Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What This Town Needs is More Domes!

And if anyone needs inspiration for a Victorian folly for their model railroad, consider the Melrose Hotel in Los Angeles, a "tourist hotel" attached to an old mansion on LA's Bunker Hill. Don't ask me how to build those domed roofs.

See the Melrose Hotel on the L.A. Daily Mirror blog, which is always worth a read. The better photo is cribbed from A Visit to Old Los Angeles, which has a whole page on the Melrose and the luxurious accommodations awaiting Easterners visiting Los Angeles. There's a huge number of photos of old LA there, just the thing for some inspiration for older California architecture. Downtown LA's mix of hills and flats also means that there's always some chances for inspiring architecture.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Earthquakes and Canneries

Earthquakes and canneries never seem to get along well. At best, all those nicely stacked empty cans fall over; at worst, the roof falls in and crushes the nice machinery. There's stories about how the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake not only doomed the San Martin winery south of Morgan Hill, but also damaged the few remaining canneries in the San Jose and Santa Clara area.

As I've been researching the local canneries, I'll sometimes wander into pre-1930's history, but I've never seen much about how the businesses in San Francisco and San Jose survived the 1906 earthquake - there has been little in the newspapers about the damage to businesses. This week, while checking out the history of Code Portwood Canning Company, the Oakland precursor to H. G. Prince and later Del Monte's Fruitvale cannery, I found the following article.

It's from (of all places) the July 5, 1906 Adelaide (Australia) Advertiser, where the "General Merchandise" section highlights the damage done to San Francisco canneries by the Great 1906 Earthquake:

Canned fruits are wanted, but holders of leading kinds are inclined to keep stocks for better prices, which are expected to rule when the season's demand comes along. According to San Francisco mail advices, the destruction of the following fruit canneries is reported: California Fruit Canners' Association, Sansome street branch, capacity 400,000 cases, and Fontana branch, capacity 250,000 cases; Central Californian Canneries, San Francisco branch, capacity 200,000 cases; Californian Canneries Company, capacity 100,000 cases; Presidio Fruit Canning Company, capacity 100,000 cases; Corville Packing Company, capacity 60,000 cases-the foregoing being destroyed by fire, while the Code Portwood Cannery, with a capacity of 125,000 cases, was wrecked by earthquake. It is estimated, therefore, that the pack will be curtailed by 500,000 to 750,000 cases. Some of the canneries will, it is stated, be able to operate at establishments outside San Francisco, and the Central Company will operate at Sacramento, Sebastopol, and Visalia, where enlargements of plant have taken place.
There's some interesting tidbits here: the California Fruit Canners Association was one of the first attempts to create an industry-dominating combine in the fruit industry, sucking up several of the largest canneries. The CFCA later was a founding part of Del Monte when it was created in 1916. In this article, there's the note about the two CFCA canneries on Sansome Street (perhaps King-Morse?) and "Fontana branch" which probably references the M. J. Fontana and Company plant near Fisherman's Wharf, which became Del Monte Plant #1 and later "The Cannery".

The Central California Canneries plant at Bay and Mason, interestingly enough, burned the day before the earthquake in a rather nasty twist of fate, as noted by the Pacific Rural Press a couple months later. The Central California Canneries owners were also kicking the tires on a plant in Yuba City which itself burned a month later on May 20. I'm not sure I'd let the Central California Canneries folks check out my cannery after that bad luck.

It's also interesting how most of the canneries were "destroyed by fire", but Code-Portwood's plant, over on Tenth and Brannan, was explicitly listed as destroyed by the earthquake. The June 9, 1906 Pacific Rural Press also reports that Code Portwood's plant didn't burn, but that wasn't going to stop the company from moving to the more pleasant climate of Oakland and leave San Francisco behind.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Seeing Local Model Railroads at "See" Level

Leo Pesce has been visiting some of our local layouts out here in the Bay Area and videotaping how things look from a train's eye view. Go check out his videos on YouTube to see some of our cool local layouts.

Rick Fortin's Valley Division Fourth District ATSF layout models a hypothetical Santa Fe branch from Chico north over the Siskyou mountains. Rick's layout is huge, requiring twenty people to operate well. One of my early operations experiences was handling the yard switcher at the west end of the yard, where I spent eight hours one Saturday just sorting boxcars. After spending a fun day in the yard, I went wandering around the layout at the end of the session and noticed some of the boxcars I switched spotted at industries up at the far end of the layout.

David Parks's Cumberland Western models the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Western Maryland as they fought through the Appalachian mountains near Cumberland, West Virginia. I've been lucky enough to operate several times at David's; again, it's a large layout that shows the fun of practicing teamwork to get trains moving over the railroad.