Salinas, CA (SNS)
Sited at the mouth of the Salinas Valley and only eight miles from the Pacific Ocean, the town is known for a mild climate that promotes agriculture.
11 Station Place
1 block north of Market St.
Salinas, CA 93901
Annual Station Ridership (2016): 21,498
- Facility Ownership: City of Salinas
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Salinas
- Platform Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
- Track Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
For information about Amtrak fares and schedules, please call 1-800-USA-RAIL (1-800-872-7245).
The Salinas depot was built in 1942 by the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) and is the third depot to serve the community at that location. The first board and batten depot was erected in early 1873 and contained a waiting room, baggage room, ticket office and freight bay. In 1905, the SP constructed one of its traditional, standardized “Colonnade” style depots so named for the columned porches that sheltered passengers.
The current building’s design reflects the romantic Spanish and Mediterranean Revival architecture that became widespread in California after the 1910s. Red clay barrel tiles for the roof, smooth reinforced concrete walls resembling stucco and decorative glazed tile on interior surfaces reference the culture of the state’s early Spanish settlers, but the overall lines of the building and minimal exterior decoration are a nod to streamlined Art Deco influences.
Constructed of concrete painted white, the depot includes a red brick base whose stretchers are laid in a stacked bond. This means that instead of overlapping in the traditional manner, the bricks are placed one on top of another in a column, thereby stressing the modular qualities of the bricks and creating a rational grid pattern. The bricks are also used to frame the principal entryways that are topped with lintels in which the city’s name is spelled out in streamlined letters. Canopies along the main facades protect passengers from inclement weather and the warm sun.
A two-story waiting room with gabled roof dominates the center of the long building. On the north and south facades, large windows with panes arranged in a geometric pattern allow abundant natural light to flood the interior. The waiting room is embellished with decorative glazed tiles in blue and yellow that sparkle in the sunlight. Other original features include streamlined letters over the Amtrak desk reading “Tickets” and a simple clock face on the opposite wall.
Gazing above, passengers can admire dark wood beams and a mural by San Francisco artist John MacQuarrie, a painter and sculptor who created numerous works for the SP. One of his best known works for the railroad is a mural at the Sacramento station showing the 1863 groundbreaking ceremony of the Central Pacific Railroad. At Salinas, MacQuarrie depicted farmers working in lush fields, men and women exhibiting their rodeo skills, and of course the SP’s streamlined Coast Daylight – billed as the “Most Beautiful Train in the World” – wearing its famed black, orange and red livery.
In 2014, the city undertook a full rehabilitation of the Salinas depot, which included repairs to the roof and cleaning and painting of the exterior. The building’s west end has been designated for commercial space. Following the renovation, Greyhound relocated to the facility, thereby allowing for easy intermodal connections. Various Monterey-Salinas Transit bus routes also run along nearby N. Main and W. Market streets. The depot was rededicated on March 7, 2015, during the city’s first annual Founder’s Day celebration.
Other important railroad buildings still remain on site. West of the depot stands a long, wooden SP freight house constructed in the early 1880s. Originally, the freight agent and his family occupied the west end of the building. Now owned by the city, the freight house was recently restored. In 1919, the Railway Express Agency (REA) erected a building east of the second depot close to the intersection of Main Street and the railroad tracks. It was moved about 100 feet west in the 1930s to make way for the creation of the underpass below the tracks. Interestingly, during the move, the building was also turned around so that the track side freight doors now face Railroad Ave.
Later abandoned, the REA building was restored in the 1990s primarily with volunteer labor contributed by members of the Monterey and Salinas Valley Railroad Modeling and Historical Society. It now houses the non-profit Monterey and Salinas Valley Railroad Museum, which includes exhibits tracing the history of the railroad in the region. A highlight is an HO scale model railroad layout depicting Monterey County as it was in the spring of 1953. Taken together, these railroad-related buildings are the only such grouping remaining in the Salinas Valley.
