Cramming Action Into a Tight Space

Potential Small Layout Industry: H. L. Webster & Sons –


Back in the days of hard work and hard fought reward it was typical for small New England towns to have a local feed store.  These businesses provided the much needed grain, and other such commodities, which made rural small town life possible.  Milk, eggs, poultry, beef; none would be possible without the feed sold by stores like H. L. Webster & Sons (which was previously owned by Wells and Flanders Grain Elevator).  If you are modeling a small town in Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine, you really can’t afford to not include a rail served feed store.  With a feed store you get an industry with roughly the same footprint as a residence or freight house which can be serviced with the obligatory 40 foot boxcars so common in Northern New England manifests.  It really is a win-win situation.  Let’s have a look at H. L. Webster & Sons to get a better feel for it.

The building its self is fairly small and so would be right at home on a small layout or a nook on a much larger layout.  In real life H. L. Webster & Sons sat, off of Main Street, along the same siding from which the Enfield freight house was served.  I can’t be sure of how much rail traffic this business received, especially in the post-WWII transition era, however Enfield town records show the H. L. Webster & Sons was still in business well into the mid-1960s (and probably beyond, but I stopped searching once I was sure they made it through my era of interest).  It appears, through tax records, that H. L. Webster & Sons also dabbled in hardware and various odd-jobs for the town, which could justify an increase in rail traffic to and from the store, but again nothing outside of boxcars would be indicated by what I could find.


The building is not currently used as a feed store or hardware store but the east side of the building still advertises its former owner.  This lettering could be added free-hand, but would probably turn out better using dry transfer decals.  The other nice thing about this side of the building is its simplicity which greatly reduces the amount of work required to scratch build the structure.


The south side of the building is interesting from a modeling perspective and would be the primary scene of action.  We see the sliding freight door, which would have been used for unloading bagged feed, grain and boxed hardware.  On the second floor there is a door which would have given access to the roofs of the freight cars delivering goods to the store.  What use this feature would have been, I really don’t know.  It isn’t clear to me that this type of access would be needed for bagged goods, but some boxcars were converted for bulk delivery of grain and perhaps this door was used to get an employee out on top of the load with a shovel… seems safe.  I doubt grain or feed would have been delivered by hopper since there is no evidence that bulk storage was ever available on site.  The mind boggles at the possibilities.  If you know how this second story door, or similar doors, were used in prototype operation please let me know via comment.

I incorporated a feed store into my modified loop, it is a greatly simplified structure only meant to represent this type of business.  My store is also served from the same track as my freight house; although my operations are somewhat more complicated because I used a spur instead of a siding.  I think, given more space once I begin building a more complete representation of the Northern, I will try to add H. L. Webster & Sons in a more accurate manner.  As I stated above, a feed store is almost obligatory for a small Northern New England town, plus they make for a very simple industry and can blend a decent cross section of inbound commodities into a small foot print.  Even if you are limited in terms of space, a business like H. L. Webster & Sons could easily become the focal point for a micro layout.  If you have just the right siding, or spur, on your existing line, or are currently planning your layout, I would recommend trying your hand at a feed business… all of the scale animals on your layout will thank you.

Side note: Enjoy your Christmas and New Year Holidays; I will be focused on my family over the next couple weeks so you won’t hear from me for a little while again.  Use this time to operate your layout, chase trains with your family or friends, or spend some quiet time doing research.  Above all, keep the reason for the season in mind.  If you aren’t a Christian avoid being a scrooge to the people around you who are.  If you are a Christian, take some time to share your testimony with the people around you and be generous to those who need it most.  Thank you for reading my ramblings up to this point.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


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