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RyanAK
Engine Wiper

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  3:02:02 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
My other threads sorta take a stream of consciousness, meandering path as we chat about various early railroad and industry topics... so I thought I'd start a few threads to explore various early industries that can be incorporated in our modeling. Though my own interest is in small, operationally and historically interesting layout designs, these all could be included in a larger early-era layout. I'll just be working through these as one-industry layouts or standalone modules.

This topic will serve for discussion on wood chemical plants. Prototype information and photos are especially appreciated... as well as thoughts on how to model this industry in an accurate and prototypical way.

R

RyanAK
Engine Wiper

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  3:07:02 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I've looked at several larger industries with an eye to a one-industry layout. I'm still researching early tanneries to try to figure out the rail traffic patterns. But I've found out a LOT about wood chemical plants, often called 'acid plants' or 'acid works'. Here's some interesting numbers and a look at the process:

* Smaller plants before conversion to 'jumbo' retorts could process 10-20 cords of smaller hardwood logs. A cord is 4'x8'x4' or 128 cu ft. That's 1-2 carloads each day of hardwood.
* The retorts at the turn of the century were fairly standardized at 5' in diameter, 112" long with a 3/4 cord capacity.
* The wood was stored outdoors and was then hand-loaded into carts, wheeled into the building, hand-loaded into the retorts.
* The wood was then heated to produce Charcoal, methanol, and acetate of lime.
* At the end of the process, the solids were raked out of the retort into cooling cans and placed in a large cooling room.
* (1) cord of wood produced:
10 gal of methanol
200 lbs acetate of lime
50 bushels (1000 lbs) of charcoal
* So a "big" small wood chemical plant processing 20 cords would be producing 200 gal of methanol, 4000lbs of acetate of lime, and 20,000 lbs of charcoal.
* The acetate of lime was the big money product, used in making acetic acid. Some plants would have the extractor to do the process on site, others shipped the acetate to a chemical company as bulk batch product.

I think this would make a very interesting model and has a variety of rail traffic in and out on a consistent basis. Maybe too consistent to be a standalone industry on a layout. More thought needed...



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RyanAK
Engine Wiper

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  3:42:33 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Interesting note - in the era of the photographs, the 'acid works' at Nordmont was served by the standard gauge Williamsport & North Branch as well as the 3' gauge logging railroad of C.W. Sones. The narrow gauge line brought in cordwood from Sones's timber holdings in the valley. You can see the cordwood stacks to the rear in this slightly later photo. (Photo negative was flipped...)


Edited by - RyanAK on 01/21/2020 4:03:48 PM
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desertdrover
Engineer

USA
15680 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  3:50:06 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Wood chips were sent to wood chemical plants for paper processing; Information and Model Wood chip cars here; http://www.railroad-line.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=51475


Louis
Pacific Northwest Logging in the East Coast
Post count: 5000 posts added to below count.
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Dutchman
Administrator

USA
32340 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  5:48:47 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Old style Wood Chemical Plant in PA. Unload the wood onto carts by hand, wheel into the plant and then place into the ovens by hand. In later years they would unload off rail cars onto metal cars that were wheeled straight into the ovens (retorts) without unloading.




Bruce
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Dutchman
Administrator

USA
32340 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  6:05:15 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Besides Tom Taber's books, one of the best resources on the Chemical Wood Industry was written by Frank Daniel Myers III and offered by the NYO&W Historical Society.

Print versions are pricey and hard to find, but the society has a CD reprint for $15. Here is a link to their store: http://owrhs.org/site/store/

Scroll down the the bottom of what looks like page 3 of a scanned paper list of offerings.


Bruce
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RyanAK
Engine Wiper

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  6:09:57 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Oh, man! That’s a fantastic photo. Wood gon, box cars... looks like there are elevated tanks for loading methanol into tank cars... and that complex and track would be great to model. Would work great against a backdrop or in a corner...

With these wood products industries, one of the things I would be interested in modeling - specifically to show the scale that even these modest plants operated at - are the huge reserves of the raw materials and finished product. It’s rarely done, but I think acres of cordwood, piles of bark as large as most model “industries”, stacks of finished lumber that dwarf the rail cars... I think modeling the resource and product would be very powerful from a storytelling aspect. And I, for one, would be willing to give up ‘valuable modeling real estate’ to tell that story.

Nuts, ain’t I...?
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deemery
Fireman

USA
8266 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  6:14:46 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
You'll definitely need a way to model stacks of wood, maybe build a master and do plaster or resin casts.

dave

Modeling 1890s (because the voices in my head told me to)
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RyanAK
Engine Wiper

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  6:15:15 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Guess I need to expand my Taber library... I only have the first 4 or 5... I think the next one in line is the one that has some focus on the wood chemical industry.

I should probably also visit the Taber Library seeing as its only 40 minutes away...
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RyanAK
Engine Wiper

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  6:17:03 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Dave... you think splitting scale acres of scale cordwood is a poor use of modeling time? Ha! ;)
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Dutchman
Administrator

USA
32340 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  6:19:03 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
The wood chemical industry used the smaller hardwoods left after the larger trees had been taken for lumber. Here a train is being loaded with wood for a chemical plant.

Trees larger than about 4" in diameter were split in the woods before loading on the train.

This shot is from the woods of PA.




And this is a scratch built version of a similar car in HOn3 that I made.




Bruce
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Dutchman
Administrator

USA
32340 Posts

Posted - 01/21/2020 :  6:50:43 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Ryan, I sent you a PM about Tom Taber's books.


Bruce
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Michael Hohn
Fireman

USA
6122 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2020 :  08:42:53 AM  Show Profile  Visit Michael Hohn's Homepage  Reply with Quote
These wood industries just get more interesting. The complexes of buildings seem to follow a pattern until . . . whammo! A photo of something quite different turns up.

Very nice model, Bruce.

Stacks of tan bark, lumber, or cordwood depending on the industry would be most effective and unusual.

Mike
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Dutchman
Administrator

USA
32340 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2020 :  08:58:29 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Michael Hohn

These wood industries just get more interesting.

...

Stacks of tan bark, lumber, or cordwood depending on the industry would be most effective and unusual.

Mike




Mike, tanneries went through prodigious amounts of bark. And, they wanted to let the bark age a year before use, so the had stacks and stacks of bark around the premises. After stacking it in long rows, they would cover each stack with bark to act as a 'roof'.




Bruce
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RyanAK
Engine Wiper

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2020 :  09:26:49 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Ain't this stuff neat? The variety is pretty remarkable. And once you know everything that was produced from the forests, you see why it was such a boom. I'd say the majority of people today think trees only make lumber and paper. If they only knew what once was!

I think stacks of finished lumber, cordwood, pulp wood, tanbark, saw logs... would be very effective at telling a story with our modeling. The vast volume of forest material that went into these modest industries is remarkable. We aren't talking about enormous steel mills, though some of these mills were quite large.

Bruce, that's one of the best photos of a tanbark stack I've yet seen. If you have a minute, could you drop it in over on the tannery thread?

Fun stuff.

R
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Dutchman
Administrator

USA
32340 Posts

Posted - 01/22/2020 :  10:30:31 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I just checked out this link that I had posted in my HOn3 Pennsylvania Logging Branch Thread (Slate Run RR) back in 2009, and it still works.

http://www.smethporthistory.org/crosby/wood.htm

A number of small Pennsylvania towns actually have nice little websites detailing their history. Smethport's includes a nice segment about the wood chemical plants in the area.

And here is the link to my HOn3 adventures.

http://www.railroad-line.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=24897&whichpage=1


Bruce
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