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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Got Gas

So far as is known, Johnstown's first gas station was located on Maple Avenue at the site of the old Atlantic Refining Company warehouse. That its role as a filling station developed more by accident than design. 
When Atlantic opened their bulk plant on Maple Avenue in 1892, gasoline was just a by-product rather than the basic commodity of the petroleum industry. The principal product sold was kerosene along with a variety of lubricating oils for industrial use. 

In those days the kerosene was delivered to the plant in railroad tank cars which held several thousand gallons. But gas, being a less important item on the sales list, was delivered to the local plant in 50-gallon barrels. The principal use of gasoline at the time was for torch lights and to a lesser extent, in some stoves. 

When cars arrived on the scene there weren't any gas stations, as such in the Johnstown area. Which meant drivers had to go the Maple Avenue plant to fill up. A few years later the Freedom Oil Company opened a bulk plant at the end of Oak Street near the Stonycreek River and it likewise became a popular stopping place for the city's early motorists. 

Ordinary hand buckets were used to refuel the early auto's. The buckets were filled from the 50-gallon barrels and the gas was funneled into the vehicle. A chamois skin was used to cover the mouth of the funnel to strain out any foreign objects.
As the use of cars grew, retail outlets for gasoline began to pop up throughout the city. 

Just where the first full-time station was located is now unknown. But some of the early stations were: opposite the Glosser Building on Franklin along at the site of the old Pringle's Garage on Franklin Street - the pumps at these early station had a one-gallon capacity.

While the new retail stations depended on cars for their business they were also dependent - in another respect - on the horse and wagon. In those days the automotive industry hadn't advanced to the point where tank trucks were used to make wholesale deliveries to the stations. So ironically, when a retail dealer placed an order for more supplies it was delivered in barrels a top a horse-drawn wagon.

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