Saturday, February 28, 2009


I'm entitling this section research.  I try to keep a camera in my truck and photograph prototypes that will help with my modeling.   Before digital photography I used to be pretty conservative with what I wasted film on - now with digital images I try to take as much as I can, although I find myself in old habits and have to actively try to remember just to take everything.  
At last Septembers Steel Mill Modelers Meet there were two presentations related to detailing steel mills - one by E. Craig called "Figures & Period Detailing Ideas", and the other by John Best, "Steel Mill Details".  Both were excellent and sort of opened my eyes to the importance of detailing structures in order to add that layer of realism.  So in addition to photographing the distillation tower, or coal unloader, or blast furnaces,...etc.  I also photograph the electrical substation, the bridge carrying piping across the road, the roof ventilators,...etc.   
The plan for "RESEARCH" themed blogs is to just post a picture or two or three and brief comments.  It will also allow me to keep blogging on a regular basis, even when I don't have time to write about a more complicated modeling theme.  Feel free to copy and use the photos however need to augment your  modeling.   
PART 1 - Just took a drive up to northern New Jersey and shot some pictures along the shore of the Arthur Kill between Port Reading in the south and into Newark Bay and onto the Passaic River in Newark.  This is the heart of the New Jersey petrochemical industry, but also home to many other manufacturers.  This is the image that many people have of  New Jersey.  

Top Left - Hess Oil Refinery , Woodbridge, NJ
Top Right - Singer Sewing Machine Factory, Elizabeth, NJ - Subdivided and used by many different tenants today.  This building is huge and was only one part of the complex that made this famous sewing machine.  Just behind this structure were the Central Railroad of New Jersey's shops and a large yard.  Today there is a small intermodal yard and the "Largest Outlet Mall" in the state.  If you are a railfan, the mall parking lot runs right along the yard offering excellent and legal places to photograph from, -  wife might like the mall.
Upper Right - Unknown, Linden, NJ - interesting looking structure with both rail and water materials transport facilities.  Used by a few different warehousing companies now.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Signs Part 1

I find I'm already using up titles for each blog too fast and its not worth the time to try to come up with something new each time.  So to keep it simple, I will just use "Part #" after each title - Like Blast Furnace A - Part 4 or Coke Works - Part 7, ...etc. 
This blog is about signage.  A couple of things I've been simultaneously been working on, all in the Port section of my layout - a sign for the end of the coal dock;  a sign for the top of a cement distributor; and finally a Miller Engineering animated billboard kit for the top of a backdrop building.  

On the right you can see the attempt at a coal dock sign - basically a Lackawanna logo on a piece of styrene.  I found the image online and adjusted the print size to fit and glued it to a piece of .030 styrene.  I still need to paint the back and glue it to the end of the coal dock structure.  I might also arrange some sort of lighting for it.  

Behind the Lackawanna sign you can see my Atlas sign.  I scratchbuilt this - the letters are .020 styrene, cut from sheets using letters printed out using Word.    The vertical and diagonal supports are .125 Evergreen I beams, with .080 Evergreen Channels as horizontals.  The diagonal bracing is .060 Evergreen angle.  It is shown with a coat of primer.  The letters will be painted red and the framework probably grimy black.   The prototype for this sign, and the facility under it is located in Newark, NJ on the Passaic River.   The prototype sign was actually neon and visible from the New Jersey Turnpike.  It is still standing, although not lit at night.   The facility was built by the Atlas Cement Company, later Universal Atlas, to store portland cement for distribution in the New York area.  It received cement via a barge unloading facility on the Passaic from I believe the Atlas plant in Hudson, NY.   It, as with the Walthers' structure, has a covered rail facility.  With the prototype this may have been for loading railcars for local shipment.   With my structure, railcars would be unloaded, brought from inland facilities.  

Above is a video of a Miller Engineering GE billboard kit.  They are a bit pricey and I wasn't sure how the sign would look as the entire thing is a sheet of plastic.  I am pleased with the look.  It is shown on an unfinished back ground structure kitbashed from a Walthers Hardwood Furniture kit.  So far I've modified the structure,  and added bracing and floors.  I plan on lighting the interior so I need to work a bit more on that and then paint and weather the structure.  

