Monday, August 22, 2011

Scratchbuilding Craziness and more

Well there is less than two weeks until the Steel Mill Modelers Meet in Maryland and as usual I'm way behind getting anything completed for the event. Even though there is some time left, between work and other obligations I won't end up being able to do much more than get my Foundry presentation ready and maybe a few odds and ends. My son has been doing a bit better with his blast furnace model. He recently purchased the Walthers Blast Furnace kit with the intention of building it as the centerpiece of the Free-mo module. Not being able to really transport at once any more modules than we already have, I gave him the two cement plant modules to use for his steel mill. As much as I wanted to model it, the cement plant was turning into a distraction and he will do much better with the module I would think. The configuration of the two has turned out to beideal for positioning the blast furnace, with some additional track work to the one module. He is also considering putting a BOF on the extra module real estate.

A few neat products to talk about -

Now I've been accused of obsessing about detail too much at times, but how about this - HO scale individual bricks. I mean, if I want to model the #2 Machine Shop at Bethlehem exactly, why not start at the ground and work up one brick at a time?No, not that crazy, but the bricks will make some nice detailing throughout my mill. They are made by a German company named Juwella and are actually real ceramic.

Another product from overseas - Vallejo paints. I've talked about these before - probably the best model paints I have ever used andthey are relatively cheap - $3 a tube and the bottles are squeeze tubes so you only put out as many drops as you need. Well they now have a line called model Air that are just for airbrush painting - you can just dispense a few drops right into the cup of your air brush and go to town. They dry almost immediately and spray well. It's amazing how fast you can change up colors not having to worry about thinning things.

Also from this manufacturer, a Grey Pumice putty type material. It is some sort of acrylic resin with grit infused in it. Jimmy was trying the traditional ballast method to add some skull to bottle cars when I remembered buying this product to try just that some time ago. It works like a charm and the skull looks great.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Death to Moby Dick!

I'm finally getting around to dealing with my white whale - the US Pipe Cupola Baghouse. I started building this monster bag house two years ago, as part of our US Pipe Free-mo module. As some of you may remember, the module and the mostly scratchbuilt structures on it were a one month rush job. At the time of first display, many of the structures were unfinished or had basic paintjobs. The worst was the baghouse, which remained a basic styrene framework and structure. It was displayed as a work in progress with the intention of a more complete structure by the next time the module was displayed. Now two years later and five displays or so later things remain the same.

So this weekend I pulled out the elements of the pipe foundry and am determined to improve on some and finish others in time for the Steel Mill Modelers Meet in three weeks. On the baghouse - which is technically 27 individual baghouses, I've added the remained of the diagonal bracing on the under side of the platform and am now adding the input plenums for each baghouse . The modeling ahead isn't hard, just repetitive. I've also included a photo of a mini table saw I picked up for $40 at Harbor Freight. I'm not thrilled with the teeth on the blade so I'm looking for an improved blade, but otherwise the tool is relatively sturdy

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Originally I was going to build the windboxes for the the cupola furnaces from wood on the lathe and drill press, but instead I opted to use styrene to build one and then make castings. In using styrene the shape you end up with is slightly irregular with some minor oil canning and other imperfections, just like the real thing. I also built a tuyere for later casting - ultimately I need about 8 for each .

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Still taking a step back from the mixer debacle, I've been working on my iron foundry a bit as well as a few other projects. Sometimes these projects take a life of their own very quickly - for example - I spent a few hours this afternoon watching a movie and looking through the Morning Sun Steel Mill Railroads book - Volume 1. There are two photos in that book of a unique transfer caboose used by the MonCon Railroad during hot metal moves at the J&L Plant in Pittsburgh. I've thought of building it a few times for the same use in my mill, but for whatever reason, I went to the workbench and found a junker caboose that I could use the steps and underframe, abet shortened, as the basis for a copy of the MonCon car. I did my best to scale everything from the one close up photo in the book, but it doesn't matter a whole lot since the original car was basically scratchbuilt too. A few hours and pieces of scrap styrene later I have the semblance of a caboose, with more work to go.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Failure - Hours of modeling down the drain. There were two types of roller supports for the Ensley type mixer - the ones drawn in the plans that I am using - multiple fixed rollers attached to a cast support - and then the type you see in the photos of the actual Ensley mixer - four sets of double rollers mounted on pivoting cast frames. For whatever reason I thought the later looked more interesting so I attempted to scale them from the photos but only after actually building two sets and most of the other two did I realize that they are too big. Mind you they work, but it's one of those things that would just bother me every time I'd look at the mixer. So, back to the drawing board. I'm not sure at this point whether I'm going to stick with the same type of roller or go with the other type that I have plans for. I will probably walk away from things for a few days and think it over. I did build a master for one of the four access doors on the sides of the mixer. I'll cast the other three.