Moorpark, CA (MPK)
Established in 1900, the town takes its name from an English estate famous for a variety of apricots that flourished in the fertile California soil.
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2021): 1,050
- Facility Ownership: N/A
- Parking Lot Ownership: City of Moorpark
- Platform Ownership: City of Moorpark
- Track Ownership: Ventura County Transportation Commission
The Moorpark station not only serves Amtrak’s famous Pacific Surfliner but it is also a stop for commuter rail and local bus services. To initiate Metrolink and Amtrak services in 1992, the city constructed two concrete platforms lined with open-air shelters that protect passengers from inclement weather as well as the warm southern California sun. The stop is located south of E. High Street which is considered Moorpark’s “Main Street” and is lined with towering pepper trees planted by the town’s founder.
The California coast was first explored by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who worked for the Kingdom of Castile. In 1542 he claimed the region for Spain, but no settlements were planned; 60 years later the coast was mapped by Sebastián Vizcaíno. Although known by the Spaniards for more than 200 years, they did not establish settlements in California until the late 18th century when the Russian Empire began to take an interest in the area.
To secure the coast, King Carlos III authorized the creation of a chain of forts and missions to protect strategic sites that could be of future use to the Spanish Empire in North America. The first “presidio” or “fort” and mission complex was established at San Diego in 1769. The Franciscans missionaries worked toward the conversion of the region’s American Indians to Christianity, a stated goal of Spanish colonization. In 1782, Mission San Buenaventura was founded on the coast roughly thirty miles west of present-day Moorpark.
At the time of Spanish colonization, much of eastern Ventura County was occupied by the Chumash American Indians, a name meaning “bead makers/seashell people.” Chumash mariners constructed “tomols”, canoes that were water proofed with pine pitch or tar, and historic accounts recall that a group of Chumash went out to sea to observe Cabrillo when he sailed up the coast prepare meals.
In 1795, the land upon which Moorpark stands was granted by the Spanish governor of California to the three Pico brothers. The 113,000 acre tract was referred to as Rancho San José de Nuestra Senora de Altagarcia y Simi; its primary designation—Simi—was derived from “Shimiji,” the name of one of the principle Chumash villages. Similar to most of the large ranchos in southern California, Rancho Simi was used for cattle grazing. After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, the new government confirmed the original grant to the Pico family, but in 1842 the Picos decided to sell the property to José de la Guerra y Noriega, captain of the fort at Santa Barbara.
Many of the land grants survived into the American period following the Mexican-American War of 1845-1848 and the resulting cession of California and much of the Southwest to the United States. Captain Guerra retained title to the land until his death in 1858. Hoping to discover oil, a consortium headed by the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad purchased Rancho Simi. Nothing came of the oil search and the group decided to dispose of the property in smaller parcels, one of which was purchased in 1887 by a group of land developers organized under the title of the Simi Land and Water Company. The investors divided the tract into livestock ranges varying in size from 1,000 to 10,000 acres. The Secretary of the Simi Land and Water Company, Robert Poindexter, gained control over a parcel in the eastern section of the tract where he would found Moorpark in 1900.
In the 1880s and 1890s, other small communities were founded in the vicinity of Moorpark, but Poindexter was sure to place his town site along the route of the coastal Southern Pacific (SP) rail line that was to link San Francisco and Los Angeles. In 1876 the SP had opened a tunnel through the Newhall Pass northwest of San Fernando. This became the main inland route between Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the railroad still sought an easier passage over the mountain ranges bordering Los Angeles County on the north and west.
The SP attempted to gain a coastal right-of-way, but it was denied access through the Malibu Ranch between Santa Monica and Ventura. Within a few years, the railroad decided to construct a new tunnel through the Santa Susana Mountains northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The pass through the mountains separating the San Fernando and Simi Valleys had been used by American Indians and then the Spanish, and was incorporated into a roadway linking Mission San Fernando and Mission Santa Buenaventura.
Accordingly, the SP laid tracks to either side of the mountain range and began to dig tunnels in 1898. The completion of the one-and-a-half mile long Santa Susana tunnels took six years and attracted many new settlers to the Simi and San Fernando Valleys; they flocked to the area for construction jobs but stayed to work on the region’s ranches and farms. The new path through the Santa Susana pass was easier to navigate than the old Newhall route and eventually it became a key piece of infrastructure on the main SP “Coast Line” between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Towns along the route such as Moorpark benefited from greatly improved access to distant markets; eastern Ventura County became known for its grain, walnut, bean, and citrus crops.
