You may know of Warner Clark and his fabulous Proto48 railroad. Warner has built an admirable layout in a relatively small area. His favorite railroad is the old Nickel Plate Road which ran through his home state of Indiana years ago. Warner has managed to preserve the look and feel of a class one with well maintained track and beautiful power. The scene above shows a meet between a H-6 USRA light mike and a GP-9. The attention to detail includes interlocking rodding from the tower in the distance. The NKP was a class act. Sadly it was assimilated in the Norfolk and Western.
You will notice the extreme depth of field and the sky background. Both effects were created by Rich Bourgerie. The resulting image is extremely realistic. You can almost smell the creosote of the tie and the wonderful aroma of a live steam locomotive.
Warner added a shortline to his layout to allow for some freelance modeling. The classic street scene reflects the O&M legacy of an interurban with street running and tighter radius curves. Brick was a common construction material in commercial buildings and even streets.
You might recognize the narrow building on the left. It was built from a Chooch urethane kit. The picture below features another classic Chooch kit. The Red Crown gas station is one of my favorite buildings.
A classic small town view showing the A&P market and the F.W. Woolworths five and dime. The caboose looks like a rebuilt Northern Pacific 24′ car.
I would like to thank Warner Clark and Rich Bourgerie for providing me with this material. I hope you enjoy it. By the way, you will find Warner’s story below an interest narrative of his railroad and town.
THE MAUMEE BASIN LINES
A Story of The Nineteen Forties and Fifties
- W.J. Clark
The following story is of a memory of growing up in the small towns of the Midwest following WWII. This story is told via a re-creation in a model railroad built to ¼ inch scale. (see note)
The MBL is modeled with characters, homes, business’s and facilities that played a roll in a boy’s mentoring and affection for a period that we will never see again…. It may well strike a chord in your memories of the past. Much like Fontaine Fox’s Toonerville Trolley this model is populated with folks and places you may have known by another name. Only those folks who cannot be associated with a surname are fictitious in this story.
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When one builds a model compromises always have to be made due to space limitations. As small town pups, all we needed was an open field with a small creek, woods and hillocks in which to play cowboys and Indians, stage war battles, build tree houses and play softball. Because of space constraints, one’s imagination will have to transpose those assets to perhaps the Turkeyfoot Creek setting when your train passes that location.
Thus, we begin our story on the Nickel Plate Road at MC Junction – Toledo, Ohio. This is the Nickel Plate’s Clover Leaf District’s 1st Subdivision. The roundhouse you see there is a three stall, brick version of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern’s six stall roundhouse that the author grew up in as a roundhouse rat in Hillsdale, Michigan. Inside the front office, the engine house foreman, John Hoeger, is giving the kid a line up of engines recently assigned to the Hillsdale hub. (that’s the kid’s bike in front of the office door.) Back in the shop are machinists/hostlers Oree Swan and Pat Bends, repairing boiler jewelry for NKP 597. You ask, “why not model NYC USRA mikes?” When compared to NKP USRA engines, the Central’s locos are plain and un-manly. With poetic license I’ve added a car dept. and a track dept. adjacent the roundhouse and turntable.
Setting in a chair out front of his office is car foreman John Eichman giving a group of new hires, all ex G.I.’s just released from WWII service, a lesson on how to tear down a rail car truck. Standing off on stage right is a carman, Jim Canter, learning all the “boss moves” made by John. This is in the age when freight cars were of 50 and 70 ton capacity; where carbon steel, rivets, friction bearings and gravity held cars together.
On tracks 9 and 10, assigned to the Maintenance of Way, we find track supervisor Brady Schaefer, on the steps of his crew car, about to prepare breakfast for his B&B crew. On this day Brady will fry up a bunch of green tomatoes for the boys, who’ll be setting some heavy creosoted bridge timbers today. Leaving two new track”men” and Indiana high school classmates, Bill Dick and Tom Cook, nursing hangovers from the night before to contemplate the stomach chemistry of fried green tomatoes and the smell of warm creosote about to take place.
