Historic Packing Houses and Other Industrial Structures in Southern California

Copyright 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007 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.
UP photo ca. 1940s. John Signor Collection.

This web site provides photos of over thirty different packing houses in Southern California, along with a few other railroad-served industries. Eventually, about sixty packing houses will be documented. These 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.

This is Version 2.0. What's New?
Web Page Created January 15, 2002
Last Updated April 24, 2007

Our hope is for this page to 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, we have provided multiple views of many of the structures -- something most of the 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. At least three packing houses documented in this web site (in Placentia, Atwood and Riverside) 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. John Signor, Cliff Prather and Steve Donaldson have been particularly helpful. In addition, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps (see below for a link to the web site) 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.

If you have any comments or questions please feel free to contact me at ljames1@ix.netcom.com.

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 web site is organized by counties and cities, each having its own web page. To view the contents of a particular city's page, you must first click on the county name then the city name. Cities with links that are not yet active are indicated with an *. These links will be activated in subsequent versions.

Orange County

  • Tustin
  • Irvine
  • Santa Ana
  • Orange
  • Anaheim
  • Fullerton
  • Placentia
  • Olive
  • Villa Park
  • Atwood
  • Yorba Linda

San Diego County

  • Escondido
  • Oceanside New page added 6/5/06

Imperial County

  • El Centro*

Riverside County

  • Corona New page added 6/1/06
  • Prenda
  • Riverside
  • Highgrove*

San Bernardino County

  • Bryn Mawr New page added 2/1/07
  • Dixon
  • East Highlands
  • Fontana*
  • Highland*
  • Redlands*
  • San Bernardino New photos added 6/3/06
  • Upland

Los Angeles County

  • Azusa
  • Claremont
  • Duarte
  • Glendora
  • Lamanda Park New page added 2/10/07
  • Laverne
  • San Dimas
  • San Fernando New page added 9/9/06
  • Whittier New page added 9/12/06

Ventura County

  • Santa Susana New photos and other material added 4/20/07
  • Fillmore
  • Fillmore & Santa Paula New page added 4/24/07
  • Oxnard 

Visit the companion web sites:

Historic Packing Houses, Packing Sheds and Other Industrial Structures in Central and Northern California

Packing House Models

Mammoth Orange and Giant Orange Stands
Along Hiway 99

Other Photos and Related Resources

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.

Jim Herzman's Cyber World of Trains has a page of photos of a Minden, NV flour mill.

For more information on railroading and the produce industry, a good resource is the Pacific Fruit Express (PFE) book available from Signature Press.

Many of the buildings were identified from Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps dating from the 1930s, '40s and '50s.

You can search for historic buildings on the Library of Congress HABS/HAER web site by visiting the Home Page.

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