Sunday, July 24, 2011

FIELD TRIP - Griffin Pipe/Roebling Steel/Pemberton Railroad Station

After dinner out this past friday night, we took the long way home, driving down along the Delaware River from Roebling to Burlington, NJ. On the way I noticed that, unfortunately, the Griffin Pipe Foundry is being demolished - only a year or so after the hot side of the US Pipe Foundry in Burlington met a similar fate. (more on this later) Despite my sadness at the demolition of Griffin, the process does present some opportunities. As the building come down, frequently their interesting contents become exposed. It's a tricky business catching things in a partial state of dismantling and I will probably have to be vigilant in visiting the site for the next month or so. With horrible heat on Saturday I waited until this morning when things cooled down slightly, and also my son and partner on steel outings had returned from Boy Scout camp.

We started out in Burlington, although I have many photos of the US Pipe facility, it never hurts to have a few more. I was especially interested in photographing some of the original McNeal Pipe Foundry stone buildings to the south of the US Pipe Facility. McNeal became part of US Pipe, although, interestingly, when US Pipe started to manufacture pipe using centrifugal casting they essentially abandoned the older stone buildings and built new structures just to the north. I assume some of these stone buildings took on other functions, but even to this day it is very clear where the old plant ended and new began. I shot a few photographs of the original McNeal cupola building for my talk I am giving at the upcoming Steel Mill Modelers Meet. As stated before, the hot end of the US Pipe Plant was shut down maybe four or five years ago and demolished last year. All pipe is now made in their Alabama facility, although, this site still serves as a distribution and storage center. I did take a long distance shot of their GE-45 tonner - a photo I took of this loco in 1988 was published in Railpace.

Just north of US Pipe, following along the banks of the Delaware there is a large Sheetrock factory still in operation, receiving raw gypsum from ship. I had never photographed this plant before, but with the rate things are disappearing around here I took the time. Just a bit further north and we hit Griffin Pipe. Took some nice photos here - will have to stop back every few days. From Griffin we drove through Florence and then into Roebling.

The town of Roebling was built by the John A. Roebling's Sons Company and is probably the best preserved company town left in America. The Roebling's bridge building and wire rope business had been based out of their large plant in Trenton, NJ, however, they lacked the ability to manufacture their own steel at that location and after US Steel and Bethlehem increasingly shafting them on steel costs they purchased land on the Delaware River about 10 miles south of their Trenton Plant with the intention of building an Open Hearth Steel Mill and additional wire mills.

As there was no nearby town or city, the Roeblings built the entire town to house workers for their mill. The entire town was built of brick and included stores, a hotel, boarding houses, a school, a theater, parks, community gardens,...etc... Workers lived in neighborhoods based on their ethnic backgrounds, with their associated churches and social clubs. The worker with families were offered brick row houses (each with a fruit tree in the rear yard), supervisors and foremen, duplexes, and managers, large single family homes. Rents were affordable and all exterior and interior maintenance was included. The streets, lawns, and parks were kept immaculate. As opposed to some of the predatory practices of coal mining companies, there was no company script - all transactions were in cash and the company store, restaurants, theaters,...etc. all had pricing in line or less than elsewhere. When the Roeblings sold the mill to Colorado Fuel and Iron in the 1950's, everyone had an opportunity to buy their houses at very reasonable rates - I think the row homes sold for $500.

The mill was closed in the early 1970s and stood empty for years - first awaiting a buyer and then as a superfund site. In the past ten years the entire mill has been demolished, with the only structure remaining, the gatehouse for the plant, recently turned into a museum. The museum is fairly small and the focus is primarily on the bridge building aspects of the Roebling Company and not much for us steel mill folks, except for the exterior exhibits in the "mill yard" - actually an old crane way, one of many. They have outside - A Brownhoist rail crane, a GE-45 ton critter, ingot cars or maybe for scrap trays, a mill flat car, a Kress-carrier type machine, a slag pot, a teaming ladle, a scrap bucket, and a huge, 124 ton 28' diameter flywheel from a 5000hp Corlless engine that drove the blooming mill. Except for climbing into the locomotive, crane, or Kress Carrier, you can pretty much get up close and personal to any of these artifacts - photograph them, measure them, hug them, whatever.

From Roebling we took back country roads over to the Pemberton Railroad Museum. Two additional engines from the Roebling plant are located here - a GE 100 tonner and another 45 tonner. This museum is located in the old train station along the abandoned right of way that ran from Camden, through Mt Holly, and on to the shore. The line still sees heavy use from Mt Holly to Camden but the rails and ties have been long removed beyond that. The folks at this museum set up some nice displays inside and managed over the past ten or fifteen years to acquire the two previously mentioned locomotives and a half dozen or more pieces of rolling stock. They put down a few hundred feet of rail to store this equipment and ultimately wanted to lay a few miles of track westward and run excursions. Unfortunately, they didn't actually own the property or station - the town did. After a recent change in local politics, the new administration viewed the museum as a "junk yard" according to the new mayor and started to try to evict them. To compound things, the town recently transferred title of the property to the county who are equally as unenthusiastic about the museum. The museum wasn't open, although some folks were moving displays out of the station while we were there - I didn't have the heart to ask them if they were pulling out, or what will be the fate of the rolling stock.


Just a short blog on the iron foundry progress. I cast a few of the ladles and associated pieces and put together two of them, one in a pouring position, the other in a moving position. Just primed for now, awaiting paint.

Saturday, July 23, 2011


I was sitting at my bench looking at a photo of the real Ensley mixer, trying to figure out the roller mechanisms as they are different than what is in the plan drawing that I have, when I realized that I had built the bearing rings wrong. I hadn't added width to the rings for their lower 75% and the webbing was angled the wrong way. I was pretty disappointed in missing this detail and briefly considered leaving things as they were, but, it needed to be fixed in order for the roller mechanisms to look right in comparison. So I spent most of the duration of the George Clooney movie, The American, adding onto the rings and the webbing. The webbing was especially difficult as I needed to insert non-right angle triangles on each piece - each triangle slightly different in size too. The result is acceptable and once cleaned up should look fine. I started cutting pieces for the roller assemblies from 1/2" tubing. I also took some time to begin building up the insides of the pouring and filling spouts with body filler. I couldn't really devise a way to add thickness to these assemblies and in the end, several applications of filler and sanding will hopefully work.

I am also adding a photo of something I picked up on Friday. Sort of baseball cards for railroad buffs. From Japan, these boxes contain random scenery bases with locomotives and, don't forget, a bag of gum. I ended up with a roundhouse and two locomotives, Japanese prototypes of course.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


My original plan was to scratchbuild a stone type structure for the iron foundry, however, realizing I'm already scratchbuilding more than I can handle right now I started thinking kitbash. I looked at a few European kits but they didn't have the look I wanted. The Walthers discontinued Vulcan kit would have worked but it has smallish windows and a two level appearance. I ended up settling on the Dayton Machine kit by Walthers. This is one of their "Built Up" kits, with a $50 price tag to reflect that, although you do get two interior lights. The structure is assembled, presumably in China, however, the base is screwed on and easily separates. As I intend to model some of the interior, this was important. To make this kit work I needed to add a little height to it as there would need to be room for clearance for a crane. I added a 7/16 inch extension to the foundation. I also cut out a large portion of the base and used .125 sheet styrene to form a pouring "pit"


Very brief update with some not so great photos - sorry. Worked a bit on the pouring spout of the mixer. Used a mix of 030 and 020 styrene scraps and some scrap tubing to build up a spout that replicated what I've seen in photos.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Added the h-columns to the sides of the mixer. These beams don't appear on the early photos of this type of mixer, but, most show them in more recent photos. Perhaps there was a strength issue with the mixer sides. The beam was .100 H-Column with spacer strips glued on to pack up the sides between the rivet bands. I also added webbing to the column cross pieces at the top of the mixer. And, finally, I added the top strip reinforcement in both directions, using brass and styrene scrap .

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Thanks to the recent rearranging of real estate within the lower mill, I now have a building site for the "iron foundry". Not that I need to go off on still another new scratchbuild with everything else going on, but with the 2011 Steel Mill Modelers Meet fast approaching and my presentation on modeling foundries I figured the more foundry modeling I can include the better.

My foundry is not a stand alone business but rather part of the overall operations of Raritan Steel. It is based on the Bethlehem Steel prototype, which was a busier place within the mill than you would think. At Beth Steel (Bethlehem Plant) the iron foundry was located in the original stone rolling mill/bessemer building. It was quite large and had the capacity of some really big castings. I'm not 100% certain but I do not believe it had it's own cupola furnaces, but rather, relied entirely on hot iron delivered directly from the blast furnace in subs. The products ranged from small iron castings for use within the mill to extremely large ingot molds to tunnel ring sections for example for outside customers. Many of the castings required secondary finishing in on of the several large machine shops at Bethlehem (interplant move). Most of the regular ingot molds used in the plant were made at the separate Ingot Mold facility, but larger molds were made in the iron foundry, primarily for use in the Steel Foundry (another foundry within the mill) to cast the large steel ingots for use in the forge.

Although the Bethlehem facility lacked cupolas I intend to include two, clearly added to the original structure at a later date and used when the blast furnaces at Raritan are unable to meet the demand for iron - something that will happen when B-Furnace periodically switches over to producing ferromanganese. Plus it obviously gives me an excuse to model two cupolas and a small scrap/raw materials yard.

I started off small with this facility, choosing to model the foundry ladles first. These ladles are slightly different than their larger cousins used elsewhere in the mill. For one, the pouring function of the ladle is controlled by an operator turning a wheel on the side of the ladle and not by the crane. I scaled the foundry ladle from prototype photos and I think I am pretty close to the proportions, at most, slightly on the large side. As I will need many of these within the foundry and littering the grounds around it, I am building it with the intention of casting multiples. From the photo you can see the ladle, built from a variety of scrap styrene, and then on the second photo, the various parts need to complete the ladle handle and pour control.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Machine Shop #2 - Part 1

With the ongoing home remodeling projects I've been piggybacking some work on the layout. Two reasons for this - first, I've set up the saws, saw horses, dragged out all the tools,...etc., so it is easy to just take a brake from the upstairs work and add some bench work downstairs. The second reason is that most of my layout has been built with cutoffs and scraps from remodeling projects - so, while the scraps are just sitting there it's easy to use them up and not worry about storing them as I really don't have anywhere to do so. This work, once complete, should be the last modifications I make to my original layout and once the additional work on the fascia's, soffits, lighting, and control boxes is done, I can focus solely on building structures and scenery.

I spent a little time this holiday weekend making these modifications. Benchwork and roadbed was installed, along with a little trackwork. More importantly, with the track, the footprints of the future structures can be laid out. I'm about 85% done with this process, the only area not really worked out is in one corner, where I will have room for most likely a rolling mill of some sorts. Just need to work out the type of mill and finalize the design of that structure. One big change is that I have relocated the electric melt shop from it's site in the Lower Works behind the blast furnace to a new location on the coke works branch, adjacent to the rolling mill. The melt shop will be expanded to include a second electric arc furnace, and the "Steel Foundry". It will be served by a new spur off the Coke Works Branch. This branch is mostly Code 70 Shinohara track, and the spur will likely use the same with the hope that this track will perform adequately during operations.

Another new section that I am really excited about is just in front of and slightly lower in elevation from the new melt shop location. This section is basically a sub-branch of the Lower Works Branch, that I will be calling the "Minerals Branch". This branch includes the approach to the highline for coke and some ore/limestone delivery, and also the car dumper, where the majority of the ore and limestone cars will end up. The "Iron Foundry" is also located at the end of this branch. This foundry will receive hot metal cars on occasion, and also, scrap, pig iron, and sand.

Finally, in the previous location of the electric melt shop, much of the track has been reworked allowing for a cluster of buildings whose purposes are intertwined - Machine Shop #2, The Heavy Forge Shop, and Heat Treatment Buildings #2 and #3. Products will move back and forth between these buildings as they are finished.

Tonight I started to mess around with Machine Shop #2. This building is a homage to the real Machine Shop #2 at Bethlehem Steel. The actual shop is an incredibly massive building, six stories high and probably at least a thousand feet long. For the sake of compression, I am building my shop, four stories high. The basis for this structure is the Walther's discontinued Car Shop kit. It has the large industrial windows that I was looking for and the saw tooth roof windows too. As the structure will basically be a flat, with just enough depth for a rail spur, two of these kits is enough to build something that will look massive enough. The kits are designed to be joined together lengthwise, however, stacking the wall sections involves some kitbashing. I counted the brick courses between the upper windows and modified both wall sections so that when joined, the upper stories will look identical. Once cut, I glued the top and bottom sections together and reinforced the joint with 1/4 inch square styrene strips.