Sunday, November 27, 2016

BOOK REVIEW TIME

 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

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF INDUSTRIAL HISTORY

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 BELATED NEW YEAR

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.


DEFENDING MY TRAINS WITH MY PAPER GUN - NOTICE ANGRY OLDER WHITE MAN LOOK

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

INTERNATIONAL PAPER MODELERS CONVENTION

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.......


Monday, September 21, 2015

THE WORKSHOP IS UP AND RUNNING

I took it slow for the weekend and spent significant time on the layout for the first time in maybe a year, year and a half.   In the past few weeks I'd been cleaning things up and getting organized, and built a few small kit things, but not much to layout.  This weekend I managed to attack many stalled projects at once.  
First coat of paint.  In background you will see one of my 1:1 scale projects - restoration of a Southern Pacific  Search Light Signal made by Union Switch and Signal 

In the waterfront area - I finished construction on the crane, primed and sprayed with two coats of a light green.   I will still need to weather it, add glazing to the cab and a variety of cables for boom hoist and bucket hoist.    I will probably revisit this model someday, adding working lighting and some electrical conduit/control box details.    I am working on a logo/sign for Raritan Steel to put on the boom.     Also in the waterfront I added a slab foundation and walkway for the yard office/tower, and finally installed the water surface.  The water was created with acrylic paints - blacks, greens, dab of dark blue.   Not 100% happy with result, but not unhappy enough to redo.   The surface is a high-gloss water based urethane.  Ok and very durable and easy to clean.  Not as cool looking as the resin, but could always go that route if needed.    Have a few more coats of urethane to go and then I'll start adding pilings, vessels, etc.    The pipe mill is also underway, but that will be a separate post in the future.  The pipe mill takes the place of the chemical plant.  I decided to eliminate the only non-Raritan Steel industry on the layout.

Coke Works - lots of almost complete items in the by-products plant - working on overhead piping and ammonia separator.  Primary washers need only minor work to be ready for paint.   coke ovens still need significant work, but cut the wood cores for the conveyors from the coal unloader to the oven bunker.

If you look closely you will see the scribed lines
Lower Works - Added some bunkers to the highline - need to build another 8 or so and core of this will be complete and I can start detailing track area - would like to get this in for tour next month so I can run some trains on it.  The reason this project is years in the works is that each bunker has many parts and boring to cut out and assemble - even when I complete a section, it seems I have so many more to do.  One thing I'm trying to break this tedium is to use my Cameo cutting machine to cut out the pieces for the bunkers.  The bunkers are built from 0.040 styrene, which the machine can't cut, but  can score and snap out the pieces -  absolutely consistent pieces.   I drew out two complete sets of parts - since bunkers are doubled, this will make one full bunker section and get me 3" closer to finishing this thing.   Since I am feeding the thick styrene without the cut sheet, I had problems when rollers ran off the edge of the 12x12 sheet, so I cut a 12x24 and just feed one side, and then reverse for a second bunker set - this keeps the rollers from going off the edge on the close to end cuts.
Pipe ends/joints - 1/4"-1 1/8" in 1/16" increments - as many as I could fit 

Speaking of the Cameo - while I was at it, I created a sheet of styrene disks in various sizes for pipe joints and ends.  I was able to fit a lot of pieces onto one sheet.  I also drew and cut some industrial window sash sheets for overlay on scratch-built industrial buildings.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

REMEMBER FILMSTRIPS.......

A recent antique shopping find - a 1962 US Steel educational packet with samples of raw materials and finished products, and a filmstrip.  I'd forgotten about the ubiquitous filmstrips from my elementary school days.    The color positive film has washed out to amber/red quite a bit, but pictures are clear enough.  I used an inexpensive Wolverine slide scanner to scan some of the photos from the filmstrip



BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA - RED MOUNTAIN

Besides the iron and steel industry in Birmingham proper, the mountains immediately surrounding the city are full of the remnants of the many iron or and coal mining operations.    Red mountain was mined extensively for iron ore by US Steel, Sloss, and others.    US Steel donated much of their former iron mining properties for use as a park.  To date, a portion has been made into nature trails, bike paths, zip line courses,...etc...    I spent the morning of my second day in Birmingham exploring some of these trails



Number 13 Mine Portal

Number 14 Mine Portal

Wash House for #14 Mine

Looking down incline toward #13 Mine - the incline skip tracks would have passed under the  railroad bridge in photo.  Some distance behind me the incline continued to the tipple.


Map of mountain during mining days.
The trails have excellent historical markers describing industrial operations.    Most of the main trails are former railroad rights-of-way.  There are some connecting trails that are much narrower and steeper than the main trails.  Overall the mountain has reverted to nature, compared to the photo above.  There were a number of other mines and industrial structures I didn't have time to visit.  I spoke to a park ranger who said they were opening more and more of the property every year and there is extensive IA on the remainder.    The closest mine portals are at least a mile or two in from the entrance, so be prepared for some walking, with some hilly travel.   If you wanted to hit all the sites you'd be looking at a full day and probably at least 6-7 miles of overland hiking.


Closer to the city proper is Vulcan, the largest cast iron statue in the world.  Erected on Red Mountain  virtually on-top of  a mine, and overlooking the city as a tribute to the iron industry that built it.