Monday, September 21, 2015


I took it slow for the weekend and spent significant time on the layout for the first time in maybe a year, year and a half.   In the past few weeks I'd been cleaning things up and getting organized, and built a few small kit things, but not much to layout.  This weekend I managed to attack many stalled projects at once.  
First coat of paint.  In background you will see one of my 1:1 scale projects - restoration of a Southern Pacific  Search Light Signal made by Union Switch and Signal 

In the waterfront area - I finished construction on the crane, primed and sprayed with two coats of a light green.   I will still need to weather it, add glazing to the cab and a variety of cables for boom hoist and bucket hoist.    I will probably revisit this model someday, adding working lighting and some electrical conduit/control box details.    I am working on a logo/sign for Raritan Steel to put on the boom.     Also in the waterfront I added a slab foundation and walkway for the yard office/tower, and finally installed the water surface.  The water was created with acrylic paints - blacks, greens, dab of dark blue.   Not 100% happy with result, but not unhappy enough to redo.   The surface is a high-gloss water based urethane.  Ok and very durable and easy to clean.  Not as cool looking as the resin, but could always go that route if needed.    Have a few more coats of urethane to go and then I'll start adding pilings, vessels, etc.    The pipe mill is also underway, but that will be a separate post in the future.  The pipe mill takes the place of the chemical plant.  I decided to eliminate the only non-Raritan Steel industry on the layout.

Coke Works - lots of almost complete items in the by-products plant - working on overhead piping and ammonia separator.  Primary washers need only minor work to be ready for paint.   coke ovens still need significant work, but cut the wood cores for the conveyors from the coal unloader to the oven bunker.

If you look closely you will see the scribed lines
Lower Works - Added some bunkers to the highline - need to build another 8 or so and core of this will be complete and I can start detailing track area - would like to get this in for tour next month so I can run some trains on it.  The reason this project is years in the works is that each bunker has many parts and boring to cut out and assemble - even when I complete a section, it seems I have so many more to do.  One thing I'm trying to break this tedium is to use my Cameo cutting machine to cut out the pieces for the bunkers.  The bunkers are built from 0.040 styrene, which the machine can't cut, but  can score and snap out the pieces -  absolutely consistent pieces.   I drew out two complete sets of parts - since bunkers are doubled, this will make one full bunker section and get me 3" closer to finishing this thing.   Since I am feeding the thick styrene without the cut sheet, I had problems when rollers ran off the edge of the 12x12 sheet, so I cut a 12x24 and just feed one side, and then reverse for a second bunker set - this keeps the rollers from going off the edge on the close to end cuts.
Pipe ends/joints - 1/4"-1 1/8" in 1/16" increments - as many as I could fit 

Speaking of the Cameo - while I was at it, I created a sheet of styrene disks in various sizes for pipe joints and ends.  I was able to fit a lot of pieces onto one sheet.  I also drew and cut some industrial window sash sheets for overlay on scratch-built industrial buildings.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


A recent antique shopping find - a 1962 US Steel educational packet with samples of raw materials and finished products, and a filmstrip.  I'd forgotten about the ubiquitous filmstrips from my elementary school days.    The color positive film has washed out to amber/red quite a bit, but pictures are clear enough.  I used an inexpensive Wolverine slide scanner to scan some of the photos from the filmstrip


Besides the iron and steel industry in Birmingham proper, the mountains immediately surrounding the city are full of the remnants of the many iron or and coal mining operations.    Red mountain was mined extensively for iron ore by US Steel, Sloss, and others.    US Steel donated much of their former iron mining properties for use as a park.  To date, a portion has been made into nature trails, bike paths, zip line courses,...etc...    I spent the morning of my second day in Birmingham exploring some of these trails

Number 13 Mine Portal

Number 14 Mine Portal

Wash House for #14 Mine

Looking down incline toward #13 Mine - the incline skip tracks would have passed under the  railroad bridge in photo.  Some distance behind me the incline continued to the tipple.

Map of mountain during mining days.
The trails have excellent historical markers describing industrial operations.    Most of the main trails are former railroad rights-of-way.  There are some connecting trails that are much narrower and steeper than the main trails.  Overall the mountain has reverted to nature, compared to the photo above.  There were a number of other mines and industrial structures I didn't have time to visit.  I spoke to a park ranger who said they were opening more and more of the property every year and there is extensive IA on the remainder.    The closest mine portals are at least a mile or two in from the entrance, so be prepared for some walking, with some hilly travel.   If you wanted to hit all the sites you'd be looking at a full day and probably at least 6-7 miles of overland hiking.

Closer to the city proper is Vulcan, the largest cast iron statue in the world.  Erected on Red Mountain  virtually on-top of  a mine, and overlooking the city as a tribute to the iron industry that built it.