Monday, March 28, 2011


Still pondering how I am going to form the pouring and charging spouts on this thing. After glueing on the top of the mixer I let things sit overnight with the tape on just to be sure. And, before I forget, the mixer is two Rix water tank segments wide - but the biggest segments in the 60' tank kit. I am using plans found in the Duplexing article from the Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers. These are specifically for a 400ton version of this type of mixer. I've seen variations of this type from 250 tons to 1500 tons, and of the cylindrical type - 200 to 2000 tons. In both types it appears that mostly the width changes with the capacity, although there is also a small increase in the diameter too as these things get larger.

Once I peeled off the tape, I trimmed the overhanging edges of the top of the mixer and lightly filed them flush. Next I added a 3/8" x .040 strip around the outer perimeter of the cylindrical parts of the mixer body. This is the first piece of many to create the reinforcing and running rails of the mixer. The second piece is a bit more difficult as it isn't a constant radius - the inner and outer radii are different and have off set centers to create rails that are thicker near the base than at the upper sides. I made these pieces by using the circle cutter to cut the inner diameter, and then moved the center one scale foot away and increased the over all diameter 18 scale inches. I trimmed the tops of these rail sections for the later addition of channel cross pieces. I finished the evening by starting to install .040x.188 strips to form the future webbing for the rail.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


It's been awhile since I was working on this project. Funny thing happened - I vac-formed the two sides and then tried cutting the arc shape on the top of the mixer - the final product was off and when compared to the drawings and photos was off, so I tried again and got it right on the second side. I put the whole mess aside as I had to vac-form another side blank to cut the second side correctly (you can see what the vac-formed side looks like before cutting). When I went back to this project, the wood master for the side was MIA, and remained so until only recently. So back at work on this, which is good in a way since I've collected more research information since I started and I think I have a better handle on how this complicated vessel is constructed. Don't get me wrong, the hardest lies ahead when I try to make the two spouts. So - with another side properly cut I put the mess together, added some bracing and installed the top using .020 sheet.

A note on the title of this post - I know that the proper name for this mixer isn't "Ensley" - I just call it that as there is I guess maybe the only remaining example of this type of mixer still standing at Ensley. I think they were made by PECOR. The other type of mixer would be the cylindrical type - far easier to build.

In my never ending LED quest I found a pretty good three or four led cluster/circuit to simulate the inside of a furnace. Its a LED tiki torch sold by Home Depot. At $15 its a little pricey for a few LEDs but you can use the three piece pole for smokestacks - 7/8"OD thin wall plastic.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Real Steel

About ten fifteen years ago there was a surge in interest in the use of steel for building homes. A number of builders began to test the waters and things looked promising, however, for a variety of reasons it never caught on. It's a shame as in many ways it's a superior product when compared to wood.

Some of the minor reasons why it didn't catch on had to do with price fluctuation and uncertainty, availability, and inconsistencies in the way building inspectors handled this product. The major reason steel never panned out for residential construction were the carpenters - the guys that had to actually build these structures. Carpenters, and although my job title says project manager I still consider myself a carpenter, are very slow to accept new products and techniques. We've seen thousands of products that were promoted as the next best thing, only to turn out to be garbage, or worse, dangerous. Carpenters also tend to think in terms of what they know and what they can feel, and not in abstract engineering or scientific principles. Steel, and by this I mean the lightweight steel framing that were being used in homebuilding, feels flimsy and weak to a carpenter used to solid blocks of wood. The knowledge that once all the steel is fastened and sheathed, the overall construction will gain strength is not something obvious, despite the fact that lightweight steel has been in use in the commercial construction industry for years.

Not is all lost, however, we still use lightweight steel almost exclusively for finishing basements - steel won't rot or become home to wood eating insects. It's dead straight compared to wood, which 9 times out of 10 isn't. And it doesn't burn. You need some special tools to work with it, but once you master a few easy techniques, it becomes amazingly simple and forgiving to work with. We also make use frequently of heavy rolled steel flanged beams. Laminated wood beams have replaced steel in many instances, however, many times steel is the best choice for a structural beam. At work I deal with steel pretty often, surprisingly often for a residential remodeling company. Steel beams are much smaller than wood beams of the equivalent strength, and steel beams can be supported by steel posts that will fit inside a standard 2x4 wall.

I have included a photo of a small addition my company is building currently. We are opening up 23' of the existing back wall of the house and to support this opening we are using a W10x65 beam. This beam weighs 65 pounds a foot or about 1500lbs. The beam was delivered to the job and placed on the driveway. Two of us moved the beam around to the back of the house and then into the addition and then into place, using only mechanical advantages, 4" PVC pipes, and small hydraulic jacks. You will see me jacking the beam the last few inches.

