Sunday, March 28, 2010

Narrow Gauge - Part 10

I spent part of this weekend attending the Valley Forge Prototype Modelers Meet.    There were some outstanding presentations there, with my only complaint being that with four at a time, I missed a few I would have liked to have gone to.   As happens frequently at these things, I was able to meet a few new folks that I have exchanged emails with in person.  
I hadn't intended on spending anything in the vendor rooms, but of course I did.   The folks from Funaro & Camerlengo were there - they always have show specials and sales.  I was looking for a second Narrow Gauge Plymouth body to match the one I already had - snagged that for $8.   I also bought two car kits - an Erie Hopper and a NYC covered hopper.   Sold in bags instead of the usual boxes they are two for $25 - about $13 a car.  Of course I still need to buy the trucks and couplers, but not bad for something that is unique and unavailable in plastic.  I do need to confess that I have actually never built a resin car kit yet - I have the J&L Coal Tar Tank Car and then these two kits.  I might change my tune about these cars after building them. 
With the second Plymouth body on hand I was able to execute my plans for building a narrow gauge loco for the steel mill using a N-scale 44-tonner mechanism from Bachmann.  This is an outstanding mechanism, that Jimmy won as a door prize at last fall's Steel Mill Modeler's Meet (Thanks to Bachmann and John Glaab).  It is DCC ready so we technically have the potential of using DCC for operations on the narrow gauge portions of track too, although, we will probably just go with traditional blocks and DC for this as the other two locomotives might be harder to convert.     
This I guess is technically a kitbash.  The hoods are pretty straightforward - they need to be cut just behind the second door panel so they are shorter.  The cab needs to be separated from the hood - also easy.  Now for the hard part - the rear wall of the cab needs to be cut out and replaced with a second front wall from the other kit.  This way the window arrangement is the same front or back.   Once this is done, I cut a .040 styrene platform and glued the two hoods and cab to it.   I then built up the edge with some styrene.  Next I need to work on the coupler arrangement and add the details. 

Update on the gate valves - I have been having some difficulty getting good castings from the 1/2" gate valve mold.  I had four useable failures.  I want this to work pretty flawless so I modified the mold tonight and I am trying again.  If I still have trouble then I will try either pressure or a vacuum, and if still no good, a new mold.  

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I guess this post could go under multiple titles but for now I am building these valves for the by-products plant, although they could be used throughout the mill.   Basically I need a ton and a half of gate valves in 1/2" through 3/8".  The valve shown in the photos is from the Thomas Coke Works.  It has a smooth housing unlike many valves with external reinforcing.  A master was carefully made and a mold form built.  The photo shows the 1/2" valve with  half the mold rubber poured.    

O-Scale - Part 2

Just a brief follow up to my O-Scale diversion - 
The roof is made from paper too - cut into strips like the walls, but perpendicular to the paint streaks.  The strips were then cut mostly through in an irregular pattern to represent cedar shingles.  Every few shingles I cut short or on an angle to suggest a roof in need of repair.
The strips were secured with double sided carpet tape like the walls.
After installing the strips I used an india ink wash to even out the tone of the roof, followed by drybrushing with an off white.   The photos show the unwashed vs. washed looks, and then the results of drybrushing.  

Sunday, March 14, 2010

O-Scale - Part 1

I know, you are probably thinking - doesn't this guy have enough irons in the fire, why the heck is he building in o-scale?    Two reasons - I am an o-scaler in a way - I've dabbled in On30 for many years, well before Bachmann was making equipment for this scale.  Also, I've been following on the Railroad Line Forums,  the progress of this artist from Sweden building an On30 layout set in coastal Maine.  Besides being an incredible artist and modelmaker, he uses some very creative construction techniques, primarily due to the expense and or difficulty of obtaining American model railroad supplies.   One technique he uses, the one I became interested in trying out for myself, is using artist pastel paper as a substitute for stripwood.  He is able to create very realistic looking clapboard and vertical board siding using paper, along with paper "cedar shingle roofing"  
So, I figured I give it a try and for the subject matter I choose a freelanced basic small wood barn that is very common here in South Jersey.   While many are now in very advanced stages of decay (including my neighbors barn that collapsed during one of our recent wind storms), this barn would be representative of one from the 40s or 50s - a little worn from it's proximity to the coast, but was painted about 15 years prior and still is fairly structurally intact.    So here is my in progress photo - still much work to do, including the roof, but I'm fairly pleased with the results, given that the only wood on the structure are the corner posts, and those only because I got a deal on a bunch of Northeastern stuff on clearance.  The remainder of the structure is paper over a cardboard box.   Oh - except the door hinges - I fabricated those from .010 styrene and .030 styrene rod.   The walls and doors and some trim are from about 1 1/2 sheets of 8.5x11 pastel paper.  The roof will take one sheet to do.   Also, another interesting fact - there is very little glue in the structure -  the cardboard box is held together with some white glue, but all of the siding is secured by two-sided carpet tape.    The basis of the technique is to use this colored pastel paper - I choose a light tan for the walls.  First the paper is painted with various craft paints for effect, and then it is cut into 1/4" strips and stuck to the side of the building.  
Steel mill folks - don't fret - I have been busy on the mill too.  I actually finally got around to laying all the approach tracks for B-furnace, so the trackwork in my blast furnace complex is finished with the exception of the highline.  I also have been working on a few valve prototypes for the By-Products plant, and elsewhere.  Once they are complete I will start casting these.    I also did a little work on the electronics of the layout and some organization and clean up items.  With the weather getting a bit better and daylight longer I hope to be able to soon make some of the improvements to the basement I need for the final section of the layout.  This section will contain the main yard, some other industries, and the open-hearth steel making complex and blooming mill.  Once the basement is ready and the benchwork up, I can start laying the extensive trackwork, including, hurrah, narrow gauge and dual gauge trackage.  I can't wait.

