Monday, September 26, 2011

Paydirt: Photo of Abinante and Nola Packing House!

All the research I've been doing on Abinante and Nola started with a single question: what did the packing house at 750 West San Carlos St. look like? Although aerial photos on Historic Aerials show a rough silhouette and Sanborn fire insurance maps show the floor plan, I've never found photos of the actual building.

Luckily, one of the rules of research is to keep looking till you do find something. When I did a recent search for "J. S. Roberts", the previous owner of the packing house, some new panorama photos from the 1930's turned up at San Jose State's John C. Gordon Collection. (The Gordon collection is a great set of photos for anyone interested in San Jose in the 1930's.) An image of the San Carlos St. viaduct shows one building for Del Monte Plant #3, a row of maintenance-of-way cars along the tracks, and the J.S. Roberts dried fruit plant. The photo is also from 1934 - pretty much my era.

Full photo here.
So let's compare the photo with the scene I actually built:
  • The packing house is large and barn-like with clapboard siding and a corrugated tin roof. It's definitely different from the model I built, and much plainer.
  • Hidden in the trees, you can just barely see the tiny boiler house made of corrugate steel, with what appears to be a tall smokestack twenty feet in the air. The boiler house looks like it's behind a worn, whitewashed fence,.
  • The railroad crossing on the former street is blocked off at the bridge; that fence is still there, as far as I know, but the bridge was removed long before. That line of parked cars behind the barrier would be a great detail in the scene. I'm not modeling Los Gatos Creek, but modeling at least part of the bridge and creek would be a great bit of detail for the scene. I don't have room for both sides of the creek, but I wish I could add the sign on the telephone pole just before the bridge: "BRIDGE UNSAFE: NO MORE THAN 6 TON EXCEPT RR R.T.WAY SPEED LIMIT 8 MILES".

    Also note the road on this side of the creek is bordered by the creek, and has the nice boardwalk and railing to protect the locals from falling. On the other side of the road, the Del Monte property has its own fence to protect folks from falling in the creek.
  • The bridge supports have an unusual shape, with the actual supports narrower than the bridge. Those might be a good project for the 3d printer. The last portion of the viaduct is solid - again details to get right in the model.
  • I'd forgotten the stairs from the viaduct - they're still there, and I assume were designed for workers the Del Monte workers - again a detail to reproduce.

    On the far side of the viaduct, there's a line of what appear to be maintenance of way cars with windows and steps. The static maintenance-of-way cars might be a nice addition to my scene, as the curve on that side of the viaduct is pretty bare.
  • There's telephone poles and wires everywhere, some power, and some (on the viaduct) for the trolleys and Peninsular Railway interurban line.
  • One surprise for me is that there's little sign of construction of the new mainline in this phot. The Park Ave. underpass is obviously in place off in the distance, but I don't see any track other than the Los Gatos branch in the scene. However, if I look at another photo of the viaduct, taken from a lower angle, I can see a great deal of construction activity hidden behind the viaduct - debris, a maintenance of way shed, and several boxcars.
By the way, the current mainline SP tracks will pass just in front of the solid viaduct support, between that barricade and the bridge. Google Earth shows the relationship of the tracks and the viaduct piers quite nicely. This photo from Google Street View (a few years old, considering that walls of the Del Monte cannery are still standing) shows how the scene has changed in the last 80 years.

This photo again shows why I like modeling real scenes. Much of the set dressing - the abandoned bridge, blocked street and line of parked cars; the plain packing house building, the stairway from the viaduct, the odd supports, and the row of maintenance-of-way cars - they are all details I would not have placed on my own.

Stay tuned for a future episode where I'll describe plans to redo the Abinante and Nola scene!

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