Sunday, August 30, 2009


I wish I could report better progress but things have been going a bit slower than expected.  I seriously underestimated the amount of time needed to get my daughter packed, moved, and safely off to college.  I must have spent four hours just setting up her new laptop alone.   I also took some time on friday night to attend a model railroader picnic - I'm not sure if it was the south Jersey chapter of the NMRA or something called the South Jersey Operators Group, but either way, a great bunch of guys.  I plan to get more involved with this group.  It's something I've wanted to do for awhile but just haven't gotten around to it.  I guess you could say I have been somewhat of a loner model railroader for many years, but groups like that, and the upcoming Steel Mill Modeler's Meet have shown me another side of the hobby.  More on this when I have time.

A fellow at the model railroaders picnic gave me a suggestion on making scrap loads in a blender - we need a few loads plus tons of scrap in piles.  You can see the preliminary results of this method - very realistic and very easy.  Once we set it in the piles and car loads we will spray or wash it black and then dry brush rust colored.    There are a few other pictures of the Free-Mo module under construction.  It was more difficult than I thought to construct the module and follow the guidelines.  On problem we ended up having was with the placement of the coke dock.  To place it in the prototype location we would have had to extend the module length by around two or three feet - so we changed the location but ended up with a problem concerning the conveyor belt.  To solve this we built a small building to simulate an elevator.  Another coke dock issue was that we weren't able to use an elevated dock , although the prototype in Alabama didn't have a raised dock like the Burlington plant.  
This will probably be my last post until I return from the Steel Mill Modeler's Meet about a week from today.  I'll post many pictures then of the Meet and our module.  Hope to see some of you in North Carolina

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


One week until we leave for the Steel Mill Modelers Meet in North Carolina.  I am, of course, not exactly at the point I had hoped to be at this point.  There will be a big push this weekend as I have pretty much set most of it free, other than dropping my daughter off at college.  We have all the materials for the actual Free-Mo module itself and have cut some of the lumber.  The plan is to try to put it together tomorrow night so we can finalize a layout and start positioning the structures,...etc.    I think it is within reason at this point to be able to have the following structures painted and on the module - the cupola building, the small and large baghouses, the water tower, the coke dock, and the dust collector building, and the associated piping and maybe some ancillary details.  I don't think I'll get to any of the interior of the cupola building, but what I expect is to make this project a work in progress - adding to it yearly - for next year maybe the interior of the cupola and also add on an extension for the actually pipe making portions of the mill.  
Jimmy has been working on the engine house/maintenance building and also he assembled an Athern Conrail gondola that I picked up the other day at Sattlers - it's nice that these kits are still very reasonably priced - actually when you think about it, they used to be $4 or $5 20 years ago, but you still had to add $2 in Kadees with are included now.    We have been pulling  the modern equipment out of storage - a few gons and hoppers so we have something to run.  
I've been working on a few fronts - the details on the cupola building and the ductile baghouse.   Railings, pipe rings, access hatches,...etc.  - all are just time consuming, but needed for that dose of realism.  I probably have another four hours of work on the cupola building and it will be ready for paint.   Oh, I also worked on the scrap loading dock a bit - added wood bumpers with NBW detail and also some sides for the chutes.  Jimmy is starting to make the many configurations of scrap piles we need.    
I built the ductile baghouse also.  This is similar to the cupola baghouse, just a third the size.  It also doesn't have a setup to collect the dust from the building other than to dump it from the bottom.   In the Bessemer, AL prototype this was used to collect dust from the ductile pipe production building - basically a giant air cleaner.  However, at the Burlington, NJ plant, the air from the cupola building was also sent to a baghouse (this is not the case in Alabama).  So I will be adding a pipe from the top of the cupola building gable to this unit.   It is necessary to have a blower unit for this baghouse in order to move the air.  In the cupola baghouse the stack pressure from the cupolas keep the air moving.    

