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Friday, January 27, 2017

Freight Stops: Castroville Freight Yard

Castroville has had a long relationship with the Southern Pacific Railroad, which first passed through the town in 1871. However, it was only after the Monterey Branch was built out from the town in 1880 that Castroville became a minor freight hub for the area. From 1880 until the breaking of the Monterey Branch in 1999, numerous freight patrons popped up along the tracks at Castroville to use the abundant siding space and spurs available there.

One of the earliest patrons at Castroville was W. A Anderson, who maintained a long grain warehouse with a 40-ton capacity alongside the tracks in 1892. Platforms flanked either side of the building, the western side of which ran along a Southern Pacific siding. To the south, the Loma Prieta Lumber Company kept a mid-sized lumber yard that ran alongside the same siding. Whether the lumber here was drawn from local reserves or brought in from Santa Cruz County is not known. It had a total capacity of 275,000 board feet but the yard's full dimensions are not known. The northern end of Anderson's warehouse began at the end of Walsh Street, while the Loma Prieta yard began at the end of Monterey Street and probably ended just before Blackie Road.

Sanborn Insurance map showing the yard layout of Castroville freight patrons, 1913. [UCSC Digital Collections]
By 1910, Anderson's warehouse has been taken over by Oscar Perry Silliman with little modification, while a new business just to the south replaced the Loma Prieta lumber yard. That operation was the Foothill Apple Growers Packing House Company, which kept an even longer warehouse than Silliman's that was similarly arranged with platforms on either side for loading purposes. Foothill was founded in 1908 specifically to cater to new apple orchards planted in the Salinas Valley. By 1913, the tracks had been realigned somewhat. Silliman's now sat at the end of a spur, at the end of which was a new grain mill with a large, sprawling platform. Further to the south, Foothill's main structure had been rotated 90˚ and now maintained only a short platform at the western short end of its packing house. Why these changes occurred and their precise arrangement in relation to the freight yard is not entirely understood. Both businesses continued into the 1920s, although when they ultimately closed is not known.

Monterey Bay Packing Company label.
No information is currently available to this historian regarding the period 1913-1973, unfortunately. Further research must be conducted for this time. However, a SPIN sheet for Castroville in 1973 reveals a somewhat active freight scene at Castroville. A total of five registered patrons can be found at Castroville in this time along six spurs and sidings. The only businesses on the east side of the tracks was Castroville Marketing Group, although the site had recently been vacated by Veg-A-Mix. Just down the tracks, a vacant line ran behind a cold storage facility that would later be reopened. On the west side of the tracks, most of the businesses were found along a track that became the head of the Monterey Branch, running along Del Monte Avenue. A southbound-exiting spur near the junction of Highway 183 catered to Eugene Boggiatto and the D'Arrigo Brothers. The Boggiato Packing Company was founded in 1960 in Castroville, which probably marks the date this location went into use, and it specialised in artichokes, although it grew many other products on its extensive family farm. Although the company no longer uses the tracks, it remains in business as the Boggiatto Produce Company. D'Arrigo was founded by Stefano and Andrea D'Arrigo, who specialised in shipping fresh vegetables across the United States. Their brand, Andy Boy, was trademarked in 1927 and they opened warehouses across California. Andy Boy still exists today but no longer operates in Castroville. Just south of Blackie Street, a spur crossed Del Monte Avenue and Blackie to cater to the Monterey Bay Packing Company. Little is known of this company except it began operations in the late 1930s and continued in operation until at least 1985. It specialised in vegetables other than artichokes. Across Blackie, the California Artichoke Company controlled a long spur that crossed Del Monte and terminated just before Wood Street. This was probably the height of freight patronage at Castroville. All of these were local agricultural firms using the station to ship out its goods.

1960 United Convention in Chicago, with Andrea D'Arrigo (far left), Stefano, and other D'Arrigos. [Andy Boy]
By the turn of the century, Castroville had declined considerably. The Monterey Branch was spiked and the Union Pacific had taken over the line. Nonetheless, a few customers remained. D'Arrigo Brothers continued to operate their facility, the last on the old Monterey Branch tracks in 1998. They would finally sell the location in 2006 to the Coastal Cooling Company, although by that time the tracks had been spiked and could no longer be used for export. To the east, A & S Metals operated along a forked spur. Central Cold Storage, meanwhile, maintained a long platform behind their plant. Lastly, Sims-LMC Recyclers sat at the end of a broken spur, registered by the railroad as a customer but unable to actually use its track. With this one exception, all these spurs still exist at Castroville today, although most have since been repurposed

Today, a number of patrons still own existing spurs, although it is unlikely many of them use this resource for exporting stock—aerial photograph evidence shows no signs that the tracks are currently in use. At the southern end of the yard, Coast American Cooling sits alongside a 270 meter spur that also breaks to the north with a 110 meter spur to cater to ABC Supply Company, both located off Commercial Parkway. Coast American Cooling is on the site of A & S Metals. A long extant spur also runs behind Randazzo Enterprises and Central Cold Storage, the latter of which at least was a railroad customer formerly although its current usage history is unknown. It is currently owned by VPS Companies and Inn Foods. All other tracks in the area are now gone. The remnants of a third track can still be clearly seen crossing Blackie Road.

Official Railroad Information:
For the sake of this article, the only accessible railroad information is a 1973 SPINs chart, a 1998 Union Pacific freight yard assessment, and a summary of stations at Castroville from c. 1970 found in an abandoned railroad warehouse. More information will undoubtedly bring light to much missing data regarding this freight yard.

Citations & Credits:

  • Boggiatto Produce, Inc. "Company History." 2016.
  • "Company History". Andy Boy Brand, 2017.
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Company maps, 1892, 1910, 1913. UCSC Digital Library. University of California, Santa Cruz.
  • Southern Pacific Railroad. "Watsonville Zone 9, Sheet 1". 1973. Courtesy George Pepper.
  • Union Pacific Railroad. "Roseville Service Unit, Salinas Subdivision, Castroville, CA." 1998. Courtesy George Pepper.

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