Salinas Station

After sketching historic passenger train stations between San Francisco and San Jose, I decided to expand my scope by visiting all of the existing stations on the Daylight Route from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

Salinas is probably best known as the birthplace of writer John Steinbeck. It is also known as the “Salad Bowl of the World” because its marine climate makes it an ideal location for agriculture. But I was here because it was the third Daylight stop on the line out of San Francisco. This would be the connection point for any traveller from the Monterey Bay Area wishing to head south to The City of Angels or north to the City of Saint Francis.

Salinas Station was built by Southern Pacific in 1941. It is designed in an Spanish Revival Style, with its red tiled roof, mixed with touches of the then popular Art Deco style, shown by its clean lines, letter design, and interior.

The station’s construction coincided with the rise of Southern Pacific’s premier passenger train, the Daylight Limited. Promoters called the Daylight, “the most beautiful passenger train in the world”. And this was not mere hyperbole.

This station bears a few commonalities with the two Daylight stations that still exist in the Bay Area, Palo Alto and San Jose. All three stations have murals painted by John MacQuarrie. And two of these murals feature Southern Pacific’s most beautiful locomotive at the the time the GS-2. This streamlined 4-8-4 is in the Palo Alto Station and here at the Salinas.

When the station was completed in 1941, the zenith of Southern Pacific’s passenger steam locomotives had arrived in the “super power” of the GS-4. The increased ridership of this route is evidenced by the the fact that Southern Pacific ordered 28 locomotives from the Lima Locomotive Works between 1941 and 1942.

The John MacQuarrie mural at Salinas was painted in 1941 (the same year as the Palo Alto mural) and prominently features the star motive power at the time, the Golden State 2 (GS-2). Six of these locomotives were built and went into service in 1937.

It was a beautiful winter day in Salinas with a high of 70 degrees. I walked around the station and at the platform, a Los Angles bound Coast Starlight was paused to pick up passengers for destinations to the southland. This Amtrak train replaced the Daylight in 1971. At least from Salinas to Los Angeles.

Salinas station was a station that was still in use. There are actual humans attending to the ticket window who could actually answer questions and issue tickets. The interior contained bathrooms, food vending machines, and benches for passengers waiting for their train to arrive. It was nice, for a change, to see a train station being used for its intended purpose.

It’s great to see that Salinas Station is still a vibrant station on the former Daylight Route. The car to the right is where I would probably be: the Lounge Car! To the right is a couple waving their loved one goodbye and safe travel.

I set up my camp/ sketching chair across from Salinas Station and started to sketch. I originally wanted to sketch the station from a formal view but the parking lot was being rebuilt and was fenced off. So I sketched a little bit off center.

Next to the station is the Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Museum. They have a collection featuring a Southern Pacific steam locomotive switcher, a Southern Pacific caboose, and a few rail cars on static display.

Southern Pacific switcher Number 1237 on static display in Salinas. This locomotive is pointing to the north but will likely never move north again.

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