Raising Crane 3

Now was time to turn attention to the crane legs. I’d tried making patterns using drawing instruments and wasn’t happy. This time I fired up a drawing program and created scale templates.


I fiddled with the proportions until I got one that worked in the space.


I printed these on #110 card then glued the templates to the 0.030 styrene sheet. After carefully cutting out the templates, I used various sanding sticks to reach the final shape.

After shaping, I laid parallel lines for the stiffeners made of 0.010 x 0.030 strip, then cut 0.015 sheet 2mm wide for the gussets on the sides of the legs. I elected not to model the rivet plates that would normally be found where the structural members join. I’ll rely on N-scales ‘implied detail’ for that.


Attaching the legs to the platform. The construction lines were helpful in lining up the legs with the platform bottom.



The legs prior to bracing and painting. I wrapped the platform with painter’s tape for protection. This assembly got handled much more than I would have preferred, but the tape made a handy place to grab the model.


The complete platform assembly with the mechanical house on top. Bracing is 1.5 mm I-beam, while the ladder is from Gold Medal Products Industrial Ladders offering. Everything was painted Flat Red to simulate red lead primer, then Flat Light Aircraft Grey for the color coat. During assembly some of the color will rub off exposing the primer. This creates a bit of a weathered effect.

As built the crane is taller than the prototype, but I had to make the legs tall enough to clear freight cars. The prototype had a bit more lateral clearance. The crane will gauge flatcars and gondolas, but nothing else. This won’t be a problem operationally as only those types of cars need to be on that track, but operators will have to take care not to spot other cars past the crane tracks.

Man, this thing is turning into actual work. Next we’ll tackle the boom.


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Raising Crane 2

After completing the platform it was time to turn attention to the crane mechanical house. This is where the operator and one would assume a Diesel engine are located, as the winch and boom appear to be electrically driven and there’s no visible power cable to the crane.

Before moving on to this part, I added weight to the interior of the platform and painted it Light Aircraft Grey. I was concerned that the boom, although made of styrene, would make the crane top-heavy, so I added weight as low down on the structure as I could. Prior to roof installation I added some weight to the rear of the mechanical house to offset the anticipated boom mass. I painted the platform a standard color because I had a lot of steel to paint and wanted something easily reproducible.


Some of the tools used in construction are visible here. The tracks are a mock-up of the installed crane tracks to check clearances and part fit. The pieces at the bottom are from the mechanical house. I cut several of each piece then chose the best. I then lined them up and drew construction lines where I wanted the windows. This ensured that the windows are reasonably level and in line on each wall.


The mechanical house was constructed following the photo and used 0.015  styrene sheet for the walls and roof, while 0.030 sheet was used for the base. It’s not clear from the image what the siding is, so I developed an off-white vertical wood batten texture. After experimenting with color I printed the texture onto #110 cardstock, then used CA spread thinly to skin the walls.

Windows and doors are from the Tichy variety pack I bought a while ago. the 2513 door, 2512 window, and three 2518 windows make up the package. There aren’t any pictures of the front of the cab, so I assumed a large window with safety bars. The window is the 2512 window with the mullions cut out and the frame sectioned to fit. The trim is based on the Cheney Lumber – sponsored Studs baseball team colors of blue and white. I figured even in 1948 there’d be protection against a log coming inboard, so the large window has a safety grill of 0.5 mm rod painted Flat Black.

The windows were glazed with material from a report cover I had laying around, and there’s enough material to glaze an N-scale city. A diagonal piece of styrene to hold the structure square and Flat Black paint complete the interior.

I’d marked the center of the platform and the mechanical house base, then used a drill press to put a 1/4″ hole in both. I also fashioned and drilled a circular piece of 0.030 styrene to attach to the base of the mechanical house. This provides separation between the house and the platform, and serves as a bearing surface for rotation. A 1/4″ wooden dowel serves as the kingpin. I don’t anticipate fastening the bottom end of the king post: like battleship turrets, I expect gravity to keep everything in place.