Monday, March 21, 2011


When I started to build the actual open hearths I thought, this should be pretty easy - some flat styrene, some channels,...etc. The reality is there are a lot of parts to each oven, some pretty small. I'm still on the first oven but you can see some of what is involved. Since the last installment I've added some of the brickwork where visible. Also, I made doors for the hearth using I think .125 styrene. The prototype doors looked to be pretty heavy - steel with some sort of refractory on the back. I've seen two types of systems to open the doors - a hydraulic cylinder mounted on the steel framework directly about the door and a pulley and counterweight system, like I am modeling. To build this I'm using A-Line chain - originally I used some Details Associates lifting eyebolts on top of the doors but attaching the chain was a hassle so I just drilled big enough holes in the top edge of the door and ACC d in a piece of chain. I then used super thin wire to attach a length of chain to the door chain. The counterweights appeared to have been under the floor - I guess so not to catch on anything so I just cut the chain flush with the floor. The pulley are made from styrene disks punched with a leather punch - the outer disks are the biggest punch and made in 020 styrene, while the core is 030 plastic and the smallest punch.

The other photo is of the open hearth building. In getting it ready for cladding and interiors, I painted the interior flat black as I am only modeling half. It looked too black for the inside of a mill so I dusted the wall with some flat gull grey - giving the interior effect of a smoky interior. I ran pieces of 18 gauge solid copper along the roof and soldered 14v bulbs every six inches or so to represent ceiling lights.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Days of yore,

Besides all the other too many things I have going on, I recently started to scan my huge slide collection. It's a slow process, not because of the scanning, but more so the editing. Remember the days where you shot a roll of film, had to wait a few days for it to be processed and then the excitement of opening that envelope while walking out of the store - and then realizing that you shot three rolls of film and you had the camera speed set wrong, or the f-stop or something else. The cool thing about scanning the slides is that with a basic editing program, shots that were crap thirty years ago, now can be made to look pretty decent. As I work my way through the pile I'll occasionally throw some shots up from my collection. This post is a fallen flags special. From the upper peninsula of Michigan to the Lehigh Valley to the woods of main. Those big ass Alco C628s are probably one of my all time favorite locos.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Modern Railroad Operations

Was working some more on the open hearth today, but I'll post something more on that tomorrow night. For now a quick observation on modern railroad operations. I live a few blocks from the former Pennsylvania Railroad secondary line from Camden, NJ to Pemberton, (and thence to other branches to Ft Dix and the shore). Today it ends just a mile or so north of my house in Mt Holly and is probably called something like the Conrail Joint Assets Mt Holly Industrial Secondary (I don't really know, just speaking in modern railroadeese) Today, this branch is pretty busy and is served by a train everyday. The team track in Mt Holly, the northern end of the line is still used by Diamond M Lumber occasionally. In my town, Hainesport, there is a creosoting plant that receives raw phone poles for treatment on bulkhead flats and in the Hainesport Industrial Park, Gallo Wine receives a half dozen boxcars of wine from California a week and there is a large trash to rail operation that ships out up to a half dozen cars a day of either containerized trash or trash in huge high side gons (I think these might have been wood chip cars a one time, or maybe specially made for trash). Occasionally there is a business in the industrial park that receives coiled steel in coil cars and also lumber and rebar are brought in by another enterprise and transferred to trucks. Just a mile or less south, in Mt Laurel there is a large paper company that can get anywhere from two or three to fifteen cars of recycled paper rolls in boxcars. South of this business there are no more rail shippers all the way into Camden.

