Thursday, October 29, 2009


The few hours I've been able to get into the basement in the past week, have been spent mostly on non-steel tasks - more track laying - decoder installs - starting some scenery - and generally planing things.    I did pick up the Walther's Heavy Duty Crane kit for the electric melt shop.  I actually have three of these on order for elsewhere in the plant.  For the price you get a basic crane assembly that will save a lot of scratchbuilding hours.  It is, as are most Walther's kits, slightly incomplete and under-detailed.   After building the model pretty much per the instructions, I've started to detail the crane using mostly styrene shapes.   In the picture you can see the drive motor, transmission, and drive shaft that was added to the one side of the crane.  I still need to add the electrical contacts for the trolleys along this side and then a walkway on the other.  These simple things add some "mass" to the model.   By the way - these ideas are mostly from Dean Freytag's Cyclopedia.    
A second picture shows a slightly blurry ladle from the electric furnace kit being upgraded with a refractory lining, new trunnions, and a tilting bracket.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


Some of you folks that were at the Steel Mill Modelers Meet a few months ago might have seen the USS Joe Magarac comic that John Glabb had a slide of.  I actually have a copy of that comic book, and a second one that US Steel put out.  The Joe Magarac comic is interesting, but the other comic, just titled Steel, is actually an excellent primer on how steel is made from iron ore and turned into a finished product.   These are the covers of both,  and a page from the Steel comic.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Funny thing happened earlier tonight.  I pulled the electric melt shop interior out to add a trestle/floor to carry 30" gauge track and add a few other items, and my son asked what I thought was a stupid question at the time - "Is that going to fit in the building?"   I answered, "of course".  After all, I must have checked the fit at one time - right? - well apparently not.   It was a simple fix - I had to cut off the walkway to the right of the transformer vault and a corresponding amount of foundation beneath.    

One thing I have been doing a lot lately is looking at a lot of electric furnace photos.  From what I can tell, there were two ways of charging them - either by a side door, or by moving the furnace top  to one side.  The top loading seams to be pretty universal after the 1960s and Brandon Wehe makes an excellent bottom discharge scrap bucket that would be used for this purpose.  However, at least at Bethlehem Steel (Lehigh) in the 1950s, scrap and additives were loaded through a side door using conventional open hearth scrap trays or buckets.  It makes sense, after all, the melt shop at Bethlehem was originally an open hearth facility.   I will be using this latter method for two reasons - fidelity to the prototype, and to give a little running room to the 30" narrow gauge track (the electric melt shop is within the blast furnace section of the plant and about six feet or so from the bessemer and open hearth steel facility.)    The idea is that all the scrap prep and loading into the narrow gauge trains will be at one location in the steel making section of the plant.   My narrow gauge system is not just for show but I intend to include it in the operating scheme.
So - tonight - besides the modifications for size reasons, an elevated platform for the narrow gauge track was added and attached to the rest of the furnace assembly.  Also, I worked on the transfer car for the hot steel ladles. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Narrow Gauge - Part 6

No more work on the locomotive tonight.  I did begin to rough out a general purpose car that I can replicate pretty fast and cheaply without resorting to resin casting.   It's a basic design using styrene, but it looks pretty good.   After these pictures were taken I added covers to the axle bearings, which improved the overall appearance.  I still need to add some angle or some other structural stuff to the axle bearings to act as additional supports and give this part of the model some more detail.  I also need to pick up some HOn3 couplers for the loco and cars.    The car will hold four seven foot scrap boxes (by Ken Ray Models)  or two 11-ton ingot molds.  The latter might be pushing it as the car has some big overhangs.  Seven tons or less might work better.  

Friday, October 16, 2009

Narrow Gauge - Part 5

Cab - nothing really to explain here, just straight up model building.  I did leave out the cab interior and instead stuffed it with lead right up to the window sills.

