I am building a Steel Mill themed , Lionel 0-31 layout with heavy emphasis on switching. Early TMCC control with a point to point to loop arrangement.

I am scratch building or heavily bashing my structures. I am using 1/8" and 1/4 plywood as a base as well as other mediums. As stand ins, I have used corrugated board (boxes) painted grey stone (splatter paint). They look like concrete buildings..... To cover these with "metal siding" will be a pain and expensive.

I dare ask, how would "masonry" be it brick or concrete structures look to others in a Steel Mill environment?

Chime in with "your" thoughts please.

Thanks In Advance.





Original Post

A lot of the older, smaller buildings that were used for offices, storage and various shops were made of brick. For corrugated  siding I have used the card board  box that held 4 six packs of beer from my cousins brewery. A carton got damp and started to peel apart. Looks good(tastes good!) and is a finer corrugation than the bigger boxes.

Rick,  I have a steel mill 3d back drop building that is made from plywood with a styrene exterior glued on. You could do that with card stock too.  I think the concrete and brick buildings look great in that environment. If you have not done it yet. Go on over to the 2 rail area on this forum and check out Roo's Action at the Steel Mill postings. Lots of great ideas there.  Actually Roo has posted much good info over the years.


Phil Randall

Red Oak, TX

Trinity Valley Traction Co.

Hi Rick.

Lets consider this for an idea.

Iron is made in the Blast furnace it is then transported to a Basic Oxygen Furnace or Electric Furnace to be made into Steel. Why not make the furnace a backdrop and build a BOF you can have a couple of tracks against the Backdrop for the hot metal cars then move them around to the BOF.

Lots of ways to model the Steel industry don't be put off by my photos I have posted them here just to show you what can be done by just an average modeller if you have the passion to do it. The furnace is much more complicated than the BOF the BOF could be built as a flat against the wall and I admit if I could have I would have built a flat but that would have meant Iwould have had to rebuild part of the layout.

There are tools sitting on the baseboard because I am working there and I just snapped those photos right now just for your thread.

Ask me a question I'm an easy goin Aussie bloke I'll try and find an answer for you. Roo.



Photos (2)

In no particular order steel mill buildings, rolling stock and rubber tire vehicles are:

1/ Heavy Duty - 300 T crane in their forge, 150T cranes in other buildings

2/ Large - batches of steel are large so three or four flat cars or gondolas are almost a small unit train.

3/ Covered with rust, dust and grime - whether brown, tan, gray, black, yellow.

John in Lansing, ILL


Holy cow!!! Thanks for the photos and ideas. I have thought about a BOF. But I am modeling (roughly) the post steam to 1968ish era. But, as they say " it's my railroad ". I guess I could have anything I want! 

I checked out your post on the 2 rail page and wow, wow and wow! 

I plan to fab most of my structures from 1/4 plywood which I have available to me. And like a true procrastinator, I plan to start tomorrow! 

Thanks again. 


Mark, Thanks for the compliment. Truth be told those are some pictures I took at the HiRail Modular Train club layout in Indiana.  Eventually I will have bigger train room and will add a steel mill complex.I would like to model it after the one from the HiRail Club's. It looks like most of the buildings are 1/4 plywood, some have corrugated siding some just the plain wood. It works. The actual steel mill complex at the club is , I guess 35 feet long, looks to be about 4 feet wide. It really does look neat and yes the backdrop colors really set the mood !


OGR Subscriber-Premium Member/ Forum Member/ LCCA

Hello there, I just want to show you a few of my MTH hot metal cars I weathered. I used a product called "sophisticated  finishes rust antiquing finish". It's a simple 2 step process. First you paint on the water based iron powder containing layer. Then when it is dry, paint or spray on the antiquing solution. The solution oxidizes the iron base coat in about 30 minutes. Hit it then with some dullcoat after it is dry to seal the finish. The skull around the spout is colored sand from the craft store. If you have a Blick's art store near you they carry it and other finishes.1533171443709 

Next I will try the same on my Slag cars.Hot metal cars


There's no scale but O scale

CEO Overbeider Iron and Steel Company,  Crapton division 


Photos (2)
third rail posted:

Hello there, I just want to show you a few of my MTH hot metal cars I weathered. I used a product called "sophisticated  finishes rust antiquing finish". It's a simple 2 step process. First you paint on the water based iron powder containing layer. Then when it is dry, paint or spray on the antiquing solution. The solution oxidizes the iron base coat in about 30 minutes. Hit it then with some dullcoat after it is dry to seal the finish. The skull around the spout is colored sand from the craft store. If you have a Blick's art store near you they carry it and other finishes.1533171443709 

Next I will try the same on my Slag cars.Hot metal cars

They look great ! Well done that man!


