Thursday, November 22, 2012


Happy Thanksgiving to all.   For the past 21 years we have our turkey down at the shore.  A lengthy walk on the beach after the meal is a good way to work off some of those calories.  The beach was eroded but not to the extent I expected.  I'd say a 5 on a scale of 10.  Nor'easters seem to do much more damage to the beach than Hurricanes anyway.  The flooding from the storm surge was definitely worse, but hurricanes move fast and Nor'easters can last for three or four days.   My bro said that Avalon already had a major sand replenishment on the books for December so sans severe winter storms, things should be back in shape for the summer.   The sand is pumped from the inlet which serves the dual purpose of filling back in the beaches and deepening the channel through the inlet.   Technically Townsends Inlet isn't designated an "All Weather Inlet" so the Coast Guard and Army Corp of Engineers isn't required to keep it open.   The Hereford Inlet on the south end of the island filled in years ago and is designated unnavigable, although some brave souls still use it.
Townsends Inlet - Maybe this is what they mean when they talk about the over development of the coastline?  The stone jetty was raised about 8' or so about seven years ago.  If it hadn't been, Sandy would probably have taken out most of those homes.   They probably sell for around $4-5million - people with that kind of bling usually are able to get taxpayers throughout the state and country to fund massive piles of rocks to protect their shit.   They also are the same folks bitching about "entitlements" ....... a bit ironic.    The approach road to the draw bridge in the distance was washed out by Sandy.  The jetty protecting that was not raised as part of that project, but then again, it's only a public road, why bother.   The Reading Railroad had a trestle bridge across the inlet a few hundred yards on the ocean side of that drawbridge. They rebuilt it frequently.  It must have been a bit of a shaky, interesting trip across it. 
 Tying this into iron and steel, Thomas Edison, after his successful development of electric lighting and the accompanying electrical distribution system, began to experiment with a magnetic process to recover iron from very low grade ore.  His first experiments were on an iron rich Long Island beach, where he was soon confounded by the shifting sands.  He stated that it was like "taking a mortgage on a school of herring".   He relocated to the mountains of northwestern New Jersey, and Putnam County, NY,  and tried for several years to perfect this system on an industrial scale, but in the end, couldn't profitably compete with the newer iron ore sources emerging around the Great Lakes.   His massive New Jersey plant was full of state of the art rock crushing and pulverizing machinery - he re tasked this equipment and began, profitably, producing portland cement.   For some time he attempted to develop a market for prefabricated concrete houses.  There are a number of these homes still standing in central and northern New Jersey.
Our neighbor's boat - ended up across the street in a backyard.   Couldn't have fit this thing back there if you tried.  I'm not sure how it ended up here, or how they are going to get it out.

Enjoy your turkey.....

The sharks are biting,.....  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Coast Guard Geeps and Two Foot Gauge to the Sea, Literally, and of course, STEEL

SRNJ GP-9 in CNJ "Coast Guard Scheme" 
Nothing like an old GP-9, painted in the CNJ "Coast Guard" scheme, running through the farmlands of Southern New Jersey to perk up my work day.    The consist was five covered hoppers and was headed from Salem to Swedesboro.  This little used rural line is owned by Salem County I think, and is operated by the Southern Railroad of New Jersey.  There are several customers on the line - a farm co-op in Woodstown; Mannington Mills (the flooring manufacturer) and Anchor Glass, both in Salem.   There is also reportedly some team track activity with treated phone poles and gondolas full of dirt (contaminated I presume) in the Salem area.   The photo was taken just north of Woodstown.   Cars are left at the small yard in Swedesboro for pickup by a Conrail Shared Assets train.
2 foot gauge wheel set - axle was originally twice as thick, pre-rust
A rail artifact from my past surfaced during our clean up from Sandy down at the shore.  At the beach house we used to have a small marine railway for launching, and more importantly, rapidly hauling, the leaky wooden speedboats my dad and grandfather used to collect.   The railway ran from a 20' or so level section to the sea wall where it continued for another 40-50' on an incline, eventually running under the water.  A cradle/carriage made of heavy lumber held the boat and had two axles with railroad wheels.  A large steel hand cranked winch was located on the land side of this contraption. (The winch ratchet slipped loose and broke my dads arm one time)   My brother dismantled the railroad and trestle one summer (guess he was bored).  To be fair it was rotted beyond being safe to use and did take up an entire slip, but with the 20 different permits from 20 different agencies you need to build anything down there, we would never be able to rebuild it.   While checking under the house after the storm, my brother reminded me that one of the railroad wheel sets was still there, rusting away severely in the salt water environment.   I brought it home, where the air is less corrosive.  It's funny how things you remember from childhood that seemed big then, turn out to be much smaller in reality.  I always assumed the railroad axle and wheels came from a standard gauge set.  Not so, they are actually only 2' gauge wheel sets.  The wheels themselves are about 16" diameter.  I assume that my dad or grandfather pulled these out of some junk yard, probably originally were from one of those ubiquitous narrow gauge tipple cars.
Narrow gauge open hearth operations - USS

