Sunday, August 28, 2016

Grain Elevator Complex - First Step on a New Layout

I have been thinking about a new layout a lot lately, and while I don't have the exact details solidified, there are a few things I know for certain.  One of those certainties is that I am going to have a grain elevator as a major focal point on the new layout.  I've been around grain elevators my entire life, and while Walthers does have a decent model, it falls short of what I consider to be a suitable structure for my layout.  Much like my Orin Line years ago where I ditched the Walthers flood loader for a length of PVC pipe, I am doing the same thing again for the grain complex.  Many grain elevators today are a combination of older concrete structures with more recent steel bins added for more capacity.  Just watch corn and soybean harvest here in he midwest and you will see why that extra capacity is needed.  Many facilities also have areas where they pile corn on a giant slab and cover it with plastic until they can get trains to haul it out during the winter months.

My design will be a combination of an older concrete structure, newer steel bins, and the typical tower dryer like the one you see in the photo below to the right of the concrete structure.  Of course to complete the grain complex I will need a scale, grain sample probe, unloading pit for both trucks and rail, and various trusses and structure components to tie all of the pieces together.  

Here is the elevator I haul to often in Council Bluffs.  It's not a great facility in that it gets backed up quickly due to a single and slow truck pit (grey building to the right of the tower dryer).  But, it does offer unique modeling opportunities.  My grain complex will have a few design components from this site.

One advantage of being close to Council Bluffs is that there are multiple grain facilities to haul to.  Southern Iowa Renewable Energy (SIRE) is a fairly new ethanol production facility that has multiple truck pits and a lot of capacity to get trucks through quickly.  This is important during harvest when long lines can kill productivity.  The photo below shows a newer modern facility owned by Bartlett in a different part of the Midwest.  It is a good example of how steel bins are getting integrated into these commercial sized grain handling facilities, and not just individual farms.  Note the rail load out and the 3 truck pits for unloading.  

Ok, on to my N scale model.  First I decided to start with 1.5" PVC and cut several sections of pipe 8" long.  These bins will be about 100' in N scale.  In order to create a nice seamless joint between each bin, I decided to run them through my table saw to make two flat sides.

Here you can see the PVC bins with flat sides, ready to be glued together in a line.

I used PVC cement to glue the pieces together, making sure I was working on a flat level surface so that the line of bins were perfectly straight.  

Even though I tried to mate each bin to the next without a gap, I still had some spaces between the bins.  I found an easy solution with a strip of .010 x .060" styrene.  I simply cut them to the same 8" length of the bins and secured with CA, which bonds to both styrene and PVC very well.

Here is a close up of the bins glued together at their flat surfaces, and a strip of styrene to close the gap.  I am not finished with this step, but it makes a very clean transition between the curves of each bin.

Here is a photo of a line of bins next to a loco and semi truck to give a sense of overall size.

In addition to the concrete bins, I also bought a length of 6" PVC pipe for my steel bins.  The actual diameter is 6.625" which is about 90 feet in N scale.  With a sloped roof to match the 100' height of the concrete bins, these will hold about 500,000 bushels each.  These look fairly simple now, but I have big plans for these monsters.  My plan is to wrap each with corrugated styrene sheet, add vertical stiffiners, wind rings, and other details.  I also plan to design a roof that I can have 3d printed, although if that doesn't work or the cost isn't reasonable I may have to build it from scratch.  Like I said before, the Walthers grain elevator will pale in comparison to what I have in store for this grain complex.  

I'll throw this in for free.  Looking back over my collection of locomotives, which has been large at times, I have only owned 1 Atlas locomotive.  It was a BN SD60M, and about 15 years ago.  It ran lousy and I sold it not long after I bought it.  Everything else has been modern 6 axle diesels by Kato.  Short story short, I bought this guy the other day for $50 and it runs very well, and am a bit excited to have something a bit different for a change.  I still like modern, but I like when the UP still had red stripes on the sill, and patch units were still common.  I think maybe I'll have to lock my era in the early 2000's?  I now understand all of those modelers that have an interest in a specific era.

That's all for now.  I guess this shelf layout idea that is finally coming to fruition is starting to pay dividends in more ways than I previously thought.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

3D Printing - Far from Finished

What a difference a couple years makes in this hobby.  When I designed my first truck for 3d printing, there was a huge void in realistic trucks in N scale.  I look around now and we have a lot to choose from, and more on the way.

I had ordered some models a few months ago in the new "extreme detail" by Shapeways, and never got around to finishing them.  I haven't shared anything for several months, so thought I would shoot some photos and post them tonight.

Here is my triple axle Wilson cattle trailer.  Yes, I agree that the Trainworx Merritt trailer is awesome, but mine is bigger....

