Sunday, June 26, 2011


Located on our way to our sailboat, Chesapeake City, MD is a favorite stop for both my wife and me. She likes the unique stores and I like the architecture and layout of the town, as well as a very excellent cafe, The Bohemia Cafe. Every year this canal town, has their "Canal Day" celebration. Besides the crafts, food, and music, this event has been co-opted by Stink Boaters (motor boaters, as opposed to us Blow Boaters) who have turned the event into their version of an Eastern Shore Mardi Gras, replete with the public inebriation and nudity. Fortunately, we when early and missed most of the worst behavior, although folks were already hitting the sauce at 9:30am so things didn't bode well for later. If you are wondering, we arrived by car and not by boat. The anchorage basin fills up almost to the point you could walk across it on boats. I counted 3 sailboats out of hundreds of stink boats.

My wife enjoyed the crafters and ended the day with several shopping bags full. The crab cakes being sold by the Grace AME Church were beyond outstanding - about two inches thick with almost no filler, lots of big chunks of crab. Normally we would have headed to our boat but we had a BBQ to attend at home Saturday. I shot a photo of a neat water tower in North Chesapeake City - the vessel is a sphere as opposed to the usual cylinder with elliptical ends. We stopped in Wilmington, DE on the way back home at a train store on Rt 202. I forget the exact name of this store but basically it was opened by some of the folks that used to work in the train department at the famed Mitchells. Most of the remains of Mitchell's inventory ended up here and they have continued in the tradition of stocking some unique European model train items in addition to your normal American lines. I purchased two back issues of "Narrow Gauge & Industrial Railway Modelling Review" and two BEMO HOe cars. BEMO is a German company and most of their products are HOm or HOe. HOm is meter gauge so it would be close to HOn3 but not interchangeable. HOe is basically HOn30. I bought a gondola that should work well on the steel mill narrow gauge system and also some kind of cement car I think - I need to research this one a bit more as it might be too modern, but I thought it looked neat anyway. I shot a photo of these two cars sitting in the future ingot stripper yard.

As far as modeling, just a bit of work on the large crane for the A-furnace topworks.

Sunday, June 19, 2011


Besides the ongoing remodeling projects I took some Father's Day liberty and worked a bit on the trains. Don't get me wrong, I still ended up sanding sheetrock and priming the bathroom walls, but luckily we ran out of primer. One of the chores that I did get to was installing 1/4" plywood on the ceiling over the blast furnace section of the layout. This is an ongoing project and I have about half the layout covered with these ceilings. In an ideal world I would have installed a drop ceiling throughout the basement, but, living in an old house I have low ceilings in the basement and need to actually stand between the floor joists so as not to be bent over - I think the bottom of the joists are about 6' 1" from the floor. At the same time, the old tongue and groove flooring about allows way to much dirt and dust to fall on the layout so I am using the 1/4" plywood in the non-aisle areas.

The plywood on the ceiling gets painted flat black and has a valence around the perimeter. Just behind the valence I will eventually install lighting for the layout. I've seen a lot of different approaches to layout lighting and have tried a few, but in the end, in my opinion, the best system is Kichler under cabinet lighting, or the similar Seagull system. I've posted a photo of this system in use in my kitchen. It consists of a 12 gauge low voltage wire set in a plastic track. The individual 10watt lights are clipped on to the track where needed. The lights put out a good amount of light and have reflectors and replaceable bulbs. I have a 500 watt transformer that should power the entire layout. The drawback to this system is the cost - probably around $500 by the time I'm done, maybe more.

Another quick project was a storage rack for my styrene strips. I'm a pretty skilled woodworker and could have spent a few hours building a nice, neat looking rack, but something like this is pure utility and life is too short to waste on something like this, so I built the quick and dirty version. It took a little less than a half an hour to cut a bunch of 1/2" plywood shelves and wood dividers, and then to just glue it all together by eye and put a full bucket of joint compound on top as a weight while the glue dried.

