Milwaukee Solvay & Coke
Milwaukee Solvay Gas and Coke Company has been the most interesting, intriguing place I have found in the Milwaukee area. Here is the background. This was taken from “Dons Depot” I emailed this person several times before stealing this content, never received a response, so I thought I would at least link to it.
Before the natural gas pipe lines crisscrossed the country, gas was generated in places with no natural gas. In Milwaukee, in 1906, the Milwaukee Coke and Gas Co. built a large plant on the south east side of Milwaukee between the C&NW mainline and the Milwaukee harbor. It started near Washington Street and ended near Greenfield Avenue. It was state of the art, and used electric traction for inplant operations. To give you an idea of what went on here, refer to the color picture of locomotive 1. Coal was brought in by boat and by rail and lifted to the top of the tipple. It was then dropped into an extremely wide gauge electric rail car which ran on the top level and took power by trolley from the wire at the front edge. The coal was then dropped into ovens where it was heated to a high temperature in a low oxygen atmosphere. The carbon reacted with the oxygen to produce carbon monoxide, or coal gas. There were also other smaller amounts of gasses trapped in the coal. The gases were collected and sent to storage tanks. The resulting hot carbon was then pushed out the front door of the oven into a hopper car and sent to a quenching tower. This produced coke. It was a very spectacular sight to see the hot coke dumped out and then to see the clouds of steam from the top of the quenching tower. Originally the hoppers were self propelled cars, seven of them, with small cabs on the end. In 1931, the trucks and controls were used to build 3 steeple cab locomotives which then were coupled to a hopper by a drawbar. The locomotives used a bow trolley on the north end of the line which had overhead. The south end, by the ovens and tower, used an overrunning covered third rail. Milwaukee Coke and Gas Co became Milwaukee Solvay Coke Co. in 1942 and later became the Milwaukee Coke Division of Manganese Chemical Corp.