International Paper North Tonawanda Photos

International Paper looking south

Looking south at International Paper from directly above Tonawanda Iron. Tonawanda Island is in the Niagara River. The main part of the river is on the right. The channel around the island, locally referred to as “Little River” is at the bottom.


International Paper looking east
International Paper, looking east from above the Niagara River. The town of North Tonawanda is on the far side of the channel. The main part of the Niagara River is in the foreground. Tonawanda Iron is across the channel International Paper, but most of the plant is out of the frame on the left.


International Paper, looking west from above channel around Tonawanda Island. This photo is much older than the photos above. In this photo, the mill is still stockpiling logs (the giant heap in the foreground). The mill was eventually converted to receive woodchips instead.
InternationalPaper ship dock
Again, a much older photo that the first two. Here a small lake freighter is being unloaded next to the log pile. Tonawanda Iron is on the far side of the channel in the background.


International Paper from the office
Thanks to Tim Swaddling for posting this photo to Facebook. this is a shot taken from the office looking toward the building housing the paper machine. This is from well before my era, but it provides a ground level view up close to the wood pile on the east side of the main plant buildings.


PC SW1 8411 takes a cut of cars across the swing bridge over the Little River channel from Tonawanda Island back to north North Tonawanda yard. Ken Kraemer posted this to Facebook, but I don’t know who the photographer is.


I suspect this was taken the same day as the previous photo. This looks like the woodchip yard at International Paper. I’m not sure what the ramp is on the right. It could be for backing up large dump trucks full of woodchips, but that seems like an inefficient way to move them. I think the top of the blast furnace at Tonawanda Iron can be seen just above/behind the cab of the locomotive. Ken Kraemer posted this to the Abandoned Rails Buffalo & Western New York Facebook group.



  1. Hi Hunter,
    Wish I lived closer to you at a time like this so much easier for me to explain what I see in the photos using my hands. So lets try with no hand waving or finger pointing.
    Thanks for posting the photos gives me something to look at and I am a visual person.
    Looking at the black and white photo of the I.P. Paper Mill looking west.
    There is the large stock pile of logs about center of photo. To the left of the retaining wall holding the logs from spilling over is a pipe stand rising up from the bottom of the photo to about mid way. On the pipe stand is a pipe pointing towards some parked cars. I believe this to be a “Blower Pipe” that blows wood chips onto a storage pile. There looks to be a small pile of wood chips there. I see to the left of the chip pile and close to the left edge of the photo a “Gas Shovel” on tracks. This unit would be used to scoop up the chips and drop them on the conveyor running from the left edge of the photo to where the blower pipe starts. ( by 1974 the Mill could be using a 960 Cat front end loader to scoop up chips from the pile and dump onto the conveyor.). I believe the logs travel along the top part of the conveyor and under that conveyor is a chip conveyor transporting the chips along to the Kraft Mill Digesters which should be on the right hand side off of this photo. To the right of the log pile about center on the right edge I can see a crane used to lift logs and drop them onto the conveyor that should run to a chipper.
    Behind the parked cars looks like the Paper Mill offices. The building behind the Office has rail cars just to the left and a door big enough for rail cars to enter. That building should be the Warehouse and Shipping department where the finished product ( rolls of paper) leaves the Paper Mill to the customers. I believe they would take the rail cars inside to load out of the weather. I also see on the right side of this building is a truck and trailer backed up to a doorway. No dough they had local customers or customers without rail service so trucks would be used to deliver paper.

    The long building with the sign on top should be the “Machine Room” or Paper Machine Hall” . The right end of the building would be the “Wet End” where the stock is pumped onto the “Wire” and the de-watering takes place as the water is first drained out then pressed out and finally dried by steam in the driers. The left end of the building would have after the driers the Calendar Stacks and “Reel building” then the” Winder” ( where the rolls are produced to customer requirements). followed by the “Capping line” or “Wrapping Line” Finishing Line” ( all the same thing just different names by different Companies.). Followed by a “Scale and Label” to record the roll and mark information on roll for shipping and customer. The rolls then need to go downstairs as the rolls are produced on the second floor of the Machine Room.

