Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Narrow Gauge - Part 1

I have always been a big fan of industrial narrow gauge.  The New Jersey waterfront (New York Harbor) was rife with these small little tramways.  Over the years I would say I have come across at least 50 of these lines and there are probably many more that I'm not aware of.  A large concentration was centered around the city of Perth Amboy, which is located in the lower extremities of the port of New York, and which also happens to be the setting of our model railroad (more on that in a future post)     The majority of the industrial narrow gauge lines were related to clay mining , and/or the manufacture of brick, fire brick, terra cotta, and fireproofing (hollow brick)     Others were related to sand mining.  Still others were in the three large non-ferrous metals refineries.  (For a good portion of the 20th century, over 90% of the copper produced in America was refined in three plants only a few miles apart).    One of the pictures is of the US Metals Plant in Carteret - a 30" gauge system.   
At this past Steel Mill Modeler's Meet John Glabb gave an excellent presentation on narrow gauge lines in steel mills, and what was available for modeling them.   We plan on having a fair sized HOn30 narrow gauge system in our steel making section of the plant, which we have yet to build even the benchwork for.   John, the proprietor of Peachcreek Shops (see links) is in the process of manufacturing a line of HOn30 ingot cars.  As far as HOn30 motive power - we own a Roco European Diesel and a not so great working AHM Minitrains tank loco.   Our thoughts at this time are to purchase a Grandt Line 25 ton GE HOn3 loco and convert it to HOn30.  If it runs well and the conversion goes smooth we will probably buy four or five of them.   John Glabb also told me of a source for dual gauge HO/HOn30 track, which will probably make things real interesting.    I've heard a few comments over the past few years that HOn30 is too small a gauge for a steel mill - the minimum being 3 foot - this is actually not the case.  The Open Hearth Plant of the Edgar Thomson Works had an extensive 30" gauge system, for one. 
One hope we had recently was that Funaro & Camerlengo released a Narrow Gauge Plymouth Switcher body in cast resin.  We had hoped that this body would fit over Bachmann's excellent MDT n-scale diesel mechanism.  We picked up the kit this past weekend, but it won't fit, even with extensive modification.   The only thing that it will fit, I found out later is the old AHM Minitrain's Plymouth switcher, which we don't have.    We will still use the kit for something.  Finally,  with all this narrow gauge fever, Jimmy ripped up his N-scale layout in his room and is replacing it with a On30 layout.  We have a fair amount of Bachmann On30 equipment, and also, shown in the one photo - a beautiful Chivers Finelines gondola kit.  These are hard to find in the US, but excellent kits.  I also have a little shorty boxcar by Boulder Valley that I need to assemble for him.   


Continued progress on the electric melt shop.  I added many of the handrails, stairs, and ladders.  Also, I fabricated some ventilators for the transformer vault from 3/8 square tubing.   I cut off the bottoms of the three electrodes and added some 5/32 round red translucent tubing.  When I paint the furnace I will feather in the paint on the electrodes to give a gradual transition from the hot to the cold (relatively speaking) end.   Turned on the Rite Aid LED candle assembly again and looks real nice with the tubing.   
Speaking of that, I returned to Rite Aid to pick up some additional LED assemblies - I found some tea candle sized lights that were a dollar a piece - they are a single large yellow/orange LED -  they throw out a decent amount of light and they use a calculator battery.  So, if you break the assembly down it will fit in a ladle or a hot metal car.  One problem - with the single LED the flickering effect is more noticeable and might not be that realist.  With the three LED set in the electric furnace you get a more subtle flickering as it is averaged over three bulbs.  

Saturday, September 26, 2009


The base for the melt shop is .060 styrene with 3/8 " square tubing to represent concrete pillars.  There are 3/8" I-beams on top of the pillars.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Worked a bit on some finishing touches on the quench locomotive - an operator, couplers, and window glass.    Then it was back to the melt shop.  (For those of you waiting, yes, I'll be back to work on the blast furnaces soon)    As I stated in an earlier blog, I am basically following Dean Freytag's Cyclopedia of Industrial Modeling suggestions on building a melt shop, with a few differences here and there.   Tonight I built the transformer vault.  I used the kit pieces for this construction - cutting the long wall down to six panels and the short walls to three panels - the rear wall was just .040 styrene with some reinforcements, and the roof is .060 styrene.  I cut out the deck for the transformer vault, as well as the base plate using .060 styrene.    
Next I fabricated the curved gear racks for the underside of the furnace platform.  These are from laminations of .060 styrene with a strips of large scale metal siding, cross-cut, forming the gears. The assemblies were glued to the bottom of the furnace platform and bracing was added. 

