Monday, November 5, 2012

Planning Larson Ladder

[Subtitled, "For Goodness Sake, Don't Look At the Map Again!"] There's a couple holes in the layout that need filling; one obvious one is in a gap between the road I'm declaring is Meridian Road and the WP track. In reality, there's a few blocks between these two locations filled with a random mix of light industry, but on the model railroad, I've got maybe 80 scale feet to fill. And, of course, if I want to make the area look like it's the place for business, that means I need to build models of businesses.

None of the industries there look like particularly good fits, so I've already located my model of a Rio Grande gas station right at the tracks. Behind it, I'm not so sure - one potential candidate is the frequently-mentioned Larson Ladder, maker of the three-legged orchard ladders that were common throughout the Santa Clara Valley. One of my neighbors who grew up in San Jose even remembers them, so as a hometown favorite, they've got first dibs on the location.

But what did a ladder company look like? Bill Foley from the California Pioneers of Santa Clara County managed to find a pair of aerial photos of the area, one from 1941, and the other from 1958. Both show that much of the area west of the tracks was still orchards, but the 1941 photo shows Larson Ladder sitting a block west of Meridian Ave on Moorpark - a bit far from the tracks, but let's use it for inspiration. The plant sat on a narrow lot in the middle of orchards. There's at least one long gable-roofed building, and then another, lower building, probably a couple hundred feet long with a sawtooth roof. I normally think of these as brick (which seems inappropriate here), but Packing Houses of Southern California shows a pair of wooden sawtooth packing sheds on SP's Santa Paula branch, one from the McTeague-Kevett packing association, and the other a Sunkist lemon packing house. Either might be a nice inspiration for Larson Ladder.

Er... wait a sec... Larson Ladder would have been several blocks away from where the tracks are. What was in that "light industry" area closer to the tracks in the photo?

Oh, nothing much. Random warehouses, lots of little workshops. Oh, and a sawtoothed building, right at the corner of Lincoln and Auzerais Street with a loading dock facing Lincoln Ave. The building's still there by the way, with the cask mounted on the front of the building from when it was owned by San Martin Vineyards and the Filice family. Before that, it had been Balfour Guthrie, which purchased Virden Packing, a peach canner, in 1926. Big concrete building because of its previous use for meat packing. Back side would have faced the WP tracks.

Interesting. I've got a large, cool, sawtooth building next to the WP tracks and along a roadway, just like I've got on the layout. It's got an interesting loading dock on the front that was an SP spur. Why exactly am I not modeling it?

Er... because I didn't think of it before now.

I may not have room to lay track from my mainline into Virden Packing, but I think that Rio Grande gas station is about to be moved. As I think about that plan, here's some photos of the Virden Packing building that I took even though I didn't think I'd be modeling it. Throw in your comments on whether the cute gas station should be kicked off the layout just to be replaced with an awfully coarse-looking concrete cannery.

[Street level photos: mine. Aerial view: Google.]

1 comment:

  1. And in a nice stroke of luck, I've got drawings of the San Martin Vineyard building in those SP drawings I bought earlier this year, showing me exactly where the tracks were:

    The drawings show that up until 1950, the building had a short wooden platform towards the north end, but the tracks were right up against the building otherwise. In 1949, a concrete platform was added the length of the building, and the track was moved out 9.72 feet and lengthened 70 feet.

    There are also building measurements on this drawing: