Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Many light standards to build and attach
Hopefully I'm drawing things to a conclusion soon.  This model is very big so it's hard to access all of it easily on my bench and turning it is now a very careful event.  So, I'm working on one side at a time, trying to complete everything I can easily reach from that angle and then rotating it 90 degrees.  Well that's the plan anyway - I'm only on the first side still.
You can see the end of the lower platform.  I added the hex pieces to form bolt heads for the end cap.  I'm wondering if they are too big or overall it doesn't look right
A big pain in the ass was the lower level platform.  I was afraid to build this first as I thought it might interfere with the piping or something else and create bigger problems.  I cut and assembled the deck from .030 sheet styrene and .060x.060 strips underneath.   I then built the railings and then installed the whole assembly.  Scraps were used for the variety of supports for this structure and it was tied into the stair tower with a Tichy stair.
You can see some of the platform support members as well as the small staircase connecting the platform to the stair tower
Also, some photos of my under construction Benzol Plant.  I don't have the space for a full blown version, so a representative building with a few stills will have to do, for now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Old team track crane, Mt Holly, NJ  - Up until a year or so ago, the platform in the rear was still used as a team track by a local lumber yard.  This is the end of the line, which originally extended out to Ft Dix and then to the ocean.
It's been slow on the modeling front lately as work and other things have taken precedent.  I was also a little stumped/blocked as there is so much to work on, but I just couldn't figure out where to start.  I finally picked the precipitator complex.  It's mostly done with the exception of a lot of real boring or pain in the ass stuff - like fifty lights or so, a few walkways, and other miscellaneous stuff.  The two walkways left are both under the line of goggle valves - of course - and need to be tied into the stair towers to boot.  One is done, and was slightly easier than expected, but that is relative to what I expected.  I don't have a photo yet, but once I complete the other and a few more things I'll do a comprehensive post.   I might actually be painting this puppy before the end of the year.  I will leave you with some filler photos for now - local industrial archeology, my favorite roll local factory, and some early 1800's iron industry errata - modeling will appear soon.
Add some cable and apply some PB Blaster and we should be good to go.   Was is Alexander that used to make a similar HO kit?
As I think I've expounded on in the past, South Jersey has a rich ironmaking past that dates back to the 1700s.  Pre 1860's this industry was firmly entrenched in the most unlikely place imaginable, the New Jersey Pine Barrens.  These remote furnaces used "bog ore" a form of low grade iron ore found in the swamps of this area, and still abundant to this day.  The vast forests provided fuel in the form of charcoal and shells from the nearby shore, flux.   The furnaces produced munitions for Washington's army and were of such a concern to the British that they mounted two separate incursions to destroy this industry - only one furnace was ever destroyed, and that was in Mt Holly, which is not technically in the Pines.  Hard to believe if you have ever visited this remote area, but most of these furnaces were able to ship their products via water using lengthy creeks and rivers that extended from the Atlantic deep into the Pines.   In all there were 30 separate iron works, many with blast furnaces but others, bloomeries,  forges and or slitting mills.   The earliest was built in 1725 and the last furnace blew out in 1868.   To give you an interesting flavor of this industry, here are some of the more interesting and sometimes funny, excerpts from the "Martha Furnace Diary" from the seminal work on this subject, Iron in the Pines, by Arthur D. Pierce, 1957.  (My comments in parentheses)