A decade or so ago, this line was proposed for light-rail service. I was extremely exited as I expected there would be a station within walking distance and I would be connected by rail to Camden and then from there to pretty much anywhere on the east coast. Unfortunately, a few ignorant nouveau riche residents of Moorestown, NJ, just south of us and their state politician Haines, put the kibosh on this deal and the light rail was built elsewhere. Their brilliant reasoning was that criminals would take the train to their beautiful town and rape and pillage it - guess they forgot about the busses. Don't get me wrong, their town is beautiful, Money magazine even said so - they designated it the best place to live in the United States a few years ago - and just incase you didn't read Money Magazine some guy put up a billboard in front of his McMansion congratulating, I guess himself, for living in such a swell place. The old-money WASPs were probably fit to be tied. The reason I started ranting about this, besides, the fact that I have to ride a filthy bus if I want to use public transportation, is that I grew up in Westchester County, NY, a stones throw from Greenwich, Connecticut and surrounded by equally filthy rich zip codes that would make the Moorestown folks look like a bunch of paupers, and they all had commuter railroads and they would have probably been screaming to their politicians if they tried to take them away. They were clean, efficient, and better than driving a car into New York City. The real estate in towns with stations was certainly more expensive then those without. Originally there were three New York Central Railroad Divisions through Westchester, one, the Putnam Division was abandoned in the early 50's and to illustrate, the towns on that line, while generally affluent suburbs, they never became as desirable or wealthy as their railroad station possessing neighbors. Greenwich, New Canaan, Bedford, Chappaqua, Scarsdale, Pound Ridge,....etc. these places all have railroad stations. Maybe the idea will come up again in the future and maybe by that time fuel will be $6 a gallon and even some of those wacky Escalade driving folks might start to see the value of a railroad.

Ironically, and I probably shouldn't even mention this, one of the few murders that did occur in my childhood town, the killer took the train up from the Bronx. He wasn't exactly a trained ninja - he agreed to kill a guys wife for I think it was around $1000 and make it look like a robbery. He took the train to Valhalla Station, walked to the house, killed the wife and punched the husband in the face to make it look good, and then walked back to the station. While waiting for the return train he realized he was drenched in blood so he walked across the street and knocked on the door of the fire house and asked if he could use their washroom. (station had no bathrooms) The same firehouse that had just got the 911 call about the murder. Like I said, no ninja, but he at least quickly fessed up and implicated the husband.

Wow, really getting off topic, but I want a train I can walk to. I almost have forgotten my original reason for writing - modern railroad operations on the line by my house, and elsewhere. In the past year or so I have noticed something different - locomotives at the head and tail end of these local freights. It makes sense - anyone that has operated real or like most of us, model railroads know that 50% of the time the locomotive is on the wrong end of the train to switch a siding and you need to have a convenient passing track to run around the train. Running with a locomotive at each end eliminates all these passing track moves. Besides on the train down the street from my house I have noticed it recently on another train near a job site in Mt.Ephram, NJ. That is what the photo is of, although you will see both locos on the same end of the train. When the same train had passed earlier, one engine was on each end, and most other days I have seen it, they remain that way for the return trip. They are also high-nose GP38-2s which is pretty neat to see around these parts. They remind you of the old GP-7s and 9's.

Now this brings up an interesting problem for model railroad operations. With DCC it is no problem to run two separate locos on the same train independently, but, I assume on the real railroad, the tail engine is just set to free-roll like a car. This can't really be done on a model - you could use a dummy engine for appearance but not for actual realistic operations, and even if you synced the engines, if the lead engines hits a dead spot on the rail, the cars would probably derail with the tail engine still pushing. Maybe in the future, if this becomes common prototype practice, some modeler or manufacture will come up with a DCC function to disengage the transmission of a locomotive. Interesting problem for some of you DCC electronic geeks to get working on.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Case for 30" Gauge

In the early 1980's/late 70's there was a surge of interest in HOn30 thanks primarily to the work of Hayden and Frary and their use of this gauge to render the two foot gauge railroads of Maine in HO scale. These backwoods railroads were ideal for perfecting rural scenery techniques, quaint New England waterfront scenes, and more. The roads seemed a pleasant break from the busy and bustling mainline railroads of America, despite the fact that these miniature roads were almost never successful business enterprises. To be sure, brass HO and O scale equipment could be had in brass if you had the funds and were willing to hand lay the trackwork, however, the use of N-scale mechanisms and track made things a little simpler and the 6" difference from the prototype wasn't a worry for most. Around this time folks looking for a little larger format reasoned what could be done in HO could be done in O scale, and started modeling in On30 scale. I remember being a member of a On30 group back in the late 80s and early 90s and still have some of their newsletters around. On30 eventually took off with a much broader audience after Bachmann began releasing fine looking and running, but inexpensive, equipment in this scale.

