Wednesday, April 29, 2009


By now you probably have come to realize that I don't just work on one project at a time.   For me, part of the fun of model railroading is researching the prototype and the coming up with a plan to model it.  These ideas usually come in spurts, and I usually want to get right into the project.   I'm not big on developing an elaborate set of plans.  I build things for a living, I always have other than a brief foray into the office world, so I am used to jumping right into things.  That being said, you need to have another skill to be able to make that quick jump - you need to be able to visualize a project 20 steps ahead, otherwise you are usually in for a disaster.   What's my point here?  Two things - if you can visualize that way, go for it, get your hands dirty as soon as possible, however, if you can't, make a set of scale drawings, triple check all your dimensions, and use these drawings as templates and guides for building.   The other point is you will see me jump from a nearly completed Pig Casting Machine, to the preliminary work on another model, and then back.  Don't be alarmed, I don't think I have ADD.
Heat Treatment #3 is a building at Bethlehem Steel, in Bethlehem.  It is a unique building in that it was built to allow the heat treatment of very long narrow pieces of steel.  Initially I believe it was built to specifically treat large gun barrels, but from what I have read it also was used to treat propellor shafts and maybe other things.  The building houses two furnaces, an oil quenching tank, an assembly bay, and a transport bay.  The building is 155' tall, however, the furnaces, assembly bay, and quenching tank extend another 35' into the ground.  For all this height it is less than 50' wide.   There are two smaller bays on each of the short ends.  These are only 56' tall - one houses the hoist for the unique, 100 ton crane, and the other housed gas producers to fuel the two furnaces.    The proportions of the building work out well on a model railroad as the footprint is relatively small, for a steel mill, but the vertical effect is interesting.  
I will be modeling this structure pretty much to scale.  I have to reduce the size of the hoisting bay by half to fit the structure where I want it on the layout.  I had thought about reducing both bays equally but the hoist only used up the first half of that bay anyway (I'm not sure what the rest was used for)  and the other bay was filled by the gas producers, which I might model. (I'm pretty sure the building was eventually converted to use clean blast furnace or coke works gas.  By now I guess you can tell I plan on modeling the interior of the structure too.  I am locating the building on the edge of my layout and plan on leaving one wall completely off.  

The first two issues that have come up in my planing are - 1) there are no commercially made window castings that will match the prototype, and 2) the building framing is very unique.
You can see from the photo that I am experimenting with using Tichy parts to build up larger windows.  They match the prototype size very closely except for not having an arched top.  Many of the windows in the prototype building were actually replaced at one point with smaller units but I am trying to stick with the original design look.  
The framing issue is a bit more complicated.  The method used to build this building was only used in the construction of a half dozen buildings at Bethlehem Steel - that's it.  It consisted of unique columns (which are mostly buried in the brick walls and thus don't have to be modeled) and trusses made of built up angles and flat stock, and these unique stamped steel pieces.   In the picture you can see my first truss - The verticals and diagonals are .020x.125 strip with .100 half rod applied to each side.  These are sandwiched between two .020x.188 strips top and bottom, and then two .060 angles.  Finally, I added a top and bottom plate of .030x.188 strip.  So there are a total of 10 horizontal elements and probably around 60 vertical and diagonal.  This truss took at least 2 hours to build and probably $8 in plastic.  I will need to make 6 of these and then some much longer ones for the crane supports.  I have thought of spending another few hours adding rivet detail individually and then making resin castings of these, but the half round shape tapering off at the top and bottom of each structural cord will make a weak point and also a tough spot for the resin to pass thru while casting.   At this point I think I will just press ahead and spend the time building styrene versions, without the rivets.

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