Sunday, June 28, 2009


Busy weekend with family gatherings and finally not much rain, so painting my house.  I did get a few hours in modeling tonight.  It was one of those nights that I spent about ten or fifteen minutes staring at things trying to pick a place to start, with so much to finish.  As I was looking over my plans I saw the drawings for the clay gun for A-Furnace.  About an hour and a half later I had a pretty decent representation of the gun shown in the plans.  I have no pictures to go on so I might be a little off with some of the details but again, I'm trying not to get bogged down counting rivets.

I also spent a few minutes correcting the h-column supports for the blast furnace stack - I used some styrene strips to space the bottoms of the columns away from the stack so instead of the vertical look there is a slight outward angle to them like the prototype.  

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I added the mixer line between the cold blast main and the hot blast main.  In the prototype this pipe, in conjunction with a valve yet to be built, was used to regulate the temperature of the hot blast.  The pipe is 3/8" styrene tubing and the supports are Tichy platform supports.  Most of the cuts are 11 degree angles.  

Monday, June 22, 2009


Platforms and Stairs - I started adding the stairs and platforms to the stoves.  There are many more to come.   The stairs around the end stove look a little mashed up, but they follow the prototype to the exact stair count.    For the access hatches I am using castings I made of a modified commercially available hatch.  Normally I would just purchase and use these parts, but they appear to have been discontinued

