The NPP has gotten to the point where completion is in sight, and I’ve been working on the last quarter of the layout. I had a fairly clear vision of the warehouse area, and Cheney Lumber was built from a prototype, but one area has vexed me for the last three years.
I knew I wanted a wood products plant in keeping with the layout theme and a destination for my fleet of flats and gons, but I didn’t know exactly what to put there. Ever since scenery started this has been where materials have been kept, proving no layout is too small to also serve as storage.
I needed an industry that would take raw logs and provide finished product, and there were any number of those in 1940’s Tacoma. Most industries used Commencement Bay as a millpond, and few wood industries shipped in raw material by rail. Cheney Lumber was a fortunate find.
I decided to use the Wheeler-Osgood plant in Tacoma as inspiration. This was an absolutely massive complex that manufactured a variety of wood products. While perusing a 1950 Sanborn map of the plant, I saw that there were a number of rail spurs; some of which might be useful. While the plant was actually served by the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company, here it’s the Northern Pacific. The Sash & Door plant had a couple of attached warehouses for shipping, and the spur serving them winds its way between buildings. The company offices were catty corner across the tracks with a parking lot so that fits. There was also a wood yard for the slab wood from which doors and sashes were made, but for modeling purposes the plant will have to make do with logs.
There was also the problem of separating this scene from Cheney Lumber. I decided to model an industrial slough that is common in this area. More recent construction actually includes these features for runoff mitigation.
Sanborn maps may include notes on building construction, and in this case the only clue was the inclusion of the poles supporting the roof. That and what photos I could find of the W-O plant and wood plants in general suggested that the warehouse was wood frame construction with clapboard siding. The map also noted a 4′ high loading dock around the building but no indication of construction. I’ll go with wood.
The warehouses were entirely rail-served, but for scenic reasons I included a truck dock on one side with parking lot. I put the wood yard adjacent to the warehouse. I could have put it in the space between the siding and the main similar to Cheney Lumber, but companies like to keep process distance as short as possible, and I didn’t think it plausible that the wood would be stacked across the track from the intake.
Something I’ve given considerable thought to was how to get the logs off the rail cars. Most prototype photos of an operation this size show a pillar crane, but I’ve built two cranes and wasn’t keen on building another. Modern facilities would probably use a boom lift, but I couldn’t find any from the 1940’s. I did find some images of large forklifts that could probably do the job, so I’ll use that.
With the W-O plant roughed out, I had to come up with something for the space between the siding and the main. I hit on the idea of putting a steam plant in place, as steam was commonly used for space heating and the wood product industry uses process steam. While I couldn’t model anything nearly large enough to be believable as a primary steam plant, I could rationalize an auxiliary plant built to handle peak loads (and keep the bosses across the tracks warm). I’d also get another rail-served industry.
My initial thought was to have the plant Diesel-fired in keeping with the back-up nature of the plant. I’d just have to model a tank car unloading station, as I’d assume the tank was underground. But there were some problems with this.
Every photo of a steam plant I could find showed them to be coal-fired. Even if a back-up plant was Diesel-fired, the layout is set in 1948, and WW II not long finished. I couldn’t believe that the Federal government would allow private industry to requisition car-loads of Diesel for steam generation when that same fuel could drive a tank across Europe. So given the scenario the plant would likely have not been operated during the war, and if a company could get by without a facility for four years of war production, they probably didn’t need it post-war.
I briefly considered modeling just that: a dis-used plant. But that’s about as much effort as modeling a working plant, and denies a car spot. After I cobbled together some mockups, I liked the steam plant idea.
I was a bit reluctant to add track; the layout works well as is, and I didn’t want to clutter the scene. I think this will work, as the scene represents a small piece of a much larger complex, and as industrial sites grow stuff gets shoehorned where it will fit.
Slough on the left, parking lot, warehouse, and wood yard. The steam plant is foreground. There will be a fence surrounding the plant perimeter inside the main track.
After experimenting a bit I found the largest footprint for the steam plant I could get away with.
That’s barely legal, but does include all the vital components and won’t look completely implausible. The chimney will be to the rear, and the area in front will be paved and connected to the parking lot next to the warehouse.
I decided to add some interior detail to the building, as these plants tended to have large windows and at least the car door will have to be open. I don’t plan on winning a contest, but a couple of boilers, a coal pit, some walkways and piping, and a bridge crane shouldn’t be too difficult. Man, I’ve still got to build a crane.
Now that I know what I’m looking for, I’ve started assembling materials. Looking forward to getting this scene done.