SP 2380 switching the Del Monte at San Jose in April of 1971. Click to enlarge.

(Drew Jacksich from San Jose, California Republic, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)



The Del Monte was a passenger train operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad between San Francisco and Monterey, California. It ran from 1889 to 1971.


Interior of SP parlor car on the Del Monte, February 5, 1971. Click to enlarge.

(Photo by Roger Puta, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



19th century
Southern Pacific asserts that the named Del Monte service began in 1889, first appearing on an timetable as the Del Monte Limited. It replaced an apparently unnamed service (maybe known colloquially as The Daisy) which had operated on a similar schedule when Southern Pacific opened their Hotel Del Monte in 1880. The 1889 schedule showed train number 13 leaving San Francisco at 2:30 PM and reaching Monterey at 5:30. The return trip train number 12 left Monterey at 8 AM to reach San Francisco at 11:15.


SP 3003 GP9 with SP train 141, the Del Monte, at Jan Jose, CA in January 1968.

(Marty Bernard from U.S.A., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


20th century

Early records of Del Monte service may have been lost in the 1906 San Francisco fire.

Trains were rerouted to the Bayshore Cutoff some time after its completion in 1907.

A sleeping car operated briefly over the 125-mile (201 km) route beginning in 1926.

After World War II a P-6 class 4-6-2 pulled a mail car, three or four coaches, a news-agent coach serving light snacks, and a parlor car. The parlor car was named Oliver Millet in 1947 when Millet retired after working 32 years as the Del Monte parlor car attendant. He was the only Southern Pacific employee recognized by a car name. Train number 78 left San Francisco daily at 4 PM, stopped at San Jose an hour later, and arrived in Monterey to unload mail at 7 PM. The locomotive and cars waited overnight at the Pacific Grove terminal to return as train number 77 leaving Monterey at 7:30 AM and reaching San Francisco at 10:30.

In 1948, the Del Monte Express fatally struck Ed Ricketts, a friend of John Steinbeck, while he was driving across the railroad tracks at Drake Avenue in Monterey.

In 1957, Southern Pacific successfully petitioned the state to discontinue passenger service to Pacific Grove. By 1961, operations were consolidated with the Peninsula Commute, with cars added north of San Jose.


Southern Pacific No. 3001 with the Del Monte at Monterey in September 1970. Click to enlarge.

(Drew Jacksich from San Jose, CA, The Republic of California, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)



The Del Monte ran until April 30, 1971, the day before Amtrak took over intercity passenger train service. The tracks in Pacific Grove and Monterey were removed in the 1980s and the former right-of-way is now the Monterey Bay Recreation Trail.


The Del Monte near Fort Ord, February 1971. Click to enlarge. (Drew Jacksich from San Jose, California Republic, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)

Southern Pacific No. 3002 pulls the next-to-last southbound Del Monte across the Salinas River in April 1971. Click to enlarge. (Drew Jacksich from San Jose, CA, The Republic of California, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)


Partial restoration

Main article: Monterey County Rail Extension
Since the train's demise, various groups have tried to reestablish rail service to the Monterey Bay area. Potential restoration of Del Monte-like service to Monterey had been identified as early as the Caltrans 1984-89 Rail passenger development plan. Amtrak declined to operate such service, but operations under Southern Pacific (by then running state-subsidized services) were studied with ridership forecast developed.

Caltrain (successor to the Peninsula Commute) extended service south of San Jose in 1992; two round trip trains operate south of Tamien at peak hours. Caltrans ran a demonstration passenger train over the line in 1995 to build support for restarting rail service.[6] Service south of Gilroy is planned to start in 2021 following the Del Monte alignment until Castroville, whereupon trains will divert from the original routing and terminate at Salinas station on the Coast Line.

As of 2018 the Monterey Branch Line, the remaining segment from Castroville to Monterey, is being studied for a potential light rail service.


Route Map of the Del Monte, c. 1971. Click to enlarge.

Wikimedia Commons,  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 3.0)



Status: Discontinued
Locale: California
First service: 1889
Last service: April 30, 1971
Former operator: Southern Pacific Railroad
Route Termini: San Francisco, California / Monterey, California
Train numbers: 12/13
Track gauge 4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge