Friday, March 17, 2017


Not much to report on the steel mill front, but I was doing some preliminary work on my future sinter plant and thought the technique involved might be useful.   The sinter plant is going to occupy a sliver of real estate against a backdrop and essentially cover up a hole that is needed for access to a concealed section of track.   I'm using the Bethlehem Steel sinter plant as a lose prototype for the structure.   One of the elements of the Bethlehem Sinter plant was a bank of storage silos for raw materials.  Storage silos always make for good backdrop structures as there is rarely a single silo - usually a half dozen or more.  Prototypes can range from glass making, grain, portland cement, coal, sand mining, and more no doubt.     Of course, for the budget minded modeler, PVC piping offers a cheap material modeling and comes in a variety of diameters.    Cutting PVC to length is simple on any chop saw - cuts easy and you should be able to get nice smooth, receptive cuts.    The trick is when you need a half section of pipe.  Cutting this can either be very tedious or very dangerous.    Besides the obvious alignment problems (cutting perfect halves) there is a serious danger of kick-back if you try to cut on a table saw.   There is a bit of tension in the plastic and cutting it can cause it to press against the blade excessively.  

Cutting halves can be a breeze on a table saw.  The trick is turning the round pipe into something with a square section.    The first step is to use a ruler, tape, or easiest, the pipe itself to set the fence of your table saw to the exact outside diameter of the pipe.   Take some scrap 3/4" plywood and cut square pieces - two for each piece of pipe you are cutting.    Using a hot glue gun, glue one of the blocks to the end of the pipe, fitting it perfectly onto the end.  Then place the block and pipe on a flat surface and glue on the other block, using the surface to ensure exact alignment with the level plane.    Now you have essentially turned a pipe into a square block of wood.  

Set the saw blade height just slightly higher than the wall thickness of the PVC pipe and set the fence so blade is exactly centered on diameter of pipe (and width of wood blocks)    All that is left is to turn on the saw and run the assembly through once and then flip it and run it through again.   Since you are only cutting slightly into the wood, the glue and the block will maintain the structural integrity of the pipe until all the cutting is complete.    Just knock the blocks off with a hammer and you will have two perfect half pipe sections.  NOTE - knock sideways with hammer.  Hot glue has a decent amount of tensile strength (pulling object away from glued surface) but not much sheer strength (hitting it sideways)    The blocks should pop right off.

Sunday, January 1, 2017


My favorite paper model company, Scale Scenes, recently issued a Clyde Puffer kit.  This small steam ship is clearly a British prototype, as are most of their kits, but it's a neat looking and it's small size will fit nicely in my harbor.  If I had to justify it as being prototypical, it could be used by one of the many small brickyards along the  Raritan and South Rivers to supply their kilns with coal and move their products to market.  A little further stretch would be the vessel plied the Delaware and Raritan Canal between New Brunswick and Trenton, perhaps hauling pig iron or steel ingots from my steel mill to Roebling Steel in Trenton.
Sealing ink jet prints

These kits are relatively inexpensive - less than $10 usually.   Purchased online, you receive a digital file - PDF format.   On some of the structure kits, you will need to select the type of masonry exterior.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      The PDF are in OO scale (1/76).  This English version of HO can by converted by printing out at 87% (just a coincidence)
A typical sheet 

After printing out the sheets, and the instructions too, I first spray everything with a clear mat varnish.  You might be able to skip this step with a laser print, but always seal ink-jet.    The pieces are organized in groups - some will need to be glued to different thicknesses of cardboard.   The instructions are very well done and include photos.
The core of the vessel

I was pretty happy with the final result.  It's entirely paper with the exception of styrene rods for the mast and boom, and I added handrails around the stern from the Central Valley Fencing assortment.   The model was weathered with  chalk.

Finished vessel, weathered with chalk - hold filled with lump coal..
This was another fun Scale Scenes kit, with a fairly realistic result.  Some of the printed details will jump out on close examination.  The weathering helps a little.   If you are thinking about trying paper modeling, Scale Scenes has a few free kits - try one first.  

Sunday, December 18, 2016


The first review is another recent book by SMRR author Stephen M. Timko.  Surprisingly this appeared in my local hobby shop at the same time as the latest SMRR Volume (Reviewed in Previous Blog)    This is a paperback and not like the usual Morning Sun products with it's landscape format.   The books content is along the lines with what I'd hoped to see more of in the SMRR books - mill photos, equipment, and more, along, or course with the standard locomotive shots.    There are many pieces of unique equipment in the book that shout out to be modeled.   The photos are organized by mill, however, at least the first half of the book are Canadian steel mills.   Morning Sun or the author appeared to obtain a large collection of photos from the Steelco Plant in Hamilton, Ontario.   Overall with the cheaper price and higher percentage of photos useful to a steel mill modeler, it's worth it to purchase for your library.