    Going back outside ,between the pile of logs and against the Machine Room is a long narrow building(s) with a line of box cars in front. This could be the “Raw Material Warehouse” where chemicals, dyes, inks and other products used in this Mill are unloaded from rail cars and stored until needed in the Mill. I see one door into this building and there could be another behind a box car.

    Looking at the 2 colour photos I see where the Kraft Mill is located at the end of the Mill. Where there are a few tank cars ( one on a track, then 2 on a track, then 1 on a track close to the building. This should be the Bleach Plant. The big tall tank would be the bleach tower where the brown stock turns to white stock.
    I’ll stop for tonight, past my bed time. Have to keep looking to find the Recovery Building. Looks like the Steam Plant was half way down the side of the Machine Room.
    Regards, Rick


    1. Thanks Rick. It took me about a year to figure out just some of what you described. I didn’t see the gas shovel or the crane in those photos. I guessed that the steam plant was the building with the fat smoke stack. A couple of things to note. The older black and white photos show a log pile. I know that at some point in the mid-late ’60s, the plant stopped receiving logs and only received chips. You can see in the colour photos… no logs in the log yard. Those were taken in the ’70s. You’ll also notice in the oldest photo, taken at ground level, that the long narrow building in front of Machine Room wasn’t there. I think that building was added later, to keep raw materials out of the weather during unloading.

      When I get some time, I’ll post a photo with labels on the buildings and you can proof it for me.


  2. Hi Hunter,
    I found the black and white photos were easier to figure out the different buildings and what was or could be going on inside. I know you are modeling 1974 but if I could understand where the main buildings were built chances are they would add on or modify but not tear down and build again so this should help me figure out where and what all the buildings are and how they work together to turn wood chips into paper. Then ship rolls of paper to customers.
    I have seen over a dozen P & P Mills and most are similar in layout. But some are very different because of amount of land available and how long the Mill has operated added in with the number of upgrades that the Mill received. The colour photos are a challenge that I will resolve but will take a little time.

    With the change over to wood chips only and no logs I was looking for where they stored their wood chips, how they moved the wood chips from the storage pile to the Digesters and did they have Silos to store chips in before transferring chips to the Digester(s). I figured the Mill would just shutdown the wood pile and the chipper. Maybe remove the chipper but the conveyor(s) for the chips should not have moved. ( I hoped). As they needed to keep feeding a steady supply of chips to the Digester(s)

    Yes I agree there are a number of changes from the early photo to the colour photos. The process of making paper was changing as the years rolled by. The process in the 1940’s was different in the 1950’s, and different in 1960’s, and again in the 70’s with different chemicals in use and different pieces of equipment coming available. Lots of changes in the 1980’s and early 1990’s as Chlorine was phased out in favor of Peroxide or Clo2 for Bleaching the brown stock, plus changes to maximize use of water and power. ( read; cut costs). ( the speed of the Paper Machines also increased from the 1940’s to the 1970’s as they found ways to increase profit by making more paper quicker.). ( and really ramped up from the 1970’s to 2015).

    Yes I agree with you that the “Fat” Tall smoke stack indicates the Steam Plant location. Working on the Digester(S) and Liquor system. I believe I see the Bleach Plant. I also see the washer building where the Chlorine would have been washed out of the Bleached Stock. ( similar to washing out the weak Black Liquor ). As you mentioned earlier I do not see any raised platform for off loading of Chlorine or SO2 Tank Cars. So a movable platform or crawl under the tank car? A ladder would need to be stable and attached some how I would think as they had to pull hoses up. ( would not want the ladder to start moving sideways.). Also wonder how the ran their Recovery system without a Line Kiln and just where is that Recovery Building?

    I’ll keep looking at the colour photos and figure out what the layout is or could be but it will take a little time.
    Regards, Rick


    1. The log pile was on the east side of the plant. When they went to woodchips, they put those massive settling tanks where the wood yard was. The chips are stored east of that, almost out of the frame. You can see a string of boxcars and some kind of conveyor. There’s evidence of two woodchip-coloured areas on either side of those boxcars, but it doesn’t look like a huge pile. I also don’t see where they would have dried the chips.

