Sunday, July 29, 2012


Not visible in the flurry of scratchbuilding and kitbashing associated with the coke works branch, I have been working on trackwork, electrical, and scenery at the same time.  I'd like to get a fair amount of this branch up and running for the upcoming Steel Mill Modeler's Meet, of which, my layout will be on the tour.  (You can still register - information is on the Peachcreek site in my links section).

In building the landforms, of which my layout doesn't have too many - lots of little hills and embankments mostly and lots and lots of retaining walls, I've ended up with a gaping hole where the future ore dumper will be built.  No doubt, an elaborate scratchbuilt affair, as I outlined in Part 1 of this thread.  A sign indicating what was to be here, was my plan, until I came across one of the Walthers' Rotary Car Dumper kits at Sattlers on Friday night.  I thought why not, something is better than nothing, so I purchased it and after a brief meal, spent the remainder of the evening building the model.

It was an easy build and the fit of the parts were surprisingly good for a Walther's kit.  The instructions indicate that this model can be motorized but clearly state that other than leaving a drive shaft projecting from the base of the kit, the rest is on you.  I'd heard from others that despite this suggestion, in reality the kit can't be made to work.  This is common talk concerning some of Walthers' potentially working kits.  The Walthers' bascule bridge on our Free-mo module has been working fine with out of the box parts for years.  Almost every comment when we display this at Timmonium is, "nice bridge, shame it doesn't work" - Jimmy then promptly raises and lowers the bridge.  Admittedly, there are lots of plastic parts, including gears that could easily break on both kits, but I believe if you are careful with your alignments while building them you should be able to get them to work right for at least awhile.

A quick test with a cordless drill proved that everything was as it should be and if I could attach a motor to the shaft the model should work.   Before I could do this I needed to modify the rotary carriage a bit. First problem is that the kit is designed for modern wood chip hoppers, which are taller than the 1950s era hoppers that I am using to haul ore.  So I would have to modify the hold downs by quite a bit.  I wasn't able to move the hold down assemblies, and thought that 1/2" extension on the arms would look funny, so I raised the rail deck by 3/8" and added 1/8" I beams to lower the hold down arms a little.  This worked, but then I realized that I only needed the two center hold downs on both sides, not the four provided.  Because of the design of the kit it can be operated without a car - the bottoms of the hold downs will hit the cams in the base and not ride up on them like they should.  Only using four of eight hold downs presented the same problem as the four not engaged hit the cams.  I removed the four outer ones to eliminate this problem.  Raising the deck also necessitated raising the foundation walls using 3/8"x.080 strips.
Note raised deck, capped off hold down sleeves, and extended hold down arms

Motorization of this was a bit tricky.  My first attempt using sheaves and a rubber band belt didn't work.  My second attempt using junk gears and a motor out of an old printer did.  To make life easier, I screwed the base to a piece of 3/4" plywood, extending the wood on the shaft side to accommodate for the motor and gearing.

Not pretty, but it works

Friday, July 27, 2012


This will be my first mobile blog update so we will see how it goes. I've always loved Baldwin and Fairbanks morse switchers I guess for aesthetic reasons - their higher hoods and boxy industrial looks. I read somewhere that steel companies liked them too, especially those with heavy grades inside the mill, because of their weight. USS Fairless used them at their open hearths charging side as they had more traction on the approach grade. Since both of these manufacturers stopped building locomotives 50 years or so ago, it's rare to see one of these locos, much less one running Fortunately for Baldwin enthusiasts there is the SMS Railroad here in south jersey. They have a large roster of baldwins, many former steel company units.

I ran into one these baldwins on a Dunkin donuts run this morning. S-12 #308. This unit, built in 1953 is one of SMSs more "modern" locomotives. SMS acquired it in 1998 from the original owner, the Michigan Limestone Company. It was rebuilt and painted in 2006. Except for all the modern items in the photo, the paint scheme and loco would have been home in a 1950s photo

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The collecting main at Thomas was not the round pipe that you see on the Walthers kit or in Dean Freytag's version, but was instead a squarish 7 sided apparatus.  I knew that building it would be interesting so I put some thought into first.   My original thought was to build it out of sheet styrene, but I was concerned with the tendency of that material to warp, especially longish constructions like the main.  As I have before, I turned to Medium Density Fiberboard, or MDF for short.   I used 1/2" material and cut two pieces and glued them together.  I needed to make two of the cuts to form the angular bottom of the main after the glue up was finished.

glue up in progress
Getting there, you can see the complex profile

A few doses of automotive primer, sanding and light filling, gave me a pretty good looking collecting main.  To attach it to the ovens I drilled a series of 1/8" holes in the bottom of the main using a Dremel drill press with the stop set for depth.  I was then able to insert 1/8" styrene rod into the holes.  3/16" H-columns were glued to the bottom of the rods and then these were glued to .125x.500 styrene.  The styrene strip fit into a groove on the back of the oven and was secured with epoxy.
Adding the legs - you can see the start of my larry car in background

