KEES-AUSTIN PUBLISHING CO.
Location: Western Ave., West St. Amour.
Reference: My older son, Kees. (Middle name Austin). He was a great spinner of yarns as a kid, related to the people in our Lego towns - and to about everything else that had its own complex miniature world. I wonder where he got that from. Other imaginary landscapes included the planet G18, the country of Sockland, and the adventures of Super Green Fighting Robot.
Cultural note: If you've never heard the name before, it's Dutch, pronounced "Case". Earlier it was popular as a nickname for Cornelis or Cornelius, and was my father's nickname when he was a boy.
Location: Western Ave. at Basin St., West St. Amour. HQ at Chalmers Shoals, Va..
Influence: The logo is more than a little inspired by Gulf. Since geographically, a gulf is a basin.
Reference: Jim Bax. Jim has been a friend since the late 70's, when I got involved in the local modular group. My friend Darren Williamson from the "old crew" had pointed out that a name like "Bax" would make excellent private-owner reporting marks. Too perfect. So, JBAX the industrial fleet was born, and as usual, all I needed to do - besides build it - was to concoct some complex rationalizations to explain it.
In reality there were limited oil deposits along the Virginia coastal plain, and at one time there actually were two smaller refineries in or near Norfolk, and another just up in Manassas. So in our world, the James River Basin Corp. built its first refinery in the 1900s on the flats at the mouth of the James, near Newport News, with the company being named for that area.
The St. Amour complex was build in the 1920's to process the same petroleum deposits that gave rise to the Marathon (Ashland) plant near the mouth of the Big Sandy.
Description: A wholesale grocery warehouse. The warehouse was built early in the century, primarily for dry goods. When mechanical refrigeration became commercially available in the 1920s, the east end was bricked up and reconfigured for cold storage.
The concrete-frame, brick skirt wall building is an archaeological study of the evolution of freight cars. When initially constructed, the sections were made 36' long, with one unloading door per section, because that was the standard box car size of the day, or at least the largest. As the standard car length increased to 40', WF was robbed of half its spotting capacity, because the unloading doors would no longer match the box cars (and by then, reefers), so every other door had to be skipped. In the 1940's the first floor along the spur was reconfigured with cinder block, to space the loading doors at 42' intervals, including a new "bump-out" at the east end to follow the track. The westernmost door (#1), is unchanged, but moving to the left from there you can still see artifacts from the old order amid the new, except where the wall segments had to be completely demolished and rebuilt from scratch.
Location: Pat Rose Way, St. Amour.
Reference: Darren Williamson, one of my oldest and closest friends, a brilliant observer of technology, pop culture, and politics - and one of the few people I've ever known with a more wry, biting, and messed up sense of humor than my own.
Model notes: When we were in the modular group together, Darren constructed a Darren-scale building for his module from about like 615 "Belvedere Hotel" kits. When we abandoned the modules, he gave the building to me. WF is made from that building, although it was lysed to its component pieces and reconfigured, for my old shelf layout. I added a few more Belvederes that I had on hand, as well (not the Plymouth kind).
Description: A distributor of electrical components and supplies.
Old Rube Ersatz opened a small electrical supply company in the 1920s, in a storefront down by the river. As his business grew, he evicted the renters from the tenement apartments above, and converted the upper floors to storage space. As electrical equipment grew in size, he stored transformers and other large items outside in the back.
By 1940 the facility was bursting at the seams, but just in time came the construction of the St. Amour Rail Terminal's lower extension. The building next to his, whose spur he had begun using, had to be demolished for the re-alignment of Western Ave., however not all of the land was used for the eminent domain project. Rube was able to acquire the irregular lot for new yard space, which then allowed him to construct a cinder block warehouse addition in the original yard, to the rear of his building, with a bona fide loading dock - and in so doing, avoid having to move.
Location: Pat Rose Way at Western Ave., St. Amour.
Reference: ersatz /ayr' sats, er' sots, er' zots/ adjective - made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else. From the German.
The yard is like a page out of the Eye Spy books - every product line carried by Ersatz Supply is made from something else. The transformers are made from capacitors, the electrical cabinets are micro-relays and other componentry, and the wire bales are made from 36" HO wheels, glued face to face.
KANAWHA VALLEY BOX CO.
Location: Perry Ave., St. Amour.
