No. 56: Industrial Series – The Woodward & Tiernan Printing Company

WT Company Photo

I am a small-layout fanatic and am always planning small and micro-layouts in my head.  It’s a curse.  The other day I went to a doctor appointment in town and spent 20 minutes planning a switching layout on the coffee table in the waiting room.   As I write this I’m looking at my dining room table…thinking that if I used Code 55 15-inch radius on one end I could get a two-sided switching layout on this thing and…

I like the idea of small layouts that can support an operations session of about 30-45 minutes, such as the “RPM Layouts” developed by Clark Propst and Barry Karlberg which were shown and operated at St. Louis RPM.  Small layouts aren’t a new idea but what Clark and Barry are doing is novel; they built small, mobile, completely-prototypical layouts with sound and DCC and brought them to RPM meets for others to operate.  What follows here–eventually, after the discussion of the Woodward and Tiernan plant–is an example of a great candidate for a small layout featuring one of St. Louis’s largest manufacturers.






Above.  Barry Karlberg, left, brought his Wye layout to St. Louis RPM in 2017.  The great Charlie Duckworth is seated at right.  Both guys are retired professional railroaders.  Below are a few views of Clark Propst’s Allied Mills layout, which he brought to St. Louis in 2015.


























A Little History of Woodward & Tiernan

The Woodward & Tiernan Printing Company building is located at 1519 Tower Grove Avenue in Forest Park just west of downtown St. Louis.  Consttuction on the building began in 1921 in a large vacant area in the south side’s Mill Creek Valley adjacent to the Missouri Pacific Railroad.   Construction was completed in 1926. The building was advertised as one of St. Louis’s most technologically-advanced manufacturing centers and was designed using the “daylight factory” design, which was a type of industrial architecture that grew to prominence in the U.S. in the 1920s.


Above.  An old Woodward and Tiernan newspaper ad, prior to construction of the plant in Tower Grove.

The Daylight Factory design was a revolutionary design primarily using concrete for construction.  The Daylight Factory design was also called “slow burning” design or the “mill design”.  The style consisted of large masonry buildings with concrete floors supported by massive interior concrete piers, with large windows around most of the building to provide light and cooling in the summer. Concrete floors were essential to the design because they are easier to clean as opposed to wood floors, which were commonly used in factories up to that time. Wood floors soaked up spilled chemicals and solvents and over time caught fire rapidly.  The large, thick, well-supported concrete floors of the Daylight Factory design did not burn or fail in a fire, and usually contained fires to a single room or floor, allowing more time for workers to escape and damage to building to be restricted.  The use of concrete allowed more spacious interiors and stronger support for large side-mounted and roof-mounted windows. In some cases the sides of the buildings used reinforced concrete members with brick outlines to allow easy fitting of windows and doors.


Above , a 2005 view of the plant.  At some point recently it was painted white, then unfortunately “tagged”.  Nevertheless this is a great example of the Daylight Factory design–all concrete construction with lots of windows.  The former MoPac, now UP, mainline is seen adjacent to the building.  Also note there are no loading doors trackside.  Rail service to the building was provided at the rear of the building on an elevated track.

The Woodward and Tiernan building is a perfect example of the Daylight design.  It is a massive three-story reinforced concrete building with large windows on all sides, a tiered roof with windows, and a brick façade front. It is 522 feet long and has an interior of 238,000 square foot interior.

Woodward & Tiernan was one of the leading printers in the United States for decades, printing maps, books, and just about anything that could be printed, and continued operations into the late 1950s at this site.

Railroad Service

Last month while I was visiting for St. Louis RPM I took the time to photograph around the huge Woodward building and some other adjacent factories. Woodward and Tiernan is strategically located adjacent next to the former Tower Grove Junction, where Missouri Pacific’s Oak Hill branch diverged from the main line west of St. Louis Union Station. The Oak Hill branch was a busy, heavily industrialized, double-track cut-off that allowed trains to and from the south to reach yards in center city adjacent to St. Louis Union Station. The Oak Hill line crossed the double-track Frisco mainline here, right beside the Woodward and Tiernan factory. In the steam days there was a single-story tower here that governed MP traffic across the busy Frisco. Joe Collias took a lot of photos here in the 1940s.

Below.  A view of the plant from the online Barriger National Railroad Library archives.  This view is from the back of a train heading away from Tower Grove Junction on MoPac’s Oak Hill line.  The massive Woodward and Tiernan building is prominent.  The Frisco main line tracks can be seen, along with the single-story interlocking tower (hidden behind the signal at left).


Below.  Here is another view from the Barriger National Railroad Library archives.  This shows the side of the Woodward and Tiernan plant, this time from the MoPac east-west main line.  The view is toward downtown St. Louis and St. Louis Union Station.  The complex of tracks by the overpass are the turnouts leading to the Oak Hill line.  St. Louis’s iconic Tower Grove Station, which served MoPac and Frisco, is just beyond the bridge.


A delivery track diverged from the MoPac main line to reach the back side of the Woodward plant.  Along the short route to the factory the tracks branched off to serve an additional three or four smaller customers. I’ll talk about these other customers in a later post when I do some more research.

Here are some modern aerial views of the plant and the surrounding area.


Above.  Here is a complete view of the plant today.  The MoPac (now UP) main track is at the bottom of the photo, with east (toward Union Station) at right.  The front of the building is on Tower Grove Avenue, which is at the far right over the photo crossing MoPac on an overhead bridge.  Rail service was provided at the back of the building at left.  Below is a view of the front of he building on Tower Grove Avenue.


Below.  A view of the rear of the building.  The plant no longer uses railroad service and is now the property on a small industrial contractor.  Note the smokestack which has been mostly demolished.  Coal was delivered in the small bay between the two buildings next to the smokestack, and you can just see that track on the bottom left of the photo just above the treeline.  A second track into the building entered just to the left of the truck at bottom.


Below.  A view from ground level, showing the ancient MoPac tracks going onto the Woodward and Tiernan property.  The track at left curves toward the powerhouse.  The track at right entered the building to the left of the truck trailers.


WT Interior View

Above.  A view from a trade magazine showing the tracks entering the plant.  This is the bottom floor view only.  Note that the coal track does not enter the building, but the track for shipping and receiving does.  It’s hard to know how many cars could be delivered inside the plant, but considering scale I would say perhaps as many as four 40-foot box cars.

The Prototype Modeler

Inbound shipments would be consigned to Woodward and Tiernan, St. Louis, on the MoPac.  Inbound shipments would include carload lots of paper, boxes, material for building boxes such as lumber, packing material, ink, coal, solvents, machinery and other items.  In most cases inbound shipments would be delivered in box cars.  The occasional refrigerator car could be used during off-peak seasons if box cars are were not available.  I do not see a delivery track for tank cars so I would conclude that chemicals and solvents were delivered in barrels in box cars.

Outbound shipments could be consigned to anywhere, most likely to cities or large towns.  Products would be limited almost entirely to finished products, including books.  I speculate that outbound shipments were usually no more than a single carload, or in some cases LCL.

I’ve been playing around with a small layout idea focusing on the Woodward and Tiernan plant for some time, which would include some of the small factories on the siding into the factory.  I’ll publish that as soon as I can get a little more information.  I think this would make a neat, small switching layout that could be done well in about eight feet by 14-15 inches, with an add-on staging track.

More to follow soon! – John

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