Sunday, July 22, 2012


The casting campaign finished up late last week.  I ended up casting about 80 doors - 65 for the ovens, six for the spare door storage area, and the rest had significant defects and where unusable.
They go on and on and on.....
I also kitbashed a Walthers' Glacial Gravel kit for the coke crushing, screening, and loading building.  I basically streamlined the structure to sit over two tracks, not building about half of the structure.  This sounds easier than it is - the kit has the intersecting rooflines molded into the kit walls, with the area under the roof profile, smooth plastic.  I had to cut out these sections and carefully splice in pieces from the unused walls at the molded metal siding seams.  I also found a way to retain the small loading bins from my previous coke works, themselves from a Walthers' New River Mining kit, but modified with stairs,....etc...
Ignore the too blue sky and crappy back drop - soon to be changed and the rest of the coal/coke yard scenicd
I've seen some very interesting quench towers but don't really have enough information, and maybe space too, to build them, so I once again turned to the Thomas Coke drawings and photos for inspiration.  The Thomas Coke quench tower is a pretty interesting structure in it's own right with an external steel framework and corrugated panels on the inside.  I was on a roll with this structure, building most of it while watching True Blood and then Breaking Bad this evening, but alas, ran out of 5/32" I-beams.  It's a basic structure - 3/16 vertical H-Columns, 5/32 horizontal I-girders, .040x.040 diagonal bracing, and .125 strip reinforcing on the insides.  The "foundation" was .080x.250 strip.
Needs more I-beams and some plumbing

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


With my new found elbow room for my by-products plant I'm able to add a few more structures, namely a Benzol plant and also, the subject of this post, an Ammonium Sulfate storage building.  I found a photo of an unique building serving this purpose on the HAER site and set about to build a very compressed version of it.  I'm not sure of the name of the coke works, but will include this information in a future post.  It is in Alabama and isn't Thomas Coke.  It has some interesting features that include a coal bunker filled directly by railcars via a very elevated spur.  Also, the quench tower is perpendicular to the oven battery and the associated quench car track follows a 180 degree curve.   I started with the actual storage building - there is also a tower to elevate the product and a connecting horizontal conveyor.
Building the Core
This building sort of looks like a Mayan pyramid or something, but allows for bulk storage of the ammonium sulfate by-product.  The base is .060 styrene and the internal formers are .040 sheet styrene.  The structure is sheathed in .040 styrene with a JTT corrugated metal plastic sheet glued on the large roof.  The concrete buttresses are made from .040 sheet and .020 strip.

Corrugated material on one side so far.  Corrugations are a little heavier than scale but will probably look fine once it's all built

Sunday, July 15, 2012


The resin cast doors have been going well.  I ultimately made six doors and then made a new mold of these.  I can cast seven doors at a time now - the 6 plus one in the single mold.

six oven door mold

Here are the first twenty or so glued in place

I already have more ovens than my former coke works....

Thursday, July 12, 2012


I have about 85% of the oven front structure complete and all the brickwork is in place on the top deck of the coke ovens.  For the doors themselves I wanted a bit more detail than those found in the Walther's kit, which are basically a copy of the Dean Freytag scratchbuilt coke oven.  My other concern was being able to repeat the door details perfectly over 65 doors.  And the time involved was another worry.  Resin cast doors mostly solve all these problems so I made a master. I roughly based the door on the Kopple type found at Thomas Coke, but did use some thicker sections and also left out some details that would have been too fine.  Here is the master

The mold,....

And the castings

These aren't glued in, just sitting there for effect.  Ultimately they would be centered better and also I will add a linkage rod of brass wire or plastic rod between the two locking mechanisms.

Casting 65 of these plus the six spare doors would take about 15 nights at a rate of 5 per.   Instead I've cast five doors and will clean them up well and make a mold of these five.  That way I can cast five at a time and move along at a more rapid pace.  

Sunday, July 8, 2012


Some more work on coal bunker....

Finish adding vertical .060x.100 strips to lower sides of bunker and also added detail to the  large  horizontal beams that support the bunker.  Also did some more work on the roof panels and also scribed them.

On the ovens I started to add the vertical steel framing between each oven.  I'm using HO scale 6x8 styrene strips and .015x.100  strips for the face to give the appearance of a steel I beam partially imbedded in the masonry structure.   The space between will be filled with a resin cast door, once I make the master and start casting the doors.  I'll need the 65 doors for the ovens plus 5 or 6 more as there was spare door storage along the guide car track, just to the left of the ovens.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


We left off with the roof structure of the coal bunker.   Continuing, I added the substructure for the body of the bunker using .040 styrene and plenty of bracing.  The end walls were pretty straightforward but the side walls have an lower section that cants in on a slight angle.

Next I added the legs using 5/16" I-bean material from Plastruct.  I always use Plastruct over Evergreen shapes when the structural member will be carrying weight (the bunker) .  Evergreen are finer in their appearance but the slightly thicker Plastruct will not deform under a load.  I added some minimal cross bracing for now in the form of 3/16" I-beams.

The ribbing on the sides were made from .060x.100 strip styrene.  Additionally, large steel beams were made from sheet styrene and .040x.156 strip and added to the lower angled sections.  Finally, the roof was added using Evergreen .040 corrugated siding.