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San Juan Pacific Railway

This past month I stopped in San Juan Bautista of San Benito County to view a historic plaque detailing the history of the San Juan Pacific Railway.


The San Juan Pacific Railway historic plaque is located on former Legislative Route 22/Old San Juan-Hollister Road just east of The Alameda in the City of San Juan Bautista.  The San Juan Pacific Railway plaque is located atop it's former grade.




As noted above the San Juan Pacific Railway ("SJPR") incorporated in 1907 but it only briefs the story of the line.  The San Juan Pacific Railway was standard gauge line built to connect from the Southern Pacific Railroad in Chittenden of Santa Cruz County 7.94 miles southeast to a concrete processing facility in San Juan Canyon near San Juan Bautista.  Said Portland Cement processing facility in San Juan Canyon was originally owned by the San Juan Cement Company which began operations in 1907.

The San Juan Cement Company was not successful and shuttered operations in late November of 1907.  The assets of the San Juan Cement Company were eventually taken over by the Old Mission Cement Company in May of 1912.  The Old Mission Cement Company rebranded the SJPR into the Central California Railroad.  The Old Mission Cement Company built a narrow-gauge quarry line east of the processing facility deeper into San Juan Canyon.  The first cement shipments began rolling from San Juan Canyon in 1916 but it wasn't until 1918 that the Old Mission Cement Plant was complete.

The Old Mission Cement Plant extended its quarry line another 1.5 miles to two new quarries in 1921.  The Old Mission Cement Plant sold out to the Pacific Portland Cement Company in 1927.  The Pacific Portland Cement Company announced it intended to add three additional miles of quarry line in 1929.  The Pacific Portland Cement Company shuttered operations in 1930 due to the economic conditions of the Great Depression.  In 1937-1938 (sources conflict) the standard gauge rails of the Central California Railroad were removed.  The cement processing facility reopened in 1941 under the banner of Ideal Cement which operated to the 1970s when the cement plant was dismantled.

Note; much of the above information on the history of the SJPR was sourced from an article on PacificNG.org on the Old Mission Portland Cement Company.

A limited number of maps show the SJPR.  One such map was the 1920 Denny's Pocket Map of San Benito County which shows the SJPR line ending in San Juan Canyon.


The SJPR also appears on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of San Benito County.


The alignment of the SJPR is sketched onto the two maps (in brown) below which I drew to show historic transportation corridors around San Juan Bautista.



There is still some existing evidence of the SJPR which can be seen along County Route G1.  I took the below photo in 2017 which shows the grade of the SJPR to the left of County Route G1 on San Juan Canyon Road.


As County Route G1 transitions onto Mission Vineyard Road a set of embedded rails can be seen in the roadway.


In early 2020 I returned to County Route G1 on Mission Vineyard Road to get better photos of the embedded rails.



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