Sunday, June 21, 2009


All I hear lately is "when is it going to stop raining?" - as far as I'm concerned keep on pouring, especially on the weekends.  It gives me the needed  excuse to duck out of painting the exterior of my house and spending my days model railroading.  At this point 95% of the honey do list is exterior related.   The down side to this was that I spent Saturday morning in a downpour building a wheelchair ramp.  My company does occasional pro-bono work on weekends and this was one of those occasions - only a few of us showed and once we started we were committed, especially as we demolished the only existing staircase out of the trailer we were working on before the rain started.  Other than being completely soaking wet and cold and having to reset the GFIs every two minutes, the five of us had the ramp, the landing, the stairs, and all the railings built in three hours - so fast that a photographer from the local newspaper showed up after we were finished and gone.     
I continued to work on the 3 pass stoves for A-Furnace.  I secured the resin tops that I cast on saturday.  The upper platform was cut out as one piece from .030 styrene and I used .060 square strips to frame the bottom.  After securing this to the tops with ACC I used a pipe cutter to score seam lines in the stacks for each stove.  According to the plans, these were about 3/4" apart.  This type of cutter is the easiest method for making these lines - a serious improvement over hose clamps and whatever other methods are used.  They do make these cutters large enough to do up to 3 or 4" tubing, such as the Walther's stoves,..etc.    Before securing these stacks into their holes on the stove tops I glued ladders to the sides - pre-OSHA ladders, but correct for the era.  You certainly couldn't have gotten me up there to climb that ladder.  With the stacks secured I moved onto the cold blast valves that I had fabricated in an earlier post.  I had to saw off about a 1/4" of these to get them to fit tight to the stove top and match the prototype - the key is the cold blast piping needs to be pretty much centered over the walkways.  
With the valves secured I used 1/2" Evergreen tubing for the cold blast line - sorry Plastruct but I like that Evergreen is styrene.  I built a jig to enable me to cut the 11 degree angles in the tubing - shown in photo.  The model miter box that I use doesn't have the 11 degree cut needed and it it did it isn't deep enough to accurately cut the 1/2" tubing.  Just remember that you need to mark the opposing sides dead center for alignment of the cuts and when glueing up the pieces.   Everything fit together nicely, with a little filling needed at the three way connection in the corner.  I still need to extend the cold blast line from the bottom corner along the front of the blast furnace and eventually making its way to the blowing engine house.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Some years back I read a book by Chuck Palahniuk and a sentence from a diatribe on religion struck me -  he wrote:  " If you're male and you're Christian and living in America, your father is your model for God."    I realized that, for me anyway, this was pretty accurate.  
On a cold, rainy March day in 1978, my father dropped me off at school.  We sat there for a second or two in his green Volkswagen Bug  as we always did and he said I love you and kissed me goodbye.  At eleven I remember I was beginning to feel uncomfortable with these public displays of affection, especially within clear site of my middle school classmates.  I'm glad now that we still had those moments, as two hours later my father, the center of my world, collapsed and died of a cerebral aneurysm.   He was 41 years old.  
From my perspective, my father seamed infallible.  He was kind and gentle and loved us unconditionally.  He was smart and alway knew the right answer, and more importantly, the right thing to do.   He was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton School.  After a stint in the US Army as a Lieutenant he worked in the finance departments of the Budd Company, Mannington, and a few others.  When he died, he was the Vice-President of the fifth largest insurance brokerage in the country, Frank B. Hall.    Outside work, he was a Deacon at the Pleasantville Presbyterian Church, the Cubmaster of Hawthorne Pack One,  and a leader in the Indian Guides.   His hobbies included woodworking, electronics, model building,  boating, and model railroading.  
These hobbies are what I remember and are how we spent most of our time together.    In one corner of my bedroom stood a 4' tall model Saturn V rocket that he built for me.  On my shelves were pirate ships, Columbus' three vessels, the Mayflower, and numerous battleships and aircraft.  My favorite was probably the Visible V-8 - a clear model of a working V-8 engine - all the cams, cranks, and valves operated, with flashing lights for the spark plugs.   In our guest room he built a large two level diorama that had all the Aurora Dinosaur Kits from the 70's built and painted, their bases designed to interlock with each other to form this prehistoric world.  Everything was built with a precision and attention to detail that I aspired to growing up.   
The warmer weather we spent a lot of time outside, whether it was traveling in the station wagon, spending time down at the Jersey shore, or working in the garage.  I remember handing tools to my Dad while he worked on the engine of his old Bug.  Thinking back, I'm sure he must have taken some flak at work over that - certainly not a vehicle befitting an executive at a major corporation.  My Dad loved backyard railroads, and I suspect at some point he might have built one, but to sate that desire he built a boxcar, gondola, and caboose that he would tow in a train behind his tractor and we, along with kids from the neighborhood, would ride in.  
But the basement was the hobby command center.  About 75% of it was taken up by a large HO scale layout.  My dad had been working on it since before I was born.  I loved sitting at the control panel running trains through all the tunnels and over the bridges.     I would help him with the structure kits.  Shortly before my Dad died I had been helping him wire lighting for the layout and he had explained the differences between running the lights in parallel or series. My Dad was also a big fan of Heathkit electronic kits - we had Heathkit televisions, stereos, organs, weather stations, garage door openers,...etc.    A television kit would come with 10 manuals and thousands of components.  Every circuit board had to be built one resistor at a time.  One of my tasks was to organize resistors, capacitors, diodes,...etc  by their colors or markings into trays.  Every time I solder something the small reminds me of those times we spent together in the basement.  
My Dad liked real trains too.  In fact, a portion of his childhood was spent living on the second floor of the Swathmore, PA train station, where his father was stationmaster.   On trips we would stop at every tourist railroad we could find.  One year taking the Autotrain to Florida, another riding the Cog Railway up Mt Washington.  
In someways I am fortunate in that I have this positive image of my Dad.  It was untarnished by what I'm sure would have been teenage rebellion and disagreements.   I had yet to let him down with bad grades, trouble at school, ...etc.    On the other hand the bar was set high for me.  As my children grew up into teenagers I find myself more and more asking what would my Dad have said or done, and constantly feeling I could do better.   I also am saddened at times that he isn't around to be my children's grandfather.  My daughter Emily no doubt would have been the apple of his eye, and my son, Jimmy would have taken over for me as his model railroad assistant.    I do miss him so,  and not a day goes by since that rainy march day that I haven't thought of him.   


Worked on the stove complex today.  I allowed the silicone mold of the top section to dry overnight.  It is a one part mold and in hindsight I used way too much expensive RTV in making it.  I could probably knock someone out with the finished chunk of rubber.  The only problem was in removing the master from the mold the section that extended into the top making a recess for the stack broke off.  At first I was a bit upset but after casting I realized that this might have been a weak spot prone to deform and possibly make it difficult to insert the stacks.   I still used a recess but I just marked the center of the casting and drilled the hole on the drill press.   The stacks are 5/8" Plastruct tubing.   I also cut out the platform that runs between the tops out of .030.  I will need to frame this with .060 square stock but for now I just placed it on top to check the alignment.   This platform was cut from a single sheet of .030 styrene - its not hard if you just take your time to mark everything out and then score the lines using an Xacto and circle cutter.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I revisited the stove tops last night and tonight.  Originally I had started inserting .050 rivets individually into the wood master but they looked way too big, especially for HO scale, so I scraped them off and filled the holes.  It seamed to plain without any detailing so I opted for my method used on b furnace the application of styrene rivet strips that I made using .010 styrene and a pounce wheel.  I'm only moderately happy with the results and will have to see how the individual pieces come out before passing absolute judgement.    I built a mold box and glued in the master, coated it with release, and poured in a RTV silicone material from a two-part mix.  In hindsight I should have made a round form for the mold or clipped the corners as it ended up using a lot of material - almost 32 ounces.    Tomorrow I'll strip the master from the mold and try a resin casting to see how I like it.  