Thanks for the compliment on my weathering technique. Here is a photo of a gondola I also did. I dry brushed the weathering on so you can still see the paint and decals underneath. It is a kit bash of 2 O-27 Gondolas cut apart lengthwise and reassembled to make it scale width. I made the decals on my computer using Microsoft Word. Overbeider is the name of my fictional steel mill company. It comes from the answer you get when you ask someone where something is. 20180725_155335


There's no scale but O scale

CEO Overbeider Iron and Steel Company,  Crapton division 


Photos (1)


See  photos below which I previously have posted on this forum.  All structures are scratch built using basswood, foam core board and in some cases corrugated cardboard from A.C. Moore for the outside walls of some buildings.  The construction crane is the only structure that is a model .  

Although I was born and raised in Pittsburgh in the 1950's and weekly saw the J&L Southside steel plant, it was quite another thing to try and scratch build the various structures.   If you have not done so, I would urge you to get the book by Bernard Kempinski, The Model Railroader's Guide to Steel Mills.  Another book is the Cyclopedia of Industrial Modeling by Dean Freytag.  Freytag was a fabulous modeler but I found his book confusing, in part because it is for HO modeling and also because he used Plastruct parts, which I had to try and build out of bass wood.  Still, the photos helped understand the size of various structures in relation to other structures and he makes the point that even though these a large (very large ) structures, they are built sections at a time so they become manageable to do.

Good luck with your project. 





Photos (7)

David, that first picture is stunning. If it weren't for our beloved third rail and the plastic people (sorry, my pet peeve), it could easily pass for real-life.




My heart is warm with the friends I make, 

And better friends I'll not be knowing;

Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,

No matter where it's going.

                        Edna St. Vincent Millay



Even your loose ends are great! Ha, Ha.

I would like to see this thread become a sort of "Meeting Place" for O scale Steel modellers I hope we can forget about the two or three rail concept and just concentrate on showing how we go about building Steel Mills big or small I am prepared to show some of my ideas on how I approach building Steel Mill models I have lots of photos/drawings with measurements for O scale never seen before, but I don't want to take over the thread I would like to see others contribute as well I'm sure I will learn something to.

How about it Rick and the rest of you guys.

Rick started the thread can we continue posting here and make it a Steel mill modellers thread ?

If the answer is yes, I will show you how I built my Blast Furnace that anyone can do with a few basic tools.

I should mention this is the only forum I post on in the USA,

Thanks, Roo.

OK Dave we have two starters so far! 

I am going to start the ball rolling with some ideas about building the hardest structure in a Steel Mill.....The Blast Furnace.

But first I have to go to the Gym (it's 6-30AM on Christmas Eve), when I return I will have a shower some breakfast and I will sort through some photos and see what I can come up with. Margaret (my wife) is going Shopping and doesn't need me to tag along looking bored!


I've just gave a presentation to the local club about "Railroads and their role in the American steel industry" and a description of how I run my Railroad which is virtually a Steel Mill, it was well recieved by the members. Now that it is over (It took me a month to prepare it!) I can post some ideas here soon.

Also the internet connection has been off and on the last couple of weeks they are doing work in our area that has finished so now there are no more excuses ! Roo. 

Dave, love those pictures, looks great so far.

All, thank you for all the information posted so far. So many amazing steel mill buildings and resources. Looking forward to the additions to this thread.


OGR Subscriber-Premium Member/ Forum Member/ LCCA

Dave's project is a very good representation of a Blast furnace.  Used to take iron ore, coke, and other ingredients to pig iron, liquid iron.    The rail transportation would then move the liquid iron to a BOF,  Basic oxygen furnace, where a large vessel, with no external heat, would be used, with an oxygen lance/supply, to make steel. Oxygen supplied, to the liquid iron, removed carbon, at the same time, alloys were added. This is an exothermic reaction that generates it's own heat. 

Today a lot of melt shop iron come from scrap metal, processed in electric arc furnaces.  

Finished liquid steel (old) was placed in ingot molds to harden.  Molds would then be processed via a two high roll mill after reheat/annealing. 

Finished liquid steel (new) goes to a large, long, vertical building call a continuous caster.     The caster takes the liquid steel and allows it to cool as one very long, curved, piece of steel. Vertical to horizontal. This piece of steel, is much more efficient, eliminating end crop waste, scaling and re-heating. Product goes directly to finish mills. 

 Koppel Steel,  what remains of Babcock and Wilcox Steel, Beaver Falls, PA  Plant,  is a melt shop  that has a continuous caster.

