Friday, June 26, 2015


The Work Wood Yard, c. 1895, with Thomas in front (Pat Hathaway)
At the turn of the twentieth century, the area near what would become Fort Ord was largely undeveloped property. Nearby in Pacific Grove, however, a Scotsman named Thomas Albert Work was making a name for himself. He was an investor and promoter, a man who wanted to see his town becoming something special. Young and presumptuous, the man began his life at the age of 17 as the owner of a feed store and wood yard in 1886. His business expanded exponentially over the next two decades, bringing him wealth and regional fame. By 1903, he had erected the first motion picture theatre in Monterey, sacrificing his credibility for the hope of filling a growing niche. His investment paid off wonderfully. He became involved in local politics and took on investors. His theatre was still at the center of city life into the 1930s, during which time he was also the president of the First National Banks of Pacific Grove, Salinas, Monterey, and Carmel, as well as the city's treasurer. He also purchased vast tracts of land and many rival businesses over the decades, becoming the equivalent of Frederick Hihn on the Monterey Peninsula. 

Map showing Workfield Siding just south of the Fort Ord loop, 1948. (USGS)
But in western Monterey, he had another project located directly beside the Southern Pacific Railroad's Monterey Branch. In 1914, Work purchased 8,000 acres of land to the east of the tracks and converted it into Workfield Farms. This property appears to have been primarily a dairy and cattle ranch. The railroad ~420-foot spur established for the property, so-named "Workfield", probably was used to haul out stock of cattle periodically.

The United States Army purchased the Workfield property around 1940 during its massive expansion of Camp Gigling into Fort Ord prior to World War II. Workfield probably ceased regular use at this time, although it is possible that the military used it for holding cars. Some sources call the location "Gigling Junction", however this term was strictly unofficial and the location never served as a junction to anything. The spur was reduced to ~280 feet and converted to a short siding and scheduled passenger service ended, if ever it had it. The siding lingered through the 1950s, but was gone by 1963.

Official Railroad Information:
Workfield first appeared in railroad timetables and agency books around 1916, operating as a C-class freight station with a platform. It was located 120.4 miles from San Francisco via Castroville, Gilroy, and San José and 9.6 miles from the Lake Majella end-of-track in Pacific Grove. The initial 12-carlength spur was shortened to an 8-carlength siding in the late 1940s and the station was removed from timetables by 1963.

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

The former location of the Workfield siding is directly across State Route 1 from the end of Gigling Road. It can be accessed via the Monterey Peninsula Recreation Trail just south of the concrete loading platform that runs off the Fort Ord Loop track. The only lingering evidence of the siding is a section of ballasted ground to the east of the right-of-way.

Citations & Credits:

  • Seavey, Kent. Images of America: Pacific Grove. Arcadia Publishing, 2005.
  • Van de Grift-Sanchez, Nellie. California and Californians, vol. 4. Lewis Publishing, 1932.
  • Walton, John. Storied Land: Community and Memory in Monterey. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.

1 comment:

  1. Workfield is shown as a flag stop for those unnamed passenger trains which once operated in addition to the Del Monte, I assume as long as they continued to run. Workfield is shown as such for these trains on the Coast Division Timetables of March 21, 1937 and March 30, 1940. The last listing of Workfield as a freight station on a Coast Division Timetable appears to be on #185 for April 28, 1963. It is not shown on #186 for Oct.27, 1963. The final siding capacity shown in Timetable #185 is 19 cars.


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