Adding a cool industry to your layout...

Discussion in 'Trackside Photos & Details' started by doctorwayne, Nov 19, 2006.

  1. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Here's an industry that no longer exists, but if you model the period between 1900 and 1960, there may be a place for it on your layout.
    Back in the days before mechanical refrigeration, and even after it was introduced, ice was used to preserve food, both during shipping and during storage, and the railroad played a big part in this. Many of you may have seen some of the various ice houses on my layout, and for those of you that haven't, I'll try to explain their various functions.
    The long, white structure in the background (I never seem to have a photo of only the item that I want to show) is the origin of the ice used in the towns and cities on my layout, at least as far as the railroad is concerned. While this ice house supposedly sits on or near the shore of Lake Erie, the true origin of the ice blocks that it ships is unspecified.



    This facility supplies ice to all of the other icehouses on my railroad, and can also ship it to other nearby railroads, when required. In the second photo, those refrigerator cars are being loaded with blocks of ice (as cargo, through the side doors, not through the ice hatches, which have been sealed). From here, ice will be distributed to other ice houses along the route, either smaller ones that supply residential and commercial concerns, or larger ones that use large quantities of ice, but are not equipped to produce or harvest it themselves. The cars shown are in designated service as ice cars and are not used for any other purpose. Ice was also moved in regular reefers and also in boxcars, particularily in colder weather.
    In the second photo, you can also see a reefer spotted at the platform for icing. This is a feature of most modelled icehouses, but the one here is only for icing the occasional car that passes through and requires icing. At the platform, ice is usually only added through the ice hatches, to replenish the bunkers. Crushed ice can also be added to cargo that requires "top icing", but that is seldom required here. Many main ice houses have no provision for icing cars: their sole function is to provide ice for other icehouses. This facility, however, also supplies ice to many local customers, by truck or wagon. Most homes and businesses have iceboxes, even though refrigerators are in use in other areas, so home delivery of ice is an important business. The main commercial customer for ice in this area is Finlay Fresh Fish, which ships carload-lots of fresh fish requiring "top icing".

    Hoffentoth Bros. deliver block ice daily, by truck, to Finlay's, where it is used in storage coolers and also crushed for distributing directlly over the open-top crates of fish after they are loaded into the reefer.

    When a carload of ice leaves the main storage facility in Lowbanks, it can be destined for any town on the layout, as all have some type of ice facility. Most are small structures that supply ice for domestic use, and have no car icing platform.
    Here's the icehouse in Elfrida, built to the common design used in all towns requiring this type of service.


    This simple structure is 12'x24', with a door and platform at trackside, and another door and platform on the other side for loading the delivery trucks or wagons. Depending on demand, the entire carload may be transferred to this ice house, or the car may be left spotted here to allow transfer as the icehouse requires replenishment. Another option is for part of the ice to be unloaded from the car here, then the next train through town will pick up the car and take it to the next icehouse that needs ice.
    The largest icehouse currently on the line (there'll be another once the northern part of the railroad gets built), other than the storage facility in Lowbanks, is this structure in Dunnville.

    Here's an over-all view, with a few extraneous details visible. :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

    This is the Walthers kit, with some add-on platforms. It is the main car-icing site on the layout, and does pre-icing for most cars destined to be loaded on-line. It also re-ices loads from other railroads, as required, that are headed to on-line destinations or that are passing through, in interchange, to other roads. In addition, this is the main distribution facility for residential and commercial use in Dunnville, with ice being delivered by truck. An icehouse this size and this busy requires a constant supply of fresh ice, so at least one carload of it is delivered here daily.

    You don't need to model all of the different types of ice houses that I've shown, but the addition of any, along with an "ice-service only" reefer, can add operational interest to any layout of the era. If you don't have room for the main storage and shipping facility, simply bring in a carload of ice from a staging yard, or spot it on an interchange track, where a connecting line has left it for pick-up.

