No. 147: Industrial Series – Standard Oil of Galesburg, Illinois

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Back in March, 2020, when all the COVID lockdowns began and train shows and RPM meets were all cancelled for the year, my friend Ron Christiansen built a private e-mail list of about 50 guys to talk trains.  He called it Ron’s Train Club.  Ron usually picked a subject and we talked about it for a few days, and then moved on to whatever Ron wanted to talk about next.  Ron also began hosting a weekly “Ron’s Train Club” Zoom call.  Anyway the new list took off, and it is still very active with hundreds of e-mails exchanged weekly.

One of the more prolific posters on Ron’s Train Club is Dave Nelson, a lifelong railfan and model railroader.  Dave sends photo essays to the group every week or two.  His e-mails usually include about 20 photos, lots of history, and some interesting stories.  They are terrific and I’ve saved quite a few of them.

A few months ago Dave sent a photo essay to Ron’s group on the former Standard Oil terminal in Galesburg, Illinois, which was once rail-served by the CB&Q.  Dave allowed me to use e-mail and photos, which are reproduced here in their entirety.  I hope you enjoy this post, courtesy of Dave Nelson.  All photos, unless noted, are credited to David Nelson and Roger Worchel.  Here’s Dave:

During last night’s excellent Zoom tour of Jared’s Alma Branch layout, Jared mentioned a common Standard Oil design for bulk oil dealer offices–a small, square, hip-roofed wood structure.   

Below. This is a typical Standard Oil “jobber” as mentioned by Dave.  This example was in Ackley, Iowa.  Doug Harding photo.

Ackley Oil Dealer

On my layout the Standard Oil bulk dealer has a more substantial structure made of brick.  A friend who is slightly older said my bulk oil depot looked rather similar to a brick bulk oil dealer in Galesburg Illinois, on the former Burlington.  After a little bit of online map study, I decided to do a bit of harmless trespassing and document the structure in Galesburg.  Here’s the image from Google, below.  The bulk oil dealer is at the center, and you can see the BNSF main tracks at the lower right.  


Galesburg was something of a central hub for the CB&Q, and then again for the Burlington Northern RR, as the line that came down from Chicago split at Galesburg, going too Burlington, Iowa (and beyond…to Denver and down to Texas), and Quincy, Illinois before crossing the Mississippi River and heading south to St. Louis and also heading west.  Moreover there were lines emanating from Galesburg to Peoria and Minneapolis.  The Santa Fe also went through Galesburg and the two railroads were connected by a rather rickety interchange downtown.

Back to Herr Oil in Galesburg.  My friend Roger Worchel and I were taking pictures of the street side of the structure when a guy came running towards us.  I thought we were about to get yelled at but instead he wanted us to come inside to look around the interior, and see his truck.

Well, he didn’t have to twist my arm.   Oddly enough, on that same trip to Galesburg, Roger and I were taking photos of the preserved CB&Q roundhouse in nearby Beardstown when the owner came out (and again, I thought we were going to get a tongue lashing) and said “The best pictures can be taken over here, and come inside when you’re done and take a look at the interior”.  I never pass up a chance to photograph a roundhouse.  But that is a Train Club for another day; for now let’s focus on Herr Oil in Galesburg.

Herr Oil is not a museum nor is it re-purposed.  It was a bulk oil dealer 70+ years ago and it still is today.   But no longer rail served, alas.

First we’ll look at the exterior.  Then we’ll go inside.  But before we do either, I took photos of a large old photo he had on on top of a file cabinet, a wide photo that showed that yes this HAD been a Standard Oil depot originally.  That was a great find!   My friend’s hunch about architectural style was correct, although the building has been changed and added on to since, I suspect many times.  It is Mobil now.  Fortunately the owner allowed me to remove the fragile old photo and place it where I could take my photos of the photo without glare.

