Stockton, CA – Robert J. Cabral Station (SKT)
The station is named in honor of a former county supervisor who was a driving force behind the creation of ACE and the promotion of a reliable passenger rail network in northern California.
Robert J. Cabral Station
949 East Channel St.
Stockton, CA 95202
Annual Station Ridership (FY 2019): 16,517
- Facility Ownership: San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission, Union Pacific Railroad
- Parking Lot Ownership: N/A
- Platform Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
- Track Ownership: Union Pacific Railroad
The Stockton-Cabral Station is located on the eastern edge of the downtown and is easily accessible via Miner or Weber Avenues. It consists of a concrete platform with shelters to protect travelers from inclement weather and the hot sun. Amtrak began serving the facility in Feb. 1999, when San Joaquins service was extended between Stockton and Sacramento. Travelers using the San Joaquins between Oakland and Bakersfield must use the Stockton-San Joaquin Street station located to the southwest. The Stockton-Cabral Station is also the northern terminus for the Altamont Corridor Express train (ACE) that carries passengers to San Jose in the heart of the Silicon Valley.
Restored and reopened in 2003, the adjacent depot is known as the Robert J. Cabral Station in honor of a former San Joaquin County supervisor who was a driving force behind the creation of ACE and the promotion of a reliable passenger rail network in northern California.
Constructed in 1930 by the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP), the Stockton-Cabral Station replaced an early, smaller depot a few blocks to the south. The building features walls of reddish-orange brick that rise from a contrasting dark gray base. The overall design of the building borrows heavily from Italian Renaissance and Spanish Revival prototypes. In the early 20th century, state boosters interested in attracting settlers often promoted romantic notions of California as the “American Riviera,” and equated the region’s mild and fertile climate with that of Spain and Italy. Large corporations such as the railroads appropriated the architecture of those regions for use in their California buildings, thereby providing themselves with a unique branding opportunity while also reinforcing the boosters’ romantic ideals.
The building follows the classical Palladian five-part plan in which there is a center block connected to two end wings by hyphens. Although the entire structure is two stories, the center block is slightly higher than the other parts of the building and therefore dominates the composition. The hyphens are slightly recessed, thereby clearly articulating the five parts of the structure. A hipped, red tile roof with deep eaves caps the center block and throws a strong shadow line onto the walls.
Four full-height, round arched windows dominate the street and trackside facades, and they are bordered by stylized rope detailing executed in buff colored terracotta that compliments the color tones of the brick. The two middle arches have doors at the ground level to allow access to the waiting room. At either end of the window group are two arches of a lesser width that feature wrought iron balconies at the second floor. A marquee on the street façade and a full length canopy along the platform protect passengers from inclement weather as they enter or exit the station or wait for a train.
Terracotta is also employed in a wide frieze that runs around the structure and prominently displays Southern Pacific Lines in script over the main entrance. Trackside, the frieze is punctuated by flat circular panels placed on the centerline of the arched windows, and the space between them is filled with ornate scrollwork designs. The hyphens display pairs of windows on both levels, and terracotta is again used in the columns dividing the round-arched windows on the second story as well as in a belt course running between the two floors. On the principal facades of the end wings, the archway and balcony arrangement of the center block is repeated for visual consistency.
After passenger service at the depot was terminated in 1972, it was used by the railroad for storage until it was finally abandoned in the early 1980s; subsequently, it fell into disrepair. Photographs from the early 1990s show some of the windows boarded up while others are missing numerous panes of glass. After ACE was placed into service in 1998, the need for a permanent station was made apparent; therefore, in 2001, the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission (SJRRC), which provides ACE, purchased the old depot for $236,000. Within a year, plans were drawn up for a full $6.5 million restoration that was completed in 2003. The majority of the funds came through “Measure K,” a local voter-approved ½ cent sales tax dedicated to transportation improvement projects.
Once completed, the SJRRC moved its offices into the second floor while the ground floor was again opened to passengers. The restored waiting room features gleaming marble floors, beautiful decorative moldings, original metal chandeliers, and a soaring ceiling supported by square columns with gilded capitals. The large floor-to-ceiling windows allow light to flood the space, which has numerous wooden benches for the comfort of passengers.
In 2005, the SJRRC, in partnership with local government agencies, unveiled a long term revitalization plan for the neighborhood around the station that will include new residential and commercial improvements. Through a series of public workshops and outreach sessions, the community and the SJRRC envisioned the station and its immediate area as an intermodal hub and anchor for the surrounding blocks. Opticos Design of Berkeley helped the varied stakeholders develop a concept that included better roadway access and a drop off area for local bus service, commuter parking lots, safer and improved pedestrian paths, the retention of nearby historic Victorian houses, and the creation of a public park.
As of winter 2010, most of these initiatives had been carried out, including the palm tree lined public square and a clock tower erected to the northwest of the station. The clock tower acts as a landmark for eastern downtown and also cleverly hides mechanical equipment. The circulation improvements cost $4.6 million, and funding was obtained from the Federal Transit Administration’s Bus and Bus Facility Program (Section 5309), local funds, and California Proposition 1B that supports transit rehabilitation, safety or modernization improvements, and other transit projects.
Stockton sits on the eastern edge of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta, one of the few inland river deltas in the world, and one of the most fertile. When European-Americans first explored the area, it was occupied by bands of the Miwok American Indians. The upper San Joaquin Valley was not settled by European-Americans until the 1820s. After Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, much of the land in southern and central California was broken up into large estates that were often doled out to the friends of those in power. After California came under the control of the United States, settlers began to build levees that eventually allowed farmers to reclaim almost 500,000 acres for agriculture.