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Built the two cupola stack assemblies.  The platforms were made from .060 scraps (cutoffs from building core) and .040 styrene decks.  The stacks are thin-wall PVC with Evergreen channel and vac-formed tops.  Also worked on overhead pipe and support assembly for dust collector building and cleaned up and primed the water tower.

Monday, August 17, 2009


Water tower is pretty much finished.  Vac-formed the top and added a .030 disk inside to make it a bit stronger and used .040x.040 styrene to create a thicker edge and a lip. I added a bunch of ladders from the Central Valley sprues, and .035 styrene rod x bracing.  The railing is the usual .030 square posts with .020x.040 rails.   I also added a tube representing the fill tube on the back of the structure.   I have to do a little clean up filling and sanding and this should be ready to head to the paint shop - the overall structure is white, with a blue roof and bottom and a red sign on the main portion.   I'm pretty happy with the results - not perfect - but for a few hours of work and parts mostly from the scrap box it's much better than the usual miniature tanks.    I was looking at the picture of the Roebling Steel water towers - they had two - essentially the same body but much higher.  I think for the layout water towers I will make the legs much longer.   I've included a prototype photo so you can get an idea of what I was striving for.
We need some modern vehicles for the module - primarily loaders and trucks.  I picked up an older Walther's loader kit and Jimmy put it together this afternoon.  He made his papa proud - no glue smudges or sprue pieces and it even works well.  Any of you that have built these vehicle kits, either Walthers, or Kibri, ...etc. , know how difficult they are - lots of little parts - poor instructions - and half the parts you can't get glue on and the other half you can.  He is becoming an outstanding modeler.   We are going to leave it the factory molded colors and just add some small details like the hydraulic arms in silver and then weather the overall vehicle.
The final picture is of the vac-formed exhaust hoods for the two cupolas - formed from .040 styrene.  

Sunday, August 16, 2009


I had a half decent few days working on the pipe foundry project.  You never seem to get as much done as you'd like.   Work done was as follows:
1.  On the cupola baghouse - I trashed the original leg system that was pictured in the last blog - it was hastily built and not engineered well.  Just handling it pieces would come detached and I figured this would be a never ending repair item.  I can't have this on a model that is essentially meant to be portable.  I worked out a newer, simpler design show sitting on top of the baghouse.  
2.  The cupola building - I had hoped to finish siding this building.  I ran out of Evergreen .040x.040 corrugated material and won't be able to get some new sheets for a few days.   I built some of the afterburner and blast door assembly.  We also turned the gas washer from a block of wood and started with the downcomer/gas washer assembly.  This was all built on a sheet of .060 styrene and attached to the main cupola building.   The blast door does work although the stack under goes nowhere.  
3.  The water tower.   I know I probably shouldn't be wasting my time on a water tower, however, at the prototype foundry in Burlington, NJ the water tower is a fairly distinct feature of the site and also carries the US Pipe logo on it.   I just thought it would be an interesting feature to the module.   Most of the commercially produced water towers are incredibly small compared to the prototypes and I intend to build at least one or two towers for my layout, so this is sort of a test bed for me.   I used a few manufactured parts for this tower - Central Valley Truss Columns and Rix Water Tank sections.   The body of the tower is Rix Water Tank sections - built using only 5 pieces per ring to give the tank a diameter of just over 20'.   The top and bottom are vac-formed pieces of .040 styrene.  I turned masters from a wood block.  There is a .030 platform between the bottom of the tank and the main tank.  This is reinforced with .060x.060 styrene.  I need to still add the top, railings, ladder, fill pipe, and a few other details.    