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Note the railcars in the background.  That is the old CB&Q yard in Galesburg.  The view faces east, and it is the east face of this structure (the other side from this photo of the west face) that would have been rail served, and the rail served part was essentially an upper floor.   What we’re seeing in the photo is the “customer side” of the building.  Here’s the ground level today:

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Now we are going to walk up the hill towards the tracks and see the east face, the rail served side.  This is a photo I had taken years earlier just rather casually documenting, not aware that I needed to observe things to model for my own layout.

thumbnail (3)Note the long low building, which is the part of the building that actually serves the other side, the customer side.  That loading dock suggests perhaps boxcars delivering drums of petroleum products, or boxes of paraffin.  Yes, that’s a freight elevator room on the top.

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Here are a couple more photos from 2019.  The building is still in good shape.

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On the south end, there are plenty of old oil tanks, all of which are still in use.  The area in the foreground used to be full of tracks.

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Here are some interior and detail shots of the Herr Petroleum facility.  Here are fuel lines entering the building, and fuel pumps.  I suspect this interior view of the garage has not changed much since the 1950s.

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Interestingly there are also interior tanks.  They were impossible to photograph, but they’re in there!

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Below.  These are ancient paint templates.  There were many of them all over the walls.

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There was also graffiti from old employees.

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I can tell you that there are many things of interest in this sprawling old structure, and the owner is maybe most proud of this.  The fuel tank on the truck has a builder’s plate from Morrison Brothers Co. of Dubuque, Iowa.  Morrison Brothers is still in business and has been for about 150 years.

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Below.  The garage is clean–looks like a typical HO scale scene.  The ceiling is exceptionally clean.

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Outside, on the north end, there are more tanks of various sizes.

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The old tradition of “branding” the tanks at a bulk oil depot is not dead.  Put a tiger in your tank!

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Thanks Dave for an interesting and informative essay!

A postscript to Dave’s essay: Standard Oil had a large, brick structure in Mason City, Iowa, as well, along the north side of the Milwaukee Road Yard there.  Here is a Sanborn view, below.  Standard Oil was the area between the two Mason City Transfer & Storage Co. buildings.


Here are a few aerial views from the Clark Propst collection.  The first view, below, is from 1941.

Safford Lock 7351, 4/21/41. Milwaukee RR yards

Below.  This view is from 1952.  Not too much has changed.  A few large brick structures, tanks of all sizes and types, and rail service.

Globe-Gazette photo/ E. L. Musser, Oct 24, 1952Milwaukee RR yards.

Thanks Dave, for putting this post together and allowing me to use it on the RPM blog!  – John G

No. 78: Industrial Series 6 – The Crunden Martin Manufacturing Company

The Crunden Martin Manufacturing Company is a large, multi-warehouse complex on the corner of Gratiot Street at 1st and 2nd Streets near downtown St. Louis that still stands like the Acropolis along the Mississippi River.


Crunden Martin forms the core of Chateau’s Landing, an industrial and restaurant district just south of the famous Gateway Arch.  Originally known as the Crunden-Martin Woodenware Company, the company moved to Chateau’s Landing in 1904.  The company made a huge variety of wood and wicker products; everything from mops to chairs to kitchen ware to buckets and a whole lot more, and expanded rapidly through the World War I years. 

CM Mfg Co

The complex consists of six buildings and a seventh building connected by a covered bridge two stories over 2nd Street.  The first building–Building No. 1–was  commissioned in 1904, with the last building–Building No. 7–completed in 1920.  The complex was built with generous access to the nearby Iron Mountain Railroad yard, a Missouri Pacific predecessor. 

In the 1930s the company expanded to build “metal-ware” and larger items to include refrigerators, and built a large amount of military equipment during World War II. 


The images above and below are from Google Earth, and show the multitude of large buildings that made up Crunden Martin.  The building at the back, closest to the St. Mary Church and School, was damaged by fire a few years ago.  You can make out the collapsed roof.


