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Newspaper printing plant - rail ops & warehouse - many photos

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  • Member since
    May, 2008
  • 880 posts
Posted by Last Chance on Saturday, July 12, 2008 10:16 PM
At Big Bear in Virginia there is a interior Ramp that rolled paper rolls down to the loading dock direct from the mill. From there the paper was hauled to Dow Jones in Des Moines and similar places for newsprint. I dont have any images because alot of the places Ive been in prohibited cameras and good cheap digitals did not come easy in those days.
  • Member since
    February, 2008
  • From: Potomac Yard
  • 2,047 posts
Posted by NittanyLion on Saturday, July 12, 2008 10:12 PM
I had been planning on a large scale printer of some kind to justify boxcars in this day and age, so I'm grateful for the pictures.  Had planned on the unloading being an old fashioned loading dock but I can't say I'm particularly surprised I was way off and that its done indoors, given the weather sensitive nature of paper.
  • Member since
    September, 2007
  • From: Oklahoma
  • 93 posts
Posted by OKrlroads on Saturday, July 12, 2008 7:26 PM

Bob Thumbs Up [tup]Thumbs Up [tup] Great write up on the use of rail service to printing plant. Hope you do get published in MMR. Thanks for the info and pics.Thumbs Up [tup]

  • Member since
    February, 2001
  • From: Warren, MI
  • 89 posts
Newspaper printing plant - rail ops & warehouse - many photos
Posted by rfross on Saturday, July 12, 2008 5:59 PM

I promised member gatrhumpy in the Layouts and Layout Building forum in late June that I would post some photos of the newspaper production plant rail ops and newsprint warehouse where I work. Hopefully this will provide everyone with some interesting prototype information for a simple and easy to model industry.

These photos were taken at the printing plant where the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press are printed in Sterling Heights, MI about 20 miles north of downtown Detroit. It was a tour stop during the Great Lakes Express NMRA National Convention that was held in Detroit in 2007 so some of you may be familiar with the site. Following the tour of the plant I was asking around the building for some feedback as to how the tour went. Our staff was suprised because those attending the tour were more interested in the rail operations rather than the printing side. Well duh, I could have told them that! But I do have to admit, the printing process is pretty cool too, especially when the presses are up to speed and cranking out 70,000 papers an hour per press.

This plant is representative of a major metropolitan newspaper production plant and happens to be located remotely from the building where the editorial staff and business offices are located in downtown Detroit. There are other major papers with one or more remote printing plants similar to this one. Other major papers often have their printing facility adjacent to their editorial and business offices in the heart of a downtown area. So you really can't go wrong modeling a printing plant in or near any major city on your layout.

Newspapers, especially the large major metro papers, buy lots of newsprint and need a large facility to store it in. Up until the late-90's we also had a remote newsprint warehouse along the Detroit River on the outskirts of downtown Detroit. Trucks would haul the newsprint from this warehouse to our two printing plants that were in operation at the time. Since I never visited the site I can't vouch for it having a rail line for delivery of newsprint but it was adjacent to rail services.

Here's a synopsis of how our Sterling Heights facility works:

Norfolk Southern drops cars loaded with newsprint on our inbound track and picks up the empties from the outbound track. Once NS is done spotting the cars our Trackmobile goes to work spotting cars at the indoor dock which holds three cars. When empty, the Trackmobile spots the cars on the outbound track for NS to pick up.

Once the cars are at the dock the paper handlers use clamp trucks which are high-lows with a big clamp (instead of forks) that reach around the newsprint rolls to prvent damaging the paper. They then take the rolls to several areas within the newsprint warehouse for storage. When stored, all rolls are stored "eye-to-the-sky" (which is on-end) so that the rolls can be stacked. We stack full size rolls as many as five-high. Some rolls are routed to an automated storage and retrieval system where they are stored in racks near the printing press lines for quick retrieval during press runs.

So in a nutshell, that's how it all works. On to the photos:

Inbound and outbound tracks facing East:

Inbound and outbound tracks facing West:

Inbound/Outbound/Warehouse lead split facing East:

Track leading out to the mainline facing East. The mainline is near the trees at the back or top of the photo and it runs North - South. This spur curves to the right (South) where it meets the main.

Concrete pad for getting the Trackmobile on/off the rail:


Railcar door to the unloading dock:

Indoor dock and track:

Dockplates used to span the gap between the loading dock and the railcar:

A wheel chock laying in wait for the next car:

Railcar door opening and brake setting caution signs:

Newsprint in storage in the warehouse:

Newsprint roll barcode labels are used to track the rolls from the manufacturer right to the press:

A clamp truck:

I'll carry my camera with me on my future visits to the plant so that I can get some photos of the railcars being unloaded to add to the thread because but there were none at the dock when I was taking photos at the plant yesterday.

If anybody has any questions or would like some photos of other details please let me know and I'll do what I can to get them for you.


Modeling the Ballard Terminal Railroad (a former Northern Pacific line) in Ballard, a district north of downtown Seattle in 1968, on a two-rail O-scale shelf switching layout. The Ballard Terminal didn't exist in 1968 but my version of the BTRR is using NP power. (My avatar photo was taken by Doc Wightman of Seattle)

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