You can never have enough of a great model.  I need a packing plant to serve with this many trailers.

Here is the reefer project I started, finished, and then became bored with.  Trainworx has a beautiful model of their own coming soon, but this version has horizontal ribs.  I might try to complete a couple of these, but the painting is where man versus machine is so apparent.

 A couple short extendable container chassis.  I just need to get some paint on these guys.

Here is my complete East 39' Dump Trailer.  The front axle is raised in case it looks a bit funny in the picture.  This will be a good model for a construction scene or hauling aggregate to a cement plant.

A couple new trucks in the paint shop.  My 379 Pete had a flat top roof, where this 389 has the taller cab roof for either a day cab version or with the Unibilt sleeper.  This is also the same cab/sleeper combo that I used on my custom version 389 which is on the triple axle cattle trailer above.  The lime green rig will have one of my bull bumpers applied for livestock service and the red will be a daycab.

Monday, February 15, 2016

It's About Time - Some New Layout Ideas

It's been a very long time since I have spent any meaningful energy towards my N scale hobby.  I guess addictions can fade over time.  However, lately I've had a desire to get re-engaged in the hobby, at least in a small way.  I revisited a couple layout designs that I drafted over the last couple of years to see if I could come up with something that would inspire me to start a new project.  My garage is used for multiple things, and I didn't want another island style layout like my Marias Pass, which took up a lot of space.  Instead, I am looking to do a shelf style layout in an "L" shape to optimize the wall space I have available.  The main component on the left will be a 7' maximum length, with a width of 4' at the elbow of the "L".  This can be conveniently built from a 4x8 sheet of plywood.  I then have about 10' along the right side wall in which I can add an extension of 6' for some additional yard space.

I would like to feature my 3d printed trucks on this layout, as well as the lumber loads that I created a few years back.  That gives me at least a start to my list of industries.

The current short list includes:

  • grain elevator with truck scale and unloading building for my 43' and 50' Wilson grain trailers and straight trucks
  • lumber centerbeam transloading area or simple truss building shop requiring lumber delivery
  • meat packing with loads of cattle being delivered in my Wilson cattle pots, and then cold storage and outbound beef in 64' reefer cars as well as truck/trailer reefer rigs.
  • small intermodal facility to feature trucks and utilize a pair of piggy packer loaders that I own.
  • other industries that I haven't decided on yet.
I like the idea of a major highway overpass stretching through the center of the layout.  I haul grain to an elevator in Council Bluffs that is right next to and under interstate I-80 which gave me the idea.  This would be a focal point for truck traffic as well as a natural view block to separate the layout into two sides.

I'll give these ideas some time to sink in and just maybe I'll be inspired to get the woodworking tools dirty again.  Let me know what you think.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Time to Start a New Chapter

I haven't posted on my blog for months, due to lots of other things going on in my life, and I seem to check email about once a month, so while I haven't been off the grid, it hasn't been far from it.

I thought I would post some exciting news from Trainworx if you haven't already seen it.  I must say that when I first saw the announcements of Trainworx getting in the truck and trailer arena, it was bittersweet.  I am excited that a major player is now getting serious about some popular and meaningful models for us in N scale.  However, they have come forward with guns blazing, and seem to have replicated multiple truck and trailer models that I have designed for 3D printing over the past 2 years.  I have always said that 3d printing had its limitations, and now that Trainworx has stepped up, they will be able to provide us great models, painted, and ready to use on our layouts, as well as a very reasonable price compared to a raw 3d printed model.

I do find it ironic that they are creating a 379 Pete with a Merritt livestock trailer.  Hmmm, I wonder how they got that idea?  I like to think that I had a lot of influence over their model decisions, but I guess it really doesn't matter whose idea it was in the end.  I hope to see a lot more modern truck models from them and welcome other players into this space as well.

So what does this mean for me?  Not sure.  I get hot and cold on projects all the time, and lately, I haven't touched anything in N scale.  I still do have many unique designs that no one else in N scale has replicated, so I don't plan to shut down my Shapeways shop any time soon.  I never really intended this to be a business, but rather a fun way to finance my hobby.  I would have put forth more effort otherwise.  If I get an itch in the future I might try to design some new models.  But ultimately, I think this might be the change that forces me to look at a layout again.  I am certainly due for another layout project, and have carried many ideas with me since I sold my Marias Pass years ago.

Here is the flyer about the new Trainworx model.  There are photos online circulating of other "in progress" models as well which include a wide variety of models we desperately need.  I see the 379 Pete with Merritt trailer listed for under $30 on some online shops.  That is a steal when you consider that my Wilson version costs about that same amount for a raw printed copy.  Way to go Trainworx.