The company was rail-served for its entire corporate existence.  Missouri Pacific had several sidings along the river and a curved track that extended between several of the buildings, and the Manufacturer’s Railway reached the opposite side of the buildings from street track on 2nd Street.

Below.  A Sanborn Fire Insurance Map, circa 1960s.  North is up; the river is on the right.

Sanbord 1968


Above.  Looking north, next to the buildings, industrial tracks wound through the multiple spans leading along the waterfront and across the massive bridge across the Mississippi River.  In the heyday of the railroads, even more tracks and warehouses were located in this area.  Below is another view of Building No. 1, at right, along the river, with the remnants of the rail docks and doors visible in front.

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Prosperity continued into the 1950s and 60s.  The company filed for bankruptcy in 1990 and the buildings have been closed ever since, except for the occasional lease for storage.  All seven buildings have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2004. 

Below is an aerial view from 1956.  Note the warehouses and team tracks surrounding the buildings on all sides.  Also the curved siding that went through the buildings can be seen.

Crunden MArtin Aerial 1956 2

Crunden Martin provides an ideal prototype location for consigning your model freight cars.  Inbound loads of lumber in box cars, gondolas or flat cars would be appropriate, along with inbound loads of lightweight steel sheet, machinery, packing materials, and other items.  Outbound loads of finished wooden goods of nearly every type in plain, uninsulated box cars would be standard.  Outbound loads of refrigerators and smaller metal stamped goods would also be prototypical accurate.  I have not determined if the buildings had their own power plant.  A power plant on site would provide additional opportunities for providing coal or perhaps oil.

More photos of the architecture are below.  Immediately below are six photos of the Gratiot Street side of the buildings.

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This is the only photo I took of the Cedar Street side.  There was no rail service on this side of the complex but there are still many interesting doors, loading docks, smokestacks, fire escapes and fixtures to attract your attention.

Next time you’re in St. Louis and are crossing the Poplar Street Bridge on I-44/55/64/70, keep a sharp eye out for Crunden Martin.  – John G



No. 77: Industrial Series – The Benjamin Moore Factory on 2nd & Lafayette

I’m brewing up two new posts–one on scenery and one on the new coupler pockets recently released by Smokey Valley and Resin Car Works.

Meanwhile I’m excited to write about a factory building that’s still standing in St. Louis–the Benjamin Moore paint factory and warehouse on 2nd and Lafayette.  I ran across this building a few years ago and last year when I was back for St. Louis RPM I was able to photograph it all around in good light.

Here is a trackside view of the factory building, looking south down 2nd Street.


The factory has been around since the 1930s and was built adjacent to the original Monsanto chemical plant.  The original Monsanto plant sprawled across many city blocks and was a fascinating facility, and was served my multiple tracks from the nearby Missouri Pacific yard.  Benjamin Moore was served by a single siding off the Manufacturer’s Railway, which ran down the middle of second street as seen above.

IMG_7860Above.  Another view down 2nd Street, showing the  turnout off the Manufacturer’s Railway.  Below is a Google Earth view of the plant, showing how it consumes much of the city block.  The Monsanto plant was behind this building and to the right.


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Above.  Another Google Earth view, showing the factory at top center.  The vacant lots full of trucks and school busses at center and lower center mark the location of the former Monsanto plant.  It was huge.  And below, here is a view from 1955:

Benjamin Moore Aerial 2

According to a Sanborn map from the 1930s, the area to the right in the photo above–where you can see the large tanks and several tank cars–is part of the Monsanto lab and not part of Benjamin Moore.  The area at the far right is the large Missouri Pacific yard south of the city along the riverfront.

Below, here are close-up photos of all four freight doors.  I love the different vents, doors, windows, and fixtures along the freight dock side of the building.





The windows and doors below look quite clean and modern.  The building is occupied now by a wholesale office furniture company called RC Distributing.




The last photo above should give a little perspective.  See the Gateway Arch?  Below is a photo of the side of the building along Lafayette Avenue.