Narrow Gauge - Part 4

The drivetrain - 
First you build the transmission.  This is mostly just a few gears and then a retainer that doesn't work so well - I started to worry a bit here as I was getting a little binding.  I fiddled with it and corrected it, but I didn't feel the gear retainer was seated properly.    After this you need to take the motor and install the worm gear, followed by the transmission, and then a brass contact bar.  The whole assembly is held together by a few more delrin parts, all just pressed on or fitted - no glue.   Oh, and most importantly, the motor has to be oriented a specific way otherwise you probably won't get electric contact. Also, oil the gears a bit.
One of the sideframes gets three gears - the motor only powers one axle, so this is the way of driving the other.   The gears sit in the frame and then you press the frame on and they are held in by that big flat piece I was wondering the purpose of.   Now the fun part - as I am modeling HOn30, and this is an HOn3 locomotive, you need to regauge the wheelsets.  I did this by taking off the outer axle gears - they fit on the rounded end of the axle if you loose track.   I then put the wheels in a vise and slowly pushed them together until we were at HOn30.  I had to compare the two and balance things out a bit, but it worked.  - Yeah.   Now you need to put the axle gears back on and then install the wheel sets - there is a front and a back - into the sideframe with the gears.  The gears need to mesh and then carefully install the opposite frame.  It's a bit tricky and make sure the gears don't bind.  
Now, the motor assembly.  First you will need to bend in the pick-up wires a little to fit the HOn30 wheelset.  Then the motor sort of just drops right in.   Careful that the brass wires from the early step make contact where they are supposed to.  Now you can throw it on some track and see if it runs or not.  At first mine sputtered and then sort of ran but didn't move a whole lot - one of the axle gears was slipping, on the non-driven axle.  I used a touch of ACC to bond this to the axle and then the locomotive started to move.  I could tell right away that weight would help this locomotive a lot.  There isn't a whole lot of room to put weight other than the cab - so I would have to sacrifice the interior cab details in light of having a better running locomotive.  

Narrow Gauge - Part 3

No operating sessions tonight due to a regional NMRA conference, so I was able to sit down and take a crack at the Grandt Line GE 25 Ton Loco.    As I've said in the last one or two narrow gauge blogs, the Grandt Line loco looks great - perfect for my steel plant narrow gauge.  Most of the other narrow gauge diesels available - the Minitrain and Roco stuff, and then my attempt at the F&C Kit - they all have one thing in common - they look smallish - cute for a replicant Maine 2-footer, but not sufficiently industrial.  One of the pictures is from the internet showing the look I'm going for - taken at the Bethlehem Steel (Lehigh) Electric Furnace Shop.  (By the way - one of the down the road projects will be a multiple resin casting of the cars shown)   Now of course, the only problem with this whole plan is the Grandt Line POS (piece of sh*t) motor and transmission.   Either the folks at Grandt Line have a sadistic streak, or more likely, just like having a high profit margin -  I suspect the latter as this $50 kit has about 4 ounces of delrin and styrene castings and a 50 cent motor.   Well, I'll tell you the ending now - it runs slightly better than I expected,  and so long as I keep it well oiled and the track clean I should be able to operate the open hearth and the bessemer plant with a small fleet of these.  
On to the construction - I will have to do this in multiple parts as I think I can only post four pictures or so per blog.  
The construction of this locomotive is broken down into sub assemblies.  The instructions are complete and have all the information you will need, but most times you will want to read each section twice and carefully look at the pictures.  To get to a running locomotive with a shell, but still a fair amount of details - like couplers, railings, and some other detail parts left, took me four and a half hours.  I probably have another two hours to completion.  
The first subassembly was the under frame.  You need to ACC a few parts to the flat frame piece - the parts won't seem to have any function, but later you will understand why they are there.   This assembly also involves bending a few pieces of very thin brass wire - two are for wheel pick-ups and the other is to tie into the motor brush contact.  Again,  they won't seem to make any sense, but eventually you will have that a ha moment.  Bend the first pickup wire to the shape on the plans - you will need a fine pair of needle nose to get the shape - this pushes through the crossbar piece and then fans out into the two wheel pick-ups - in both cases there is a plastic cap that goes on to hold the wire in place.  You will also leave about an 1/8" of the wire loop on the opposite side of the frame - this will later make contact with the motor housing.   You can see this wire by itself in the one picture. The next wire is sort of a bus connector - the photo show the fancy bend and also the 3/4" piece of insulation on the wire - this will attach the second pickup wire to the motor brush contact.  Then you bend the second pickup wire to the pattern - insert - glue plastic retainer - then, the tricky part, solder the bus connector to the pick-up, without melting anything - use a low wattage soldering iron.  Then you add a few more plastic parts to the frame and you are done with this assembly.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Narrow Gauge - Part 2

