Monday, May 28, 2012

S.S. VALHALLA - Part 6

We spent the morning marching in the local Memorial Day parade with Jimmy's Boy Scout Troop - Southampton Troop 31.  We had a beautiful day and the walk was a time to reflect on all those, alive and dead,  that gave so much serving our country.

On the modeling front I've pulled the S.S. Valhalla back into drydock to do a bit more work on her.
Adding railings, stair/ladders, lifeboat davits,..etc.
Forecastle - added anchor windlass, an inexpensive resin kit I think from Sylvan.  Also more railings, ladders, bollards, and boom pivot posts.  Holds are next.  Pipe railings are from Central Valley - You get four pretty long ones out of one $6 pack, plus lots of fencing and ladders left over.

Thursday, May 24, 2012


My 28" wheels arrived at Sattler's Trains in Westmont, NJ fairly quick.  I took some basic Athearn trucks and switched out the sets.  I realize that the truck style might not be correct but close enough for my liking right now.   You can see the difference using the smaller wheels -
28" wheels on left
I had to do some cutting and filing to get the trucks situated on their bolsters with just barely enough clearance between the wheels and the underside of the end frames.  I then mounted the four trucks, and drilled and mounted the truck bolster frame to the bottle car trunion end.  Everything swiveled well.  I then attached a coupler and took the car out for a spin.  I quickly realized how touchy these dual trucks can be.  In the prototype the tremendous weight of the bottle section kept the truck bolster assembly balanced and pressed on the rails.  In the model version the bottle is not heavy enough to keep the wheels on the rails as well.  I tweaked things a little and improved the operating characteristics of the car quite a bit, but still not bullet proof.  I need to hollow out the bottle more and get some lead down low.  I also need to use some washers and maybe a little filing to balance out the ends better.
Test driving the car - in front of the Raritan Steel Pig Caster
One final note - I built this car so the bottle can be rotated - This I think will cause running problems as when the car takes a tight curve the bottle tends to rotate a little, but friction holds it in place when things straighten up and this lifts one side of the wheels off the rails.  I don't really want to glue it after all that work to keep it operational, however, maybe a locking pin on each end.

Monday, May 21, 2012


Most of the work left on this model is related to the central rotating assembly and it's associated walkway.
Adding the vanes
First, I added vanes to the rotating arms using Evergreen .100 I beam.

Then I fabricated the upper assembly on the rotating core using a variety of styrene shapes.  I also added a Plastruct motor.

Finally, putting it all together, I added some walkways and piping.  All the pieces are removable for painting.  Some more piping and details and it will be ready for paint and fake water

Thursday, May 17, 2012


I have a little real estate available immediately behind A-Furnace stoves and thought that a Dorr Thickener would fit nicely.   The nearby precipitators and gas washers would no doubt produce a lot of waste water needing treatment.   Several modelers have built very nice Dorr Thickeners out of CD cases.  I considered this, however,  it would have been hard to fit two in my space, but one larger one would work well.  For the tank I used a 6" PVC pipe coupling.  I carefully cut it down using a table saw.  It is attached to a .060 styrene base that extends past the tank walls slightly.  In the center I attached a 7/16" tube that the rotating arm assembly will sit on.  There is also an upper ring that I attached.
Dorr tank, footing, and assembling the top ring

For the rotating assembly I used mostly Walther's conveyor kits - not the "Modern Conveyor" with the curved roof, but rather, the smaller squarish conveyor - just called conveyor kit.   The core is a 1/2" piece of Evergreen tubing surrounded by framework from the conveyor kit.  The arms of the rotating assembly are the same conveyor kit frames, but glued up in triangular sections.
Rotating assembly
Testing for fit

