Sunday, December 27, 2009

S.S. VALHALLA Part - 3

Merry Christmas to all.  Hope Santa was good to all.  
Spent a nice long weekend at home with the family, just relaxing and working on trains.    As I've said in earlier blogs I am trying to divide my time equally between building structures and the layout.  I'm proud to report that all the track is down on the Coke Works Branch and it is about half wired for power.  I even was able to install one Tortice switch machine.   I also repainted the backdrop in this section - just the sky - still need to do the clouds.    I'll take a photo of the branch line panel when I'm finished with things.  
I also continued working on the SS Valhalla freighter.   This is a completely freelanced ship design.  The only photos I am working off of are a few from a Model Railroader website feature I printed out on marine modeling - and an article from the same magazine featuring a coal ship on the Severna Park layout.   The marine modeling feature had a few photos of a freighter in HO scale that was built from a kit - I looked up the kit and it was way too expensive so I chose to scratchbuild.  There were features on both the models that I liked and am incorporating them into my model, plus some other features I picked up from maritime books,..etc.    My freighter represents a very smallish, WWI vintage freighter, still in use in the 50's but for hauling pig iron to third world nations and bringing back iron ore.  (Colonialism at its finest)   This will had some operational interest - moving materials and products between the port and the furnaces.    I started to add some bracing to the bulwarks throughout the ship using styrene strip.  The rest of my work focused on the superstructure.  Freelancing this as I go, I'm pretty pleased with the overall proportions.   I intend to make some masters of hatches and other features and cast them in resin.   The tank behind the pilot house is a water tank for drinking, washing, and cooking.   Most of the superstructure was built out of .040 sheet styrene.  The closed railings are .020 sheet.   The stack is 7/8" tube  with a 1" base.  

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

S.S. VALHALLA Part - 2

Working from the MDF core, I laminated the decks and bulkheads with sheet styrene, taking time to cut out a few port holes first.  I then added the sides.  The sides are .040 styrene.  There are five panels altogether.   Some of the panels form the high railings of the ship so careful layout was necessary.  I also intend to portray a riveted steel hull.   A real ship would have overlapping panels joined with rivets - this is a bit complicated to do in 1/87 scale so instead, taking a trick from the Severna Park Model Railroad group I will use applied strips with rivets embossed on them.  


Well the week started off with a decent sized shipment of discounted Plastruct - mostly tubing, ladders, motors, and lots of warren trusses - thanks to a model railroad friend that has an inside track.   I used some of the new materials to continue work on the Electric Melt shop - adding a truss frame on the side and 1/4" channels and I-beams to the framework.  I still need to add quite a few diagonals but it's getting there.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

General Update - December 2009

I've mostly been working on the actual railroad in the past week or so.  The scratchbuilding as become sort of a catch-22 -  I spend a lot of time building things but then don't finish the last few steps and the painting/weathering - why? - primarily because of the state of the actual layout - anything I finish will have to be moved several times for things like painting and ballasting the rails, scenery, laying the actual rails, backdrop painting adjustments,...etc.    So my goal is to start finishing the trackwork, electronics, painting and ballasting the track and some basic scenery items in specific sections so then I can finished structures and start to detail specific scenes.   I also need to finish some construction on the layout room - primarily the ceiling.  I have an old house with tongue and groove flooring directly on the joists - this means that dirt and dust works its way through the floor and eventually onto the layout.  I have been building sections of plywood ceilings and valences directly over the layout to prevent this.  I would have liked to build a drop ceiling spanning the entire room but being an old house and being 6'3" tall, I wouldn't be able to stand up.  I literally need to stand between the joists while working on the layout.    This all doesn't mean I won't be working on scratchbuilding too - I will be doing a bit of each.  I will include in the blog some things I am working on as it would probably be of interest also.  

