Sunday, April 6, 2008

Slowly Making Progress - April

I'm going to try to start blogging more regularly.   It's late right now and I'm just going to go for a quick update.    The benchwork on the steel mill portion of the layout is mostly complete.  I don't really follow any specific benchwork system - just years as a carpenter and cabinetmaker as a guide.  For me this is really the simplest thing in model railroading, but I'm used to building things level, with tight tolerances, etc.  One thing I will say that does bother me in all the model rr magazines is the heavy reliance on 1x pine framing lumber.  This material is pretty unstable, despite being kiln-dried and the quality varies, even amongst the better grade, D-select.   As far as home centers go, their selection is rarely straight.  Also, it splits easily without pre-drilling, warps after the fact,...etc. 
 I   use a birch or maple plywood, ripped on a table saw to 3" strips.   I just build this into a framework using drywall screws and most importantly - yellow wood glue.  I use a 3/4" plywood top as the price difference between 1/2" and 3/4" isn't much.  Glue the top on and you have an superior top - just add homesote or foam and you are ready to go.  One word on this material - again avoid the home centers - they sell a version they call birch plywood, but it's made in china and not very well at that.  Have a lumber yard order you shop-grade maple or birch 3/4" plywood from their distributor.   The shop-grade designates plywood with a small amount of surface defects - it is usually about 40% of the price of a perfect piece of the same material - it should run you about $40 or so a sheet, but you can get about 120 feet of material from that.   And before you say, well you need a big table saw to cut that - you don't.  Most of the time I use a light weight job site 10" Hitachi table saw, purchased for $194 from Lowes (see the home centers are good for something anyway) 
So the benchwork is complete, but we haven't started laying track yet.  We have been working on our small coking plant on another part of the layout right now (next blog will probably be on this)    Jimmy, thanks to a flood of money from helping his uncle work on his house as purchased a few more locomotives, plus some Atlas hoppers.  He purchased an Atlas New Haven RS-11 from Sattlers.  Something about the Atlas motors always sounds so much better than other similarly priced machines.   He also picked up two Bachmann GE-70 Tonners from Peachcreek Shops  .  These are to be used in the steel mill and came unlettered but painted in safety yellow.  The price was good and the locos look great - running quality is ok to good. 

Steel Mill -  We have started experimenting on building some of the cylindrical vessels in the mill - ie.  blast furnace, dust catcher, precipitators,...etc.   The pictures show us turning the Beth Steel A-Furnace dust catcher from a block of cedar.  Originally I thought that this vessel sat on a solid plate-steel platform, with the lower conical section projecting below, but an email to Mike Rabbit revealed that there was only some gusset plates so I will be redoing this anyway.  The results were pretty good in that I was able to maintain the scale dimension pretty accurately turning the wood by hand.  I do have a metal lathe, but choose to use a Jet Midi Lathe, which is basically a small, but very sturdy wood lathe.    

We are mulling using Rix Products water tank sections for the blast furnace stoves as they portray the rivet detail very closely, although the tanks themselves are two or three scale feet to big in diameter.    Plastruct 3" tubes would be around $25 each, compared to $32 for two kits.  PVC pipe would be much cheaper but is at least 3 scale feet too big, maybe more.  

Also, began work building two Walthers Rolling Mill kits to represent the some of the Open Hearth Furnace building.   These building are really about half as wide as an Open Hearth building should be but I am limited in space and I like the general look of these kits.  Ill write more on this in a future Blog on the open hearth

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