Our OCS (office car special) proceeds clockwise around the layout. Leaving the engine/car terminal, we go through Gould Curve and past the outskirts of Toledo, approaching the Toledo depot. Astute passengers will note the right end of the depot has a station sign that reads “Continental” Ohio, the half way point of the first sub in the Clover Leaf’s line west to St. Louis. On the station’s platform is an employee, Dick Baldwin, from the track department learning the ropes (without pay) of an agent/operator, as he wants to work 12 months a year – not eight.
We pass Continental, represented here by a moveable point crossing. To our left is the south end of the Malinta WB passing track. To our right is the entry to the Malinta EB passing track. The west bound pass serves two other railroads besides the Nickel Plate: the south end of the track is the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton’s Ford Storage track; the north end of the NKP Malinta WB Pass is also the DT&I’s , Ohio & Morenci (short line) interchange and run-around track at Champion, (Metamora) Ohio.
Proceeding east, we cross state route 109 in downtown Malinta (Metamora). Flagging the street is crossing watchman, Gorham Sawyer, and extra board fireman, Don Daily. Walking towards the handcar house is section hand Bob Swert. We pass the Malinta depot and standing at its entrance is traveling freight agent Pepe Greve. Pepe has an answer to everything. Especially when he smokes his big fat cigars. The only one who barks back to Pepe is the depot mutt. It knows Pepe will feed him. Across the diamond is Jeff Sharp, Helping his dad, third trick operator Jim Sharp, pass DT&I, NKP form19 orders to train crews, while first trick agt./opr. Jack McCoy can be found in the outhouse looking forward to a busy day (dealing with Pepe).
Leaving Malinta we approach Turkeyfoot Creek. On our right is farmer Ben Hunter’s harvested soft spring wheat field, now occupied by three bovines: Ted, Gloria and Gladys. Gladys is busy eating straw, Gloria is a rail fan cow looking for the next train to pass, while Ted has other things on his mind. Beyond the wheat field and to our left is uncle Jack Metcalf, on the dock, fishing Turkeyfoot Creek, while his wife, Aunt Jane is reading her Colliers Magazine from their front porch. Later in the day, she’ll have a Toledo Blade to read. Coming up Roseburg Pike on foot is Granddad Charles Warner. Grandpa owns a tavern in town, and he is always hunting wild game for the free lunches he serves. What he doesn’t bring down with his shotgun, a patron will bring in a victim of a rubber tire. His turtle soup is out of this world. It is called “a la Firestone”.
Also across Roseburg Pike from Aunt Jane’s cottage is the shuttered depot/substation of the Toledo & Western Electric Rwy. The present operator, the Ohio & Morenci RR has no need of it as the O&M is a freight railroad using internal combustion engines. By the east wall of the depot is the young Irish lass, Molly, waiting for the O&M to come by so she can wave to the engineer.
Beyond the cut we cross the Maumee Hydraulic Canal, followed by Telegraph Road (US 24). On that highway, crossing the NKP line is Chuck Pratt with his hot chick of the day, while officer R. Hubbard waits for a northbound speeder – probably racing a train to the crossing.
After passing MC Jct. yard limits we go by the yard tower (VA) and section house. The track section crew gets ready for another day as they wait for the rest of the crew to arrive; while upstairs, Yardmaster John Downer, and clerk/operator Jack Morris prepare the paperwork for today’s westbound trains and the E/B connections interchange. Thus concludes our inspection over the NKP.
RIDING THE MIXED TRAIN ON THE OHIO & MORENCI RAILROAD
The O&M RR is a 20 mile long freight line and vestige of the former Toledo & Western Electric Railway that once ran interurban cars 60 miles between Toledo and Pioneer, Ohio. The company also had a 25 mile line, north to Adrian, Michigan. Better roads, automotive minded Toledo, and the Great Depression finished off the Teeter & Wobble. A scrap iron company from Columbus bought the line and from its salvage of rail and overhead copper wire, converted the viable portion between Berkey and Morenci to a freight line moving around 1500 revenue loads per year to/from its only interchange carrier, the DT&I. The line skirts the Michigan border and for a brief three miles it jumps into Michigan to serve the mighty metropolis of Morenci. Counting those who spend Friday or Saturday nights as guests of the Morenci hoosegow, the town’s population approaches 2,000.
