Skip to main content

Thanks Mark! Each of these projects forces me to learn new stuff that goes way beyond the model being produced. I did spend 6 years working as the training manager at a process instrument company, Fischer & Porter (long gone, absorbed by other companies). All of the controls surrounding the boiler I have a pretty good understand, albeit needing some refreshing. In 1983, I sponsored a project in ARCO Chemical (another company that was absorbed), in creating a mini-computer driver automated power boiler simulator. These were old manual boilers that ran a fully equipped steam turbine power house. They were completely manual. There were investing in a mega-buck modernization which included full digital control. We were able to get management to spring for the simulation which gave all the operators something to do and learn while the construction was going on. The new system started and ran perfectly. Notice I said "mini-computer", Varian to be exact. The PC was around for another couple of years. 

In the same company, they were building an 85 million dollar catalytic reformer at the Lyondell Petrochemical Plant. Incidentally, Lyondell was owned by ARCO Chemical (which was a division of Atlantic Richfield). After Atlantic Richfield spun off Lyondell, Lyondell ending up buying ARCO Chemical. Anyway, there was several million dollars worth of platinum catalyst in this very large unit (about 80X80X80 feet). I suggested and fought for a simulator to train operators on heat balancing the unit. If hot spots developed the catalyst would be burned and ruined. The project team rejected the idea and didn't want to spend the $100k it would have cost. Two months after start up they overheated the reformer and destroyed the entire catalyst load. In retrospect, the VP of operations remarked to me after I explained that a simulator was available to have trained them prior to start up, that for 100 grand I could have forestalled a 2.5 million lost? He wasn't happy. All these experiences create the people we are today.

Back to the building at hand...

Just did one thing today... finished grouting the boiler house bricks. I had to quit early due to a haircut appointment. When I got there, she was out sick with Strep. Glad she wasn't there. That's something I really don't need to catch.

Here's the building with all the bricks mortared and cleaned up. Tomorrow I will put on the alcohol wash. I was going to experiment with sealing the grout with dull coat and then applying the wash to try and keep it a little less dark. But then it won't match the rest of the ensemble so maybe I'll do the experiment on a piece of scrap engraved bricks and use it for the next project. With the grouting out of the way, I'll be back at work on the boiler plant. I will also paint the window frames and paint the building's interior.

BH Bricks grouted


Images (1)
  • BH Bricks grouted

Today was shortened due to chores and exercise, but the bricks have been alcohol washed, the window frames are painted, a loading door was fabricated and painted and the interior walls are done.

I realized some time ago, that I had forgotten to draw a rear loading door in the plans, so it didn't get laser cut. Rather than bothering André about one piece that I had forgotten, I quickly scratch-built one out of 0.020" styrene sheet and some 0.015" X .125" strip stock. I measured the opening with the digital caliper (no measure, just transfer) and cut the stock on the Duplicutter. The picture also shows the brick work with the alcohol wash. Door lintel bricks in this picture are engraved directly on the building wall. The door fit is perfect! BTW: which direction should the diagonal bracing go? I think the door is upside down in this picture.

BH Loading Door

After finishing it, I stuck it and all of the other window frames onto a piece of cardboard on blue masking tape and air brushed Model Tech Pennsy Green (same color as the main house windows.)

Windows Paint 1

I spray it in four passes with some setting time in between. I force dry with the hot air gun. Each pass comes from a different angle to ensure the the mullions are sprayed on all aspects. I let this dry overnight since it was still tacky later in the afternoon. The Pennsy Green was starting to kick and was pretty thick. I used Testor's Acrylic Thinner to bring it back to life and it seems to have worked okay. I'm not sure what the thinner is, but it seems to work better than just using water.

Windows Paint 2

Lastly, I painted the upper interior walls with craft paint and a wide brush a light interior-looking green. Then, using the surface gauge, scribed a line around the room a scale 6 feet off the floor and masked along that line. I should have used Frog Tape since I had some bleeding under the blue masking tape. I then painted the lower wall a nice brown shade again with craft paint and wide brush. I touched up the line with a smaller brush after the brown set up a bit. I'll need to paint the inside of the back door also since it's now styrene white.

BH Interior Paint

I will probably install the floor after the windows go in. For lighting, I'm thinking about facing the LEDs upwards and putting some reflective surface on the inside of the roof. I want the lighting to be more thorough and diffuse. The LEDs are very bright and make hot spots directly below them. By bounce lighting it should give a more uniform lighting. Or at least that's how I'm imagining it.

It's the weekend again, so maybe no shopworn. But, the grandkids are in our custody this weekend and #1 grandson wants to work in the shop on the retaining wall. So... if he gets to work there so do I. We'll see.



Images (4)
  • BH Loading Door
  • Windows Paint 1
  • Windows Paint 2
  • BH Interior Paint
David Minarik posted:

The braces are directionally correct.

Um, are you sure? YOUR's are correct, but I think that Trainman's is indeed backwards. You want the bottom of the diagonal brace to be nearest the hinges. That way the brace is under compression rather than tension. The wood is ok either way, but you are less dependent on good nailing in the compression case.

Here's a discussion from Real Life:


Avanti posted:
David Minarik posted:

The braces are directionally correct.

Um, are you sure? YOUR's are correct, but I think that Trainman's is indeed backwards. You want the bottom of the diagonal brace to be nearest the hinges. That way the brace is under compression rather than tension. The wood is ok either way, but you are less dependent on good nailing in the compression case.

Here's a discussion from Real Life:




You are correct.  I wasn't taking into account that the doors were closed.  Thanks for the correction.



Well, I think I did put it up sort of backwards, but it's in the back of the building and other than you guys, no one, and I mean no one will ever notice. I have the diagonals running from the door center to the bottom hinge corner. It could prevent sagging, but it's not kosher.

Since we had the grandkids this weekend and #1 wanted to work on the trains, how could I refuse so I got a rare weekend work session on both Saturday and Sunday. He wanted to work on the retaining wall so we worked on it together and then he continued. We traced the grade onto the back of the Masonite so the top of the wall would sort of be at railhead height. We then worked together to set up a cutting fence and use the saber saw to cut off the excess. We taped all five pieces together on the cellar floor and measured off the 10" spacing between buttresses. I showed him how to use a carpenter's marking gauge and scribe off the distance from the top that the buttresses would end. 

