Selling Pennsylvania by the pound...

Discussion in 'Trackside Photos & Details' started by doctorwayne, Feb 20, 2007.

  1. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    along with West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, and any other place where part of the real estate is made-up of coal.
    In the time frame that many of us model, up to the late 1950's, commercial coal dealers were found in all large cities and most small towns, as most homes and businesses were heated by coal furnaces. Movement of this commodity was an important source of revenue for the railroads, and as such, can be an important source of traffic for our model railroads.
    A coal dealer can be an operation as simple as a gas-powered elevator on a teamtrack, or as elaborate as banks of concrete siloes, either one using wagons or trucks to deliver the coal. While businesses and factories might buy their fuel by the ton or by the truckload, many home deliveries consisted of a few 100 pound bags at a time.
    Here are a few photos that may give you some ideas for a way to include this common industry on your layout.

    Hoffentoth Bros. Coal & Ice has an outlet in evey town and city on my layout, even though not all are modelled. Because coal was in large part a seasonal commodity, most coal dealers supplemented their income by offering other products in the off-season. Ice, for home iceboxes, or even commercial uses, was a common choice, as were sand and gravel, or lumber and building supplies. Many of Hoffentoth's locations also included ice houses.
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    Both the coal bins and the icehouses were usually built to a common plan for small towns, while larger towns and cities would have a design appropriate to the location. In Elfrida, both are located on the same siding. In the summer, ice would arrive in ice service reefers, shipped from a central storage facility, and be transferred to the local icehouse. From here it would be delivered to customers around town by truck or horse-drawn wagon. In the winter, most of the rail traffic on this siding would be hoppers full of either Anthracite or soft coal, which would be dumped into a pit under the track. Here, the pit is covered by steel plates which are lifted out of the way before the hopper doors are opened. The coal drops into the pit, then is lifted into the storage bins by an elevator inside the bin building.
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    Inside the storage area are several pockets where the various types and sizes of coal are kept separate. Here's a view of the Lowbanks branch. The icehouse here is in a different part of town, as it's the main storage facility that ships ice to all of the smaller towns on the layout. The small building is the office, and the overhanging roof on the side away from the tracks is above the chutes used for loading the trucks.
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    The yards are fenced to keep the area secure and to prevent pilferage:
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    This view of the South Cayuga yard shows the truck-loading side of the building, with the chutes beneath the canopy:
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    And a truck leaving to make some deliveries:
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    Hoffentoth Bros. don't have a monopoly on the coal business around here, though. Hoffentoth's yard in Dunnville is not modelled, but that of their competitor, Creechan Fine Fuels, is. Here's their head office, on Liberty Street:
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    And a view through their main gate, into the yard:
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    This shot shows a couple of hoppers being spotted on the dump track, elevated and rebuilt extensively when the Grand Valley's then-parent NYC completed a grade-separation project through downtown Dunnville in the mid-20's:
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    A peek inside the dumpshed:
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    Here's an aerial view of the yard, courtesy of Barney Secord's Crop Dusting and Aerial Photography Services. The driver of the truck on the left is in the scalehouse, centre, getting his paperwork. The truck on the right is being loaded with gravel by a crew with shovels and a gas-powered elevator:
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    Here's a look at the truck scale and scalehouse:
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    A truck, ready to take out a delivery:
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    And a final look:
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    I hope that these views of some coal dealerships on my layout will encourage you to include your own version of this interesting industry on your layout.

    Wayne
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

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    Ian Wilson's Steam... books have some good shots of various coal dealers in Southern Ontario (who sold large quantities of Pennsylvania ;)).

    Hamilton Model Works makes an excellent coal shed that I have built, along with a weigh scale/office (I built the office too, but can't find any pictures of it here... hamr).

    One other method of unloading uses the portable conveyors that you show (e.g. picture #6). The short unit would slide under the hopper and feed the tall unit, which empties in turn into a bin or truck (or wagon).

    While the coal dealer was set up to sell other bulk materials, he also had the advantage of having a weigh scale at his disposal. He might also weigh grain for the elevator, or other complementary businesses (for a fee of course). In some cases, fencing was installed around the scale so cattle could be herded onto it prior to shipping...!