Thursday, February 19, 2009

More B-Furnace

Just a quick mid-week update.   I've worked a bit more on B-Furnace.  The platforms around the upper furnace stack are installed.  They are .020 styrene rings with .040 square framing around the outer and inner perimeters.  I still need to add diagonal bracing and railings.  Note that the upper ring is actually a roof, not a platform.  I use a circle cutter I bought at AC Moore to cut these rings - it's fairly effective, even down to less than an inch.
I'm on the fence about adding cooling plates and the piping details to the lower furnace shell.  I've been trying to find more information and or pictures of these types of installations.   But in the end, this portion of the furnace probably won't be visible with the cast house hiding it, so it might be hours of modeling time better spent elsewhere.
The uptakes are 3/4" Plastruct tubes.  The top platform is .030 styrene with 5/32 Evergreen I-Beams for framing.   If you are wondering about the cantilevered section - this is a bridge to the top of the first stove and the stove walkways.    The hardest part of this assembly was constructing the two segments of the uptakes where they leave the furnace stack.  Most large piping at steel mills has segmented elbows.  When building these you need to alway make sure the you are always joining like angles otherwise one pipe section will be larger than the other. - For example, if you are making a 45 degree bend in one segment - the joining angles would both have to be 22.5 degrees.   In addition to this, you need to also make sure you have a reference point for cutting and joining the pipe, otherwise it will twist.   I draw a line on the side of the pipe and then use a jig in a chop saw that I can keep this line referenced to when cutting.   I cut the pipe sections in a larger 10" Makita sliding miter saw - I use a 10" plastic cutting blade.    I'll blog about some of these tools in the future.   I forget what the exact angles I used were on these uptakes, but at the time I did sketch it out on a scrap piece of wood.    Basically, the first segment has one angle on the furnace end, and a different angle on the other end.  The next segment starts with the same angle, with a 90 de
gree on the other end.  Where the pipe hits the furnace I put some 220 grit sand paper on the actual furnace and sand the pipe end to the contour of the furnace . If you haven't realized it by now, it was easier to put the platform on and then continue the straight uptake sections.  .  

Glues - I use ACC for any of the plastic to wood furnace pieces,  Tenax or Ambroid for styrene to styrene, and Plastruct for the piping as it is actually butyrate, not styrene.  (Evergreen tubing is styrene, but they only make it up to 1/2 inch)

The CNJ loco was my Valentines Day gift from my wife.  It's an Atlas, RS-4/5.     I was thinking of giving her a NYC GP-7, so she had her own locomotive to run on the layout - makes sense to me - but I she liked the jewelry better. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

B-Furnace continued

One picture didn't make the last post - the finished B-Furnace body - you will note that this time I measured and drew lines for the various platforms while the piece was still in the lathe.  This is very simple to do on a spinning object, while for A-Furnace I will have to go back and take a lot of measurements just to get to the same place.  
I also have sprayed both furnaces with a shellac spray to seal the wood and hopefully keep any movement to a minimum down the road.  It also gives me a non-porous surface for glue to adhere better to.

Blast Furnace B - Start

It's been a bit long since my last post and I apologize for that.  A combination of illness, working a bit too much, and some travel.  I have continued to work on the railroad, but just haven't had the spare time to blog.   I have started construction of B Furnace, which is based on USS Duquesne, Blast Furnace #3.  Shown at right.  I selected this furnace as a basis for my model for two reasons - first, the wealth of HABS/HAER information (drawings, text, and photos) on this facility; and second, this furnace was used to produce ferromanganese.  Ferromanganese production will add a lot to the operation of the railroad as there are different and and or more raw materials handled - more slag - different cars for handling the finished product - and facilities for handling the product.
Using the HABS/HAER drawings I turned the furnace body on a wood lathe from a block of glued-up pine.    With this furnace, B-Furnace, I plan on loosely basing it on Dusquesne #3, giving me more freedom in the construction of the furnace.  For example, at Dusquesne, the cast houses were very small as slag was handled in slag pits.  Originally I was going to replicate this practice, however, it began to seem odd to have one furnace, A-Furnace, using slag ladles and the other using a slag pit.  So I am completely free lancing the cast house, changing its orientation and size to enable tracks on both sides, one for slag, and one for iron
, or ferromanganese.    

I have also continued some work on the gas cleaning structure for A-furnace.  I have added all the frames, the crane rail, and started some work on the stairs and ladders.  I still have a lot to do in terms of cross braces, horizontal beams, platforms, stairs, and two large thermal expansion valves.