And finally, some interesting photos of the turnout off the Manufacturer’s Railway (below):



Above.  The turnout was thrown by lifting the door.  Below, note the three drain covers–two of which are centered between the track.


This is another good industry for modeling, and also for consigning cars to.  Box cars and perhaps tank cars could be routed to and from this plant.  The Sanborn map (not shown) also indicates the building had a steam power plant.  Perhaps the plant received coal by hopper or gondola as well.

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

No. 49: Industry Series – The Brown Shoe Company of Salem, Illinois

Until recently an interesting factory existed at the small railroad junction town of Salem, Illinois.  In the glory days B&O’s busy St. Louis line and the MP (the former “Mike & Ike”) met and interchanged in Salem.  MP maintained a yard and roundhouse just north of town.
The factory in question was the Brown Shoe Company, which was on the B&O a few hundred yards west of the B&O depot.  The Brown Shoe Company had its headquarters and a major plant facility in St. Louis, and smaller, outlying plants in places like Litchfield and Charleston, Illinois and Vincennes, Indiana.  Yes, this is where Buster Brown shoes were made.
I am grateful to my buddy Pat Carie of Vincennes, Indiana for allowing the use of photos from his historical collection in this post.  Pat has a great site on Flickr called Union Depot – Historic Rail Images.  It’s not your typical roster shot site.  Pat has posted a lot of cool pictures of the railroads of southern Indiana at work.  He has included a lot of nice shots of facilities, people, and a lot of interesting views from the very early 1900s.  The direct link is  It’s worth your time to take a look.
Salem Shoe, 1919
Above.   A view of the Brown Shoe plant in Salem circa 1929.  From the Patrick Carie Historic Railroad Archive Collection, Vincennes, Indiana.  The  B&O main line can be seen in the foreground with the main track farthest from the viewer.  The Google Earth view of the plant, seen below, shows its proximity to the B&O’s east-west St. Louis line.  North is “up”.  The depot is just barely out of view to the right.  The depot was still standing in 2015 and was in use by CSX maintenance crews.
What I always admired about the plant was it’s classic early-1900s brick architecture which included a loading dock for railroad cars, a separate building with a coal-fired heater, a large smokestack, and a water tower.  There are fewer and fewer of these factories around today which is one reason why it is important to document them and try to preserve their relationship with the railroads and the community.
Below are a number of detail photos I took of the plant around 2004.  Immediately below is a trackside view.  Studying the postcard view above, there was deep loading dock just to the left of the garage structure in the center of the photo–just about where the truck is parked–that reached out to a single-ended track on the property.
The view above is also a trackside view.  Studying the 1929 postcard above, box cars would have been loaded or unloaded behind the garage where the truck is sitting.  One single-ended track served the plant which left the main track at the distant left and continued adjacent to the building, toward the photographer, ending in the area where the No Parking sign is located.
Above.  This is where the plant starts to get interesting.  The one story building in the foreground most likely was a small power plant for the factory.  The single-ended siding that served the plant left the main line at the left, and proceeded alongside this structure.  I have a hunch that coal was delivered to the building here.
Below is a closeup of the area where I believe coal was delivered.  The tall silo may have been used to store coal.
Immediately below is a view of the Maple Street end of the building, which faces east.
Below is a popular view.  This is the Whittaker Street side of the plant, which faces north and the surrounding community.
Finally, below, a view of the water tower and smokestack near the College Street, on the west side of the facility.
Freight Traffic
I had a conversation on the B&O Yahoo Group about the factory.  There is not much information available on freight shipments but B&O expert Jim Mishcke speculated that freight traffic would probably be box cars in and out and that was about it.  Raw materials like leather, boxes, cartons, packing material, tools, equipment and parts inbound; finished goods outbound.