  2. viperman

    viperman Active Member

    Waye, cool post! While I have known about Ice Houses for a while now, it is still nice to see someone post this typ of info. I'm sure a lot of guys here will find it useful!
  3. zedob

    zedob Member

    I never thought about how the ice got to the platform. I always assumed that the platform and the supply were close by and never even thought about reefers used to ship the ice itself. Nice tidbit of info.

    Once again Wayne, excellent modeling.
  4. ejen34

    ejen34 Member

    Excellent topic, here in Bangor Maine we have a history rich in using the Penobscot river to acquire ice for storage year round, some of which was transported by the then Maine Central. Getchell Brothers, located in Brewer Maine, across the Penobscot River was, and still is, the company that owned the ice storage business. I am told that besides the ice cube and block business that they engage in now, which is quite lucrative, they still participate in cold storage, short term and long term. Really interesting. I do have a question for you, in your first shot, that loaded coal hopper seems to have been backed into a shed/building for some sort of loading/unloading purpose. Does that structure have a name? I am interested in copying it near my new Silo but I want to be sure I understand its purpose! Thank you - btw great shots :thumb:
  5. Nazgul

    Nazgul Active Member

    Thank you for this post. This type of info, set forth in an easy to understand manner certainly helps industry/railroad newbies such as myself. I now have a much better understanding of how this industry in particular and all industries in general "work" on a railroad.....thank you
  6. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Thanks to everyone for the kind words and it's nice to see that this information is of some use.
    Ejen34, I'm not sure what the proper term for that structure is, but I just call it a dump shed. It's part of the coaling tower facility at Lowbanks, and was included in the Walthers kit. I modified the coaling tower to suit my purposes, and added a sandhouse and the associated delivery equipment. Here are some more photos that show the setup a little more clearly:



  7. ejen34

    ejen34 Member

    Just what I needed, thanks Wayne. I know what folks say about modifying a layouts theme, mine has always been Diesel 1980-90s with a touch of present day. However I got a real good deal on a 4-8-4 and I have just fell in love with it. So much so that I am doing some scenery and track mods and tonight I ordered a Boston & Maine 2-8-0, Yikes I feel young again :hahahahaha:
  8. 2-8-2

    2-8-2 Member

    Excellent, excellent thread! :thumb::thumb::thumb::thumb:

    This is the reason I wanted a forum section dedicated to the purpose of industry. The hardest part of the research/planning phases (for me at least) has been figuring out how a railroad actually operates and why.

    I'm glad we have guys like Wayne here. Again, awesome modeling and photography! The information here is very useful too.
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I lived in a small town in the 50s. We still had ice delivery by horse and wagon; the family across the street still had an ice box instead of a refrigerator. (our refrigerator was called the ice box, but it was hooked up to a compressor and whatever down in the cellar)
    I think the ice company was attached to the lumber yard. There were old ice associated structures on the lumber yard property, IIRC in the sawdust field. I think they used sawdust as an insulator to keep ice during the summer.The yard was located near the river, upstream of the dam where current flow would be lower.
  10. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member


    Your eye for modelling is sooper-genius!

    I was thinking about dry-ice, as it is a by product of the industry I'm attempting to model.
  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Ian Wilson (author of the various CN Steam... books) has an interesting "article of the month" on icing and the ice industry. Click here -> Retail Ice Industry

    It is interesting to note that it was not home refrigerators that did away with the "natural" ice harvest, but rather the commercial ice production companies that used mechanical cooling in urban (or semi-urban) centres to make artificial ice.

    Jacques Thuot's Nothern Timber Company modules includes a picture of such a mechanical ice production facility. Look at the right side of this photo.

    In some of my research into the Highland Inn in Algonquin Park, I discovered that the hotel required something on the order of 4,000 18"x18"x18" blocks over the course of their "high" (i.e. summer) season. I think that they prepared and cut them all from Cache Lake, even when artificial ice may have been available in Southern Ontario.

  12. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member


    I had to see it twice before I got it...

