No. 17: Ackley Layout: Standard Oil

Recently, my friend Jared Harper told me that he found a nice sign for the Standard Oil terminal on his layout.  Jared and I both have Standard Oil terminals on our layouts and the terminals were very similar, and we have often discussed how to model them. Jared models an AT&SF branch in Kansas, circa 1943. Here’s the cool sign (below).


The small Standard Oil terminal at Ackley was located on Sherman Avenue across the tracks from the Marshal Canning Co. on the east side of the tracks.  The terminal consisted of a “standard” Standard oil building with at least four tanks.  I do not know how the tanks were unloaded.  I assume they were unloaded by a hose coupling on the bottom of the cars because there is no evidence in any of the photos of an unloading stand.  Here is an excerpt from the 1930 Sanborn map (below).  The edge of the highway and the building are at the top, and two tanks are displayed behind.  Looks like one tank is annotated G.T. (for Gasoline Tank) and the other Kero (for Kerosene).  Those tanks are awfully close to the tracks.  A derailment near these tanks could make life very interesting.


And here is a photo of the prototype, courtesy Doug Harding (below).  Several tanks can be seen behind the building, along with some piping at left.  When I visited Ackley in the summer of 2015, the building and all the tanks were long gone.


Below is a closeup from the circa -1970 photo provided by Gene Green.  You can clearly see four tanks and what appears to be a small pump house just to the left of the main building.


Here is a closeup of the terminal from the 1970 Ackley aerial photo provided by Gene Green.

I built my building a few years ago for my previous Ackley layout. I used Evergreen Novelty Siding and constructed a 23 x 23-foot building that closely approximated the photo of the building above.


I built the entire building and added the windows and doors and all the details, then painted it with Testor’s light gray. Jared and I have concluded that some Standard oil buildings were white, and some gray, so I chose gray because in the 1970 aerial view the building does not look white compared to the oil tanks. The building is certainly white in the later prototype photo by Doug Harding, but I went with a light gray. I used signs from a set I bought from, I think, JJL but I bought them so long ago that I don’t exactly remember where I got them.

Then I added peel-and-stick shingles. The shingles I used were left over from another project I completed 10 years ago. If I were to do it again today I would use shingles from MinuteMan Models. Shawn Cavaretta is one of our St. Louis RPM vendors and he makes a good product that comes in many styles and colors. You can check out his site at   Shawn’s e-mail is

The photo below shows the completed building with the details and shingles applied, some of the signs applied.  I added windows after everything was done.  It still looks too perfect though; I need to weather those boards a little bit.



The photo above is the Standard oil building Jared Harper just completed for his layout.  Jared is building several of these structures, and I think 9 tank farms, on his layout.  The photo below is a of the Eskridge, Kansas prototype circa 1972.  Jared Harper collection.


In the photo below, I have mocked-up the Standard Oil terminal on the old Ackley layout.  The sign was included with a Walthers oil tank set.  The “new” corrugated pump house is a Grandt Line kit.  I have since learned that the pump house was beside the main building so I will put it there on the new layout.



In the photo above, taken on the old Ackley layout, shows everything in position and ready for fuel delivery.  I built everything on a plastic base with the idea that I would apply scenery later, but the layout came down before I got to that stage.  By the way, the tanks are from the beautiful, out-of-production, Grandt Line kit.

Generally the “oil jobbers”, as these facilities were sometimes called in the Midwest, carried several kinds of fuel, including gasoline, kerosene, diesel, home heating oil, and diesel. Some of them carried asphalt. The products were delivered separately and kept in separate tanks. Piping from the tanks to the loading and unloading docks was usually Red for Gasoline, Blue for Diesel, Green for Kerosene, and sometimes White for Premium Gasoline. Other colors may have been used. Usually asphalt was kept in a separate container and shipped in cars dedicated to that service. I don’t think there was a color code for asphalt.


The photo above was taken in Villa Grove, Illinois, on a former C&EI line, around 2013.  This photo shows some of the different colors of piping at the truck loading dock.

While I’m adding signs, here are two signs you might like to use that are good for fuel terminals. I found these online and cropped and re-sized them for some of my buildings.  I simply printed them on a color printer and I was done.  Whenever I see signs like this out in the world, I take pictures of them for use on the layout.



For your reference, I’ll follow up with an additional post that includes photos of other oil jobbers around the Midwest. I think you will find them helpful and inspiring.


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