Jim also wrote, I would think that the low-bulk-density shoeboxes…there is lots of air between shoes…would make short, high boxcars desirable, but 10′-0″ Interior Height was considered high for B&O.  Packing the car with lightweight boxes, cartons or cases would be nowhere near load capacity by weight.  Whether B&O accommodated this shipper preference, what with plenty of 8′-4″ inside height M-26’s around, is unknown. 
The guys on the B&O list don’t have any freight records handy that record destinations for loaded cars, but potential destinations could be anywhere in the US and perhaps Canada.  The most likely destinations would be regional or city distribution warehouses, perhaps Sears Company warehouses, and so forth.  Cars with LCL loads could be delivered to smaller warehouses or railroad freight houses in smaller cities or large towns.
The Brown Shoe Company of Vincennes, Indiana
Below is a terrific view of the Brown Shoe Company plant in Vincennes, Indiana.  It is a photo worthy of study.  The plant resembles other Brown Shoe Company plants, such as the one in Salem, and is set up in a similar fashion.  It is also situated near a railroad junction–in this case, just barely out of view at the upper right–is the junction of the B&O, PRR, L&N (C&EI originally), and NYC lines.  This is another photo courtesy Patrick Carie, Historic Railroad Archive Collection, Vincennes, Indiana.
The family resemblance of this plant and the Salem plant is interesting.  The shape of the structure, the outbuilding on the far side, the single stack, and the water tower are signature items.  And a note to modelers; despite what we have always been told about modeling rooftops, the main factory building has nary a chimney, vent or fixture of any kind…just something that looks like an elevator or machinery house…and that’s it.
What’s this?  it looks like the flying photographer caught the plant during a local coal delivery.  We are the beneficiaries of his excellent timing.  Check out the closeup below.
I cropped Pat’s photo so we can check out the proceedings.  Sure enough, those trucks are delivering coal to the plant.  Note the truck dropping coal between the tracks and the conveyor moving the coal into the building.   At some point this plant likely received coal by railroad car.  A second, nearby empty truck gives us an indication that the plant had at least a one-railroad-car capacity.  There also appears to be a large, open-top bin behind the building trackside–perhaps that was at one time a coal bin.
Knowing what we know about the Salem plant, this photo gives us an indication that the Salem plant had a similar arrangement with one track and two spots–one for box cars, and one for coal delivery.  Note that I didn’t say “hoppers” as it was common for railroads in this region–in this era–to deliver coal in gondolas and box cars.
Another item worthy of note is the sawdust burner on top of the building.  Production waste, such as wood shavings (for shoe heels) and other remnants, were sent to this area and burned.
Unfortunately the plant was completely destroyed by a fire a few years ago.  The amazing picture below, courtesy of KTVI TV in St. Louis, shows the plant completely ablaze.  Interesting that the entire building is completely engulfed in flames.  According to news reports the fire was so hot that it destroyed several home in the community near the plant.  Thankfully the building was vacant at the time of the fire.
Jeff White, a friend from the B&O RR List on Yahoo Groups, e-mailed and told me an interesting story about the building.  Jeff wrote,
I was inside the Brown Shoe building a few times when I was with the Salem Police Department responding to burglar alarms.  I’m really surprised the building lasted as long as it did.  It seemed like a real fire trap.  There were a lot of household goods belonging to military families stationed overseas stored there back in the 1990s.  I forget the name of the contractor who was renting it as warehouse space.
I hope you enjoyed this installment and can make use of the information.  Thanks again to Pat Carrie for use of his photos.  Pat is a Great American.  – John G

No. 42: Industry Series – The Keystone Leather Company

Camden, New Jersey, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, was a major industrial, ship-building, manufacturing and transportation center into the mid-1960s. The best known manufacturers in Camden were Campbell’s Soup and RCA Victrola, both of which had large factories downtown served by PRR.

When I lived in southern New Jersey in the late 1990s I often drove by an abandoned factory near Camden that was just north of US 30, near the corner of 16th Street, 17th Street and Mickle Ave. US 30 is now known as Admiral Wilson Boulevard. I finally stopped and photographed it in 2016 and thought you might enjoy the information.

