Friday, January 19, 2018

Coke bunker / coal service #2

In part 2 of the coke bunker / coal service facility, I've enlarged the coal hopper to extend over two tracks.  So the structure is now divided into two spots for coal in, and three for coke loading.  The coal is delivered on two track, into two separate track hoppers.  These hoppers are jointed to the vertical conveyor via underground augers.   With the size of the North and South batteries, and thinking about the whole operation, I felt that having two track hoppers and a larger coal hopper above made sense. Again, the coal hopper is left over from the coke works kits bunkers and crusher building.  You can see on the right where I've outlined a proposed location for the conveyor from the coke screening building. The conveyor to the transfer house from the coal hopper is center left on the bottom beam.

The track hoppers are comprised of two of the track hopper castings from the coke works kits. I simply measured my center to center on the inside rails of the coal service tracks on the layout, then went home and went to work.

Not much reason to go into gory details here.  The two machinery sheds are scraps from my corrugated siding box.  I didn't over think these.  Simple in design as they would likely be on a prototype.  And I just scratch built the doors.  I didn't see much reason in using some Tichy doors on something like this.  The thought crossed my mind, but in the end common sense won the day.  I felt the shed at the vertical conveyor would like be larger to service the return for it as well.  I'll likely print out a nice big electric motor to put on the back side of the left shed to power the vertical conveyor.

I added actual hopper bins underneath.  I'll have to cut into the benchwork decking, but I felt it would add depth to the scene, whereas most of these if you look down into the grate, the benchwork deck is right there, just painted black.  I'll give these a healthy coat of black, and the sheds some dull grey, and weather the devil out of them.  The structure above will get some shields on either side of both track hoppers.  The 3 blast furnaces at the mill will be plenty hungry, so we need all the coal going into the conveyor and none being wasted.

Coke Battery #3

 In this installment of "let's build a giant coke battery," I added the edging that is usually on brick structures where the brick or concrete is used as a walkway or platform. I also started on the door repair shop, as well as designed the catenary poles that service the charging car and coke guide car / locomotive.  This is at the South end of the battery, on the extension that was added in installment #2. In the photo below, you can see the edging for the brick battery tops.  It's 1/16" Evergreen angle.  If you do this, take your time testing and making the joints between the angle stock. If you do, you can then sand the joint lightly and make it seamless.  Obviously in real life, there would be a weld joint between say, 20' long sections of angle. But in HO, the weld would be so small you'd never really see it. I'd also suggest making the joints offset from the joints in the Walthers battery tops.  It'll make the whole assembly stronger, and less susceptible in the future to cracking.  The Canentary poles I manufacture are designed to glue to the top of the columns that separate the oven doors, as well as to the edging (or the edge of the battery top if you don't use edging.)

 The Catenary poles are designed to use a 0.040" brass wire for the coductor.  But at Thomas they actually used angle iron.  If someone selected not to use the wire, they could easily sand off the saddle for the wire, and glue the angle stock to the same extension. It's really all how you want your model to look.  I'm sure both were prototype. I would use Evergreen 291 if going with the angle. I'm pretty sure that's what my plan is. But I'm months away from adding the poles to my model.  I plan on doing this just about last, as I'd likely end up breaking some off handling it when building all the other stuff.

Here's an image of Thomas.  The slots in the angle were to allow for expansion.

Next is the construction of the extension at the end of the battery, which is over the door repair shop.  Since I'm using 5 of the Walthers kits, I had plenty of spare extension tops.  On the Walthers kit, there is JUST enough room for the charging car to move off of the last oven.  At the Thomas plant, there was more than enough room.  I'd have to believe this is prototype.  I don't have any photos of Thomas when the East end battery was still in place, but I almost wonder with just under 100 ovens if they didn't have more than one charging car.  Eventually they would need some kind of maintenance, and being able to move one completely off of the battery, you could use the other while #1 was down.  It's something I plan to do regardless.  South battery is 58 ovens, and North battery will be 36, so I think two charging cars makes sense.

The basis for the door repair shop is Thomas also, and at some point the shop crew erected a wall at the end of the shop, out of corrugated sheet, and installed some doors.  At Thomas, this was because the shop faced West.  And I'm guessing the Alabama Sun just beat down on the shop crew in the hot Southern Summers.  It's a neat feature, and I added it to mine.  Mine would face South, but being in Indiana, the problem would be the same.

