Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Warehouses at the Market Street Station

Today, I'll go through some of my thoughts when trying to research and scratchbuild a particular building.

One of the lingering projects has been the warehouses at the back of my Market Street Station scene. The far side of the San Jose yards, near Ryland St., had a row of warehouses up until at least the fifties.

This aerial photo from 1940 (from Silicon Valley History Online) shows the rough area; this photo is looking northwest to southeast; downtown San Jose is to the right, the San Jose yards (now the shopping center on Coleman Ave.) are in the foreground, and East San Jose is in the background. The large white building on the right side of the tracks is just after North First Street. The old Southern Pacific freight house is in the center of the tracks in the middle distance, and the old Southern Pacific Market Street Station would have been in the open space on the right side of the tracks just before the last warehouse on the right. All this track is sparsely used in the 1940's; the line to Los Angeles got rerouted through Diridon station five years before, so the track you see is just going to loop through Japantown and past the Del Monte and Mariani plants before heading back to Oakland.

The specific warehouses I want to model are those on the left side of the tracks just before North First Street. Checking out these warehouses on Sanborn maps shows the occupants of the warehouses changing with each year, but some of the names are quite familiar. Here's a list from east to west from First Street, past the Ryland Park swimming pool, and past N. San Pedro St. along Ryland St. That's roughly from opposite the old passenger station to opposite the SP freight station:

In 1915, the warehouses held:

  • J . W. Chilton and Company dried fruit packing. (383 North First Street) Mentioned in 1922 history of Santa Clara County industry. Chilton was local; San Jose's Preservation Action Council's newsletter mentions that his house was at 1050 Bird Ave. in Willow Glen, and was designed by Andrew Hill.
  • Mark-Lally & Co Plumbing supplies. (San Pedro St.) Plumbing and heating supply company out of San Francisco.
  • Farmers Union General Warehouse. (152 Ryland St.)
  • Warren Dried Fruit Co. (200 Ryland St.) My grandmother supposedly worked for them in Hayward in the 1930's.
  • J. B. Inderrieden & Co Dried Fruit Packing (236 Ryland St.) They're not locals-they're from Chicago.

In 1950:

  • C.I. Dick Dried Fruit Packing. (405 N. First St., but same as the Chilton warehouse)
  • "Shelling Plant and Warehouse". On the site of former yard tracks, closer to the SP station.
  • "Fruit Packing" (386 N. San Pedro St.)
  • "Fruit Packing and Warehouse" (392 N. San Pedro St.)
  • Beer warehouse. (395-399 San Pedro St.) Shares Warren's warehouse.
  • Warren Dried Fruit Co. (100-200 Ryland St.) They're doing pretty good to be in the same place 35 years.
  • Abinante and Nola Packing Co. (236 Ryland St.) They occupied the Inderrieden warehouse. It's interesting to find them on this side of town, as their former plant on San Carlos St. is on my Vasona branch layout.
  • Western Metal and Export. (280 Ryland St.) Tin salvage plant.

1970-era SPINS maps marking locations of industries on the SP shows all these warehouses were vacant by 1972, assuming the buildings were even still there.

There were more businesses on the other side of the street close to downtown, but that's still an awful lot of industry for a small area, and quite enough for any self-respecting model railroad.

There's not a lot of close-up's of that neighborhood, but I found some photos when diving through books. As usual, I took maps of the area (this time photocopies of the Sanborn maps of the neighborhood rather than hand-drawn) and went searching through my books for potential photos showing the warehouses. As I found photos, I'd mark the location of the photo source on the map for later reference. The aerial photo leading this blog entry gives dates from 1940 and shows the row of warehouses on the left (north) side of the tracks. They're the long warehouses standing alone with the little clerestory peaks to get light into the buildings.

