Historic Packing Houses and Other Industrial Structures in Southern California

Virtual Tour of Orange County: Irvine

Copyright 2002, 2011 by James E. Lancaster, Ph.D.

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Irvine (ATSF)

Santa Fe's Kathryn Spur (also called the Venta Spur) left the mainline at Venta, the location of the new Tustin MetroLink Station. From Venta it went northeast to a location called Browning on some older maps (near the current Irvine Blvd), then turned southeast to parallel Irvine Blvd through the current Irvine village of Northwood (formerly called Frances), and ended at Kathryn just after crossing Jeffrey Road. The Irvine Citrus Association, Frances Citrus Association and Irvine Valencia Growers packing houses were located on this spur. At one time a separate line left the spur near Browning and turned northwest, ending in Tustin at the Goldenwest Citrus Association (see the Tustin section, above). Citrus fruit produced by the Irvine Company was sold to all of these packing houses.

In April 1975 John Signor captured a Santa Fe CF7 on a Venta spur local job passing the packing house at Frances.

John Signor photo, used by permission

The packing house was later demolished to make way for an Irvine housing development. 

Cliff Prather has provided two black and white photos of the Frances packing house. The first shows the same end of the building as in the Signor photo above but from a different angle and the second shows the cull bin at the opposite end. Culls were used for orange juice and other citrus by-products. 

Clifford Prather photos, used by permission

Cliff has also provided two trackside views of the Irvine Citrus Association packing house which was just north of the Frances packing house on the Venta spur. The Frances packing house is visible in the background of the two photos, which look southeast toward Kathryn. The Irvine Citrus packing house had certainly seen better days by the time Cliff took these photos.

Clifford Prather photos, used by permission

Although the rails of the Venta spur were removed in 1984, the Irvine Valencia Growers packing house, built in 1927, was still standing in 2000 where the spur ended at Kathryn, just southwest of the intersection of Jeffrey Road and Irvine Blvd, as shown in the following photos.

The spur provided rail service to the northeast side of the packing house where reefers were loaded.

Note the cooling facility behind the packing house. James Lancaster photos.

As of 2001 the Irvine Valencia Growers packing house was leased to a Weyerhaeuser box company and was still in use. Unfortunately the packing house has since been torn down.

Photo courtesy of The Keith Companies

A pair of Santa Ana yard switch lists from 1963 provide a look at the activity on the Venta spur. The first, from May 24, 1963 lists five ice reefers of oranges for pick-up at Kathryn, one at Frances, and two at Tustin [the notation in the switch list is RD=SFRD (ice reefers or 'refers'), RC=SFRC (mechanical reefers), and RB=SFRB (insulated boxcar)].

The second switch list (in two parts), from September 15, 1963, lists seven cars at Kathryn, two at Frances, and six at Tustin, all on hold.


Switch lists courtesy of Clifford Prather and the Orange County Railway Historical Society.

Last Update: 8/30/2011

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