Roof pieces were cut and sanded to fit, then overlain with a Tarpaper texture. I’ll add the smoke jack for the engine when the model is nearly done.  Now all the easy parts are done: time to move on to the crane supports and boom.






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The World’s Most Powerful Hobby

So powerful, in fact, the hobby press can create wormholes to the past, as the current Model Railroader cover attests:


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Raising Crane 1

The entire lumber yard of the layout is modeled after the Cheney Lumber facility in 1940’s Tacoma. The signature element of the scene is the gantry crane:


I figured I had enough scratch-building experience under my belt to have a go at this. The photo is a nice three-quarter shot, and there are a couple of standard-length freight cars in the uncropped image to aid in scaling. Like building an Interociter, you pick a place and start.

In this case I elected to start with the crane platform, as everything attaches to it. I used 0.030″ sheet styrene for the box, and 0.010 x 0.030 strip for the stiffeners. I trimmed the stiffeners after placement, and marked the center point of the top of the box for the spindle for the machinery house.


That’s the easiest part of the whole project.

The next step was to figure out the base and wheel mounting. I’d laid rail for the crane, and I wanted to have the crane mobile on the track. In keeping with using as much on-hand material as possible for this project, I decided to use some spare freight car wheels for the crane. The wheels are grossly oversize, but easier than fabricating scale wheels from round stock, and the wheels are easier to make operational.

My first thought was to fabricate wheel boxes out of 0.030 sheet, then use 0.080 rod for the spindle. This did work after a fashion, but was as fiddly and frustrating as might be imagined.



I did manage to get some sideframes, but they were fragile and generally unsatisfactory :



Rethinking, I decided to try 3 mm u-channel for the sideframes. This would be wide enough for the wheel, and the sides would give the side plates something to glue to. The closest thing I could find was 2.5 mm c-channel, and that worked well.


The parts prior to sanding and painting. The side plates are 0.015 sheet. I spent considerable time lining up the spindles.


Sideframes after painting, assembly, and weathering. The wheels roll, but the size is apparent. I’m hoping that because the sideframes will be ‘down in the weeds’ and attention will be drawn to the crane that the size won’t be so evident on the final model.

The sideframes were a lot more work than I expected, but I’m happy with the results. Next up is the machinery house.

Logging On

One of the signature, some might say the signature, element of lumber yards is wood. Lots of wood. The prototype I’m modeling stacked logs next to the tracks where the crane could reach them and presumably feed the mill. There aren’t any people in the photo so scaling the logs was a bit problematical. After experimenting with various diameters of round stock, it looked like 2 mm – 3 mm (scale 12″ – 18″) round would do the job. A credible representation of the log yard would require hundreds of ‘logs’, so I needed a cheap source. It turns out that 2.5 mm bamboo skewers cost less than $1.50 for a bag, and the skewers cut to 1″ (about 13 scale feet) would look right and supply all the logs I’d likely need.


I stuck the skewers in a piece of styrofoam, and painted them with Natural Brown acrylic. I slopped the paint on, so the bare areas would represent stripped bark on the logs. Some sticks were painted other colors for variety.


A bit of work with the Chopper, and viola! Logs.


I used a piece of balsa for a straightedge, and for a spacer between the stacks. Wet water and diluted white glue hold everything down.



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Portland Traction

In the vicinity of NW Vaughn St. and 26th Ave in Portland there’s an interesting collection of railroad equipment. It appears to be the maintenance shops for the Oregon Pacific Railroad, and while I’ve been by there a few times, I finally had time to stop and take some pictures.


Oregon Pacific SW-1 #100 is lettered for the Portland Traction Co., appears to be fresh out of the shop. There is a matching caboose.

portland-traction-loco-front portland-traction-loco-front-quarter portland-traction-loco-rear-quarter

Oregon Pacific 5100 is a former SP 70-ton loco that the OPR has painted in the original livery. The engine is normally located at the Oregon Rail Heritage center in Portland:


Samuels Pacific Industries is a GE 45 tonner stored operable with the second engine removed.


