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"Probably no other building ever constructed in the South County played such an important role in the settlement of the area than did the Oceano Depot" - Harold Guiton


Prior to 1895, the only way to access the area was by stagecoach or wagon over tortuous trails or by sailing vessels and early steamships. In anticipation of the proposed Southern Pacific Railroad route along the coast, several prominent ranchers and developers began plans for a new city on the S.P. mainline. In 1893, R.E. Jack and E. W. Steele filed the first map of the town of Oceano. 


As was customary at the time, the right of way was given to Southern Pacific with the stipulation that a depot be constructed and maintained for freight and passenger service. So when the rails reached Oceano in 1896, a handsome building was constructed on the site provided for on the map labeled "Southern Pacific Depot Grounds" and a wave of prosperity was to sweep over Oceano. The area now enjoyed overnight passenger, freight and telegraph service, all of which passed through and around the Oceano Depot. 


The first depot met with disaster when an accidental fire in the fall of 1903 reduced the entire station to a pile of ashes S.P. immediately set up service in a converted boxcar, shipped in an almost identical surplus station from the Bay area in pieces, swept the ashes off the original foundation, and in March 1904, service was resumed in the station we know today. 


The initial success of the Depot and the community reached its peak around 1920 and from that point on, the growing popularity of the automobile, a more efficient trucking industry and of course, the “Great Depression” all combined to erode the importance of the Oceano station. Passenger service was discontinued in the 1950’s and the suspension of mail and telegraph service followed soon after. Shipping of celery and other vegetables from the Arroyo Grande Valley kept the freight office going at a busy rate well into the 1960’s, but competition from the trucking industry and changes in crop production and packing methods finally brought about the closing of the Oceano depot in 1973. 


It was then acquired by the Phelan-Taylor Packing Company who used the warehouse portion for an experimental packing facility. When this venture ended, the station stood alone and abandoned alongside the S.P. Tracks slated for demolition. 


When the Oceano Improvement Association learned of the scheduled demolition it embarked on a volunteer project to save it for use as a museum and community hall. A bill of sale for the traditional sum of One Dollar was given to the group by Mr. Edwin Taylor, and an agreement was reached with Southern Pacific to leave the station on its original location temporarily until a more suitable site could be found. County Supervisor Howard Mankins helped secure a long term lease on County owned property at the present site, and he was also successful in obtaining a Federal revenue sharing grant which enabled the organization to move the building, acquire some additional private land and begin restoration efforts. 


Oceano Depot burning in fire of 1903


Oceano Depot Platform


Passengers waiting to board passenger train at Oceano Depot



In early 1998 Southern Pacific donated 200 feet of scrap rail and it was decided to put a set of rails behind the depot. The 100 year old rails came from an old spur that ran to the beach via Beach Street. Harold removed all the rail, and reinstalled it at the depot using many of the old track maintenance tools that are on display in the Depot. Harold referred to the siding he had built as his very own railroad and called it the "Oceano and Northern Railroad. " 


In December 1998, The Depot Association purchased a vintage 1940's Southern Pacific boxcar in Sacramento. In 2001 work began on the conversion of the boxcar to restroom/kitchen facilities. 


The Clam Bell hung above the Lovern's Clammer's headquarters on the beach from 1954 until 1969. The bell was cast in Switzerland over 250 years ago. Iti is made of cast iron and has a unique "double clapper." It was used to signal emergencies before State Parks and notify clammers of low tide. In 2002 the bell was donated to the Oceano Depot by Rubye Lovern. 


As near as we can determine, the caboose was first placed into service on the San Pedro, Los Angeles, & Salt Lake Railway in 1907 as #3317. In 1926, the caboose was purchased by the Santa Maria Valley Railroad where it was renumbered as $170 and placed into service. In 1963, John Loomis purchased the caboose and placed it on the Tar Springs Ranch where it became part of the Bodfish & Tar Springs Railroad. In 2004, John Loomis donated the caboose to the Oceano Depot Association. It was then moved to Oceano where it became part of the "rolling stock" of the Oceano and Northern Railway. The O & N Railway was established as a subsidiary of the Oceano Depot Association by Harold Guiton in 1998.  Based on a copyright date found on a brass lantern vent in the ceiling of the caboose (and some other construction features), the Caboose has been dated at or around 1907. 


On September 11, 1949, a memorial was dedicated to 8 men that lost their lives in WWII. In 2001 the memorial was moved from the former Women's Club (now the Boys and Girls Club) to the depot and a rededication ceremony was held on  September 15, 2001. 

1907 Wooden Caboose 

Harold Guiton installing raiils

Box Car that has been converted into kitchen & restroom

Cllam Bell in its original location 

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