Sunday, March 30, 2014


I was able to take a much needed break from work this weekend, starting off with a Friday night ops session at Rick Bickmore's HARSCO layout.  Always a fun layout to run trains on and the steel mill theme throughout makes it even better.  Rick has been busy lately finishing and detailing the Capitol Street area of his layout.  You can find photos of his layout and his latest work on the railroad-line forums site - go to the forums, and then layout construction thread - his is HTRR - Chapter 2  

A rainy lazy Saturday called for a run up to New Brunswick for Fat Cats and Thomas Sweets Blend-ins.   We of course had to stop at the Model Railroad Shop in Dunellen.   I picked up some Rix Tank kits for an upcoming gas washer project for B-furnace, along with some resin Buckeye trucks, som Easter Car Works gondola cover kits, and a book - Lehigh Valley Railroad - A Select Look at Locations & Facilities New York Harbor Region, by Benjamin L. Bernhart.    This book had some very interesting black and white photos of the LV RR port facilities in NY Harbor.  Of special interest to me were the Perth Amboy coal docks and piers.  Although Perth Amboy was the original eastern terminus of there railroad, it became sort of a secondary facility after there move into Jersey City at the end of the 1800's.   It's rarely covered in books so the in depth coverage was nice.   The book also explored  their various smaller facilities in Manhattan and the Bronx, with good photos and drawings  of their Bronx freight terminal.    Finally, the Claremont Terminal is featured, and for steel mill folks, one of the few tidewater Huletts in operation.   There was some B.S. going around the steel mill yahoo group about 6 years ago or so to the effect that Huletts couldn't operate in tidewater environs??  Because of the 4 foot tide I guess, like that would have made a whole lot of difference?  Well they did - at least two in New York - one on Lehigh Valley piers and the other used in unloading garbage barges elsewhere in the NYC proper.  (Huletts were also used in the Arizona desert at a copper smelter for cleaning sludge ponds - and I'm sure other places other than the Great Lakes)    I'd seen several photos of this machine before in Jersey City.  Used for unloading Bethlehem Steel South American ore, an interesting tidbit in this book - Bethlehem actually owned the Hulett at Jersey City, but it was operated by the railroad.   There was a second ore unloader, but of the Mead-Morrison type.  The text alluded that the Mead-Morrison unloader was needed for tramp steamers where there were restricted openings that the Hulett couldn't work in.  Actually it looks like the Hulett buckets were narrower than the Mead-Morrison, however, my guess is that it had to do with the overhead rigging and booms on tramp steamers.  The Hulett required more vertical space for their articulating arms.  But who really knows - this is the bottom line with much information out there on-line and in books - it's guesses by "experts" but no one really knows since anyone that was around while these machines were operating in Jersey City are probably dead and gone.  This book is well worth the $30 price tag to any Lehigh Vally or rail marine buffs.

We took the back road home through Princeton, stopping at Labyrinth Books.  They alway have great mark downs.  I picked up a Dover Architecture book of large city buildings with great drawings marked down to $7 from $30    Of more interest was The Roebling Legacy by Clifford W. Zink.  This was a book that I'd been meaning to get for some time but couldn't resist for 50% off - $25   This large hardbound book is a complete history of Roebling - the men and women, the bridges, the mills, and the mill town of Roebling.  Of course I was interested mostly in the mills in Trenton and Roebling New Jersey.  Well written book with plenty of interesting photos and history.  Some real neat shots of railroad loads from the Trenton and Roebling plants.

Finally, not really a weekend book - one that I ordered a week or so ago.  Ghost Rails IX, State Line Legends, by Wayne A. Cole.   You probably read my rave review of Ghost Rails X - wanting more, it seemed that this volume had more steel mill info in it.  It had some of Sharon Steel and Crucible Steel but not as prevalent as in Volume X.  No matter, still well worth the money.  Although I might come off as focused on steel mills, I am interested in all industries.   This book is chock full of a variety of extraction, chemical, and other industries.  Good information, and more importantly drawings, maps, and photos, of their operations, and just like Volume X, from the perspective of railroad operations.   Many of the industries are, in effect, steel related - limestone mining - extraction industries - even explosives that are used in extracting coal and ore for steel production.  Mr Cole has another volume, I forget which one, that covered the large USS centralized sinter plant that I will be ordering later tonight.    He also promises more volumes in the future with steel mill themes.   Well done again.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Atlas H660

