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California \ Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad.

Monterey And Salinas Valley Railroad.

Droughts and floods plagued the Salinas Valley grain farmers during the 1870s. When conditions were bad it was difficult to break even, and when conditions were good prices dropped. Even worse, the Southern Pacific Railroad, with no competition, began charging unbearably high fees to transport grain to market. In an attempt to circumvent the Southern Pacific, a group led by Carlisle S. Abbott began work on a narrow gauge railroad, the Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad, between Salinas and the deep water port at Monterey. Articles of incorporation were drawn up on February 26, 1874, with Abbott as president and Jacks as treasurer. Groundbreaking was held on April 20, 1874 and later that day construction began under engineer John F. Kidder who would later build and operate the Nevada County Narrow Gauge. By the end of September the line was nearly completed, with the Salinas terminal located at what is now the intersection of Pajaro and Willow streets.

On October 23, 1874 the first train rolled, and the Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad become the first narrow gauge to be operated in California. By the end of the year over 6,000 tons of grain had been transported to Monterey; the combined rail and steamship rates were averaging two dollars a ton less than those charged by the Southern Pacific. But in January of 1875 the Salinas River washed the bridge away, and it took two months to replace.

Business for the new railroad was so good that a second locomotive was added in 1875, but in January of 1876 the bridge washed out again, and this time it took six months to replace. Then came another misfortune: 1876-1877 was an extremely dry year, with less than five inches of rainfall, and the valley's crops failed. The following year was extremely wet and crops were abundant, but an unseasonably late June rain destroyed most of the grain.

Carlisle Abbott, who had 6,000 acres planted in grain, could not ship a single sack. Seeing their opening, the Southern Pacific lowered their rates below those of the Monterey & Salinas Valley, and the line fell deeper into debt. In August of 1879 the Southern Pacific purchased the Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad at a foreclosure sale and sold the narrow gauge track and rolling stock to the Nevada Central Railway, far enough away so it would not be a competitor. The Southern Pacific abandoned the M&SV route, and instead built a standard gauge line from Castroville directly into Monterey by June 1880.

Reference Material Available Online:


M&SV Carter Built Combines - A Summary Timeline.
By Craig Hoefer.

Period Newspaper Articles.

The Monterey and Salinas Narrow Gauge Railroad
Period Newspaper Article on Construction.
From: the Daily Alta California. July 17th, 1874.

Narrow Gauge Engine.
Period mention of M&SV #2 passing through Truckee, CA from the Baldwin factory.
From: the Grass Valley Daily Union/Truckee Republican. February 19th, 1875.


Articles of Incorporation. Feburary 26th, 1874.
From: California State Archives.
Articles of Incorporation, Page 1
Articles of Incorporation, Page 2
Articles of Incorporation, Page 3
Articles of Incorporation, Page 4
Articles of Incorporation, Page 5
Articles of Incorporation, Page 6
Articles of Incorporation, Page 7
Articles of Incorporation, County Clerk Information
Articles of Incorporation, Filing Information

1876 Employee/Government Time Table and Rules.
From: California State Archives.
Front - Timetable | Reverse - Rules

Freight and Passenger Tariffs begining January 1st, 1878.
From: California State Archives.
1878 Freight/Passenger Tariffs, Page 1 - Freight Tariffs
1878 Freight/Passenger Tariffs, Page 2 - Grain Rates
1878 Freight/Passenger Tariffs, Page 3 - Passenger Tariffs
1878 Freight/Passenger Tariffs, Page 4 - Statement
1878 Freight/Passenger Tariffs - Filing Information


The Route of the Monterey & Salinas Valley for Google Earth.
by Andrew Brandon


Collected Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.

California \ Monterey & Salinas Valley Railroad.
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