5/11/1808 - A very stormy & rainy day.  The furnace teams idle.  The Furnace made a Puff.  No damage done. (A puff was apparently some sort of irregularity, maybe a problem with the burden, but a concern and potentially dangerous)
5/18/1808 - Finished hauling from Kelly's whart.  Report says James McGilligan made a violent attempt on the chastity of Miss Durky Trusty, ye African.
6/3/1808 - A very sultry day. Put the new stampers into N.E. mill.  Excellent coal coming in.
7/7/1808 - Good iron.  Furnace working easier.
7/14/1808 - The Sloop arrived. Teams hauling from Leeks.
8/13/1808 - Sleeve to Furnace Wheel gudgeon broke.
8/15/1808 - Jacob Williamson done little work this day.  Slept most of the afternoon on the shop bench
11/23/1808 - Issac Cramer's team hauled Moulding sand in forenoon.  J. Bodine's team hauled 2 lds. Shells and 1 ton iron
1/4/1809 - Frost stopped furnace wheel several times.
1/7/1809 - Ore teams hauled hay. Blew the furnace out at 8 o'clock p.m.  All hands drunk.
4/20/1809 - At 25m. past 2 o'clock P.M. put the Furnace in blast, Delaney & Cox fillers, Hedger putting in the ore & Donaghau banksman.
5/3/1809 - Teams hauled ore in forenoon.  Corn in afternoon.  Stewarts team got off the Bridge at the Furnace Wheel.  Not much injury sustained
7/12/1809 - Metal high in furnace.  Hughes lost some castings.
7/30/1809 - Molders returned from the Beach.  J. Ventling drunk and eating eggs at the Slitting Mill.  Josh Townsend wanting to fight J. Williamson.  Furnace boiled & the metal consolidated in the gutter
1/22/1810 - Williamson drunk as a lark
6/3/1810 - This morning about 3 o'clcok a fire broke out in the Bellows House & with the greatest difficulty it was got under.  The roof & rafters all burnt up & destroyed & with great difficulty the Bellows were saved.  Men went to work & the Furnace began to blow before Sunset
8/11/1810 - Moses Gaskill cut off his finger working at the Stamping Mill
12/6/1810 - The men begin to complain of beef.  They want Pork.
12/21/1810 - Rain.  Furnace made very bad Iron owing to the wet weather.
4/28/1811 - Jacob Emons went to the Bucks and got very drunk and coming up stopped at meeting to get his sins forgiven him.
6/25/1811 - Milligan & Camp carting iron.  They stopped at Bucks.  From the juice of the Bucks keg Joseph got intoxicated and let his horse run away.
7/4/1811 - Independence.  May the name of Washington be immortal and the Federal constitution may it never fail.
10/8/1811 - Election at Bodine's Men went and gave in their mite and all retd. sober.  Edward Rutter off a drinking.  It was reported that he got drunk on cheese.
11/18/1811 - Mr & Mrs Evans went to hear a divine oration at the Bank.  Furnace made a great Emission of ore and coal about 4 o'clock in the afternoon.
2/18/1812 - Teams carting ore from Sassafras.  Jane Hamilton conceived and brot forth a son.  Mrs. Core put to bed. Women are all very fruitful, multiply, and replenish.
4/20/1812 - Men chiefly training at Bodine's (War of 1812)
5/13/1812 - Report say Jno. Williams whipped his wife and started for Hanover Furnace
5/25/1812 - James McEntire brought his daughter home from the Half Moon for fear her morals would be corrupted
7/2/1812 - Phebe Craig made a general muster and brot. forth a daughter.  Furnace working very stiff
7/11/1812 - A great battle ensued this day among the Irish
9/17/1812 - Jane Hamilton was this day tried by the Synod of her church.  The crime alleged against her was for using spiritual Liquor, but acquitted.
4/12/1813 - William Gibbs & R. Booy filling the furnace.  Wm. Mick's widow arrived here in pursuit of J. Mick who she says has knocked her up
6/2/1813 - Great conflagration.  The Furnace and Warehouse was this day entirely consumed, but fortunately no lives lost.  John Craig got very much burnt.
8/11/1813 - Furnace went in blast
9/15/1813 - Mosquitoes very thick
12/1/1813 - A fleet consisting of four sail flat bottom vessels arrived loaded with oyster shells
7/30/1814 - Solomon Truax & E. Hambleton was married this evening.  Had a great time, ended of kissing the Bride & other some taking gates off the hinges and throwing them in the woods, and some to quarrelling

and on and on.   There is a lot more to this diary than what I've posted, and a lot of serious iron making going on and hard work by all.  But I've always thought this diary was neat in that it gives a more human perspective on the enterprise.  The drunkeness was obviously a serious enough concern for the diary writer as I would say those type of entries account for maybe 25% of the total.