      I have another question for you to ponder. In the colour photos you can see a large black pile to the south of the complex. I assume this is a coal stockpile for fuelling the steam house. I can see a track going into the steam house from the south, so it looks like they could unload rail cars directly into a conveyor/lift that put the coal into a silo. So I’m assuming that the stockpile was to ensure that they never had a fuel supply issue, and possibly to save some money when the price sagged. My questions is: how did they get the coal from the stockpile to the steam house. I don’t see a conveyor system, so I’m guessing that they used a gas shovel to re-load an empty hopper and shuttle the coal over to the steam house. What do you think?


  3. The steel mill in the background of photo 3 is Tonawanda Iron. And the channel you’re talking about isn’t the barge canal, it’s the Tonawanda Island channel. The barge canal met the Niagara River south of the island.

    As a resident of Tonawanda, who’s pretty familiar with NT, I’ve been following your project with interest.


    1. Yes Eric, you’re correct. I mislabeled the channel as the barge canal, which actually starts at the south end of the island. Given the fact that you’re a resident, do you have historical photos of any of the rail infrastructure or factories in town?


      1. Sorry I don’t have anything more than you’d find online. The book ‘Trackside Around Buffalo 1953-1976’ has a few photos of North Tonawanda. Also ‘Lost Railroads of Western New York: Vol. 2, the Lehigh Valley Depew to Niagara Falls’. You might try the North Tonawanda Historical Society and the WNY Railway Historical Society for information.


  4. HI Hunter,
    About the chip pile maybe there is enough to operate the mill for a week or two as long as the box car loads keep coming. If the wood chips sit too long they start to degrade and break down ( early stage of rot.) and that does not make good strong fibers for pulp to make a strong sheet of paper.
    That brings me to the size of the Paper Machine Hall. To me it looks like 2 paper machines side by side. Maybe more information will turn up to confirm this or if there are other smaller older machines. If there are 2 machines for 1974 that might be enough wood chips to operate as long as the train keeps delivering box car loads.
    And that comes back to do they have a Silo system to dry out wet or snow covered or frozen chips. Moisture content will effect how long the Digester cooking time is and how much Liquor and Steam. Maybe they have a system to test and handle the results.

    That brings us to the coal pile that is located near the Office. I notice that employees park there cars near the coal. That indicates to me this pile of coal is for back up and not a daily supply. Your comments about never having a fuel issue and purchasing coal when the price is low is right on the money. I wonder if the price of coal was like bunker C oil that some other Paper Mills used in the 1970’s to power their Steam Plants. Purchase the oil in the late spring and early summer when the price is low as Fall and Winter the price is higher.

    My question is how did the coal get into a pile in the first place? Could this happen? So the hopper car of coal would drop the coal into a pit under the tracks and a small conveyor would raise the coal up and drop it on the ground where a front end loader would scoop it up and transport it to the pile. I agree with you as I see no conveyor so no way to transport the coal other than rail or truck. The first colour photo shows the pile fairly high on the right hand side with several areas where something like a front end loader has scooped up and removed some coal and other spots where the coal has been plied higher. No sign of conveyor to pile the coal higher so must be some gas or diesel unit on wheels as I do not see any track marks. In the second colour photo I see something at the edge of the photo bottom of the coal pile that looks like some type of front end loader. I can not make out the front bucket but do see that this piece of equipment has a tall center section like an operator’s cab would be located. Maybe not manufactured by “Cat” but “Payloader” or ” Allis Chambers” ( not sure I spelled that right). or another manufacturer of late 1960’s early 1970’s front end loader. To me that indicates they used this machine to pile up the coal and then when needed to reload the coal into a hopper that they would then have the train crew switch into the Steam Plant for unloading. I am going with the front end loader as I think the pile of coal indicates a wider profile on the pile than a shovel type bucket would make loading the pile and scooping up from the pile. Hope that helps.
    Work tomorrow so off to bed.
    Regards, Rick


