Historic Packing Houses and Other Industrial Structures in Southern California
Copyright 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2012 by James E. Lancaster, Ph.D.
Text and photography by Jim Lancaster and Bill Messecar.
Additional photography and historical information provided by Bob Chaparro, Tom VanWormer, John Signor, Cliff Prather, Darrel Lansing, Ed Workman, Charles Wherry and Steve Donaldson.
The way it used to look! Orange groves before urban sprawl. The mountain in the center is San Bernardino Peak east of Redlands CA. San Gorgonio, southern California's highest mountain, is in the distance on the right. UP photo ca. 1940s. John Signor Collection. (For a March 2010 view from the northwest part of Redlands, click here)
packing house website is currently located both at Earthlink and
CoastDaylight.com. I have gradually been moving the files to the
latter. A negative result of moving the files has been that many
within the HTML source code to the old Earthlink directories
are no longer valid. As a result some pages will not open and links to
many photos will not work. This occurs whenever a link contains the
This website provides photos of packing houses and other railroad-served industries in Southern, Central and Northern California. The packing houses were part of a citrus and produce industry that was at one time a key source of railroad carloadings. The initial purpose of the site was to document just the remaining packing houses, i.e, those that could still be photographed. However, as the project has grown additional photos have been contributed, not only of remaining packing houses, but also of those that have disappeared completely in the last three or four decades as the land on which they stood became more valuable for other purposes. Also, since starting the project several web-based resources have been identified and photos and other documentation from those sources have been included.
The hope is that this website will be a useful resource to railfans interested in the produce industry part of railroad history, as well as model railroaders attempting to reproduce, in miniature, packing houses and other industrial buildings from the mid-20th century. For modelers in particular, multiple views of many of the structures have been provided -- something most other web pages fail to do. In some cases the packing houses have been documented by a walkaround, i.e., photographing all sides, if possible. Additional photos show close-ups of interesting details.
The number of remaining packing houses is diminishing each year. A number of packing houses documented in this website have been torn down or destroyed by fire since the project began in mid-2001.
Identifying specific packing houses is not always as simple as it might seem. Many of the buildings still in existence have been considerably modified since they were last used as packing houses. Others have changed very little. Many packing houses were operated by more than one company or citrus association when they were active and many have been used for multiple purposes since they were last used as packing houses. Many of the packing houses have been identified with the help of knowledgeable railfans and others interested in the history of the citrus and produce industries. Bill Messecar, Bob Chaparro, John Signor, Cliff Prather Keith Jordan and Steve Donaldson have been particularly helpful. In addition, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps have been used to identify other packing houses. The maps often cover multiple years and the name we have used is usually that shown on the most recent Sanborn map.
This is Version 2.0. What's New?
If you have any comments or questions please feel free to contact me at scph(at)ix.netcom.com.
The web site is organized at multiple levels. Click on a top level title to get to photos or the next level. Locations with links that are not yet active are indicated with an *. These links will be activated in future updates.
Modeling California Packing Houses:
The presentation on Modeling California Packing Houses that Bill Messecar and I gave at the NMRA X2011 West National Convention in Sacramento, CA has been posted to the convention's "Clinic Handouts" web page. July 26, 2011.
For more information on railroading and the produce industry, a good resource is the Pacific Fruit Express (PFE) book available from Signature Press.
To read selected excerpts from the testimony of Santa Fe official D. A. Baumgartner before the Interstate Commerce Commission on Transcontinental Divisions Sep. 5, 1956 click here. This testimony deals with rates west and east of Clovis and the shipment of perishables on the Santa Fe Railway. The excerpts were provided by John Moore.
For a brief history of the citrus industry in Southern California and Orange County, click here.
The Pacific Coast Container web site has two fairly recent photos related to the produce industry; one shows an SP GP9 switching a produce loading dock, and the other shows a PFE reefer being iced.
Many of the buildings were identified from Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps dating from the 1930s, '40s and '50s (a username and password are required to access the maps).
You can search for historic buildings on the Library of Congress HABS/HAER web site by visiting the Home Page.