Hot Rolls from Del Buono's Bakery, Mt Ephraim, NJ - You pickup a brown bag from the counter and load it up with hot rolls right off the conveyor belt - so hot they will burn your hand so it's a hot potato situation.  Cheap and delicious.  Usually only about ten out of the dozen make it home, but I always forget to bring a butter packet.   You have got to love these old school operations that don't give a rats ass about liability or having people walking around hot industrial ovens and grabbing rolls from moving belts.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


Just a few quick notes on a photo of Midvale Steel that I found somewhere online a little while ago.  Midvale was a mid sized steel maker located in the Nicetown section of Philadelphia.  They specialized in high quality steel and had a large forging/machining operation. Besides steel, products included armor plate and ordinance.    The steel was made in open hearth furnaces and I don't believe they ever had any blast furnaces.  The plant closed in the 1970's and was razed in the 80's.

The scale of the operation and their location in an urban setting with limited space, make this a good basis for modeling.  This photo has a number of elements that are interesting to take note of -

  • small sized open hearth scrap yard - several narrow gauge scrap buggies plus standard gauge gons.  Standard gauge tracks enter craneway from side, not via a long parallel approach track. Plus a turnout in the scrap yard
  • the trackwork - much of this is dual gauge.  Check out the tight radii and the complex arrangements.  
  • the city street running through the mill on the right side of the photo
  • the second craneway - purpose unknown
  • the crane structures - solid supports - not your typical structural steel or riveted open construction.  Visually interesting and not hard to execute with styrene
  • the triagular office type building behind craneway.  Obviously built to accommodate railroad track requirements.   Tracks on both sides of building would cross city street to another section of mill.
  • the texture and shape of the scrap - neatly segregated piles
  • general cleanliness of the overall operation 
  • very few motor vehicles 
Probably if you had built a similar, crowded scene, with tight turns, multiple crossovers, triangle shaped buildings, and track everywhere on your layout, you might have been told that it "doesn't look prototypical"

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Note the old rails used as a border for the walkway
For years I've always noticed these interesting looking dock cranes in Wilmington, Delaware while passing by on I-95.  It's usually one of those, "I've got to get off and take photos of those things - next time".   It only took 20 years, but I finally got off the road on Saturday to photograph them.  We are down that way a lot and had other reasons to be in that area, but I had blocked the afternoon off for a little industrial archeology.  

More appropriate colors on this one, and nicely positioned with the boom hanging out over the river
The cranes were part of the Dravo Shipbuilding operation that I think closed in the 1960's.  Before Dravo took over the yard in 1928, it was a Bethlehem Shipbuilding yard.   Most of the structures were razed in the late 1990's to make way for a large "Riverfront" redevelopment project.   It's a mixed development project with, residential housing, retail, restaurants, museums, a baseball stadium,...etc...   The project looks to have mixed results, although the retail component, other than restaurants, looks to be struggling.   The thing I liked best, besides my crab, shrimp, and fish lunch,  was the 1.75mile "Riverwalk" created along the formerly industrial Christiana River.  Even better, the developers left in place about a quarter of a mile or so of the crane runway tracks, using the rails as borders for the brick and concrete walk.  Two of the former ship building cranes still sit in place on the rails, having been painted some gaudy colors, but preserved and repainted never the less.   There are two other cranes a bit further up the walk, but placed on short segments of rail.   In all there are four cranes - three "smaller" units, and a much taller and larger machine.  Additionally there is a Atlas 50 Tonner locomotive, that I assume was used in the shipyard, along the walk.   (And I don't mean Atlas as in the HO scale locomotive manufacturer, but rather the full sized manufacture that also built a lot of steel mill specific cars and locomotives.
The Big Mama
Atlas 50-Tonner
At the eastern end of the Riverwalk, the crane runway ends and you enter a nature preserve.  The walk curves and climbs a little and takes you onto this neat pedestrian bridge that ends at a tall bird watching building.  The bridge takes you over a rail line.  I wasn't looking at any birds but rather the two old swing bridges in the river and the steel fabrication yard across the river.   All in all, well done Wilmington.
Forget Birdwatching, a view of the bridges, from the bridge