We board our train at Metamora, (a.k.a Malenta on the NKP/DT&I) Ohio. We will probably be the only fares on this train from Metamora this month. Maybe this year! Behind us are three freight customers: Metamora Grain Co., Fulton County Milk Farmers Coop., and H.G. Pohlman Stockyards. The grain and raw milk go to rail receivers in Morenci, the livestock is an O&M switch customer for the DT&I/NKP.
Once we leave the depot, our crew must clear and reset the target/smashboard signal protecting the DT&I main. This signal, along with the double wig-wag road crossing signal at Roseburg are models of the actual signals that once existed at Noblesville and Roseburg, Indiana. After crossing a drain into Turkeyfoot Creek we begin our 4.4 percent grade ascent to Morenci.
Our first stop is at Hillside, Ohio, less than two miles from Morenci. Waiting at the depot is registered nurse, Nancy Kean. She has just come from a job interview at the Ohio Veterans Home. And she has second, deep, thoughts about taking care of these dirty minded old men. Also at the depot, standing in the doorway of a LCL boxcar set on the house track is freight clerk, Otis Flinchpaugh. Otis is telling soldier’s home facility engineer, Harold Klave, he is going to need a bigger truck if he is to deliver this baby grand piano to the home of the recently retired Major. The Major’s daughter, Sarah, recently graduated from one of those fancy Eastern women’s finishing schools, and will be putting the instrument to good use. Otis is an aspiring railroader, much in the mold of Pepe.
Next to and west of the Hillside station is The Old Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home. The dormitory to the right of the depot is the Gen. Hew Packard Memorial Hall. Gen. Packard was a “famous” Civil War officer from Ohio. Some license was used in locating this facility, as the real Ohio Vets Home is 35 miles east of Toledo, not west. On this model, the home is several miles east of Morenci, Mich., just inside Ohio. That is the new home commander, Maj. G.W. Mason, on the front steps in the white shirt, asking him self, “where are all these troops who signed up for the double header ball game in Toledo this afternoon?” The Mud Hens are scheduled to play the Rhode Island Reds. Many of the troops hike into Morenci for entertainment and the distilled grain spirits found there. As it is against house rules to bring adult beverages on to the property, the whiskey or what’s left of it is pitched into what is known as empty bottle ravine, usually from the high bridge carrying Old Soldiers Home Road into the backside of the facility.
After our train picks up nurse Kean, we proceed west past the parade ground, main hall and commissary/steam plant. The home is a good freight customer of the O&M. Paper goods, canned goods, coal, etc. are received on its siding, which still has two of the interurban’s line poles, now used for other purposes. This brings us to our first resident, on our right, Waldo (Sr.). Waldo (Sr.) is a natural born athlete and sports star legion of the Morenci High School. He still has records yet to be broken in football, basketball and track. Unfortunately, Waldo (Sr.) has yet to receive a diploma from his high school as he was found out to be the father of an illegitimate son, Waldo, Jr. whose mother was a cheerleader and classmate; but more importantly, her father was the president of the school board. This didn’t prevent Waldo (Sr.) from getting two (successive) sport scholarships from Big Ten schools. What did him in was the fact he never learned to study – only party. Flunking out of both schools, we find Waldo (Sr.) today living in a shack with his dog, Maggie. His main job, other than keeping an eye on his neighbor to the west, is making sure all the whiskey bottles he finds in the ravine are empty.
Next, on the back road into Morenci, we come to Ms. Mona’s house trailer and garage. Ms. Mona is a private nurse, who lives by herself with two cats. She takes care of rich, old men. The 300SL coupe in the driveway is a business expense, and thus a tax write-off. Waldo (Sr.) has grand designs (on) for her, but no money, though it hasn’t kept him from helping himself to her tomatoes.