This is the first of what will be a long series on US industries that fellow modelers can use for freight car/lading origin and destination.


This interesting building, located at 1764 Mickle Street in Camden, was the home of the Keystone Leather Company. The Keystone Leather Company was a large employer in Camden, manufacturing fine leather goods. This plant in particular manufactured “kid” leather, which was soft leather normally used to make gloves and other fine materials. The plant was built in the 1920s. It was located a block south of Pavonia Yard, which was PRR’s major classification facility in Camden. Maps and aerial imagery indicate the tracks that served the plant originated at Pavonia.


Above.  A postcard view of the factory in it’s heyday.  Below.  This is a view of almost the entire side of the structure that faces north along Mickle Street.


Below is an excerpt from a Sanborn map from about 1930.  Admiral Wilson Boulevard is now built between the creek and the Keystone Leather Co., running northwest-southeast.


Below.  This employee entrance was on Mickle Street.  See the Keystone symbol on top of the doorway?


Another entrance on the corner of Mickle and 16th Street. Perhaps this was a customer entrance.

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Many factories across the US such as this one were fire traps. Many of them had wood floors, which over time became saturated with spilled chemicals, or flammable or toxic materials. A spark or a small fire could become an out-of-control inferno in seconds, or cause an explosion.  A fire could race through the building so fast that workers could not get out. Similar buildings in Camden burned down in spectacular fires.

From a modelers perspective this is a fascinating building. The building still retains much of its former glory despite the dirt and graffiti.

These freight doors are on the long side of the building along Mickle Street.  Love those cobblestone roads.



Railroad track routed into the building (below) was a common practice in pre-1940 industrial structures so cars could be loaded or unloaded in any weather. A second track ran south along 16th Street and split, with one siding running behind the plant.  Neither track is shown on the accompanying Sanborn image.

The photo below shows tons of detail that modelers are interested in.  This shot shows both employee entrances, the freight doors on the left, and the railroad entrance.  Note the windows with the swing-open vents, the power lines, the cobblestone streets–this is what attracted me to the building.

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Around on the 16th Street side of the building was a track that ran into the lot south of the structure.  I’m sure it also served the factory.


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One last view (below) of what I consider the back of the plant.  This is the side along Stevens Street, adjacent to Admiral Wilson Boulevard.

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An industry such as this would receive cleaned leather or perhaps hides, along with chemicals, packaging material, machinery, and other items needed for processing and leather products. Outbound shipments would be almost entirely finished leather goods.  This would be an excellent point-of-origin or destination for our freight cars across the US, routed via PRR-Camden.

If you have photos or more information on the Keystone Leather Company I’d be pleased to hear from you.  Much of the information here came from a most interesting site: This site has great information on Camden’s people, businesses, industries, and history. There are some neat aerial images of Camden buried in the site too—they’re worth a look if you’re into PRR’s South Jersey facilities.

No. 41: Industry Series – Roosevelt Brothers Flour Mill at Ackley, Iowa

The Roosevelt Brothers Flour Mill was a longtime shipper in Ackley, Iowa and it’s one of those places you just can’t model using something off the shelf.

There are very few photos of the mill.  In fact I only know of three.  That’s the mill on the left in the distance.  It consisted of one large mill building and a couple of other smaller buildings, and a coal bin.

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Below is an excerpt from a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from 1930.  The mill structure, the coal bin and the grain bin are the significant structures.


The photo below is a screeen shot from a Minneapolis & St. Louis film made in the late 1940s.  The train is just crossing the IC, heading north–and there’s the mill on the left.  The coal bin stands out in the sunlight.  Also clearly visible is the depot and the train order signal, with a bright green light indicating no orders.