Retaining Wall Layout

I set up a fence on the chop saw and he cut the 1.5" and .75" pieces to length. I showed him how to taper the tops of both pieces on the belt sander and he beveled all the parts. Then he set out to glue them together. That was Saturday. 

Buttress Parts

On Sunday, he glued the buttresses onto the wall aligning the buttress top with the scribed line on the wall. This had to dry so he kept checking every ten minutes and went upstairs and played on the computer. After it was dry, I showed him how to trim them off at the bottom again using the saber saw. After trimming a few needed a sanding touch-up. We placed them back on the railroad to see how it looked.

Retaining Wall Placement 2

With that, his work was done. He's now on a class trip to marine research island off the coast of Alabama. I was thinking about painting the Krylon beige sand paint today since the temperature was right, but the breeze was too high and it was threatening to rain, so I went back to work on the boiler house. I was installing windows when grandson was working on the retaining wall. On Saturday I built the clerestory windows using pressure sensitive adhesive to hold the glazing to the frame and Formula 560 to hold the frame to the building. I found that frames kept  disappearing due to them sticking to my shop coat. Three of the them went this route.

On Sunday I was building the main windows using the same glues as before. I got 7 done and found myself one short. I could have sworn that I counted 8, so I looked in all the usual places. I simply didn't have it. I was about ready to call Andre and send out an SOS to have him cut me another one. After a snack I went to put my shop coat back on and there it was stuck to the bottom of my left sleeve. I didn't see it there since it was always out of my view. I built and installed the last window today.

BH Windows In CU

The windows are sweet! The mullions are a mere 1/32" wide. In this picture I'm showing the floor officially installed, again with PSA. With the interior painted and windows in, it seemed like the right time to get the flooring in. I then turned my attention to the lighting. The plan was to have the LEDs facing upwards and reflecting on some white on the roof. I used some white duct tape and put the reflectors on the roof halves. I also used the n-gauge-track-as-bus-bar method as I did with the main building, but this time, I left it as track. All I had to do was cut the ties off the ends to expose some bare ends, and mount the whole deal to the truss.

The first thing I needed to do was combine the two inner trusses so they could be stable. Since you can't see them very well, I just CA'd some pieces of wood cut to the truss spacing and glued to the trusses. I cut the track to extend out each end about an inch. I thought I was using the warm white LEDs, but instead was using pure white 3mm LEDs.  These are the ones that you find in the ubiquitous LED flashlights and give a blue cast. In this case, it will look like the building is lit with fluorescents. I tried first with just two LEDs, but it wasn't bright enough since it was mostly bounce lighting, so I made two parallel sets of two LEDs each. I went on line to the LED calculator and it was telling me a different resistor value than I was using. I used that value and nothing lit, so I went back to my 470 ohm value. Again nothing lit. It turns out that I had the + and - reversed (DOH!). I rewired it and both sets worked. 

BH Lighting Rig

I combined both leads into one and again tested everything. To hold the track to the trusses I used my trusty twisted black iron wire over each rail and the truss member. I use a hemostat to twist the wires just like orthodontists used to do when braces were stainless with metal wires holding them to the bands. The black iron doesn't cross over the rails and there are no shorts.

Here's the assembly in the building. It's not glued in yet since the interior equipment needs to be installed. BTW: the floor is held down with PSA spread thin and evenly over the entire sub floor. Sticks like crazy and really made installing the floor very easy and quick.

BH Lighting Install

I did a lighting test (or three), with lights off, just my table light on, and the room lights on.

BH LIghting Test 1

BH LIghting Test 2

BH LIghting Test 3

My bounce lighting idea works as I wanted. It provides even floor lighting with no hot spots. It's also bright enough to see inside with the room lights on. With them off it's very bright indeed. I still have a few interiors details to add before equipment: framing around the loading door and a door to the corridor that leads to the main building. The steam and condensate lines are also running through the corridor. 



Images (9)
  • Retaining Wall Layout
  • Buttress Parts
  • Retaining Wall Placement 2
  • BH Windows In CU
  • BH Lighting Rig
  • BH Lighting Install
  • BH LIghting Test 1
  • BH LIghting Test 2
  • BH LIghting Test 3

The weather here in Louisville both yesterday and today was conducive to spray painting outside so I took the opportunity to paint the retaining wall segments. I was using Rustoleum sand paint beige and the coverage was terrible, both in hiding ability and in the amount of paint it took to do 10 square feet of surface area. I ran through 3.5 cans of paint and it could use another coat. The paint cost way more than the hardboard did.


It all has to be weathered. The screw blocks are already fastened to one side of each segment and the holes in both the wall and the backing blocks are pre-drilled and threaded for the other screws. I will have to hide those screw heads. I'm going to glue the pieces to the elevated sub roadbed with a couple of screws to hold it all until it dries. There is enough room between the sub roadbed and the cellar wall to get clamps behind it to secure the retaining wall for gluing.

While this was drying I started piping the boiler installation. I realize the I didn't order enough of certain components. I may have to resin cast some to finish the job. I was working on temporarily sticking the feed water tank to the mock up base and dropped it. I instinctively clomped my legs together to catch it before it hit the floor and almost crushed the entire assembly. I broke of one set of legs and fractured the glue joints holding the uprights to their bases. DOH!


I wish the vessels were a little smaller of the space was a little bigger since the piping is a challenge, but I will make it work. The pipe you see is the blow down piping from the boiler's bottom to the feed water tank. There will be another line coming in from the condensate return tank and then a line leading out of the FW tank to the boiler tops for feed water. Holes for the steam line are already drilled in the top of the boilers. I still have to design and install some kind of burner details, and build the flue lines coming out the top boiler front. This is a single return scotch type boiler design so the flue exit from the front of the boiler. I didn't buy any Plastruct valves for the T4 sized piping. I did buy a good selection for the larger steam line. I think I'll buy some more T4 parts. They'll arrive in time for me to be productive.


