Del Monte 1; _2; _3; _4:XXSP Pages
last update: 11-2020

...1970's & 1870's

If ever there was a a depot building that perfectly reflected a farming community, the SP station at Castroville surely was it. Over the many years since it was built in 1869 (+ or -), it evolved in much the way that a farmer's barn evolved - with cost-effective, good-enough additions constructed out of practical need, rather than stylistic consideration - the railroad equivalent of "farm construction".

Located at the head of the Salinas Valley, Castroville was the junction point for the now-abandoned Monterey Branch, and indeed was listed as Del Monte Junction in early Twentieth Century timetables. The town is famed for its artichoke production, although brussel sprouts and other crops that favor its cool oft-overcast coastal climate also grow in abundance nearby. Given that the area produces three-quarters of the world's 'chokes (and all of the Globe variety: the best), it's self-proclaimed status as the "Artichoke Capital of the World" is on the mark. Every May, Castroville hosts an Artichoke Festival that features a car show, foot race and all of the other fare that is expected of such events.

The first photos here date to early 1974, after its last two passenger trains that called there, the Coast Mail and the Del Monte, were dropped. The last photo records a short SP passenger train sitting across the tracks from the depot about a century earlier.

Wx4 recently acquired this chickenpox-plagued parlor photo of what we assumed to be SP 4-4-0 # 21 at Castroville. We checked with Dave Hambleton, the reigning authority on SP in the area. He confirmed that this indeed Castroville, and that this is the earliest SP photo that he has seen of same. Better yet, he supplied us with an 1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map that shows the precise location of the train: timetable eastbound in front of the tank house depicted by the two blue circles on the map.

What remains to be nailed down is the approximate date. The fancy decor (note the bald eagle painted on the headlight glass) of #21 suggests that this scene might have been recorded shortly after the locomotive went into service (according to Diebert and Strapac) on March 15, 1875. We have so far found no record of photographer Hanson, although there was a commercial photographer of that name located in Santa Cruz in the early 1890's. Perhaps one of you viewers can identify the cars and their date of manufacture?

1892 Sanborn map from Library of Congress online, which also offers 1910 (below) and 1929 revisions

A notice (above left) for a new dining hall at Castroville appeared in an 1891 SP public timetable. On the Sanborn map above, it is the "RR Eating Station" just north of the depot.

Where's Castroville? (above right) Between approximately 1913 and 1933, SP renamed its Castroville station to Del Monte Jct., surely to the embarrassment of the good town's fathers. Likewise, this must have nonplussed a passenger wanting to get off in Castroville to visit grandma. Know the exact dates?

The above Sanborn map show how diminished the layout was in 1910. (Click on the map for an enlarged version) Sometime between 1895 and 1907 Castroville lost its status as a subdivision point (in favor of Salinas) where main line crews and locomotives changed, along with its meal stop.

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