Thursday, July 30, 2009


We cut the walls from .060 styrene and used .125x.125 square strip for the corners with larger .060 triangular supports where needed.  From the picture you can see the scrap loading dock with the two holes cut in it, the hole for the coke conveyor, the main line pass thru, and the open side of the cupola house.   After some additional reinforcing, the addition of the visible interior steel framing, the concrete floor of the cast house, and the roof panels we will cover the whole structure with corrugated siding and then begin work on the details.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


It's been a little while since my last post, and overall it's been a slow month in regards to blogging, so I'm going to just use this post for a general update.    I haven't been able to spend much time on the steel mill and I've had to scale back my plans on having A-Furnace ready for the Steel Mill Modeler's Meet on Labor Day weekend.    By the way, we (Jimmy and me) sent our registration in for this event, so we should see you there.  At this point I don't think there would be any way to complete A-Furnace without rushing things.  I might still be able to get it done for the Prototype modelers meet in October.  At this point my plan is to finish all the detail and piping work on the Precipitators, Stoves, and Washer assembly for A-Furnace, just not the furnace proper.  This is still a ton of work so hopefully August is productive.  I also intend to wrap up the pig-casting machine so I can bring it to the Steel Mill meet along with as much A-Furnace completed components that I have.  
Part of the reason I'm still iffy on some of the A-Furnace stuff is that on top of all that work, my son has been very eager to build a Free-mo module for the meet.  He was very impressed by the modular set up there last time and has been talking about us contributing since then.  The plan has always been to do a Pipe Foundry themed module, however, sometime in the spring we, I'd thought, abandoned plans for this module.   The issue came back up last week and at Jimmy's urging the module is back on - nothing like last minute.   The module part is easy, its obviously the structures that concern me.   For this reason, we are going to limit the amount of interior detailing included and also we have a baseline set of buildings that need to be on the module and will be concentrating on them.  If for some reason we have extra time, there are additional buildings and structures we may include.  


The prototype for this pipe foundry is the former US Pipe foundry located in Burlington, NJ (about 10 minutes from our house)     Burlington is located on the Delaware River north of Philadelphia.  The US Pipe Foundry actually marks the start of a section of the Delaware River between Burlington and Trenton that was home to a number of iron and steel works.  Just north of the US Pipe Foundry is the also recently closed Griffin Pipe Company.  One town north of Griffin was Roebling Steel - no blast furnaces but a huge plant producing wire rope with steel produced in open hearth furnaces.  Then just a slight bit further north and on the opposite bank of the Delaware was the massive USS Fairless Works.  And then finally in Trenton there was another large Roebling operation.    The pipe operations, both producing ductile iron pipe, primarily for municipal utilities only recently closed.  The US Pipe Plant is I believe still using the facility for distribution, while Griffin appears to be in shut down/ clean up mode.  
I would have liked to modeled the Griffin Pipe facility - it was a smaller operation with one cupola as opposed to US Pipe's two.  Additionally it used a wet scrubbing system for emissions control, that added a large amount of detail and interest.  Ultimately, however, I was unable to figure out the maze of piping and ducts,..etc  to the extent that I would have been able to accurately model them.   US Pipe used a dry system with large baghouses.  These structures are also in some ways interesting to model.  The real impetus for choosing US Pipe is the excellent HAER drawings and photographs of a sister plant in Alabama.  While the facilities are not identical, there are many similarities, and understanding the one plant from the HAER information, it is easy to interpret the structures, piping,..etc. of the Burlington Plant.   
We have started to cut out the walls for the main cupola/foundry building from .060 and I expect to have a post very soon on additional work on this building.   The basic buildings we need for this module are  - (1) the main foundry/cupola structure (2) two bag houses and (3) a coke dock/conveyor -  above that there is room for other structures.  We don't intend on modeling the actual pipe manufacturing buildings due to space limitations - basically we are modeling the hot end of the mill.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I built up the superstructure of the Quencher Loco per plans on Dave Ayers page (see links).  I've made a few changes- I didn't go with the sloped roof and I used window castings instead of the more modern windows shown in the plans.  I hope this might, in a little way, backdate the locomotive.  In the center part of the locomotive I fixed five lead weights to help balance the locomotive and improve its running characteristics.  There actually isn't too much left to do but I need to buy additional window castings for the two doors and also build the interior of the cab and the electrical pickup arm.  