Reference: None. The name was chosen to help establish the locale. Although, I've always thought "Kanawha" just sounded cool.
Dialect note: Like "Luvl", that large river city in Kentucky, the word "Kanawha" appears to have many more syllables than are actually used by locals, who typically pronounce it "K'naww".
Model notes: Anyone who's ever spent any time in the hobby should recognize the soul of the building as Revell engine house walls. That is the case, however it's actually made up of plaster castings. I made a mold of one wall many moons ago, using Mountains In Minutes latex mold compound. This was tedious stuff you had to build up in layers - coat after coat after coat - with gauze interspersed for strength.
As a kid, a Revell engine house was one of the first building kits I ever bought. I became immediately and permanently amazed by the brick detail, both the old-school masonry design, and the decrepitude cut into the mold for the model.
DUHL DRILLS, Makers of Boring Equipment
Description: Manufacturer of drills and related machinery for the mining industry.
Location: Perry Ave. at Della St., St. Amour
Reference: Believe it or not, this company name and slogan came from a case study in my Accounting 322 text in college. As a sleep-deprived college junior, it was about the funniest thing I'd read that semester. Drills bore. Drills get dull. Dull is boring. It's triangular. It's 3-way irony, unexpectedly clever - way more clever, in fact, than was necessary in the business school, which is what made it so striking in the wee hours of the morning, after Letterman is over and you actually have to do start doing work. Who says accountants aren't funny? Bob Newhart was an accountant, after all. We just appreciate more subtle, analytical irony. Well - those of us with senses of humor do, at least.
Model notes: Like Williamson Foods, this is another kit that my friend Darren bought scads of, Mt. Vernon Mfg., to assemble into one large building. It was from Life-Like as well, and was the same format as the Belvedere Hotel kit. And like WF, I inherited the building, then took most of it down to the component pieces and re-assembled. In both cases I was making taller, 2D flats out of broader, 3D structures. Neither of them was intended to last forever, but I think they're here to stay.
Description: Manufacturer of stamped, punched, and die-cut steel parts, and fabricator of structural steel shapes.
The F.B. Field Co. began life around the turn of the century, fabricating one-off bridge girders and structural components for buildings. In the teens they branched out using their metalworking expertise and equipment into supplying the automobile industry, among others, with manufactured steel parts. Having narrowly survived the Great Depression, WWII and post-war prosperity had them healthy again and stronger than ever, and needing a lot more space.
In 1941 they acquired a vacant brewery building at a bargain, and did some reconfiguration to support both lines of business. This included adding a traveling crane in the large space formerly occupied by the fermentation tanks, opening up a wall along the railroad spur, and constructing a loading shed addition, for receiving coil steel and shape stock, and shipping large fabricated parts.
Location: Perry Ave., St. Amour, W.Va.
Reference: Brian Field, Kentucky & NorthEastern RR. Brian Field is one of my oldest friends, and an original member of the "crew" as far back as 1979.
Model Notes: The reason this is called Field Fabricating is two-fold: 1) after we had stopped participating in the local module group, Brian gave me the building, which was useful in getting some backdrop flats in place quickly for my shelf layout. 2) Brian at the time had a 1967 Olds 442 convertible that needed approximately everything. And so his model railroading was put on hold for a time, while he cut, stamped, and fabricated pieces to fill the voids in the body and frame left by rust. Interestingly I had a 1967 Olds convertible as well, a Delta 88, and I merely used tin, pop rivets, Bondo, and Fom-O-Fil to recreate the panels that were no longer there. Brian actually used metal!
RASSCHE HEAVY INDUSTRIES, INC. - COMBUSTIONEER PLANT
Description: Manufacturer of coal stoves.
Location: Charleston St., St. Amour, W.Va.
Reference: Roger Rassche. Roger was another friend from earliest days, the nucleus of the old "crew", who left an enormous void in our lives with his way-too-early passing, in 2010.
He was frankly an enormous man, and went by the handle of "The Fat Man", or simply, "Phat". Since the very beginning, long before his illness, his weight was always the subject of discussion and humor, and he pretty well wore it with pride. In 1990 I bought a Subaru Legacy, and we enjoyed exploring it, discovering that it was manufactured by Fuji Heavy Industries, Ltd. of Tokyo. Our friend Darren immediately declared that my future layout must have a Rassche Heavy Industries customer on it, for obvious reasons. Phat was pleased with this honor.