Now I haven't forgotten you steel gurus.  A little pre-Thanksgiving teaser.  A number of years ago I had the opportunity to explore the closed Universal Atlas Portland Cement Plant in Hudson, NY.   This was I believe the only portland cement plant located east of the Hudson River.   Believe it or not I was actually paid to "explore" this facility.  As a professional historian/archeologist, I was documenting the extensive plant before they tore it down and built a new one.   The new one never got built.  There was fierce opposition to the new plant, despite it's location in a very economically depressed city.  Much of this was centered around the proposed 400' smokestack the plant would have, and how it would affect the historic view from nearby Olana, the home of the 19th century artist, Frederic Edwin Church.  Church was one of the most notable of the "Hudson River School" artists, and since his subject was mostly the sublime views of the Hudson River valley and Catskill Mountains,........, the view was deemed historic.   Also, Magnum PI aka Tom Selleck, had his country house on top of nearby Mount Merino, so his view would be affected too.  I wonder if Higgins lived there with him? - never saw the red Ferrari either.
Operations in Open Hearth  - USS

But I digress.  On the floor of the plant power house I found one "Methods Engineering Manual" by the United States Steel Company, October 1951.   This was not an odd find as Universal Atlas was a subsidiary of USS.   I picked up the manual and a brief scan showed no pictures so I dropped it in a file folder in which it sat until a few months ago.  The lack of drawings and photographs is made up for by extensive operational detail about a variety of steelmaking processes at USS plants.  The theme of the book is improving efficiency, but there are numerous specific examples described throughout the book. I've posted a few samples here.  Hopefully you can zoom in or download the photos and print a readable version.  The scans posted tonight are related to open hearth operations - one of the narrow gauge railroad scrap buggy operation, and the other is the actual detailed operation of the open hearth, down to who does what, when.
Second Part

Happy Thanksgiving

Monday, November 19, 2012

November blahs

Model railroading has temporarily taken a back seat to work.  I have a number of fairly complicated woodworking projects that I am trying to complete by the end of the month.   Getting involved in a designer show house has become a yearly fall event for me it seems.  Last year I spent most of October and November building cabinetry and architectural millwork for a house in Moorestown, NJ.  This year  I'm working on a similar project in Haddonfield, NJ - and with an entirely different designer.   Most of my colleagues love to bad mouth designers, but I've never had a bad experience working with any, and I find that most of my best work has been a result of such a collaboration.   I envy the AutoCAD prowess of the young women that I am working with this year - very well organized and dead accurate drawings.

I was able to take a brief model railroading break this past saturday and attend the local NMRA division meet in Millville, NJ.   This was only as I was working down in Ocean City on Friday, stayed over in Avalon Friday night and hit the division meet on my way home Saturday.  There were two excellent presentations - one on scratchbuilding and the other on scenery.   I won the raffle and got some sort of pickle car kit.  Haven't looked at it real closely.  With the previously mentioned work issues hanging over my head, the plan was to skip the afternoon layout tours and beeline home and get cracking, but I noticed Ralph DeBlasi's HO scale Lehigh Valley layout was on the list - one that I've wanted to see for some time.  
Through the trees you can see the four track tank car siding 
The tours started at 1pm so I had an hour or so to kill - I made a short run over to a section of the old CNJ Southern Division to look around.  Much of the southern Division is abandoned - many sections with the rail still in place - but this portion, between Vineland and Bridgeton, NJ is operated by the Winchester and Western Railroad.   I went to two locations I'd noticed on Bing Birds Eye Views - an old grain or feed elevator and some sort of facility that gets a lot of tank cars.  Took some bad photos of the grain elevator - will visit again when I have more time.  The tank car place was a National Refrigerants factory.  I'm not sure if it actually gets tank cars regularly, or they just go there to die.  There were a lot that looked to be real old and not really something you'd want to see in a train traveling through your town carrying chemicals.  They had a neat tank farm all of 1950's era pressure tank cars sans trucks.  The facility has a large four track yard full of tank cars.  One theory of mine is that they use the cars as storage tanks basically.
Colorful Winchester and Western Covered Hopper for the major sand traffic on this line
I got to Ralph's house a few minutes after the official start of the tours and had the place to myself.   The layout is quite impressive and has a cohesive theme of a section of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in the vicinity of the Lehigh Gorge.  Joe Huber and Jim Main were running trains on the layout and Joe handed me a throttle and I was able to run a coal drag around the layout.  Ralph has a pretty severe grade on a section of the railroad that runs through the stairs and up to a section over a staging yard - I needed to get a running start at this hill and just made it up.  I don't feel so bad about my extreme grade on the blast furnace branch.   Ralph must buy lots of diamonds for his wife or something else, as he controls the signals and turnouts on the layout from a huge CTC panel upstairs in the dining room.  Ralph has soldered together the many many circuit boards and pulled all the wire for this electronic
Lehigh Valley Railroading


