Re: Canning - was Re: Baggage cars in freight trains

Doug Paasch

Yes, American Can and Continental Can BOTH had large can plants in Seattle, as I mentioned earlier.  American Can was on the Seattle downtown waterfront.  Continental Can was near the Duwamish River that emptied into Puget Sound in south Seattle area.  For RR content, here are some items:


  1. The American Can plant in Seattle was across the street (Alaskan Way) from Pier 69.  American Can actually owned Pier 69 at the time the plant operated.  When American Can went belly-up, Pier 69 was left to rot away.  The Port of Seattle purchased it, completely redid it, and made it their new headquarters in 1992 (I briefly had an office there before I resigned from the Port).  Here is what the former American Can plant looks like today:

Pier 69 now has no resemblance to what it looked like in the old days but I know there are some old photos of it on the internet somewhere as I have seen some.  From the plant’s location, I must assume that NP switched American Can, probably exclusively.

  1. The Continental Can plant in Seattle was on South Orchard St.  There were actually two plants there.  Plant 13 made the cans and Plant 31 adjacent to it made canning machinery.  Here is what the can plant looks like today:

The water tower on the roof used to have a big red concentric set of “CCC” on it for Continental Can Company.  The water tower was left on the roof as a landmark but has not had any water in it since the 1965 Seattle earthquake.  That earthquake caused the water tower on top of the Fisher’s flour mill to fall over and it caused the one fatality of that earthquake and was someone that our family knew.  So water towers were drained after that so they wouldn’t slosh and fall over in earthquakes.  Continental Can in Seattle was switched by UP.  Some of the spur tracks are still visible.  The junk yard next to the can plant to the west used to be Plant 31, the machine shop, and CCC owned all that property along the river and along the street where the junk yard is now (Seattle Iron & Metal).

  1. Regarding steel that was mentioned by Dave Nelson, it was shipped in box cars cut to size and stacked in bunches.  My best recollection from 50 years ago, the last I saw it, it was somewhere around 3 ft x 5 ft sheets??  My dad said it was loaded in boxcars to about 3 ft in height so as not to exceed the car’s weight limit.   It was called “tin plate” because it was coated with a thin layer of tin (thus “tin cans”) but was steel underneath the very thin tin coating.  I remember the scrap bin at the end punch machine with these big sheets of tin all full of holes where the can ends were punched out.  It was like very sharp and dangerous steel “lace.”  The scrap was sent out in gondolas to be re-milled.
  2. A lot of the cans were shipped out in bulk, like in the picture Bill Parks provided.  Yes, later it went out in cardboard boxes.
  3. Speaking of your canning days Jim, probably later than when you were canning fish, Continental Can invented what they called the “collapsible can” which was sent out “flat” and squished back into a round shape at the fish cannery.  BTW, Continental Can, and I would guess American Can also, made the canning machines that the fish canneries, meat canneries, and vegetable canneries used to do the canning with.
  4. Here is an item of possible nostalgia for some of you.  I scarfed the attached map of Continental Can plants when they shut down Plant 13 in the 1970’s.  I don’t know what year the map was made though.

I see the Bond Crown Division bottle cap plant on the map in Wilmington that Jay Styron mentioned.  Also, look at the blue patches in VA, NC, SC, GA, and LA states.  That land was owned (or leased) by Continental Can for their paper products divisions.  That would make some good loads in and out for those who model the south, similar to what us Pacific Northwest modelers do with Weyerhaeuser and Scott Paper loads.  Pulp wood and chemicals in, paper and cardboard out.


Doug Paasch

Also waxing nostalgic about the good old days in Seattle



From: <> On Behalf Of Dave Nelson
Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2022 11:17 AM
Subject: Re: [RealSTMFC] Canning - was Re: Baggage cars in freight trains


American can was another big mfgr of cans.


FWIW the sheet steel used to make cans was HUGE source of profit for steel mills, far more than anything else.  As an example, there was a US Steel mill in Pittsburg CA that received sheet steel from Utah (DRGW/WP) to treat the metal for use in making cans.  AFAIK it was pretty much all the plant did.

There were canneries everywhere which meant there were also lots of can manufacturing plants ready to receive flat sheet steel..  Lots of freight traffic.


Dave Nelson


From: <> On Behalf Of Jim Betz
Sent: Thursday, November 17, 2022 7:39 AM
Subject: [RealSTMFC] Canning - was Re: Baggage cars in freight trains



  Yes, there were can plants distributed all over the U.S.  They took in steel
(or other) and put out cans and the lids to go on them.  There was one in
Seattle (Continental Can) and another in Oakland (Con again), etc.
  The canneries received cans stacked but loose in large cardboard boxes
(no separators) ... of about a 1000 (IIRC) cans per box.  The box was
put into a machine that emptied them into rectangular metal "tubes" formed
out of rods that directed the cans - by gravity flow - down to the canning
machines.                                                                       - Nostalgic Jim in the PNW

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