Friday, September 7, 2012

STEEL MILL MEET - Postscript

I've had a few days to decompress from the 2012 Steel Mill Modelers Meet.  As I've said before, this is one of the few events we (Jimmy and myself) look forward to every year.   We usually enjoy the trip and long weekend away, as much as the event itself, but this year we were in nearby Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and we were involved with the organization of the event, as well as opening up our house for the layout tours on Saturday.  It was a double whammy of sorts as the layout and basement were a mess  up until the Saturday morning of the tour.  All the last minute organizational stuff kept me out of the basement more than I would have like previous to the event.
Sunday Morning in the Display Room - Some displays have already been packed up
The event when off pretty well.  Everyone seemed to have a good time and the hotel was very nice, the seminars excellent,  a very large vendor/display room filled to the brim, eight layout tours, and a well prepared Hunkie Dinner.  (In New Jersey no less)   Oh, and we also added a Thursday night workshop component last minute that went over well.  There were four workshops - Application of decals; Bottle Car Building; Paper Modeling for Steel Mill Modelers; and making scrap gondola loads.  If you have been following the blog, I updated it from my phone during the event with photos of the top notch modeling on display.  This year for a first, I don't have any layout tour photos to post as we were stuck in our basement.   Next year's meet will be in Cleveland - hope to see you all there.

You might think that four days of steel mill modeling would burn one out - actually the opposite.  Seeing what others were up to is inspirational and I was back downstairs modeling Sunday afternoon.  Also, having a nice organized basement for a change makes it a little faster finding materials needed.  Although my cynical wife believes I will soon be back to my old cluttered ways.  I didn't get a chance to clean my primary workbench off before the event and actually added some loose things I couldn't find a home for to the pile.  After the tours, Jimmy informed me that my bench was a big photo op for my fellow modelers - how embarrassing.  My two track main running through my basement stairs also was, but I stand proud of that bit of remodeling.   Of course I did finish my cleanup Sunday, after the tours.  I'll have to get to all my large structures quick, before I'm back to my 6"x6" modeling space.
State Tool and Die Bottom Pour Ingot Car - Why did package have four ingot molds with corrugated interiors and four without?  Strange
One thing I realized over the weekend was that I really haven't worked much on my rolling stock.  Not that I need too much yet, but still, seeing the work of John Gallagher,  Garry Lance,  Brandon Wehe, and Tom Stewart on display gave me the urge to build some cars, instead of structures for a bit.   At the meet I'd bought a few three packs of the DFG Gondolas.  These are smaller versions of the ST&D mill gon kit.  The DFG stands for Dean Freytag Gondola.  They roughly follow the Bethlehem Steel in-plant custom gons and are perfect for my layout - you just can't ever find them anywhere, except at the Steel Mill Modelers Meet.  I also bought a pack of the bottom pour ingot cars.
Chuck Pravlik's Newest Resin Offering
And some of Chuck Pravlik's new Billet car floors and stakes.  He makes these in two sizes - the photo shows the model that fits the DFG gondola (without the gon sides installed of course) and another that fits the larger ST&D mill gon.   I bought three of these puppies and will get some more next time I see Chuck.  By the way, Chuck and his wife Jennifer are expecting a little steel mill modeler (or maybe a little pirate, or both)  soon - congratulations.  
Built these, plus two of the Billet Cars and Two of the Bottom Pour Ingot cars
That's the line up - from left to right - a large ingot car kit with no modifications; a mini-gon (large ingot car with gon sides left over from building billet cars); another mini-gon (shortened DFG Gondola); mini-gon (large ingot car with left over gon sides and styrene ends; and an unmodified DFG Gondola.
Billet Car with mini-gon.  Billet car top sits on an unmodified DFG gondola without sides

Sunday, September 2, 2012

SMMM 2012 Sunday. Part 2

Newcomer Brian Klimek was awarded the Dean Freytag Award for his outstanding model of Acme Steel Riverdale BOF. Interior photos below

SMMM 2012 Sunday. Part 1

Early morning in the display vendor room. We had 31 tables, all filled with displays or steel mill modeling merchandise. In a bit John Teichmoeller will be giving a presentation on ingot and slag cars. His display of a wide array of model cars available is shown here. The other photo is of Gary Lance's bottle cars and kress carriers. He sells these all ready to go via Parklane Hobbies at very reasonable prices. Jimmy bought one of the 16 wheel bottle cars and two of the 20 wheel cars

Saturday, September 1, 2012

SMMM 2012 Part 2.

Hunkie Food!!!!!

SMMM 2012 Saturday. Part 1

Layout tours all day. We were open so no photos of other layouts. Great group of visitors all day.