Friday, June 19, 2015

Gigling & Ord

Fort Ord Army base in 1948 (USGS)
The history of Fort Ord and its relationship with the Southern Pacific Railroad dates back to the very beginning of the Salinas Valley Railroad in 1874. When that railroad first connected the Monterey pier with Salinas, the location that would become Ford Ord was a ranch owned by the Gigling family. Not much is known about the Giglings except they were German immigrants and primarily cattle and sheep ranchers who had settled on the boundary between Ranchos El Toro and El Chamisal and the Pueblo of Monterey in the 1850s. When the railroad passed through their land, the family was able to have a flag-stop erected under the name "Gigling's", and local ranchers such as the Henneken family used it to ship out goods.

Camp Gigling cavalry unit, 1917. (
In 1904, the Presidio of Monterey began using the area around the Gigling farm for training exercises. The presidio's cavalry and Army regiment camped periodically on the dunes near the beach but it was only in 1917 that they began to use the land more formally. On August 4th of that year, the US Army purchased 15,610 acres of land from the David Jacks Corporation (presumably the successors to the Gigling family) and converted it into "Gigling Reservation". Little changed at the site except the animals were removed. The reservation consisted only of an old well, a caretaker's house, and a few semi-permanent bivouac sites. The railroad stop, connected by a little-used dirt road to the camp site, continued to be used by local farmers and a freight platform catered to their needs, but how heavily this stop was used remains unknown and it seems to have declined in use through the early 1930s. Gigling Reservation became Camp Gigling at some point after World War I, but the old name was retained by many locals into the late 1930s. The camp supported the 76th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, and the 18th Cavalry. It's main purpose became field artillery training, a legacy that still haunts the area today.

Bivouacking cavalry soldiers preparing for a day of training at Camp Gigling, 1917.
(Mayo Hayes O'Donnell Research Library)
Gigling Artillery training, 1917 (Calisphere)
The Great Depression changed many things at Camp Gigling. The Civilian Conservation Corps set up an outpost there in 1933 and the military, responding to the growth of the base, renamed the entire facility "Camp Ord" after the Civil War commander Major General Edward Otho Cresap Ord. The property was expanded to encompass an additional 13,000 acres and permanent facilities began to be erected on this new land, demoting the former Camp Gigling property to the status of "East Garrison", although the railroad station retained its old name until the early 1940s when it became "Ord". Immediately prior to World War II, the base expanded exponentially to include barracks, mess halls, sewage treatment facilities, and administrative buildings—over 1,000 separate buildings in total. In 1940, the base became "Fort Ord" and was commissioned as a full-time US Army facility under the control of the 7th Infantry Division.

The Gigling/Ord Loop track with a passenger train turning around, March 13, 1949. (Wilbur C. Whittaker)
During World War II until the end of the Vietnam War, Fort Ord was a basic training facility and boot camp for soldiers of the 7th Light Infantry Division, as well as other divisions as needed. The railroad service at Ord exploded during the wars, with the short 18-carlength siding (~630 feet) being converted into a multi-siding holding yard with accompanying turn-around loop. The loop, which still exists just south of the base today, allowed trains to turn around without the need of a turntable or wye. Combined, the track space at Ord encompassed 3,430 feet of track, enough to hold 97 passenger cars. The mainline tracks bypassed the fort but a long siding with two spurs went directly into the base to expedite troop deployments. A long siding also ran along the entire length of the mainline in this area, presumably to hold excess cars. Most of this track remains intact today, although much is buried, spiked, or in a general state of disuse since the line itself is no longer operable.

Basic training at Fort Ord during the Vietnam War.
(San Luis Obispo's The Tribune)
Fort Ord began to decline as an army facility after 1975 and in 1990, the US Department of Defense listed the base for closure. Formal downsizing began in 1991 and the 7th Infantry was relocated to Fort Lewis, Washington. The base officially closed in September 1994, although a small portion of it remains in use by the Presidio of Monterey, primarily for their Defense Language Institute. Since its abandonment, the fort property has undergone various changes. A large portion of it has become California State University, Monterey Bay, while other parts have been cleared out for use as retail space. Two decades have been spent making safe the old artillery yards with Army crews regularly searching for unexploded ordnance in the fields, but the majority of this land is returning to a state of nature, as intended. The Monterey Bay Rail Trail begins its journey along the historic Monterey Branch right-of-way near Fort Ord and continues to Pacific Grove, although the track itself still exists, usually sitting beside the trail, rusting and unkempt. President Obama created Fort Ord National Monument in April 2012, although the new park is still undergoing conversion before it becomes fully accessible to the public.

Official Railroad Information:
A train on Gigling loop, March 13, 1949. (Wilbur C. Whittaker)
When precisely Gigling appeared in timetables is not currently known to this historian, but it was listed as early as 1899 in Agency Books as a class-A freight stop. It was downgraded to a class-D station in 1909 and retained that status into the early 1930s. By 1937, Gigling was a formal station once again with an 18-carlength siding, phone access, and both passenger and freight services. It was located 119.7 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Santa Cruz, and the Mayfield Cut-Off. Following the closure of the mountain section in 1940, the distance shifted to 119.2 miles via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José. It was located 10.3 miles from the Lake Majella end-of-track. In the mid-1940s, the Gigling loop was added to the stop, thereby lengthening the track to 97-carlengths, or 3,430 feet. Regular passenger service to the station ended around 1965, although it remained as a flag-stop for the Del Monte Limited until 1971, but freight access through the stop continued until the closure of the branch in 1999.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.66˚N, 121.82˚W

The site of Gigling loop is currently blocked to public access but the switch can be viewed from the Monterey Bay Rail Trail. Similarly, fortunately, a branch of the rail trail passes directly beside the old soldier-loading station at the base itself, with the siding and spurs appearing near the southern end until the trail overtakes the tracks. The long siding beside the base still can be seen, as well, both from the trail and from Google Maps' satellite view.

