View Full Version : American Can, Fairport New York

Liger Zero
08-20-2010, 06:43 PM
I was exploring the old American Can plant in Fairport, opened up a couple of old power boxes....



April, 1942. Absolutly amazing...

There is some abandoned equipment up in the overheads, we're going up there to take a look next week. We spotted some books up there and several control panels overhead as well...

Most of the plant is empty, they carved parts of it up as a business incubator but like I said mostly empty.

It is amazing walking through here... the lighting through the dormers overhead early in the morning.

One room, where they did the rollers and "rubber dies" was full of explosion-proof fixtures. OLD ceramic and heavy metal over glass explosion-fixtures.

I'll be bringing my camera next week so I can get some decent pictures of the old machinery. Apparently they ran right up to 1987 then Primerica shut them down *click* and walked away from the property.

08-20-2010, 08:02 PM
As I recall a finance man by the name of Gerald Tsi (sp). Took over American Can. Turned it into a finance corp. That was all the rage back in those years. When I was in Scouts in the early 1960,s one of the fathers who worked there, took us on a tour of the American Can plant in Seattle. Quite an operation. They were making tin cans for Oly beer. among other cans.

Liger Zero
08-20-2010, 08:11 PM
As I recall a finance man by the name of Gerald Tsi (sp). Took over American Can. Turned it into a finance corp. That was all the rage back in those years. When I was in Scouts in the early 1960,s one of the fathers who worked there, took us on a tour of the American Can plant in Seattle. Quite an operation. They were making tin cans for Oly beer. among other cans.
Yeah they became Primerica.

This place is huge, it dominates Fairport's downtown, the smokestack doubles as a cell-repeater... Needs a good coat of paint.

You can see the back boiler house stack still says CANCO, the main stack says "AMERICAN CAN CO" and has a logo on it.


Zoom in, the part we are exploring is midway between "Viva Foam" and "Fulkerson Services"

08-20-2010, 08:20 PM
I was working for National Can when we got bought by Triangle Industries in 1985 or so. The following year they also bought American Can and formed American National Can. Shortly afterwards they started consolidating the capacity. In other words, got rid of the excess production - by shutting plants and laying off lots of people. It was a pretty grim time to work there. It's all about that time when they terminated the old retirement plans and moved to 401K's. Yeah, that worked out really well too....

I bailed out in 1987 before the rolling layoffs got to me and went with a division of one of the competitors - Continental Can. That division got sold a couple of years later to Figgie and the roller coaster ride started again.

It's really sad. That was once a truly innovative industry. It's now a shadow of its former self. They gutted an entire industry just so a handful of execs could make a lot of money. Everyone else - thousands upon thousands of people got royally screwed. Very, very sad.

Liger Zero
08-20-2010, 08:24 PM
Can you identify any of the machinery listed on those sheets? For example what is a Tennis Ball End Machine? Recovery Press? Recovery Slitter? "thermoler?"

I know what a scroll shear is... Looked that up myself. :)

08-20-2010, 09:24 PM
Love plundering old plants,always something intresting inside.

We had a Standard Container plant here in town,did mostly cans for Folgers coffe in NOLA.They were put down by blow moulded plastic cans,same as many can and bottle mfgs.

08-20-2010, 09:33 PM
While I worked mostly on the "modern" lines our development group did do some work for the older lines. So I'm not as familiar with the older lines and equipment, but here is a "quick" run down of typical cans and equipment:

Modern pop / beer cans are known in the industry as "2 piece". The body is extruded from a preformed cup of aluminum into the shape we think of today as a pop can. The end with the "pop top" is called.... "the end". It is also made from aluminum.

The cans that came prior to that were known as "3 piece". The body and the two ends were made from steel. Before the easy open beverage cans both ends were the same and needed a can opener to get the contents out. Since this plant was from 1942 and closed in 1987 it was probably always a 3 piece plant and never modernized into a hybrid or dedicated 2 piece plant.

Cans can range in size from beverage cans to gallon paint cans or larger, they all used the same basic equipment to make them.

The bodies were made from flat sheet of lithographed plated steel stock. The coiled sheet is run through the slitter to bring the pieces down to size for forming the body. After the slitter, the blank is conveyed to the "body maker". An interesting piece of equipment where the blank is loaded onto a forming horn. Wings pivot down to form the sheet around the forming horn, produce the locking seam and lock the seam. Paint cans would also go through the "ear clincher" prior to the forming horn to get the ears (mounts) for the bale (handle) installed.

From there the basic can body is conveyed to the solder pot. That's nothing more than a trough filled with molten solder on the bottom, a transfer roll in the middle and the can body on top. As the can goes through the solder pot the rotating transfer roll picks up a thin layer of solder and wipes it onto the can body as it passes through. Of course there are big burners to keep all the solder melted and able to transfer to the can. An interesting side note is the transfer rolls were mounted on commercial ball bearings that had the seals and grease removed (they'd burn up otherwise). A burner was aimed at each bearing. The molten solder was actually used as the lubricant.

From there the body would go to the flanger where a flange was spun onto the body ends. It would then go to a seamer where one end would be put on, usually the bottom. If it was a beverage type can it was done and ready to get palletized and sent to the filling plant where the contents were added and second end seamed on. A paint can would also get the top ring put on and then the bale (handle).

A number of plants were built right next door to the primary end user. Often a conveyor ran from the can plant directly to the filler next door. Sometimes with a cross street under the conveyor! Of course later this was ruled in court as unfair competition because no one else could compete on the same price point.

