Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Whew! Finally!

Let me explain how things can happen. I originally bought Walthers' Coke Oven kit in the late '90s when it first came out. I built it pretty much stock, without any frills and dressings. And like almost everyone else who bought one, I thought it looked too short. It was only 18 ovens, even though the kit was based on Dean Freytag's 36 oven scratchbuilt complex which appeared in Model Railroader in the early '90s. It was pretty bland, and I just let it sit around for years, collecting dust.

Then a little over two years ago, Walthers re-released the whole steel making line, all with enhancements (except for the Electric Furnace).  The new Coke Ovens came with a charging larry and quench car, and they looked very nice. I didn't think I wanted another oven kit, so I called Walthers to see if they offered the sprues separately, or were they going to offer them as a dedicated kit. They said  "NO" to both.

Well................I did think my existing kit was too small, and the larry and quench car looked cool, so I broke down and bought the new kit. And the larry and quench car are cool. As far as assembly, I put together the new ovens, then did a lot of cutting and filing to make it fit with the old ones. It definitely looked more prototypical with 36 ovens than 18.

Imagine my surprise when six months later I saw the Charging Larry and Quench Car released as a kit by themselves. I felt betrayed, until......................I saw the price. $60!  $60? Are you kidding me, $60?  But yeah, if I hadn't bought the complete kit, I probably would have shelled out the $60.  Wait a minute, I only paid $120 for the complete kit . That means I really only spent $60 for the coke oven parts. Hmmm, pretty shrewd on my part. And to top it off, not long after I scored an original kit on eBay for $40. Take that, Walthers! (I don't even know what that means.) So, that meant I had enough parts to make a 54 oven complex, and a butt load of pieces to make auxiliary buildings.

I started out as before, assembling the new one, then cutting and fitting it to the existing one. However, something just wasn't right about it. Seems the more you cobble-up a project, the more it looks............ well, cobbled-up. So, I broke or cut all the glue joints of all the pieces until I had the original parts to all three kits. With file and saw, I cleaned up all joints and organized all the parts for re-assembly. Working on a piece of  absolutely flat plate glass, I glued all the roofs together, all the right sides, all the left sides, the base and platforms, all together. This allowed me to make sure everything was flat and square. This made it easy to put these sub-assemblies together, nice and square.

Picture time!  This first shot shows the progress I had made with just two of the kits. The building on the right is the beginning of the Electrical Room, which is butted up to the end of the ovens. Notice the size of the wall between the two oven halves. Also take a good look at the space underneath the Bunker. As I said in a previous post, the Charging Larry will not fit under it to receive its charge.

The three kits assembled. Some things to notice: 1) The walls between the ovens are now the same width as an individual oven. 2) I added a 'covered porch' to the end, moving the Electrical Room further away. 3) I removed the ledge from this side of the ovens. This allows for a more dramatic height, and lets the Pusher run closer to the ovens. (The Pusher is the machine that pushes the coke out of the oven. I haven't made one yet, so there's no need to keep score.) The new foundation is made of concrete block by, wait for it, Pikestuff.

The porch without the cover. I felt this kit needed a lot more piping, so Mr Plastruct and I built this addition to display pumps, and tanks, and pipes. Here you can get a good look at the detail of the Pikestuff block.

The populated porch, now covered, and the Electrical Room on its own pad.

If you look closely at the bottom of the Bunker, you can see the 1/2" foundation I put under it to raise it enough to clear the Charging Larry. Of course that simply raised the Larry platform too, so I had to lower the supporting girders by 1/2".  And more piping, I said? Drilling 54 holes exactly centered under each oven door was not as complicated as you might believe. " The real bitch was inventing the CandyGram." Actually, drilling 54 equally-spaced holes in a straight line the length of a round tube was the bi...... well, let me say this was the third attempt at it, and there wasn't going to be a fourth.

The porch end. People familiar with this model kit will notice I increased the exhaust output pipes from one to three, necessitating an enlarged shack above.

So you must be saying, "Whew Don, finally." No, not quite. The problem with a model this size is, no matter how much I tried to brace it, it's flimsy and fragile. One reason I had put this project aside for a while is when moving it around to work on one side, I was breaking pieces off on the other side. In the picture above, the white pipe is not permanently attached, nor is the Electrical Room. No, to bring this project to a conclusion would require mounting it to some sort of rigid base. The size of the base and its composition was the internal debate I argued for way too long. Should I make it only slightly larger than the model, or something larger?  Wood or expanded PVC? In the end I decided on a wood base, large enough for the Oven and most of the out-buildings. Playing around with all the various parts, I determined I could get most of them on a base five feet long by sixteen inches wide. Well, I'd put this off long enough, "Let's do it!"

I started with a framework ripped to 1x2 size from a straight 2x4 that had been in the garage for a couple of years. I shot the outside pieces together with the nailer. I then ripped a piece of plywood that had Formica attached and ran it between the ends . I figured the Formica would help stiffen the plywood. Its location, as well as the locations of the cross-braces, was calculated to give maximum support to the odd shaped board to the right. That board was cut to fit perfectly inside the oven.

The pneumatic stapler made short work of attaching the 1/4" Masonite to the framework. You can see where I marked the location of the underlying braces on the top. Staples tend to dimple the surrounding surface up, so I knocked them off with the sander.

The oven base with the bracing locations transferred to it. Counter-sunk holes with a crap-load of screws means this piece is here to stay. (Sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the crap-load of screws installed. I'll bet you can picture it, though.)

Even with all my efforts to ensure squareness, inaccuracies crept in. It doesn't look like much, but even a small loco riding this ledge leans unrealistically. Attaching it to the base would allow me to correct this problem.

I cut this piece slightly under-sized to fit under the ledge. (I had to notch it to clear some internal bracing.) A shim of .040 styrene and a layer of Funny Foam gave a perfectly cushioned fit.

Small counter-sunk screws down both side put everything in its proper location. Just need to disguise the screws and I'm golden.

The fully attached and rigid Coke Oven. It ain't goin' nowhere. Now I can start hanging all the delicate part on it.

 Whew! Finally!



  1. Hi Don,

    Though I'm still not that fond of this kind of model, I can't help reading about your progress throughout this project: I really like the way you describe and illustrate every step...

    The final result looks great: nice work, Don! You can be proud of it!

    As you've wrote: Whew! Finally! ;-)

  2. Thanks again Neelix. As I've said, I'm having a blast doing this. And even though you and Jim are the only ones to have commented, my traffic counts show I have quite a few 'silent partners' out there. I'd welcome comments from everyone. Don

  3. Oh, you know, I was also a forum/blog "lurker" for a long time. Then, one day, I decided I would let the others know about my mind even though my comments are not quite thrilling... At least, I like to recognize someone's skills!