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In the later years, after 1940, the building was sheathed in corrugated iron.  When it came time to build my model, I had not had much success using the thin metal strips such as that sold by CC Crow and BTS.  Campbell used to make corrugated steel strips too.

Instead of using those products I decided to try styrene corrugated sheet sold by Evergreen.  I used .040 thick sheet and cut it into 10-foot long strips.  See below.  I cut the long strips into pieces with the plan of using this to sheath the structure.

One of the reasons I wanted to use individual pieces of something was that I could weather each strip individually, creating a nice patchwork-looking structure.

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After I cut a bunch of pieces of styrene strip, I taped them to a piece of cardboard and painted them a medium gray color.

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Next went over them with silver paint.  To my eye, corrugated metal looks gray but sometimes brighter silver streaks through.  So I went over everything with silver paint, not trying for full coverage.

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Below, you can see how the gray panels looked with the silver overlay.  Then I went over some of the panels with a little dark brown for rust or oxidation.  Again I did not want full coverage–just a little bit on the tops and bottoms.

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I changed up some of the colors too, applying lighter colors of rust here and there…and this is how it all looked when I was done.  I hit the pieces with Dullcote and then it was time to start assembling the building.

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Between the maps and the space available on the layout, I used a footprint of 60 feet on the trackside of the building and 40 feet on the sides, and 50-feet tall with a sloping roof.  I then cut pieces of .060 styrene in those dimension and, from the bottom up, started applying the corrugated strips randomly.

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I glued the strips to the styrene core and then cut out spaces for the windows.  Cutting out the window spaces was next to impossible because I was cutting through like .100-thich styrene.  The windows are below,  I used a Tichy product so I could have some open windows.  The freight doors are from an ancient Walthers kit.  I painted all these castings a slightly darker gray from the original paint used on the corrugated panels to provide some contrast.

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Below.  Here is one of the sides, all ready for windows.  I had no real idea where the windows should go so I just did what looked right.

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Here’s a closer view of the sides with the individual strips.  It looks different the other scale model buildings.  I’m not sure that this kind of different is good, but it is different.

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Here’s the building put together, the roof installed (another piece of .060 styrene with black posterboard on top) and the windows cut out.  The bin on the side of the building was also scratch built of styrene.  It was for catching shelled corn cobs.

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Here is a closeup of the freight door.  I lined it with styrene and put one of the freight doors in an open position.

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Below is the picture that was in the Model Railroad Planning 2015 article.  The whole facility includes, from right to left, the mill, the powerhouse (the small brick lean-to), the cob bin, and a coal bin.


A few years back Gene Green sent me a drawing that had dimensions for a coal bin on the M&StL.  They are reproduced below.  I used these dimensions and built a shell for a coal bin, and then sheathed it it styrene strips.  I don’t have any original dimensions but I measured the building and it comes to 65 feet long by 14 feet tall.


Here’s a photo of the building after it was completed.  You can see I used individual strips of styrene length-wise and built up the ends per the photo on top.I built doors out of styrene strip and used Grandt Line hinges.  The metal sheathing is BEST metal roofing material.  Again I painted the metal sheathing dark gray and then went over it with silver paint and a little weathering.  Everything else is styrene painted brown.  I used Testers Rubber color for the brown paint.


Below is another view on the old layout.  The storage bin is a Walthers bin pretty much straight out of the box.  This is as far as everything got before I had to dismantle the layout for the move to Germany.  Oh yeah, in this view you can see that I added a water tower (another leftover from that old Walthers building kit), some random roof vents, and drive-through for trucks and wagons delivering grains, a tube for shells coming out of the mill to the cob bin, and a couple other things here and there.


During the construction process I contacted the Ackley Historical Society and they e-mailed me this picture.  This is picture #3 and was the only picture they had.  This one shows the building as it was being dismantled in the 1960s.  This is not a trackside view.  You can see the entrance for trucks and wagons on the far right.


