Away We Go! Steel Mill Layout

Penner Mar 9, 2021

  1. Penner

    Penner TrainBoard Member

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    Well ... I finally broke ground on my N scale steel mill layout after four long years of waiting. During that time I had been stuck in R&D mode because I didn't have the space. But on February 12th my son moved into an apartment -- and on February 13th, I began building the benchwork in his bedroom my train room. Boy, was he surprised when he came home for Sunday dinner shortly thereafter! LOL!

    Anyway, here is my 90% design (sorry for relatively poor resolution - I was limited by the upload size). It is essentially a two-foot shelf on three of the four walls. The other wall is one foot.

    Model 7P Relief Low Res.jpeg

    And, yes, it is a duck-under. I know ... thankfully, I'm flexible enough to get my 5'-10" frame under there pretty easily. When that changes, I figure I can make do with a mechanic's creeper or low examination stool on casters.

    During those four years of patiently waiting for a room to open up, I was able to acquire 80% of the stuff I need for the project. Since my carpentry skills are poor, I decided to buy my benchwork from Sievers Benchwork. Let me tell you, for the carpentry-challenged, it is well worth the money. I was able to build the entire table in about six hours with nothing more than a power screwdriver; a hammer and a ratchet set. All of the hardware was included too.

    It was delivered in four boxes; here is all of the wood before assembly.

    2021Feb20.jpg

    Here are two more benchwork pictures: one during mid-assembly and with initial foam board top installed.
    2021Feb21.jpg
    2021Mar07.jpg

    The plan is to focus initial work on the steel mill section first (area to the left in the photo above). Except for the high line, it will be entirely at 50" elevation. I initially was going to have one of the mainlines at 49" elevation, but I have since nixed that idea. The steel mill is going to be extremely complicated and I figure the split level mainline would give me less room for error.

    I have some 1/8" cork I will be laying over the entire steel mill property. Then construction begins on my first Walther's kit: that enormous blast furnace! I suspect that will take at least a month to complete, if not longer. I can't wait to share my intermittent progress with you on that ... it looks very challenging.

    My plan is to build all of the major steel mill structures and before laying down ANY track, since the mill layout is going to be pretty tight if I want to get all of the buildings I have planned for into the allocated space for the scene. Although I used RailModelerPro for the preliminary design, I'm sure it is not absolutely perfect when it comes to dimensions. We'll see.

    Of course, comments, critiques, suggestions, warnings, etc. are welcome. After 25 years of marriage, I've got pretty thick skin.
     
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  2. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    Very nice and clean, which means somethings up :) Hey son, I love you, but isn't it time for you to leave the nest?. Too funny!

    Enjoy, and update us often.
     
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  3. pwaka88

    pwaka88 New Member

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    Looking forward to following this.
     
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  4. Penner

    Penner TrainBoard Member

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    I completed laying the cork overlay on the steel mill property. I guess this is the rough equivalent of the completion of grading the site!

    As you can see, Bee Steel has already put up the water tower. I also see the company just finished introducing itself to the neighbors. ;)

    Breaking Ground.jpg
    As I mentioned last time, this is by far a very complex portion of the layout so before laying any track I decided it would be in my best interest to spend the coming months constructing the major structures; this way I can be sure my initial plan will work as I laid it out using RailModelerPro.

    The steel mill will be spread out over one entire wall (about 10' x 2') and consist of the following:

    Water tower (complete)
    Blast furnace (under construction)
    Electric furnace
    Rolling mill
    Coke ovens & quenching tower
    Blower house (will be scratch built)
    Back shop
    Machine shop
    Power Company
    Electrical substations (2)
    Mill Administrative Office
    Slag pit
    High line
    Classification yard

    I started work on the blast furnace yesterday and, boy, is it a monster -- more than 160 parts! To be honest, it is quite intimidating and it got me wondering if I shouldn't have started something a bit simpler first. Ah, but since I started I'm determined to trudge forward.

    So far I have completed the bustle pipe, mantle ring, furnace, bell platform, trolly support trusses and the upper offtake halves. Of course, three sentences into the instructions and I found an error! (Walthers mislabeled a part) -- thankfully, I found it pretty quick so it didn't really slow me down.

    blast furnace construction 1.jpg

    Next up will be placing the upper offtake assemblies and trolly assembly onto the furnace and adding the offtake platform. Then it will be time to erect the foundation walls for the furnace.
     
  5. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    Following with anticipation. You inspired me to redo my two small 2x4 sections. Is that cork in a roll and like 1/8" or something? can we see a wide shot of the cork that you laid down? This is gonna be a fun one to follow progress.

    Good luck!
     
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  6. Penner

    Penner TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you! I've waited a long time to get started on this and I am really like a kid in a candy store right now.

    Here is a wider shot ... I found some 1/8" cork in 12" x 36" sheets on Amazon. Was it the cheapest option? Nope! But I liked the modularity it offered, compared to the sheet.

    Bee Steel water tower.jpg
     
  7. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the wide camera angle. Man, this is gonna be a good one to follow over time! Looks to be a very long project?
     
