|PVCRR #8 Courtesy The Western Railroader The Western Railfan, January 1981|
A very brief history of the PVCRR follows. For a much more thorough reading, I suggest the links located in the Sources page.
In 1888, Claus Spreckels built the first of his two sugar refineries to make use of the fertile Salinas Valley. The Western Beet Sugar Company was located in Watsonville, and made use of the nearby Southern Pacific mainline to transport beets to the factory for processing. Shortly thereafter, Spreckels realized that he could convince more farmers to grow sugar beets if they didn't need to pay the high rates that the SP was charging to move freight. In order to do this, he would need his own railway, and the Pajaro (Paw-haw-row) Valley Railroad was born.
Initially, the narrow gauge line ran from the Western Beet Sugar Co. south through Moss Landing (and its steamship wharf) and terminated outside of Salinas. The route passed many of the sugar beet farms, allowing for the easy transportation of raw materials to the factory for processing, and a direct connection to the coastal steamships who could transport the finished products up and down the California coast.
A few years later, Spreckels expanded the line further south to the future site of a much larger sugar beet factory (and company owned town named Spreckels). This expanded railroad was named the Pajaro Extension Railway. In 1897, the two railways were merged and became the Pajaro Valley Consolidated Railroad.
The railroad reached its peak in 1915. Within the following decade, trucks and buses began to replace freight and passenger cars. By the end of the 1920s, the railroad was sold to the Southern Pacific. Much of the narrow gauge line was abandoned, however the trackage at the Spreckels Refinery was converted to standard gauge and was in use until the factory closed for good in the early 1990s. I have memories of one or two spurs remaining in the Spreckels yard, being used as a team track, through the 1990s.