Our quest to find suitable and, more importantly, commercially available motive power for our to be built narrow gauge system serving the steel making facilities of our mill, has led us to the Grandt Line 25 Tonner.   The GE 25 ton locomotive will make an excellent machine for use in the mill.  My first concern was whether this locomotive could be regauged to run on HOn30 track.  An internet search only brought up one reference as to regauging and it wasn't a how-to thing.  I decided to take a chance and ordered the HOn3 kit for this locomotive.  Upon reading through the instructions - yes - the wheelsets can be regauged for 30" track.   Now comes the hard part - building this sucker.  I've worked with GrandtLine locomotives in O-gauge - when it says kit, you have to build every last little piece down to the individual gears.  The running quality of my O gauge finished locomotives wasn't great so I am hoping this will be better - if not it does look feasible to mount a good n-scale mechanism under the hood.    The photo shows the box and what is in it.  In the next blog I'll start documenting the steps building this unit.  If all goes well and everything runs good, then I'll have to build a half dozen more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


The pig casting complex has been sitting in an 85% complete state for months now.  I tend to get to a point with some models that I have finished all the hard stuff and what's left I've figured out and/or it's just mundane stuff that I'm dreading.  In this case it was a combination of both - the mundane being the placement of the small styrene discs on the conveyor that represent the hinged links.  I had done about half earlier - well it wasn't that bad, in fact it took less than an hour to finish.   One of the pictures show the pile of discs and the cheapo leather punch I use to make them.   After this I had to clean up the foundation for the intermediate conveyor supports with some strip styrene.  Also on this foundation, besides the supports, rests a lime spray box.  This device puts a coating of a lime slurry on the pig molds that are on the return run to the casting house.  The lime I believe acts as a release agent and maybe extends the life of the molds.  Now, wait a second you ask?  A slurry, ie water, right before pouring liquid hot iron into the mold?   Apparently, the molds are still so hot that the water in the slurry almost instantly vaporizes.    The Mike Rabbit plan set I am using only has a basic sketch of this device from one view and I have no photos of it, nor have I spoken to anyone that has ever seen one in action.  So, basically I'm building something that I think it might be like.   At my pig caster, the bags of lime are stored in the brick hoist house where they are mixed with water in a tank and pumped to the spray box under the conveyor.   Well there are a few pictures of my lime spray box.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Not too much model railroading this weekend.  I've been playing around with some brass/bi-polar LEDs, and styrene to make a working searchlight type signal.  I have a workable model but I still need to improve the cosmetics a bit and streamline the building process.  They, of course, are available commercially, however, the three or so manufactures seem to have erratic supplies available and vary in detail, with the most expensive being also the best looking.   By making them myself I will be able to always supply them when needed and also probably save a few bucks.  I'll eventually dedicate a post or two to these signals.  

