Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A-FURNACE Part 44 - Final Fitting

No one get excited, "final fitting" doesn't mean I'm close to being done.   It was basically a final repositioning of all the components of A-Furnace to test their fit with each other, before taking apart again and finishing each piece separately.  The next time they are all together I hope is for the final assembly.   If you haven't been following along, A-Furnace is being built in five different parts, or elements.  This is primarily for practical construction and painting reasons.    The elements are - The casthouse/blast furnace - the stoves - the precipitators - gas washing framework - and the dust catcher.    Unfortunately for the construction process, these elements are interconnected by piping.    The precipitators are connected to the stoves (gas pipe for burners) and the gas washing plant.  (One of the pipes for this latter connection actually rests on an extension of the cast house roof.   The gas washers are connected to the precipitators and the dust catcher (and maybe the blast furnace if I model the bleeder pipe - checking whether this would have been on the furnace in the 1950's)    The stoves connect to the precipitators and the cast house, also, eventually a connection to the blowing engine house for the cold blast.  You get the picture.   Most of these pipes are curved and not straight connections.   I've noticed while building A-Furnace, some minor alignment issues here and there.  I put off addressing them as when you adjust one alignment issue you usually create another.   I took some time and carefully adjusted everything to get all the connections right.   I also had to shim up the stove base about 1.25"  I'll create a raised "hill" or platform for a permanent solution.  This was to align the hot blast main with the bustle pipe and also to allow for good spacing on future stairs between the stoves and furnace - there are three (two from upper stove platform to main deck on furnace, as well as a connecting staircase from the back of the stoves to a door on the bell hoist cylinder building.   You will notice I'm up to four trusses built on the casthouse.

While doing the alignment of the piping, I got sick of the furnace top falling over constantly so I  added the sections of uptake between the main platform and the furnace itself.   This section of piping has two different angles on each end.  I used a 1" belt sander to adjust the angle until I had it right.  

Cast house roof trusses -

Monday, September 16, 2013


This is the bell hoist cylinder house.  Most of the time this equipment is in the hoist house with the skip equipment, however at Bethlehem A-Furnace it is hung on the side of the cast house ventilator housing.    Originally I was going to sheath A-Furnace in corrugated material, but after viewing my photos of the actually blast furnace I noticed that the siding and roofing used throughout A-Furnace is just plate steel, welded together.  I simulated the welds by scribing styrene sheets.  On this structure, the plates scaled out at 42" high.

MODIFICATION - I checked my structure against Mike Rabbitt's plans and was dead on, except I'd missed a clipped corner of this sub-structure.    No big deal, right?  Wrong - The corner was clipped to clear the single rear stove and when I tried to fit the stoves in place next to the casthouse I had spacing and clearance issues.   I added in this cutback using a Dremel and a knife.  It's not elegant, but it works, and it will be almost entirely obscured by the stove.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

SCORE! - Book Review

New York Harbor Railroads in Color, Volume 1 by Tom Flagg was printed in 2000.   Despite a longtime fascination with New York Harbor railroad operations, I never bought this book when it was released.  I was temporarily disengaged from Model Railroading and Trains due to raising two young children at the time, and also, not being able to bring myself to pay those Morning Sun book prices.   I swore, at the time, I'd never pay $50 for a 1/2" thick train picture book, or for that matter, a $100 HO locomotive or $30 freight car.  Well you know how it goes - never say never.    By the time I wanted to buy the book, there were none available at a price I could afford.  The mistake became even more evident after I was able to pick up a New York Harbor Railroads in Color Volume 2 a year or so ago.   Amazon and eBay prices ranged between $200 and $350 - depressing.     Finally I found a copy friday, at an antique store on a back road southern New Jersey town - for $40!    I've been having good luck lately at antique stores with train books and model railroad items.   I think this must be for a few reasons - one, the aging of this hobby means lots of collections picked up by dealers.  Some of these dealers know what they have, others don't take the time to research and the result is usually a bargain.  A trend I notice is that dealers, unfamiliar with railroad books, tend to price them by age.  The problem with this is that a lot of the stuff published in the 50's - early 80's is sort of blah and very general, with grainy photos - generally, no meat to the text.  More recent (last 30 years) small publishing runs of books with very specific themes and subject matter are more appealing to me, and many times are more sought after books.   There were several titles alongside this book that were priced higher or the same - they were much older, but can usually be found for less than $10 on many used book store shelves.     As far as a review,  this book is first rate and if you're the least bit interested in rail marine operations, and can find it, buy it.    Tom was an old SIA comrade and I figured that anything he put out wouldn't disappoint.  His knowledge of industry and transport in New York Harbor is incredible.     The date ranges on many Morning Sun books, are deceptive - there are a handful of photos from the 1950's and the rest are late 60's through the 80's.    This book is full of photos from the 1950's and early 60's.    This is important to me as I model the 1950's.  From what I've seen, there was a color shift of sorts in the late 60's.   Freight car colors - building colors - materials used in buildings - and ballast colors.    The 50's seem to have more muted colors - ballast was mostly black, finer, dirtier,...etc.    Buildings are mostly grays, reds, and browns, with industrial structures almost invariably, black.    This book really displays those tones and colors in many, many period shots.  An added bonus are the interior shots of engine rooms, steering gear, wheel houses,..etc..  

