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Friday, November 13, 2015

Corporal

Corporal on the 1955 USGS Map.
It should come as no surprise that the Southern Pacific Railroad had some fun when they named Sargent's northern neighbor "Corporal". This location is the newest station covered by Santa Cruz Trains, opening services only in January 1949. It never operated as a services passenger or freight stop but rather appears to be more of a stop of convenience due to its location at the southern end of the Gilroy double-track and the northern end of Sargent's trackage limits.

Unfortunately, the newness of this station does not help in identifying its purpose. The close proximity of many oil wells in the region, including some that are still active, suggests that this may have been a secondary oil-loading area located closer to the wells than Sargent 0.6 miles away. Alternatively, it could have originally serviced a short-lived agricultural or pastoral facility that is no longer in the vicinity, although this seems less likely. Third and most likely, it serves as a waiting point for trains switching from the double-track to the single line through Chittenden Pass, although the limited use the line sees does not imply a high chance of collision in this area. Newspapers do not mention the stop and even many maps do not include it. Further research is required before the original purpose of Corporal Station is definitively known.

Official Railroad Information:
Corporal first appeared in Southern Pacific Railroad records on January 23, 1949. It is located 86.4 miles south of San Francisco via San José. The station was only ever a freight stop although for a while waiting passengers could flag passing trains informally. The station had no services except a station sign and a phone. The stop served as the northern end of the Sargent freight area and still serves as the southern end of the Gilroy Double-Track. The stop marked the beginning of the Automated Block Signal system to Castroville as well as the start of the centralised traffic control system to Logan. In 1996, the station was taken over by the Union Pacific which adjusted the milepost location to 83.1. The station is no longer in use but is still a registered stop on UP records.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.928˚N, 121.548˚W

Access to the Corporal site is surprisingly easy if you are heading southbound on State Route 101. Take the exit just after passing over Tar Spring Creek and the railroad tracks. From there, turn north and stop just before going under the freeway. At this location, you can see the double-track cutting off and heading north while the Sargent double track cuts back into the mainline (although it is now disconnected). A sign for Corporal is still in the area. The remnants for the grade crossing are also under the freeway since the concrete highway was once the original Highway 101. Considering these are still active tracks, caution is advised and do not trespass onto the tracks themselves.

Citations & Credits:
  • Nanney, Duncan. Personal correspondence.
  • Southern Pacific Railroad employee timetables, 1949 to 1990.

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