Sunday, January 28, 2018

Overhead Crane Fix #2

I finished up the overhead crane this evening by painting all the additions, and then weathering it like it the kind of service it sees.  Infrequent.  This crane serves a team track.  So I'm guessing some weeks it might get used once a week, and others three days in a row, and some it would just sit for a few weeks.  In between, I'm guessing that the crane way rails that got a mild polishing from the three days in a row, then got rained on and became a nice, bright orange for a few days.

As you can see, the maintenance crew hasn't been by in years to touch up the white safety railings and cage ladder.  I'm not sure if I read it somewhere, or someone mentioned it to me, but, before safety railings were mandated yellow, most were white. And since out layout is 1955-ish, white it is.  The electrical gear I thought about painting green.  That horrid, light-ish olive that a ton of industrial stuff seems to get painted, but gunship gray won the day.  And then a healthy amount of rain, cinder dust, dirt and rust.

I'll come back at a later date and add some oily black and grease to the drive shaft couplers.  I thought I had some, but alas, nothing in the paint box. All of the joint plates, rivets, and overlapping steel got a double dose of Vallejo Wash Rust. The rusty crane way rail tops are a result of leaving the grey kit plastic alone, and then coating it with a healthy amount of the Vallejo Rust wash. This was a fun project.  Although I started with an already assembled crane, fixing it and then adding the details was still enjoyable. I'll add some work lamps to the area at some point.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Overhead Crane Fix?

At our club, we have a teem track in Madison that has an overhead crane.  One of the simple Walthers types.  I know there are dozens of articles people have written on detailing bridge cranes, but I figure one more won't hurt. I've looked at this particular crane for a year, as it's at eye level, and Madison is essentially over the coke works.  And the crane is something I pass by any time I walk in or out of the cul de sac where the coke plant is.  In the last few weeks, it seemed as if every time I walked by it, I'd notice another part of the crane was broken or had fallen off.  Last Wednesday, the crane itself was no longer on the crane-way, and the operators cab had finally succumb to whatever ghostly force had it in for the crane.  So I decided to bring it home and fix it.  Just that.  Fix it, and return it to the spot in Madison.

But I can't just fix it, can I?  I NEED to super detail it.  (Insert eye roll).

The first thing I noticed was that the ladder to the operators cab had no safety cage.  Even in 1950 it would likely have had one.  And then to actually get to the platform on the operators cab required the guy going up there to take a leap of faith to get there.  I had a Plastruct caged ladder left from when I used to use them.  It's not that I wanted to skimp on this project, but it's an overhead crane on team track.  And it'll look better than it did without one.  I also added a platform to bridge the gap from the ladder to the operators cab platform, with some Tichy platform brackets for detail. I also decided to add the bus bars for the electrical pickups to ride on.  As I added these, now I need to add the pickup bracket and pickups.  Sheesh.

Next, I added some "glass" to the cab windows before replacing the roof on the cab and one of the brackets it hangs from.  You can see the gap is now probably about 6-8", which I think is more realistic.

I figured while I was at it, might as well use a couple of the new electrical cabinets from Steel Mill Modelers Supply.  A pipe from a Walthers refinery piping kit added a nice conduit to the mix.  You can see the bus bar pickup bracket at top left.

Finally I added a drive to the crane bridge.  Mounting the motor to the top of the operators cab may or may not be prototype, but it was convenient without the projects spiraling out of control any more than it already had.  I fabricated the transfer box and added 2/3's of a Tichy small rivet plate for an access cover (black rectangle on the transfer box).  Gear reduction boxes at the bridge trucks were also fabricated from Evergreen thick strip stock.  The drive shafts and a carrier block were next to finish off the drive.  Now for some paint and to weather the devil out of it, and it can go back on the layout on Wednesday.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Coke Bunker / Coal Service #3

I worked more on the Coke Bunker / Coal Service structure this weekend.  I looked at the works over the weekend at the clubs open house, and decided I need to finish this structure.  The fact that coal is delivered here, and coke is loaded here have a huge impact on the coke screening building, as well as the transfer house to the coke battery coal bunker.  The design, height, etc., of both of those structures pivots on this structure and the coke battery.  So I need to finish and place this one and the battery, in order to design and build the screening and transfer structures.

The IHC kit is nice, but some of the superstructure is pretty rudimentary.  If I ever built this structure again, I'd likely purchase the kit, and then use only some parts from it.  Or, now that I have one, just scratch build the entire thing.  The H-columns are pretty much nonexistent.  Instead, they look like they would be box tubing in real life. Something a construction company just wouldn't do.  So I decided to at least dress it up some.  I needed to move the beam up about 1/2" that is over the center equipment shack for the inner track hopper. So I just cut it out, and replaced it.  I almost replaced it with an I-beam, but then the others in the two outer leg sets wouldn't match. So, in the end, I just used square stock that I had that was close enough to what was on the IHC castings. Tichy p#8261 Assorted Rivet Plates were added to the joints.  I'm not sure why, but IHC covered the rest of the structure with appropriate rivet plates, but not the end leg castings.  This looks much better.  I need to get another package to finish against the back of the vertical conveyor, and inside the end leg pairs.

I also rebuilt the West end of the building.  There was another vertical conveyor on that end, and I wasn't going to use it.  The way the IHC kit is made, the inside of the conveyor is cast into the end casting.  So there was no real way to remove it without just rebuilding the center section. The IHC structural members are a goofball size, but they are within thousandths of Evergreen strip sizes. Tichy rivet plates used here as well work great for adding realism as well as making it easy to make the joints.  I can be close with the joints, but not exact, and it's still a strong joint. The only part I didn't remove was the main cross member about midway up.  The leaving from the vertical conveyor casting made a great place to mount an industrial lamp.  All the lamps are live, and ones that I carry in Steel Mill Modelers Supply.

I finished up adding the exterior horizontal bracing to the outside of the vertical conveyor at the coal end. This looks a hundred times better.  I'm not sure why IHC didn't add this detail to the casting to begin with. But it was easy to do.  0.030 x 0.030 Evergreen strip was used here. I decided to match the spacing to the structure horizontal ties for a better look and ease of modeling.  The bracing doesn't go all the way down because the lower portion is inside the track hopper equipment shack.  I'm not sure what I'll do at the seam between the roof section and the lower conveyor housing.  I'm thinking now about using 1/16" angle stock to make a flanged area there. I'll probably add one just above the equipment shack at the bottom as well.

Lastly, I started adding hanging lamps over the area between the tracks.  I don't think I'm going to use the loading chutes that are provided in the IHC kit, as they look really bulky. Something I'm sure no one would really look at when viewing the scene. But Tichy p#8003 just look a ton better.  And the castings aren't so thick that, like the IHC parts, look like they are made from 5" thick plate. And for $10 worth of parts, the overall model will look much better.  Once everything is painted, I'll make certain the lamps are hanging straight. 

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.