After fabricating the wall and gluing it in place I went to bed.  Like I do every modeling session because I'm using modeling in the evening once the house is quiet.  The next day I went to work, and was going along at a good clip, and it suddenly dawned on me. I glued the wall in the end of the shop extension, where it should have been at the next set of pillars back from the end.  The last section of the extension was for the spare door machines.  Thomas kept two spare door machines that could be swapped with the ones on the pusher and coke guide engine.  These are pretty big pieces of equipment.  And they had an small over head crane to assist with swapping them and storing them.  Modeling in the late evening when you're a bit tired can help you make mistakes.  Luckily I was able to use a knife and separate the glue joints and move the wall back and not have to fabricate a new one.  Below is the image of the door machine storage and door repair shop.  Lots of details going on here.  Note the Cantenary poles.

Last, I've started installing the spare door storage, as well as the door tiling tables.  Thomas used a sort of tilting lift assembly to place a door on that needed repairs, then tilted it down into the shop so it was flat for the crew to work on at ground level, rather than up on scaffolding.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

#3 Blast Furnace "Megan" Dust Collector

I'm not starting on the blast furnaces.  Really.  I don't have room to store them, and the bench work for the mill isn't constructed yet. But one of the first products I drew up for the Steel Mill Modelers Supply product line was Pug Mill kit.  Complete with a gate valve and Rotary Valve for feeding the Pug.  That being said, I had taken the Dust Collector from the furnace kit that had been "assembled" but a former, and well meaning, club member, and taken it apart.  I cleaned all the CA cement off of it, and fitted it together. It was a pain, as the parts were ill fitting and warped.  But, none the less, I got it together.  After some sanding and filling, I used it as a model for fitting the pug mill kit.

So, the fixed and sanded dust collector sat on my modeling table for months.  After Train Fest, I started thinking that I should have some display models for taking to shows that had my parts integrated into them.  And the dust collector kept calling my name to build it. Even though I had resigned that I wouldn't start on the furnaces for at least a year or more.  And we're back to the dust collector nagging me, sitting there on my table neglected.  The modeling examples of my parts won out.  I decided I could take it to shows with me until I built the furnaces, and sit in a box in between. So, I build it.  Since the dust collector needed to be slightly higher with the pug mill kit installed (even with cutting the little funnel off the bottom of it), I decided to go hog wild and build the entire support structure new.  This entailed drawing up column footers as well.  I'm told that this style wasn't used pre-WWII. And that's fine, as this dust collector will be used on #3 Furnace (Megan), which would have been built in the '50's.  Whereas #1 and #2 Furnaces (Martha and Wendy) were built in the 1920's.  It will show the growth in the mill with the economic boom following WWII.

Once the basic superstructure was done, I mounted the pug mill kit.

I want to point out these Tichy Rivet Plates are something I didn't know Tichy made.  I discovered them in their well thought out display at Train Fest. I had to make 8 of these small ones for the Benzol Plant. I spent probably an hour making 8 of them all the same.  And even then, no rivet detail.  These are $3.50 for 60 of them!!  I'll never make these again. And there are other sizes.  the small and medium ones are great for these X braces, that are all over a mill and heavy industry structures.  I don't think it takes more than about 10 minutes or so, maybe less, to make one X now. 

Next came the caged ladder, again from Tichy, and the railings.

I added a Water Control Cabinet that I also product. I'm not sure you'd need this for something as simple as a pug mill, but I added it anyway.  It's a nice detail.  All I have to add now is a section of rail, the hose from the bottom of the pug mill to fill rail cars, and the water line and it's ready for paint. The whole project was about 4 or 5 evenings of work at 2 hours an evening average.  And fun to do.

Bleeder Stack #2

With the start of the project, I determined the height of the stack and cut the appropriate section of Evergreen Scale Models 1/2" tubing and cemented it in place with ACC. Then began on the base with the Tichy Caged Ladders installation.  The base really only gets a caged ladder and the 2 cooling lines. The Tichy Caged Ladders p#8002 are a great item, and only take a little patients to assemble.  mounts for the caged ladders to the base and up the stack were made from Evergreen 1/4" C Channel, and look much like what was used on the real stack.

