Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Oakdale Gas Works

I have always been fascinated with obscure industries of the nineteenth century. The ones to which I refer are those that were commonplace at the time but vanished by the early- to mid-20th century. One of these is the gas works. Before tapping the abundant natural gas supplies, cities who wanted gas for lighting and other duties had to manufacture their own gas. There were several different processes but most involved heating coal and capturing the gas which resulted. Some, such as the Lowe process, added oil to the gas.
Note the coal bin at the right side of the processing building. 
   It doesn't appear that Oakdale had a gas works but I decided to add one simply because I wanted to model such a plant. I patterned my model after the Modesto Gas Works of 1884. In that form, it used coal and had only a single gasholder which made it a bit easier for the space I had allotted. The woodcut showing the gas works was found in the History of Stanislaus County published in 1884 while the Sanborn map drawing was from 1888 after they added another gasholder. The Modesto plant was not rail-served but other plants, such as the San Jose Works were so I added a spur to provide the coal that would be needed.
   The processing building was modified from a Vollmer kit while the gasholder used a Rix tank with scratchbuilt superstructure. In the Modesto sketch and map, you can see the coal storage bin which was freelanced. Fencing was by Central Valley.
   The small gas company wagon was modified from a Jordan buckboard to more resemble a prototype wagon found at Travel Town in Los Angeles.
Sometime in the future, I may "convert" the plant to the Lowe process so I can run an occasional tank car to the facility but, for now, I will leave it as it is.

1 comment:

  1. In my research on the Southwest Corner of Colo Spgs I noticed a tank like your Modesto tank and couldn't figure out what I was seeing. On the Sanborn it lists the site as the Colorado Springs Gas and Electric Company. In one of the drawings from the era, it turns out that the power house part of the site, looked like it was a powerhouse for the Union Ice and Coal company, but I can see now the powerhouse and the gas holder were on the next lot to the west.
    Thanks for providing the background needed to make sense of what I am seeing.