Saturday, June 30, 2012


Moving forward with the coke oven project, I'm attacking modeling the structure on multiple fronts.  Most of the wood substructure outlined in Part 1 will be covered in styrene.  This hasn't worked out the best for me in the paste, however, I think the failure of some of those attempts was related to the adhesives used.  On this model I'm using epoxy.  Epoxy retains some flexibility, while bonding dissimilar items real well.  It's also doesn't have any solvents in it that affect plastic, as far as I can tell.
Laminating the substructure with brick sheet and sheet styrene
The tops of the ovens are getting covered with JTT styrene brick sheet.  This is similar to the Plastruct brick sheet, but less expensive.  With these thin brick sheets you need to take up the time to true up the edges.  Also be conscious of staggering the brick courses when joining two pieces.  The oven side is .040 sheet styrene, with the ovens laid out.
Roof structure.  
Finally, I'm also working on the coal bunker, starting with the roof.  I chose to build the roof first as it will be one of the harder structures.  The sub structure is all .040 styrene with some .125x.125 strip around the opening at the top to allow for a good bond between the dog house and the roof section.
My "Plans" and primitive scale for taking off measurements
Speaking of the dog house.  I built this using a .040 sheet base and .125 square strips at all corners.  The structure is small enough to just use the .040 Evergreen corrugated sheet by itself.
Dog House innards

With Roof on Doghouse - will cut opening later, once I determine the exact angle that the conveyor will hit the structure

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Sorry for the back to back posts but I wanted to get the construction of the "new" ovens up before I got too far along.   If you read the DORR THICKENER - Part 3 posting you will understand the reasoning behind my revamping of my coke works.  One, if not the key element of the works is the ovens, and with the increased size of the works, my small oven battery wasn't going to fly.   So, if you have been following this blog, by now you know how it goes.  No need to expect the sensible thing like buying a few more Walthers kits and kitbashing longer ovens.   The new plan is to model the full, 65 oven, Thomas Coke oven battery to scale, with a few modeling liberties on the details.   Why Thomas? Thanks to the HAER documentation I have scale drawings and plenty of photos.   Even with 65 ovens, my Raritan Steel  blast furnace department will still have to import half their coke.

The Thomas coke oven battery scales out at about 66" long.  The ovens take up less space but the 66" number includes the coal bunker, and a service area at the opposite end for maintaining the door and guide cars, along with storage of five spare doors.   Do to width constraints I won't be able to model the pusher side and will have to back the model right up to the elevated main.  Hopefully, with the main line tracks hidden and adding overhead gas mains, won't give away this compromise too readily.

Core of coke ovens.  Near end is location of coal bunker and opposite end the service area.  You can see my quench car and guide car positioned on the wood core
In the past I've built the cores of some of my larger structures out of wood.  So far so good, but I haven't really finished any yet to determine 100% if this is a sound idea.  The idea of building such a long structure out of styrene entirely didn't really appeal to me and I was worried about warpage over the length, so I'm going with a wood core.  Usually I use MDF, but I'm using mostly plywood on this as the MDF would end up making this structure almost too heavy to handle properly.    

Next I'll add the brick to the top and using styrene sheet, strips, and resin cast doors, model the oven face.


Still minimal time for model railroading, but I was looking at my last post and realized that I never included a photo of the Dorr with a layer of clear resin on top.  I should have probably used Environtex or something designed for creating water effects, but used my clear casting resin.   It has a super fast set up time and is even quicker with the more of it in one cast.  Mostly worked out ok, but there is one large bubble that hardened in place, I might try filling that with a bit more of the material.  Despite the disaster with the plaster and the bubble I'm about 75% happy with the results on the inside.  That being said I don't really have a frame of reference of what these things are supposed to look like in operation. All my reference photos where of mostly empty, defunct Dorr thickeners.

Someone was asking me about what was the exact prototype that I used.  I'm pretty sure the HAER photos were from USS Duquesne.  I used elements from other images too.  Despite it's finished appearance this thread will continue as I still need to add an overflow pipe and also will continue with the construction of the filter cake house.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


While sitting here recovering from 14 hours out there working in the heat, I suddenly had an urge to update my blog.  Sorry for the gap between posts but work and then side work, yada, yada, yada....