Besides the signals I finished up the Walther's tug.  Overall, a pretty easy model with good fitting parts.   The tug is going to be lettered and painted to represent a Lehigh Valley tug.  This fits with our overall theme - the coal dock in the port is a Lehigh Valley operation.   The paint scheme is relatively easy, however, the decals included in the kit are for either the Lehigh or the Bethlehem -  The Lehigh was used on the Harlem river so it has the lower pilot house and smoke stack, which I didn't model, and the Bethlehem I am not sure of as I can't find any pictures.   So the tug will probably be the Bethlehem.   I add some lighting to the kit - nav lights using red and green LEDs and I plan on also adding some general lighting below deck.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


The prototype meet last weekend got me thinking about railroad tugs.  I have always intended on modeling one in my harbor, but I wasn't sure what model I was going to use or even maybe scratchbuild one.   At the meet I was able to see a few of the Walther's tug close up and also hear some experts compare it to the prototype.   I was surprised that it is very prototypical.   The local train store had one on the shelves for the past few months - rereleased after a long spell dating to the late 90s.  I also noticed that the 2010 Walthers catalog doesn't list it at all, so I figured I better get it just in case.   Some things I like about the model that I hadn't realized about it - it is a waterline kit, so no crazy hacking away of half the hull - and it comes with an excellent sheet of decals covering pretty much every railroad that operated in New York harbor, along with a bunch from the midwest and west.  I haven't decided on the railroad that I will paint and decal it for - probably Lehigh Valley but maybe CNJ or NYC.    Started assembling it with the hull structure.  It went together well, although I needed to file down the lower deck piece a bit to get the second hull side piece to fit well.

Monday, October 5, 2009

NEFFPMM - Lots of Letters

Last week was a busy  model railroad week - not much work on my own stuff but interesting never the less.   We did get a chance to work on a bit of the old code 70 track that we are reconfiguring on the coke works branch of the railroad.  We aren't doing anything within the coke works but we are rebuilding a yard to serve the rolling mill that will now be next to the coke works.    
Some of the week's highlights - 
Wednesday - we were invited to visit a fellow steel mill modelers layout.  I had been a fan of his layout and he was a reader of my blog - turns out we live about ten minutes from each other.  His layout turned out to be far more impressive in person than what I had seen of it on the internet.  The track plan was well thought out and flowed nicely, with plenty of room to view things.  The fit and finish of everything was neat and precise.   Best of all, at least 60% of the layout is an integrated steel mill - Harsco Steel - a fictional mill (although there is a real Harsco)   There are blast furnaces, open hearths, a coke works, a BOF, rolling mills,..etc.   The railroad is operated by a crew of 8 or so periodically with extensive mill operations, in addition to the through and local trains.  
Friday - Jimmy and myself have started attending a weekly operating session that alternates between about five or six south Jersey layouts.  Jimmy has been especially excited about running trains on these layouts and the group has been most welcoming.  I do like running trains, but I think I like talking trains with the members of the group just as much.  
Saturday - The NEFFPMM -  What the heck is that?  It stands for the Northeast Fallen Flags Prototype Modelers Meet.   It was the second year this event was held in Highbridge, NJ.   It is a one day event and my first year.  I enjoyed myself a great deal - the seminars were all excellent, very nice models on display, and a handful of vendors.    About half the seminars had to do with modeling New York harbor rail-marine operations.   One presenter is building a layout that represents New York Central/Erie/and Lehigh Valley Manhattan freight terminals on the Hudson River between 28th and 31st street.  It's a very interesting subject as the New York Central was the only trackage connected via the west side line to the rest of their system.  The Erie and LV both received cars via barge and interchange with the NYC. He also is making excellent use of large photo-shopped building images for his backdrops.    Another modeler spoke on specifically the Walther's Diesel Tugboat Kits.  Using this kit as the basis he modified it where needed to represent a half dozen different railroad tugs.   My friend Sam Reynolds gave an outstanding presentation on the New Jersey Zinc's Railroad operations in New Jersey and PA.   It was eye-opening for me in that I hadn't realized the scale of operations of this company.  It is really something you would almost expect to see out west - the mining of a non-ferrous ore (in New Jersey) and the processing of it (in PA)    There may also be some tie-ins with the steel industry as unknown before to me, NJ Zinc manufactured ferro-manganese, presumably for the steel industry.    This industry also used modified covered hoppers and other rolling stock to move their ore and their finished product.