Shortly thereafter Roger did some design consulting work with a manufacturer of coal stoves in Orrville, O. - an industry all of us were amazed to discover still existed. At one point on the shop floor he talked to the man whose job it was to rivet the "Combustioneer" badges on the sides, and asked if he could have one as a sample. That badge was returned to Cincinnati and declared to be the "beyond perfect" product for the Rassche Heavy Industries plant, which would be served by a coal-hauler. That badge is what forms the plant's rooftop sign.
"Plant 10" is a reference to Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension (1983).
Personal Note: The local rock station WEBN had a disk jockey who went by the moniker of "The Fat Man", which is in part what gave rise to Roger's nickname. And frankly, I can't remember if he created it first, or one of us. At any rate, the DJ ran a sound clip at the beginning of his stint each evening which announced "THE FAT MAN." in a stern film-noir voice, followed by the optimistic phrase, "Truly an elegant porker!" This would then lead directly into a clip from "Fat Man in the Bathtub" by Little Feat. Roger embraced it all as his own, as did we.
ROLLWAGE BROS., COLLIERS
Description: Truck dump.
Location: High St., Three Rocks, W.Va.
Influence: Countless truck dumps of infinite variety, chronicled especially in the many books by Tom Dixon of the C&O Historical Society.
Reference: Jim Rollwage, Denver Pacific (UP). I've known Jim since the '80's, having first met him while operating on Rick Tipton's Penn Central layout in Louisville, and he was one of the first ordinary humans (not part of the original "crew") to operate with us on the Suffolk Northern.
I've never been sure if Jim actually has any brothers, it just sounded cool and truck-mine-y that way.
Description: Feed mill and farm supply outfit.
Location: Main St. at Beckley Rd., Three Rocks, W.Va.
Reference: Nancy & Sluggo. Ernie Bushmiller was the cartoonist. This will make no sense except in the context of the explanation of the name "Three Rocks" on the "Towns and Geography" page. In which case, it will still make no sense. This is a way deeply buried inside joke.
Description: Crate and pallet manufacturer.
Location: Three Rocks, W.Va.
Reference: This is another building left to me by Darren Williamson, one of my oldest friends. It's named for his dad, Rudolph, who went by "Slim", for reasons that would be immediately obvious had you met him.
Slim was one of the most genteel country gentlemen I've ever had the pleasure to know. He was a huge enabler of our participation in shows with the module group. He didn't just let Darren use his enormous yellow 1975 Mercury wagon for hauling module sections, he also enjoyed hanging out with the group for most of those show weekends, as well.
Description: Coal tipple and prep plant.
Location: Misty, W.Va.
Influence: The Imperial Smokeless Coal Co., one of a million producer names in the Appalachians.
Reference: This one's for my dad. Cornelis was his first name (Dutch name, family name since the 1600's!), and the Imperial was his 1973, which he loved dearly, keeping it all the way until late '79 - an eternity back then.
I used this paraphrase from A Christmas Story in the eulogy at his funeral:
"In life, some men are Baptists, others Catholics; my father... was a Chrysler man."
Description: Truck dump.
Coal-O-Ton Corp. is an aggregator for several local truck mines, sort of like a grain co-op. It is a viable enough business model that they have multiple facilities, and can invest a bit more in plant & equipment than your average shoestring truck dump.
Location: Hadley, W.Va.
Reference: Rick Colloton, Waukesha & Lake Michigan. Rick is another friend since the dawn of time, and an original member of the old "crew" dating back to modular association days. How lucky are you to keep friends for 40 years.
Rick's last name is actually pronounced as it's spelled, not like "coal"-o-ton, but, you know - modeler's license, man.
Description: The loading facility for a pulpwood cutting operation in the Blue Ridge.
Location: Mineshaft Gap, W.Va.
Reference: Ronnette Pulaski was a friend of the late Laura Palmer's, in director David Lynch's surreal TV series Twin Peaks, 1990-91. She is first seen stumbling across a railroad truss bridge in early morning, having narrowly escaped the same fate as her friend, after a night of debauchery and violence in a disused wooden baggage car parked in the woods.
Description: Mine tipple and preparation plant.
Location: Claymoor, W.Va.
