Pacific Railroad's Monterey Branch. In 1914, Work purchased 8,000 acres of land to the east of the tracks and converted it into Workfield Farms. This property appears to have been primarily a dairy and cattle ranch. The railroad ~420-foot spur established for the property, so-named "Workfield", probably was used to haul out stock of cattle periodically.

The United States Army purchased the Workfield property around 1940 during its massive expansion of Camp Gigling into Fort Ord prior to World War II. Workfield probably ceased regular use at this time, although it is possible that the military used it for holding cars. Some sources call the location "Gigling Junction", however this term was strictly unofficial and the location never served as a junction to anything. The spur was reduced to ~280 feet and converted to a short siding and scheduled passenger service ended, if ever it had it. The siding lingered through the 1950s, but was gone by 1963.

Official Railroad Information:
Workfield first appeared in railroad timetables and agency books around 1916, operating as a C-class freight station with a platform. It was located 120.4 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José and 9.6 miles from the Lake Majella end-of-track in Pacific Grove. The initial 12-carlength spur was shortened to an 8-carlength siding in the late 1940s and the station was removed from timetables by 1963.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.64˚N, 121.82˚W

The former location of the Workfield siding is directly across State Route 1 from the end of Gigling Road. It can be accessed via the Monterey Peninsula Recreation Trail just south of the concrete loading platform that runs off the Fort Ord Loop track. The only lingering evidence of the siding is a section of ballasted ground to the east of the right-of-way.

Citations & Credits:

  • Seavey, Kent. Images of America: Pacific Grove. Arcadia Publishing, 2005.
  • Van de Grift-Sanchez, Nellie. California and Californians, vol. 4. Lewis Publishing, 1932.
  • Walton, John. Storied Land: Community and Memory in Monterey. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Gigling & Ord

Fort Ord Army base in 1948 (USGS)
The history of Fort Ord and its relationship with the Southern Pacific Railroad dates back to the very beginning of the Salinas Valley Railroad in 1874. When that railroad first connected the Monterey pier with Salinas, the location that would become Ford Ord was a ranch owned by the Gigling family. Not much is known about the Giglings except they were German immigrants and primarily cattle and sheep ranchers who had settled on the boundary between Ranchos El Toro and El Chamisal and the Pueblo of Monterey in the 1850s. When the railroad passed through their land, the family was able to have a flag-stop erected under the name "Gigling's", and local ranchers such as the Henneken family used it to ship out goods.

Camp Gigling cavalry unit, 1917. (
In 1904, the Presidio of Monterey began using the area around the Gigling farm for training exercises. The presidio's cavalry and Army regiment camped periodically on the dunes near the beach but it was only in 1917 that they began to use the land more formally. On August 4th of that year, the US Army purchased 15,610 acres of land from the David Jacks Corporation (presumably the successors to the Gigling family) and converted it into "Gigling Reservation". Little changed at the site except the animals were removed. The reservation consisted only of an old well, a caretaker's house, and a few semi-permanent bivouac sites. The railroad stop, connected by a little-used dirt road to the camp site, continued to be used by local farmers and a freight platform catered to their needs, but how heavily this stop was used remains unknown and it seems to have declined in use through the early 1930s. Gigling Reservation became Camp Gigling at some point after World War I, but the old name was retained by many locals into the late 1930s. The camp supported the 76th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, and the 18th Cavalry. It's main purpose became field artillery training, a legacy that still haunts the area today.

Bivouacking cavalry soldiers preparing for a day of training at Camp Gigling, 1917.
(Mayo Hayes O'Donnell Research Library)
Gigling Artillery training, 1917 (Calisphere)
The Great Depression changed many things at Camp Gigling. The Civilian Conservation Corps set up an outpost there in 1933 and the military, responding to the growth of the base, renamed the entire facility "Camp Ord" after the Civil War commander Major General Edward Otho Cresap Ord. The property was expanded to encompass an additional 13,000 acres and permanent facilities began to be erected on this new land, demoting the former Camp Gigling property to the status of "East Garrison", although the railroad station retained its old name until the early 1940s when it became "Ord". Immediately prior to World War II, the base expanded exponentially to include barracks, mess halls, sewage treatment facilities, and administrative buildings—over 1,000 separate buildings in total. In 1940, the base became "Fort Ord" and was commissioned as a full-time US Army facility under the control of the 7th Infantry Division.

The Gigling/Ord Loop track with a passenger train turning around, March 13, 1949. (Wilbur C. Whittaker)
During World War II until the end of the Vietnam War, Fort Ord was a basic training facility and boot camp for soldiers of the 7th Light Infantry Division, as well as other divisions as needed. The railroad service at Ord exploded during the wars, with the short 18-carlength siding (~630 feet) being converted into a multi-siding holding yard with accompanying turn-around loop. The loop, which still exists just south of the base today, allowed trains to turn around without the need of a turntable or wye. Combined, the track space at Ord encompassed 3,430 feet of track, enough to hold 97 passenger cars. The mainline tracks bypassed the fort but a long siding with two spurs went directly into the base to expedite troop deployments. A long siding also ran along the entire length of the mainline in this area, presumably to hold excess cars. Most of this track remains intact today, although much is buried, spiked, or in a general state of disuse since the line itself is no longer operable.

Basic training at Fort Ord during the Vietnam War.
(San Luis Obispo's The Tribune)
Fort Ord began to decline as an army facility after 1975 and in 1990, the US Department of Defense listed the base for closure. Formal downsizing began in 1991 and the 7th Infantry was relocated to Fort Lewis, Washington. The base officially closed in September 1994, although a small portion of it remains in use by the Presidio of Monterey, primarily for their Defense Language Institute. Since its abandonment, the fort property has undergone various changes. A large portion of it has become California State University, Monterey Bay, while other parts have been cleared out for use as retail space. Two decades have been spent making safe the old artillery yards with Army crews regularly searching for unexploded ordnance in the fields, but the majority of this land is returning to a state of nature, as intended. The Monterey Bay Rail Trail begins its journey along the historic Monterey Branch right-of-way near Fort Ord and continues to Pacific Grove, although the track itself still exists, usually sitting beside the trail, rusting and unkempt. President Obama created Fort Ord National Monument in April 2012, although the new park is still undergoing conversion before it becomes fully accessible to the public.

Official Railroad Information:
A train on Gigling loop, March 13, 1949. (Wilbur C. Whittaker)
When precisely Gigling appeared in timetables is not currently known to this historian, but it was listed as early as 1899 in Agency Books as a class-A freight stop. It was downgraded to a class-D station in 1909 and retained that status into the early 1930s. By 1937, Gigling was a formal station once again with an 18-carlength siding, phone access, and both passenger and freight services. It was located 119.7 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Santa Cruz, and the Mayfield Cut-Off. Following the closure of the mountain section in 1940, the distance shifted to 119.2 miles via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José. It was located 10.3 miles from the Lake Majella end-of-track. In the mid-1940s, the Gigling loop was added to the stop, thereby lengthening the track to 97-carlengths, or 3,430 feet. Regular passenger service to the station ended around 1965, although it remained as a flag-stop for the Del Monte Limited until 1971, but freight access through the stop continued until the closure of the branch in 1999.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.66˚N, 121.82˚W

The site of Gigling loop is currently blocked to public access but the switch can be viewed from the Monterey Bay Rail Trail. Similarly, fortunately, a branch of the rail trail passes directly beside the old soldier-loading station at the base itself, with the siding and spurs appearing near the southern end until the trail overtakes the tracks. The long siding beside the base still can be seen, as well, both from the trail and from Google Maps' satellite view.

Citations & Credits: