Moss Tie

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T. J. MOSS TILE COMPANY

by Mrs. I. C. Miller of St. Louis

 

Close-fibered wood, suitable on account of their decay-resistant qualities for cross-ties and bridge timbers, were used in early days of railroading. They since became scarce, necessitating the increased use of soft wood. These, however, do not rot and decay.

It has been found that by treating them with a coal tar and creosote, their life is greatly extended. Untreated woods last about six years. Creosoted ties give 20-40 years of service. Nails and spikes, dated to show the year of installation, that some T. J. Moss ties have lasted over 50 years.

The T. J. Moss family started selling untreated ties at their general store in Moberly, Missouri, in the 1870s. They were so popular that Mr. Moss decided to mass produce treated ties. He built his first plant in East St. Louis in 1879. The demand was high since the area was the hub of numerous railroads. When telephones became popular, the company also produced telephone poles as well as pilings for wooden bridges. Other plants were opened around the country in places such as Mt. Vernon and Madison, Illinois. By 1888 Moss Tie Company was one of the largest producers in the United States. The East St. Louis plant was located in the Sauget area in conjunction with their East St. Louis storage yard. The plant originally covered an area of some 70 acres (later expanded to 86) with a storage capacity of two million ties at one time.

Mostly Ozark timber was used at the East St. Louis site. At the turn of the century, two-thirds of Missouri was forested. Two main crews, using cross-cut saws, felled the trees - usually red and white oak. The trees were then stripped of limbs and sawed into eight foot lengths.. The log was split into six inch square sections and rounded edges were squared off.

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Local farmers supplemented their incomes in the winter by earning ten cents for each tie thus produced. In the early years, a man known as a "tie hacker" used a broad ax and steel wedges to split the lumber and hack it into a square shape. Sawmills eventually replaced hackers. Freshly cut ties were stacked and allowed to dry for about a year. Teamster wagons hauled the ties from the mill to Black River. Mules were used because they were less excitable and withstood the summer heat better than horses.

The first "river drive" was used in 1908. Floating the tics downstream was the cheapest method of moving the logs to the closest Missouri Pacific Railroad facility at Clearwater. In later years, river drives were not used from April 15th to June 1st for fear that this interfered with fish spawning. "Deadheads," logs that wouldn't float, were nailed to two "floaters." "River hogs," as the men were called, stood in waist deep water along the route to help keep the logs moving. They earned $1.75 a day for this exhausting work. The water-logged ties, weighing as much as 200 pounds, were removed from the river and hauled by teamsters to the railroad siding. Each wagon usually carried around 25 ties. Men called "headers" carried the ties, one at a time on their padded shoulders, up wooden planks into the boxcars. A strong man could load about 200 ties a day.

Cross-ties, cut and manufactured in the Ozarks, piling and bridge timber (of cypress and pine) from the southern states, constituted the stock of the East St. Louis plant. Entire trainloads of ties were constantly being brought to the local site. The ties were stacked and allowed to dry anywhere from eight to twelve months for seasoning. They were then put through a boring and sizing machine that cut recesses into the tie to allow seating of tie plates. Holes were bored for spikes. The ties were loaded on narrow gauge trams with a capacity of 46 ties. Pieces of metal S iron were driven into the ends of the ties to help prevent checking and splitting.

Loaded trams, consisting of approximately 800 ties were moved to the charging cylinders. Each cylinder was 150 feet long and 74 inches in diameter. After loading, the chamber was closed and vacuum sealed to remove any remaining moisture. The cylinders were capable of withstanding pressures up to 200 lbs. per square inch. Creosote was then pumped into the chamber at a specified temperature and pressure. After the correct penetration had been reached, the cylinder was blown clear of oil which was returned to the holding tank. A vacuum removed excess oil from the timbers. A system of conveyors moved the finished ties to a spot where they were placed on skids. Shavings and sawdust were sent to the boiler room where they were used as fuel. The ties were branded with a processing date and shipped directly to sites where new railroads were being built.

The immensity of the storage area can be appreciated when it is realized that over nine miles of narrow gauge track, serviced by the Terminal Railroad (which used standard gauge), were necessary to cover the entire storage area. The Moss Company, was sandwiched between Sterling Steel, Socony-Vacuum, and Monsanto (east of Route 3). E. E. "Buck" Pershall was president of the company in the 1940s and '50s. His house was on a 320 acre site in North St. Louis County. He later sold part of it to Kroger which built a warehouse on the property, and Ford Motor Company which built an assembly plant. Pershall Road in that vicinity near Interstate 270 is named after him.

In 1948 Moss Company purchased 161 acres near the Powder Mill area of Signal Hill. There had been an explosion at the powder mill and the company decided to relocate to a rural area that would be less offended by their manufacturing process. Moss Tie cut all the merchantable trees on the property and then sold it in 1952 to William Shive, president of Sterling Steel, who built his home on the land.

189-miller.tif (25022 bytes) I. C. Miller joined the firm in 1928 and went to work at the company's Columbus, Mississippi, wood treating plant. He then transferred to St. Louis where the company's main offices were located. T. J. Moss had thirteen plants in all. Moss-American Inc. was created in 1965 by the merger of two wood processing subsidiaries of Kerr-McGee, T. J. Moss and American Cresoting Corp. of Louisville, Kentucky. Mr. Miller served as Vice-President of the new subsidiary. He became President and 0. Moss-American Inc. in 1967. Mr. Miller married Miss Betty Bales of the Washington Park section of East St. Louis in 1984.

After a series of lengthy strikes in the late 1960s, T. J. Moss dismantled their East St. Louis plant and sent the equipment to their facility in Mississippi. Their East St. Louis business was transferred to the Madison, Illinois, plant which is still in operation.Mr. Miller retired in 1975.

 

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