New Powerhouse for International Paper

I had been working from historical aerial photos taken from at least 1/4 mile above Tonawanda Island in order to build my model of the International Paper plant. Based on those photos, I scratchbuilt a concrete building that was to represent the power house for the plant. Last summer, a reader sent me invaluable information, including photos taken from ground level in the plant. Another reader, familiar with the workings of paper plants of the era, corrected my assumption on the construction of the powerhouse. There is no way that a paper plant would have built the powerhouse in a concrete building, unless there were a ton of windows. It would be too expensive to rebuild if the boiler exploded, or if the boiler needed major repairs or replacement. Proof was in the photos. The buildings were metal.

A couple of weeks ago, I started the task of replacing the entire structure that I had built with something more suitable. I took major liberties with the building, but the gist is there. The important elements were these:

  • large sheet metal clad powerhouse
  • very small sheet metal clad shelter over the pit where railroad hopper cars were emptied
  • brick coal bin
  • rusty sheet metal hoist-house perched precariously from the edge of the building
  • hoist going up the side of the building
  • all metal buildings painted in a pale cream colour.

The space that I have available dictated a number of compromises in the configuration of the buildings, but I felt that if I followed prototype photos I could convey the basic gist of the powerhouse complex. While I was working on this part of the layout, I built the structure carrying the pipeline over the tracks and down to the ground. I’ll continue the pipeline along the ground when I build the small scene in front of the coal shed. I have yet to add some minor scenery treatments, signs, clutter, dirt, and debris, but the structures are essentially complete. I placed them temporarily into the scene and took a bunch of photos to see how things look.

Penn Central S2 shoves a loaded hopper into the coal shed at the powerhouse. The brick building with the conveyor lift coming up the side is the coal bin, with the hoist house perched on the edge.
This view captures the whole powerhouse complex from the opposite side of the previous shot.


  1. That is just about as real as it gets ! Incredible job weathering everything and it fits in perfectly !
    Excellent work !


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