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Friday, April 24, 2015

Castroville & Del Monte Junction

Castroville and Del Monte Junction on a 1915 USGS map.
As with so many things located in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, the town of Castroville owes its origins to the Spanish and Mexican periods of California history. The town is unique, though, for having a name derived from one of the most well-known local citizens, Juan Bautista Castro, yet integrating that name into a very English suffix, "ville" (as in town or village). Thus we get Castro's Village. The land for the town was sectioned off from the much larger surrounding Rancho Bolsa Nueva y Moro Cojo (New Bag and Lame Moor), which will receive a much more thorough description in the article on Moro Cojo. Juan Bautista was the son of Simeon Castro, grandson of Joaquin Castro, one of the original Spanish colonists in the area. He founded his town in 1863 in an area more or less surrounded by marshes.

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)
The arrangement of the original station at Castroville is not known to this historian but the freight station present in 1948 is pictured above. The freight building was a long standard Southern Pacific design with a freight loading ramp on one end and the passenger depot just across from the other end. Unfortunately, photographs of the passenger station are not presently available for viewing.

Castroville served as second function beginning around 1880 when it became the new terminus for the former Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad, which the Southern Pacific Railroad had purchased in December 1879. Southern Pacific standard-gauged it and merged it completely into its parent company in March 1888, dismantling the former track between Salinas and Bardin's.

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.

Castroville Station, abandoned and unused, c. 1980. [George Pepper]
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.

4 comments:

  1. I was on the last passenger train to stop at Castroville on April 30, 1971. This was the Del Monte from San Francisco. The following day Amtrak took over most of the country's longer range passenger trains and passenger service on the Monterey branch was history.
    The wye at Castroville was present in 1937 according to the timetable I have for that year.
    There were also still three daily round trips on the branch by passenger trains.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I should add that the Coast Mail, between Oakland and Los Angeles, continued to stop
    at Castroville until it's discontinuance in 1965. In 1937, the Coaster, Trains 69 and 70,
    which ran from San Francisco to Los Angeles, had a regular stop at Castroville.
    Stopping on flag also in 1937 were Trains 71 and 72 also serving the San Francisco -
    Los Angeles route. If you add the three round trips I just mentioned in my previous
    comment that were ALSO on the Monterey branch in 1937 (stopping in Castroville),
    this was a pretty busy station then.

    ReplyDelete
  3. The Monterey & Salinas Valley Rail Road never ran to Castroville. Just like its name implies, it ran between Monterey and Salinas only.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Dave. You are of course correct and the article has been fixed to reflect that oversight.

      Delete