A "Tennis Ball End Machine" is the stamping press that made the ends specific to tennis ball cans.

Not sure what the "recovery press" or "recovery slitter" were specifically used for. Likewise "Thermoler" draws a blank, but may have something to do with baking the inside spray coat or "lacquer" coat to cure it before the wet finish would pick up dust and thereby contaminating any food product filling the can.

Can plants used a lot of slang for equipment names and lines. It might be named by function, by the manufacturer of the original equipment (even if it later changed to a competitor) or the guy who invented it. In a two piece plant the machine that makes the preformed cups could be known as the "cupper" or the Minster Press (mfg.). It could be a "body maker" or Standun (mfg.) or B2 or B3 (models).

Lines were often color coded. In National Can hybrid plants the 3 piece lines were always painted a sickly pea soup green. 2 piece lines were painted an insipid baby blue. We always theorized they picked the most atrocious colors possible so people wouldn't steal the cans of paint to use at home! The advantage was it was always easy to tell where the equipment belonged and what it was for.

Liger Zero
08-20-2010, 10:06 PM

Thank you for explaining. American Can started out as Sanitary Can Corporation... They claim on a historical marker that the "metal sanitary can was invented here in 1901." Before that the building housed a preserving company, and there were at least two other preserving companies in the town... that's why they built the can lines here.

Anyway... Thank you for the descriptions of the machinery and process, now I'll be able to figure out what some of the machinery is here.

08-20-2010, 11:03 PM
LZ: I knew I liked you for a reason!

I've been exploring old buildings and structures since I was fourteen. Found some interesting stuff over the years.

Coincidently I almost went into an old american can plant here in PA that my father in law worked at years ago. As soon as I realized that id had been tunred into a trucking warehouse and was now just one big empty room, I went home.

Last weekend I was in the abandoned Navan Air Warefare Development center in New Jersey. They tested jet engines there years ago, now it's cleared out except for gigantic air ducts and huge mufflers that extend out the roof and look like smoke stacks.

Some pics are here: NOT MY PICS - NOT ME (http://www.flickr.com/photos/stanggt3/sets/72157603655313073/)

He has one picture in there of a big Chicago Pneumatic compressor. Sadly, isn't CP a store-brand of Harbor Freight now?

Liger Zero
08-20-2010, 11:22 PM
I visited Photech Rochester last year... Photech made off-brand photograph paper, film and chemicals. They shut down suddenly in 1992 I think it was.

I was thinking they made Wal-Mart product and were Everyday Low Price'd out of the water but that's just speculation. Happens often enough.

How suddenly? There were drums of unopened chemicals at the lines Material still on winders, coating lines still strung up. One line was still energized, the panel was still lit the only thing stopping the machine was the E-Stop button and a "Error: Compressed Air Low" message.

Certain power lines were energized as we found out... lights were still on in some areas... oddly enough the damaged/exposed areas at that.

Warehouse full of chemicals, product and WIP. Forklifts parked on chargers... all rotted to hell.

The chemical blending room, I didn't poke around but aside from the rat **** and bird stains the tanks were still shiny and one assumes full of chemicals.

Sections of the roof throughout the complex had fallen in due to neglect and our severe winters.

Administrative offices were FULL of paperwork, there was unopened mail on some desks!

Plant is being torn down now as I speak, it should all be gone by now.

As it was abandoned I took a couple clean glass flasks from the lab and a Photech coffee-cup from an office. Wish I had taken some "product" now it's all gone.

Next on my list of buildings to explore is the old Bee Bee Station. Tiny 75 megawatt coal fired plant/experimental coal-gassification project in the middle of Rochester. I have access thanks to a friend.

Liger Zero
08-28-2010, 04:56 PM
Some pictures from American Can. I didn't get to go "inside" so I shot some pictures with my camera through a broken window. This is one of the boiler rooms.

Didn't go inside without my the rest of my "team." If I fall or something I could be in there for days. Safety first!


Liger Zero
08-28-2010, 04:59 PM
A generator:




Just eyeballing it, looks to be in ok condition from the outside.

Wonder if I can get them to part with it, might be a worthwhile restoration project... if not... well the copper in the generator might be worth something.

This generator, as far as I can tell... is a backup for JUST the boiler house as the lines connect to a big yellow box next to the expansion-tank/circulating pumps.

Liger Zero
08-28-2010, 05:06 PM
The boilers themselves:

Erie City Ironworks #1462 UNIT TWO





I want to open that door on the boiler and poke the cam up inside. After being exposed to the elements for so long though it's more than likely full of yellow-jackets. (oh no!!)

Got photos of the boiler, the boiler room, what I assume is the burner control and the equally defunct UNIT ONE.

Liger Zero
08-28-2010, 05:14 PM
This is what I assume to be circulating and feed-water control. Its connected to that generator at the big yellow box.


You get an idea of the layout from this shot.


There are some BIG pumps and pipes here.


Wait, is this thing on?! (oh no!!)

I am told this is one of two power-boiler houses, this is connected to the smaller brick stack that says "CANCO" all the way at the rear of the plant.

I was told the other one was gutted, but the stack remains. That's the huge main stack that dominates Fairport's skyline. Haven't gotten access to that portion of the plant as it is occupied by Viva Foam.

All these were taken by a camera through a broken window. I have access but didn't go in, as I said if I fall or something falls on me it could be a long time before help comes.

Can't wait to get inside. *grin*