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I am finally working on my engine servicing/turntable/roundhouse area. One of the major features will be a modern 1920s-30s concrete coaling tower. I was unsure if I wanted to build a whole new coaling tower or reuse my old one, which was a stylized model based on a GTW 350 ton Ogle coaling tower still standing in Durand MI. It's twin sister also stands in Grand Haven MI as part of a public railroad display. After mulling it over, I decided I'd like to keep my GTW tower but I'd like to rebuild it to be closer to its prototype in dimension and detail.


When I originally built my version (in 2004-5?), I didn't have any plans to build from. I took some photos of the one in Durand and built it by trying to scale the proportions by eye. I also made it a bit narrow to fit an existing track spacing I had at the time. At some point after it sat on my layout for a while, I built the chutes and catwalks, basing them off of photos of other towers I found on the internet at the time since I didn't have any photos of the prototype with its rigging intact. I happened to walk into a McDonald's in Durand a couple years after building my model and they had some great black and white framed photos of the tower with all of its hardware still on it.  Also, a pal of mine sent me scale drawings from the Charles Foss book 'Evening Before the Diesel: A Pictorial History of Steam and First Generation Diesel Motive Power on the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, 1938-1961' a few years back. Knowing what the rigging looked like and then getting the actual scale drawings, this model of mine started to bug me a bit.


I bought a copy of the Foss book (highly recommended if you are a fan of GTW in MI in the steam to diesel transition era) and also picked up book on C&O coaling towers and another based on a Fairbanks-Morse catalog of coal and sand facilities. I also searched for all of my old photos of the GTW towers.


The goal for right now is to get the major structure done first so I can lay out the trackage for it. Engines are served on the outboard sides, the portal track is the hopper track (neither tower had chutes in the center).


I wanted to take some final measurements to see how far off I was dimensionally. I built my tower 12' too high (the real deal is 80' tall), and 12' too long. I also built it 4' too narrow. The prototype is 28' wide but I decided my model will stay 4' skinnier. I am hoping this won't screw up the proportions too much in the end. The overall height was no big deal to correct but the extra length meant that I had to disassemble the base to correct the portal spacing. No worries, found the right tool for that:



I needed to free up the portals to cut them down to the proper height (22'). I am trying to reference everything from the base of the legs.



Here we are on the turnaround. I corrected the height and the portal spacing and set the relief for man door (sand drying room access) properly. I also took the opportunity to correct the chute openings.



This is the backside. The opening in the center is some type of bucket hoist access I guess. I should have two windows on the right side but I'm not sure I'm going to hassle that out since this side won't be seen so much:



Here is the belt access for the bucket hoist. I really like this prototype because of the arches:



And here is the top going back on:




I am going to work on the roofline today and then hopefully the elevator room.


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Norm - Marvelous subject for modeling. Durand was a perfectly laid out yard, with "union station" (Ann Arbor + GTW), a completely round roundhhouse (locomotives ran through the building to access the turntable), mainlines and branch lines radiating in every direction. A magnificent slice of railroading and a former mecca for steam locomotive enthusiasts, as the GTW was the last, along with IC, N&W, DM&IR, to operate steam locomotives into the Spring of 1960.

       Next move after completion:  surround your coaling tower with Sunset 3rd Rail GTW U3b 4-8-4's, a Weaver GTW streamlined 4-8-4 and sprinkle in a USRA light 2-8-2!  Heaven!  Great and creative modeling!

Last edited by mark s

Thanks a lot Mark. The Foss book has a nice map of the yards there, and Google and Bing maps show the outline of the old roundhouse from the air.


As much as MI railroading has grown on me over the years, this tower will mostly serve my PRR fleet as I thought it would look OK doing so. If anyone wants to bring over some GTW power, they are welcome!


Norm's eye for realism, still hits home with what I've seen in the RR areas. It's not only the talent to build and weather stuff, It's knowing just how much to do or leave off that set's him apart. Seeing more in a simple single photo than most to key on realism.

 Just beautiful Norm! again. Carry on. (still wish you liked modern diesels!)

Last edited by Engineer-Joe

Thanks again guys. I decided to simplify the stairs to the hoist house. I like the look of the stairs zigzagging down the side of the tower but I didn't want to spend the time to fabricate it all. Also, because my model is 4 feet narrower, I couldn't get the stairs to land in the right spots. I'm assuming that stairs were provided because of some combination of safety and a more likely need to access this room vs maintenance access to the chutes, etc. The real stairs appear to be 2' wide and ascend on a 50 degree angle vs 3' wide and 45 degrees for the Plastruct stairs I had on hand. 




I was also trying to figure out how the chutes worked when I decided to google 'Ogle chutes' and came upon the patent for the chutes this tower had:


This was very helpful!



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Thanks again you guys. Stephen, yes the chutes and aprons are styrene. Here's some shots from when I was trying to mock it all up. They came out ok for the most part. I may rework the aprons a bit as I'm not totally enthused about them. I made the chute lift mechanisms today and will mount them later. Also need to build the delivery hopper that will sit underneath the delivery track.




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