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Another side project is to build a quencher loco for the coke works.  Originally we were going to use an EMD Model 40 critter, but it isn't high enough or protected enough as the prototypes are.  We might have used the excellent mechanism and DCC board but since they don't make it anymore and it is out of production we figured on keeping it for something else.  So, we have a few of the older Bachmann 44 Tonners with the separate motors that we have been dreading installing DCC on so we took the power truck off the one and are using that.  The wheel base is 7' and the plans we are using call for a 8', so we are a little off there.  Speaking of the plans,  I am using set found on David Ayers site - see my links.  The plans date from the 1970s so it might be a bit more modern than my 1950s layout, but I'm hoping that technology didn't change a whole lot and this type will look prototypical.  If I find otherwise, I have three more power trucks left.


I had been putting off the hot blast main on the stove assembly for a few weeks.  It is a bit more difficult than it appears.  The hot blast valves are a simple 3/4" dowel with some turning done to create the center seal section.  Much more detail will be added.  This valve is cut to fit around another 3/4" dowel that horizontally connects to each of the stoves.  Thats the easy part - the 3/4" dowels connecting the valves to the main are more difficult.  They come off the hot blast valve and hit the main at a 30 degree angle.  Well that might be sort of simple if the main didn't take a 10 degree turn after the first valve.  The second valve attached at a steeper, 40 degree angle,  and the third valve reverted to a 60 degree attachment, but of a different length.  The whole thing was a big mess but with some filling and sanding I'm hoping the pipes look like they flow well.  

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Besides the modeling I've been doing, I took some time to get some of the wiring up and running on my layout.  Basically, large sections have been down since switching over to an NCE DCC system, so I connected most of what I could at this point (about 15% is still down and another 30% remains to even be built. )   My son has been eager to run some trains. The main and other sections still need a bunch more feeders, in fact, the only section that has complete feeders per NCE is the port section, and this is only because my son spent a good amount of time soldering in feeders, crimping on connectors and attaching the whole thing to terminal blocks.   Some of his track solder joints need a little filing, but he is getting better and we all have to start somewhere.  

Right now the whole mess takes up a small shelf unit and some of the surrounding environs.  This is poor planing on my part as with the addition of many more automatic switches, computer controls, lighting,...etc we will run out of room there.  Right now I have a NCE DCC base station with a Magma Force Power supply.  Also in the mix are a MRC reverser for the wye by the blast furnaces and a Digitrax four function accessory decoder. 
Finally we only had one throttle panel so we added another four.  Again, this was a team effort.  We used the UTP panels from Tony's Train XChange.        


I spent a few hours, actually about the duration of the incredibly lame movie Showgirls, building this little addition to the blowing engine house. (I have a TV with full satellite channels to keep me company while building)    I'm not sure exactly what to call it other than an air intake.  I've seen similar structures on several prototype blowing engine houses, namely USS Duquesne and Bethlehem Steel, Lackawanna.  If anyone knows more about these things I'd be happy to learn.  Hopefully they were prototypical for the 1950s.   Either way I liked how they looked so included one on my structure.  I still need to add a platform and some supports,,...etc.    

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


With the two buildings assembled and bashed together I bricked in four of the lower windows on one side using styrene and Plastruct brick sheet.  I fabricated and installed four 1/2" elbows in these bricked up openings and terminated them in a horizontal 1/2" tube that will be the cold blast main.    I was on the fence about doing the piping as a separate sub-assembly and painting everything before putting it together, but I felt that keeping the alignment of the pipes would be easier without worrying about ruining a paint job with glue.  Besides, the pipes are pretty easy to paint in place if they aren't actually touching the wall.  