In another coincidence, the second book is written by the author of another book I reviewed it the last blog.   This book, Palazzos of Power is by Joseph Elliot, the author of The Steel.   I liked how this book, about the second generation power plants of the Philadelphia Electric Company,  was organized much more than The Steel.   Besides the arty photos, there is a very well done section of text, by Aaron V. Wunsch,  on the history of these visually impressive plants.   A lot of the photos were taken as part of the HAER documentation of three of PECO's generating stations.    The hardbound book was a very reasonable $30.

A Sunday drive to nearby Bucks County, PA, to look at a house, led to a leisurely drive home along the Delaware River on back roads.   Despite the foul weather we passed a few rare locomotive finds.   In Morrisville, PA, the last remaining operational EMD NW-3, still switches a chemical plant.  There were less than 10 of these locomotives produced in the late 30's - very early 40's.  Most or all were purchased by the Great Northern.   The longer frame than most EMD switches was to allow for a steam generator and a larger enclosed cab.   Not exactly a steel mill locomotive, but would look at home at a mill.

Just down the road from the NW-3, sitting in the yard just at the entrance to the former USS Fairless works was a Fairbanks Morse  H-12-44.  This former USS locomotive was leased out to a few different local industries after the mill was closed.  After breaking down in the mid 2000's it was purchased by an individual who aimed to repair it and put it back into service as a leased unit.  Given it's location just outside the former mill, it might be about to be moved.    The locomotive still has a remote control system attached and one side of the cab is covered with steel plate.   Somewhere I think I read that Fairless liked FMs as they had better traction for the steep incline into the open hearth.    Fairless had no BOF and used open hearths right up to closure in 1991.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


 Three recent purchases with short reviews

SMRR Volume 7  by Stephen Timko

Ok, as usual, the cover photo got me and since they are wrapped in plastic......  I'd sworn I wasn't going to purchase another of these based on a disappointing last few Volumes, but with some time past I took the leap again.   The cover photo was one of the few interesting shots in this book.  Once again, diesel money shots predominate, along with the lineage of each diesel.  I guess when I was in my 20's that sort of thing used to interest me.  I've since grown out of it and am looking for more information about things other than the machine that lugged the cars around - I want to know more about the cars being lugged around and why and for what purpose.   If you like diesels, specifically steel mill diesels, pick it up, but if you are looking for detailed information about the steel industry you aren't going to find much of use.   And if you are going to email to call me fat or an asshole for writing a bad review about this specific author, don't waste my time, I already know I am both.

THE STEEL, by Joseph Elliot

This is an expensive ($60) photo book of Bethlehem Steel's last days (the Bethlehem, PA plant)   Photos are very nice.  Book was a must buy for me, but only because some of my primary modeling prototypes are pictured in the book.  The photos are from the 1989 thru 1997, when the plant closed.    My biggest criticism is the arty nature of this book, i.e.. the photos are presented without any captions or text.  There are captions for the photos in an appendix at the end of the book, but they are awkward to use - I copied them to have handy while looking at the photos, but still a bit of a pain.  Also included is an essay by the author about photographing the mill.  There is  second essay by Lance Metz, Bethlehem Steel and canal historian - his usual history/propaganda about how "The Steel" was the center of everything important that happened in American steel making.  

Not exactly anything to do with steel making, but Pennsylvania Railroad Eastern Region Trackside with Frank Konzempel by Robert J. Yanosey  is a recent Morning Sun book well worth purchasing.   Frank Konzempel lived a few towns over from my home, an avid railfan, he started taking color photos in the mid-1950s.  The photos are mostly from the Southern New Jersey/Philadelphia area, but range up to North Jersey out to Harrisburg/Altoona.   There are very good and interesting captions and lots of things included in the photos besides just the locomotives - rolling stock, infrastructure,  operations, etc.   If you model the transition era get this book.   Something I didn't expect was mixed steam/diesel motive power for a period in the 50s on the Pennsy line that runs by my house - and by mixed I mean steam/diesel lash ups (diesel in front due to smoke).    A bonus are photos of the Fort Dix narrow gauge railroad.  This line was built using equipment and track shipped back from Europe after World War One ended.  It was originally part of the United States Army 60cm trench railroad network (There is a good book which I also own on this war zone railroad called Narrow Gauge to No Mans Land)    The primary purpose of the Fort Dix line was to transport soldiers to the rifle and artillery ranges on the base - I believe one of the locomotives is on display there in a museum (I should check sometime as it's 15 minutes away)    Also covered is the last steam on the Pennsy System.  In 1958, the Union Transportation Company, a Pennsy subsidiary that operated from Pemberton to Fort Dix and beyond, still used a small steam engine - the last on the Pennsy system.

