Saturday, February 13, 2016

When Canneries Attack!

Buildings on model railroads often tend towards the offbeat and eye-catching. I might complain that many models aren't... well, boring and utilitarian... enough, but that doesn't mean the wacky buildings don't exist, and that they should be avoided. I just don't want every building on the model railroad to be the work of a crazed architect or builder.

Here's one wacky building example I particularly like: canneries devouring houses. This first photo is from the Salsina cannery at Lincoln Ave and Auzerais in San Jose. The original building was built in 1917 or so for a new tomato paste producer, with thick concrete walls and a sawtoothed roof for better interior lighting. That cannery must have been hungry, for a later addition swallowed up a small two story house that had been on the property.

I went inside the cannery a couple years ago when it was still occupied by a discount furniture outlet. The main factory floor was packed with dinettes, end tables, and bar stools. Behind the furniture on the back wall, I could see the outline of a cute two story house peeking into the building. They'd repurposed it as the business's office, so it still looked like a separate building, swallowed up by its neighbor.

Now, canneries eating houses might seem odd, except that I've found other cases of it. Here's a photo of Del Monte Plant #3, just a couple blocks away, swallowing up what I suspect was the superintendent's house.

Now, canneries swallowing up houses probably isn't that common, but these photos hint that canneries, with enough growth in volume and too little land for expansion, are likely to use every bit of land they can. If an accessory building happens to get in the way, it's not going to be free-standing for long.

Photos of Salsina Canning taken by me earlier this year. Photo of Plant #3 from a John C. Gordon panoramic photo of the San Carlos St. bridge add Del Monte plant, taken around 1932. Original photo in the San Jose State University Special Collections.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Movie Night XXIV: Model Railroaders Aren't the Only Rivet Counters

As a model railroader interested in researching specific prototypes, I'm a bit obsessive. Others don't always get my enthusiasm; I'm sure a few folks have rolled their eyes as I've pointed out that the new photo shows sides of the Del Monte cannery I've never seen captured on film, or I'll talk a librarian's ear off about how that engineering drawing shows me exactly how the door mechanism worked on a Hart convertible gondola.

I'm not that unusual. In the model railroad hobby, folks like me are often labelled as "rivet counters", likely to point out how a new plastic locomotive has only seven rivets below the window when the prototype of course had eight.

Of course, model railroaders aren't the only obsessive, borderline OCD folks out there. And here'a great example: Adam Savage, host of Mythbusters, is not only a Hollywood special effects model maker, but also enjoys reproducing famous props from movies. He's a particular fan of Blade Runner, and not only made a reproduction of Harrison Ford's pistol in the movie, but also videotaped himself making a carrying box that would have been perfect in the movie. (Watch that movie too - Adam shows some techniques that might be handy for model railroad construction, too!)

Adam got his own chance to be a rivet counter when he got to see the actual Blade Runner pistol. Watching him explore the actual prop and find where his model was right and wrong makes me think he's quite a kindred spirit. Too bad he's not that passionate about canneries.