Tour of Domino Sugar in Baltimore

The iconic sign – Baltimore, Maryland

Today I’m writing about the iconic Domino Sugar refinery in the Inner Harbor of Baltimore, Maryland. Why? Because the refinery – which processes 14% of the sugar used by the entire country annually – had a massive three-alarm fire that broke out three-days ago. The blaze totally destroyed the main raw sugar storage shed – called “the sugar shack” by employees – and there were initial reports about the fire damaging other parts of the facility, concerns which have since eased as the refinery resumed limited operations a day later. The total amount of damage has not yet been declared, because the blaze is still being investigated, but it’s safe to say that operations there will be impacted to some extent. Here is the best video I could find of the fire, and the ensuing collapse of the sugar shed – captured by a local news helicopter just as the structure fell (see it at the 2:49 mark).

Anyone familiar with Baltimore knows about the Domino Sugar facility, located in the Locust Point neighborhood on the Inner Harbor. The “Domino Sugars” sign dominates the skyline both day and night, even though the refinery is so quiet that it appears to be closed. And that’s what brings me to the title of this post. Even though there is little to no external activity visible to most observers, this Domino Sugar refinery is one of the biggest producers of sugar products on the entire East Coast – employing 510 full-time workers and processing some 6.5 million pounds (2.948 million kg) of raw cane sugar every day. The company is quoted as saying that their two other refineries – located in New York and Louisiana – will be able to cover for the Baltimore facility until it’s able to resume full operations again.

I was fortunate enough to participate in one of the rare public tours offered by the company back in April 2015, rare because Domino Sugar doesn’t offer regular public tours of the facility – they only seem to offer the tours once every year or two, and finding out about them in advance is nearly impossible. That said, here are the images that I’m able to share; I state it that way because the company is very security conscious, we were only allowed to take photos in a few specific locations, and all faces of visitors and employees had to be removed.

The beginning of the tour – Baltimore, Maryland

We walked through the grounds between the buildings to the main raw sugar storage shed – the sugar shack – and were allowed to take photos of the amazing sight inside, where as much as 60 million pounds (27 million kg) of raw, unrefined sugar can be stored at any one time.

Conveyors transporting raw sugar inside the sugar shack – Baltimore, Maryland

I had taken my 35mm film camera to record photos of the tour, but there was so much raw sugar particulate floating in the air that I was concerned about damaging my gear – so I put it away and used my iPhone for all photos after that. When looking at the images, it appears that there’s fog inside the structure – it’s not fog, but actually high amounts of airborne raw sugar dust.

Massive piles of raw sugar inside the sugar shack – Baltimore, Maryland
More massive piles of raw sugar inside the sugar shack – Baltimore, Maryland

Anyone concerned about industrial safety and the flammability of sugar can tell you that working in such an environment is tricky, though Domino went to great lengths to keep the risk to a minimum. And anyone familiar with the sugar industry will tell you that fires at sugar refineries are an unfortunate regular occurrence.

Part of the transport system inside the sugar shack – Baltimore, Maryland
The tour group leaving the sugar shack – Baltimore, Maryland

One of the impressive aspects of the sugar shack is that once the raw sugar is unloaded from the massive cargo ships and piled within the structure, the raw sugar is moved by large end-loaders to wherever it’s needed.

The piers for unloading raw sugar from the massive cargo ships – Baltimore, Maryland

Another staggering statistic is that over 40 of the huge vessels dock here every year and unload their cargo – or roughly one massive cargo ship every 9 days. The image above shows the piers where the sugar is unloaded by cranes using buckets – 10,000 pounds per bucket – which seems archaic, until you understand that the raw sugar has to be carefully handled so it doesn’t melt into big chunks that can’t be used. Everything in the facility is built around the fact that sugar is a delicate, highly flammable product with a low melting point.

When walking around the grounds with the tour group, the aroma of sugar and crème brûlée (melted sugar) walked through the air. We also found walking to be a little challenging because there were large chunks of sugar scattered underfoot all over the place. I had hoped we could take photos of the production lines inside the refinery – but that was forbidden – so instead here are some official videos of what it looks like inside.

Once we completed the interior tour, we were led to the roof of the refinery to see the huge neon sign that the building is famous for and to see the panoramic views of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

The panoramic view from the top of the refinery – Baltimore, Maryland

I hope this post helps to show why people in and around Baltimore love Domino Sugar and hope the best for the company.


Photo info:
All images recorded during the refinery tour
Domino Sugar refinery in the Inner Harbor
Baltimore, Maryland
April 2015
Apple iPhone 6S

Status of the Blooms & Earth Day

Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) – Poolesville, Maryland

So many blooms are bursting forth now that it’s impossible to keep up with all of them. Instead, I’ll just show some of my favorites from the area where we live, with these photos that I recorded yesterday during my daily walk around town. In case you haven’t guessed, spring is one of my favorite times of the year – with all the birds singing, the flowers blooming, and fresh scents in the air. It’s a marvelous time!

The fragrant and gorgeous wisteria vines are blooming both by the town hall and the library, and carpenter bees are swarming all around the blossoms by the hundreds. The redbud trees are blooming everywhere that I know of — an explosion of bright vibrate pink amidst the fresh spring greens. Many — but not all — of the dogwood trees are blooming in the area, with their showy whites and delicate pinks. And lastly, the more earthy Jack-in-the-Pulpit plants, their dark greens and browns hidden in the shadowy parts of the woods.

P.S. – Happy Earth Day!

Redbud (Cercis canadensis) blossoms – Poolesville, Maryland
Dogwood (Cornus florida) blossom with friend – Poolesville, Maryland
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) – Poolesville, Maryland

Photo info:
Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) blooms
Poolesville, Maryland
April 2021
Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO Macro lens
Sony a7 III digital camera

Photo info:
Redbud (Cercis canadensis) blossoms
Poolesville, Maryland
April 2021
Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO Macro lens
Sony a7 III digital camera

Photo info:
Dogwood (Cornus florida) blossom with friend
Poolesville, Maryland
April 2021
Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO Macro lens
Sony a7 III digital camera

Photo info:
Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)
Poolesville, Maryland
April 2021
Voigtländer 65/2.0 APO Macro lens
Sony a7 III digital camera

The Ghost Town of Centralia

Graffiti – Centralia, Pennsylvania

For anyone wanting a weird and unsettling experience, I have just the place for you – Centralia, Pennsylvania. At one point during my youth in the 1970’s, I lived only 100 miles (160 km) from Centralia, but I never knew it existed until about a decade ago. Centralia has since been rediscovered by the Interweb crowd, and a lot has been posted online about it – including an official web page – so I won’t bore you with repetitive details. Just suffice to say that it’s goosebump creepy, and totally worth a visit when the leaves are off the trees — for heightened creepiness.


Photo info:
Graffiti on the guardrails
Centralia, Pennsylvania
November 2013
Sony 10-18/4.0 ASPH lens
Sony NEX-5R digital camera