Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Oil Refining at Peters

The Pacific Coast Oil Refinery at Peters.
I am pleased to say that the August Model Railroader contains my new article entitled Build an 1880s Oil Refinery. The prototype of the refinery was built in Newhall, California in the 1870s and refined oil from the adjacent Pico Canyon until the late 1880s. Information to build the model was obtained through period documents and on-site measurements of the remains of the refinery. In the 1930s, Standard Oil restored it to its 1880s condition but, sadly, it has since deteriorated through neglect and vandalism. Present-day Chevron Oil was kind enough to furnish several photographs of the 1930s restoration.

Thanks to Google Books, I was able to obtain information on the petroleum refining process of the nineteenth century. Quite different from today's goal of producing gasoline, the folks of the 1800s wanted a clean-burning kerosene for lighting. Gasoline was just a by-product.

The prototype in operation in the 1880s.
 Pacific Coast Oil operated the refinery and ran both cylinder tank cars and oil/box combination cars. These latter cars looked like boxcars but contained two tanks for bulk kerosene with a dry space between them. This space was used for canned goods including oils, benzene, etc.

It was fun building the structure and my operating crews find it an interesting switching challenge.If this is interesting to you, pick up a copy of the August MR.


  1. Got my MR Tuesday. Great article!

    Curious, no discussion on the fuel used for the stills. Cord wood or coal? Either would make a nice occasional load into the facility for OP purposes.

  2. I thought I would go to the beginning of you blog and work through. I bought this MR back in the day. Too bad they dont run more TOC19 stuff.