Saturday, October 29, 2016


Museum Entrance - Note the 3' Narrow Gauge track in foreground

Greetings all.  Still around.   It's been many months since my last post.  Roughly zero model railroad during that time period, really nothing since last Fall to report.  No prison stay, no insane asylum, just overwhelmed with work.   We opened a new shop in March, which, besides all our general construction work has taken beyond crazy hours to get up and running.  A big chunk of my time was spent building a large CNC machine, and learning the five CAD/CAM programs I'm using to build things on it.

I did host an open house for the local NMRA Division last month.  I realized then how little model railroading I've done this past year.  Usually I end up spending a long night cleaning all the junk off the railroad that I've left there while working on it.  Since no work was done since the previous open house in October of 2015, it was just a matter of cleaning track and vacuuming.  Sad.

The seven day weeks, working 7am to between 12-3am (not an exaggeration)  have lately just began to take a physical and metal toll - I'm stubborn so put up with a lot for much longer than I should.   I resolved last week to make some changes at work - namely take on less than I have been - so I can get back to doing some of the other things I enjoy, like model railroading.   Note, I say "other" as I do enjoy what I do for a living, well the making sawdust part.  The spreadsheets, insurance, contracts, etc... not so much.

I took off a weekend - the first since I think January - and visited Bethlehem, PA to see the recently opened National Museum of Industrial History.   For those of you not familiar with this museum, it's origins date back to the 90s when Bethlehem Steel was closing.  I was involved with the Society for Industrial Archeology back then and within that group there was a proposal to open this museum on the sight of the old steel mill to house large industrial artifacts from the Smithsonian and presumably Bethlehem Steel.   An office was opened and funds raised.  Soon after corruption and nepotism took over the operation and I believed it would never open.   I was surprised when I heard it did.
3' gauge mill engine

The museum is located in the former Bethlehem Steel Electrical Repair Shop.   There is plenty of parking next to the old iron foundry ruins (formerly 19th century Bessemer Building)   You can also walk to the Hoover Mason Highline and walk along the five extant blast furnace complexes - beyond outstanding views if you are a steel mill fan.    Admission to museum is $12. (High Line is free)  

Initial impression - disappointing.  I guess if those scumbags hadn't criminally squandered money for years it could have been better.   The museum houses a mis-mash of industrial machinery and other artifacts.   When you first enter there is a very large Corliss Pumping Engine (neat) and a dozen or so smaller steam engines and industrial wood and metal working machinery.   There were two very fancy woodworking machines from the H.B. Smith Company.  The ruins of this factory are a few miles from my home.   Next are three very cool models of Bethlehem Steel Coke Works, Blast Furnaces, and Open Hearth.  A foundry or open hearth teeming ladle and just a small quantity of Beth Steel artifacts.   Following the steel section, are a few textile machines and artifacts.  Then a sizable section of propane industry models and displays (I think some gas association donated a good chunk of money.  And that it, well inside anyway.  

Outside there is a small fenced off yard with some ladles a winch, a Beth Steel narrow gauge loco - can't get close to any and no signage for anyone to know the significance of what they are looking at. My verdict is to give this museum a chance and see if any outside displays materialize.  My thoughts are this might be as good as it gets.  While the building is "large" it's probably the one of the smallest in the steel complex - too small to house a decent collection of "large artifacts"    Go and see for yourself, but again, the Hoover Mason Highline is worth the trip by itself.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Happy New Year all.  I'm not going to start by whining about all work no play - things continue to be busy for JE Musser Building and Renovations.  We are considering moving out of our shared shop in the old Collingwood Movie Theater (and leased office and studio there also) into our entirely own workshop - just considering, but move would take up even more of my time.  I've been down this road before with a large commercial cabinet shop so know the pluses and minuses,  but  compared to now, I had a considerably smaller operation back then.