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  8. BNSF FAN

    BNSF FAN TrainBoard Supporter

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    Looks like you are off to a good start and have a good space for the steel mill there. (y)(y)(y) I'm always fascinated by these steel mill models and layouts. Looking forward to watching this one come together. :coffee:
     
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  9. Penner

    Penner TrainBoard Member

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    I think so, In2. I'm guessing it is going to take me at least the entire Spring and Summer to get the major buildings completed. Only then can I begin to see if my mill track plan is actually going to work.

    I grew up in Fontana, California when Kaiser Steel was THE dominant business in the entire area; I think it was the largest mill west of the Mississippi River at one time. Many of my friends' dads worked there.

    I was always fascinated with the property -- especially when we used to drive by the long stretch on San Bernardino Avenue -- all of the train cars lined up. That distinct rotten egg smell of hydrogen sulphide in the air.

    Of course, what I don't miss is the smog that place generated -- it was really bad. On the smoggiest days, I remember after playing outside all day long how my lungs would actually be sore! We would go all summer long without being able to see the San Bernardino mountains. We'd have to wait until the Santa Anas came in the fall and blew it all away -- then the mountains would reappear. LOL
     
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  10. Mike C

    Mike C TrainBoard Member

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  11. Penner

    Penner TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks, Mike. Yes, I have an old hard cover book of Freytag's (The History, Making and Modeling of Steel) that I bought off of eBay a few years ago. It's a fantastic resource! (y)

    Another excellent resource I managed to get my hands on (thanks eBay!) was Bernard Kempinski's The Model Railroader's Guide to Steel Mills. There are A LOT of great ideas in that book (it's published by Model Railroader Books). In fact, I will be stealing incorporating a lot of his blast furnace enhancement ideas (additional platforms, piping, as well as scratch built tooling, a crane for the cast house, and a hoist house).

    For those more interested in steel mill modeling, I would recommend the Kempinski book. For those interested in how steel is made, how rail traffic is integrated with the mill, and mill/railroad operations, the Freytag book is your best bet. The two books perfectly complement each other.

    I just finished putting in another couple hours on my blast furnace model (mainly prepping and painting parts prior to assembly) today. I'll be posting some pictures of the first painted portion (blast furnace proper with offtakes and bleeder valves and platform) soon. :)
     
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  12. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Member

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    Wasn't Dean Freytag sometimes referred to as "The Dean of styrene" because he was a huge proponent of scratch building in styrene?
     
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  13. Penner

    Penner TrainBoard Member

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    Never heard of that monicker, Logging Loco, but it is a well-deserved one -- not to mention really clever! :cool:

    He scratch built almost all of his own massive steel structures long before Walthers came out with their steel mill models.
     
  14. Penner

    Penner TrainBoard Member

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    Here's a quick progress update ... I'm about 10 days into the blast furnace and I've still got a long way to go. Very tedious, but I am determined to take this project at a deliberate pace! If I was 30 years younger I would have already had the kit completed for sure by now. LOL.

    Anyway, I've got the main furnace completed. Following Bernard Kempinski's work, I included some custom ladders and safety cages. I am working on the cast house now. That too will include some custom additions to the Walthers kit as well -- some trough plates and an access stairway from the bottom level. I'm also scratch building a crane to go on top of the cast house crane supports. Strangely, Walthers provided the crane supports but no crane! I'll be copying Kempinski's version for that. I'll post more pictures when the cast house is completed -- hopefully within the next few days.

    2021Mar30 blast furnace 2.jpg
    2021Mar30 blast furnace 3.jpg
    2021Mar30 blast furnace 4.jpg
    2021Mar30 blast furnace 5.jpg
     
  15. dualgauge

    dualgauge TrainBoard Member

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    Green Frog has a video called Styrene The Ideas, Tips & Techniques of Dean Freytag. Tells just about everything about scratch building.
     
  16. sd90ns

    sd90ns TrainBoard Member

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    So on the one hand you "Sigh" over the blast furnace kit having "More than 160 parts!"
    Then on the other hand you go ahead and ADD MORE PARTS!!!

    Meanwhile, on the gripping hand, this beast is going to look amazing.
     
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  17. Penner

    Penner TrainBoard Member

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    Yeah, well ... when I'm not confused, SD, I'm a glutton for punishment! :D
     
  18. Penner

    Penner TrainBoard Member

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    Quick progress report ... cutting my modeling teeth on the blast furnace has been quite the challenge and a humbling experience. The good news is, if one learns more from his mistakes than by doing things right the first time, then I'm well on my way to becoming a modeling expert! ;) That being said, overall I am pleased with the results.

    I still need to refine some of my weathering; I'm learning there is a real art to it. Unfortunately, I need a lot of practice!

    I need to eventually enclose the high line and add stairs to both sides, but that won't be done until I start laying track.

    I also need to finish the hoist house; I'm waiting on the Plastruct H-columns that I ordered which will be used as the hoist house supports. I originally tried using I-beams but they weren't sturdy enough (Modeling Lesson Learned #218). The hoist house should be finished by next weekend. Then I need to decide whether to focus on the blower house or the electric furnace.

    2021-04-16 blast furnace 6.jpg

    2021-04-16 blast furnace 8.jpg 2021-04-16 blast furnace 9.jpg blast furnace 1.png blast furnace 3.png
     
  19. WolfWorks

    WolfWorks TrainBoard Member

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    Looking grande
     
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  20. in2tech

    in2tech TrainBoard Member

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    That is so cool! Really like clean layouts although mine is trash at this time :)
     
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