Images (2)
  • IMG_4752
  • IMG_4753

Trainman2001,   Nice work I see with what you have done.  Speaking of Lyondell, I worked for Brown and Root when that part of the plant was built.  You were speaking of the Lyondell on Sheldon Road, or perhaps the older Lyondell plant on Hwy 225?  I have worked at both when, in younger days, I was a crane operator and iron worker/heavy lift rigger.  As for the catalyst meltdown, I recall this happened at Rohm and Haas on Tidal Road around 1989, if I recall correctly.  I was working in plant maintenance and turn-arounds when operations melted the platinum catalyst in a acrylic acid unit reactor.  After pulling the 36ft diameter head, and dropping the bottom head, we spent seven months doing the reactor rebuild.  It would have taken 2 years for a new reactor to be built and shipped from Germany.  So, the German welders came over to Deer Park and, after all 36K tubes were drilled/cleared, the top tube sheet was milled down, all the tubes were re-welded and reactor / unit was restarted.  Brings back good memories of hard work, long hours (12 to 14 per day, 7 day weeks) but proud of every minute of it.  BTW, I also saw Phillips when it blew up on Oct. 30th, 1989 from sitting inside my crane cab, and felt the concussion waves, while working at Rohm and Haas.

Jesse    TCA


Jesse, 6 degrees of separation perhaps. I started working with ARCO Chemical in 1980 and spent time with the big plants until 1985 at which time they were given a bunch of small aluminum and chemical operations by Atlantic Richfield when ARCO Coal and ARCO Aluminum divisions were closed down. They then divested all those little companies in 1986 and I was laid off. I immediately got the job at Engelhard and didn't look back. ARCO called me 3 months later and asked me to come back saying that they made a big mistake. I didn't bite and it's just as well that I didn't since they were absorbed into Lyondell a couple of years later.

I was involved in the training for the Catalytic Reformer at Lyondell and big turbo-generator combined-cycle project at the Oxirane polyethylene plant next door which also was now part of the Lyondell complex.

In 1995, I was an independent consultant and was doing a plant capability study at the BP polypropylene plant in Bayport, TX. This plant also used to be an ARCO Chemical facility too. That plant was being divested and BP wanted to find out if it could function as an independent operation once all the BP support structures were removed. This was shortly after the Texas City explosion and before the next fatal explosion BP had. What I found was concerning and led me to believe that BP was paying the kind of attention that was needed in operations that produced highly explosive products.

With nostalgia out of the way, I did get some "work" done today even though late exercise didn't get me into the basement until after 3:00 p.m. The first thing I did was put up the retaining wall. I glued and screwed it to the upper sub-roadbed with Titebond 2. It went up quickly and without difficulty. I used quick clamps to hold it in place while putting some very small wood screws to hold it in place. Once it all dries, the screws could theoretically be removed. I still have to do some landscaping and gap filling to make it look good along with some selective weathering.

Retaining Wall 3

The sand paint worked well in giving this extensive wall some texture. With the wall in place I can now start building the landforms in the right corner and get into building the mountain and tunnel. The retaining wall was a mental block for me since I really didn't want to spend hundreds of dollars to building since it was a basically passive structure. If I'm going to spend that kind of money, I'd want it to be more dynamic. For example: I'm working with Terry at Custom Signals to design a signaling system for the layout. It's going to be expensive, but it's also dramatic and people can appreciate its value. I'm still on the fence about buying the Plastruct Chemical Plant. I'm leaving a place for it on this wall. Thanks to Bob Bartizek for the design of his walls.

Retaining wall 1

After this I did get a little (very little) work done on the boiler piping. I added the condensate feed line into the feed water tank, and added the feed water line to the feed water pump. I've ordered a bunch more T4 size fittings which will get me through the rest of the piping exercise. I know I could cast or scratch build some, but don't want to spend the time now doing it. The elbow extending from the pump will end up at the two boiler feed checks on the boiler tops. I'm waiting for the T4-sized valves from Plastruct. Once the smaller diameter piping is done, I'm add the larger steam output lines. I'm not gluing most of these lines in place since all of this has to be disassembled and then reassembled on the boiler house floor. 

Boiler Piping Progress 1

My latest shingle order arrived from Rusty Stumps enabling me to do the boiler house roof AND the Bernheim Distillery for the Heaven Hill Distillery Visitors' Center. For the non-Bourbon drinkers out there, Evan Williams and Elijah Craig are their two main Bourbon Labels. They also produce a line under the Bernheim label along with many other spirits.




Images (3)
  • Retaining Wall 3
  • Retaining wall 1
  • Boiler Piping Progress 1

Trainman,   Your modeling skills are something to be very proud of, excellent work.  Reminds me of the gleem I would get in my eye every time I went into the various units control rooms to review the unit scale models for discussion/review of what we were to perform on a specific line/valve assembly/vessel or whatever.  The unit models were for the most part close to 1/48 in scale (without actually measuring any) and I always envisioned how they would look on any of the layouts I had while living in Houston.  In another forum on here I spoke of building a column/tower/vessel for an oversize load on some heavy flats.  I experienced off-loading quite a few in my construction days, and when I started doing heavy rigging while working on the docks and loading these on board ships for transport over the Hess in St. Croix or the Texaco refinery in port-a Pierre USVI.  TWH Models makes a great Manitowoc 4100 250 tn lift crane, complete, and Titan Models makes all sorts of the needed rigging, cables, shackles, etc. needed... all in 1:50 scale... close enough for me.   Again, really like seeing what you are modeling, and envious of the progress, I need to find the time for progress on my layout... LOL!!

Jesse     TCA

I also got a huge kick out those models also. As a serious model builder most of my life, I could imagine myself working for the big engineering construction companies building those models. I do believe they were o'scale since they needed a scale that was big enough to manipulate, but not so large that they needed a gymnasium to house. The one for the co-gen plant was particularly cool. As you noted, they were critical to design logistics strategies, and hoisting equipment placement. I'm sure a lot of this is done using 3D simulation now, since building the models is very expensive, but nothing beats being able to see the whole scene at a glance.

While I had a good, long session today, my progress was less than I would have liked. The T6 fittings and the T6 tubing to which it's supposed to mate was disappointing. The tubing i.d. is much larger than the protrusions on the fittings and made for some annoying glue jobs. I finished the feed water piping, the main steam lines and started imagining placing the equipment in the boiler house. I didn't get the safety valves, the steam gauges, the condensate lines, the burners or any control systems. That will have to wait until Monday. It's going to be a yucky weekend weather-wise so maybe, just maybe, I'll get some weekend work time.