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Over the last few days I've made some good progress on A-Furnace.  I've returned to the casthouse proper, working on two fronts.  First, I fabricated all 18 tuyeres, attached them to the bustle pipe and then installed the whole thing on the furnace stack.  Before doing this I made sure to fabricate and install the ring beam (not sure if that is the technical term) that supports the furnace stack.  For whatever reason the six h-columns that support the furnace didn't sit at the proper angle.  I must be slightly off with one measurement or another, probably with the exact shape of the tuyeres.  After looking at these pictures I'm not happy with how it looks and plan on pushing the tops in a bit to give it a slight angle.  
The second front that I started to tackle is the actual framework of the casthouse.  I built some of the main columns and installed, along with the crane beam and the trusses between the posts. 
I'm starting to feel that I might actually finish A-Furnace by the end of the year.  There are two items that will be the most challenging left to finish - the top works, specifically the piping, and the hot blast piping, both primarily due to the complicated angles the pipes need to follow.  The other piping, like the cold blast lines, the precipitator lines,..etc  are difficult but it's just a matter of careful cutting and fitting.   

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


In anticipation of the soon to be cast stove top sections I fabricated four cold-blast gate valves from 3/8" Plastruct Elbows and styrene.

Sunday, June 14, 2009


I built the pipe support framework for the opposite side of the precipitator complex today.    I also built some of the large google valve on the main dirty gas line from the casthouse.  

Saturday, June 13, 2009


The prospect of a rainy saturday gave me an excuse not to be outside painting my house and instead run up to the Lehigh Valley for some picture taking.  We stopped in Easton briefly and then looped up through cement country, taking some pictures of abandoned portland cement plants.  Driving over the bridge into the midst of the former Bethlehem Steel plant it was amazing how much has changed in a year or so since my last visit.   The new casino building is where the ore yard was, but the use of one of the former ore bridges for the Sands sign was nice.  We didn't go inside to gamble, in fact, the closest we got was into the parking garage to see if there were any decent photography opportunities from the upper levels.  The rain put a bit of a damper on things but we found the best photos to be had from the staff parking lot located between the high line and the river.  I was able to walk right up to Heat Treatment #3 and take all the pictures I wanted.  If the plant was still standing it would have been impossible to get some of these shots actually.  From this lot you can also photograph the highline, Machine Shop #2, E Furnace and blast furnace row, and a few other things.  We looped around to the other side of the plant  to take pictures of A-Furnace.  In the past I have parked on the public road there and walked up the chain link fence to take pictures.  Today, however, I was chased away by a rent-a-cop and told I could only take pictures from the sidewalk.  I guess they are concerned about me tripping over some weeds or something.  If that is indeed the policy there they should have put the fence and the no-trespassing signs along the sidewalk I would think.  Anyway, by that time it was pouring and I couldn't take anything worthwhile.  

Friday, June 12, 2009


I added the lower railing on the first precipitator unit.  Ladders are installed but still need cages.  I also fabricated and installed one of the main pipe supports.  This is fairly typical of the prototype practice at Bethlehem and I will need to build at least a few of these.  Assembly is pretty straightforward, just repetitive.  The four main verticals are .080 styrene angles with .060 square horizontals and .040 square diagonals.  Of course in the prototype all the structural shapes are angles, however, I can't get an angle less than .060 and even that is very flimsy.  The attachment rings on the main pipe were made from two layers of .030x.040 styrene.   

