Historic Packing Houses and Other Industrial Structures in Southern California

Virtual Tour of Orange County: Santa Ana

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

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Santa Ana (ATSF)

The Fourth Quarter 1996 issue of the Warbonnet, the official magazine of the Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society, contained an article on The Surf Line 1950-1965 by C. Keith Jordan. Included in the article was a map of Santa Ana, CA, circa 1952, drawn by Matt Zebrowski. A portion of the map is reproduced here showing the area around the Santa Fe depot.


Map courtesy SFRH&MS, used by permission.

What caught my attention on the map was the spur marked "Gooder" running to the east (left) of the Tree Sweet Produce Company. These two photos show the Tree Sweet plant from the north side (Photo-JL) and the west side (Photo-JL) at it appeared in January 2002. The former reefer loading tracks along the west side of the building have been removed, as evidenced by the pile of ties in the second photo. However, at the same time the rails of the Gooder spur could still be seen in the paved lot on the east side of the building.

James Lancaster Photo.

A few years earlier (1997) I had been to the area to look for the remains of the Gooder spur on the north side of Fourth Street, where the map shows it splitting into two short tracks between the Santa Ana Transfer Company and the Nehi Bottling Company (Photo-JL). The track crossing Fourth Street as well as the Santa Ana Transfer Company building were both gone by then, and looking down the west side of the former Nehi Bottling Company I could see only one track.


James Lancaster Photo.

The track served a single loading door (Photo-JL) which is also shown in a close-up photo from 2002 (Photo-JL).

The problem was that there was no evidence that there had ever been a right-hand switch and a second track next to the Nehi Bottling Company building, as shown on the map. However, the track continued beyond the Nehi building where I found a right-hand switch with its switch stand still in place.


James Lancaster Photo.

Beyond the switch I found the two tracks hidden by tall weeds. They were simply displaced about two hundred feet north of the location shown on the original map. A revised map shows the corrected track diagram (Map).

The two weed covered tracks served four small industrial buildings and two loading docks as shown in this 1997 photo.


James Lancaster Photo.

The tracks are listed as "Gooder Outside" and Gooder Inside" in a Santa Fe switch list for Santa Ana from September 1963 (Switchlist).

These additional views show the far end of the two Gooder sidings (Photo-JL), the loading dock on the west side (Photo-JL), a close-up of the end of the sidings with their track bumpers (Photo-JL), and a look back toward the Nehi Bottling Company from the loading dock (Photo-JL). A box car spotted at the loading door in the last photo would actually have blocked part of the switch.

On a return visit in January 2002 the switch stand was still in place (Photo-JL) next to Tardif Sheet Metal shop, shown at the far right in this view from Terminal Street (Photo-JL). The photo also shows one of the small industrial buildings that backed up to the spur. The tracks are still there and a little more visible without so many long weeds (Photo-JL), although there is now a little more graffiti on the backs of the buildings (Photo-JL).

Because of its compact size and multiple, small industries and businesses, the Gooder spur would make a fine modeling project.

Bill Messecar found the photo below of the California Packing Corporation in the archives of the First American Title Insurance Company in Santa Ana.


First American Title Insurance Company Photo.

The street in the foreground along the south side of the building is First Street and the track crossing the street next to the wig-wag signal is the SP Newport Branch. The cannery was built around 1900 and possibly first operated by the Cutting Fruit Company of San Francisco. The 1906 Sanborn map shows it as California Fruit Canners Association while the 1949 update to the 1906 map shows the building as vacant. Steve Donaldson says it had no signage on it at about that time but by the 1950s had the name Blue Hill on the building. Cliff Prather says the building was painted white by the 1960s but was unused. He thinks it may have burned down. In addition to the siding shown in the photo, there was a second siding serving the cannery from the north in the middle of the building, possibly used by the Santa Fe. Today, First Street in this location is depressed in a multi-lane underpass of the ex-AT&SF Metrolink tracks. An automobile body shop occupies the site shown in the photo.

Before leaving Santa Ana we take a look back in time to a circa 1930 photo of the Horton Furniture Company (Photo-JL). Besides being owned by the family of a friend, Chet Horton, this building, which backed up to a Santa Fe siding, occupied the site of the future Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center that today serves Amtrak, Metrolink, Greyhound, and the Orange County Transit Authority.


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