Next came more caged ladder up to within about 1" of the top.  I decided to add the top works platforms, electrical boxes and igniter insulated rods at this point before I added the delicate cages to the ladders. The platforms aren't hexagonal like the prototype. I could have made these, but I had these leftovers from a Walthers Refinery laying around.  It's actually four, half platforms that I trimmed and cemented into two round platforms.  

 One juts out to a squared corner.  At first I thought about trimming it off, but then though why? Perhaps there would be a reason in real life for this.

Next came the cages and hand railings.  All I need to finish up is to add the electrical conduit from the ground to the control boxes, and the igniter wires that loop up over the top of the stack.  And to paint the whole thing. Painting is at a stand still for now, as it's 10 degrees here in the MidWest, and all painting in the garage has ceased.  I'll have to load everything up and make a trip over to the train club on an off day to paint.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Bleeder Stack #1

At almost every By Product Coke Works, there is a bleeder stack.  This stack is used to bleed off excess fuel gas that the works both generates, and consumes. Normally fuel gas is also pumped to the blast furnaces and other plants within a steel mill where all of this is integrated into one large millwork.  At a stand alone coke works, excess, at Thomas at least, was also pumped out to the local gas untility where it would be mixed with natural gas and sold to customers when there was a demand.  When the demand wasn't there, excess gas was "bled off" to a bleeder stack and burned.  You've likely seen these at a refinery at night, a tall stack with a flame at the top.  Thanks to the HAER project, the bleeder stack at Thomas we well photographed.  And a .TIF file was available for the images, allowing me to zoom in very close and look at all the details.  Including how the igniter worked with heating filiments over the top of the stack.

The igniter platforms and electrical gear at the top.

I started the project by scaling the photo, and then drawing the base up in CAD to be 3D printed so I could offer it for sale in my Steel Mill Modelers Supply Facebook store.  It's the most complicated part of the stack, and jump started the project for sure.

Steel Mill Modelers Supply

I have a saying that I like to use, somewhat sarcastically, that "good fabricators are lazy fabricators." The idea here is that if you can buy it at a reasonable price, or, if the pay off is that you have more time to do other things, then use something you can buy. Especially if the part is nicer, or if you need a gazillion of the item.  In watching the Prairie Works videos on Super Detailing the Walthers Blast Furnace, I kept thinking about the 55' of steel mill I was dedicated to build. And the coke works.  And all those gate valves I'd need to build.  15 for each set of ovens for the blast furnaces, for four blast furnaces.  And the dozens more for all over the plant.  As a professional fabricator, I could watch the video, look at all the components, and make a pretty good guess that each valve was likely about 45 minutes to an hour to make. Multiplied by 15.  Multiplied by 4.  Not fun.  And a ton of lost time.  And it made me wonder if I wasn't alone.  If there were other modelers who were perhaps stalled on there builds because of this daunting thought of 15 hours lost just making enough valves to do one set of stoves.  And then you have to make the burners.  And the hot blast valves.  And the cold blast valves.

So that made me start to look at ways to mass produce these items.  And how much detail could I get.  James had built one item, and then made a mold and cast the rest.  But the detail was limited to how far you wanted to go with the original, and how much the mold would copy.  I landed on a Formlabs Form2 SLA printer.  Before I purchased it, I asked around on the board and got an idea if people would buy parts at a reasonable price.  And what I could do for a reasonable price.  There are tons of companies who will 3d SLA print something for you.  But it's always at a premium.  Why? I set out to investigate.  I wanted people to be able to afford the parts, but for me to not break even or take a loss.  If I could make a small profit that would let me constantly improve my product and production methods, as well as the number of products I could offer, then it was a risk I was willing to take.  So I did my research, and some math, and found I could sell the parts and meet my parameters for producing them.  And in the end, perhaps help out fellow modelers.  Especially the ones that had all but abandoned their projects because of the reasons listed above.