I've wanted one of these Atlas H660's for some time.  I finally picked one up this saturday at the local train store.  I bought the non-sound version, only because there were none available.  I will probably keep the Lackawanna scheme and concoct some story about the Perth Amboy Terminal needing extra motive power and leasing it.    This locomotive runs smoothly and has good slow speed operating characteristics.   I've never been let down with an Atlas locomotive and I try to stick to purchasing them, unless there is an unique loco that I want in another brand.  Protos run nicely generally, but I have had all sorts of mechanical problems with them over the years.  

Friday, March 21, 2014


I found a bunch of older Trains magazines at a local antique shop last weekend.   I bought about 11 or so, all dating from the late 1940's to the late 1950's.   Although all the photography is black and white, I found these magazines to be super interesting.  They span the steam to diesel transition era which I model.  There are many ads by a variety of railroads and the news items are neat.   With the dieselization of American railroads the competition  between manufacturers  of these locomotives was at it's height.    The boys from the New York Ontario and Western might have been a bit optimistic about a buyer coming forward for their railroad.

One of the 1959 magazines profiled the Union Transportation Railroad, a little know farm line, and subsidiary of the PRR, just a dozen or so miles from my house.  This little line became famous as the last holdout of PRR steam around the time of this magazine.   Besides the usual rural farm traffic, the line served Fort Dix/McGuire Air Force Base.  The photo that I'm showing here was titled, Paradox.   The paradox being the flat car load behind the steam engine - a launch rail for a CIM-10 Bomarc long range surface to air missile.  These supersonic ram-jet missiles were part of a late 1950's, early 60's state-of-the-art air defense system.  They carried a 10 kiloton plutonium warhead, detonated in proximity to a Soviet bomber stream - like fishing with dynamite.   The installation at McGuire was the first operational in the United States and many of the materials to build it were transported by this little steam powered railroad.

A side note - the McGuire Bomarc launch facility would be the site of a significant cold-war accident less than a year after this photo was taken.  A fuel tank on one of the Bomarcs exploded and the fire melted the plutonium warhead (without detonating the explosive initiator - some first rate engineering)  contaminating the site with weapons grade plutonium.   With the Cold War at full speed, the launch shelter was quickly encased in concrete and the remainder of the installation (55 missiles) was kept operational.   In another railroad connection, the site was finally cleaned up between 2002-2004 and contaminated soil was shipped out via the former CNJ Southern Division line.

Unrelated - the complete ST&D hot metal car as built from kit.  To be detailed further,....

Friday, March 14, 2014

STATE TOOL AND DIE 200 Ton Hot Metal Car - Part 1

This new release from State Tool and Die came out last fall.  I finally got around to ordering one.   Initially the bottle part of the car had a double taper.  After my experience on my scratch built four truck car, I immediately understood why this was done - wheel clearance.   If you remember with my car, I'd followed Treadwell plans online, exactly as possible.  Only after I saw the notation of 28" wheels on the drawing did I figure out the standard 33" wheels I was using were the problem.   So in using standard trucks, ST&D must have run into a similar problem.   After being taken to task online about no prototype, they reengineered the car with a single taper.   The new version says, "Revised" on the packaging.  From what I understand they will send you new ends if you have one of the original cars.

The kit was $50, and is packaged in the standard ST&D baggy.   The parts are the usual heavy grey plastic.   They are nicely molded and not much flash to clean up.  The instructions are easy to read and the fit of the parts is good.   The turning equipment on the one platform is fairly plain and consists of three separate pieces.  There are no registration marks so you might want to just place everything first so the final assembly makes sense.  

The only parts I didn't use are the thin square sheets that fit around the spout.  I've seen this type of thing on more modern photos of prototype cars, but not back in the 50's.    I also didn't use the steel weight provided for inside the bottle.  I will just use lead birdshot until I like the weight.    The kit is basic in that there is no brake equipment, hand rails, grabs, steps,..etc.   I will be adding these.  Also, I'm considering backdating the car a bit to riveted construction - stay tuned.