After passing behind Ms. Mona’s, the O&M enters East Main Street, Morenci. The first house, on the left, is the office of Olney Micklow, the town’s dentist. Dr. Micklow, DDS is an U. of M. graduate, but he has no idea what Novocaine is.
Across East Main St. is Curley Meyer’s barbershop. No one knows how Curley acquired his name as he has been bald as long as anyone can remember.
To the right of Curley’s, on the southeast corner of E. Main and Tedrow Road is John Shaw’s Standard Oil gas station. Behind Shaw’s gas station, on Tedrow Rd. is Ira Metcalf’s Morenci Market – “The Best, Fresh Meat and Produce in Morenci”. Ira is also the town’s mayor. This is an unpaid job, and the “reward” for being the town’s only FDR Democrat.
Across Tedrow Rd. is Katzenmeyer’s Western Auto Agency that connects to Katzenmeyer’s Hardware store which fronts East Street. Returning north to where Tedrow Rd and East St. join E. Main St. we see McSherry’s Drug Store (on the south side). Above McSherry’s is the office of Martha Gascho, Attorney at Law. Economically speaking, attorney Gascho and nurse Mona have a symbiotic relationship, though they don’t know each other. Ms. Gascho provides future customer/widowers who have suffered the loss of their mate with an estate settlement, while Ms. Mona sends divorcee bound spouses to Ms. Gascho of those gents who can’t wait.
On the north side of this East Main Street intersection, and the corner of Weston Road is the village park/war memorial. This five point intersection is known as Bourgerie Corners. The five intersecting streets are protected by a model of an unique interurban rail-road crossing signal that once existed in Whiteland, Indiana. The small village park (on land donated by the grain mill) is a memorial to WWI and II soldiers. Seen setting on one of the benches is grade school teacher, Dora Fields. She lost her husband, John, in WWI, and their only child, Jack, a B-17 pilot in WWII. Dora was a wonderful person and teacher. She thought the world of youngsters such as Waldo, Jr.
Returning to the west side of East and Main Sts., the primary business block in Morenci, we see the Dawn Theater sign and marquee; next door, to the right we find the Spinning Wheel Bake Shop, home of their “world” famous salt rising toasting bread. To that store’s right is Master’s (Ladies and Misses) Fashion Shop, while upstairs is The O’Meara Agency Insurance.
Established on the southwest corner of E. Main and East Sts. is the well known twenty-four hour/seven day week restaurant, The Nighthawks Café. It is 1:30 A.M. and the night short order cook has three patrons: a well dressed man, who I don’t recognize; and also seated at the counter is our traveling encyclopedia salesman from Toledo, Tony Garber with his arm around young Marta – a rebellious teenager. Marti (Marta) is about to be “saved” by her father and hog farmer, Wally Miller, who is about to enter the café. I wonder who called Wally this time?
The second floor of this building is occupied by the Consumers’ Power Company (of Jackson Michigan). Burning the midnight oil is assistant branch manager, Tom Fitzsimmons, preparing a presentation for next year’s capital improvements. Consumers’ Power replaced Citizens Light & Power Co. (locally owned by the Avis family) who replaced the T&W Interurban when that company’s power supply became too unreliable. Fitzsimmons will probably get an irate call from farmer John Pautz’s wife, Carmen, about the lack of electrical service to their farm east of town. Like many farmers from this period, Mr. Pautz would winter quarter in electrified Morenci and then return to the family farm during the growing season. Kerosene and coal oil lamps, wood stoves, and out houses were the norm. And WWII restrictions on copper prevented the electric power companies from expanding their service areas.