Detail shots are sparse, though. "Prune County Railroading" has a couple photos. One shows the roof lines of the warehouses peeking out over the tops of passenger cars at the old SP Market Street station. This nice photo from 1935 of SP 3105 crossing San Pedro Street showing the board and batten warehouses with covered loading docks and signs running the length of the roof peak advertising "A. Levy & Co." and "… Fruit Company". From the Sanborn maps and my guesses at the location of the photos, that would be either be the C. I. Dick warehouse and one of the generic warehouse which were up against the neighborhood in the aerial photos, or a new line of warehouses built on former yard tracks just behind the old station. The new warehouses appear as that row of three brighter warehouses in the aerial photo. The old Market St. station had been torn down by the time this photo was taken, but it appeared on the right side of the tracks opposite the newer warehouses. Just for trivia, the larger building on the right side of the tracks in the distance is a cold storage warehouse just on the other side of First Street. That space had been a house/estate up until the twenties, and the warehouse appeared sometime in the 1930's.

So with these photos and a bit of guessing, here's my assumptions about what these warehouses look like, and what my model should look like.

Generally, what I've seen in the photo are tall (16-20' high) one story warehouses with sloping roofs, covered loading docks, and occasional large freight doors; the Sanborn maps confirm this, with exact wall heights, notes about boilers and motors for power, and addresses. One exception was the Inderrieden / Abinate and Nola warehouse which had 24 foot high walls and was marked as having two floors. None of the Sanborn maps show locations of doors, but all show how the buildings were divided up, and where the non-railroad loading and unloading docks must have been.

From comparing building sizes to the widths of the roadways, the warehouses appeared to be on the order of 150 feet long and 50 feet wide. The photo of locomotive 3105 shows that the loading dock to the right was sheathed below the dock, and the one to the left was not. The Sanborn maps don't give much more detail - 18' high walls, truss roofs with wood posts, covered platforms, occasional motors for running machinery, fuel oil.

I'm guessing they're mostly board-and-batten structures from textures on some of the photos, and that they should appear a bit worn both from age and from lack of maintenance due to intermittent use. They'll be simple to build except for those clerestory roofs. Because my warehouses will be up against the backdrop and at an angle, getting all the rooflines correct will be a chore.

Anyway, that's all I've learned. I've done my research using photos from books, photos (like the aerial photo) from library collections on the Internet, explored Sanborn maps thanks to San Jose Library's Sanborn subscription. (Yes, a great use of my tax dollars!) I've made a good guess at the appearance of the warehouses, and started on construction. I'm not sure my guess at the building is perfect, but it's a starting point, and I'll have an interesting model as a placeholder til I learn more.

And if you're looking for a historic project to get started, how about doing some searching on those fruit packing company names and addresses on the Internet, and see what you turn up?

Next time, I'll show some construction photos.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

SwitchList: Feedback Wanted

If you tried out my SwitchList program for the Mac when I mentioned it a couple weeks back, I'd appreciate any feedback you've got.

I made the app public in hopes of figuring out what next to do with it. I knew it worked well for my layout and was a great improvement for me over car cards and other routing systems, but wasn't sure whether it would be useful to all of you out there. I wasn't sure which features to add or bugs to fix to make it particularly useful. Should I stay with the small layout focus or aim for more complex layouts? Should I finish the feature for spotting cars at particular doors of an industry? Are there better ways of printing the switchlists? I'm also trying to decide whether to keep working on it on my own, or whether there are others out there who might have features they think are worth adding.

If you tried it and had comments (and especially if you tried it and found it wouldn't work for you), I'd appreciate hearing your comments, either on this post or via e-mail.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Modelling Diridon Station

Anyone interested in railroading in San Jose ought to check out the latest edition of Model Railroad Hobbyist for a great set of model photos of Diridon Station in the 1950's. Vic Roseman, famous for his realistic east-coast dioramas and photos in Model Railroader magazine in the 1970's, appears to have switched coasts, and he's done some beautiful models and captured the scenes nicely.

Welcome to the Left Coast, Vic! We'll try to make sure you'll never have to model snow again!

Personally, I'm holding off for my chance to build a large and operable version of San Jose's old Market Street Station circa 1930, and try to run the tons of daily commute trains that left that victorian-era three track station on five minute intervals.