Monday, September 21, 2009


Finit - Picked up the few remaining supplies needed for the quench car today at Sattler's train shop.   Tomorrow I will start priming and painting the car.  

Sunday, September 20, 2009


A little bit more on the quench car.  Added access doors on the oven side - first I cut out holes as I had forgotten to add weight when I should have.  The tracks are small styrene angles and the verticals on the side are .030x.040 strips.  I also added the wharf side top piece and installed a top flange around the hopper.  I used .100 channels for the wharf high side bracing.


FIRE  -  I installed the three LED unit and circuit board that I took out of a "Harvest" candle that RiteAid has on sale for 50% off or $4.  The LEDs glow a nice orange-yellow and the circuit makes them flicker slightly and irregularly - it looks like something is going on instead of a constant glow.  I will definitely be picking up a bunch more of these units this week - the price is excellent.  I installed the LED and the circuit board on the back interior side of the electric melt vessel using hot glue.  After it was installed I poked a hole in a piece of aluminum foil for the LEDs and just pressed the foil into the inside of the vessel, cutting out the pour hole and using a little hot glue to secure things.  I cut the wires from the switch and the battery pack (the switch selects off-dim and full - I just need full so I trashed the dim wire too.)  The two remaining wires were routed through the back of the vessel where they won't be seen.   

Saturday, September 19, 2009


A few more construction shots of the underframe of the car as well as additional work building the sides and ends.   The sides and ends are .030 styrene and the angled piece is .040


I have a small piece of real estate just behind blast furnace row for an electric melt shop.  As this is the 50's the melt shop is primarily for manufacturing speciality steel/alloys.   I will be kitbashing this facility from the Walther's Electric Furnace kit.   I'd hoped to have the room to use two of these kits but together but I will have to settle for just one - it is against a backdrop so theoretically it might just represent the end of the shop building.   To build the interior of the structure I am using Dean Freytag's book, The Cyclopedia of Industrial Modeling and historical photos. There will be a small exterior scrapyard with a craneway.  I will also be using a number of Brandon Wehe's Scrap buckets for charging the furnace.    I looking at adding lighting to this structure I came across LED candles at RiteAid - on sale 50% off  - final price $4 each.  Once you break the candle part off you are left with a battery pack, a small circuit board, and a three LED bundle.  The LEDs are yellow/orange and they flicker.   I intend to fit the LEDs into the furnace.  

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Prior to the Steel Mill Modelers Meet I had started to mostly scratch build a Bethlehem Steel mill gondola per instructions in Dean Freytag's Cyclopedia of Industrial Modeling.  I like using Central Valley frames as the basis for scratchbuilt cars - they are cheap - four for about $10 and are very adaptable.  For the mill gon I had shortened one of these frames and installed the sides.  I was at that point when I spotted a new kit on the State Tool and Die table called the DFG Gondola Kit - it comes with three 30' mill gons that were almost exactly what I was scratchbuilding.   Actually the DFG stands for Dean Freytag Gondola -  his 30' gondola I was in the process of building.  I bought on set.  As with State Tool and Die's other rolling stock kits like the universal mill car,...etc.   they are very basic and adaptable.  They went together easy with the exception of the end sills preventing the trucks from moving properly.  To solve this I ground out a little of the back of each end sill using a Dremel.  It was also hard to hide enough weight in the underframe, but I got very close to the recommended amount.   Overall the cars were easy to build and I will be buying at least three or four more kits.  
Also shown is the beginning of my quench car.  Again I am using a Central Valley frame as the basis.  I've cut the sides and ends fro .030 styrene and used strip to create the girder sides, with .030x.040 strip as the verticals.  