Saturday, September 7, 2013


The roof truss thing was getting a bit boring - three done,  one full one and a few partials left to go , so I started constructing the louvered structure that enclosed the upper portion of the blast furnace.    The verticals are 3/16" square tubes for the corners, and 3/16"x1/8" solid strip for the intermediates.  The bottom horizontal is a 3/16" H-Column and the louvers are 1/4" Zee 
For the most part the louvers are equal, in three sections on each side, except for the right side in this picture.  This side has the bell lifting cylinders and cables in a small structure cantilevered off the louvered assembly.  The center section is left open for this.  

Trip to the hobby store on friday - that pile is $100 worth of Plastruct and Evergreen styrene shapes - should have kitbashed
Side view of louvered structure.  You can see the opening for the bell lifting machinery housing in the center open section.  This will be built shortly.   

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A-FURNACE - Part 41

In a recent email I was asked about the progress on A-Furnace - the first blast furnace I started building in 2008.  Not much, I was unfortunately able to report.   The furnace is really the centerpiece of my steel mill - it's 100% scratch built (so is B-Furnace) and a fairly exact scale replica of Bethlehem A furnace.  The precipitators are virtually complete,  the stoves very close too, but the furnace itself still needs quite a bit of attention.   I dusted off my roof truss jig for this furnace - the product was a single truss and it's been collecting dust since.  I'm not much further on the soaking pit trusses, with only 1 1/2 complete, and that is a much simpler truss than A-Furnace.  The jig is crude, but works.  The truss is a sandwich of two styrene angles with gusset plates at angle intersections.   The first step is to place the gussets, cut from .020 styrene in place in the jig - there are four different sizes.   Then I glue in the long outer angles - .080 styrene angle, and then fill in the rest using .060 angle.  Once set, I carefully work truss out of jig.  This only gives me a half built truss, and I have to still glue the angles for the opposite sides in place, although this can be done without the jig.

Completed roof truss, note the overhang truss assembly on the left for covering the slag track
Truss number two installed - only two more to go.
Walkway on top of stoves for A-furnace.  Stoves were arranged in an L-pattern.   The hot blast main passes between the row of three stoves on left and the single stove on right, necessitating and more substantial walkway truss support between them.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013


Visiting my local train store (Sattlers - Wesmont, NJ) to pick up the latest Steel Mill Morning Sun Book - Steel Mill Railroads Five, I was happy to see the arrival of the new H30 covered hoppers from Bowser.   These are available in several PRR schemes in grey and red, along with yellow PRR MOW,  Penn Central Green, and a Norfolk and Western version.  The local NMRA Division is releasing a PRSL version lettered for the sand mining operations of South Jersey.   It's a very nicely done car, and good addition to the early covered hopper selections available in HO scale.  Previously you needed to build an F&C resin version or shell out some $$$ for a brass version.     A word on the new SMRR #5 - well done as usual with a nice mix of engine, rolling stock, and mill subjects.  Most of this volume concerns the Ohio and Western PA mills, with a few photos from further afield.    It will probably be my last purchase of a book in this series, despite another several forthcoming - the simple reason is - I'm bored with them, or maybe the mills to the west are just more boring.  Most of them didn't use narrow gauge systems, and also, had plenty of real estate to expand.   The cramped old eastern mills are easier to replicate in HO scale I guess.    Most of the photos are on the modern side of what I model.    
We decided to take the train into NYC on Saturday for some shopping and walking around.  (Actually two trains - NJT Riverline Light Rail into Trenton and then NJT Northeast Corridor into NY Penn Station.    One of those things I've been meaning to do for some time is walk the Highline - New York Centrals old elevated freight line from 34th street into lower Manhattan.  If you don't know the interesting history of this branch, look it up online.   Ron Parisi has also written some excellent, very long articles about the outstanding model he built of part of this branch in the New York Central Modeling Magazine - it's a free online journal, part of the New York Central Historical Society.  
The southern end of the Highline.  It was multi-tracked but they have managed for the most part to leave one track in place for most of it's length.  Historical interpretation of the railroad function of the structure is almost non-existant, however, there is plenty about every foo-foo artist that added some idiotic sculpture here and there, including the super-idot that put a tape recorder repeating single unrelated words under the water fountain and called it art.    The history of the preservation of the structure is similar, with years of preservation calls from SIA folks like Tom Flagg and Gerry Weinstein and others,  but only after Actors and Gallery Owners got involved, was anything done.    Now it is a major attraction in the city and construction of mega expensive apartment buildings lines the route, formerly lined with factories and meat packing plants.

HQ of the New York Central Railroad

Another bucket list thing of sorts - revisit the Red Caboose Hobby Store.  This is the last survivor of what was once three model train stores on 45th street between 5th and 6th avenue.  I used to hit all three back to back while a teenager and in college, but haven't been back much since.  The Red Caboose is the last survivor and has actually moved from its original location, across the street to it's former competitors store.    This is one of those dirty, disorganized train stores that I love.  The owner is unique for sure.  My usual rule when afield is to only buy items that are unavailable through my local store - usually older kits.  I picked up a Westerfield PSC ore car kit - these have been recently re-released, but this is an older version.  It was without instructions, so if anyone has any I would appreciate a scan.  The other kit is a Gloorcraft wood and metal covered hopper kit.