Door Thickener Pre-clear resin topping
  Rick Bickmore visited the Perth Amboy Terminal Railroad last night and got me thinking about a few areas on the layout.  I also had an in-person demonstration of his recently famous tile grout ballast and roadway technique (See a link to his Railroad Line Forums Thread in my links)   I've talked about my lone wolf model railroading habits before, but I'm finding of late, (should have been 30 years ago but I'm stubborn) that there are other very skilled model railroaders out there with lots of helpful information and also, dare I say critical advice.   The later is actually extremely helpful in developing your skills and improving your modeling.

 One of my recent online tirades (I've wrongly had too many of these) was concerning a forum that I very much enjoy but with certain posters offering anything other than an atta boy is met with derision, other threads have an excellent exchange of ideas without anyone taking offense - the trouble is you don't know who is ok with it and who isn't.   This is a way of life in fine art schools.  After you finish a piece your classmates and teachers critique it - what you did right, what you did wrong,...etc.   You don't need to take there advice but most of the time doing so makes you a better artist.   He will deny it, but Rick is an artist.  He will say I can't build with styrene like you can blah blah blah.  Yes, I think I'm a fair styrene scratchbuilder, and trying to get better.   But essentially I am a good copier - I copy things I see in photos or better yet, plans, in miniature. Because of my years as a woodworker and builder I'm have developed a skill set that enables me to cut things accurately and keep assemblies square and level and estimate sizes from photos well.  Rick however is excellent at composing a scene, and that takes an artistic eye.  I struggle with this, maybe Rick does too, but you wouldn't know it seeing the results.  Buildings, trackwork, roads, ...etc... all flow together well, making the scene very believable.   I tend to crowd my scenes I think too much.  Some of the new parts of my layout, that I've usually rebuilt four times, flow better than others, so I'm heading in the right direction.  

Last night, the subject of my cokeworks branch came up.  Lots of cool semi-finished buildings, but squeezed between code 70 trackwork from an older layout configuration.  What was trackwork within a foot of an aisle is now a foot or two further away and the middle ten feet is completely inaccessible almost, and if you have operated a layout you probably have an idea of how that would go trying to switch cars in that area.   In addition to the cokeworks, I also have a small yard, a rolling mill, electric melt shop, soaking pits, and steel foundry on that short branch.  Rick said something in passing about making the coke works bigger.  At first it didn't register but then the slow machinery upstairs started turning and by this morning I'm pretty much committed myself to ripping out all the track on that branch, laying it in a more flowing, logical manner, and eliminate at least the yard and the rolling mill so I can expand the coke works substantially.  Why not - most coke works are as large as the blast furnace plants they make fuel for.  Also, I love the structures involved and can reuse all my scratchbuilt by-products plant stuff.   In addition to a realistic looking oven battery, I might even be able to fit a benzol works.

We also got talking about the Dorr Thickener and I realized that I never followed up on that topic.  I was mostly complete with the modeling at our last blog on this subject except for a few more of the blades for the arms, which I added.  I then painted and weathered most of the structure and then disaster struck.  The idea was to use a thin layer of clear resin to give the appearance of liquid, but also to leave most of the modeling exposed including some of the lower arms and all of the upper.  Being my typical cheap self I figured I could build up the level in the Dorr using plaster instead of resin to save on the latter material.  I colored the plaster with acrylic paints and mixed it thin.  The pour went well and got the level up to just below where I wanted.  Now I should have known to let it dry for a week or more, but after two days I found myself pouring the clear resin.  Resin heats up quite a bit when mixed and this heat caused the water retained in the plaster to steam off and turn the resin into a foam.  It raised the level of crap in the Dorr a few inches higher than I wanted and also looked horrible.  I thought I had screwed the whole thing up, but careful filling and painting and most of all letting things dry a week allowed me to get on a thin layer of resin without problems. abet, a lot higher than I wanted.