New Discoveries

B&O Freight House, Wheeling, W. Va. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER WVA, 35-WHEEL, 4

B&O Freight House, Wheeling, W. Va.
Image from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HAER WVA, 35-WHEEL, 4

Recent Internet searches have led me to a new string of customers that were served by the Wheeling Freight Terminal. It seems wrong to call these the product of a search as I actually just stumbled into related details. Note the tall buildings in the background of the image above. These structures constituted a block that all had docks along the tail track that accessed the team yard. I had wondered about these buildings before, but there was little info at hand when the layout was being designed in 2012. Click on any image here to review a larger size.

Speidel Building, Wheeling, W. Va. Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS WVA, 35-WHEEL, 7

Joseph Speidel & Company Building, Wheeling, W. Va.
Image from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS WVA, 35-WHEEL, 7

The details were found in the HABS/HAER collection at the Library of Congress website. One of the buildings in the block was surveyed because it had a cast iron front and back, and because it once housed the largest West Virginia wholesale grocer in the last quarter of the 19th century. The Joseph Speidel & Company building was documented about the same time as the B&O freight house.

Joseph Speidel & Company building, rear. B&O rails can be seen under the car. Image from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS WVA, 35-WHEEL, 7

Joseph Speidel & Company building, rear. B&O rails can be seen under the car.
Image from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS WVA, 35-WHEEL, 7

It was this one photo in the HABS/HAER documentation that made me realize I had to include this block as a scenic and operational feature. A scale drawing of the block included the individual docks that were served by the team yard access track.

Image from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS WVA, 35-WHEEL, 7

Image from the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, HABS WVA, 35-WHEEL, 7

I created a mock up of the block using foam core. The building widths were taken from the drawing above while the heights were extrapolated by comparing the Speidel building drawing with photos of the buildings taken from a distance. Now I had a good idea of the building sizes, but I did not know the other businesses that were located in this block.

A previous visit to the Ohio County Public Library Flickr site turned up a crude map documenting the downtown Wheeling merchants and businesses, circa 1939. All but one of the buildings at the far left of the above image are noted with business. This is the block that the B&O served. Some Google sleuthing found all the businesses, except for the Miller Grocery Company, dated back into the 1800s at these same locations. Miller occupies the Spiedel Bulding on this 1939 guide. These extra details pushed the construction along.

The docks were just added when the photo was taken. Weights keep the parts together as the glue dries.

The docks were just added when the photo was taken. Weights keep the parts together as the glue dries.

The front of this mock up is one continuous piece of foam core. The back was sliced at the interfaces for each building in order to bend the front to follow the curve on my model railroad. Walls and roofs were installed along with a scaled print out of the Speidel Grocery building drawing. While the drawing was only for the building front, the HABS/HAER notes indicate the back was the same, except for the first floor loading dock. I wasn’t going to quibble with some printed details that may not be easily seen once an awning is installed.

201509_plan_withblock

The new block of buildings had been added to the lower left corner of the Wheeling Freight Terminal trackplan above. The plat drawing was resized and placed into the trackplan. The mock up is curved to follow the tail track. Eventually, I hope to create line drawings that reflect the architectural details of the adjoining structures. Those drawings will be printed out, trimmed, and laminated into the proper place on the building block. Tags hang from the tops of the buildings to communicate the business names to guests and crews.

201509_bldgblck_mockup2

Not all walls were added to the mock up. There are viewing angles like this one that are not easily seen.

The first operating session after the block was set into place was pretty interesting. The team yard crew felt they were thrown a curveball as they would now need to clear cars from the docks in order to do their team yard work. Additionally, they would need to spot cars at these docks as the last order of business. The new customers would add at least a dozen more moves to the team yard crew duties. In the long run, they have enjoyed the new challenges and accepted the work involved. To date, there have been no union grievances filed.

In model railroad layout design circles, the addition of these customers on an access track to a team yard violates commonly accepted principles. I have received many comments questioning the short tail track that is used to access the team yard and these docks will raise another flag for many. But I hold up the prototype in defense of this situation. While it is odd and unconventional, real B&O crews had to work these tracks for decades and that is what my Wheeling Freight Terminal layout is trying to reflect. Sadly, all of this is gone now from Wheeling, W. Va.; the B&O freight house, the team yard, the building block, and even the B&O mainline.

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3 Responses to “New Discoveries”

  1. Rob Dove says:

    Eric, two comments one related to this entry one not. Have you considered moving the block of buildings closer to the freight house on the next section of your layout? In reality the block ended on 14th street and so did the freight house office, or nearly so. Not sure if you have the depth there on your layout but building flats would be very appropriate. It would seem that you could then extend your lead and have space to more easily accommodate all the activities. Just a thought regarding your layout and excellent modeling.

    On another topic I was rereading one of my favorite articles on the glass industry in WV from the 2001 model railroad planning and just noticed that it was written by you. Excellent work and I am surprised that I did not notice this before or if I did I do not remember telling you how much I enjoyed your work. I hope you continue to write articles as I find your work exceptional and your topics always seem to be of interest to me, particularly since we are both so interested in Wheeling!

    So far no more squirrel issues!

    • Eric Hansmann says:

      Hey Rob, I wish I could move the building block to the appropriate location, but it just won’t work with the layout for a number of reasons. First, the layout was designed to move and sections are no wider than two feet.

      Second, layout operation is a major goal. If the background block were moved to the other side of the freight house, then the team yard switchback would also need to be moved as well as the team yard. This puts the freight house crew in the way of the team yard crew as they will both need much of the same floors space to do their work. .

      Lastly, the track plan reflects the prototype, even with the team yard and access moved. All tracks are the length of the prototype. That switchback to access the team yard is the same length that prototype crews had to deal with. The length accommodates one loco and four cars. As many times as people suggest adding some length to that track, I must mention that I’m modeling a specific prototype and the B&O never lengthened that track. – Eric

  2. Roger Sekera says:

    Eric

    Despite being a regular visitor to your blog, I missed this segment. Two notes: One the first picture —with the VW beetle in front—- must have been taken in the early 1960s as that’s when they were first sold in the US. Secondly my Grandfather was a wholesale fruit and vegetable dealer from his garage fronted iron fronted building on West Halstead St in Chicago. His workday started at 0345 when deliveries appeared. I’ve never considered a wholesale grocer for my 1959 era layout but will now. While not rail served, that minor inconvenience can be adjusted. And to be realistic the deliveries would have to the first thing IE around 4AM.

    Thanks for your fine blog and this one specifically

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