Reference: An M18A1 Claymore mine is an anti-personnel explosive device from the Vietnam era, made famous (for many) by John Wayne in The Green Berets.
The Claymoor Mine is owned by Permian Fuels Corp , so named because that's the period the coal dates to. It carries a similar warning to the military version, seen above the tracks.
Description: A beehive oven coking operation.
Location: Claymoor, W.Va..
Influence: Ride the Cardinal along the old C&O main through West Virginia, and it seems like there is one of these coke oven batteries abandoned off in the woods every other mile. Coking operations usually existed in parallel with coal mines - and the fragrant issuances therefrom had a similar denuding effect on the surrounding woods as above the D&M ovens.
Reference: Robert Downey Jr., and Kate Moss - two of the coke industry's most spectacular practitioners. Not actually "limited".
Layout Note: You may have noticed, either from this shot or from the track plan, that the coke works is up a valley without an aisle in front of it. On the original version of the layout in the previous house, this section actually did have a wide open space in front of it. So shoehorning the layout into this basement room meant there would be no aisle for the first six feet or so. The result, in addition to a little bit of a challenging switching operation, is a pretty neat and unusual scenic effect.
AIDAN METAL WORKS, INC.
Description: Small-town foundry.
Location: Bryan Ferry, Va..
Influences: Longdale Furnace, Va.. See discussion of Bryan Ferry on the "Name References: Towns and Geography" page for details of the connection.
The name-in-bricks influence on the smokestack was the former LeBlond Machine Tool works here in Cincinnati, just two blocks down from the Millsbrae & Atlantic house. Its stack, with its associated powerhouse, yet survives as part of a retail development, to bear witness to the skill of its 19th century brickmasons as well as the pride of its builder. Willy Wonka's stack was a similar influence.
Reference: My younger son, Aidan. He picked up the guitar at an early age, and has always liked "good" music, meaning 60s-80s rock, including (but not limited to) - metal.
Personal Note: Aidan's guitar teacher Mike held recitals on-stage in the venues he regularly played in - meaning, bars. The kids would play lead, and Mike would replay backing tracks he had recorded earlier, doing the vocals live. So I can honestly say I have stood in a bar and listened to my 14-year-old son play "Stairway" on stage and crush Jimmy Page's solo. Pretty incredible moment. Mike negotiated song assignments based on difficulty vs. the kid's ability, so for years I had been anticipating when Aidan would be "ready" for some Led Zeppelin, and what a song to start with. But of course, I also got to enjoy the Alice Cooper, Stone Temple Pilots, Jimi Hendrix, etc., songs he mastered in between.
KRESS MILLING CO.
Description: Flour mill.
Location: Bryan Ferry, Va.. Both the foundry and the flour mill, while situated on the lower level in a small Virginia town, visually add to the cityscape of St. Amour, W.Va., above it. The steel viaduct running next to them helps blend the scene, as does the continuum of smokestacks.
Reference: Bob Kress, Kentucky Central. Bob is a friend of the old "crew" since way back, and operated with us often. He gets the credit for weathering over 250 of my freight cars, which gave the fleet a very nice, even start. He had to double the per-car "friend" rate after the first few dozen, which was fine - and frankly he could have doubled it again and it would still have been worth it!
Model Notes: The two blank, unweathered panels have been waiting for me to print a decal for them, for at least 15 years. As the layout surface has been waiting for scenery. Watch this space.
Description: Kraft paper mill.
Location: On the James River near Dominion, Va..
Commonwealth Paper is like Wilson, Tim Allen's neighbor on Home Improvement, whom you never see other than his hat above the fence. The paper mill is up the river a fur piece from SNR main at Dominion, and not visible to operators. Like many mills, Commonwealth has its own critter to switch the mill, so the SNR crews on train #65 simply make pickups and setouts at the interchange. The critter runs down to grab them when we're not looking, and drag them back up to where they are needed at the mill.
Influence: Westvaco, Covington, Va.; and countless other paper mills out in the woods.
Reference: None. "Commonwealth", like "Dominion", is just another cool, Virginia-sounding word.
Well OK, the reference would also be "Commonwealth Castings" three-axle trucks, such as under Alco RSD-5 and Baldwin AS-616 road switchers, but for the same reason - because it sounds neat. And because that offset center axle is cool as heck.