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

B-FURNACE - Part 14

Another blast (furnace) from the past - haven't updated this project in a year or two.  The bottle car, while I'm eager to finish it, is delayed, waiting for Kadee 28" wheelsets to arrive.  There was a recent vigorous online discussion on wheel sizes of bottle cars on the yahoo steel group.  Mostly between 36" and 33", however, the plans I'm working off of call for 28" sets.  I'm already slightly out of scale on my platforms and this has unfortunately lifted the bottle higher off the rails than shown in the plan.  So, even 5 scale inches will help me tweak things to get the bottle closer to the prototype appearance.   I realized that this might even have something to do with the larger diameter of the Walther's car when compared to my prototype scaled Treadwell bottle.  Anyway, I'm hoping I see these wheels soon.
Partially, expanded platform and stair tower
If this photo was a repeat, I apologize.  I felt like I hadn't gotten the lower platform right  - too small - so I expanded it.  I fretted briefly as I worried that a square platform wasn't prototypical, but then found a few prototype furnaces with just that arrangement.  The stair tower is from the Walther's Ethanol Tank detail kit.  This is getting a bit hard to find, but extremely useful for steel mill modelers.  Each package comes with two stair towers (the one shown is one and a half I think) and a variety of piping, platform, railings,...etc.. for under $20.   The towers can be combined with a little forethought and cutting to reach unlimited heights.  Right now it stands out against the white styrene, but once painted will look right at home.   You will notice I also ditched the large Plastruct rings I'd previously glued on top of the uptakes to represent the bleeders.   I've also added some 5/32 H-Column bracing to the upper furnace stack.
Styrene core of B-Furnace casthouse.  Just sitting on the edge of the layout - not in the proper location
My failing is that I get too worried about the small details, almost to the extent that my modeling gets paralyzed.  Hesitant to take the next step until I first do this or that just right.  This is why I haven't updated this construction thread for over a year.   All this said, I'm trying to increase my modeling velocity and make some serious progress - and worry about the details later.  The upcoming Steel Mill Modelers Meet in August  and the 100 or so modelers that will be visiting my layout  at that event are helping with the motivation too.   (Don't forget to register and make the hotel reservations - go to the Peach Creek Shops link on this page for the registration forms and hotel information)

The A-Furnace casthouse has been under construction for some time now - a single truss, built out of probably 100 pieces of styrene took me a night or two to build, plus lots of styrene.  The B-Furnace casthouse seemed even further away with nothing built.  Finally realizing this, I thought - stop worrying - built a casthouse using a styrene core and forget the interior - the small slag pour area can be modeled, although its view lines are mostly blocked by the blowing engine house anyway.   So in two short evenings I had the core of the casthouse built using .060 plastic sheet and miscellaneous bracing - plenty of bracing.  I'll laminate the sides with .040 corrugated metal siding sheets from Evergreen and then the roof is a lapped sheet panel design.   I left the hole for the blast furnace large so for now it's removable.  Before I finish the roof, I'll spray the casthouse, detail the exposed area, and install some UV LEDs  - and paint the foundation and sides of the structure.  Then I'll glue the stack in place and install the roof panels right up to it.   But first some louvers on the one end.  
I cut two large holes and using some strips from the scrap box made up these two louvers.  The plastic is slightly heavy, I believe .040, but I was worried lighter material would sag over time.  After shooting the close up photo I was a little worried about the inconsistent nature of the louvers, however, most of those you see in steel mill photos are more than a little bent, missing, or generally in disrepair.   I'll bring the styrene siding right up to the edge of the louver frames.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


This will be an ongoing thread about ferromanganese production at my Raritan Steel complex.  I've mentioned, I think, in previous posts about modeling ferro operations.  My motivation is that it will add some operational interest, along with having some unique structures to model.

The premise is that periodically,  B-Furnace will go into ferro production - to supply Raritan Steel at Perth Amboy, but also other Raritan Plants.  Centralized production of this product so to speak.   In the early 1950s many of the large steel companies were doing this very thing.  I am basing my modeling on the prototype example at USS Duquesne.  Using blast furnaces to produce ferro was a short lived thing in the 1950s  as electric furnaces were already taking this over.    Much of the process was the same, just manganese iron ore was used.  But, there were differences in the handling of the product, and the most significant, the handling of the waste gases.   The latter wasn't much of an issue until the 1950's as the steel industry started to clean up it's act a bit in response to an increased public concern with air quality.   The waste gas from the furnace stack couldn't be run through the existing gas cleaning complex beyond the dust catcher as it would clog up the system.  The gas came out of the furnace much hotter, the dust was a different consistency, and it had a much higher moisture content due to all the cooling water sprayed on it.  The pre-1950's approach to this problem was simple - don't bother trying to clean and reuse the gas - just open up the bleeders on the furnace uptake - problem solved.
USS Duquesne blast furnace #3 in ferro production prior to adding a ferro gas cleaning plant
A temporary solution was to run the gas through the dust catcher and then up a very tall bleeder stack.  This would disperse the waste gas, and associated particulates over a much larger area to make it less noticeable.   By 1953 USS had addressed this problem at Duquesne with the addition of a ferro specific gas cleaning facility.  I will be attempting to model a representative example of this cleaning plant.


coke - twice as much used in the process - change quantities of carloads delivered
gas - dirty and can't be cleaned in normal loop - tee the dirty gas main after the dust catcher and install goggle valves - one trunk to the normal iron production gas cleaning equipment, and the other to the ferro gas cleaning plant
product - refractory lined gondolas used - need to model a processing plant for the ferro product