Monday, November 12, 2012

KADE Railroad RIP

The Friday night operations group we are a part of suffered two losses this month - Two Fridays ago saw the last run on Jake Evaul's Camden and South Jersey Railroad, and this Friday was the last run on  Dave Skinner's KADE Railroad.    We unfortunately missed Jake's last op session and his railroad is now mostly cut up and down.  We did make it to the last op session at the Kade Railroad, a sad event.   The owners of both railroads did a big service to the hobby here in South Jersey.  The friday night operation group is an open invitation event.  There are good things and bad things about that sort of set up, but for us, it was a way for us to meet people, run trains, and get more involved as we got back into the hobby about four or five years ago, and I thank both men for their warm hospitality in that regard.  Here are some final photos of the Kade Railroad:

Besides this sad news, I'd like to thank all of you for your concern with the recent storm that hit here in South Jersey.  We were fortunately spared the brunt of the damage, despite being dead center in the storms path.   We lost power for 16 hours and a few tree limbs fell.  A family place at the shore, on a barrier island, not more than 6 feet from the water also survived unscathed except for several things we didn't want anymore floating away into the sea or wherever.   On the island that home is on (Avalon), less than 5% of the houses are occupied year round so the displacement of people isn't as great as the news would make it out to be.  I was recently talking with a fellow in the affluent town of Haddonfield about damage to his shore house just north of Atlantic City (wet carpet).  He had already applied and received money from FEMA as a "displaced person".  He didn't look very displaced standing on the porch of his $880,000 house an hours drive from the shore.
The day after Sandy, Avalon, NJ - our floating dock resting on a piling.  The railing on the dock was completely under water as was the island in the distance.  Floating dock is at least 30 years old so due for a replacement.  Fixed dock in foreground was built in 1962 - Nothing like that now banned creosote wood preservative - fifty years in a harsh saltwater environment.  
 As you get closer to New York City, there are several towns with more year round residents that suffered horrific damage to life and property.  I was down in Ocean City, NJ today working and the boardwalk was packed with people enjoying the beautiful sunny weather and federal holiday.  By the way, the best pizza in the world -

Here and there piles of sand were being pushed back from the streets just off the beach, back into the dunes.  I did see a lot more damage on the mainland in the neighborhoods just off the bays, many of these are poorer areas and these folks are truly displaced.   This is a photo of Peter Lumber in Pleasantville, NJ -
Salt marsh is just beyond lumber yard property, then the bay, and then you can just make out the tall casino buildings in Atlantic City.  
The water was probably up to about the floor of the boxcar during the height of the storm, maybe higher.  They have damage to structures and are busy cutting three or four feet off the ends of all the 16' trim and pine boards stored vertically.  You can see the cut offs in the bin at the lower right of the photo.

A little work in the basement.  Some scenery, slowly, and I have almost finished the Benzol building - a mere shadow of the benchmark Vince Altiere structure.  More work on dock crane - getting close on this structure and the acquisition of the clamshell bucket has inspired me to get back to work on it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012


I've finished all the brick paper work on my free-lanced backdrop structure and have started messing around with the windows.  I thought things looked pretty good, but viewing the photos I'm going to post here I'm not so sure.
Brick arches applied on top of brick sheet
But, first, before I begin with the windows, the Scale Scene window textures comes with brick arches to match the cut outs.  I printed these on regular paper, cut them out, and then glued them on top of the brick sheet over the windows using a glue stick.
Windows printed out on clear acetate
The Scale Scenes windows are designed to be printed on clear overhead projector plastic.  This stuff isn't cheap so it was an expensive risk to see if it would work.  My wife used a laser printer to print the window mullions.  The problem is that for a background flat something needs to be done to obscure the glass.  Usually I will just paint the backdrop black where the structure is going, but this only looks right for a 3-dimensional window frame.  Using the printed frames it will just look all black.  I tried some printed photos of factory interiors first, but then settled on whitewashing the windows from being.  This was common in factories to prevent workers from looking out and to improve diffused lighting inside.   I dusted the backs of the windows with a flat white spray paint and then put a piece of tannish grey pastel paper over that.  It looked good on the layout, but in the photos the whitewash looks to bright and uniform so I might have to adjust that.
Windows attached and then pastel paper over
Too bright?

You Tube Video of one of my other interests - 60cm WWI Trench Railroads