Salinas is a fresh air stop for both directions on the Coast Starlight and one where the southbound train, when running on time can be upwards of 15 minutes early into the station. This gives passengers enough time to look around and enter the wonderfully kept depot built in 1942. In addition to the daily Coast Starlight, five central coast thruway buses in each direction stop outside the station making trips connecting Surfliner trains in Southern California with Capital Corridor trains in northern. A minibus meets every Coast Starlight trip (two round trips per day) connecting passengers to Monterey and Carmel. Checked baggage service is offered and the station staffed for all Coast Starlight trips. History of service at the station is simple, it was never discontinued, always served by just one daily train called the Coast Starlight (in the early years when trains only ran north of Oakland to Seattle triweekly, the day train that ran on the other four days was called the Coast Daylight, the historic SP streamliner name). The only exception is from 1981 to 1983 when a state funded sleeper train 'The Spirit of California' ran on overnight trips from Sacramento to Los Angeles stopping in Salinas in the middle of the night.
The main depot of the station was built in 1942 and inside are pink walls, on the area towards the top of the pink walls between them and the visible beams of wood that hold up the station ceiling are wonderful mosaic tiles. One wall shows early American settlers (the starts and stripes are prominent) fighting the Mexicans and Indians. The other shows the building of the railroad, ending with one of the SP's distinctive orange and black steam locomotives pulling a train. Seating is from four sets of wooden benches that have little metal armrests to prevent someone from lying down and falling asleep. There are restrooms two vending machines and the assortment of new (and older) Amtrak posters but no historic memorabilia. To reach trains passengers pass through doors out a platform that between my visits in 2010 and 2012 received a tactile warning strip (yellow stools are still used), the standard brown wheelchair lift enclosure and modern silver signage. This signage replaced one of the more unique modern signs I have photographed: Salinas written in white on blue with blue text on white arrows pointing toward the direction of travel to Los Angeles and Seattle. The platform is along a main line track in a five-track railway yard. The depot is right in the middle of the platform and from the outside looks large but relatively nondescript, a single story building with a clay roof. One of the doors to the many non-public areas of the depot even has a peeling Southern Pacific lines logo. Along the doors out to Railroad Avenue (where there is only minimal parking) is a modern Amtrak information panel, designed for the bus passengers when they are at the station waiting for buses at odd hours (the depot is open daily 10am to 2pm and 3pm to 8pm).
Also along the platform surrounded by a chain-linked fence towards its southern end are SP caboose #726, S-10 Class Steam Engine #1237, and a yellow refrigerator car. Also here is the old railway express agency building, one single story painted yellow and brown that is home to the Monterey and Salinas Valley RailRoad, a model railroad club, open 10 to 4pm Weekends (if I ever take the Starlight on a weekend and were on time, guess I'll have to wonder in). Along the northern end of the platform is a decrepit wooden building a weathered sign (removed between my two visits) says 'Pacific Motor Trucking Co.' It is fully fenced around as well.
Photos 1-15 taken on 17 March, 2010 and 16-56 on 22 February, 2012, 57-66 on 26 June, 2013
Last Updated: 25 March, 2011