    "COOL" industry.... nyuk, nyuk....
  13. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Depending on era some industries would receive 2 or 3 cars of coal for production of heated products such as glass,bricks,clay pots, cast iron production such as pots,skillets,iron fences,gates,fire escapes etc.
    Now even today there are ice companies that produces bags of ice.This should be a smaller off line industry that helps fill the industrial area-thats the area where track can not reach thus these off line industries helps "fill" the vacant spaces and makes the industrial area look larger...
  14. Chessie6459

    Chessie6459 Gauge Oldtimer

    Fantastic Work Wayne.:thumb: :thumb: :thumb:
  15. Biased turkey

    Biased turkey Active Member

    As an European, it's a fascinating topic about the ice business in NorthAmerica.
    In Belgium, the common household would'nt get a refrigeratot until the 60's
    Most of the food were stored in the cellar ( named " la cave " ) and there was no Iceman either.

    "By the 1870’s breweries had become the largest users of commercial refrigeration units though some still relied on harvested ice. Though the ice-harvesting industry had grown immensely by the turn of the 20th century, pollution and sewage had begun to creep into natural ice making it a problem in the metropolitan suburbs. Eventually breweries began to complain of tainted ice. This raised demand for more modern and consumer-ready refrigeration and ice-making machines. In 1895 Carl von Linde set up a large-scale process for the production of liquid air and eventually liquid oxygen for use in safe household refrigerators."

    Ah, beer is the motor of evolution :)

    Great pictures , nice lesson in history, Thanks

    Jacques , in Montréal
  16. C&O Steve

    C&O Steve New Member

    How much time do you think you put into all that?
  17. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Hi Steve, and welcome to the Gauge.:wave:
    If your question refers to the start of the thread, about an hour or so, including the time to dig up the pictures.:D :D If you're referring to the actual modelling, I can honestly say "I don't know". I can tell you that the shop building, the roof of which can just be seen in the foreground of the last picture posted, was first built, as a roundhouse, in 1968, while that station, visible in all three of the final photos, was built in the mid-'70's. As the saying goes, "Time flies when you're having fun", so the whole works couldn't have taken very long.:rolleyes: :) In reality, though, about the only things in any of the photos that wasn't modified or scratchbuilt are two Preiser figures in the second photo that haven't been repainted, along with all of the Caboose Industries ground throws, so some things took a bit longer than others. I like to modify kits, either to suit my purposes, or just to make them unique from everyone else's. And I like to have my scratchbuilt stuff appear logical and well-designed, from an engineering standpoint. But because I enjoy the building, the imagineering, the scene-making and even staging the photos, the time factor is not really an issue. I hope to run out of time before I run out of enjoyment. :thumb:

  18. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Great thread Wayne. This is the first time I looked into this section of the Gauge. I missed it I guess. Now I've got another place to go to on the gauge that means a few more hours before I get away from my computer and actually do some work around here!

    Just for some added info on the ice industry for those modeling the South where we don't have frozen lakes to harvest ice commercially except in the high elevations. Ice was not shipped into So. Cal. from states farther North. Mechanical refrigeration was invented by Carrier around 1900 using ammonia as a refrigerant. The Union Ice Company still exists in So Cal manufacturing block ice, now bags of ice cubes, and dry ice. From the early 1900's until ice reefers were replaced by mechanical reefers in the 1960's, the Union Ice Co. would have an ice plant right behind the icing dock with conveyor lifting the ice up to the platform for loading into the ice bunkers. We also didn't have root cellars generally in Los Angeles, so ice was delivered door to door for the home ice box until the early to mid 50's when home refrigerators became more common.
  19. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Thanks for the additional information, Russ. You're right about ice not being shipped that far, as it probably would've been cheaper, as you note, to produce the ice where it's needed, or at least ship it a shorter distance from a centralised plant. On my layout, movement of ice-service reefers adds a little variety to operations, and helps to justify the icehouse at Lowbanks, where there's not much need (or room) for a big car icing platform.


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