Rail service, primarily,  moves scrap metal to the arc furnaces.   Finish blooms, at the Koppel melt shop, are loaded on trucks, and shipped to the processing plant, Ambridge, PA. 

?? A lot in addition to Dave's  Blast furnace complex ??  IMO.   Mike CT. 

Mike, thanks for the updates to current steel making. Fascinating process. There is enough information here for steel mills of many eras. Looking forward to additional contributions.


OGR Subscriber-Premium Member/ Forum Member/ LCCA

This was supposed to be a magazine article but the pressure of picking out photos which number over 100 and writing it up over many pages was just to much for me, posting it here is much easier as there are no deadlines or pressure besides there was always the chance a magazine would not want the article so it would all be for nothing.

A blast furnace in O scale has to be scratchbuilt to do this a reasonable knowledge of how a furnace operates is needed plus the ability to be able to know what to include and what to leave out (unless your building for a museum where every part has to be included) I chose my approach as sufficent for what I wanted on the layout.

After deciding the size I wanted I found the biggest problem in this model was how to build the main barrel of the furnace I finally chose wood, yes, wood turned up on a lathe by a very good wood turner he also turned the Ovens, Dust Precipitator, venturi scrubber and gas cooler. I have drawings of all these items including the pipework and all the sizes so anyone can now build an O scale Blast furnace using these drawings  They were drawn using CAD by a good friend using my measurements, advice and enthusiasm, they are mine so feel free to copy them I won't sue you for copyright they are 100% owned by me.

To start the ball or barrel rolling today here are some photos of the barrel fresh off the lathe, drawings and photos will follow of every item if there is any interest,  please let me know because there are lots of drawings and photos and will take some time to post them and I am a busy man building rolling stock and buildings for the layout and baby sitting nine grandchildren,n I also keep the layout going all the year round (see the 2-rail thread). If this helps someone it's worth it.

Keep in mind I am not a master modeller or a professional modeller just an average bumbling old bloke, so if I can do it you can. Thanks Roo.




Photos (3)

Much of what a steel mill needs for ancillary structures depends on the era.  Some thoughts...

Most of us think of the furnaces and then the shops to forge the steel into ingots and then blooms and then finished products.   Massive brick and stone buildings in the earlier day which morphed into various types of corrugated sheathed structures in the more modern days.

Mills need lots of electric power as well as natural gas for gas blowing engines.    They also need raw materials of iron ore and scrap and coke for carbon in large amounts so plan on lots of neat ore pits and transfer bridges/equipment.

They also need a steady supply of things such as dolomite, in newer mills this is shipped in center flow hoppers.   Not to forget the other "ingredients" of lesser quantities such as manganese or chromium or vanadium.   

And getting the finished steel on the outbound car was of utmost importance because once it hit the car deck and the car moved it was considered sold and shipped for billing purposes. 

Two interesting in-depth reads are Nevin Yeakel's "Bethlehem Steel Railroading" as well as the March 1994 Railpace "Bethlehem Steel Railroads.    The first is by a PB&NE trainmaster that worked the steel and the latter covers much of the mill before it's closure.  Both have lots of good pictures as well as track maps, etc.  

The Nevin Yeakel book can be found with some searching, the Railpace back issue is seldom seen.

Oh, and "steel mill" doesn't just mean someone that produces iron or steel to sell.  Many businesses "rolled their own" in earlier days.  For example, in the steam era Bucyrus Erie in South Milwaukee made their own steel for their heavy equipment from raw materials.

Rob M. ARHS # 3846 PRRT&HS # 8141 EPTC "Life Is Like A Mountain Railway, With An Engineer That's Brave..."

Here is my furnace body.  I also obtained some blueprints that showed the diameters at different heights.  I started with a dowel rod and placed discs with the correct diameters at the correct elevations.  Wooden stringers were then installed for structural support.  Spray foam was used to fill in the gaps.  The whole structure was finished with fiberglass and body filler.




Photos (2)

Dave and members.

I looked at your furnace body before I started mine and thought about doing the same then a couple of weeks later I went to a wood show and saw this bloke turning down lumps of wood I asked him could he do something for me if I supplied the drawings and sizes I think he thought I was nuts but after visiting him at his home and showing him photos and drawings he took the project on and made a very good job of it. Thanks Roo. 

Question for the group:

Would any of the Walthers HO steel mill buildings be useable in an O scale mill setting? 

Has anyone used them?

I am asking because when I finally get to adding steel complex to my layout I will have to do selective compression and maybe not have all of the buildings, parts of others and some as backdrop/relief.




OGR Subscriber-Premium Member/ Forum Member/ LCCA

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