Hernandez Distributing and developing a sense of place, part I


The psychology of model railroading is fascinating.  Why do we do it?  I could give you many answers, but one that comes to mind right now, is the ability to create a model that was/is special to us.  A place that we control.  A place where if we like a particular scene or place, we won’t let it change.  We don’t have to let a 300 units subdivision or big box store scar our layouts.  We can keep it just like we want it.  We can create what some people call a sense of place.  One of my favorite books on this is Home From Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler.  It should be required reading for anyone who builds things on our nation’s landscape.



Home From Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler. After reading this, you will never see where you live the same way.

I find myself through Hernandez Distributing and my other efforts at buildings and scenery trying to create a mosaic of special places from my memory.  Living in Roswell, NM a number of years, I had to pleasure of keeping tabs on and photographing rail action at three different beer distributors in a town of 50,000 in an otherwise fairly remote corner of New Mexico.  Through Hernandez Distributing I sought to capture the essence of the Budweiser, Coors and Miller distributors.  It really resonated with me the thought of beer coming all the way from St. Louis, Golden and Milwaukee across the wide open spaces to these three nondescript buildings in a small to medium sized town in a sparsely populated region.


Miller Distributor in Roswell, NM in 1992–©photo by C. E. Hunt

I travelled to work a special way to let me keep tabs on the Miller and Bud distributors.  Every few days new loads would appear.  The Bud distributor was more active, especially around the holidays, sometimes receiving 4 boxcars at a time!  Here’s a SL-SF boxcar spotted at the Bud distributor in 1994.


Budweiser Distributor in Roswell, NM 1994–©photo by C. E. Hunt

A couple of days later a UP load came in…


Budweiser Distributor in Roswell, NM 1994–©photo by C. E. Hunt

One of my favorite memories, which I have written a post on before, was the time an NP boxcar same to the Bud distributor…


Budweiser Distributor in Roswell, NM 1992–©photo by C. E. Hunt

That felt like a little bit of a time warp in 1992–22 years after the NP ceased to exist.

OK, so tying this back to Hernandez Distributing and my Rails West layout–

I sought to create a background structure that would capture the essence of the three distributors, permit a dock to make spotting cars easier and had a great, old school 1981 feel to it.  Maybe, it was a building that had been converted from some thing else.

Wanting to kitbash, I researched until I found the right building as a starting point, much like I had done with Western Warehousing.  I settled on another Walthers kit–Grocery Distributor.


I need two of them for my project because I wanted a long dock.

Here are some construction photos…


Merging two of the dock sides I created a long unloading facility, large enough to accommodate two beer cars.


I then cut the loading dock to fit the revised structure.


Loading dock in place.


Once I got the shell like I wanted, doors and windows were next.


I painted the back of the window glazing with a heavy wash of grimy black and applied a few great 1981-era beer signs–some of I my favorite iconic brands from the 20th Century.


Now it is time to weather.  That will be covered in part II.


The power of buildings and organic commerce…


More on Delaware in coming posts.  

See that light gray building to the left?  I was recently in Alexandria, VA.  I knew this area on the Potomac waterfront was slated for substantial “tourist and quality of life” changes.  I figured that building’s days were numbered so I had to check it out.


Alexandria Marine Service and Sales has been in business for 64 years. The locally-owned store sells new and used boat engine parts and also fixes outboard engines. The shop is located right on the Old Town waterfront. The Potomac river flows right behind the building.   A beautiful and rustic setting.


Check out the width of those walls.  I hope they continue to use this building with the waterfront development.  It would be tragic to see this solid structure come down.


I wish we could learn to re-develop neat areas like this without losing places like this.  It is so organic.


Service yard where motors are (or perhaps sadly were) brought in.  It will likely be a great project that Alexandria has planned with cool restaurants and a boutique hotel, but can’t we leave a little room for authentic businesses that have nothing to do with tourism?


I know, I know, the real estate is too valuable.  OK.  Just saying.  However, a business like this gives the area a sense of authenticity that is missing with many re-developments.


Enjoy this “organic” business structure while you can and try to capture them when you see a little jewel like this.  Sadly, I think a warehouse a couple of blocks away that still receives boxcars off the CSX is also slated to be “re-developed.”


The three green dots show boxcars in 2014 in downtown Alexandria just a couple of blocks from Alexandria Marine.


Street view.  Green dot shows box car spotted at Robinson Terminal #1.  Again, the waterfront redevelopment will likely be a very popular project with many benefits.  I just wish we could save a little of the organic quality of our living spaces.  Buildings that help people make a living unrelated to tourism can be special in their own way.  We need to get development professionals to be more sensitive to this.



Roadtrip to 2014, to none other than…Delaware! (Part I)


Mountaire Farms, adjacent to the State Fair grounds, is the only customer located in Harrington terminal, as seen being worked by high-hood GP38-2 5240 on H43 in December 2012. — photo © Scott Harris.  For a great collection of shots around the area, see Delmarvarails.com.

In this post and the next two, I will give you a feel for some of the operations you can model in Delaware.  The above photo is one of my favorite businesses I will share.  It is attractive, interesting and small enough to model.  It also reflects a very typical southern Delaware industry–poultry production.  Mountaire Farms is an agricultural food processing company with more than 6,000 employees in Delaware, Maryland and North Carolina. Facilities of this sort supply poultry producers across southern Delaware.


Aerial view of Mountaire facility in Harrington.


Facility in 2013 after covered hoppers have been spotted.

If you notice in the above aerial, across the tracks from Montaire is a propane supplier.  it too is a potential business to model.


Suburban Propane could periodically receive propane in long tank cars.  Part III of the series will provide examples.

Let’s run a little south of Harrington to find another agricultural related shipper.


Willard Agri-Services in Greenwood, Delaware is a liquid fertilizer dealer.  Most rail-delivered products would likely come in by tank car, but there appears to be a place to unload covered hoppers as well.

A little further south, but still in Greenwood, is Railing and Building Products.


This business would typically receive shipments by flat car.  See yellow center-beam fat spotted there in this recent photo.  Occasional box cars could also appear.

Here is a map to orient you to the terrain we have covered thus far.  The green dots roughly reflect the location of the three businesses.


More businesses to come in Parts II and III including one of the more unusual rail-served facilities in the country.