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deemery
Fireman

USA
8242 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2020 :  08:23:00 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I thought I'd add to this collection of articles, and include my favorite, the early oil industry.

The oil industry started with the Drake Well in 1859 at Titusville, PA. The site is now the Pennsylvania Drake Well Museum https://www.drakewell.org and a great place to visit if you have an interest in this stuff.

The best general resource for 19th century oil is the website originally created by Samuel Pees, http://www.petroleumhistory.org/OilHistory/pages/intro.html

From a modeling perspective, there are wells and derricks, making and moving barrels, making and moving drilling and pumping supplies like tanks, boilers, and engines, and my particular interest, refining. The history of early oil is tightly coupled with railroads, as John D Rockefeller tied up oil transportation (pipelines and railroads), with secret rebates for his shipping that made it prohibitively expensive for his competitors. From there, he took over refineries, and finally squeezed suppliers into his monopoly.

Finally, I'll mention Cyril Durrenberger, who modeled the early oil industry in Texas. We corresponded frequently, and I was fortunate to visit him and see his layout.

dave

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

RyanAK
Engine Wiper

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2020 :  09:06:25 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Oh man! Good one, Dave. I'll need to dig into my files for what I have on early Pennsylvania oil. I'm interested to see where this topic goes. Thanks for taking the initiative to start this article. I think they will be a great resource for early rail modelers.

Densmore tank car at the Drake Museum.


When cylindrical riveted iron tanks made their appearance, the Densmore vats were often discarded and the chassis retrofitted.


Early c.1880 refinery in Oil City, PA.

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Dutchman
Administrator

USA
32306 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2020 :  09:19:19 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Here's a photo from western PA that combines a couple of early industries. A Shay pulling a load of logs, passing in front of an oil derrick.




Bruce
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Dutchman
Administrator

USA
32306 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2020 :  09:22:51 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Now where is my Campbell Oil Derrick kit?




Bruce
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desertdrover
Engineer

USA
15648 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2020 :  10:09:22 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Found mine. Just need to finish that scenery some day.



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

USA
8242 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2020 :  2:44:58 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
That refinery (probably Reno PA, just down the river from Oil City) is the era and kind of facility that I plan to model. I've been collecting information on that for a long time, and I'm slowly working my way to the position on the layout where the refinery will go.

dave

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

USA
302 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2020 :  2:48:24 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Is that a stock car in the photo I posted?
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deemery
Fireman

USA
8242 Posts

Posted - 01/30/2020 :  5:39:50 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Yeah, it was probably used to haul barrels, either empty or full of oil. Stock cars were preferred for barrels of oil because the fumes and leaks would not build up inside the car (and blow up!)

dave

Modeling 1890s (because the voices in my head told me to)
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Faire to Midland
New Hire

USA
24 Posts

Posted - 01/31/2020 :  8:22:09 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
It's amazing how whole towns can disappear from the face of the earth over 130 years. I used to live in Pueblo Colorado, and it amazed me when i learned just a few miles north of Pueblo there was once a town called Overton. It was there that an oil refinery was built in 1891 by the Rocky Mountain Oil company to refine oil from an oilfield 30 miles away. The oil was piped in by a pipeline capable of pumping 500 barrels of crude a day. By 1892, the Pueblo Board of trade claimed the refinery shipped out 8 million gallons of kerosene and lubricating oils. Paraffin wax, candles, chewing gum,axle grease, Vaseline and toilet soaps were also shipped in large quantities.

The refinery had a workforce of over 200 men. Many lived in boardinghouses and new homes built in Overton, but there was also a commuter train service from Pueblo, 6 miles away. The train arrived in Overton at 6:45 am and returned the commuters to Pueblo by 7:45 pm.

Here's a photo of Overton in its heyday, around 1893.

Overton was a community of 800 by this time, and in addition to the refinery, Western Chemical Acid Works had a plant there, as well as a brick factory called Hammer Pressed Brick. Presumably both can be seen in that photo, but it's unlabeled so I'm not quite sure what is what.

Unfortunately, Continental Oil Company, backed by Standard Oil, started a price war in 1894. Rocky Mountain Oil was already saddled with debt, and when they suffered infrastructure damage in a flood that year they went out of business for good. The refinery sat vacant for over a decade, while the pumps and other salvageable apparatus were sold off bit by bit.

In 1906 the Trojan Safety Powder company bought the 60 acre refinery complex at a bargain price and began making nitro-starch powder there in January of 1907. Again workers made the commute to the plant from Pueblo, this time in a gasoline powered motorcar dubbed the "Overton Trolley". Unfortunately, the Trojan mill fared no better than the refinery had, only operating sporadically and out of Overton for good by 1910. Interestingly, the motorcar ran on schedule for several more years to fulfill a contract, even tho it rarely carried any passengers.