Given all this interest it seems someone is always apologizing that things are slightly off - not so. Yes, the three foot gauge and two foot to a lesser extent, predominate where narrow gauge railroads operated with the semblance of a common carrier, but, the vast majority of narrow gauge equipment was used in industrial applications, intra plant railroads, or in mine to mill type situations. Given that, the gauges within the industrial narrow gauge umbrella varied greatly - from 42" to 18". Three foot gauge even in the industrial setting still was a stand out, BUT, 30" gauge was used and was by no means rare. US Steel used 30" throughout their Homestead Plant to move ingots,..etc. In New Jersey, the United States Metals facility in Carteret had about 20 miles of 30" track within their gates, moving copper ingots and plates. (For perspective, the other two copper plants, American Smelting and Refining, and Anaconda, in Woodbridge, and Perth Amboy respectively, both had equally large 3' gauge intra plant railroads. ) I've posted some photos with this blog of the USS 30" gauge locomotive and ingot cars, and photos of the dock of the US Metals plant - one taken in 1991 by me and the other, from many years ago when the plant was in operation.

Monday, March 7, 2011


A few weeks ago I finally got around to getting the second main track up and running.  While testing things out I found out that there was a problem on one of the older curves that only really affected my Atlas RS5.  Specifically it was a sloppy transition from Code 100 to 83 on a curve - what a stupid place to begin with.  In years past I wouldn't bother going through the trouble to fix it and would just not run six axle locos on that track, but, now, with our eyes toward future operations, the trackwork needs to be bullet proof.  I replaced the offending portion of track, but as you know, one thing leads to another.  Just past the curve is the hidden junction for the Coke Works Branch  - it's never given me problems but it wouldn't hurt to upgrade to a more gentle #6 switch.  While doing this I began to give serious thought to the area beyond the ore yard in the lower works.  The bascule bridge, which never really fit in right has been removed and is in use on one of our Free-mo modules.  The track that it carried is to be relocated back further and partially hidden .  We also intend to push back some of the back drops.  The upside to this work is that this area in the Lower Works will have room for three steelmaking elements, in addition to the electric melt shop.   I plan using this space for a Heavy Forge Shop, a large Machine Shop, and a Pipe Mill.   The pipe mill was actually being built on the Coke Works Branch, however, this structure will now be finished as a Stainless Steel Rolling Mill.    Steel from the Electric Melt Shop will feed the Forge Shop and the Stainless Plant, while the Pipe Mill will receive ingots from the Bessemer Plant.  The Open Hearth Plant will supply the Primary Blooming Mill.    I will also be able to squeeze in the hint of a sinter plant against the back drop and adjacent to A-Furnace and the High Line.  
On to the Open Hearth - As a refresher I have taken a new photo of the overall area I am working with.  You can see the Open Hearth against the back drop with the oven face that I am working on in position.  You can also see the approximate stack locations and just to the left of them will be the gas producers.  The first HO track is for coal for the gas producers and the one on the left, for scrap.  You can also see a spur in the distance for the Dolomite Prep Plant.    In the open hearth there will be narrow gauge trackage - some of it you can see disappearing down a ramp to a staging yard under the furnaces.  There will also be a narrow gauge line directly over the gas producers coal spur where the scrap buggies will be loaded.  I am experimenting with the backdrop colors and building positions so things could change a little.    Also in the photos I started working on a transfer ladle for charging the open hearths.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I told you I would eventually get back to steel mill modeling.   I spent a few nights applying the kit siding panels from a Walther's Electric Furnace to my mixer building.   As the core of the mixer building is 1/2" MDF I used Goo and spray adhesives to mount the panels.    I ran short a few roof panels so I guess I need another Electric Furnace Kit.   Laziness took over a bit while doing this work and instead of cutting the siding to match my original building roof angles, I just left the kit angles, figuring I could use the kit roof monitor.  While this would look good stand alone, I realized too late that, next to the Open Hearth Building it doesn't look right.  Despite being perpendicular to each other, the roof angles should be similar as the buildings would have likely been built at the same time.  The basis for the mixer building was the same structure at Republic Steel, Cleveland.  
Since it's been a little while, my open hearth plant is technically has 12 units - I'm modeling only half that and using a mirror to make the building look longer - and of the half, I'm only modeling the charging side of the open hearths - so a half of a half.   Despite only actually modeling 25% I've compressed the dimensions very little so hopefully the overall effect is of a larger structure.   Of the six hearths modeled, only three will have visible interiors.  I would have modeled all, but the narrow gauge staging tracks are hidden in half the structure.   I basically need to model just the face of the open hearth furnaces as the backdrop is just beyond the doors.  I cut out three profiles of the actual masonry part of the open hearths from heavy styrene - don't forget this is only the part visible from the charging level, the actual furnace is much larger.  To this profile I added 3/16 channel and some .030x .188 strip.  You can begin to see the openings for the six furnace doors.  I haven't cut out for the furnaces yet as I am unsure as to how I will model this - probably some sort of LED thing.