The San Joaquin, like the Sacramento, was and is navigable by ocean-going ships, providing an excellent way for agricultural products to go to market in the San Francisco area and beyond. Stockton sits at the head of one deep, navigable slough—the local name for natural and man-made river channels in the delta—off the San Joaquin River, about 90 miles from San Francisco.
Charles M. Weber and his family, who were German immigrants, founded Stockton in 1849 upon acquiring more than 49,000 acres of the Rancho Campo de los Franceses Mexican land grant. In its early years, the town had various colorful names, including Tuleburg, Fat City, and Mudville. However, Weber settled on Stockton in honor of Commodore Robert F. Stockton, noted for his capture of California during the Mexican-American War. Thus the city was the first community in California to acquire an official name not of Spanish or American Indian origins. Weber’s family holdings were sited on Weber Point, including a modest-sized but lavishly-furnished home surrounded by spectacular garden which provided inspiration to later city planners and visitors. The city was planned and mapped between 1849 and 1851 on a grid overlaying the natural channels. However, the downtown gradually moved east due to a series of devastating floods and fires between 1855 and 1900, which also prompted the truncation of the natural waterways running through the area.
The city was incorporated on July 23, 1850, and received its charter from the state in 1851. By then the California gold rush was in full swing, and Stockton supplied the mining camps in the southern valley via the delta waterways. Although the gold rush had ended by 1855, Stockton’s ability to receive and process agricultural goods from the San Joaquin Valley grew apace, largely replacing trade to the mining camps. Between 1870 and 1900 the city’s economy grew into an industrial powerhouse as well. Flour mills, carriage and wagon factories, iron foundries and shipyards surrounded the channel and its tributaries. Early inventions from the city included the Stockton gang plow and the McCormick harvesters pulled by large teams of mules. Shipbuilding was developed in the city during the early 1900s and continued through World War II.
Stockton had been visited by ocean-going trading vessels since 1846, becoming a center of commodity shipping in the 1850s and a regional transportation hub. In 1871, the Stockton Ship Channel Company was organized and the river surveyed for dredging; plans were made in 1906 for dredging a channel to a depth of 15 feet, a requirement that increased to 26 feet as ships grew larger. In 1925, a deep-water bond raised more than $1 million for the river improvement project and the work began in 1931. By 1933, the Port of Stockton opened with rail service directly onto the docks where there were wharves, warehouses and a grain terminal.
Rail likewise impacted trade at Stockton beginning in the 1860s. Both the Western Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads (CP) operated through Stockton, and the latter provided a link to the first transcontinental rail line completed in 1869. The CP soon came under the control of the SP, and in the 1870s they built a line down the San Joaquin Valley to connect with Los Angeles. The SP enjoyed a monopoly on fast transportation within the valley for two decades, and its freight rates prompted complaints from farmers who thought them too high.
The primary rival to the SP in California was the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF), which had entered the far southern area of the state in the 1880s. In the mid-1890s, the new San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railroad (SF&SJV) proposed an alternate route through the San Joaquin Valley and the SF&SJV tracks were laid through Stockton in 1898. By purchasing the SF&SJV in 1899 and securing trackage rights over the SP’s Tehachapi line, the ATSF gained a route between Los Angeles and the San Francisco bay area.
The former ATSF station is in use by Amtrak as the Stockton-San Joaquin Street station for San Joaquins operating between Oakland and Bakersfield. Recently, the SJRRC purchased the old Western Pacific Railroad depot which sits across the tracks slightly to the south of Cabral Station in order to renovate the 1908 Mission Revival style building to house staff offices. The result is all three historic passenger stations have been preserved and are in various railroad uses in Stockton.
Today, the Stockton Terminal & Eastern Railroad provides rail freight service in the greater Stockton area, and makes connections with BNSF Railroad and Union Pacific Railroad—which respectively absorbed the ATSF and SP—as well as the Central California Traction Company.
Stockton’s golden era occurred between 1900 and 1945 as the city grew into an industrial metropolis. The downtown reinvented itself from bucolic village to a big city renowned for its Main Street, which became a significant entertainment and recreation destination in the San Joaquin Valley. The city still possesses a number of impressive commercial and governmental buildings from that era. Since 1924, it has also been home to the University of the Pacific which moved from San Jose. This private school’s ivy-league ambiance, complete with old brick buildings and wide shady lawns, have made it a movie location in many a feature film—such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The University of the Pacific is also home to the Brubeck Institute, named for jazz piano legend and alum, Dave Brubeck. The Brubeck Institute Jazz Quartet is composed of Pacific students and tours widely.
With nine theater and ballet companies, the Haggin Museum collection of exhibits relating to California and local history and nature, as well as numerous other artistic venues, visitors to Stockton can find much to enjoy. The city also hosts more than 30 festivals throughout the year, from those celebrating the city’s history as a center of Filipino culture in the U.S. to the Brubeck Festival and the three-day Asparagus Festival, not to mention Cambodian, Chinese, and Hmong New Years.
The San Joaquins service is primarily financed through funds made available by the State of California, Department of Transportation, and is managed by the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority.
Platform with Shelter
- Quik-Trak kiosks not available
- No ticket sales office
- Amtrak Express shipping not available
- No checked baggage service
- No checked baggage storage
- Bike boxes not available
- No baggage carts
- Ski bags not available
- Bag storage not available
- Shipping boxes not available
- No baggage assistance
- Same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- Accessible platform
- No restrooms
- No accessible ticket office
- No accessible waiting room
- No accessible water fountain
- Accessible same-day parking is available; fees may apply
- No high platform
- No wheelchair
- No wheelchair lift