Moving west on the south side of E. Main St we pass Woolworth’s five and ten cent store, above which is the Riggs School of Beauty Culture and Riggs Beauty Salon. Next door and west is the A & P Grocery Store, and above which is The Chas. H. Felger Photography Studios. Followed by a service alley; you will pass The First State Savings Bank of Morenci, J.C. Penney dry goods store, Hays Furniture – Crockery & Hickock‘s Appliances. And on the S/E corner of Main and S. Summit Sts. is Hennessey’s Rexall drug agency, above which is the rations board office for the O.P.A. of South Lenawee County. Next to and south of the Hennessy Building, on Summit St. is H.J. Gelzer & Sons Heating – Plumbing & Hardware. Next and south we find the Mayfair Hotel, News Store and Smoke Shop. Back on the north side of E. Main St. we see the Kellogg & Buck Grain & Feed Mill. That’s Mick Ortman , the Mill’s owner standing at the west end of the plant, wondering where the O&M is with his inbound grain cars.
Continuing down Main Street, which is now W. Main, we go by a short block that contains the town’s fire dept. on the ground floor and the town hall, on the second floor. This building is fronted by the village post office on the southwest corner of Summit and Main, and the Up Town Café on the southeast corner of Main and West Streets (you may see part-owner and cook, Mary Kay McGlinch, out trolling for customers). Across West St. is the United Milk Products Corp. plant, making either cheese or condensed canned milk, which ever commands a better price. Coming towards us on W. Main St. is truck driver, Mont Switzer, with a tank wagon full of fuel oil. Next on W. Main is Vernon & Shaw Bulk Oil Co. Jim Vernon’s delivery trucks supply the area with furnace oil, stove oil, kerosene and gasolines. Their property is owned by Porter Lumber Co., who also operates the coal dock next door. Behind both companies you may see the fair grounds and city park.
Next comes the largest rail customer on the O&M, Parker Rust Proof Co. They make a tar like coating sold mainly to automotive companies. One of their principal owners is a university chemistry professor, who developed the product. You may see one of the plant’s foremen, Paul Bruno, standing in the bridge connecting the two buildings over Mill St. more often called Mill Alley. Paul is looking for the arrival of the boss, Dr. John Parker.
The last business you will encounter before you enter the west residential section of town is the four star restaurant called the Classic Kitchen. Nabobs from as far away as Toledo are said to drive here for dinner.
Moving to the north side of West Main Street, we see where the T&W left Main St. and entered its own right of way enroute to Fayette and Pioneer, Ohio. The O&M has since stubbed the line making it a siding that presently serves Clark (no relation) Suburban Gas, a propane supplier, who until recently made gas from gasoline. Remember, this is in an era before pipelines. People still depended on coal and oil to heat and cook with.
Coming back towards town, but on the north side of Main St. we find the O&M’s headquarters and depot, which is sited in the middle of a turning wye. Moving north on Mill St. we pass Porter Lumber & Coal’s real estate office and next, on the southeast corner of Mill and Union streets is the Indiana Seed Co., Further east, on the N/W corner of Union and Cherry Streets is Charlie Warner’s Morenci Tavern and Sport Emporium.
Next door and immediately south of the Morenci Tavern is Lady Brown’s estate home. Mrs. Brown is the widow of the late C.E. Brown, whose family owned much of the land to the north and which has been sold to business developers over the years. Dowager Brown is a true Morenci blue-blood. She is most upset over now finding herself a neighbor to a beer garden. Lady Brown is a past president of the Woman’s Temperance League, and hosts many literary and garden parties. The village police know that a call from her means they will be paying a visit to the tavern. Rumor has it that she has had serious discussions with an unknown Chicago business man with deep connections.
Going north on Cherry St. after crossing Union St. we pass the O&M freight house (on the east side) and engine house (on the west side of the main track). The last three rail served customers are Kramer Bros. Lumber & Millwright, Winski & Sons Scrap Iron Co. and Porter Warehouse Co. Beyond Winski’s and the city limits is a bar and grill called “The Limits” – “For good eats, good radio, good times and good night”. Just beyond the end of O&M track is uncle Waldo’s Organic Aggregates “quarry”. You may see a dump truck load heading for town, and a free lunch.
So ends our tour. Unless you can become a significant customer, you will have to find your own way back to Metamora.