Monday, May 31, 2010

Narrow Gauge - Part 12

I was able to spend some time this weekend in continued work on the benchwork for the "steelmaking" portion of my layout.  By steelmaking, I mean the massive open hearth complex that is at the core of the steel production (from molten pig iron) .   The bulk of the steel produced by my mill comes from the open hearths with the remainder from the Bessemer plant (for the pipe mill) and the electric melt shop (speciality steel).   Being a layout/build as you go sort, I only had a very vague plan for this area, although I do set goals of sorts.  One of these goals being substantial narrow gauge trackage to move the scrap buckets, the ingots, and a few other things.   I had wanted to use some of the dual gauge trackage that is now available from Peachcreek Shops (and I still might use a little) but the spatial arrangements of the area I had to work with forces me to put half the narrow gauge on one side of the main line and half on the opposite.  Although dual gauge trackage is not uncommon WITHIN the mill, the main is technically outside the mill, and a little narrow gauge line sharing or crossing a double main with a working passing track might look a bit funny.   Thus, the narrow gauge line had to go over or under the main - I choose over.   The photos show the early construction of a bridge that will cross the main and the industrial leads.  I am building it of balsa wood and Atlas bridge plate sections.  

Thursday, May 27, 2010


Over the past year I've had a few near crashes with the one unsecured stove and the taller unsecured smokestack.  After a long hot day at work it was a simple enough task to focus on - secure these two remaining loose pieces and start adding walkways to tie it all together.  Figuring out the walkways from a half dozen photos wasn't two bad.  To facilitate laying out circular walks I made an aid shown in the one picture.    The walks are made from .030 sheet styrene with .040x.040 strip along the perimeter.  The supports are mostly .040x.040 with some assort workbench scrap structural pieces to add bracing to the smokestack.  (If you remember from long ago, the smokestack is pretty heavy as it has a hardwood core).    
After years of meaning to get to it, I finally got around to picking up the Making Shaping and Treating of Steel.   It was up in the air between the 6th and 7th editions, but I settled on the 6th, published in 1951 as it fits well within the time period I am modeling and also, it tends to be a little cheaper as I think they made the 7th edition onward in a larger format.   The price was right - through Amazon - $11 for the book and $4 shipping.  I came in less than a week from an used book dealer that sells through them.  The condition was very good and the pull outs are all intact and overall the book appears to have seen little use.   It brought back a lot of memories - in college I would spend hours in the Rutgers Library of Science and Medicine perusing a reference copy of a latter addition of this very book.  In fact, I can probably trace my interest in industrial archeology and the steel industry and steel modeling back to late nights at that library, and two books - the US Steel bible I've been talking about, and another large book just entitled Industrial Archeology or something like that.  The second book had a fair sized section on the Sloss Furnaces that caught my interest.   Within a few months I ditched my future as an electrical engineer and switched my major to history and my minor to archeology.  Fortunately for me, the outstanding Rutger's History Department had many professors involved in the study of the History of Technology and through the Archeology Department I was able to connect with many of the leading industrial archeologists of the day, some that were the founders of the speciality.  

Thursday, May 20, 2010


Getting back to B-furnace I built the body of the dust catcher based on prototype photos.  The cylinder parts are Rix tank pieces and I used turned pieces of cherry for the bottom cone and top cap.


More work on the small gasholder....   
I finished the crossbracing on the top of the framework; added the roller guides to the top section of the holder, built from channel and round disks; and built some ladders and railings.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