A difference between my model and the prototype is that the prototype windows are inset, and more frequent, and there appear to be cellar windows. Aw let’s face it–my model looks completely different. My model looks pretty close to the trackside view but that’s about it.  I’m keeping it though…

– John G

No. 18: Midwest Oil Jobbers

To compliment the conversation on the Standard oil terminal at Ackley, Iowa, here are photos of other “oil jobbers” I have run across in the Midwest.  No frills here–these are just photos that you might find useful or interesting.

The three photos below were taken in 2012 at Villa Grove, Illinois across the street from the former C&EI roundhouse, which was still standing at that time.  I took a few detail shots here because the piping to and from the tanks was still painted red, white, lue and green to denote the different types of fuel carried.




The photos below were taken near the former Monon-Milwaukee Road junction in Bedford, Indiana in 2009.  I apologize for the horrible second photo–it looks like I took a photo of the parking lot.  At least it shows–somewhat–the building and the rack of fuel tanks beside it.  This is almost directly across the track from the beautiful Milwaukee Road passenger station.




While I was in Bedford, I photographed another oil jobber near the one pictured above.  This one did not have any tanks (perhaps they were removed earlier) but it had this cool sign that was still legible.  I remember back in the 1970s when scientists thought oil was created from compressed dinosaurs over millions of years.  Even then as a young grade school student, I thought that concept was ridiculous.  Nevertheless, the concept id give us some cool signage.


The three photos below were taken in 2008 in Seymour, Indiana at the location where the east-west Milwaukee Road (which has been abandoned and removed) crossed the north-south PRR Indianapolis – Louisville main line.  The track in the foreground is the former PRR line.  This is about a mile or two north of the crossing over the B&O line.

It looks like this could’ve been a Standard Oil terminal.  The building has a familiar Standard Oil look to it.  Note the different sizes and types of tanks.  This facility is clean and well kept and was probably still in use; note that all the pipe lines were painted white.




The two photos below were taken at Litchfield, Illinois in 2005 on the former Wabash line.  I wish I would’ve taken some more detail photos.  Barely discernible in the photo below is a tank car unloading stand, just in front of the building at the fence.  This is a neat, clean facility.  I am not sure if the facility in the second photo was rail served but it is another clean, neat facility and definitely still in use.




The two photos below were taken at Trenton, Illinois in 2004 on the former B&O St. Louis line.  In both photos the telegraph pole lines mark the location of the main track.  Here we have a simple facility: three tanks and a building.  Very simple.  All the pipe lines are underground.  There is no indication the facility was ever rail-served, but I’m certain it was at some point due to it’s proximity to the main track.  CSX, by the way, has cut this line as a main track and trains no longer operate here any longer.



The facility shown below was photographed in 2010 in Casey, Illinois.  This facility was near the former PRR St. Louis line, now a CSX route.  The lighting is poor but you can make out multiple sizes of tanks and lots of piping.  Also hidden in the poor lighting at left is a high unloading pipe of some kind, perhaps for trucks or farm equipment.  It is an interesting addition since there is another complete fuel stand at the right (shown in better detail below).


In the photo below of the Casey facility, you can clearly see the different colors of piping that carried the different types of fuels.  Note the low outlets in the foreground.  These could’ve been used for loading trucks, or unloading railroad tank cars.



The photo above is a great view of the facility, with multiple tanks and pipes going everywhere.  The fuel stand at right was for loading trucks and probably farming vehicles as well, since Casey is in the middle of Illinois corn country.  The photo below shows the stand in a little greater detail.


Finally, below, is this structure that accompanies the tank farm.  It certainly does have that Standard Oil look to it!


One thing I noticed about all the facilities pictures is there is not a lot of clutter strewn about.   These are all old facilities, and some of them are no longer in use.  But there is not a lot of clutter around even at the facilities that appear abandoned.  Some are overgrown with weeds but there is still not junk everywhere.  It’s a good reminder to keep our modeled facilities picked up and organized.