Mirro-Craft Boats from Manitowoc


Mirrocraft 1961 ad

1963 Mirro-Craft advertisement from fiberglassics.com.

Reading Central Artery’s excellent Grafton and Upton 1965 freight flow page, I became intrigued by six shipments of motorboats from Mirro Aluminum of Manitowoc, Wisconsin and decided to try to find where these shipments originated.  And so the search began.

CO 272206 Manitowoc WI Hopedale MA Mirro Aluminum Motor Boats CO-susbr-NYC-ngraf
CO 272206 Manitowoc WI Hopedale MA Mirro Aluminum Motor Boats CO-susbr-LV-easton-LHR-mbk-NH-milf-GU
CO 272247 Manitowoc WI Hopedale MA Mirro Aluminum Motor Boats CO-susbr-NYC-ngraf
CO 272281 Manitowoc WI Hopedale MA Mirro Aluminum Motor Boats CO-susbr-LV-easton-LHR-mbk-NH-milf-GU
CO 272297 Manitowoc WI Hopedale MA Mirro Aluminum Motor Boats CO-susbr-NYC-ngraf
CO 272333 Manitowoc WI Hopedale MA Mirro Aluminum Motor Boats CO-susbr-LV-easton-LHR-mbk-NH-milf-GU

The shipments from Central Artery’s spreadsheet.  All of the cars are from the same C&O series, suggesting there may have been a pool assigned to this service. 

Mirro Aluminum was originally the Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company with several plants in Manitowoc and nearby Two Rivers, all of them located on the Chicago and North Western.  (There may have been other plant locations at various times as well.)  They became famous for their Mirro line of aluminum cookware and changed their name to Mirro Aluminum at the end of 1957.

An internet search quickly revealed a recently torn down factory building in the heart of Manitowoc.  The complex was impressive, and Sanborn maps revealed what was probably a very interesting railroad scene in the first half of the 20th century.

Plant 2 Sanborn Map

Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Co. Plant 2 1927 Sanborn map from Library of Congress.

I thought the track arrangement with 16th Street cutting through the middle of the complex was pretty appealing, and the building itself makes an impressive appearance.

Mirro Plant 2

You can see the bricked in entrance and two tall remaining doors that would have accommodated the five tracks shown in the map above.  Photo from Wisconsin Historical Society.

Mirro Rolling Mill (west side of 16th street)

The west side of 16th Street was where the rolling mill was located.  From the July 1955 Mixing Bowl found on the Wisconsin Historical Society site.

Mirro July 1936

Mirro Plant 2 (at the time Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Co.), July 1936 from Wisconsin Historical Society.

But as the 1969 aerial photo shows below, by then four of the tracks across 16th street had been removed, and the remaining track appears to be unused as a new addition to the rolling mill building has covered the track.  A boxcar appears to be spotted on the lead into the west side building, however. 

Mirro started manufacturing boats in 1959, so perhaps the west side expansion was to accommodate this manufacturing. 

Mirro 1969 aerialMirro Plant 2, 1969 aerial photo from USGS.gov.

Mirro Plant 2 Google Streetview

The last surviving track across 16th street remains in the pavement in this Google Street View image.

But… this was not the plant where the boats were manufactured.  Further reading revealed that Plant 3 about a mile west was where the boats were designed and manufactured.  From the Wisconsin Historical Society:

This five story manufacturing building was originally built by the Aluminum Goods Manufacturing Company in 1929. In 1958, Plant #3 became the production location for the new Mirro-Craft welded aluminum runabout pleasure boat. Production of the Mirro-Craft runabout continued in Plant #3 until 1962 when production was moved to a new facility. The building was leased to several tenants for various manufacturing and warehousing purposes in the 1960s.

Mirro Plant 3 Google Streetview

Mirro Plant 3 from Google Street View.  The plant appears to have had three car spots.  “Plant 3” and “Aluminum Goods Mfg. Co.” remain visible. 

Mirro Plant 3 1969 aerial

Mirro Plant 3 where Mirro-Craft were briefly manufactured until 1962. 1969 aerial photo from USGS.gov.

So the 1965 Grafton & Upton bound shipments did not begin their journey at this location either.  While I have not found a definitive answer, I expect that production was moved to the new Plant 5 located northeast of Manitowoc on C&NW’s Two Rivers branch.  From the Manitowoc County Historical Society’s “Occupational Monograph 18: History of Aluminum Industry in Manitowoc”:

In an effort to establish a growth pattern and carry out a policy of continuing warranted expansion, the company acquired a 104 acre site between Manitowoc and Two Rivers to be used for future building expansion.  Within the next two years the first unit (Plant 5) of the new building expansion was erected in 1955 and used as a central Receiving and Supply Department.  A second unit was added in 1956 which is currently being used for warehousing and part for manufacturing.

In August 1957, the company announced its plans to erect a new $12 million rolling mill adjacent to Plant 5.

…In 1963 a new Customer Service Center was completed on the company’s 104 acre tract northeast of Manitowoc, adjacent to Plant 5 and the Rolling Mill.  This 362 x 717 building provides central shipping and product storage facilities for all Mirro manufacturing plants.

I have not found a definitive source that states the Mirro-Craft manufacturing was moved to Plant 5, but I would bet that this is where the 1965 carloads originated.  Finding this proved to be a bit more of a challenge than I expected!

Mirro Plant 5 1976 aerial

Mirro Plant 5, 1976 aerial photo from USGS.gov

The availability of GN consists online led me to search if any of their aluminum traffic went to Mirro.  And indeed it did.  Here are shipments I found:

GN 17407, Train 1/88, 1-3-1968
GN 3910, Train 82, 2-9-1968
CNW 23753, Train 82, 3-13-1968
GN 17775, Train 1/88, 4-19-1968
GN 17724, Train 1/88, 4-19-1968