Poindexter formally established Moorpark in 1900 when he requested a post office for the community. Once the railroad tunnels opened in 1904, the town grew steadily into a modest commercial center where the surrounding ranchers and farmers could acquire needed goods. The agricultural nature of the area was evident in the appellation that Poindexter chose for his town. “Moorpark” commemorated the groves of synonymous apricots that dotted the landscape; the name came from Moor Park, an English estate where that particular variety of apricot was produced in the late seventeenth century. A nearby farmer named Aratus Everett had experimented with the fruit and to his delight it took well to the local climate and soil. Today, the apricot blossom remains on the city’s official seal.
The SP erected a depot in the young settlement sometime in the late 1890s, but the exact date is unknown. The railroad often built similar depots in communities of comparable size, and the Moorpark depot closely resembles the one installed in Chatsworth around 1910. The depot was located about two blocks west of the current Metrolink/Amtrak station and featured a two-storey passenger section from which extended a one-storey freight room.
The two-story structure featured numerous windows that allowed light into the interior where travelers found the station master’s office, a telegraph office, and a waiting room. In depots located in rural areas such as Moorpark, the upstairs was used as an apartment for the station master and perhaps his family. A projecting trackside bay with ground floor windows on all three sides allowed the station master to look up and down the tracks to monitor traffic on the line.
The exterior was clad in wood clapboard, and the windows were framed with simple surrounds. A gabled roof covered the freight room and continued around the two-storey section in the form of a deep eave supported by brackets. This afforded passengers some protection from the elements when waiting outside. The depot served travelers on the SP Coast Line for many decades until it was demolished in 1964. Interestingly, the depot was replicated in 1979 to serve as a false-front for a grain mill located between the tracks and E. High Street. The structure, dressed in the SP’s signature “Colonial Yellow” paint, is so convincing that many visitors believe it is the original station.
North of the tracks, E. High Street developed into the commercial center of Moorpark, and a corral for the shipment of animals and a mill were built adjacent to the railroad right-of-way. Poindexter donated land for a school and a church to attract essential community services and institutions. By the 1920s, E. High Street had a hardware store, bank, restaurants, and other small businesses. The pepper trees that Poindexter had planted in 1901 became a character-defining aspect of the town’s core, so much so that in 1981 they were placed on Ventura County’s list of historic landmarks.
Moorpark could also boast of a movie theater, a prize that neighboring communities lacked. El Rancho Theater was built in 1927 and served as a movie house until the late 1950s. The building truly became a center of life in Moorpark: during World War II, war bonds were sold before the shows; the high school later used it as a live theater; and for many years, Santa Claus stopped by to pass out little presents to the youngest patrons. After 1961 it became a church, a junk shop, and then a performing arts venue, a capacity in which it remains today as the High Street Arts Center. As the 21st century dawned, the theater received a complete overhaul that launched its new life as a cultural center featuring classic film, concerts, and plays. In 2005, the city purchased the building; with its white stucco walls and large gothic arches trimmed in pastel green, the theater remains an E. High Street landmark.
Moorpark played a special role in America’s atomic age. In November 1957, it was the first American town to be entirely lighted with electricity produced from nuclear power generated by a non-military reactor. The landmark event was broadcast to the nation on Edward R. Murrow’s popular “See it Now” television program.
The small town charms of Moorpark attract visitors throughout the year, but especially in the fall for the Roam’n Relics Car Show and Moorpark Country Days. The first event is sponsored by the local car club and is one of the largest one-day car shows in California. More than 500 classic, pre-1974 cars are put on display and thousands of enthusiasts descend upon town to admire them and to exchange tips and stories of the road. All the proceeds from the show are donated to local Ventura County charities. Country Days celebrates Moorpark’s agricultural past while looking towards the future. Regional high school marching bands compete for top honors in the kick-off parade, followed by a street fair with food, crafts, entertainment, and special children’s activities held in the shade of the E. High Street pepper trees.
The Pacific Surfliner service is primarily financed through funds made available by the State of California, Department of Transportation, and is managed by the LOSSAN Joint Powers Authority.
Platform only (no shelter)
- ATM not available
- No elevator
- No payphones
- No Quik-Trak kiosks
- No Restrooms
- Unaccompanied child travel not allowed
- No vending machines
- No WiFi
- Arrive at least 30 minutes prior to departure
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- No bag storage
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available for free
- Overnight parking is available for free
- No payphones
- Accessible platform
- No accessible restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- No accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Same-day, accessible parking is available; fees may apply
- Overnight, accessible parking is not available
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- Wheelchair lift available