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I've started the process of detailing the precipitators.   Mike Rabbit's plan set only shows the larger pipes on these units.  I do have one photo, but only from that one perspective so I am guessing as to some of the detail.  I am using Jeff Borne's "Superdetailing a Walthers Blast Furnace Part 2" for help on the smaller details.  I have finished the water piping and water piping control cabinets for one of the units.  I'm sure it's not exactly prototypical but it looks good to me.  I'm using .028 brass wire for the water lines.  The cabinets are built using two pieces of .080 styrene, a .015 styrene door, .035 styrene rods for the door hinges, and a wire handle.  

Piney Power

More of a railfan post, but semi-steel related.    
If you watch the Sopranos you might think you'd find bodies if you started nosing around the desolate New Jersey Pine Barrens but today I lucked out and found an Alco C420 - Former Erie Mining 7221.  It was coupled to a Amtrack CF7, the frame of a caboose, and a old Conrail ballast hopper.   So what was an old Alco that worked the mines and ore docks of Minnesota doing in Southern New Jersey, left to rot at the end of a isolated sandy road?     
Well actually there is actually another C420 - fairly close to this one.  This other Alco is a former Lehigh Valley, back in its Grey and Yellow paint scheme and located at the Southern Railroad of New Jersey's yard in Winslow Junction, along with quite a collection of first and second generation diesels and other equipment.  
From what I could gather on the internet, the Erie Mining Alco was moved down this way in 2007 - sometime after which a number of items, such as the number boards, Alco name plates,. seats,...etc were all stolen.  There is I guess a big investigation and the suspect appears to be a railfan.  This is unfortunate as this just makes it harder for all the rest of us as I'm sure the railroad now views us all as potential thieves instead of just enthusiasts.    I suspect what I found is actually the railroad's hiding spot for this equipment.  It is on a siding so is not visible from any grade crossing and is pretty much out of the way.   The only reason that I stumbled on it is that I saw a string of hoppers from a grade crossing on a section of track not used very often and went to investigate - I found the hoppers and these locos and freight cars.  

According to the guidebook, only 129 of these Alcos were made in the mid-60s - and two are close to my home in 2009, not bad.  

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


With the shells built previously from Rix water tank sections I needed to make the tops and bottoms for the precipitator vessels.  I had previously turned a mold for the tops and bottoms from a block of cedar on the lathe.  Using this as the master I vac-formed four pieces (2 tops and 2 bottoms) from .030 styrene. (I showed how to build this vac-former in an earlier blog)  After a little cutting and sanding I glued the tops and bottoms on the tank sections.  I then cut legs from 5/32 H-Column, gluing on 8 per precipitator.   I used .060 styrene angle as the bracing.  I cut the platforms from .030 styrene using a Fiskars circle cutter, laying out sections first to aid in spacing the railing posts.  I reinforced the outside edge of the platforms with .040x.040 styrene and then glued the assembly in place.  I used .040x.040 styrene for diagonal braces/supports.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The platforms on the waste gas burner stack are octagon which makes for some interest as most of the other platforms I've seen at Bethlehem or elsewhere that are on a circular structure are usually circular themselves.   There are four of these small platforms and then another rectangular platform on top of the large diameter piping, as well as a smaller rectangular platform just above ground level.  All these platforms are either directly connected or connected by caged ladders.   The platforms were built using .030 sheet styrene with .060x.060 framing underneath.   I prefer the Plastruct caged ladders, although they are expensive.  Some of the other makes have finer detailing, but the Plastruct units are easier to assemble and a little sturdier under handling.    As you can see from the photo I also built the burner top also.  This was a bit difficult.  First I built a subassembly using a 1" piece of 3/4" Plastruct tubing and two rings of decreasing diameters but both with 5/8" holes.  Then I cut the sheet metal housing from .010 sheet styrene - neither of my circle cutters would extend two the two diameters I needed - 4.25" and 6" so I rigged a temporary cutter using a scrap of balsa and an Exacto blade - it worked great.  (You can see this in the one photo)  I wrapped the subassembly with this radius cutout and sanded and filled the seam.  The finished piece just slides onto the 5/8" dowel stack.  

Saturday, June 6, 2009


The bustle pipe was built using 12  3/4" dowel sections.  Each dowel section was cut with 15 degree angles on each end.  Again, use the reference lines to make this process efficient and simple and allow for proper alignment later.   All the sections are the same size, which was established using the drawings.   When assembling the sections it is important to be able to apply consistent circular pressure on the sections to get good glue joints.  To facilitate this I used a circle cutter in the drill press to cut out the approximate diameter of the bustle pipe.  I went slightly larger figuring it would be easier to shim than to cut it larger if it was too small.  I used veneer tape as a shim and only needed two wraps.  


