A century of ketchup-making

News broke yesterday that HJ Heinz Co. will close its plant in the town of Leamington in southwestern Ontario. 740 people will be out of work as Heinz turns the page on more than a century of ketchup-making in Southwestern Ontario at one of its largest facilities.
Heinz Leamington Aerial photo HeinzFactoryAerial_zpsc69b4e79.jpg
(Click on the image to read more about Heinz in Leamington)

Leamington and Heinz are like cheese and crackers – they just go together. Stompin’ Tom wrote a song about the Leamington Tomato:

The town’s water tank was painted like a tomato. The tourist information booth is shaped like a giant tomato.

And for the past 30 years the town has staged an annual Tomato Festival. (It’s too soon to tell if the 2014 festival will go ahead in light of Heinz’s move, but nobody would blame the town if they created a new event to throw rotten tomatoes at the legendary factory.)

But what, I hear you ask, does this have to do with layout design? Good question.

At one time, the Canada Southern Railway had a branch that ran roughly 15 miles south from the mainline at Comber, Ontario to Leamington. It passed through a couple of farming communities – there were elevators at Staples and Blytheswood – but its main customer was – you guessed it – the Heinz plant at the end of the line.

In later years, this line was transferred to the Canadian National:
Leamington Header photo Leamington-Header-Resize_zps47f720e3.jpg
(Photo by Geoff Elliot – click on the image to see more of Geoff’s work at RailPictures.ca)

In larger scales such as S and O, the community of Leamington would make an ideal, achievable layout. As the CNR track diagram from 1985 (below) shows, the railway had a modest yard in Leamington, and several spurs serving Heinz:
CNR Leamington Track Map - 1985 photo TrackMap-Zone-LE_zpsef71851b.jpg
(Click on the map to view a larger, easier to read version)

One could be kept quite busy shuttling cars into spot order and dropping them in the various spurs around the plant. Given that this is a production facility operating in the modern era, it would probably be necessary to switch at specific times when workers are not in and around the cars, too.

The plant itself is quite interesting, with a variety of textures and stacks, including a large stack with Heinz spelled out in the brickwork. Sean Marshall (no relation) has a photo set for Leamington on Flickr which includes several shots of Heinz. Enjoy if you visit.

Back to the track map: Note the level crossing with the C&O. In later years, this was truncated to either side of the crossing and became part of the CNR’s operation. Known as the Leamington Industrial Spur, it served a cluster of industries located around the former Pere Marquette station to the east of the crossing. Five spurs branched off the former C&O/PM main and customers included fuel dealers, a cannery or two, a lumber yard and a building supply company. For more information on this, visit Terry Link‘s excellent Canada Southern website. There, check out the “Maps” section, and look for “Track Charts – CN Leamington Branch 1995”. (I won’t link directly to Terry’s materials because, frankly, the site is such a great resource that you owe it to yourself to take a good look around.)

Including the industrial spur and Heinz would probably be a challenge in larger scales, given how the tracks radiate off in all directions. But in HO or N scale, it would be a more realistic proposition and still make for an achievable layout. In fact, in smaller scales one could probably model the entire 15 mile branch. Going this route, it would be tempting to run the calendar back to a Canada Southern steam-era line, and there’s plenty of info on Terry’s website to do that effectively. On the “Maps” page, for example, have a look at the M.P. McIlwaine collection, specifically the maps for Blytheswood, Comber, Leamington and Staples. (Such a layout would not feature the Leamington Industrial Spur – that would be part of the Pere Marquette – but on the other hand, that would make designing a layout plan that much easier. )

While you’re at Terry’s site, be sure to conduct a search for the town names I’ve listed. You’ll turn up a number of time tables plus and many photos that will get the creative juices flowing.

Leamington may be about to lose Heinz, but there are lots of good reasons to keep its memory alive in miniature as the basis for an achievable layout.