Finalized List of Modeled Industries

Almost since the moment I decided to model Circleville, I was certain I would include three specific sites on my railroad; Circleville’s Interlocking Tower (VI Tower, the namesake of this website), Container Corporation’s strawboard mill, and Pickaway Grain’s elevator.

The inspiration for VI Interlocking Tower is twofold. Firstly, dad spent a lot of time hanging around the tower as a kid, getting to know one of the operators very well (Wink Wellington), feeding his interest in the railroad – and indirectly, mine. Secondly, interlocking towers are an iconic railroad structure – known by railroaders for their function, and by the public as a landmark.

Container Corporation was the largest industry in Circleville during the time I am modeling and produced an unusual product, making it an operationally busy and functionally interesting addition to my railroad. In addition, I remember the plant (albeit in a more modern form than my modeled period) and my uncle Gene worked there as a chemical engineer in the fifties. Both make it personally relevant to me.

Pickaway Grain was astride one of the doorways to Circleville (Main Street / Rt 22), making it a landmark to local citizens and travelers. It represents an industry that was (and is) ubiquitous in grain-growing areas – during my modeled time period, smaller elevators were a common sight along every railroad. Pickaway Grain is another personally relevant industry as I remember passing it every time we left Circleville for home.

Those three obviously weren’t the only three rail-related structures in Circleville. Dad suggested three more that he remembered for modeling consideration. Esmeralda Canning Company was on Canal Street immediately north of Container Corporation (CCA). Esmeralda was probably still operating during my (early) lifetime but would have been long out of business by the time the building was torn down in 1996. Enderlin Coal (later VanCamp), north of Esmeralda, was once a very busy retail coal yard with an unloading trestle spanning a concrete pit. It’s not clear when it stopped selling coal – I suspect shortly after VanCamp bought the property since that company’s focus was road work. Maizo Mills was on the north side of Main Street, across from Pickaway Grain. It burned down spectacularly in the 1950’s.

Beyond these initial six, I learned about additional sites/industries of the period from a variety of sources (mainly period Sanborn Fire Insurance and N&W Right of Way maps) that I also considered including. They were (from south to north):

  • Purina Feeds on S. Court and W. Huston.
  • Two canal-era houses on Canal street between CCA and Esmeralda’s properties.
  • N.T. Weldon Coal and Building Supply at the corner of W. Mound and Canal streets, between Enderlin Coal and Pickaway Grain
  • A bulk oil company owned (I think) by Weldon at the same location as above
  • The Ohio and Erie Canal warehouse (re-used by a host of other industries later) on the site of today’s Pickaway County Health District building.
  • N&W’s Freight House at the corner of North Western Avenue and Water Street
  • Highway Department site north of Ted Lewis Park (on the same site as today’s ODOT).
  • Sturm and Dillard’s spur across from the north end of Forest Cemetery

Ultimately I had to make some choices since I don’t have space for the entire city. After a year or so of planning, building mock-ups to check for fit, research trips to the Pickaway County Historical and Genealogical Library, advice from friends in the hobby and lobbying by dad – with my list growing, shrinking and changing from month to month – I finally decided on the following list. From north to south this time, the champions are:

  • N&W Freighthouse
  • Maizo Mills
  • Pickaway Grain
  • Esmeralda Canning
  • Container Corporation
  • Purina
  • VI Tower

I chose these based on relevance to my family (i.e., what we remember), interest from a visual, train operations or historical standpoint, recognizability and (very importantly), space available.

I tried very hard to work Enderlin/VanCamp in. It checked the interesting (coal trestle) and relevant boxes and dad lobbied hard for it. In the end, I couldn’t make the track layout work in the space available and removing it freed up enough space to mitigate problems elsewhere. If I can fit it in a different (incorrect) location, it will be back.

The Ohio & Erie Canal warehouse is certainly interesting, but since it wasn’t rail-served, it missed the “operationally relevant” check. I pulled N.T. Weldon because of redundancies with Pickaway Grain (both sold coal and building supplies, and in fact, Weldon was later purchased by Pickaway Grain). It also presented some track layout issues.

I will most likely add Sturm and Dillard to the list in the future, though more design work is required before committing to it. Also possible (though less likely) is the Highway Department. There may also be a few items added east of South Court Street, once I get to planning that area.

Over time I will add new posts about each of these industries, and for those that have enough information, a stand-alone web page.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you have any questions or additions, please share a comment in the section below. If you know others that might be interested in this blog, feel free to share the link.

The Shifter

Sometime in the past five years, I discovered the following photo in the Norfolk and Western Historical Society’s online archives. I found it using a “Circleville” keyword search, but more precisely, it’s location is Dorney, Ohio, which was a coal and water stop a couple of miles south of Circleville. The photo was taken in 1946 and the subject is #573, a class E2a Pacific type.

E2atDorney
E2a #573 simmers at the Dorney water tower in 1946.  What is it doing here?

When I first saw this photo, I remember wondering what a lightweight (for 1946) passenger locomotive was doing there with no train – and a caboose?  Since the location and locomotive didn’t seem to apply to my interest in the railroad through Circleville, I discounted and forgot about it.

In the autumn of 2017, while doing research on the Container Corporation at the Pickaway County Historical and Genealogical Library, I came across a photo of the company’s cinder tower – and in the background was a surprise – an E2a working the shipping dock. Surprise or not, this made it obvious that these locomotives were being used in freight service.

E2atContainer
An unknown E2a works Container Corporation’s shipping dock

The photo isn’t dated – I guessed it was taken in the early to mid-1940’s based on surrounding details. In retrospect, the date on the Dorney photo supports that guess. Based on this photo, I guessed that the E was used to power local freights that worked out of Columbus and Portsmouth – similar to how K1 Mountain types were used in the fifties.

This past month, I came across information that has made me discount the local freight idea. The information came in the form of an August 1941 newspaper article about a grade crossing accident (thanks to my subscription to newspapers.com).

DorneyShifter
The Circleville Shifter

 The article stated that the automobile involved was struck by the caboose of an “N&W shifter that was moving freight cars from Dorney to the railroad freight house“.

The word “shifter” supplies some context – they generally don’t travel far. In fact, the references to the freight house (on Circleville’s north end), and Dorney probably define the entire range of the shifter’s work. It seems reasonable to assume that the locomotive that was doing the shifting was stationed in the Circleville area, and the Dorney photo is very likely documenting a locomotive that is waiting for the next batch of freight cars to shift to local customers.

The Dorney and Container Corporation photos are therefore good evidence that E2a’s were assigned to this job. This type of locomotive would seem to be a good fit for this work; fast enough to get over the main line quickly, while small enough to traverse the industrial track of the old main line, with it’s lighter rail and sharper curves.

In light of this information, dad’s stories about seeing M’s and Z’s – both slow freight engines – in town in the 1950’s make more sense. I had previously assumed those locomotives came over the road (slowly) from Portsmouth or Columbus. More likely, they were also assigned to Circleville’s shifting job. Assigning obsolete power to this job apparently didn’t stop with steam – my friend Mark Maynard was doing basically the same work in the late 70’s / early 80’s with GP9s and Alcos.

All of this from a few words in a 77-year-old article about a grade crossing accident!