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


A brief update on the Pipe Foundry - 
Cupola building is built and walls have corrugated siding applied.  I've started the work on the roof.   I've used up most of my corrugated material, which isn't cheap.  Need to get some more.
I wasn't satisfied with the top of the collector house silo.  The grain elevator assembly that I'd used seemed too big so I cut things down a little.  I've added the secondary hopper/silo thing on the roof and also some of the stairs and walkways.  I have a game plan with this, just need to put the work in to finish it.  
I've started adding the leg framework to the cupola baghouse.  Once I finish with the frame and side it with corrugated material, Jimmy is going to add the many details to this structure.

Initial work was also done on the water tower.  We are planing on building the module benchwork this weekend.  I also need to have a blitz of wood turning, vac-forming, and general modeling in the need few days/weekend.  As of today we are three weeks exactly from leaving for North Carolina.  By monday I hope to have a pretty good handle on what's left to do and how we are going to finish.  

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


More work on the baghouse today - added .040 styrene sides and ends with .125 square reinforcing in the corners.  Proportions look pretty good.  
Also, last night and tonight I worked on what I am calling the collector house.  It's basically a storage silo/building for the dust from the bag house.  It is connected to that structure by pipes hung from wires.   The building is a combination of styrene, Pikestuff parts, and pieces from a Walthers grain elevator.  

Monday, August 3, 2009


Baghouses -  As we rush to build the structures for this module we are working on a few fronts.   We are depicting two baghouses on our module, similar to the prototype practice.  
Before I go on, a brief description of these structures -  Basically a bag house is a giant shop vac.  In the glory years, before the EPA, foundries like ours would basically just have a stack and all the particulate residue from the foundry process would go right up the stack and into the air and then where ever.  As the government gradually began to address this pollution, more and more particulates had to be removed before anything went up any stacks.  There are a number of methods of doing this - water sprays , precipitators,...etc.   Baghouses basically contain a series of cloth bags just like a shop vac to filter out these particulates.  There is some sort of mechanism to shake or clean the bags out, with the dust falling into hoppers and from there either dumped into railcars, trucks, or on the ground.  With our large baghouse there is a piping system to move this dust into a storage silo and thence into trucks.  (I have no idea what they do with it after that)   
On the module we will have two baghouses - the cupola baghouse and the ductile baghouse.   The cupola baghouse is the largest, receiving waste gases directly (after some cooling)  from the stacks of the cupolas.  It has 27 hoppers and is approximately 180' long.    The ductile baghouse is for primarily the pipe casting areas that we are not modeling, but also receive some dirty air from inside the cupola building.  We are modeling it with 12 hoppers.   
In modeling these structures the most complicated piece are the hoppers as it is an elongated pyramid shape.  Building these individually out of styrene would be very time consuming.  Casting them out of resin would be very expensive.  We chose to use MDF.  If was fairly easy to cut the elongated sides in a table saw and then the short side in a miter saw.  You can see the finished sections, glued up on a 3/4" piece of MDF.   My only concern with this method is that these pieces are fairly heavy and might deform the small supports.  If I notice this happening I might have to find a way to conceal some steel struts.  


We continued working on the main foundry building.  It is built from .060 styrene with an overlay of .040 corrugated siding.  I took a page from Dean Freytag and used some .080 strip to create a foundation around the perimeter of the structure.  To add some interest, and probably add numerous hours of build time to this, we are leaving part of the rear of the structure near the scrap dock open and a larger section of the front of the building open.  The front opening will basically depict the lower parts of the cupola(s), the turntable (more on this in a later blog) and some other details if we have time.   Essentially the pipe casting building was attached to the cupola building.  We are representing just the start of this structure and the processes therein.  At a later time we might perhaps model this building as an add-on to the module.   

 On the second picture you can see some of the lamination work underway of the .040 corrugated siding.  You can also see the railroad tunnel in the structure.  This obviously is not prototype and is just done to enable us to fit the structure on a 2' wide module (the limit of our transport ability to North Carolina).   Two things however, there was a smaller tunnel on the US Pipe cupola building in Alabama for truck traffic, and where we have positioned the tunnel would not interfere with any of the inner workings of the prototype structure.