Friday, July 17, 2015


Retreat spurs on the 1947 USGS map of Seaside.
The history of the station known as Vidrio and, later, Retreat, is one of the most mysterious of all those located on the Monterey Branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad's Coast Division. Located along Del Monte Boulevard just 0.6 miles northeast of the Del Monte Hotel and southwest of Laguna del Rey (later renamed Roberts Lake), the station began its life as Vidrio around 1905. The station was initially a private C-class freight and passenger stop, presumably for the Vidrio family, a local family that is otherwise not mentioned in currently accessible sources. Southern Pacific records do not mention any other information on the stop and, indeed, it disappears from agency books in 1910.

At some point between 1911 and 1926, a new station appears at the same site as Vidrio, this time under the unusual name Retreat. Initially the revived stop had no services listed in agency books and it was only in 1930 that it was upgraded into a full A-class freight stop with platform. At this time, it first was listed as the site of an Associated Oil and Standard Oil property. From the information visible on aerial photographs and maps, the stop catered to a collection of large, round oil-holding tanks presumably owned by the oil companies. These did not appear on maps in the 1910s, so they must have been installed in the 1920s or afterwards. To support the oil services there, a pair of northeast-oriented spurs were installed beside the mainline, capable of holding 9 cars initially and eventually 13 cars (640 feet).

Retreat is unique for being the only station on the Monterey Branch that never had scheduled service and was generally exempt from even flag-service (although technically a few trains could stop there, if requested). In 1940, the station was reduced to an additional stop where it remained from that point onward. In 1954, the station was included within the long yard limits for Monterey Station, but that made no impact on the stop itself. Other than a freight platform, there appear to have been no other structures at the station. Since it was a private stop, a sign may not have even existed. Not surprisingly, no images of Retreat have so far been found.

Railroad service to Retreat ended in 1979 when the Monterey Branch was reduced to Seaside. The oil services there were abandoned at some point as well, leaving today only impressions on the ice plant-covered sand where the oil tanks once stood. The railroad tracks have since been either removed or buried here with much of the area around the property developed to some degree. The property itself is now mostly Monterey State Beach, although the heart of the oil operation is closed to the public.

Official Railroad Information:
The site of Retreat as seen on Google Earth.
Vidrio first appeared in agency books around 1907 with no platform or services. In 1909, it was designated a C-class freight station but it then disappeared from books in 1910. By 1926, the station had returned renamed Retreat. In 1930 an A-class freight station with a platform was present, privately owned by Associated Oil and Standard Oil. It appeared on timetables in this time 124.3 miles from San Francisco via Watsonville Junction, Gilroy, and San José. It was also 5.7 miles from the Lake Majella end-of-track. The first reported spur at the site was 8 carlengths (400 feet) long, but that was later upgraded to 13 carlengths (640 feet) by 1951. It was reduced to an Additional Station in 1940 and added to the yard limits of Monterey in 1954. It was still present on timetables in 1979 when the branch line was truncated to Seaside, at which point the stop was abandoned.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.6˚N, 121.9˚W

The site of Retreat is located at the junction of Del Monte Boulevard and the access road for Monterey State Beach. The road is the former oil company service road and skirts around the former oil tank enclosure, which is closed to the public. Nothing of the stop remains and the tracks have been either pulled or buried beneath the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail.

Citations & Credits:

  • Southern Pacific Railroad Agency Books and Employee Timetables, 1899 to 1983. (Courtesy George Pepper, Duncan Nanney, and the California State Railroad Museum Archives).

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