How did Los Banos get a train depot?

By Alina Gutierrez and Jose TorresMay 16, 2013 

Three influential Westside entrepreneurs wanted to build train stations in the late 19th century, but only one succeeded.

To have a railroad station, there had to be a town.

Henry Miller wanted a depot near his headquarters at Canal Farm in present-day Los Banos and Simon Newman wanted it where the town of Newman is located. However, at the time the town of Los Banos was actually in the Badger Flat road area. So the men began building their towns.

Historian Ralph Milliken wrote, "The two entrepreneurs could not agree, so Mr. Newman built his town in his mud hole. Mr. Miller built his town in his mud hole."

Then matters got more complicated. Another individual, Mr. Sawyer, decided he would build a town at Volta to try and entice the railroad to come there. That really angered Miller, and the two became rivals.

At the time, Volta was larger than Los Banos. It had a fine hotel and a wonderful machine shop owned by Mr. Bambauer.

To counter this, Henry Miller went to work and put up fine buildings in Los Banos, including a three-story brick hotel. Mr. Sawyer didn't have the money to do this.

In the end, Miller won. To further ensure the success of his town, Miller asked the railroad company (Southern Pacific) to name the town. So the Southern Pacific Railroad Co. gets credit for naming Los Banos.

In the meantime, the Southern Pacific was rushing construction. Location surveyors followed close behind the preliminary surveyors. The Southern Pacific railroad was completed and the depot arrived in 1899 after the town was fully established. It was located in what is now downtown Los Banos. Where the train depot once was has been replaced by Henry Miller Plaza. The statue of Henry Miller is at the center of where the depot once stood.

Once the depot was finished, buildings were moved here from other towns, including the Badger Flat area.

"People were so mad that the buildings from old Los Banos were being moved to the new town near Canal Farm that they burned some of the buildings en route," according to Milliken's writings.

According to accounts, the train depot was actually a second-hand depot brought in by rail cars and set up in Los Banos. The original building was transplanted from Yuma, Ariz.

When the train depot was built, it was put in one of the "greatest duck ponds in the country," wrote Milliken, so the depot was raised. It was so high off the ground that a person could drive a four-horse team up to the platform and step off from the high front of the wagon onto the platform.

Next week: What happened to the depot during its 75-year existence?

"Ask Us" is produced by Tim McNally's Advanced Placement American government class at Los Banos High School. Do you have a question about the history of Los Banos? Submit it to Mr. McNally's class by email to tmcnally@losbanos, by phone to (209) 826-6033 or by mail to Los Banos High School, 1966 S. 11th St. Los Banos, CA 93635.

What happened to the depot during its 75-year existence?

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