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Need to keep this short, but I'll post some pictures of today's progress and then follow up with some more info in my next post.
Adding rivet decals - tricky operation - tips in the next post

Trunnion supports and platform,  Truck bolsters/platform seen just to right


I'd thought about maybe casting the parts of this car as I originally intended to make multiple copies, or even possibly some sort of kit, but have since decided just to make the one.   The time involved in making molds for all of the parts required for this car would be substantial.  Additionally, if I considered making it a kit with the anticipation of offsetting some of the costs, I don't consider what I've built kit-worthy.  There are some small dimensional discrepancies on the bottle section, and I don't have enough detail photos and working drawings of all perspectives to produce a perfect representation of the prototype.   Maybe I'll do a Pollack, or my personal favorite, a Pugh, car next time, in a manner that would make me consider casting pieces.   For now, this is to get my feet wet in bottle car modeling.
Banding added
Taking my turned wood bottle section, I first sealed it with a clear sealer and then glued bands of .015x.100 plastic per the drawings and photos.  Everything looked pretty good, but the bands around the rounded casting that connected the bottle to the trunnions was slightly wider so I added a .015x.040 strip besides the .100 on those two parts.  This worked for the best as the part represented there is curved so a single strip wouldn't have conformed to it.  It was necessary to do this as I need to fit three rows of rivets there - two on all the other bands.    I also filled the open grain and surface defects with a filler.  I would have preferred to use basswood, not cherry, to turn the bottle, but didn't have an available long enough.  Also you will note that I added 1/8" tubing to the trunnion ends.  These ends were just too small to properly turn on the lathe.
Spout attached, note the wider bands on the trunnion-bottle castings
Next was the pouring spout.  I was going to wait on this, but I was in a decent modeling mood and well rested.  To be sure, it took a few hours, but I'm pretty happy with the results.  I didn't have much to go on with the spout - in the photos I have the spouts are badly rusted and partially missing.  The plans don't seem to show the same spouts either, and from what I read online, these were replaced and fabricated by the individual steel companies, so their design varied.  Good for me as I don't have to try to match a prototype exactly.  I did conform to the general dimensions shown on my plans.  I formed the basic shape by cutting a piece of a 3/4" Plastruct tube and then splitting this.  Taking the split halves, I glued some .060x.500 strip between them and I had the basic elongated oval shape.  I reinforced this assembly by curling a .020 strip and glueing it to the inside of the assembly.  When dry I took the assembly and sanded it to shape using a piece of sandpaper draped over the bottle.  Once done I took a piece of .020 sheet and forced it between the spout assembly and the bottle, drawing an offset around the perimeter of the spout assembly and then cutting and sanding the piece to match.  I glued this piece to the spout and then attached those two pieces to the bottle using ACC.  Tomorrow I will drill out some of the wood using a forstner bit to give the impression of depth.
Trunnion mounts, platform, and mount caps.

I finished up the evening by starting work on the cradle/trunnion mounts.  The platforms are .060 sheet and the mounts are a collection of scrap tubing, strip, rod, and sheet.

Friday, May 4, 2012


First - You can now register for the 2012 STEEL MILL MODELERS MEET.  Click on the Peachcreek Shops website link on the right side of this page and then once there go to the Steel Mill Modelers Meet page on that site.  This is a once a year event held every Labor Day weekend at different locations.  The  event this coming Labor Day weekend will be in Southern New Jersey, close to Philadelphia.  It is a four day event (Thursday afternoon thru Sunday morning)  full of seminars, layout tours, and more.  The seminars, all related to modeling and steel mills are all excellent and this year we have eight layouts open for the saturday tour, all with significant steel mills,  but my personal favorite is the display/vendor room.  Great modeling on display, steel mill stuff to buy that you can't find elsewhere, and a chance to chat and learn from your fellow modelers.    There is more than plenty to do locally if you are bringing your non-interested significant other.   The hotel is very nice and centrally located.    If you have any questions on it please feel free to contact me.  I'm helping coordinate the event.
Wood plug with 0.015 plastic strips 
The past week has seen an flurry of discussion on 8 and 10 axle hot metal bottle cars on the yahoo steel site.  After a bit I started thinking more and more about these cars and remembered plans that Rick Rowlands had put online a few years ago.  Using them and photos Rick took of the prototype in a field at USS Duquesne, I grabbed a piece of scrap - happened to be cherry - and went to the lathe.  It was more an exercise in whether I could do it and also, turning wood is a great way to relax at the end of a workday.   So here is the progression -
Turning a square block into a round block
Starting to look like something

Getting there