The New Woodstock Feed Mill, sometimes called the "Feed Store", was one of the structures in the prototype area for my model railroad that no longer existed, destroyed by fire in the 1970s (above). However, there were a couple good photographs of the building in the Historical Society collections when it was standing (below), and even though they only showed the westerly side of the building, that was sufficient, as only the westerly side would be seen on my layout.
This was one of the most anticipated modeling projects on my prototype railroad as it presented an intriguing conglomeration of buildings, extensions and attachments, including a towering elevator to lift incoming grain from a trackside hopper to the top of the building (above). It was a scratch-modeler's dream.
The building was located on its own spur off the team track, which in turn came off the LVRR mainline, as shown in the 1912 railway map above. Boxcars coming and going here could be spotted on the team track or the spur (below).
One of the most interesting aspects of the structure was the covered unloading bay attached to the main structure (below), and I imagined being able, when the layout was completed, running cars into and out of this loading area.
So imagine my disappointment when I sent an annotated photo to someone who worked in the feed mill, asking which of the labeled additions were there in the 1940s. The answer was "None of them...they were all built in the 1950s."
But by the purest luck, a 19th century postcard view of this building existed (below), and clearly showed what was the original core of the complex.
This photograph not only captured the erarlier, unadorned version of the feed mill, it also captured all the LVRR tracks at the location (see below).
And it also captured the same viewing angle people would have to the structure on my layout. So while the risk was that some minor details may be lost because the view was too early, the risk was less than using images which were definitely too late. And so I used this postcard image as the basis for my model (below).
If we blow up the postcard image, we can see that the owner has proudly presented his company name in big letters at the front door (below). It appears to read "C.H. Boyd Flour & Feed".
Having completed the main structure, I wanted to see if any of the outbuildings at the rear of the feed store should be modeled. It appeared there was just the main shed-roofed addition attached to the back of the store, some other light-sided structure behind that, a weathered shed behind that, and a small shop, dark siding with white trim, a ways beyond that.
But the more I looked at the light-sided structure immediately behind the store (above), the less I could make sense of it. I had a large scale image of the postcard, which allowed a sharper blow-up, and found evidence that this was, in fact, attached to, not standing behind, the rear wing of the store itself.
The shadow from the roof of the shed-roofed rear wing of the store (top box) falls also onto the side of the mystery wall. And the foundation of the store, which clearly stretches all the way to the back of both walls, has a triangular shadow cast on it from the protruding attached mystery structure, suggesting it sticks out at a 45 degree angle.
Given that the spur track comes to the corner of the feed store at a 45 degree angle, this seemed to suggest the buidling was modified to provide a better fit of loading dock to freight car door.
Recently a map provided by National Park Service staff at Steamtown Historic Site seems to confirm this. (below).
Dated January 1911, this map appears to show the location of a NEW spur to the feed store. It also shows the corner of the feed store has been built to meet the curve of the track, as suspected.
Thanks to the courtesy of staff at the National Park Service at Steamtown Historic Site, I have a collection of documents relating to developments on this property between 1915 and 1918. A summary of these explains the map above and introduces a new historical element in the evolution of the feed store siding.
The red coloring on the feed store spur was added onto the 1911 map later... in 1916... as part of an ongoing discussion between the LVRR and the firm of Conroy & Nixdorf, described as being "of New Woodstock", but actually located in Oneida (see letterhead below).
The City of Oneida was located on both the Erie Canal and the NY Central railroad. the connection between the NY Central and the Lehigh Valley RR was located as Canastota, some miles north of New Woodstock.
On August 26th, 1916 the LVRR Division Engineer wrote:
"Gentlemen;- On attached print I have indicated in red the Buckingham & Boyd siding and wish you would give me distance from point of switch to location of your proposed hopper so that we may have same in connection with agreement. Very truly yours, Division Engineer."
You will note not only that the siding in the above map is colored red, but the "point of switch" is clearly indicated at the south (right) end.
Also, the name of one of the owners is indicated in the letter as "Boyd", which matches the sign on the feed store (below). And on the map above, the building is labeled "Flour & Feed Store" which seems to match the picture below.
As an added mystery, a letter written just one week earlier from the LVRR states:
"NewWoodstock Aug 19th 16
Cabbage house siding owned by L. D. Buckingham and C H Bond is not on our right of way.
What is the "cabbage house"? Is this a different siding by the same "Buckingham & Boyd" (here spelled "Bond") who own the Feed Store, (see letter of August 26th above) or the same siding known by another name?
The word hopper mentioned in the 1916 letter is here being used to describe a pit underneath the tracks into which the contents of a rail car, also called a "hopper" could be released from doors at the bottom of the car. A conveyor or auger would move the material into a holding area next to the tracks from which another conveyor or elevator would lift it up into trucks.
A lengthy exchange of sometimes pointed letters occurs over this issue, during which the succession of ownership of the feed store is described. On November 6, 1916, the LVRR Superintendent in Auburn states:
"I am attaching hereto letter from Buckingham & Boyd, advising they are successors to Mr. H. D. Palmer and give consent to Messers. Conroy & Nixdorf for the placing of hopper under their siding."
And on November 9th, further clarification on title is given, dating the construction of the siding itself, and identifying the purporse of the hopper (emphasis added):
"I am attaching hereto data for preparation of agreement with Messers. Copnroy & Nixdorf, covering the placing of a hopper for the unloading of crushed stone under siding at New Woodstock, as indicated in red on print attached.