Citations & Credits:


  1. Ord or Fort Ord, if you prefer, was still listed as a regular stop for the Del Monte in 1964.
    When I rode the Del Monte in 1963, I expected it to make a brief stop here but it did not,
    apparently treating Ord like a flag stop on the day I rode the train. Sometime after 1964
    but by 1967, Ord was still on the public timetable but shown as a flag stop. When the Del Monte
    made it's final run on the Monterey branch on April 30, 1971, there were still three flag stops
    on the official timetable before the train reached the end of it's run at Monterey: Ord, Seaside,
    and Del Monte. On that last run in 1971, the train skipped Ord and Seaside but made one of it's rare stops at Del Monte before going to Monterey station that evening.

  2. I have investigated this issue further and on studying my S.P. public timetables from 1965,
    Ord was still shown officially as a regular stop for the Del Monte on the April 25, 1965 timetable.
    However on the October 31, 1965 timetable it was converted to a flag stop which it apparently
    continued to be until the train's last run on April 30, 1971.

  3. Much of the track was relocated when the old highway was upgraded into something like a freeway; for the Fort Ord area this would have been 1971-72. The bike path was added at that time, too.

    1. To continue, I was able to ride my bike almost to Castroville in 1973; I rode city streets through Monterey and Seaside, and then that nice, new bike path out to the Salinas River.

      The loop was easily seen in 1970, but construction changed that. The whole area was sandy with dunes which both tracks and the old highway went up and over. The tracks were reinstalled much lower, perfectly graded, and with a better roadbed than that seen in Marina or Seaside. There were old spurs near the loop (probably represented on the 1948 map along the southern edge of the loop, possibly with a double ended siding) that had a loading platform and probably a vehicle ramp; freight cars were regularly left there.

      The one time that I rode the Del Monte back in the evening, a few soldiers were crowded in the vestibules waiting for their stop and taking in the April sunset.

      I have a hard time remembering tracks running across the highway to reach the barracks, but I was young and probably didn't notice.

    2. I was stationed at Ft. Ord 1n 1962 for 6 months. At that time I took the train from San Francisco at 3rd & Townsend to Ft. Ord, a few weekends on my 3 day pass. It was a wonderful trip and very scenic.

  4. Wow. Good information regarding the Giglings and Fort Ord. Anton and Fanny Gigling are part of my family. Anton and his brother Valentine came to America in the 1840's from Baden Prussia. My GGG father Michael Fox came to America from Ireland in 1848. By 1851 or 52 he was at Woolsey Flat, gold mining on the middle fork of the Yuba River. I have not traced his sister's movement until she was married at Woolsey Flats to Thomas Campbell in 1862. Two children were born and Thomas was working at Moores Flat until 1875. By 1880 Michael's sister Fanny was married to Anton Gigling and the two children (Mary and Thomas Campbell) were living with them. Thomas senior was noted to have died in a mining accident. I cannot determine if Anton had any children of his own, but it appears that his brother did, marrying a woman who I believe was named Manuela Girardia. By 1867 Michael and his growing family lived in Castroville. He stayed there, farming, until the fall of 1875 when he moved to Guadalupe in Santa Barbara County. My guess is shortly after Thomas was killed Fanny moved her family to Michael's place where she met Anton Gigling. Both Anton and Michael were successful farmers and entrepreneurs and likely knew each other prior to Fanny moving to Monterey County. Fanny may have visited Michael prior to '75 and had already been introduced to Anton, which is only speculation.

  5. Cliff Fox, to add to your information. My great-great Aunt Kate (nee Quinn) married Thomas F. Campbell, Nov. 27, 1895. They lived in Salinas and would visit their cabin at Gigling Ranch which he inherited from Anton Gigling. Thomas Campbell died 1940 and is buried with many other Quinns at the Watsonville Catholic cemetery (E. Lake Ave). Aunt Kate died in ca. 1962 and is buried in a Catholic cemetery in the Sacred Heart Parish in Salinas. My grandmother Belle Anton (nee Ramsay) would tell us children about uncle Tom shooting a rattlesnake under her while she was swinging at the Gigling cabin. She would tell us the ranch was “nothing but tumbleweeds and rattlesnakes.” Uncle Tom and Aunt Kate would ride horse and buggy from Salinas to the Gigling cabin for vacations and getaways. Since Uncle Tom and Aunt Kate had no children, my mom inherited their rocking chairs and other personal items.

    1. Hi I am a student at UC Santa Cruz and I would like to know more about your great great aunt's land. Do you know about Gigling Ranch's land use and what they used it for? Maybe you know a relative with old maps or pictures of the land?

  6. I rode this train to Fort Ord for my Advanced Individual Training.

    The Passenger Car was very Ornate.


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