Finally getting back to some modeling.  We spent some time cleaning up the whirlwind debris from the push to get the free-mo module finished and organizing the tools again,....etc.  We also started laying some track on the coke-works branch of the layout.  This was originally a city of sorts in the older version of the layout.  It was all code 70 track which we are preserving where ever possible, especially with the turnouts.  Should hopefully have this section up and running by next week.   As far as steel goes, this branch has the coke works and the finishing pipe mill for the steel plant.  
Speaking of the coke works - I put the doors on the quench locomotive and painted it a machine green type color.  It's been weathered a bit but needs a little more after I install the glass and operator.  It also still needs a few details like a searchlight and fire extinguisher.  I also have to figure out an arrangement by which the loco gets power - some sort of side mounted trolley type pickup.   I don't want to install this until I put something on the actually model representing these wires.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


This will be the last pipe foundry post for at least two weeks or so.  I want to get back to working on my blast furnaces and for once and for all finishing the pig caster.   The models survived their trip to North Carolina and back with only the loss of a ladder, easily repaired.   The module was more successful than I thought and was usually surrounded by one or two people taking photos, despite my disclaimers of it being very unfinished.  The last minute push just wasn't enough to finish what I wanted.   The cupola building still lacked many railings, stairs, ladders, and a few walkways.  The ductile baghouse was complete, but as with all the structures was only given a basic coat of paint for effect.  Railings were unpainted as were many of the details, and no weathering was done at all.  We may be displaying this module next month.  If this is the case we will try to finish things up and get some serious painting done.  
The funny thing at the event is that we were the only free-mo module to show up.  There are at least three other steel mill modules out there that have been to previous shows but unfortunately they didnt bring them, either because they didn't attend or because they flew.  Anticipating the standard we had borrowed a Digitrax throttle, however, also being Boy Scouts, we came prepared, bringing our spare Dynamis DCC system.  Jimmy used this to operate the layout fairly continuously while it was on display.   He also was able to run his two new locos right then and there.    Looking back at my pictures I didn't take any of the actual Cupola building, so I will have to do that in the next few days.   The other nice thing about photos is that all my modeling flaws jump out in the closeups, so I know where I need to make improvements.


My report originally postedon the Steel Discussion Board:

I've just returned from the 2009 Steel Mill Modeler's Meet in Raleigh, NC. It was the second year for my son and myself. We had a great time - the hotel was very nice, food was good, but more importantly, excellent presentations, models, and layout tours. Thanks to the efforts of John Glaab the entire four days are well organized have just the right amount of everything. As with last year this event helps "recharge" my modeling batteries. As a result of discussions and presentations I've refined some of the organization of my mill and developed a better operations plan. 

All the presentations held my interest so I really can't say I liked one more than another. My son was in the process of building some narrow gauge critters for our mill prior to the event, so the presentation on modeling narrow gauge in steel mills was especially topical for him. 

There were five layout tours - I only made it to four. They were all larger sized layouts - one was actually three different layouts on two stories of a large addition, the first floor featured a steel mill layout, a second level with an interurban layout, and then the second floor had a large bi-level Pennsy layout. All were built and the track fully laid, with sections of complete scenery. The next layout was another Pennsy HO. It was on the second floor of a separate outbuilding. The layout was complete and had excellent scenery. It had a custom operating system with a CTC panel comprised of four side by side touch screens. The next layout was also in a large outbuilding, really what looked like a small ranch house but all one room. It was built and tracked but scenery was just getting started. Again, it had a sophisticated custom control system. Finally we looked at a large multi level N scale basement layout that replicated Penn Central in the Lehigh Valley during the 1970s. The layout was almost complete except for a small section. Again, excellent scenery, an elaborate computerized control system, and well worked out operating system. The owner of this layout replicated the river front portion of Beth Steel very well.

Models - There were a number of models on display, all very good. The one that stood out and received the Dean Freytag award was an HO Edgar Thompson Blast Furnace scratchbuilt by a first year attendee named Glenn Sonnier from Midolthian, VA. My son and me displayed a free-mo module of a modern pipe foundry. Unfortunately we weren't able to completed it for the show so we had to display it as partially built and just basically painted. 

Purchases - Always lots to buy there and usually not a big enough budget. 

What I bought:

Walthers Rolling Mill Interior
Ken Ray Scrap bins (for open hearth,...et c) these are new and come in 7,6,and 5' lengths - four for $4
Walthers American Crane
Mike Rabbit's 1940 Bessemer Plan set
State Tool and Die Ingot Molds
State Tool and Die new DFG Mill Gons - set of 3 - DFG stands for Dean Freytag Gondola's - these are shorty sized gons with a choice of three different sides

My Son:

Bachmann GE 44 Tonner - Yellow 
Bachmann GE 70 Tonner - Green - both had DCC onboard
Bachmann Depressed Center Flat
Ken-Ray - Three 6' scrap bins
and he won a Spectrum N-Scale 44 Tonner as a door prize.

The pictures are from the steel mill meet.  I will also do another update on the Pipe Foundry Topic with pictures of the models.