Jan’s Pitch, Tar and Oil Depot (2015)

Jaap Stuurman

This layout is a fictitious plan based on a storage facility of the old Vroege oil company at Alblasserdam in the Netherlands. It is built on a site outside the river dyke enabling ships to load or discharge their cargo of oil products. In the prototype there was a storage site of the Vroege company on the "Kade" (river quay) but my interpretation is more modern and smaller than the prototype. For historical and sentimental reasons I wanted to place it right in the village of Alblasserdam.

An aerial photo of Vroege's prototype oil and pitch storage depot, at Alblasserdam, around 1960:

Right in the foreground on the layout is the tall river dyke, topped by a road with a bus stop served by line 16 of the local bus company “De Twee Provinciën”, on its way to Kinderdijk (the famous nearby windmill site). Across the road next to the entrance are some houses on the dyke. They are rather close to the storage tanks, something that wouldn't be allowed today.

The entrance is just a gate without any particular detail, similar to many a company’s entrance on the dyke road. Behind the house is a Portacabin and two storage tanks. Next to those tanks is a transhipment facility to load road tankers. The Vroege company at the time (early 1960s) used to have a chain of petrol stations in the Netherlands (named Celtic) and supplied them with their own lorries. The company also owned a fleet of tank barges with sailed under the name of “Leonidas” through the Netherlands and Germany.

Opposite the transhipment plant is a shed named “Umea” (after the place where the pitch came from). From this shed sometimes a tiny train emerges of small flat wagons loaded with drums. This train draws into a headshunt and reverses past the shed over the weed-covered track.

In the harbour alongside the shed lies a coaster tied up to the quay (the chemicals tanker “Mare Aurum”). She is loading or discharging her cargo. I wanted a chemicals or "product" tanker as I sailed as an engineer in similar vessels for years.

Behind the storage tanks there is another shed and some smaller storage tanks, similar to those from an old road tanker. The site will be filled with loaded and empty drums which will give the layout a untidy but very prototypical look - see the photo of the prototype site.

In the distance near the river the railway turns left and disappears behind the shed, passing another siding where some more tracks are. There is a small (steam) locomotive with a firefighting train standing by in case something happens. Behind the railway along the river there is a small jetty for barges to tie up, similar to the prototype situation on the "Kade" where such a mooring place was named "The Old Head". Ashore there will be a travelling crane spanning the tracks for cargo operations. This will be converted from a Faller crane such as the one below:

Inspiration for this layout came from the fact that my uncle drove one of the road tankers owned by Vroege. He died at too young an age and in his memory I built this layout. Of course his lorry, the DAF six-wheeler, is on the layout. He drove petrol through the whole of the province of South Holland with his truck. Here is a four-wheel version:

And the model of the six-wheeler my uncle drove:

Plan and photos by Jaap Stuurman, unless credited otherwise.

A few more photos recently added of the completed layout:

Bathers and a fisherman along the river bank, unperturbed by the industry just behind:

Typical local bus service around 1960, with a Leyland Tiger bus:

Coastal tanker 'Mare Aurum' discharging oil at the quay:

More photos