Finally, I did manage some work on A-Furnace. I added this structural end cap on the large craneway. Photos show the four sheaves I modeled but don't really indicate what they were for. On the other side of the upper works I built the second piece of external support framework.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


I always seem to be running out of .060 angle. I quick stop this evening at AAA Hobbies in Magnolia, NJ and my supply is temporarily replaced. I need to order materials such as this in bulk and plan ahead. I think I've mentioned before how much I hate having to patronize this hobby store - there is the issue of them being part of and attached to Stevens International, a hobby distributor, and competing locally on the retail level with their smaller hobby store customers. Although I guess Bethlehem Steel did the same thing with their construction division. But the real issue I have with this store is the way they follow you around the store like you are a thief. I've been going to this store since the late 80s and this behavior hasn't really changed, even despite the fact they see me in there every week or so and I probably spend at least a $1000 a year there or more. They treat my son even worse - I guess they just assume that since he is 17 he is there to steal. I hate people like this. If they are so worried about theft they should just install a bunch of cameras and be at least discrete about it, or better yet change around the design of the store so they can monitor things better from the central counter. I've just had enough with them shadowing me around. So I am going to resolve to avoid these scum at all costs from now on - plan ahead better, order online,...etc., and don't enrich people that treat you like dirt.

The top works of A-Furnace consists of several platforms and two crane ways for servicing the bells and the bell arms. All this is part of a rectangular steel framework within the uptakes. This basic framework is strengthened on three sides by a variety of truss work. (The forth side is the skip hoist) I began by working on the side that faces the stoves. Here the truss is within the two uptakes and was built using .100 angle, some .020 plates, and .060 angle cross members. I also continued working on the railings as I proceed.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Continue to work on top works of A-Furnace. Adding platforms and railings per photos and Mike Rabbit's plans. Also fabricated large and small bell arms and linkage using some scrap plastic and brass. I think I will keep plugging away at this for now, try to work my way top-down on A-furnace. I'm also reworking the non-blast furnace portion of the "Lower Mill". Currently the only major structure in this area was the electric melt shop. This facility will be slightly expanded, but I also will be adding the following - sinter plant, machine shop #2, a forge, a heat treatment facility, a foundry, and machine shop #6. Much of these structures will be based on Bethlehem practices that were detailed in that latest Canal Museum publication. This portion of the lower mill will add quite a bit of operational variety to the overall mill.

To review some preliminary process flows in my mill as modeled

Coke - Small coke works plus off-line coke received
Limestone - Brought in from off-line, except for open hearth plant - small dolomite processing facility connected to quarry by partially modeled aerial tram. Dolomite processing building connected to open hearth via narrow gauge
Ore - Some off-line but most brought in on ships transferred to captive ore jennies or hoppers at port and moved to mill. Possibility that a car dumper will be modeled if there is room.
Iron - Blast Furnaces A and B iron to open hearth, bessemer plant, pig caster, or foundry
Steel - Bessemer two furnace unit primarily to supply pipe mill with ingots
Open Hearth - 12 large furnaces
Electric Melt Shop - speciality steel for stainless mill, and forge
Primary Mill - Stripper, Soaking Pits and Blooming mill (partially modeled) mostly steel from open hearth
Secondary Mill - Pipe Mill, Stainless rolling mill right now, need to find room for structural or strip mill too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


With most of the major disruptive remodeling work finished, I've started to think about trains a little in the past week. Don't get me wrong, I still have a long way to go with the home remodeling, but I will be able to start devoting more time to the layout and steel mill projects. Standing in the basement surveying the layout, the predominant colors and either wood, from structures or mostly the benchwork, and the white styrene of all the semi-build structures. Taking inventory, the port and the coke works are the closest sections of the layout to some sort of finished state, but even there, both still need plenty of work. A and B furnace are both partially built and only about 25% of the highline is built. Given that these two structures are the most dramatic overall I am going to try to devote a bit more time to them. The last time that I worked on A-Furnace was July of 2010.

There are a number of walkways, platforms, and stairs to build on the blast furnace upper works. I am starting at the top and working down with the stairs and platforms. I've also finished the last section of downcomer and have attached this section to the upper works so I could work with it on the bench. You can see the initial work on the railings and platforms and stairs in the photo.