I'll end with a poor quality photo I took driving across the Walt Whitman Bridge into Philly of a rail transfer yard in Camden on the former property of New York Shipbuilding.   It's used for loading a variety of imported cargo onto railcars.  Lately they have been bringing in steel slabs by ship, from I don't know where, and loading them into gons, destined for AK Steel (Kentucky?)  I'm thinking possibly from Brazil?    The slabs are shipped out in unit Extras.   If you look closely you can see the diagonal siding that the crane straddles and slabs laid out for loading along the track, in addition to the stacks in the middle of the photo.   Rail traffic has been booming here in south Jersey - first the oil trains, and now coal and slab trains.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

BOOK REVIEW - Pennsylvania Short Lines Volume 2

After my recent purchase of Volume One of this Morning Sun book, which, organized in alphabetical order, left off at the Ma and Pa, finding Volume Two of this out of print book became a priority.  There were several for sale online.  It's hard comparing these two, as they are both excellent, maybe this one was slightly better from a steel standpoint.   The subtitle for these books is "Traditional Shortlines of Pennsylvania Extant in the 1950's"    This is an important differentiation in that the shorelines the book covers existed to primarily serve a specific industry, or isolated mine or town, and connect with a mainline railroad, as opposed to the more modern versions of shorelines, many formed to operate lines abandoned by main line railroads.    Modeling the steel industry in the 1950's is tough from a color standpoint as most of the resources are black and white.  The color images in these Morning Sun books are especially useful in terms of colors of industry, rolling stock, and roadbed.   This book, like the first Volume is chock full of steel industry images from the 1950's and 60's.   Some of the steel mill shorelines covered are -

McKeesport Connecting Railroad -  National Tube
Monessen Southwester Railway  -  Pittsburgh Steel
Monongahela Connecting RR -  J&L Steel
Philadelphia, Bethlehem and New England RR -  Bethlehem Steel
Pittsburgh & Ohio Valley RR - Shenango Inc
Pittsburgh, Chartiers & Youghiogheny RR - also Shenango Inc
Steelton & Highspire RR - Bethlehem Steel (Steelton plant)
Upper Merion & Plymouth RR - Alan Wood Steel

There are lots of photos of the steel plants and steel specific equipment, in addition to revenue cars with interesting steel related roads.    Some interesting initial observations -

The blast furnace complex at Bethlehem Steel in Steelton was mostly painted a silver color - not the usual black or iron ore/primer red color.  I'm starting to think that the Bethlehem plant at Lehigh, which I am modeling Blast Furnace A, had the same coloration in the 50's.   The peeling paint on A-Furnace, which is still standing, looks silvery to me.  I brought this up on the Yahoo Steel Group about five or six years ago and I was told no way, that it was just a black coating and always had been.

Blast furnaces at all the mills listed above are depicted whole or partially in this Volume.

Some neat shots of those unique Pugh torpedo hot metal cars used at Alan Wood Steel

Ladles used at Shenango, not torpedo cars - a few shots of these

An interesting car load at Bethlehem - a gantry crane being shipped from Bethlehem to another mill.

Well worth the money.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


This is a new release by Arcadia Press - Western New York Steel - It is an excellent, and very economical book related to the steel industry in the Buffalo, New York area.  The majority of the photos in the book are of Bethlehem Steel's Lackawanna Plant, however, it also covers Republic, Towanda, and a number of other smaller operations.   The photos are numerous and very interesting.  As with all Arcadia books, all the photos are black and white, and are generally smaller due to the format of these books.  There is an excellent historical overview that accompanies the photos, but these are picture books so most of the information is gleamed from the captions.    I visited this area in college during the late 80's, just after most of the Lackawanna Plant was torn down.  I spent some time at the local historical society and their seemed to be a number of people interested in the steel history of the area.  Apparently there is now a steel museum up there that I would like to visit someday.  I'd wished I'd spent more time back then looking for steel industrial archeology, but from what I remember, I was focused on photographing the many grain elevators along the waterfront, many of which were going to be torn down.   Well done - if you are interested at all in steel or steel modeling, buying this book is a no-brainer.  You can order online from the Arcadia site - I think it was less than $25 with shipping and arrived in two or three days time.