This structure is located just next to the A-Furnace casthouse.  It is connected to the waste gas main from the A-Furnace gas washer.  I used .080 plastic as a small foundation and fabricated the piping using wood dowels.   This is just the basic piping - I need to add platforms, ladders and the cone shaped top.    The burner itself is 5/8" dowel and the connecting pipe is 3/8".  The remainder of the piping is 1" for the waste gas main - the pipe going up and then turning will attach to the gas washer for A-Furnace, while the pipe going on a slight angle toward the left will connect to the gas washer of B-Furnace.   You can see the  burner in the prototype photo - it is the tall thin tower toward the right of the photo - it has partially been demolished and is missing the top and one platform.


I cut the base for the precipitator complex.  The prototype at Bethlehem Steel that I am modeling, has twin units and is connected to both A and B furnace.  There is also a pipe connection that allows waste gas from other furnaces to be run through these units.  All in all it makes for some very complicated piping.  (See Precipitator Part 1 for a photo of the prototype)   
Most of this piping is being made from poplar or maple dowels, with some Plastruct tubing being used.  I prefer the wood for two reasons - yellow wood glue if used right will for a virtually unbreakable bond, and also with the various different transitions from one sized pipe to another I can put the dowel in the lathe and turn the transition in place.  Plastruct does make transitions, but they don't always match the prototype practices.    In some cases at Bethlehem I have a transition from a 1" diameter dowel to a 3/8" inch diameter.    
The piping for the precipitators all connects to one of two large diameter mains - I used 1.125" doweling for these mains or manifolds.  Off of these mains will be four intakes and four outtakes.  The intakes each split in two so there are technically 8 intakes I guess.     There are 8 google valves controlling these in and out takes, which I will be modeling shortly.  I used 3/4" dowels to stub out these pipes, just to where the google valves will attach.   The clean gas main transitions down to 7/8" and will continue toward the A-Furnace stoves.  There is also a 1" connector that connects with the clean gas main and jumps over the precipitators and the dirty gas main.  At Bethlehem the practice was to use tubing as pipe supports in places - this is represented by the 3/8" dowels.    The dirty gas main tees off to a main run that will head toward the other furnaces as well as another 1" run that will connect with B-Furnace - this run heads directly toward the A-Furnace cast house and then along the cast house wall and through the gas washer framework.   I have stubbed part of this in to where there will be another google valve.  
A note on cutting and drilling these dowels - I use a power miter saw to cut most of these pieces and I drill out for the connecting pipes using forstner bits in a drill press.  The most important thing in cutting and drilling these pieces is to have a reference lines on the dowels every 90 degrees.  This is so you can have your connecting pipes enter and leave and exact 90 degrees and when you are assembling a pipe bend you can keep the pieces aligned properly.   To mark the dowels I use a trick that I learned years ago building model rockets - you use the stop mold on a door jamb to draw a straight line down the side of a dowel - just put the dowel against the jamb and the stop and then use a mechanical pencil to draw a nice sharp line along the edge of the stop.  Now that you have your one line - cut a piece of paper to wrap around the pipe - mark the overlap exactly and using that mark fold the paper twice - this will give you equal marks at 90 degree intervals - now go back to the door jamb and draw the lines.   Use these lines to drill your holes - in this case some of the dowels had holes on three different sides.   When you cut or put the dowel in the drill press use the lines to make sure the piece is perfectly level by measuring up to the line half the diameter of the dowel.   When you glue up a turn, use the lines to align the pieces.     
In the pictures you can see the rough connections - these will all still be sanded and filled if needed and the wood will be sealed and sanded.  In the end you shouldn't be able to tell if you are looking at plastic or wood.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Stove stacks are finally complete.  I started working on the tops for them - originally I was going to vac-form the tapered top piece and then use a turned wood section for the transition from the top to the stack.  Thinking about it a bit more I've decided to make a one piece master for the tops and then cast duplicates.  I've turned the core out of a block of cherry - you can see this in the picture with a piece of Plastruct TB-20 as the stack.  I need to clean it up and add a ton of individual rivets, an access door ,...etc. and then make a RTV Silicone mold, and then four castings.