Sitting between it and depot is former SP locomotive No. 1237, an S-10 class 0-6-0 steam unit built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works. It ran in service from 1918 until 1956 and was subsequently donated to the city where it is now on display to the public. A bit further east is a circa 1868 house – a rare survivor from Salinas’ founding period. It was originally home to the family of Isaac Julian Harvey, who served as the first mayor. Today it operates as a museum that tells the story of Salinas’ growth and development.
Salinas sits at the mouth of the Salinas Valley and only eight miles from the Pacific Ocean. When the Spanish first explored the area along Monterey Bay, it was inhabited by the Ohlone American Indians who moved between the uplands and the shore where they hunted amid the wetlands and gathered grasses to construct shelters. In the latter half of the 18th century, the Spanish Empire based in Mexico began to make greater efforts to secure the California coast. Franciscan missionaries worked toward the conversion of the region’s American Indians to Christianity, a stated goal of Spanish colonization, by establishing a series of missions along the coast from San Diego to San Francisco.
Following Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821, the missions were secularized and many of the buildings and land holdings were sold off to private owners, who created large “ranchos” or ranches used primarily for sheep and cattle grazing. Many of the ranchos survived into the American period following the United States’ victory over Mexico in the Mexican-American War of 1845-1848 and the resulting cession of California and much of the Southwest to the United States.
Much of present-day Salinas is located on land that belonged to two ranchos: Nacional and Sausal, which together encompassed almost 17,000 acres. Settler Jacob Leese purchased Rancho Sausal in 1852. Four years later, 80 acres were sold to Elias Howe, which formed the basis for the new town. Today, both men are considered founders of Salinas. The settlement grew as a stopping point about halfway between Monterey and San Juan Bautista. Barley and wheat became popular crops and the lush grasses were deemed excellent for dairy farming.
Salinas gained better connections to the San Francisco Bay Area when the SP arrived in November 1872, which also precipitated the relocation of the county seat to Salinas from Monterey. Thus, the city prospered as a political, agricultural and business center for the area. By the turn of the century, the rail line finally reached the booming city of Los Angeles.
As the 19th century progressed, the Salinas Valley gained fame for its mild climate that promoted agriculture. Barley and wheat were replaced by sugar beets, which then gave way to a variety of fruits and vegetables that could be shipped on new refrigerated rail cars. Chinese, Japanese and Filipino communities played important roles in developing the agriculture of the valley, and each left a unique imprint on the city.
Today, locally-grown produce including strawberries, lettuce, watermelons, broccoli, carrots, cabbages and spinach is distributed across the country. More than 80 percent of the lettuce grown in the United States comes from Salinas. Of special note are area vineyards; there are more than two dozen wineries in the Salinas Valley, with an additional 85 vintners and growers to the southeast. More than 40,000 acres are planted in varietal wine grapes.
Salinas was the birthplace of noted American author John Steinbeck. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939, and the novella, Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories. Many of his works are also familiar to people through the films based on them. In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature. The National Steinbeck Center stands a couple of blocks southeast of the train station.
Salinas is also a major stop on the professional rodeo circuit, and the California Rodeo Salinas occupies the town in the third week of July. The event dates back to 1911 when the “Wild West Show” featured local cowboys and cowgirls. A century later, attendees still admire contestants as they show off their skills in saddle bronc and bull riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling and other events.
Amtrak provides ticketing and baggage services at this facility, which is served by two daily trains.
- 13 Long Term Parking Spaces
- Accessible Platform
- Accessible Restrooms
- Accessible Waiting Room
- Accessible Water Fountain
- Baggage Storage
- Bike Boxes
- Checked Baggage
- Dedicated Parking
- Enclosed Waiting Area
- Help With Luggage
- Pay Phones
- Shipping Boxes
- Short Term Parking Spaces
- Ticket Office
- Wheelchair Lift