Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dallman/Koppel Mystery

This R Street corridor project has been all about historical research. Precious little modeling beyond mockups has occurred. I’m largely fine with that, although I’d like the mix to edge toward a 50-50 percentage of research/modeling for my hobby time as time goes on.

That being said, the research continually takes me in new and unexpected directions. Each building in my study area has its own history and its own connections to places and events sometimes far removed from Sacramento.

One recent find is the warehouse cart tracks inside what was one of the Dallman supply warehouses on Sixth street. The warehouse is of corrugated metal construction. Its footprint is trapezoidal; its northern wall slanted due to the memory of a WP spur. Dallman was a regional wholesaler of plumbing supplies founded by Vernon Dallman in 1922. In 1920 he started helping the family business (Sacramento Plumbing Supply started in 1914). I haven’t quite worked out if this particular warehouse was once part of Sacramento Plumbing Supply or if it was built new for Dallman post 1922. The earliest pictures I’ve seen of it were taken in the 1930s and I haven’t done a City Directory study yet, but these little tracks and their turntables may provide a clue.

Dallman's cart tracks were made by the Arthur Koppel Company. The Orenstein-Koppel Company of Germany (or more fully: Orenstein Koppel-Arthur Koppel Aktiengesellshaft) had a US plant in Koppel Penn. There's no name coincidence there, they built the town. Koppel specialized in light track equipment like we see here as well as rolling stock. During World War I the company was reportedly the first major German firm whose US assets were seized by the Alien Property Custodian as a result of the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917. It was sold at auction to the Pressed Steel Car Company as the Koppel Industrial Car and Equipment Company for $1.3 million in September of 1918. Ultimately the American owned Koppel Company didn’t survive the Great Depression and was liquidated in the mid 1930s.

The fact that the turntables are labeled for Koppel and not Orenstein-Koppel leads me to believe this is a post 1918 installation- unless the marking is just showing city of origin. It makes absolutely no difference for the modeling side, but it is a little historical wrinkle that I would like to iron out someday.


  1. Hi, Tom,

    So I know that cart tracks like this were common in fruit drying yards and more permanent tracks like these were common in lumber mills. Any idea why they had them in this warehouse? Was it just a common thing before forklifts so they could move stuff around the warehouse, or were they handling bigger, heavier items like irrigation pumps where they couldn't easily do it with men and small trucks?

    Looking forward to reading more about your layout and the R Street neighborhood!


  2. Not really sure Robert- I assume it's because plumbing parts are heavy and they were installed before the advent of forklifts. I was amazed that two of the turntables still turn quite easily.

    I know tracks like these were installed in all sorts of places- during the war there was some worry that Koppel had passed on blueprints of sensitive installations like power plants back to Germany. Probably why they were at the front of the line for getting seized. There seemed to be plenty of opportunism in the Trading with the Enemy Act as well.. most of the German assets were sold to American interests well after the war.