Friday, April 21, 2017

Stations: Beach

USGS Map showing the location of Beach Station, 1912.
Beach Station is perhaps the most obscure railroad stop along the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad, as well as the most difficult to research due to the simplistic nature of its name. The stop was located roughly 6.2 miles from Watsonville Depot and 21.0 miles from Spreckels, immediately adjacent to the outlet of the Pajaro River. The river mouth has moved significantly in recent decades, but a 1912 US Geological Survey map shows that the stop was originally located beside a sand embankment that protected the track from the river. This embankment and the presence of a nearby structure may also give a hint as to the purpose of this stop.

A Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad locomotive with crew posing for a photograph, c. 1900. [Adi Zehner]
The sometimes wet winters and constantly misty weather conditions in the Pajaro and Salinas valleys would have certainly made sand for traction essential for smooth operations of a railroad. The large sand embankment located immediately beside the tracks at this location may have made sand quarrying quite an easy task for railroad personnel. The station sported a relatively long northward-exiting spur, visible on the USGS map. The exit direction suggests that it was built prior to the sugar beet refinery's transfer from Watsonville to Spreckels in 1898. However, no other similar stop along the beach appears after that date, which, after also considering the continued existence of the spur on a 1914 USGS map, suggests that Beach continued to be used by the railroad for its original purpose possibly as late as 1929, when the railroad ended operations. Local farmers may have also used the stop, but information on such usage is not forthcoming and there are few farms noted in the immediate area. The beach may have served as a flag stop for beachgoers and it has been popular with fishermen for over a century, but it seems more likely that the main beach at Moss Landing served this purpose for the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad. The stop was definitively abandoned in 1930 when the tracks of the railroad were removed by the Southern Pacific Railroad. It seems likely that the current severe erosion of the beach may be due to this early mining effort.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.847˚N, 121.805˚W

The location of Beach Station is publicly visible from the northern curve on the gravel portion of Giberson Road at the outlet of the Pajaro River. Indeed, Giverson Road follows the right-of-way of the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad for its entire length as it runs alongside the beach. The station site sits just beyond the northern end of Zmudowski State Beach, but no trace of the site remains. A field now occupies the location of the spur while the mainline right-of-way is now a private access road for farmers.

Citations & Credits:
  • Fabing, Horace W., and Rick Hamman. Steinbeck Country Narrow Gauge. Pruett, 1985.

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