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.

Steam – The Ubiquitous Power Source of the Past

In today’s world, electricity is a ubiquitous power source – we use it for everything from running factories to cooking to powering model “steam” locomotives. In the vast majority of cases, that electricity is purchased from a utility. While doing research on the various industries along the N&W in Circleville, it became clear to me that steam was the ubiquitous power source back in the day – and that power was generated at the plant site.

The Circleville industries I model, circa 1939, used steam generated in the plant to power a variety of processes necessary for their business. From north to south, they were:

  • Maizo Mills – Steam used to power an engine that drove the corn cob grinding machinery
  • Pickaway Grain – Steam powered a steam engine that operated the elevator leg machinery
  • Esmeralda Canning Company – Used steam in the cooking process prior to canning, and to power the canning machinery.
  • Container Corporation – The most extensive operation in size with the widest variety of steam uses, “The Strawboard” used steam under pressure in the straw cooking process, to power turbo-generators that supplied the plant’s electrical needs, other turbines that were mechanically connected to pumps and other peripherals, heating the paper drying rollers and finally, to heat the entire mill complex.
  • Norfolk & Western Railroad – The railroad, of course, used steam for transportation services.

What got me thinking about this were three Circleville Herald articles I came across using Newspapers.com. All reported cases in which local plants needed externally generated steam to replace their on-site production due to emergency or maintence situations. In all three cases, that external steam that was provided by the mobile steam generating plants of the N&W (i.e., steam locomotives) .

August, 1942

In August of 1942, Esmeralda Canning Company experienced a boiler failure during the canning rush. A call to an N&W official in Portsmouth (where division headquarters were located) led to a locomotive being dispatched from Columbus. The locomotive’s boiler was then tied into Esmeralda’s system to allow their canning work to resume.

August, 1952

Problems struck Esmeralda again in May, 1952 – another boiler failure shut the plant down. Like in 1942, the plant’s management called the N&W, which again dispatched a steam locomotive from it’s closest terminal (Columbus) to get Esmeralda up and running.

January, 1955

Finally, in January 1955, Container Corporation – a strawboard mill – leased a steam locomotive from the N&W to supply steam for heating the buildings while the mill’s main boiler was down for planned maintenance.

Unlike the two Esmeralda incidents, this was not an emergency so probably did not require a frantic call to the local railroad agent. This particular article lists two interesting details; the steam locomotive was capable of producing 10,000 pounds of steam per hour compared to the mill’s boiler capacity of 90,000 pounds per hour.

It appears that, prior to the 1960’s, steam locomotives could serve the same purpose as flatbed-mounted diesel-generators do in today’s world. They both provide a source of energy compatible for the energy consuming loads of their times – emergency or planned.