I didn't have boiler check valves, or T fittings for the T4 piping so I made my own. They consist of a T4 tube nested in a T6. The T4 penetrates the boiler. I made the flange by using a divider to scribe the o.d. and drilled the inside the T4 tube o.d. The top is a piece of 3/32 solid styrene turned on the lathe to make a 1/16" pin on the bottom and a radiuses top.

Feed Water Line Fitting

Next up was the steam line. It's all T6 plumbing. As noted above, the T6 fittings don't really snap into the T6 pipes. They're way too loose and it took a lot of medium CA with accelerator to get parts to glue properly. I may fill the tubes with solid stock and drill it out to the correct pin diameter, if it doesn't hold up.

I did purchase valve fittings for T6. I used one of these as the main steam cutoff at the top of each boiler. After placing the boilers in their respective locations on the boiler house floor, I measured the distance for the straight tube with a pair of dividers. Notice the lateral "T" that I also purchased. This made a nice way to join the two steam lines. There will be a short straight piece at the end where they will go into the corridor to the main building. I'm going to paint the steam lines bright yellow.

Steam Pipe Fitting 1

I was worried about overhead clearances so I put most of the apparatus within the boiler house and set the trusses in place on top. Things just cleared the railroad track bus bar.

Steam Pipe Fitting 3

And here's the rest of the stuff place inside. Since none of the equipment or piping was glued in place, it was like herding cats to keep everything together. Since everything needs painting before installation, I'm not worried about getting everything ship shape now. All of these pipes are pretty large, scale speaking. I'm going to put some smaller lines just to make it more interesting. I need to make a couple of water-level gauges, although modern boilers have automatic measuring systems. I also chose a gauge face to use for pressure and temperature readings. I printed them out as a 6" gauge face (made 6 images)

Steam Pipe Fitting 2

Gauge Faces

At 1/8" overall you can't make out the digits, but you can see it's a gauge. 

For the retaining wall, I'm going to make some tie-backs to add some interest and cover up the screws that I used to stabilize the wall while the glue was drying. These will be simple to produce although I'll need 20 of them. I'm toying with making a few and then resin casting the rest. 

Retaining Wall Anchor


Images (6)
  • Feed Water Line Fitting
  • Steam Pipe Fitting 1
  • Steam Pipe Fitting 3
  • Steam Pipe Fitting 2
  • Gauge Faces
  • Retaining Wall Anchor

It's Sunday, so no building, but that doesn't preclude thinking. I woke up thinking about boiler flues and realized that I may have to rethink the whole lighting affair. The lighting system was clever, but maybe too clever since I built it before actually having the boilers ready to be placed inside. The n-gauge track might be a problem (so I imagined lying in bed). Well... it most certainly is a problem! I took this picture showing where the flues go and the track is right over top of where the flues go up through the roof.

BH Flue Problem

In Scotch, reverse flow boilers, the flues come off the boiler front. I could re-route the steam lines forward and run the flues out the back and then just rename the boilers to double-reverse flow boilers (which are also prototypical. That might be an easier approach since I can spread the n-gauge rails around the flues as they head to the roof and there's more rail overhanging the back than the front. In my prototype picture, you can clearly see the flues going up from the boiler front.

Horizontal Boiler installation

There's also that interesting shunt pipe rising up to meet it. I really wanted to duplicate this complexity. So the second idea would be to completely re-do the lighting scheme. I have those lighting strips that I used on the fire house. They're really bright and could be mounted higher in the building which would open up the overhead space where the n-gauge rails now exist. I won't destroy the n-gauge setup since it can be used in another installation. Note the little air compressor which apparently must provide combustion air to the burner, but it may be something else. Anyone have any ideas? Tomorrow I'll work all of this out.


Images (2)
  • BH Flue Problem
  • Horizontal Boiler installation

Trainman,  Thank you for all the detailed descriptions and photos of your progress!  You are truly a master modeler and I am learning quite a bit from following you.  This will end up being a great looking build.

Earlier, you briefly mentioned that you used PSA spread thinly to glue the floor in place.  What type did you use?  Thanks, Mike A.

I'm using MicroMark's Pressure Sensitive Adhesive. It's really sticky and can get a bit messy, but generally it's terrific for sticking on film materials and window glazing since you only have to apply it to the window frames and have time before you need to attach the glazing. I let it set up completely before applying the glazing so nothing oozes out of the joint. You can force dry it with a hot air gun or hair dryer.

Oh... and thanks Mike!

Happy Monday! I revised the lighting today to use the LED light strip bought from Amazon and put aside the n-gauge bus LED system. I didn't scrap that, just put it in storage. Before I could attach the light, which BTW already has a strip of foam adhesive tape on its back, I needed to reinforce the beams onto which it would be fastened. I cut out some styrene gussets to reinforce all the corners held with thin CA. I mounted the light onto a flat piece of styrene which also was reinforced laterally to keep it flat and give a good surface to hold the foam adhesive tape.

BH New Light Array bottom

None of this is visible so I'm not spending any effort painting it. The light's quite bright, but because it's centered, throws pretty significant shadows of the boilers to the side.

BH New Light Array top

I then started working on the flue adapter that is prominent on the boiler's front. This was a finicky bit of styrene work. Since my boiler is slightly different in aspect than the photo, I had to make my adapters slightly smaller. It started with the top piece with a 1/4" radius wrapped with a 0.015" styrene strip 1/2" high. It's always difficult to tease a piece of flat styrene around a tight curve so I pre-bent the styrene on a piece of 1/4" dowel until it was taking a curved set. 

Flue Adapters 1

I coaxed the top piece further into the curve after tacking it on the flat side, then clamped it and used thin CA to reinforce the joint. A back piece was added.

Flue Adapters 2

On the second (actually third) piece, I glued the back on before adding the curved wrap. This gave more surface where the wrap could bind and made it an easier build.

I again used thin CA to reinforce these joints. I set up the belt sander with a 45 degree fence consisting of combination square head, a wood block and a c-clamp. The square head is flush with the front of the sander's table. I used a pusher stick to hold the piece against the belt and not my fingers. My Harbor Freight belt sander's table doesn't have provision for a guide or fence. I always have to improvise.

