Until 1951-52, Drapers heated the whole factory with coke and coal to develop steam. All the schools, town
hall, Community House, library, Unitarian Church, Patrick’s Store and the drug store building were heated by
underground steam pipes from Drapers
All these town and public buildings were heated by Drapers at no cost to the town. This is what I was told by
Drapers built the 150,000-gallon tank in the lower rail yard. This was in 1951. They would bring No. 6 bunker
oil by rail to replace coke and coal to develop steam. Drapers did build the tank properly with steam pipes
inside of the tank to heat the oil to 80 degrees. To store it, 80 degrees; to burn it you have to heat in to around
120 degrees. In the winter the oil was pumped every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from the large tank in
the lower yard to a smaller tank in the boiler room that was located near the dam on Freedom Street, to be
heated to over 120 degrees so it could be burned.
What Drapers failed to do was check out the shipping and unloading process by rail. My old boss, Joe Silva,
was the man hauling the No. 2 oil and kerosene to Hopedale Coal & Ice from Providence by tank truck. He
told me that when the first tank cars, three of them, arrived in Draper’s rail yard, it had taken four or five days
to get there, in very cold weather. The temperature of the bunker oil in the rail cars dropped dramatically. The
cars went from Providence through Connecticut to Worcester. They were dropped in the Worcester yard,
moved to Grafton, dropped there and then picked up by Draper’s engine and brought to Hopedale. Rail tanks
are not insulated. Draper’s hadn’t set up a process to unload rail tankers.
Joe Silva told me that Draper people spent over a week trying to offload the oil and never emptied one car.
They sent them back to Providence loaded. Joe explained to Mr. Hall who ran HC&I that he could haul it by
truck. It only took an hour or so to load in Providence or Boston and get to Hopedale. In an hour you lost one
or two degrees hauling a 6,000-gallon load. HC&I got Joe financing and he bought a new tanker and tractor.
Because of Drapers messing up, Joe got a good deal and a good job for me.
At that time I had just got married and was living in Milford. I had never met Joe until the day he showed up at
my front door and asked me to drive for him, hauling the bunker oil. I worked for him for five years. One of the
perks of living in Hopedale – the people never knew that the public buildings were heated for nothing. If
you're complaining about the 2/3,000 gallons of oil you buy to heat your home, how would you like to pay
Draper’s oil bill for one year?
I used to haul three loads a day, 6,000 gallons each time, six days a week, which equaled 108,000 gallons –
five winter months, a little over a half million gallons. John Cembruch, 2009
IF THERE IS SOMEONE OUT THER WHO KNOWS WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 150,000 GALLON TANK, I’D
LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. (John Cembruch - firstname.lastname@example.org )
March 30, 2009 – I got a very interesting phone call. Mr. Phil Shwachman, First American Realty, Worcester,
called me (owner of Draper property) today and we had a very interesting conversation. Mr. Shwachman
explained what happened to the 150,000-gallon oil tank.
When they took over the Draper property, the tank and been three-quarters empty for quite a few years and
not used anymore. Kids had evidently got to the top of the tank and left the dome covers open and through
the years the tank had accumulated a lot of rainwater. This had caused the tank to rust. First American Realty
must have spent a fortune cleaning up the mess that Rockwell International had left behind. If a company
tried to do that today, someone would go to jail and the company would pay millions in fines…and then they
would have to clean up the mess.
Draper, Rockwell and the first investment company (I don’t know their name) that bought the Draper plant
from Rockwell left Hopedale with a huge environmental mess. With all the new environmental laws passed
in the last thirty years, Hopedale would have had a very expensive problem. The people of Hopedale should
give First American Realty a BIG thank you for cleaning up someone else’s mess and saving the town a lot of
More memories of John Cembruch Draper Menu HOME
The Big Oil Tank in Draper’s Lower Yard:
How It Came and How It Went
By John Cembruch