Friday, February 24, 2017

Stations: Trafton

Trafton siding as viewed on a 1914 USGS Map.
The Trafton family were some of the first major East Coast settlers to migrate to the Pajaro Valley, and their legacy was keenly felt over the hundred years after their resettlement. In 1864, the entire family headed out from Boone County, Missouri, but the patriarch, David Trafton, died along the way leaving his wife, Sarah Woodbury, to raise her brood of five children alone. Their youngest son, twenty-seven year-old John Edmund Trafton, became the functional head of the family at this time since he was still unmarried and he became engaged with many different businesses over the course of his life. He quickly accumulated large parcels of land in both Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, on which he farmed and raised all manner of livestock. By the time he died in 1922, Trafton owned over 1,200 acres of fertile land and his estate was estimated to be worth at least $300,000. But Trafton was a bachellor and he gifted his vast estates and wealth to his siblings' children, a total of twenty-seven nieces and nephews. Trafton also donated thousands of dollars to local charities and organisations over his lifetime and helped found the Pajaro Valley National Bank and the Watsonville Creamery Company (likely contributing dairy from his own cattle, as well).

The Trafton family owned farms all over the area, but their original holding was a large parcel between the Pajaro River and modern-day Trafton Road, located specifically along the top half of the large bend in the river just south of Watsonville. In total, this area measures 400 acres, 280 of which are in the floodplain and the remainder on the hills. The Pajaro Valley Railroad snaked its way around this parcel in 1889 with the permission of the Traftons, who benefited by the addition of a 20-car siding and spur located at the north-east corner of their property. The spur sat on the inside curve of the tracks, while the spur broke off from this siding and terminated shortly afterwards, probably with a holding size of roughly 6 cars. This stop was located exactly three miles south of the Watsonville station terminus.

When Trafton died in 1922, his nephew Thomas F. Trafton took possession of the family estate. He began specializing in fruit- and vegetable-growing and chicken raising. Whether he used the railroad access at the back of his property is unknown, but the station remained until the abandonment of the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad track in 1929. The Trafton family still holds land in many areas in Monterey County and have held many prominent positions in the community, including Sheriff of Santa Cruz County and Mayor of Watsonville.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.885˚N, 121.785˚W

The site of Trafton station is one of the more recognizable and enduring locations along the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad right-of-way. The station was located with the first sharp bend in the Pajaro River as it exited from Watsonville to the sea, now directly across from the Watsonville City Wastewater plant. There is still space at this location for the original siding and spur, now occupied by various storage and fencing supplies along a private access road that runs behind the property. Unfortunately, this location is deep within private property and trespassing is strongly discouraged.

Citations & Credits:

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