    In addition to delivery in bags, coal was often delivered in bulk, and shovelled into a chute to a basement bin. See pictures here and a couple more here. Don't forget that a classic coal-fired furnace appears as The Old Man's antagonist in A Christmas Story "Clinkers!!" ;) :D

    Andrew
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

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    When we first moved to Brampton (about 30 years ago) there was a fuel dealer across the tracks from the station (where the bus terminal is now). At that point the tracks were on an embankment and there was a little spur off the main line onto a trestle. Every so often, there would be a hopper sitting on the trestle, ready to dump its load.
    All gone now, and I never got in to take a picture. I don't even know where to buy coal in town anymore.
  4. TruckLover

    TruckLover Mack CH613 & 53' Trailer

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    :eek: I AM SPEACHLESS WAYNE :eek:

    FANTASIC Job on explaining the operations and AMAZING photos of your BEAUTIFUL layout.

    I never know what to expect next from you, you give me and I am sure everyone else that see's your work so many ideas that I don't know what to do with them all cause I got no more space :cry: sign1

    Thanks a bunch for this AWSOME explaination on the coal industry :thumb: :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:
  5. hooknlad

    hooknlad Member

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    Wayne - very sweet looking buildings and very detailed as well. I wish that i had the same imagination drive to get motivated on my projects... Once again Wayne. that is an awesome job !!!!
  6. zedob

    zedob Member

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    Nice job Wayne. I always like your mini-articles, which are great tid-bit holders of information. I've always like coal dealers, there is still one in our town and there are a few coal trestles in the surrounding area that I'd like to model. BTW, The Crechan Fine fuels is, so cool:thumb: I've always liked that structure since seeing it on your layout.
  7. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    Hey, Andrew, the first house that I lived in as a kid had an "octopus" furnace in the basement. The coal dealer's truck would make the short trip from the yard on the other side of the tracks (it must've been the wrong side of the tracks, as I wasn't allowed to go to that neighbourhood :rolleyes: ). The chute for the coal bin was under the living room window, and the driver would usually dump the coal from 100 lb. bags, even though the front "lawn" was only about 10' deep. I think that the landlord didn't want to buy too much coal at one time, in case the price came down.:D My Dad had the furnace tender's job, but I don't recall him having the problems that the "Old Man" had. By the way, Andrew, nice job on your coal shed. :thumb:
    In later years, when my Dad got a car, we often drove by the coal yard, which looked to be an interesting place. There were several other yards in the area, too, so competition must've been pretty stiff. A lot of scenes in the Dunnville area of my layout are based on memories or impressions of that part of Hamilton in those days.

    Wayne
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

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    If you'd like to see how prevalent coal dealers were, check out this map of Ottawa, circa 1918. It shows that the Grand Trunk (pre-Canadian National) served 7 coal dealers, and likely delivered even more coal to team tracks and industrial consumers.

    There is also a map of CPR sidings, which unfortunately is not as detailed. It is likely though that they also served at least a few coal dealers.

    Bear in mind that there were two additional railways in town as well...! And all this in a population of about 100,000, a good portion of whom could have been considered "rural", and likely to use wood from a nearby woodlot as a heating fuel, rather than coal.

    Bear in mind that the majority of these dealers lasted into the 1950s, so if you model anything up to and including the "transition years", you'll need a coal dealer! ;)

    Thanks for the kind words, Wayne!

    Andrew
  9. railBuilderdhd

    railBuilderdhd Member

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    Wayne,
    This looks really nice. Is the buildings scratch build?
  10. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    Thanks Dave. :-D All of the buildings shown as the main subjects of the photos were scratchbuilt, although a couple of out-of-focus background structures are kitbashed.

    Wayne
  11. railBuilderdhd

    railBuilderdhd Member

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    I recall the days of shoveling coal for my father’s home back in Ohio as well. He didn't have any fancy way to get the coal in the basement other then getting me out there to shovel it in the hole from the pile that was left in the driveway. The day the heat supply came to town was not a good day for me and my father. I'm glad to send him a check to pay for the gas bill now. It's much better then when I had to shovel the coal for him.
    I do like the coal building Wayne has with the metal work that makes me think of a bridge in the along the Ohio River.
    rbDHD
  12. chooch.42

    chooch.42 Member

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    Hello,All !

    Anybody remember a coal delivery truck like this one: eq_coal01.jpg Now a pampered display vehicle, it worked all it's history for one owner, one coal company. Notice the full bed lift (it can go higher!) Bob C.
  13. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    I don't personally remember those trucks, but Jordan has a very nice model of the same type of truck from the '20s. I believe it's a Mack.

    Wayne
  14. chooch.42

    chooch.42 Member

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  15. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

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    Bob,

    That's a great link! Thanks for the info :thumb: :thumb:

    Andrew
  16. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

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    Thanks for that link, Bob. It's always nice to see another bit of history saved.:thumb::thumb:

    Wayne