Castroville to Pacific Grove

The Monterey Branch

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Map submitted by Paul Carr.

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Inland right-of-way view from Pacific Grove. Photo by Mike Palmer, March 2005.

The Monterey Branch was built in 1879 and opened to traffic on January 1, 1880; it linked San Francisco to the Hotel Del Monte and Pebble Beach. It branched from the Southern Pacific Coast Line main line from a wye at Castroville, just north of Salinas. It extended generally south and west, and served the (now closed) US Army's Fort Ord, the canneries and packing houses of Monterey and Seaside, and a lumber yard in Pacific Grove.

The line hosted SP's longest running "named" passenger train, the Del Monte, which ran from San Francisco to Pacific Grove. The train was mainly used by wealthy tourists. The Del Monte made its last run on April 30, 1971, at the dawn of Amtrak. Amtrak could not legally operate the train because its route was 125 miles long, not 150 as Amtrak required. SP however, maintained that it was a long distance train and thus the operations ceased.

As the line began to fall into disuse, starting in the 1980s and into the 1990s, operations along the track were cut back in sections over time. By the latter part of 1980s, the condition of the track had deteriorated considerably; today the track remains, but is buried underneath the bike trail.

The last train that ran on the line was in 1999 when TAMC (Transportation Agency of Monterey County) ran a Talgo trainset on the line for demonstration purposes. However, the demonstrations were canceled due to the poor condition of the track. While the tracks are still in place into the town of Monterey, the line has not been used since 1999, when Union Pacific removed the switch at the junction with the Coast Line at Castroville in November of that year.

TAMC purchased the line from Union Pacific in 2003 and commuter rail to be operated by Caltrain has been proposed numerous times. However, the residents of the upscale communities along the tracks as well as the cities themselves have not been supportive.

The western end of the right of way is generally scenic, with a tree-lined walking path in one area, and a paved bike/walking path where the route ran along the southern boundary of Monterey Bay. Further north/east, the line runs through coastal dunes, parallel to California Highway 1. The route crossed over the Salinas River on a large truss bridge.

Thanks to Mike Palmer, Paul Carr and Dave Hambleton for contributing information about this route.

Historic ICC Abandonment Filings

SOUTHERN PACIFIC RAILROAD
Docket Number: AB 12 Sub 58 Date: 12/29/1978 Section: 1a
Application fried for authority to abandon the end of portion of the Monterey Branch from MP 123.30 near Seaside to MP 130.02 near the end of the branch at Lake Majella, a distance of 6.71 miles, in Monterey County, California.
Length: 6.71 miles Citation:  

I was through here last year at this time, and nothing has changed, though the rail into Monterrey proper has been lifted (I do not know when it was).

The local word on the street is that Union Pacific is going to hang onto this ROW because of the prime real estate it runs through. Sooner or later the communties will want a light rail connection, and UP is just waiting for that moment.

Bill
Bakersfield, CA
3/13/2010

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Great collection of photos on this branch.

Kevin M. Smith
Cicero, NY
7/15/2010

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I wrote an extensive article on this branch in the Spring 2010 issue of the SPH&TS Trainline magazine with a future book in the works.

Dave Hambleton
San Jose, CA
11/29/2010

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I lived in the apartment building at Jewell and Railroad Way in the mid 70's and remember the box cars rolling through almost daily. They rattled the house! My friends and I would put pennies on the track for little trinkets. I had no idea how old those rails were. My wife and i would like to go visit my childhood home. PG is truly an enchanting place to be a kid, even more so as an adult.

Adam Taylor
Las Vegas, NV
9/22/2013

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Looking to do a documentary on the old Del Monte Express as part of the new 9th grade Common Core History/Art/and language arts curriculum. We run three TV stations and have a brand new, state of the art media studio-We need to talk with train buffs that might have ridden, possesses photos, film, etc. of the train. We would also connect this to the civics unit on local government and unintended consequences, like 7 hour traffic jams. Please help us.

Hamish A Tyler
Seaside, CA
12/5/2013

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