45 degree setup

I then sanded the 45 degree front angle. Of course, there are two ways to hold the workpiece, the right way and the wrong way. And of course, the first one I sanded was held the wrong way. DOH! That's why I had to make three adapters.

Flue Adapters 3

After sanding, I trued that angled face up with the sanding block and then traced their contour on another piece of styrene forming the closure piece. After again gluing and CA'ing I sanded all the edges to make it look right. and then added another rectangular piece for the bottom.

Flue Adapters 4

I'm letting this joint dry overnight, but situated one on the boiler front to show how it sits.


Black and white? How the heck did that pic end up in B&W? It works!

Tomorrow I continue working on boiler details.

I'm thinking, now that I can resin cast, I'm going to cast some more telephone pole transformers that I built a while ago. I need to make more poles before installing them on the layout and don't want to have to craft each transformer, so why not cast them.



Images (8)
  • BH New Light Array bottom
  • BH New Light Array top
  • Flue Adapters 1
  • Flue Adapters 2
  • 45 degree setup
  • Flue Adapters 3
  • Flue Adapters 4
  • FullSizeRender

Not much time today, but I did sneak some work in. I had a hand doctor appointment to arrange for surgery of an annoying Stenosing Tenosynovitis, otherwise knows as "trigger finger". I actually had this finger (ring-finger left hand) done many years ago, but the doctor chose to use a non-invasive approach using the chisel edge of a hypodermic needle. With it he cut the A1 pulley to allow the tendon with the nodule to pass easily under the pulley. I've also had two other fingers surgically released which have not recurred. The problem with the percutaneous (no incision) approach is that the pulley can grow back and recur, which it has in my case.

They don't know what causes this. It is not necessarily inherited, although I'm sure there's a genetic component since everything seems to have one. It is prevalent with people with diabetes, gout, or thyroid conditions, of which I have none. It does also happen with people who grip things strongly and often, and with that I do fit the profile since I play guitar and have been building models since I was 8 years old. The surgery's scheduled for April 25, so I will have a lot of time to finish the boiler house and maybe more.

My theory is, "Whatever you use most wears out first." I didn't play contact sports in school and therefore my knees and hips are quite fine, whereas my buddies, who were both avid athletes in football and baseball, have artificial knees and hips already. But I've used my hands intensely most of my life so that's where I'm showing wear and tear. My orthopedic surgeon son in law disagrees saying he has patients with trigger finger problems that have done nothing more strenuous than operating their TV remote. We agreed to disagree.

Enough medical talk, back to the project.

I started to do more detailing on the boiler faces. I noticed that the door is not fully circular and it is cut straight at the top so I trimmed it back. I then finish sanded the flue adapters and mounted them to the boiler face that's not part of the door. Lastly I added lifting eyes and the face clamps.

Boiler Front Details 1

I had to trim the angle iron braces to trim the door facing. The glue didn't completely fuse the entire surface so it was possible to remove that bit of the door without completely destroying the underlying surface. The eyebolts were conveniently made by slicing off a bit of the formed stick I had originally created to make the operating mechanism on the Hybrid Circuit Breaker. You can find that original note on page 13 of this long thread. I drilled the stick and then set my Chopper to about a 1/32" slice and sliced off the eyebolts like cutting salami. To keep the cut from slicing a wedge, I start cutting one face, rotate 90 degrees and cut a bit more, and continue around and around until the piece is cut through. While there's still a little non-flatness to the cut, it's easy to sand it off.

The clamps are some 0.050" wide thin styrene drilled with a 0.032" drill to accept a Tichy Group NBW casting. Really tiny pieces and very finicky. I'm glad I'm not doing this in HO.

Boiler Clamp Parts

A few NBWs took off from the tweezers, but I found most of them. Following the image, the clamps do not go all the way around, and there are bare bolts doing some of the clamping. I spaced the clamps using a divider. Tomorrow, I'll make the hinges and work on the burner and the front grab irons. This view also shows the goose neck blowdown connections that I had to build to accommodate the foundation pieces that I built.

Boiler Front Details 2

Last night I actually built a project checklist to itemize and schedule all the items left on the boiler house and upcoming projects after that. I estimated that I have another 25 hours of work to finish the boiler house. It sounds like a lot, but there's a lot of small items that need to be built. I know, for instance, that there's many hours in putting the shingles on the roof. There's also a couple of hours in building and installing downspouts. And I still have some hours left in detailing the boilers, painting them and then installing everything in the building. As my wife says, "Enjoy it, it's your hobby!"



Images (3)
  • Boiler Front Details 1
  • Boiler Clamp Parts
  • Boiler Front Details 2

I hope all goes well with the trigger finger.  My wife had a knee replaced in January, and the surgeon said most of the knees he does are for athletes and nurses.  She said she was no athlete, but she is a nurse.  It made her feel better getting a knee replacement before age 60.  Last winter I had both carpal tunnels done again.  It was just 20 years since the first time.  Before I could ask, the surgeon told me about the newer procedure that should keep it from happening again.  Yes, what you use the most wears out first, just like a piece of machinery.

Thanks Mark! As I said, with the finger, I'm quite able to do all my modeling, it's just making it difficult to play guitar which is a bummer since I just got that Gibson only last October.

Now onto today's efforts...

First thing I did was fabricate the smoke box door hinges out of brass. I didn't have brass channel small enough for this, but I did have a piece of K&S square tubing. I cut one face out to make it into a channel, then drilled an 0.032" hole through the sides, inserted a piece of brass wire and added some small brass channel. This was soldered with the RSU and 60/60 solder. Then, after cutting the channel to a specific length, filed the very end with a little notch and soldered another piece of wire using the TIX lo-melting point solder so it didn't unsolder the previous joint. In looking at this picture, I realize that I CA'd the hinges to far inwards. In the prototype, they stick out of the side. I'll try and reposition them tomorrow... or maybe it really doesn't matter since it's going to all be buried in a building.

Face Hinges

Next up was bending some wire grabs for the front and installing them in 0.021" holes. I bend the grabs in my long nose pliers after making a mark with a Sharpie so I could position all the subsequent wires at the same place in the tapered jaw and produce equally sized grab handles.

