Friday, May 15, 2015

Martin & Neponset

1913 USGS Map showing Neponset just south of the Salinas River.
The northern part of Monterey County has never been heavily developed. With the agricultural wealth of the Salinas Valley, plants more than people occupied the great river basin. Neponset, a Southern Pacific Railroad station located just south of the Salinas River along the Monterey Branch, never belonged to a town. The station was located on the edge of Rancho Rincón de las Salinas (corner of the salt marshes). The grant was originally given to Cristina Delgado in 1833. After the United States annexed California, the rancho was patented to Rafael Estrada.

When the Southern Pacific purchased the Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad in 1879, it constructed a new reroute of the former line between Castroville and Bardin's. Because of the pair of bridges that were required to cross over the Salinas River, the area picked up the nickname "Twin Bridges" (today, there are three bridges over the river here, two for cars and one five-truss span for trains). At the same time, the railroad established a station just to the south called "Martin's Station" and, later, "Martins". Who the name referred to is not presently known by this historian. The local settlement itself appears to have been located on the Monterey Bay slightly to the west, but a freight platform and siding were built alongside the tracks to support the local community. Passenger and freight service both went through the station. What precisely was shipped out of here is not entirely known. Agricultural products undoubtedly were one of the items, but salt from the Salinas River and the beach, or other ocean-related products may also have shipped out from here.

The station was renamed one last time around 1899 to "Neponset", after the Massachusetts town of the same name, which itself was a Amerindian word meaning "little summer place". Once again, the reason for the name is not currently known. Neponset reached its height in the 1920s when a water tower was installed there and its siding reached its maximum length of around 700 feet. Starting in the 1930s, it began to shrink again and passenger service ended during World War II. The station was removed from timetables around 1960.

Today, a small spur, reduced from its original siding, remains at Neponset along the now-abandoned and spiked Monterey Branch. A large industrial park occupies the site adjacent to the station. Parts of the former freight platform and station structure may survive within the facility's parking lot, although this is not clear from Google Maps. Though Neponset is still considered an unincorporated community in Monterey County, very few people live there today and it is primarily undeveloped or agricultural land.

Aerial view of Neponset today. The extant spur is visible in the profile of the driveway at top. (Google Maps)
Official Railroad Information:
Neponset was located 113.9 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José, and 14.7 miles from Lake Majella. It included a 14-car siding (~700 feet), a water tank (installed in the 1920s), a class-A freight yard with platform on the south side of the tracks, and supported both freight and passenger service. By 1951, the station no longer supported passenger service and its siding shrunk to only 9-carlengths (~450 feet). The station was removed from Southern Pacific timetables by 1963.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.73˚N, -121.78˚W

The site of Neponset is located along Monte Road, a frontage road beside State Route 1 just south of the Salinas River crossing. The railroad tracks and siding (now a spur) still exist outside a restricted-entry industrial park. The spur breaks off just at the driveway. The station and platform probably sat between the tracks slightly to the southwest of the driveway, the current site of the business's staff parking lot. Neponset Road wraps around the industrial park on its south side.

Citations & Credits:
  • Mildred Brooke Hoover, Historic Spots in California (Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990).

1 comment:

  1. Neponset was apparently removed from Southern Pacific Employee Timetables specifically
    in 1963. It was listed on Coast Division Timetable # 185 of April 28, 1963 as having a spur
    with an 11 car capacity and eastward entry. However, the next Coast Division Timetable,
    # 186 of October 27, 1963 no longer has Neponset listed on the branch. In 1937, it was
    still a flag stop for two westbound and two eastbound passenger trains.


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