This is the first part it what will likely be a long series on the construction of my open hearth facility.  The benchwork for this section just went up this weekend.  When finished, I will have approximately 24"x84" to build my steel making plant, or rather, a representative of it.  The idea is that my mill has a 12 - 100ton furnace open hearth plant.  Not having the room to model all of this, I will be able to fit 6 furnaces and the metal mixer in the space I have.   I also will only be able to model about half the mill crosswise.   I am taking somewhat of an unique turn  in that I am modeling the charging side of the mill.  Most models I have seen focus on the pouring side of the plant.  I chose the charging side for a few reasons - first I felt the interior of the furnace building would be eaiser to model from the charging side and presents the opportunity to model some rarely modeled contraptions.  Second, it will allow me to use my narrow gauge scrap cars in operations.  And Finally, I will be able to model gas producers.
Wait a sec - what are gas producers?  Gas producers were fairly common prior to the mid-1950s when they were phased out in most plants.  Not unique to steelmaking, they were used in greater proportions in this industry because of its need for gas for heating a variety of furnaces and ovens to high temperatures.  Basically, a gas producer is a 12' round sealed steel vessel that is fed with coal (or most any combustible) from the top and a blast of air/steam from the bottom.   The result is a combustible gas that exits through the top of the vessel through a pipe and into a main.   Usually producers are found in banks or groupings.  These were almost always the source of gas for non-integrated steel facilities - such as a stand alone, open hearth or foundry or rolling facility, but even in integrated mills they appear to be used frequently in the open hearth plants and reheat furnaces.  I'm not exactly sure whether there was not enough gas from the blast furnaces and coke works to go around, or it was for some other reason.   Whatever the reason it appears that by the mid to late 1950's these devices had either become too inefficient or costly to run and were replaced in most cases by blast furnace/coke gas supplemented with fuel oil.
From a modeling standpoint these gas producers open up a bunch of variables that will had interest to everything from modeling to operations.    In the case of my open heart plant - the 12 furnaces would need 36 gas producers in six banks of six to provide enough fuel.  Since I am modeling only half the plant, I will need to model 18 producers in three banks - lots of intense modeling, but in a small package.  This is what is neat about these things too - typically the buildings that housed them were only 20 feet or so wide, so they don't use up much real estate. For operations there is another destination for coal - anthracite or bituminous, and some reverse traffic in the form of ash.   Thirty six producers would consume 54 tons of coal an hour - so for an operating session that represents six hours - I would need 6 hoppers of coal.  For the ash produced in the process - 6 tons per hour, or one gondola or hopper every other operating session (or could just pull a light load every session for disposal on company grounds) 
Much more on all this to come soon.  Plus, the Bessemer plant will also be going up too at a different location.  

Note on the benchwork - nothing fancy in it's construction but as I think I have posted before, I avoid pine at all costs and use 3/4" maple plywood ripped into 3" strips.  It is much more dimensionally stable and doesn't split when you put screws into it.


I've had a bunch of Rix tank sections sitting on my bench for some time now.  In an effort to clear them off I started putting together a small gas holder for the by-products plant.  The prototype was from this photo in a book on coke manufacturing.   I am using a .080 base and small Central Valley box girders for the vertical columns.  

Friday, May 14, 2010

Narrow Gauge - Part 11

I just received backordered Peco HOne switches and track.  HOne is HOn30.  Of course since originally ordering this stuff, Peachcreek shops has started selling similar track, plus dual gauge flex and accessories.  I will say the Peco track is nice.  It is well constructed and sturdy as opposed to some older Shinohara HOn30 track and switches that I still have, although that aren't in very good shape.  
In the basement I've finally started moving things around and have begun construction on the final section of the layout.  This extension of the existing dual track loop will include a primary sorting yard, engine facilities, interchange tracks, staging yards, a primary rolling mill (billet), and the open hearth steelmaking complex.  It's also opened up a some space at the edge of the existing layout to fit a small bessemer complex.   The initial work is in the open hearth steelmaking area - more on this in a coming soon post.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Uptake nightmare - 
I knew very early on in the project that the uptakes on A-Furnace were going to be very challenging.  Besides all the odd angle pipe joints and diameter transitions, the builders of Bethlehem Lehigh A-Furnace made my job even harder by using some kind of weird looking piping at the two junctions of the uptakes on each side.  On top of the odd angles on this junction, to make things just a bit harder, the pipe transitions from 3/4" to 7/8" .  For what its worth, the plan I came up with was to do the best I could with little chunks of piping and then use liberal amounts of body filler and lots of sanding to achieve the final product.   To help me, I built some some jigs for my lathe -  a spindle sander with 3/4" 7/8" and 1" diameters to shape the pipe, and an angle jig for sanding precise angles on the pipes.   I'm about half way through and there is still a lot of sanding and filling to go, but it's starting to look like I want.  