I have been sporadically modeling.  On last post I had caught the paper modeling bug.  Upon returning, inspired, from the Paper Modelers Convention I went at it full bore, literally.  There is a plethora of free paper models online that can be downloaded an printed out.  I only have ink jet printers so the prints need to be sealed with a spray varnish prior to working with them otherwise the glue could potentially cause the glue to bleed.   The paper kits (all German, Polish, or Russian) that I purchased at the convention have very high quality paper and printing - well worth the $15 or so.   Back to the "full bore" comment - my first model, a free download, was a 1:1 scale model of a Heckler and Koch 45 caliber submachine gun.   Looked interesting and challenging and free (sans cost of ink and paper)    I got about 16 hours into the project and realized just how time consuming it was going to be to build.  For a second I considered giving up,  but paper modeling can be very obsessive and so long as a movie is playing on tv, not a bad way to spend some time.   I pushed on, and probably at least 120 hours later, I had a gun, abet, made out of printer paper.


A funny aside, its one of those things that once I built, I didn't really no what to do, so I leaned it up against a bookshelf in my parlor/man cave.  Was proud of my work, but also there was a certain "shock" value for friends that stopped by.  If it was real, in New Jersey, with a folding stock, silencer, large magazine, and short barrel, I'd probably be looking at 20 years.   I forgot it was even there and during the local NMRA January Division meet layout tour, I brought a few model railroaders up to the parlor to show them my z-scale coffee table layout.  They seemed interested, but all suddenly had "to get going".  Later I realized the paper gun was right behind me, next to the z-scale layout!

I followed up the gun, with a 1:200 scale model of a container ship.  Again, very high quality paper and printing.   I'm about half way, and probably at least 100 hours into this build, but I had to put it aside temporarily, as I was getting a little fried from the paper modeling, and after the aforementioned January layout tour I was inspired to get back to some trains.    I'm determined to finish up the blast furnace precipitator complex.  I'm adding additional piping that crosses the tracks to a non-modeled third (or fourth since we have the ferro furnace also) blast furnace.   And this piping also extends to a convenient stopping point where the clean gas lines for the blowing engine house, the boiler house, and B-Furnace stoves will branch off.    My dilemma with the piping is where do I break it.  It's a bit harder, and doesn't look as good with separations.   The result is a fair majority of the larger dirty and clean gas piping will be permanently glued together and when it's time to finally paint the precipitator assembly, it will probably be a two person job to move it from the basement, our to garage to paint.

I will try to update more frequently as time allows - a few event we went to lately I'll cover in separate posts - Cabin Fever, a model engineering show in Lebanon, PA, and our yearly Battle of the Bulge reenactment at Ft Indiantown Gap, PA.    Also, as of yesterday I finished building a 3d Printer with the help of my son Jimmy.  We are printing out 1/100 war-game miniatures for him as I write this and expect to make some model railroad items on it soon.    This will also be covered in an upcoming post.   Also some book reviews.
3d Printer kit - Future post

Sunday, November 8, 2015


Taking a break from trains, I immersed myself in the world of paper models this weekend, attending the International Paper Modelers Convention in Sterling, Virginia.    The work displayed there was quite impressive with themes across the spectrum.   It was a great group of people who shared techniques, information,...etc.. freely.    I'm posting a few photos of the work displayed.   It's amazing the level of detail and relief that can be done with just paper.  Some of the take away from the convention -

  • Paper modeling is overall much cheaper than other types of modeling.  You need few tools and adhesives, and practically no paint or other finishing supplies.    There are thousands of free models available online, and those that have to be purchased aren't nearly as expensive of comparable plastic models
  • From a time investment, I'm not sure - Because you are using layers to achieve 3-d shapes, more work is needed for sub-assemblies, however, once the model is complete, it's done - no painting required.  Between the NMRA convention and this weekend I worked on a plastic 1/35 scale mid eastern "technical" - a Nissan compact pickup truck with an anti-aircraft gun in the bed.  The model took me a week or so to build, and the painting just as long.  
  • Paper modeling is very portable - you only need a cigar box of tools and glue, a cutting mat, and the sheets of paper for the model.
  • The paper modeling I've been doing as part of my model railroading and the paper modeling I saw this weekend differ somewhat.  The ScaleScenes Models I've been building use a combination of paper and two thicknesses of heavy cardboard.  Most of the models at the convention were built from 100% heavy paper.  
  • There is no limit as to what can be done with just paper.
Of course I made a few purchases while there.  I was drawn to 1/250th scale ships and harbor scenes. This German or Polish company (most paper model producers seem to be from Germany or Eastern Europe)  makes a series of models that interconnect to make a massive port area.  I purchased a 1920s dry dock, some sort of German 1915 tramp steamer, a modern container ship, a container crane, and the USS Maine.   If I started working on them tonight, these models alone would probably last me a year or two - not bad for a stack of paper that fits in a small folder.    Jimmy was interested in the 1/25 armor and picked up a few WWII German tanks.
Yes, this is all paper.......