  5. I worked at the mill in the summer of 1968 as a summer intern. The mill was still receiving roundwood for the soda pulp mill from Canada by boat at that time. Another guy and I went on one of the boats and got hollered at by the boss since no one was supposed to board it before it was cleared by the U.S. officials. I don’t know if it was some customs issue, health issue or some other problem. I don’t know if he was trying to scare us or if it was true, but he told us that we would have to stay on the boat and couldn’t step foot on the shore until it was Ok-ed. Anyway, we didn’t listen to him. I took a few pictures with an old box camera I had (that’s all my family could afford at the time) for a report about the mill I had to write for the papermaking course I was in at the SUNY College of Forestry, The pictures didn’t turn out too good, but I could scan them and send them to you.


    1. Wow, that would be great Dave. Any information is useful to me. Given the fact that you worked there, what do you know about the coal stockpile for the powerhouse? In the photos I have of the mill, there was coal piled at the south end of the property. How was the coal delivered to the mill? How was it unloaded from freight cars to the stockpile and/or into the powerhouse?


  6. Hunter: I don’t remember a coal pile, but it’s fairly likely that there was one somewhere as a buffer to ensure a continuous supply to the boilers in the event of weather or other problems, since the mill couldn’t run without steam. One of the pictures I have shows a RR hopper car in front of a shed alongside the Power House. I don’t know for sure, but probably the coal was dumped between the rails inside the shed. The two Tonawanda Mill tour books I have don’t state how coal was delivered, but one claims that 125tpd of coal are used every day, and the other 150tpd. In the report I wrote, I state: “No. 7 stoker coal is used in the boilers and arrives in coal cars and is unloaded by conveyor into one of the coal bunkers for each boiler.” As I’ve been a railfan my whole life, I would’ve taken special interest in a factoid like this and I’m sure that in this instance my information is factual. How is the best way to get the pictures to you?


  7. The two booklets each have 12 pages and are 5.5″ by 8.5″. One is a few years older than the other since one has the old IP logo, the softwood tree in front of the falls in a circle, and the other has the modern I-P in a circle. Unfortunately neither are dated, but since I worked there in the summer of ’68, both predate that era. Both booklets have a short letter written by the Mill Manager. The first is signed by Arthur C. Hayes and the other is signed by James E. Carpenter. Mr. Carpenter was the Mill Manager in ’68. The letter states: “This booklet is presented to you for a two-fold purpose: To help you to better understand our product, and to acquaint you with the skills of the craftsmen who make its manufacture possible.” I’m sure that these booklets were passed out to customers and to other people during a mill tour. The pictures in each booklet and the format of both booklets is the same: Brief history of the mill, the machines, the raw materials, some fun facts, and a list of the supervisory personnel. Since the list of the personnel in both books is similar, the booklets must have been published within a few years of each other.


    1. Dave, I’ve had a look at all of the photos. Great stuff there! Thanks so much.

      Maybe you can help with a couple of things. The building that housed the two paper machines and the building that housed the finishing room/shipping area look like they were concrete block construction. Was that the case, or were they metal buildings?

      Also, in the photo of the coal hopper by the shed, is the metal building next to the shed the power house?


  8. The buildings housing the paper machines and the Finishing Room at Tonawanda weren’t metal, and although I don’t know for sure, I think they were cream colored brick, not concrete block. The buildings at the paper mill I worked in that were built around the same time period as the Tonawanda Mill were cream colored brick. As I remember, the Power House was the taller building behind the B&O hopper. I don’t know what was in the smaller metal building.


    1. Dave, I’ve decided to make a separate page on my blog for the mill on Tonawanda Island. That way, people can access the information about the without having to dig through my other posts. There may be people looking at the website who have no interest in the all train stuff. The tab for this is on the main page of my blog, next to the “About” tab.

      I’m compiling a information there that I’ve gleaned from a range of sources. I would appreciate if you could check it out and let me know what you think.

      On that page, there’s a photo of the conveyor that goes to the chipper. I’m assuming the grey metal building behind the conveyor is the wood room, where the chipper was. There’s a red brick building on the right in the background with three columns of windows. Was that a recovery boiler?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s