Saturday, May 3, 2014

How ConJelCo Got Its Name

One of the questions I'm occasionally asked is what ConJelCo stands for. It turns out that it stands for the Consolidated Jelatin Company, Jelatin being a brand name of gelatin. Of course there is more to it than that.

The Beginnings of Conjelco

Around 1977 some friends of mine (who will remain nameless unless they choose to come forward) were riding a train across Canada. They were sitting in the club car and to pass the time started discussing how Canada was known for its vast deposits of jello. As the train passed deposits of raspberry jello they began to embellish the story for the entertainment of passengers who happened to overhear them. They described a vast conglomerate, Conjelco, that owned all of the jello mines in the world.

Over the next months the story was embellished and made the rounds among a group of friends -- especially those who were together at the 1978 convention of the National Railroad Historical Society. The first meeting of the Conjelco Board of Directors was held in Squamish, BC on the last day of that convention (after a trip behind steam to Pemberton, BC), with those present all inducted into the Loyal Order of the Royal Squam.

British Columbia Railway 2-8-0 3716
British Columbia Railway 2-8-0 3716

The Hopkinsville & Southern

After that meeting I got to thinking that it would be fun to write up some of the stories about Conjelco and see if I could get the article published. I imagined the story of an immigrant to the US who moved West and discovered the, until then, only known deposit of gelatinite (the ore from which jello is refined). He built a railroad to serve the gelatin mine and also built an industry. The story as I wrote it was eventually published in the April 1979 issue of Model Railroader magazine. You can read the story here.

Eventually this article formed the basis of a business case-study that I presented when I was attending Carnegie Mellon University's Graduate School of Industrial Administration to obtain my MBA.

The Pittsburgh Subway T-Shirt Company

In 1985 the Port Authority of Allegheny County opened the subway that runs from the Pan Handle Bridge across the Monongahela river to Stanwix and Liberty Streets replacing the on-the-street running that (supposedly) tied up downtown traffic. They named it the "T".
One of the last existing shirts
Since the whole system was less than a mile I thought a name like the "T" was, shall we say, pretentious...worthy of a much bigger system. So I decided to design a parody T-shirt along the lines of the London tube map shirts. The resulting shirt showed three rivers, the one mile rail line, and five stations. I ran an ad in a local alternative newspaper and sold over 100 of the shirts using the company name "The Pittsburgh Subway T-Shirt Company". It was only after I had paid the fees and ran the legal ads to be able to use this name that I realized that it was somewhat limiting...if I wanted to sell other things I could not reasonably use that same name.

ConJelCo the Publishing Company

So it was that when I decided to start a company to publish and sell books and software I needed to come up with a new name, re-file all the forms, and pay for ads, etc. I looked for a name that would not be suggestive of any particular product and I thought that Conjelco would fit that bill. I decided to idiosyncratically spell it ConJelCo

So now you know. Aren't you glad you asked?


  1. Thanks for the reflections, Chuck. Interesting stories, well writen, good picts. Weinstock Express is now on the tracks.

  2. I always tell people that Conjelco is short for the Consolidated Gelatonite Company, since jello comes from gelatonite ore. An amazing number of people believe this. At least for a minute....