Front Hand Holds

I bought some 1/2" o.d. brass tubing at the LHS yesterday for the transition tubing to the big flue pipe. The PVC pipe i.d. was just a scosh to small so I had to bore it out a bit on the lathe. I had cut the PVC to length with a razor saw and my small miter box and took the mounting in the lathe as a chance to also square up the ends. After boring it accept the brass, I had to also cut the brass with nice square ends so I did the tin the lathe too. I used the steady rest on the outer end so I could support the 12" length of pipe on my tiny lathe. If it was a larger machine, I could have put the tubing through the chuck into the hollow headstock spindle, but this machine's spindle only has a 1/4" hole through it. With two boilers to make, I had to make two of these assemblies too.

Flue and Hinges

The prototype has that pipe running from what looks like an air filter housing to the exhaust flue. In thinking about what that's all about, I realized that it's probably a pollution abatement line to recirculate some of the exhaust stream and reduce emissions. Regardless, I liked it as a detail and was going to add it. I've solved the bad fit of the T6 components to the T6 tubing. I drill the center of the T4 tubing out to the correct side for the pins on the T6 fittings and then glue the T4 pipe inside the T6. This makes a nice tight concentric fit that needs very little adhesive, although it does add a bit of work. I drilled the big flue pipe to accept the T6. And after sizing the length of the pipe added an elbow and a vertical pipe to join a hole drilled in the air filter housing. I drilled that in the drill press with the housing held in a V-block so it would square and centered. The prototype seems to have some controls and instrumentation added and I will do some work in that area too. I should have added it before gluing the first assembly together, but I figure something out. The flue is held to the flue adapter with medium CA. I may wrap the flue with aluminum foil after painting to simulate the insulated jacket.

Flue Stack Install

Again, for reference, here's the prototype upon which I'm loosely basing my rendition. My proportions aren't the same. It looks like this boiler's casing is not actually a circle. It appears that the top is ovoid in shape. You can also see how I mis-mounted the hinges. I printed out this pic, but it was upstairs and I was going from memory. Big mistake. Regardless, the model will have the right feel of an industrial setting and will nicely fill the boiler room. I'm going to add some NDWs to the filter front too.

Horizontal Boiler installation

My building couldn't have handled anything taller so I was to use this boiler's full height it may have been too tall.


Images (5)
  • Face Hinges
  • Front Hand Holds
  • Flue and Hinges
  • Flue Stack Install
  • Horizontal Boiler installation

With just a little over an hour in the shop I only did enough to take two pictures, but I think it was important work. I wanted to add that flanged, instrumented area to the recycle line because it added some interest and it would be in the front near those big windows. On boiler #2, I hadn't assemble the piping yet so I was able to make some flanges using the drill size for the T4 tubing and a 5/16" gasket punch. Ideally, the best way to do this is drill the center hole with the piece locked in place on the press table, then insert the punch into the chuck without moving the setup so the punch slug would be concentric with the hole you just drilled. Of course, that's not the way I did it. 

The reason I couldn't do it was because the drill press table needed to be reset for each tool and this really disturbed the setup. So I eyeballed the center when using the punch. It took a few pieces to get my bearings but I was able to make a sufficient amount of reasonable ones to do the job. When using the gasket punches in the drill press, I put wood blocks under the table since the pressure needed to press the punch through the plastic is sufficient to cause the table to drop. The block makes a positive stop that doesn't move.

I glued the first flange into position, measured the gap to the next one and glued that in position, and then cut some strips of paper that I wrapped around the pipe to generate the thicker section shown in the prototype picture. I then glued the last flange down on top of this fattened section. I used thin and medium CA to start the paper wrapping and end it.

But for boiler #1, I had a challenge since I already glued those pipes in place. I made a cut in the flanges with a sharp Xacto, bent the ends away from one another like you do when inserting a link on a chain, and and after getting it around the pipe, realigned the ends and glued the whole deal with CA.

It's very hard to tell which was the one with the complete flanges and which was done with the split flanges. There's always a way to do something, it's just that some ways are a bit trickier than others.

Recycle Line Flanges

After this pic I added some rectangular pieces to the lowest flange area that will be junction boxes, if I decide to do any additional wiring, that is.

I then added the relief valves. The side exit had a pin for a T4 tube, but the hole in the bottom was .030" smaller. To make a stub that would hold it into the hole drilled in the boiler, I turned down some .125" styrene solid rod on the lathe so it was a press fit into the relief valve. The holes for this extension were drilled on the drill press to assure that they were perpendicular to the boiler center line. You can see the junction box in this picture. These units will look dramatically different when they're painted.

Relief Valve

That was it for today's work. Tomorrow should be a long work session day and I'm planning on finishing up the boilers and getting ready to paint.


Images (2)
  • Recycle Line Flanges
  • Relief Valve

I made a punch list on Apple Numbers to keep track of all the little bits that need to be completed on the Boiler House and started ticking off the completed items, and today I completed quite a few. First up was putting in a door to the distillery with framing around it and the back service door.

Plant Door

This door was not a fancy laser cut affair of a pre-made Grandt Line door. It was scratch built using some sheet styrene with an appliqué of manila file folder paper. I lost the box of Grandt Line doors when building the train station. I had just watched a fellow make a large scale model of a Boeing 777 entirely out of manila file folder paper. It is absolutely astounding and if you haven't seen it, search it out on YouTube. He even has working oleo struts in the landing gear using the same material rolled up tightly. I was so inspired of using this ubiquitous raw material that I scratch built all the doors from this. You need a nice sharp #11 blade. Then I found the Grandt Line doors and didn't use the paper ones. So I had this one laying around and put it to use. The framing is strip wood. It's kind of crude, but will be invisible when the roof goes on.

I finished up the relief valve. I put the apparatus into the boiler house and figured out where the piping should enter the distillery, marked it and drilled the wall to accept the pipes. I then added a stub end to the steam line to meet the wall opening, and then put the condensate line to the side of the receiver. 

Lines to the Plant

It was finally time for painting. I've taken this interior as far as was necessary based on visibility, and I was anxious to put some color on everything.

