Saturday, September 11, 2010

Santa Clara Valley Mill and Lumber and Cheim Lumber

One of my industries on the Vasona Branch is the Santa Clara Valley Mill and Lumber yard on San Carlos St. near Sunol St. I'd done a bit of research on it - enough to know that the company was run by William Doughtery, who did significant logging in the Felton area. Although the old Sanborn Maps showed this name on the property, it became Cheim Lumber some time in the 1930's, a business that ran at that location until 1997. Leo Cheim's obituary also mentions the business.

I don't know much about what the business looked like in the 1930's, but Rick Sprain shows some photos of what their retail store on the Alameda looked like in the 1950's. Sadly, they were photos taken as the store burned down, supposedly because of children playing with matches in the yard behind the store. Searching the Internet also turns up the lawsuit by Pacific Hardware complaining that Cheim Lumber should have kept those kids out of the yard. Rick's photos are nice views of San Jose in the 1950's, with the landmark (and recently gone) Andy's Pet Shop in the background.

History San Jose also has a picture from the fire showing employees saving the business records as the fire rages behind them. There's also a water tank visible in the smoke; my guess is it's for Del Monte Plant 51.

Here's what the site looks like today.

Freight trains on Fourth Street?

Along with the Vasona Branch layout in the garage, I've also got a shelf layout focusing on the old San Jose Market Street station inside the house.

Originally, the Southern Pacific line from San Francisco curved east near present day Coleman Ave., crossed north of downtown San Jose, then turned onto Fourth Street and proceeded through downtown San Jose on its way to Los Angeles. The Espee had a fifty year franchise to run trains on Fourth Street starting in the 1870's, and by the 1920's, San Jose was sick of mainline trains snarling traffic and dirtying laundry hung outside. After a good deal of fighting with the locals, the Southern Pacific finally re-routed their mainline around the west side of town, and built the current station on Cahill Street near the Alameda. Any traffic jams after that point could only be blamed on the automobiles.

This photo from the Willow Glen Resident newspaper shows why the town wanted the Southern Pacific off Fourth Street. Apologies for the bad reproduction, but the newspaper hasn't gotten around to put the photo online.

One obvious detail I can see I need to add to my shelf layout: lots of cars stopped at the railroad crossing, cursing the railroad. I could even play a tape loop of drivers cursing to make the scene realistic, but then my layout would be rated NC-17.