Re: Tank Cars: Capitol Refining Company

Garth Groff <sarahsan@...>


Relee was never incorporated, and is now part of Pentagon City. It would be interesting to see if Relee ever had a post office or a railroad station under that name. I would not be surprised if the name is a contraction for R.E. Lee, Suh!

Yours Aye,

Garth Groff

On 2/1/19 9:09 PM, James McDonald wrote:

Hello David, Bob, and list,

I’ve done some research on this firm. The Capitol Refining Company in Relee, Virginia (the town no longer exists, and indeed most locals wouldn’t even remember this name) was a facility of the Columbia Cotton Oil and Provisions Corporation that was purchased in June 1913 by the Capitol Refining Company of Buffalo, a firm owned by the Dold family. The facility previously engaged in the processing of cows, hogs, and their parts. Lard had been a major product but there had been a small business in cottonseed oil refining since 1909. When the Buffalo based Capitol Refining Company took over the Relee facility it closed it for “extensive repairs” and the facility reopened in September of 1913 solely as a cottonseed oil refinery.

The Capitol Refining Company would receive freshly pressed cottonseed oil and refine this into various grades, out of which a number of products were manufactured. One of the primary businesses of the Relee facility was the wholesale supply of refined cottonseed oil in barrels to firms that manufactured shortening. Refined cottonseed oil was also used in the manufacture of artificial leather, fiberboard, rubber, and had several other industrial uses. A remnant of the refining process was so-called “soap stock”, which was sold to soap manufacturers for the production of soaps and detergents.

In addition to providing bulk products to manufacturers, the Capitol Refining Company also produced their own line of consumer and commercial goods. Many of these were sold under the brand name “CAPRECO”, based on a shortened version of the firm's full name. Among their consumer product line were such offerings as Potomac Cooking Oil, White Dome Shortening, CAPRECO Choice Winter Oil for Salads, Virginia Choice Butter Oil, and FLEXO shortening. Commercial products included Crispolene Shortening, intended for sale to large bakeries. Their products were held in somewhat high esteem, receiving industry recognition and commendation.

The Capitol Refining Company facility in Relee was located on the Rosslyn Connecting Railroad. This shortline ran from a junction with the Washington Southern Railroad just south of Long Bridge along the Potomac River north to Rosslyn, Virginia, a distance of 3 miles. The Rosslyn Connecting Railroad was wholly owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, whose trains serviced this branch from freight yards in Washington, DC. The Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac also had trackage rights on the Rosslyn Connecting Railroad as far north as the CAPRECO facility.

The Capitol Refining Company made good use of its rail connection. The spur into the facility had two tracks for the receiving and two tracks for the shipping departments, respectively. The firm received six hopper cars a week of coal, to power their operations and create steam for sanitation. By 1917 approximately 1,000 carloads of raw cottonseed oil were received each season. Refined products were sent out from the facility in tank cars, barrels, drums, or for retail, boxed tins and bottles. Hydrogenated cottonseed oil was also shipped in bags. The firm also had an ice plant, and although they sold ice directly to customers, I’ve yet to find any mention of them shipping ice by rail.

The firm rostered a fleet of 100 their own tank cars. The cars were numbered in the range CRWX 201 to 300. The lower portion of the CRWX number range appears to have been occupied by 8,000 gal cars manufactured by American Car & Foundry in Milton, Pa. in November of 1913. The higher portion of the number range was occupied by cars manufactured by The German-American Transportation Company. Photographs show that the GATC cars appear to have had their reporting marks changed. I surmise that these were likely cars that had previously been in the Dold Company's JDPX tank car fleet and were repainted as CRWX with the expansion into Virginia. The Dold company control over the Capitol Refining Company fleet is evident in that any reports on the CRWX cars' use were to be made not to Relee, Virginia, but to the Capitol Refining Company's offices in Buffalo, where the Dold company originated.

Little can be found of the firm’s demise. It appears they were a victim of the Great Depression, shuttering quietly in 1933. The facility sat abandoned for years before the land was sold off. The area where the factory once stood and the Potomac River shoreline have been modified to a point that all traces of the facility are gone, but it was located roughly just west of where Interstate 395 meets routes 1 and 110, in the Pentagon’s south parking lot.

All the best,


James McDonald
Greenbelt, MD.

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