I'm using Tamiya dark green for the apparatus, yellow for steam lines, royal blue for feed water lines, bright green for condensate, and orange for blow down and relief lines. I got as far as the green, yellow and blue lines. The Tamiya paint appears to have some adhesion problems on the PVC. I got some green coming off while masking a section for the feed water check valve which I could remove prior to painting. The tape didn't pull the paint (Tamiya masking tape), but it was just when a toll touched the surface.

Boiler Painting

The exhaust flues are going to be covered with spiral wrapped aluminum foil to simulate the galvanized steel insulation wrapping these big pipes. That's why you see the green paint only partially covering the big pipes. I'm also thinking about shooting some Tamiya clear gloss top coat. I'm not sure... Monday, I'll finish the painting and install all the equipment in the building. The trusses will come next and then the roofs will go on. I'll spot the location for the flue continuation on the roof, and bevel the flue's end to match the roof pitch. They'll be the last thing to go on.


Images (3)
  • Plant Door
  • Lines to the Plant
  • Boiler Painting

Merci! Monday means shop day. I finished painting all the piping and put everything into the building. I used those contact cement glue dots to hold everything down. Before I did that I put the aluminum foil wrap around the flue pipes. In this case I used Krasel Micro Foil Adhesive. It creates a thinner film that the MicroMark PVA, dries faster and works pretty well for foil applications.

Flue Covering

It was a bit challenging to get it wrapped around the recycle pipe, but again, you can't see much (if anything) of this when the roof's on. I touched up the scratches on the boilers using a brush with the same mix I used for the air brush. I started installation with the right hand boiler since it had to align and connect with the main steam line into the building. The glue dots hold very well and are a cinch to stick to the feet pads. No mess!

I then installed the steam line over the other boiler and mounted it. It needed to be moved closer than I originally set to ensure that the feed water and blow down pipes attached to the both boilers.

\Next came the feed water tank and pump. Lastly I installed the condensate receiver and connected its pipes to the feed water tank. I then attempted to install the trusses that sit over all this. It interfered first with the flue pipes so I didn't have the boilers installed far enough forward. Fortunately, the glue dots have some ability to be popped loose and re-positioned so I was able to move everything forward about an 1/8". But the condensate line for the receiver to the feed water tank didn't clear at all. It interfered fore and aft on the front truss and vertically on the rear one. I was a little perplexed why this happened since I thought I had fit everything with the trusses in place earlier in construction. But... that was before I decided to elevate the feed water tank so it provided a more prototypical head height to the feed water pump. That also raised the line from the condensate receiver. That's where the error came in. I was able to shorten up the condensate line so it avoided the front truss, and put it on an angle so it went over top of the rear truss. Sloppy and totally invisible. If I didn't tell you all this, you'd never ever know. The light's on in this picture.

Boilers Installed 1

And here's all you can see through the front and side windows. Not much... sigh...

Boilers Installed 3

What you can see looks very industrial which is exactly what I wanted to be seen.

Boilers Installed 2

Tomorrow, I'll fit the roofs and the external stacks, then I'll shingle the roofs and we're getting close to wrapping this project up. Boy! Those bricks really look nice.


Images (4)
  • Flue Covering
  • Boilers Installed 1
  • Boilers Installed 3
  • Boilers Installed 2

Thanks to all! I appreciate that you all read this stuff every day.

Exercise day so less than 2 hours to work. I wanted to install fascia boards on the roof edges. Even though the hardboard has enough cross section to look reasonable, I like how fascia boards finish it up. I'm going to be mounting gutters and the fascia adds another layer of security to hold the gutter's mounting pins. I decided to try and use the PVA cement on this application. I hope it will hold for the long haul. I was contemplating using Walther's Goo, but I don't really like messing with it. For be results you have to apply it to both pieces and let it dry. The PVA was very easy to apply and didn't make any mess. I might go back and reinforce it with some thin CA.

Clerestory Fascia

I brush painted the Model Tech Pennsy Green with is the same trim color I've used throughout. I could have masked and airbrushed it, but didn't want the hassle. My Top Flite Monokote Hot Air Gun finally gave up the ghost. I've had it for many years using it both to apply mylar to RC models and for general hot air gun stuff (force drying acrylic paints). I'm going to buy another one. It's funny. The price on the box from 1985 was $25. Today, you can get them for $20. That's amazing. It's not like it was USA made then. It was made in Japan. Now it would probably be made in China.

With the clerestory glued in place it was time to install the main roof pieces. I had a little gap that I needed to fill between the roof and clerestory end walls with was filled with some scrap styrene. I used Aleen's Tacky Glue to fasten the roofs to all the trusses and edges, held in place with masking tape.  I did start the roofing application with the starter strips on the clerestory roof, but that's as far as I got. You'll also notice that I've marked the location of the two stacks and prepared the stacks for installation. I duplicated the roof angle on an angle gauge, and as I did with the roofs themselves, sanded the correct bevel to the bottoms of both stacks on the belt sander. 

BH Roofs Installed

The pipe is very thick. Since they're going to simulate a metal stack, I'm going to thin the upper walls with a boring bar on the lathe down a half inch or so. It will be painted flat black inside so you won't notice the thick parts. I'm also going to scribe some circumferential grooves to simulate pipe joints, and using the 3-jaw chuck as a fixture, use it to mark three equally-spaced holes for the guy wire eye bolts. I'm going to just butt glue the stacks to the roof probably using epoxy with a CA chaser. The stacks will be painted gun metal with rust brown underneath. Selective sanding will expose the rusty surface and it should look pretty authentic. I think I'm going to use wine-bottle foil as flashing around the stack bases.

Tomorrow the roofing will commence in earnest.



Images (2)
  • Clerestory Fascia
  • BH Roofs Installed
Last edited by Trainman2001

Hobby shop run ate into my long planned work session, but I still got stuff done.

Before I did that, I had to make an emergency repair on our 36 year old Eames Chair knockoff that was produced by Plycraft. A few years ago I had to have the base plate welded locally since the entire piece was letting go due to fatigue cracking. Now the rubber donut that serves as the spring and shock absorber in the tilt mechanism simply fell apart. It had been drying out for years (kind of like how I feel sometimes now that I'm 70) and the chair was no longer stable. You sit down and it would flip back to the reclined position and almost give you whiplash.