There’s a curve up a rather steep grade behind the shops, and some track reinforcement was required:


An electrical box on wheels:


The railroad is family-owned and has a rail-fan friendly reputation. If you’re in the area, check them out.




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Cheney Lumber Pt. 2

I decided to tackle the lumber storage/loading area next. From the photo, It doesn’t look like the concrete pads are at freight door height. I decided to cheat a bit and make the uncovered pad high enough to load boxcars. Construction was from 0.030 sheet styrene, and I had to buy some for one of the pads. I used Rustoleum Multicolor Texture paint for, um, texture, then Grey primer for color. Weathering was from earth-colored pastels. I added a scale 12 x 12 timber bumper to the front of the loading dock to allow for more leeway in positioning piece. CA bonded everything in place.



To ease the transition between the flat and raised pads, I used water putty to simulate a dirt road between them. During the process some putty got on the pads, but I like the effect of mud splashed up.


The space between the curve and spur is a log storage area. I textured the space with Woodland Scenics Earth, Grass, and Weed products. There’s a mixture of ballast and cinders on the tracks. The idea was to get the ‘ground’ level more-or-less even with the track level. I layered each application so it built up. I’m pretty happy with the way the tracks seem to disappear into the ground. There’s far more vegetation than would be found in a working yard, or in the prototype photo, but I think it will look good in the end.

I decided to make this corner of the layout into a millpond. There was no intent to put a water feature here, but I didn’t know what else to do with the space. From the prototype photo it’s not unreasonable to have a millpond in close proximity to the mill. After cutting away the foam I slathered the basin with water putty and painted with varying dilutions of India ink.


npp-sawmill-site-work-3 npp-sawmill-site-work-2

So the basic site work is in for this part of the project.

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Cheney Lumber Pt. 1

With the urban side of the layout about 70% complete I wanted to work on the sawmill side.

npp-layout-1612073 npp-layout-1612072 npp-layout-161207

When I designed the layout, I planned for a sawmill for one side. Because the track plan was designed for switching operation, it was fixed, so I had to find a mill with tracks laid out similar to what I had. Tacoma had a number of mills around the city in the late 1940’s; one of the reasons I chose the area.

I found a couple of aerial photos of the Cheney Lumber company in the late 40’s. It was compact, visually interesting, and could be adapted to my track plan.

cheney-lumberyard-tacoma-2 cheney-lumberyard-tacoma I especially like the gantry crane.

Cheney Lumber is somewhat famous in the wood products industry as the company that introduced the standard 2 x 4 x 8′ building stud. The company had specialized in railroad ties, but after the war demand declined. The standards of railroad tie manufacture also produced a significant amount of waste. Because ties were 8′ long, and most residential ceilings were of similar height, Cheney realized they could produce standard lumber for the burgeoning construction industry. I don’t know if the Northern Pacific really served Cheney Lumber, but in this case they do, I liked the idea of having a little history on the layout.

Because I didn’t have clear idea of what exactly the sawmill area would look like, I’d left two spur tracks on the roadbed. The other I’d graded down to the layout surface. From the photos it appears the siding tracks are pretty much in the dirt. Whether or not the NP served the mill, that’s consistent with their siding roadbed.

I’ve been working on the layout for nearly two years, and I’ve done a lot of scratch building. It’s an aspect of the hobby I enjoy. The corollary is like everyone else I’ve acquired some tools and a fair amount of material. I wanted to see how much of this project I could build with the resources to hand.

The first step was to raise the ground to more nearly track level.


I used 1/4″ foam board cut to fit as the new ground, then covered everything with water putty to hide seams and add texture. Everything was painted Rustoleum Camouflage Brown.


The crane rails were made from Code 55 rail glued to 0.100 x 0.060 styrene strip. It’s oversize, but so are the rails. I painted and weathered the rails prior to installation. I simple gauge from scrap styrene kept everything in place. The rails were CA’d to the surface.

npp-aligning-crane-rails-2 npp-aligning-crane-rails

The area around the track was painted with Apple Barrel Natural Brown, which looks more like Carolina clay than anything you’ll see around Tacoma, but I figured most of it would disappear under ground cover.



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