Monday, June 30, 2014

Schutte Lumber Company

This installment of the Fairgrounds Branch tour looks at Schutte Lumber, which was spot #311 on the 1972 Map.

While the lumberyard occupies the same real estate as it traditionally has, rail service has been severely curtailed since it's heyday.  Schutte must have found it more economical to have the Frisco spot cars directly for unloading rather than move material around the yard -- in the days of horse and buggy, who could blame them -- as there were multiple spur tracks to multiple car spots at each of their buildings.

Here's how the grounds appeared as late as 1957; note the myriad of tracks serving many different buildings.

A massive fire nearly destroyed this business in 2003 and likely reshaped it to the shed configuration seen today.  The myriad of rail spurs into nearly every building was reduced to just the two current tracks at the edge of the property.  Based on this independent review, they had rail service as of 2006 and, according to their website they still do, though recent photography from Google (street and aerial) show the tracks in pretty rough shape.

It's not clear if that fire coincided with any retrenchment of the Fairgrounds Branch itself...As mentioned in the Pacific Mutual Door Company post, rail south of Schutte Lumber was gone by 2006.

Modeling of this industry will be very era-dependent and difficult to squeeze onto traditional shelf-style linear benchwork.

Setting the Era

Conversations with local enthusiasts who had previously toured the line and done other research revealed that the majority of rail service ended soon after a derailment near the south end of the line in the early 1980s (1983?).  The report is that a car was destined for Turner UniDrive Company.  My speculation is that new owner Burlington Northern was probably looking for a good reason to curtail service.

At least Schutte Lumber continued to receive rail service into the mid-90s.  As reported by local observers, they received shipments of large beams or trusses to the spurs on the southeastern edge of the property.  This required some amount of tail track that crossed 31st street.  It isn't yet clear when service to Pacific Mutual Door or other industries in the middle section ended.

This sets an upper limit on prototype modeling.  Of course, one must choose between one side or the other of the 21st of April 1980 -- either the beginning or end of time, or -- simply put -- whether to use orange or green with the white:

Photo Credits:
Frisco #306, a Carl Nelson shot borrowed from
BN #154, a Jim Shepard photo borrowed from the Don Ross Collection

I've always been interested in the 1970s era of railroading as that's when things started to get "interesting".  There were a handful of developments in the 1960s, but larger railcars were the norm in this decade and the what I call the "great oxide red / brown fleet" of the 1950s and earlier was disappearing.  It was also a challenging time as several upheavals took place: Amtrak, Conrail, to name a few.  Deferred maintenance was increasing.

Post-Staggers Act railroading in the early 1980s is also appealing.  From a model perspective, its a bit easier to find appropriate rolling stock, but in the case of this branch line and the industries it served, it was about to be history as trucks really began to take over.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fairgrounds Branch in 1930

While searching for more information on various industries, I came across this aerial photograph from the 1930's.  The focus is on Southwest Boulevard and clearly visible is the crossing of it by the Fairgrounds Branch to serve Schutte Lumber.

I can't post the picture directly here due to copyright, but you'll be able to view it on the Missouri Valley Special Collections page linked here:,197

A few notes on key elements of the photo:

  • The Frisco mainline curves from upper left to lower left.
  • Just left of dead center is a team track area for the Frisco
  • On the right edge just below center, the X-shaped tracks serving the various Schutte unloading areas can be seen among the many piles of lumber.  Business was good in this era.

Enjoy if you visit!

Monday, June 23, 2014

American Mineral Spirits / Sherwood Chemical Company

Updated with additional information.

Industry Review continues with a look at spots #340/340B, the American Mineral Spirits Company that until 1964 was known as the Sherwood Chemical Company.  Both company names are listed on the 1972 map which made initial research difficult, but the connection was made with this July 1964 Kansas City Times article that announced the buyout (reproduced here to correct a few OCR defects):
Chemical Firm Sold SHERWOOD & CO.. local marketer and distributor of chemicals and petroleum-based products, yesterday was sold to Pure Oil company for an undisclosed sum. Sherwood will become an affiliate of American Mineral Spirits, a subsidiary of Pure Oil. Sherwood, which was incorporated here in 1946 after a takeover of the Bertram Naphtha company by Arnold A. Sherwood, has assets in excess of a million dollars and does annual business of over 5 million dollars. The company has a tank farm here handling 750,000 gallons of liquids, one in Wichita and one in Denver with a storage of 500,000 gallons each. Sherwood sells alcohol, naphtha, resins, ketones and fiberglass materials in a 6-state area. It had a chemical blending operation for industrial concerns.
Sherwood Chemical's extensive site spanned both sides of 34th Street with various warehouses (blue and green highlight), docks (orange highlight) and tank storage (red highlight).  The ones outlined in blue hadn't been constructed as of a 1950 Sanborn Map and in the present day, all of the tanks (red highlight, plus others that were scattered on site) have been removed from the site.

The 1972 map also shows tank spots on the east side of Terrace St. (purple highlight).  According to Historic Aerials, in 1959 the extra Sherwod tank site was a concrete block manufacturer (named Concrete Building Units).  This industry is also found on the 1950 Sanborn Map.  By the 1969, though, some buildings are gone and replaced with the Sherwood tanks.  I'd surmise that this expansion was coincident with the aforementioned 1964 merge.  Additional detail can be seen in the 2006 view and I captured the following ground level views to focus on some of the detail for the concrete containment area.

While I was on location in November 2013, I took several additional detailed shots of the Sherwood buildings that remain.