What I am calling the Coke Works Branch had the track on it partially ripped up as it had been originally intended to be part of a city for an earlier model railroad.  For economic reasons I elected to keep this branch Code 70 track, reusing some of the old Shinohara Track and adding some new Micro-Engineering flex track. I am of course a bit nervous about these old turnouts and DCC but I've talked to a few people that have said the problem is overstated - we will see I guess.   As part of the layout work, I built the frames for four control panels - one for the main , and one each for the port, the blast furnaces, and the coke works branch.    Each panel will get a Power Shield breaker.    In the course of the friday night operating sessions I have been attending I've used both ground throws and switch machines and feel that while both have their advantages, the machines are the way to go for my situation.   The level of finished detail that I intend will include a lot of wiring, piping,...etc.  that would probably get damaged with ground throws -  machines, although  an expense, will prevent damage.   I will use Tortice Machines throughout.    One thing I am scrapping - DCC control of switches.  I originally intended to use this and already have a Digitrax decoder that works four machines.  It might be something to retrofit later, but from an operational standpoint it would be confusing for someone new to the layout and also, you can't throw switches from the NCE utility controller.    I've posted a jpeg of my first draft of my panel design for the coke works branch.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


With the work on the ore transfer car mostly complete I started thinking about getting back to the highline so it would have somewhere to run.   As I think I stated in the past, the construction is pretty straightforward, it just is repetitive.  I can cut out the parts for and build, maybe four bins in a night.  At this point I have built 18 bins.  Because of my continued issues with styrene warpage I am going to build the highline in three sections of 20 bins each - so you can see, I have my work cut out for me.  I will also need to build a short spur at the one end for the boiler house (to deliver coal to if needed)  and a bridge at the other section.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


A few finishing touches to the ore transfer car end up making for four or five hours work.  Added a lot of pivot pin ends,....etc.  basically small diameter styrene rod chopped thinly and glued on.  I also added the brass ladders and steps.  Built an air tank for the one platform and added the trolley poles.  Probably a bunch more stuff but it's mostly complete.  I have to figure out how to make a number plate for the ends and then paint and weather the car.  Overall this build was pretty complicated, primarily due to the wacky compound angles in the hopper.   I'd rate myself a 6 out of 10 as far as satisfied with the result.  There are a few pieces a little out of wack - whether this is warping styrene or bad measuring, it's hard to tell.  I probably will build a second car at some point, way down the road, and hopefully do a bit better.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Spent four hours or so working on minor details - getting close to a finished product.   The brake gear was a bit of a pain modeling, but I felt that it was important to include visually.  I also mounted the trucks with screws - they turn but the wheels are fixed.    I also added the wide rim on the front and back top edge of the ore hopper - they are installed on a downward angle.  Side plates of .020 styrene were added to the platforms at each end, as well as railings (Tichy pipe rails).  I built the doors using .020 styrene and scale 1x4 styrene strips.   The doors are smaller than most prototype doors so commercial castings were out of the question.   What's left?  traction motors, door operating mechanisms, an air tank, the trolley poles, front windows, number, headlight, and a few other details.  Can't wait to paint it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Doors -  The door assembly is comprised of a fixed panel on top and a moveable panel under - four assemblies total.  The doors are activated by a motor or mechanism concealed in the space between the cab and the hopper end wall.   The fixed and moveable doors were built from .020 sheet styrene and .030x.100 strips and a few .100 I-beams.  I still need to add hinge pins and spacers and some sort of arm to trip the door, whether I actually build the activator or not.  


Trucks part two -  Work continued on the trucks using a variety of styrene strips and shapes to build up the truck frame details.  So far I'm pretty happy with the results.  For this I am primarily using pictures.  The trucks shown in the drawings that I have are different, so they must have changed them out at some point.  I still have to add traction motors and a drive train (waiting on a Plastruct order for the motors), and also the brake gear.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Before I continue with this series I'd better give an idea what was the purpose of this machine for those non-steel folks.   The ore transfer car that I am modeling is based on the prototype machines used at Bethlehem Steel (Lehigh) to transport iron ore and maybe limestone? from the ore yard/sintering plant to the blast furnace storage bins via the highline.  Each unit was self propelled using electric traction motors drawing power from an overhead trolley wire.  Bethlehem Steel's units were somewhat unique in that they used a wide - gauge track (7' 10" between rails).  Presumably this was so the transfer cars could be larger and carry more ore.  Once over the appropriate bins the side doors would open and the contents of the car would fill the bins for use later in the blast furnace.    See photo of the prototype.
Returning to the model  - I added some 1/16 angle stock to the sides of the hopper to simulate the ribs.  Also, I started construction of the trucks.  You can see how I built the wheelsets and set them for the wider gauge.  I used .040 styrene for the side frame base and styrene tubing (round and rectangle) for the hubs.  More to come on these.