I've included a picture of all the spare parts left over from the two kits used for this building.  Quite a deal for $32 a kit.  Compare that to the $167 Walthers Blowing Engine house.   The tanks and distillation towers, if that is what they are, that I have left over, are a very poor representation of actual prototype practice.   They might work as horizontal tanks for my chemical factory in the port area.   

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Starting yet another project.   Although, they are all interconnected, literally.  The boiler house provides steam to the engine house, and most of the other structures.  The blast furnaces provide gas for the boilers and for various other furnaces and processes throughout the plant, the blowing engines provide the air blast for the blast furnace,...etc.   The HAER drawings for Sloss Furnace include a very good process diagram that outlines where everything goes.
  Although Walther's introduced a blowing engine house I wanted to go a different route based on my research and also because I felt the kit was a bit overpriced.  Engine houses come in all shapes and forms.   Unless I wanted to represent a more modern or a replacement facility, most of the buildings were brick.  Prior to the introduction of turbo blowers, a turbine type device, the air blast for the furnaces were created by engines - either horizontal or vertical.   The type of engine would usually dictate the building design, with a vertical engine taking up less space and thus more of a narrow vertical building as opposed to a wider one.  Bethlehem (Lehigh) with their horizontal engines, the building is very wide, still brick, but wide.    However, if you looks at the engine houses at Sloss, Bethlehem (Lackawanna), Central Furnaces,...etc.   the buildings are long narrow brick structures to house their vertical engines.  
 For my blowing engine house, I am using the prototypes at both Central Furnaces and Bethlehem Lackawanna, as the basis for my building.  At Central Furnaces the original engines were removed and the building retro fitted with turbo blowers.    In both cases, the piping all snakes out through the sides of the buildings making for a neat detail.  Also, in the Lackawanna case, there are structures for the air intakes which will also had an interesting feature.  
Originally I had through of using two Walthers Vulcan Manufacturing kits for the building.  The price, around $35 a kit was nice and the structure worked in the tight location I have for it, between B-Furnace and the Pig Casting Machine.  However, as is usually the case, by the time I get around to buying the kits, they are out of production once again.  Another Walthers kit that would work was the Power Plant/Gas Works structure - they are essentially the same except the gas plant has different end panels and also finer window castings.  The gas plant with its associated tankage was priced almost double the power plant at around $60.  This was too much to spend and I wasn't real happy with the power plant kit end panels or the windows.  Then, a few weeks ago, Walthers puts the gas plant on sale for almost half price - around $35 (makes you wonder how much these things are marked up originally)   The price is right finally,  plus Ill have all those tanks and piping left over for other things.  The kits came in this week and I picked them up last night and assembled the basic structure soon after.  I had to saw a bit off the ends of all of the long walls and modify the base a bit.  The picture shows things at this stage.


The roof trusses for the casthouse on A-Furnace seamed like a simple enough affair -  and they were - but just the one took a good amount of time to build.   I'm not sure how many individual pieces there are, but it seamed like a lot.  I think I went through a whole bag of Plastruct 3/32 angle and another of 1/16 angle.  The smaller is for all the inner truss members.   I used .020 styrene of various sizes as the gusset plates.  Basically I built up one side with the plates and then flipped it and added the structural pieces to the other side.   I am going to use this assembly to build a jig, not so much to speed things up, but rather to keep all the trusses consistent.  I need to make a total of 6 I believe.  Ugh.   

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


Not a lot of modeling to report.  Spent time down on the boat - beautiful weather.  Since I've been back I've been cleaning up some of the little issues - railing and piping on the second precipitator; painting the hoist/store house for the pig machine; and other misc items.  Starting to also develop some operational plans.