Friday, April 7, 2017

Stations: Gravel Pit No. 1

A mule cart at the Logan quarry, c. 1905, demonstrating the likely gravel
quarrying operation at Gravel Pit No. 1 around the same time. [Graniterock]
The route of the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad was punctuated by two stops simply named "Gravel Pit No. 1" and "Gravel Pit No. 2" on its main line. The northernmost of these pits, located along the Pajaro River near its outlet into the Monterey Bay, was in fact a small gravel quarry located on Trafton Road near its junction with Bluff Road. Along the railroad route, it was located 5.4 miles from the Watsonville Depot and 21.8 miles from Spreckels, near Salinas. Because of the heavy industrial nature of this site, a long 32-car spur was built that ran parallel to the main track and originally existed to the north. This spur hosted at various times hopper cars that would be filled with gravel obtained at the quarry. A second portable spur split from the track at the stop and went northeast into the quarry itself, with its route shifted periodically to access new gravel sites. Since gravel was not a necessary resource used in sugar beet refining, it can be assumed that this quarry provided much of the ballast used along the right-of-way when it was built between the Watsonville beet sugar refinery and the Spreckels refinery in the 1890s. It may also have been used when the railroad was extended from Spreckels to Alisal Canyon in 1902. Quarrying here was likely done using small horse- or mule-driven hoppers that then transferred the gravel via a dump chute into a waiting railroad hopper, such as depicted in the image above from the nearby Logan quarry.

Gravel Pit No. 1 probably went out of use when Gravel Pit No. 2 was built south of Spreckels in 1905. With this new source of gravel directly on the path of a new branch line, the need for an older, possibly depleted pit over 20 miles away to the north seems unlikely. This second gravel pit would have been responsible for the ballast needed to create the short Salinas Branch in 1908 and for later ballast replacement processes used until the line was demolished in 1930. The United States Geological Survey map for 1912 shows no spur, siding, or quarry at the site of Gravel Pit No. 1, suggesting it had gone out of use at that time and the railroad machinery there had been removed and relocated to Gravel Pit No. 2. Since it was only an industrial stop, it never appeared on railroad passenger timetables or promotional maps of the route. Unsurprisingly, no images of the pit seem to have survived.

Geo-Coordinates & Access Rights:
36.860˚N, 121.799˚W

The site of Gravel Pit No. 1 is along Trafton Road just before its end at Bluff Road. The site is clearly visible on satellite maps as a large undeveloped, overgrown quarry straddled by two large agricultural plots, its southern neighbor being Far West Fungi. The former Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad right-of-way terminates at the quarry stop, which is currently occupied by a single small home accessible via an access road that passes through the old quarry. The site is private property. Trespassing is discouraged.

Citations & Credits:
  • Fabing, Horace W., and Rick Hamman. Steinbeck Country Narrow Gauge. Pruett, 1985.
  • Hilton, George Woodman. American Narrow Gauge Railroads. Stanford: University Press, 1990.
  • Martin, Edward. History of Santa Cruz County, California, with Biographical Sketches. Los Angeles: Historic Record Company, 1911.

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