Wednesday, January 19, 2011


It's been a bit light on the steel mill modeling of late, unless you count the crane.  Not that I've lost interest, I've just been distracted by benchwork, trackwork, and wiring on the layout - and also - a last minute push to get two, maybe three, more Free-Mo modules together for Timonium in two weeks.    I did finish the house project mostly - surprising how long it took to build actually.  I need to pick up two more Tichy windows for the third floor this weekend and once I cut them in I'll start painting the thing.    

The cement plant Free-Mo project I'm working on features a free-lanced portland cement plant - By that I mean I am sticking to my Steel Mill Rules - while the overall layout and proportions are up to me, the individual elements within the plant all are based on an actual prototype.  I have a ton of primary research material as I used to be a professional historian and one of my jobs was documenting the former Universal Atlas Cement Plant in Hudson, NY.   And for a steel mill  tie-in,  Universal Atlas was owned by US Steel, and also, the plant, as did most cement plants, received slag for use as a raw material.  I don't think slag was ever used solely, however, it was mixed with the materials from the quarry.  (think operations - carloads of slag outbound)   The Universal Atlas Plant in Hudson was the only portland cement plant in the United States east of the Hudson River (east by a mile or so)  In addition  there are a few books on the cement plants and railroad operations in the Lehigh Valley - one, the recent very excellent, Morning Sun  publication on this topic.   Additionally I used, the title of this blog, virtual railfanning for prototype information.
Virtual Railfanning?  Well not railfaning per se but rather virtual research using Bing Maps.   I sometimes literally spend hours on this site.  Specifically I use the Birds-Eye map feature to zoom in on a particular industry or area.  Birds-Eye differs significantly from an standard aerial photo  -  you are looking at the ground from an angle, like being in a helicopter flying over a site.  The angle stays generally the same but you can rotate 360 degrees around a feature, looking at it from all sides.   With standard aerial you are just looking straight down, like a map - you will see roofs, but no walls.  I used this heavily when modeling the US Pipe foundry and for this cement plant I am primarily using Birds-Eye views of three compact cement plants located south of Catskill, NY.   For fun, I will sometimes use Bing Maps to follow a specific rail line - from the Birds-Eye view you can see all the sidings and industries and also old sidings and tracks can be discerned at times too.  For example, earlier tonight I followed the old PRSL (Pennsylvania Reading Seashore Lines) track from Woodbury, NJ to Millville - there were a number of industries hidden away I had never seen before, plus some I have, but never from the air.    One of my all time favorite virtual railfan "trips" was  a year or so ago I spent a few hours following the US Navy Earle Weapons Station Railroad  - This railroad, mostly hidden on secure bases, behind trees, on elevated structures,...etc., is pretty incredible.  The railroad moves ammunition - bombs, cruise missiles, and formerly nukes, to one of the worlds largest finger piers in Raritan Bay from bunkers on the base at the pier or to bunkers at the inland base. The two bases are connected by a two track railroad about 20 miles long  with a military road running along side the tracks.  There are a few places where the tracks cross public roads, but probably not a good place to be railfanning in person as train movements usually also consist of nervous heavily armed soldiers on board the trains and in Humvees with mounted weapons.   The Birds-Eye views are amazing - hundreds of spurs disappearing into underground bunkers - loop tracks - yards.  Again, something that would be impossible to take in from public property.   
There are two downsides to the Bing Birds-Eye feature - one it is not available everywhere - I couldn't get coverage of plants in Ohio and West Virginia - just your standard aerials.  (Also it is sometimes blocked out - like over Groom Lake AFB,...etc.,  surprisingly Earle isn't blocked, except for the very end of the ammunition loading pier (where the ships are actually loaded)  The second problem is that you can't print the birds-eye views.  I'm sure there is a way that some geek probably knows how to, but all the print-screen type ways I know, the images never come through or are substituted with a regular aerial shot.   The only low-tech way I've come up with is to just take a digital photo of my actual screen and use that - Ill post a picture.  Anyway, when you have some time try Birds-Eye view out - it can be addicting.


ncgoogs said...

Your comment on cement plants using slag just solved a long time mystery for me. I grew up in Ulster county NY and would go swimming in the Hudson river a few miles north of Kingston. I had found slag in the river and wondered where it came from. Thanks

Mark G

ncgoogs said...

To save and print birdseye view, hit the printscreen button, then open MS Paint (in accessories).
Paste into the Paint screen the "save as" a JPG in a file of your choice.
I have folders of images I have saved that way including the NH bridge at Poughkeepsie.
I hope this helps.
Mark G

Jim Musser said...

I have a MAC and when I've tried the print screen deal I get an aerial version of the photo, not the birdseye view.