Thursday, May 6, 2010

General Update - 2010 Steel Mill Modelers Meet

I would post some modeling updates if I had any.   Between moving my daughter back from college, a super high pollen count making my bad allergies worse, and some other activities I haven't found much modeling time.  The work that I have fit in lately pretty much just involves building railings on the benzol coolers for the by-products plant - one stanchion and one railing at a time.  I've finished one side and all the hard round railings, so it's just a half dozen landings on the opposite side to do and we will be all OSHA approved.    In the meantime, a couple of other announcements - 
First - Happy Mothers Day to all, especially my mother, my mother-in-law, and the mother of my children.    You don't find a lot of mothers out there that are model railroaders.  Usually their interests turn to quilting, scrapbooking,..etc.    Something about trains and factories that just don't do anything for them.  When I was young there was even a model train store up in New York called HOBBIES FOR MEN.  That pretty much summ
ed it up, but if they tried that today they probably would end up on the news getting slammed by the PC intellectuals.   All that being said, women do have a big part in the hobby in the form of encouraging their children, or at the least, not discouraging them.  I'm sure "it's time to put the toy trains away and start acting your age"  as stifled many a potential model railroader.  I was fortunate to have two women in my life that encouraged my hobbies.  My mom's father, father-in-law, husband, son, and grandson were or are all model railroaders.  My wife just has to put up with the two of us descending to our man cave/basement/model steel mill.   I did make sure to break her in early as evidenced by the photo.  It shows her (my girlfriend then) at 18 holding  my favorite Alco RS-3.   
I hope to see many of you at this years SMMM.  As usual it's scheduled for Labor Day weekend and is once again being organized by John Glaab of Peachcreek Shops.  The link for Peachcreek is on my blog links  - all the info is there.   I will be giving one of the presentations there on my modeling.  John has also asked me to coordinate the Free-Mo module element of the event.  Anyone thinking of building a module or that already has one send me an email.  I would like to encourage people to build one - with Free-mo there are not to many constraints on size so you could build a 2x3 or 2x4 one even.  We built ours in a few weeks of occasional work last year.  The scratchbuilt structures took a bit longer (we started them in May) .  If you haven't ever been to this four day event I would suggest you give it a try if you can afford the cost and the time.  It is extremely well organized and very well balanced as far as layout tours, presentations, model displays, vendors,...etc.  
And just so we can feel MANLY again - a photo I took in the late 80s of the Bethlehem Steel (Lehigh)  Sinter Plant.   Unfortunately the Minsi Trails Bridge only had a walkway on the one side and I wasn't brave enough to stand in traffic for a better shot through the fence, but you can still make out some of the elements of the facility.  In front of the storage silos you can see the massive 10' diameter? gas main.  I don't know if the gas is moving from the blast furnaces to this side of the mill, or from the coke works to the blast furnaces? If anyone knows please email me.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


More work on the Final Cooler and Benzol Coolers.   Besides the many railings to build I still have a lot of piping to add.  All the big stuff is basically done except for the gas main from the intake back to the main.  I'm thinking about adding real lighting to this structure but I'm not sure how realistic I can make it.  It's a debate I've been having for awhile and something that I need to decide on now - lighting or no lighting.  I think that lighting would add a whole layer to the layout of detail, but, not if it looks contrived or oversized.  I will need to make a choice before I finish and paint this and my other structures.