Narrow Gauge - Part 9

After priming the loco I added some brass grab irons and rails - nothing fancy, just some basic implements where they would be needed.  A coat of grey primer got things ready for paint.  
Working on the future narrow gauge fleet at the same time, a RTV mold was made of my Raritan Steel "Universal Narrow Gauge Car"   This car is adaptable to two primary purposes - carrying ingots as is, and with the addition of three small pieces of angle and some nbw castings, scrap tubs.   I will also probably make a version to carry small ladles and maybe some other versions.    The cars are very inexpensive to mass produce - they use about 2ml of resin.  They are designed for the Atlas N-scale truck/coupler combo and can be fitted with a small weight on the underside, although the plan is to use the vessels being carried as the weight, or to at least hide weight.  With the Atlas couplers and trucks it should be pretty easy to realistically operate the narrow gauge portion of my layout with strategically placed uncoupling ramps.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Narrow Gauge - Part 8

Finally I've gotten back to the modeling bench.    The first order of business was to finish up the narrow gauge locomotive I was working on.  Besides a lot of clean up, I fabricated a short stack and small boxes on each side to conceal the part of the body I had to grind out for clearance.  I'm very happy with the final appearance - not too small like a lot of HOn30 locos - large and industrial looking.  I will be buying at least two more of these body kits and the Bachmann MDT N-scale three axle drive unit.   I anticipate my total narrow gauge fleet to consist of three of these locomotives, one Grandt Line GE 25 Tonner, a converted n-scale 44 ton mechanism, plus an old Roco diesel and AHM steamer, probably sitting at the shop.  My ultimate goal is to have at least one narrow gauge operator as part of the overall operations scheme.  
Toward that goal, I need a lot of narrow gauge cars.  These cars need to do two things - haul ingots and haul scrap for the electric melt shop and the open hearths.  You may remember that early in this series I built a small two axle car for these purposes.  The car was as I wanted it, however, the wheels didn't roll that great and I hadn't as of yet installed couplers.   To make assembly easier and the operation of the cars smoother, I decided to base the car on a tried and true truck/coupler assembly made by Atlas.   These trucks cost around $5 a pair and I anticipate no more than $1 each for casting each car for a total cost of around $6 each.  Something I can handle when building a large fleet of these.   The car in the photo is nearly complete and the trucks were mounted to test clearances,...etc.  After some cleanup tomorrow I should be able to make a mold and start casting bodies.  The car is shown with Ken-Ray 7' Scrap Boxes.  This same car will also carry two ingots in the 4-7 ton range.  I will be making the molds for these also.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Brief Update

It's been a bit longer than usual since my last blog so a brief update -  A combination of working on my own house and taking on a side job in the past few weeks has cut into my modeling time severely.  I hope to be back at the workbench at least a few nights this week.   I put in a fairly large Plastruct order last week and also just fired one off to Micro Mark for some more casting supplies and O-Scale Windows (more on this at another time)   I still need to order some detail parts from BEST to finish the gas by-product plant.    

I received some feedback on my precipitator model concerning the placement of the gas intake pipes along with a prototype photo showing the intakes closer toward the center of the vessel.   He was partially correct in that the two longer intakes were too close to the edge of the precipitator vessel and have since been relocated slightly, however, at Bethlehem, the intakes connected to the vessels slightly outside the halfway point on the radius.  This is how I have generally modeled them, although, the railing, which is located inboard of the edge, gives them the appearance of being further from the center than they really are.  I'm not sure about the engineering advantages of one version over the other.  (Dave A.  tried to email back but your box is full or something - thanks for the picture)

Speaking recently with a few people about my past involvement with a fine organization, The Society for Industrial Archeology, and also wanting to digitize my older photos, I have created a Flickr page.   Flickr is a yahoo service that allows you to store photos online.  My address I think is    If that doesn't work let me know.  This will be an ongoing project and the photos will be fairly diverse, but mostly industrial in nature.  Check up on it on occasion or there probably is a way to be notified when I add to it.  Feel free to use the photos for non-commercial purposes (not that any would be commercially valuable)    My first set is of an "unofficial" industrial archeology expedition taken in the mid-late 90s to a ship graveyard on the Staten Island (New York) side of the Arthur Kill.  If you ever wondered what became of all those railroad marine tugs, barges,..etc.  - a share ended up here.   If you look close at the one picture you can see the Port Reading MacMyler Coal Dumper in the distance on the New Jersey side of the Kill.  It is still standing, but who knows for how long.