“Charles H. King, a weatl,thy bay area developer, purchased 13,000 acres of the rancho San Lorenzo in 1884. In the first year of his ownershiop he planted 6,000 acres of wheat on the ranch; that was the first planting in southern MOnterey County. King laid out the town in 1886, and the Southern Pacific Railraod extended their tracks to the town and built a milling compan, John Steinbeck’s father, Ernst, was the first Souther Pacific agent and managed the SP Milling Company.” (Anderson)
The Southern Pacific (the Espee) railroad was critical for the evolvement of Salinas Valley Agriculture and the development of the City of Salinas as a commercial hub for the area. According to Ryan and Breschini, the timeline for this development was:
- In 1868, the Southern Pacific Railroad was successfully running between San Francisco to San Jose and had extended service as far south as Gilroy.
- In 1870, the infamous Central Pacific purchased the Southern Pacific Railroad to form the Southern Pacific. The newly formed company announced plans to run a railroad from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
- On November 1, 1872, the coast route reached Salinas via Gilroy/Hollister/Pajaro Junction.
- On August 12, 1873, the route was extended to Soledad, which opened the mid-upper Salinas Valley agriculture up freight service. What impact did this have on the development of Salinas as a city?
- Between May and July, 1886, extended the tracks from Soledad to Kings Ranch.
- On October 18, 1886, the line was connected to San Miguel.
- In November, 1886, the line was extended to El Paso de Robles Resort Hotel and then on to Templeton.
- Note: the Soledad to Templeton railroad was built by about 1,500 Chinese laborers.
- It wasn’t until 1889, that the Southern Pacific brought the rail line to Santa Margarita but went no further. Crocker indicated that the Southern Pacific had no plans to undertake the expense of a mountainous route over Cuesta Grade. After much machinations by local businessmen which included selling subscriptions to raise money, condemnation of land and a formal construction bidding process.
- Work finally began October 1892. By 1893, they were making progess of 35 feet per week.
- On May 5, 1894, at 3.25 P.M., the Salinas Valley was, at last, connected to San Luis Obispo County.
Books and References
Anderson, Burton. The Salinas Valley: A History of America’s Sald Bowl. Monterey County Historical Society. 2000.