Wood Preserving Plants (Part 1 of 4)

by J. R. Mathison

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Index of wood treating photos
Part two
Part three
Part four
The Rueping process
Last modification 2016-03-23

Northwest Wood Preserving Company

By the time this picture was taken, Northwest Wood Preserving Company had been sold to Don Benner from Minnesota who named it "Wheeler Lumber, Bridge, and Supply Company".
Aerial view towards the northwest of the yards and area around the wood treating plant. The edge of the town of Whitewood, South Dakota is just visible at the upper left. The red dirt gash extending down from the upper right is the beginning construction of Interstate 90. The highway through the center of the photo is US 14 between Whitewood and Sturgis, South Dakota. The railroad at the left was "The Chicago and Northwestern Railroad". The creek accross the bottom is "Whitewood Creek" totally polluted with cyanide from the Homestake gold mine in Lead, South Dakota. This creek has since been sucessfully reclaimed!

November 1967, Yashica SLR, Ektachrome, from Piper "Super Cruiser" PA-12, N2783M flown by myself.

View of the the pressure treating cylinders at left, and the control and boiler room. The taller portion of the building at rear is the tank farm which consisted of six preservative storage tanks twelve feet in diameter and thirty-five feet high. The steel stack at upper right is the chimney for the steam boiler. The car is a 1940's Hudson? This photo is located at the center of the yards in the above photo.

Across the front of the left pressure treating cylinder, horizontal and above the center of the door, can be seen the nearly thirty pound wrench used on the large bolts which held closed those heavy steel doors.

Go here to see a description of the Rueping Process of pressure treating wood products.

August 1966, Kodak Brownie, Ektachrome.

View from the top of the tank farm towards the northeast. The office is at the far left, hyster shed, lunch room with showers (the "dry"), planer shed, and teepee burner, rear, moving towards the right. Various piles of treated posts and poles. Boiler chimney at right.

August 1966, Kodak Brownie, Ektachrome.

View from the top of the tank farm towards the southeast. The Chicago and Northwester Railroad bridge is at upper center. Boiler room roof at lower left and pressure treating cylinders at lower right.

Through the center of the photo is the rail system for loading the charges of wood onto rail tram cars to be moved into and out of the pressure treating cylinders. These cylinders are six feet in diameter and one hundred feet long with a working pressure of one hundred-fifty pounds per square inch!
There is not rail track to the center cylinder because it was unused because if failed it's initial pressure test after installation (used!).

August 1966, Kodak Brownie, Ektachrome.

The next four photos were taken years earlier when the plant was still Northwest Wood Preserving Company.
View of the main instrument board inside the control-boiler room.
At this time the plant ran twenty-four hours a day and seven days per week.

September 1961, Kodak Brownie, Black and White print film, probably anscochrome?

Gardner-Denver seventy-five horsepower air compressor at right. This was a six cylinder, two stage, is a 'W' configuration (as opposed to a 'V').
At far left is part of one of the six inch piping header and valves carrying wood preservative. Just to the right of that is a tall cylinder shaped unit which is part of a vacuum-condenser system used to draw a high vacuum in the pressure treating cylinders as part of the 'Rueping' treating process.

September 1961, Kodak Brownie, Black and White print film.

The steam boiler. This was a package unit but I can no longer remember who manufactured it. It was capable of evaporating 10,500 pounds of water per hour at one hundred-fifty pounds per square inch.


Approx 2005? this unit was running un-attended when it exploded. The blast and resulting natural gas and preservative tank farm fire did millions of dollars worth of damage - and the evacuation of the town of Whitewood.

September 1961, Kodak Brownie, Black and White print film.

View of the valve and header plumbing system which was used to route the wood preservate to and from it's tank and to and from one of the two pressure treating cylinders in use. The two rectangular white boxes at center and at right are motor starters for the 440 volt 30 horsepower electric motors under each. These motors power pumps to fill and empty the pressure treating cylinders.
Just below center left there is a (hard to see in this photo) steam driven pressure pump. This pump was used for creosote and creosote-fuel oil mix to maintain 150 PSI pressure after the pressure treating cylinder had been filled with preservative. There was later on, another of these steam driven pumps just this side of the desk. This pump was used for the pentachlorophenol-fuel oil mix to maintain 150 PSI pressure after the treating cylinder had been filled with preservative.

September 1961, Kodak Brownie, Black and White print film.

The west wall of the quality control laboratory showing a workbench and shelf.
The various wood preservatives were analyzed to assure quality. Core samples 0.2 inches in diameter were taken from the wood before treatment and analyzed to check moisture content and density. Core samples were taken again after treatment and analyzed to check compliance to specifications for preservative retention.
This became my domain in the late 1960's. My knowledge of the wood preserving process and quality control landed me a prestigious job with a consulting firm in Colorado in 1969 traveling the United States as an inspector-buyer of wood products.

September 1967, Yashica SLR, Ektachrome.

A charge of fence posts sitting on trams on the rail at right waiting to go into one of the pressure treating cylinders.
A night scene, it is lightly snowing and lighted by the mercury-vapor yard lights.

December 1967, Yashica SLR, Ektachrome.

Just after sunset and minus twenty degrees below zero.
Boiler exhaust and various steam vents against the sky light.
The car is my 1956 Buick Roadmaster hardtop convertible. Photo is a little fuzzy due to my shivering in the cold.

December 1966, Kodak Brownie, Ektachrome.

My brother, Dick Mathison, on the Case tractor pulling a charge of pole-stubs from the treating cylinder. The onlookers are from a REA workshop sponsored by the plant.
At center left is a large white tank which had been used to contain cooling water for the vacuum-condenser system. At center is the wooden cooling tower which replaced the large white tank. The small building over the pressure treating cylinders housed and weather proofed various plumbing to the treating cylinders.

Note the bolts in their parked position, around the front door perimeter of the open treating cylinder.

September 1968, Yashica SLR, Ektachrome.

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GO TO Part Three
GO TO Part Four
Last modification March 23, 2016
E-mail to 'mathison (aatt) sdf-eu.org'