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Southern Pacific Railroad train of loaded sugar beet racks out of Woodford, CA

Southern Pacific Railroad train of loaded sugar beet racks out of Woodford, CA

Extra 8435 East (train BKGUS) thunders out of Woodford on November 2, 1976. The train will go down Soledad Canyon as far as Saugus, go down the Santa Paula Branch to Montalvo, then up the Coast Route to Guadelupe. The beet racks will then move to the Union Sugar beet processing plant at Betteravia. The name Betteravia comes from the French word betterave for sugar beet or beet root.

Helper locomotives on Southern Pacific Railroad train of loaded sugar beet racks

The helper crew on engines 8703 and 8667 gives me a friendly wave. Disk 44

Here is a little background information on sugar beets. California became the first state to grow sugar beets commercially when the Alvarado processing plant opened in 1880. The California sugar beet industry has declined from more than 300,000 acres and 10 processing plants in the 60s to about 50,000 acres and 2 processors in 2000. An acre produces 30 to 40 tons of sugar beets. Sugar beet processing declined due to rising land values, continuing drought, disease, and a shift to high fructose corn syrup. National per capita sugar consumption of beet and cane sugar fell from 102 pounds in 1970 to 45 pounds in 2002. Union Sugar Beet plant at Betteravia opened in 1898 and closed in 1993. Sacramento area growers purchased the American Crystal Sugar Clarksburg plant in 1984. It closed in 1993. Holly Sugar's Tracy plant closed in late 1990s. Spreckels Salinas plant opened in 1899 and closed in 1982. Spreckels Manteca plant opened in 1917, closed in 1922, reopened in 1936. Spreckels Woodland plant opened in 1936 and closed in the late 1990s. Last two plants are Holly Sugar Corporation in Brawley and Spreckels Sugar in Mendota. The Mendota plant plans to close in September 2008. The top beet production area in 2003 were: Minnesota at 470,000 acres, North Dakota at 290,000 acres, Idaho at 207,000 acres, and Michigan at 180,000 acres.

Santa Fe helper engines dropping down the hill from the Loop

Santa Fe helper engines are dropping down the hill from the Loop in the Fall of 1970. Steve Carr photo

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