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Friday, May 22, 2015

Lapis

1913 USGS Map showing Lapis and its long spur.
The station that began its life in 1908 under the name "Stone" evolved quickly the next year into Lapis Siding. The name may derive from the gemstone, lapis lazuli, although no such gemstone appears to have been found there. The cement manufactured using a mixture Lapis sand is often sold as "Lapis Lustre", although the origins of this word combination are unknown.

The mine was originally operated by Egbert Barker and Andrew Lysander Stone beginning in 1906 to help the reconstruction projects in San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake. Lapis has always been and is still a sand mine. The railroad associated itself with Lapis two years after the mine was established, although it may have operated earlier albeit unregistered. The long spur to the beach wrapped southward in a gentle arc. Originally, there was a siding that ran much of its length and a second siding near its terminus. The spur forked at the end with one spur turning back into the plant. A freight platform was only installed much later. The property changed hands multiple times over the years and by the 1940s, it was being mined by Pacific Coast Aggregates as their Number 10 plant. It was an extensive operation with support tracks that measured over a mile in length from its switch off the Monterey Branch beside State Route 1 (now Lapis Road). The new arrangements of he tracks saw them branching three times, with one spur operating off of a switchback at the beach. The siding along the gentle curve of the track remained in place.

1948 USGS Map showing Lapis Siding and the Pacific Coast Aggregates
Company plant (#10) at the end of a spur track.
Today the facility, now owned by CEMEX, no longer uses the railroad tracks, although the tracks still terminate at the plant. The quarry uses hydraulic pumps to dislodge rock and relocate sediment. It is an extensive operation despite its small size; over 3 million tons of sand are shipped out each year from the Lapis plant. Its primary processing plant is visible today from State Route 1, often with a small spout of steam ejecting above the primary kiln. The site is currently being considered for a desalinisation plant, although political opinion is currently against the prospect.

CEMEX Sand Quarry as seen from above. (Google Maps)

Official Railroad Information:
The station first appeared in 1908 under the name "Stone". The Agency Book for that year records no facilities at the stop. In 1909 it was renamed "Lapis" and was classified as a C-type freight stop with no platform or other services. A platform was finally installed at some point in the 1920s.

Lapis was registered as permanent flag-stop on the Monterey Branch in 1937. It was located 114.8 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José, and 13.5 miles from Lake Majella. It had a 23-carlength spur (~1,150 feet) and no other freight services. The station was downgraded to an additional stop by 1940. The spur was greatly lengthened in the late 1940s to 115-carlengths (~5,750), likely representing an expansion of the spur into multiple branches, as shown on the 1948 map above. Passenger service to the stop was discontinued at this time. The station remained on timetables as an "Additional Station" into the 1990s and probably until the abandonment of the branch by the Union Railroad in 1999. Lapis's spur length in 1974 was recorded as 5,635 feet and this seems to closely match the tracks still present on the spur today.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.715˚N, -121.793˚W

The site of the Lapis switch as well as the entirety of the spur is owned by CEMEX. No trespassing is allowed. The switch can be viewed from Lapis Road just north of the CEMEX plant turn-off.

Lapis switch today as seen from Lapis Road. (Google StreetView)
Citations & Credits:

4 comments:

  1. Interesting. You have a typo under the aerial view photo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Fixed. Strange, that same error had appeared elsewhere on the page. My spellcheck must have been playing games when I wrote this.

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  2. Lapis is STILL listed under "additional stations" on S.P. Western Region Timetable # 4 of
    Nov. 24, 1990. I have 16 other assorted employee timetables for this branch from 1951 to
    1986 which also show Lapis under "additional stations''. In 1963, when I rode the eastbound
    Del Monte past Lapis, there was a long freight train sitting on the spur at Lapis evidently
    waiting for us to pass so it could continue on to Castroville and beyond.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You should contact Gary Griggs at UCSC. He will fill you ear with info about how this mine has been consuming the beach there for years. No government agency has been able to stop it. It's an ecological disaster.

    ReplyDelete