While you can get parts for the mechanism on line, the rubber donuts are not longer available. I need to make my own or use a spring, but in the meantime I had to make it so I could sit on it. Since the donut was still in existence, but no longer a connected circle, I was able to wrap it tightly with cable ties to contain it. It worked! I don't know for how long, but it buys me time until I can come up with a more perfect solution.

Incidentally, there's two ways you can tell an authentic Herman Miller Eames Chair from the Plycraft knockoffs: Herman Miller chairs (and as designed by Charles and Raye Eames) don't tilt, and there are no exposed screws holding the pieces together. But the knockoff's cost was about 1/3 of the real chair which worked for me. Now there are Chinese knockoffs that are much less expensive. The Herman Miller chair is still being produced as it has been since the mid-1950s. This chair is in the design galleries of most of the most prestigious art museums in the country.

Eames Chair Jerry Rig

 Back to the Boiler House:

I added the fascia boards to the main roof and this time decided to spend some extra time and mask the whole deal so I could airbrush the Pennsy green instead of brush painting. I was unhappy with the results of the brush painting on the clerestory fascia. It was a good decision and the finish is much more uniform. While this was drying I chucked the CPVC stacks into the lathe with the help of the steady rest and faced and bored the top end so it would have a thinner and more plausible wall thickness. CPVC cuts nice, more like metal, than styrene, and doesn't melt. 

Thinning the Stack Set up

Here's the tops with one finished and one original. I will paint it flat black so you won't see the part where the thick walls return. I will look convincing. You can only perform this kind of operation on a lathe. I would hate to have had to use a drill to open up the bore.

Stacks Before & After

I still have to engrave the seams showing the stack sections and locate the three holes for the eyebolts.

With the paint dry, I started roofing the clerestory and got it almost completed by quitting time. Tomorrow it will be done and the main roof will be started. When I was masking the building I was turning it this way and that and nothing came loose on the inside (Whew!) thanks to those contact glue dots.

Clerestory Shingles Start


Images (4)
  • Eames Chair Jerry Rig
  • Thinning the Stack Set up
  • Stacks Before & After
  • Clerestory Shingles Start

Yes... I'm sure you'll find them now. The one thing I've done right in the shop was obtaining that many drawered office cabinet that I use for lots of small parts and supplies. I'm generally a mess in other areas. It's amazing though that I can remember where I put a specific tool within the pile as I'm working.

Really made some shingling progress today despite having to stop working to take my daughter and family to the airport for Spring Break. The clerestory roof is finished and I used wine bottle foil to make a metallic roof cap. I'll probably do some aging and maybe just make it patina green to look like old copper. Slate roofs often have metallic ridge caps. MicroMark PVA was used as a cement to hold it.

Wine Bottle Capping

For the main roof I got about halfway up the slope and remembered that I didn't put in any flashing. I used the pinking shears to make the slope flashing, and just plain black construction paper for the flashing under the clerestory. 

BH Flashing

Before getting into this I wanted to finish preparing the stacks. In the lathe (again) I measured off six scale feet increments and used the sharp corner of a parting tool to make grooves representing joints. I then used a v-block to stop the chuck in 1/3 increments so I could drill holes for the eyebolts. If I had a four-jaw chuck, I could use the same method to divide by four.

Stack Hole Division

I then primer painted the stacks. Next I will paint them some metallic shade or another and then lightly sand off the top coat revealing the "rust" underneath. I bought some Tamiya burnt iron color which would be a perfect stack color. The interior will be air brushed flat black along with some staining around the top.

As I was shingling the roof, I started to sense that my lines were becoming divergent. I made some guidelines using a combination square aligned with the edges. Then I gradually adjusted the rows to bring it all back in line. The adjustments are imperceptible.

BH Shingle Alignment

I also saw that the end alignments were a bit off leaving me with a sliver of shingle on the right edge. I adjusted the side-to-side alignment so the shingles were evenly divided on each side. This too was done gradually so the misalignment was not noticeable.

BH Shingle Challenge

I finished this side in record time. I'm getting much better at handling the Rusty Stumps shingles. I remember how long it took when I first started using it to separate the backing sheet from the adhesive shingles. I've now developed a technique where I (using a very sharp single-edged blade) slice through the shingle, but not the backing sheet. This lets me bend the shingle up and makes the separation quick and easy. Here's one roof completed without the capping strips which will be installed when the other side is completed. Note: the shingles are removed where the stack will go. I'm going to flash that area with foil.

BH 1st Roof Shingled

Man! That's a lot of shingles! I'm finding that I'm ending up with more straight shingles than fish scale. On my next Victorian project I may start using 3 straight rows and 2 fish scale so I won't get too big a surplus. They aren't cheap, but I can't think of a better way to make a fantastic roof.



Images (7)
  • Wine Bottle Capping
  • Stack Hole Division
  • BH Flashing
  • BH Shingle Alignment
  • BH Shingle Challenge
  • BH 1st Roof Shingled

Thanks Mark! Take a look at the stacks now... I airbrushed them a mixture of a new color from Tamiya "Dark Brown" and added a little bit of flat aluminum creating a burnt iron look with a little metallic sheen. I then airbrushed the insides of the stack top and some of the outside of the top with some flat black. I think it's looking very real and I haven't removed any of the top coat to reveal the "rust" underneath. Thinning the top walls really shows up now and makes it very hard to identify it as a piece of 1/2" CPVC domestic water pipe from Lowe's. In this picture, they're sitting on the handles of some larger paint brushes... a convenient holder for tubular painting jobs.

Stacks Painted

While this was drying I completed the other half of the roof shingling. I still have to add the peak caps on the little side portions. 

BH Shingles Complete

Next up will be finish the stacks, install them and add the guy wires. Before gluing them in place, I'll age the roof a bit so I won't be doing this with the guy wires in the way and causing a problem.  I also have to put some "tar paper" on the little corridor roof and put some capping tiles on the wall's parapet top. With those steps, I'm just a few days away from installing this new structure on the layout.


Images (2)
  • Stacks Painted
  • BH Shingles Complete

Add Reply


OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
800-980-OGRR (6477)

Link copied to your clipboard.