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Reference Data.
Corporate Ownership.
Italian Vineyard Company
1900 - 2945
Brookside Winery
1945 - 1972
Brookside Winery
1945 - 1972
Beatrice Foods
1972 - 1982
Private Investors
1982 - 1986

Track Length.
22 mi. (Some Portable)

Last Updated: August 27, 2015

The Italian Vineyard Company.

By Randy Hees.

I talian immigrant Secundo Guasti founded his winery in 1883, in downtown Los Angeles, purchasing his grapes from others. His search for his own vineyards lead him to the Cucamonga Valley, in what is today Ontario California. He incorporated as the Italian Vineyard Company in 1900, purchasing massive amounts of land.

His new winery was possibly the most modern in the world. Grapes were crushed, not stomped, there were conveyors and pumps and hoses. A cooperage made up to 200 barrels a day. A narrow gauge railroad was added by 1908, to bring the grapes to the crushers. In 1909 they install a refrigeration plant to control fermentation temperatures, including jacketed tanks (a first among CA wineries) and ice making, used in part to allow shipment of wine grapes to the east. By 1917 this is the largest single vineyard in the world at near 5,000 acres.

The winery site of “Guasti” included a company town with a population of 1,200 mostly Italian and Mexican immigrants. Secondo Guasti paid out of his own pocket to build a fire station, school, market and bakery, blacksmith shop, rows of clapboard homes, a dairy, hog and chicken farms, doctor's office, library, a boarding house that later became a restaurant, the mission-style San Secondo d'Asti, a replica of the 17th-century church in Guasti's hometown and a Mediterranean mansion for his son.

The Southern Pacific Railroad, which built through the future site in 1875, constructed a depot (two story combination, No 17) at the southeast corner of the future Guasti town site in 1887. It was originally named Cucamonga, but renamed Guasti on June 15, 1910, in part so the Santa Fe could shorten the name of their station, 2 miles to the north, from “North Cucamonga” to simply “Cucamonga”. The SP renamed the Guasti station “Vina Vista” in 1955, but rescinded the change after 2 weeks. The freight house, was closed in 1955 with the SP and REA agency closed in 1959. The building and platforms were abandoned in 1963. 1

The company continued operations during prohibition by making sacramental wine and growing grapes for home wine making. Lugs of grapes, mostly Zinfandel were shipped all over US in refrigerator cars. Secondo Guasti died in 1927, before the repeal of Prohibition, and his son took over management of the business.

Prohibition ended in December of 1934, and the winery was photographed as wine making commenced in fall 1933, for a 1934 article in Fortune about the future of the wine industry. At the time of the article, the railroad was still in use, but photo also show trucks carrying grapes. In 1942, Kaiser Steel purchased a portion of the property for their steel plant. The company and remaining property was sold in 1945, eventually becoming Brookside Winery. Vineyard operations ceased in 1985. Several winery buildings, plus the mansion, the associated church, post office and some worker housing still exist and are part of a proposed redevelopment project.

The Guasti Railroad.

The railroad included both permanent and temporary (portable) track. Tracks within the plant include some dual gauge (standard and 30”). The railroad was reportedly 22 miles long. Most sources say the railroad started operations in 1910, but the steam locomotive was purchased in time for the 1908 season suggesting an earlier date2. By 1914 they also have a small gasoline locomotive3. The railroad had both “V” bottom tilt cars, used to bring in bulk grapes for crushing, and small 4 wheel flat cars, with tall stake sides, used to carry lugs of grapes, likely for shipment as wine grapes to home wine makers. They also received bulk grapes via standard gauge flat cars, using 4 winery owned vertical tanks per car. According to reports, the weight of the grapes in the vertical tanks would crush the grapes on the bottom. The tanks were equipped with spigots to allow removal of that juice. The standard gauge siding was also used to load refrigerator cars with grapes for shipment to the east coast where they would be sold to “home4” wine makers, providing a significant market during prohibition.


Revised: August 31, 2015
1. Henry Bender Jr., Southern Pacific Lines Standard-Design Depots, Wilton, Signature Press, 2013
2. Davenport locomotive, c/n 820 7/1908, 0-4-0t, 30” gauge, 7x12
3. “Largest Vineyard is in California” Spokane Daily Chronicle - Jan 3, 1914
4. During Prohibition individuals were allowed to make 200 gallons of wine at home for personal consumption.

Bibliography
Cinotto, Simone, Soft Soil, Black Grapes, The Birth of Italian Winemaking in California, NYU Press, May, 2014, ISBN: 9781479832361

Reference Material Available Online:

Photographs.

Collected Italian Vineyard Company Photographs.
Images collected from private collections, libraries and historical societies.

Articles.

Can Wine Become an American Habit? Originally published in Fortune Magazine in 1934.
Contains several photographs of the Italian Vineyard Company and railroad.

Collections.

Italian American Winery Collection at Cal-Poly Pomona.
Photographs of the railroad can be found within the collection.

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