I've been asked why print every item and not make a master and then mold it for casting.  Frankly, because the print time is not that great, and the level of detail I can achieve is very high.  Rather than the compromises I'd have to make to cast them. If I am going to product parts, people need reasons to buy them.  And in a sea of detail part companies, one easy method for ensuring sales is detail. If my detail is great or as best as it can be given the size of the part, my parts will stand out and be desireable. Another is the range of parts.  You can't offer 5 items and expect to stay in business.  Am I giving away secrets to how or why I make my products the way I do.  Not at all.  Almost anyone can do the research and make the investment. I'm not reinventing the wheel.  But I like to think even if someone did read this and copy what I'm doing, they'd do like I do, and try not to copy another persons products.  When I set out on this path, I told myself if one of the other guys with a Steel Mill modeling cottage industry was making something, I wouldn't make that product. It would be easy to do that, and I'd likely make some money.  But in the end, model railroading has always been a hobby filled with cottage industries to supply the masses. And there are plenty of customers to go around. And if a person does something like, especially in such a niche section of the hobby like steel mill modeling, coping another guys products, well, that's just unethical in my book.

You can view my products on FB at Steel Mill Modelers Supply  or at Donald Dunns The Mill catalog at Steel Mill Catalog.  Check back often, as both are updated with new products regularly.  The FB page almost weekly. Donalds catalog once a month.

Coke Battery #2

 It's been awhile since I last worked on the Coke Battery.  I basically just wanted the shape so I could mock it up and figure out the track plan for the layout.  That done, I noticed even thought the battery was 54 doors (3 Walthers kits) it still looked tiny in the 25 feet of space on the layout. So I made the decision to model Thomas (with a few modifications) as it was in the 50's.  That meant the extension for the door repair shop, the "parking" for the guide and engine, spare guide, the coal bunker and associated shops and equipment rooms below it, and the additional 36 door battery on the other side of the bunker.  All told, it's something on the order of 6 1/2 feet of battery.  I also decided that I didn't much care for the concrete sides on the foundation.  Somewhere I have a photo of a battery where the foundations were brick.  Going back to the Coke Works is a facility from the 1920's or earlier, and both labor and brick being inexpensive at that time, I decided to back date the kits and sheath the entire foundation in brick.  This is one of those times I wish I could purchase brick sheet in something much larger than 6"x12".  Making the joints was a bit of a pain, but the results are pretty good.  Getting them to be a tight joint, and the mortar lines aligned is the trick.  Once done, I lightly sand the brick tops with 400gr. sand paper, and then use a razor saw to "cut" in the mortar lines though the glue filled joint.  the result is pretty good.  Another option I'm exploring is the electrical service tunnels that were in these foundation. One of the members on the FB Steel Mill Modeling page that worked at a coke works said that there were two of these tunnels from one side to the other at the battery he worked at, and they were about at the 1/3 and 2/3 locations on the foundation.  Right where my joints are. So that would be a neat feature, and a good way to get rid of the joints all together.

A new base was cut from the 36" x 36" x 0.060" styrene sheet I sell.  This was great, as it let me make one continuous base plate for the 54 door battery and the door repair shop (not yet built) and the extension where the spare coke guide and door machine/coke guide engine sit when not in service.

Extension for the spare coke guide and door machine/coke guide engine, and brick foundation sheathing applied. This is the "south" end of the battery.

The door repair shop will extend right to the end of the platform that butts up against the end of the battery proper, and the upper deck of the battery will extend over it.  They were able to pull the larry car right over the repair shop, and thus off of the top of the last oven.  There are stairs at the end of this portion of the platform that go from round level up to the shop, and then up to the top of the battery as well.  The smoke stack will to next to the "siding" for the extra coke guide.

You can see the layout of the battery facility in this image.  I'm working on the section that is in the lower left corner.

You can see in this image the door machine and a coke guide car. You can also see the door repair shop at the right.  There's a brick division between the end of the battery ovens and the repair shop.  You might also notice that the door machine isn't sitting on concrete, but steel.  There was storage under this part of the track.  As there are no doors or windows on this side of that section, I decided not to put any in on the other side. That side of the battery will face the back drop on the layout, and once placed, never be seen from any vantage point.  I did however, brick the foundation on that side, as we have a camera train on the layout, and if we run a train behind the battery, you'll be able to see the entire side of that battery.  So a lack of brick on the foundation would be an obvious indiscretion on the model in a video.

As an aside, the below image is a .TIF file.  When you download images from HAER, be sure to download the .TIF option.  You can zoom in extremely close on this type of image, and it remains clear.  Often revealing detail you'd not see in a .JPG.