The Del Monte Part 2: The Final Saturday

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The crowds of riders that once attended Southern Pacific's Monterey trains rapidly vanished in the 1950's. SP's annual July passenger count showed on average less than 40 passengers in 1962, a precipitous drop from a few years before. Concluding that "There isn't anything more that we can do" to regain ridership (see pamphlet at right), SP threw in the towel in September and filed its first pertition to discontinue the Del Monte with the California PUC. It and subsequent efforts were rebuffed by PUC, and the train survived until the onset of Amtrak. Amtrak's original mandate allowed it to operate long haul trains, defined as runs of at least 150 miles, only. Anything under that was a commuter train, according to Amtrak's charter. Sadly, the SP's Del Monte only ran about 125 miles, so it sat in a Catch 22 type situation: Amtrak's could not legally take over the train, because it was a "commuter" train, but SP maintained that it was a long haul train, subject to discontinuance with the start up of Amtrak. Ultimately, SP's viewpoint prevailed and the Del Monte came off.

I wanted to ride on the train's last westbound and eastbound trips, but April 30, 1971 fell on a Thursday, and I had college classes to attend. Instead, I chose to climb aboard on its last Saturday, April 25. As today, most of my railfaning,
er, HISTORICAL RESEARCH was spent in simple observation - I regarded cameras as as impediments to the experience. Thus, the most memorable part of the day - being buzzed by a friendly, animated pilot in his biplane as the train rocked along through the artichoke fields west of Castroville - went unrecorded. I did click off a few shots, though...

click on image for PDF - courtesy of Dave Hambleton

Not long after I arrived, the typical coastal gloom parted, illuminating the tidy little Arts and Crafts depot and the unusually large crowd in a cool light. Trailing GP9's 3002 and 3004 was a huge consist, compared to the typical weekend fare of three cars: two Subs, followed by the usual prewar Daylight Coach and Shasta Daylight coach, four more streamlined coaches, and a private two-tone blue heavyweight observation whose name ecapes me.

150+ miles of travel for seven bucks!

As large as the westbound Del Monte was, it was not the largest train on the Monterey Branch that day. At Lick (right), the name train waited for a short time for this special train, a money raiser for critically ill Campbell Police Chief Morgan. The 3007 led two other GP9's and a long string of cars. That's another "historian" standing on top of the cut in the distance.

I detrained in San Jose, providing me with another photo op (above and right). The day was unusually brisk for a Bay Area late April - notice the steam wafting about.

That afternoon, I returned to Monterey on the eastbound, arriving after the overcast had again descended upon the town - one last photo (below), then the long drive home.

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