The closing of the Trojan plant was the end of the town. Nobody guarded the buildings after Trojan left, and bit by bit the buildings were taken down. I personally have been out looking for the townsite. There is no sign of the town of Overton today, save for a couple of ranches with very nice brick barns, undoubtedly built from brick salvaged from the refinery.

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Michael Hohn
Fireman

USA
6094 Posts

Posted - 01/31/2020 :  9:45:56 PM  Show Profile  Visit Michael Hohn's Homepage  Reply with Quote
I’ve seen a photo of an “oil car” that I believe was built by the Harrisburg Car Co. it looks all the world like a stock car.

So the car in the photo might be a stock car or an oil car.

Mike
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deemery
Fireman

USA
8242 Posts

Posted - 02/01/2020 :  09:02:05 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Do you have a link to higher resolution photos of the Overton refinery??? Thanks!

dave

Modeling 1890s (because the voices in my head told me to)
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Dutchman
Administrator

USA
32306 Posts

Posted - 02/01/2020 :  09:11:23 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Here is a 'factoid' from one of my clinics on the Logging RR's of PA.

To give you some idea of the magnitude of the PA oil boom in the late 1800’s, in 1881 they were producing in excess of 100,000 barrels of oil a day, accounting for 77% of the world’s oil supply at that time. The Bradford PA Oil Exchange was recording transactions which exceeded 1 million dollars a day – that translates into 22.3 million in today’s dollars. And there were several such exchanges in the area. (Source: Barber & Woods: Bradford, Bordell & Kinzua RR).

Bruce
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deemery
Fireman

USA
8242 Posts

Posted - 02/01/2020 :  10:25:59 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
At one point there was a named grading system for oil, and "Pennsylvania grade" was at or near the top. Several brands of motor oil used that in their advertising. The Bradford PA was the largest oil field around the turn of the (last) century, and still produces high quality oil today. Several oil operators and refineries successfully resisted the monopoly practices of JD Rockefeller.


No known relationship to the Lewis Emery Jr (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Emery_Jr.) who owned the Bradford refinery, but I'm sure there's a family connection somewhere. (My father's first name was Lewis, and names do tend to reappear in family trees.)

And there's this:



dave

Modeling 1890s (because the voices in my head told me to)
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Bernd
Fireman

USA
3534 Posts

Posted - 02/01/2020 :  10:41:20 AM  Show Profile  Visit Bernd's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Speaking of oil fields and modeling. In my neck of the woods is/was a modeler by the name of Richard Senges who had/has a beautiful model railroad called the Oil City RR. In the past I had been to see his layout many times. As of late I have not heard or seen Richard. He did have a web site called "www.OilCreekRailroad.com" Clicking on that link now brings up an oriental web site. Richard was an associate editor along with Otto M. Vondrak (who almost everybody knows) publishing a e-news letter. He has many articles on his railroad relating to Oil City Pa. along with other articles. The news letters ran from May 2002 to the Summer of 2007 in PDF format. I think for those who model 19 century railroading there might be some gold nuggets in these news letter's. Here is the direct link to those news letters: http://trainweb.org/rmr/newsletter.html

Bernd

WWG1WGA
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Bernd
Fireman

USA
3534 Posts

Posted - 02/01/2020 :  10:43:13 AM  Show Profile  Visit Bernd's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Just remembered that there was an article in Model Railroader on oil fields. Can't remember the year. I'll see if I can find it.

Up-date:

I found the article. If you have access to the January 1960 issue of Model Railroader there is an article by Gregory Webb called Railroading in the Oil Fields. It's an article with a track plan based on the oil field operations in the Bakersfield, Calif. area, plus sketches of oil field equipment. The time line seems to be around the early 1900's from the sketches in the article. The equipment looks identical what was/is used in Pa.

Bernd

WWG1WGA

Edited by - Bernd on 02/02/2020 4:03:11 PM
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Faire to Midland
New Hire

USA
24 Posts

Posted - 02/02/2020 :  12:37:57 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by deemery

Do you have a link to higher resolution photos of the Overton refinery??? Thanks!

dave



Most of the info in that post came from Jim Jones's excellent book "Denver and New Orleans In The Shadow of the Rockies". The photos are credited to the John Suhay collection of the Pueblo Library District. Unfortunately, that collection is not one that's available online. Perhaps an email to the library might bear fruit tho, they may have more photos of Overton that weren't included in Jones's book?
I snapped pics of the pics in the book for that post and had to crop and shrink them to fit the 200k limit. I can email you the unshrunk photos if you like, but they aren't a whole lot clearer, just bigger.

On a side note, I just came across your layout build thread tonight. I have been enjoying it immensely. You do wonderful work, and I am impressed at how quickly you are building.

Edited by - Faire to Midland on 02/02/2020 12:44:40 AM
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