This siding was originally constructed for Mr. H. D. Palmer, and is covered by agreement dates June 18, 1906, which provides for our Comapny to retain ownership of all the track material."
Apparently ownership rights and responsibilities came up during this discussion, which went from late summer of 1916 to early winter of 1917. The file relating to this discussion contains over 35 docuemnts, not including maps. At one point the discussion involved the New Woodstock railroad agent. On September 5th, 1916, the LVRR Superintendent writes "I wrote Agent Thompson...", which is the same "Thompson" who owned and operated the G. M. Thompson Coal & Lumber Company adjacent to the tracks, check here for more on that. .
But what was this new hopper for? Looking back in the file we find a letter dated September 15th, 1916, where the Superintendent writes:
"...covering proposed installation of hopper under our tracks at New Woodstock, N.Y., for the purpose of unloading crushed stone for State Road purposes."
And a few days earlier the actual agreement application form reads:
"Applicants desire hopper to facilitate in unloading crushed stone for state road contract which they have near this point."
So apparently this lengthy exchange of letters and the desire of a Oneida contracting firm to obtain permission to build a hopper under the Feed Store spur at New Woodstock concerns paving and/or improvements to State Route 13, which passes through New Woodstock? The crushed stone would come in via LVRR cars, or by NY Central hoppers passed over onto the LVRR at Canastota, then to be dumped into an under-track hopper at New Woodstock, and transferred into trucks, probably using a semi-portable elevator.
Another map shows the "Siding to C L Hallock's Feed Store", dated January 1918 (above). Apparently Mr. Hallock took over from Buckingham and Boyd. This is confirmed by a letter dated March 29, 1918:
"Mr. Hallock recently purchased the business served by this siding and this is considered an opportune time to have the maintenance of this track covered by our standard agreement..... the railroad company will furnish the rails and fastenings and Shipper the balance of the material and pay for all labor charges. The siding was installed a long time ago, but we have no record as to just when or under what conditions. (signed) Engr. Maint.of Way"
The interesting detail on this map is the configuration of the driveway to the feed store. When It came time to insert the model of the feed store onto the layout, I created a semi-circular driveway out of imagination, as no images of the driveway existed. Now this map of the actual site confirms my instincts were right (below).
So where was/is the crushed rock hopper? One map exists that appears to answer that question (below).
Dated at September 8, 1916, this map clearly shows a proposed hopper (below) to be placed about halfway to an industry from the switch point at the siding. The map title clearly indicates this IS the hopper being discussed.
"Map Showing Proposed Hopper Under
Tracking for Conroy & Nixdorf"
This hopper would have looked exactly like the one below, inserted under the tracks so rail cars (also called hoppers) could dump straight down into a pit. Deflectors at the sides would prevent spillage.
But what happened next? The rest of the above photo suggests the answer (below).
Lying beside the hopper it no doubt served is the rusting loader, like the one show below. In this situation the bottom end of the loader would be inserted into the base of the hopper and operated to lift the material, in this case crushed rock, as shown below, up into truck, or into a pile from which it could be moved again into trucks.
The fact that a loader, sometimes called a conveyor or elevator, was to be used here in this way is found in the document "Data For Preparation of Agreement" dated September 13th, 1916:
"Hopper to be installed and maintained in a manner satisfactory to the Railroad Company, Railroad Company to be saved harmless from any and all damage and to be put to no expense whatsoever in connection with said hopper. Conveyor from hopper to be at least 5' 6" from center of track at top of rail."
The document then refrences the blueprint No. 9-2334 show above, and below.
But this map, showing the exact location of this hopper, was submitted in error...or was it the other map? In a letter from Conroy & Nixdorf dated September 6th, 1916, we see the following:
"The Buckingham & Boyd siding which we are going to use and under which we have installed our hopper according to your agents instructions is not the one indicated in red by your Engineer but the one we have indicated by the red arrow and the distance from point of switch to the center of the hopper is 233 feet."
The map with the red colored siding going to the Feed Store was sent August 26th. The map above is dated September 8th. The letter stating the error is dated September 6th.
But all the correspondence, and there are volumes of it, after September, 1916, describes facts relating to the feed store and its siding. ???
The fog lifts..... It appears the confusion of sidings made by the LVRR engineer in 1916 has infected our own understanding of what was going on here almost a century later.
There were two LVRR projects being debated here.
The first was the request in 1916 by a contractor to place a crushed stone hopper under a siding at New Woodstock to service a road building project nearby. Although initially identified by the LV engineer as being the siding to the feed store, it was proposed to in fact be on the siding to a warehouse south of there (above, right).
The second was a request in 1918 by the feed store owner to have the siding upgraded or repaired to his business (above, left).
The confusion arose because the feed store owners apparently also owned the siding to the warehouse.
Confirmation is found in the distances given in 1916 to the hopper from the "point of switch".
"...the distance from point of switch to the center of our hopper 233 feet."
One of the maps associated with the feed store siding improvements case include exact meansurements from the point of switch, indicating also the points at which the tracks cross the street. It is 94' to the west edge, another 100' to the east edge, and another 100' to the end of the siding. A point 233' from point of switch would have put the hopper right under the spot where freight cars would need to unload for the feed store dock.
Ironically, a hopper here for grain would have served the feed business very well, and perhaps one was put here much later.
The archeological proof of this should be possible. The line of the siding has not been built over. It runs now under a lane to a building which was a later location for the milk station shown on the 1916 map at the mainline, and various remote sensing techniques would probably locate the pit where the hopper was, since it was probably just filled when the tracks were taken up.
Until then, we probably have as good an explanation as we are going to get.