Iron Ore Mine & Steel Mill in N

Discussion in 'Logging, Mining and Industrial Railroads' started by DrGeologist, Nov 25, 2007.

  1. DrGeologist

    DrGeologist Canadian Down Under

    I've just joined so that I can take advantage of all the combined experience out there to help me along my first ever model railroad.

    Over the past few months I have slowly been acquiring all the materials I need to get started on my layout and doing an exhaustive amount of research. I am very much a beginner (having never made a model RR ever) but I’m keen to dive in head first.

    For several months now, I've had my benchwork complete as shown:

    Since then however, I have gotten my extruded foam: twelve 10cm thick sheets which should last for multiple layouts.


    I have also got my track: Peco N scale Set Track, mostly R1 and R2 curves, straights and a heap of flexitrack… all code 80. I have all my Peco electrofrog turnouts ST-5 ST-6 yet to arrive, but should be in my hands within a week or two. I’m also expecting some point motors as well.


    I also received my first kit: the Walthers Ore Dock. It’s a HO kit, but I’m planning on bashing it down to N. It’s 1.2 m long; at HO, that is ridiculously undersized, but in N, ~200m for a ore dock is just about perfect. I’m amazed at how big it is, 26 sprue sheets. It almost covers my layout bench!


    There will also be a large open cut iron ore mine on my layout. The mine will be located in the hills at the back of the layout, as seen in my illustrations below.


    Iron ore will then be transported to the lowlands where there will be an industrial area: blast furnace, E.A.F., rolling mill, coke ovens, etc. A branch off of the main line will go to the ore dock where excess iron ore will be exported. Bridge cranes will unload coal from freighters for the steel works. The rolled steel will also be exported via this seaport.

    It should take me about forever and a day to do this, but that’s the whole point I guess. I will continue to post my progress here and perhaps a few youtube videos. Again, I’m totally new to this, so comments and advice are welcome.
  2. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Welcome Dr. J! I like your layout's concept and I'm really looking forward to seeing that ore dock constructed (as are you I imagine!) :)

    Glad you could join us!
  3. rogerw

    rogerw Active Member

    Hi DR. J welcome aboard. Good thing you dont take on big projects:mrgreen:. Just kidding that sounds like a BIG undertaking. Dont get burnt out, take breaks if you need to. I am in the process of starting my construction on the layout after a year of planning. I did take a break or two. good luck and ask questions. Thanks roger
  4. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    Interesting. That should be a great layout in N scale. Large industries are a bit of a trick in larger scales. What era are you modeling?

  5. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    glad you joined us DR.J :thumb:,im glad to see another steel mill nut on here :mrgreen:.there are plenty of steel mill modelers on here so any questions you have just ask,theres someone her for everything :eek::rolleyes:.--josh
  6. DrGeologist

    DrGeologist Canadian Down Under

    I’m going fairly modern. I just got a GP38 last week, so I have to say post 1966. I have also bought a super-rare model bucket wheel excavator for my iron ore mine. I’m not sure when they were first used, but I’m guessing late 70’s. I have two blast furnace kits on order from Walthers. I’ve found that these blast furnaces are essentially timeless and the basics of making pig iron have gone unchanged for the last 100 years or so.

    I’m currently on holiday visiting family in Canada, so I won’t be doing much any modeling for a few weeks, but I am actively digging through ebay, sniffing out kits and rolling stock.

    I’m impressed with the large response in such a short time. I feel quite confident that I’ll be able to get the answers I need to any questions that I will undoubtedly have as I progress.
  7. inqzitr

    inqzitr Member

    Very nice! How'd you do those pics? Cool!

    Anyway, as I approach starting a small new layout after a hiatus, I've thought about this a lot too. I've done a lot of other modeling more recently, and these ideas apply there too.

    First, realize your limitations. Esp. if you are new to the hobby. Dream big, build small. Nothing more frustrating than starting something too large, and never getting it done. Happens in almost every hobby with modeling. It is better to finish something simple than never finish something big, esp. in this hobby.

    How to do this? Either model something small or model one thing at a time, complete it and then move on. Dont' try to get every building done at one time, or do every 'scene.' Work on a scene at a time. That's a suggestion, but its easier to eat an elephant one bite at a time, than the whole thing in one bite.

    Second, keep the project simple and even small. Realize this is not the end all. You can rebuild and redo a concept you like. And, when you do, you'll have a better understanding.

    Third, accept this mantra: "done is better than perfect." I got this from a buddy of mine who was building his own house, and was really nitpicky with the electrical work that was being done by a contractor. When being nitpicky, the electrician told him "it's better than perfect, its done." This one is hard for any scale modeler, and I'm no exception. That's why I'm saying it.

    From my experience, when you are doing something, and you think "its about done..." it likely is done enough. Post pics on forums like this and get feedback. When you stare at a project for hours, its very easy to miss very obvious things, and other ppl can give you some great feedback.

    Fourth- get it functioning as soon as possible. I saw this comment somewhere, and I thought it was a great idea. You need to get your track down so you can run trains, at least a mainline. Then work on the scenes bit by bit. That way, you can run trains and keep yourself interested and have something tangible to keep you motivated. Too, if you need to take a break b/c you get burnt out, you can still 'play with your trains'! :)

    Well, not that I know anything more than you, but I thought I'd offer some words of encouragement. I'm probably writing this more for me than you, but I hope you find something to help you in this.

    Keep posting pictures! I love to see progress!
  8. Gary S.

    Gary S. Senior Member

    Welcome to The Gauge, DoctorG. Great to see that you have a plan and are making progress. Thank you for sharing! Keep us posted on your work.
  9. DrGeologist

    DrGeologist Canadian Down Under

    Thanks for the advice. I think my wife too would like to see a train going around the mianline sooner rather than later just because for her, that's more interesting than watching me build kits.

    I've strategically decided to start with the ore dock because it will have to be integraded as part of the track layout. The same is true for the blast furnace high lines.

    I may also ask this question in a new thread in the "Scratchin' & Bashin'" section, but can anyone help me bash the HO scale ore dock down to N? ...the problem I have is the pre made HO gauge track grooves that run down the length of the dock. The blast furnaces, rolling mills, etc, also have these grooves, but of course these kits come in N scale so it's not a problem.

    I'll try to post a photo or two or a video showing what I'm talking about, but I'm overseas on holiday now for a few more weeks, so I can't for a while. I am thinking of just laying flexitrack down over the existing HO track grooves and cutting away the ties where the ore would drop through.
  10. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Doctor G,
    First, Welcome to the gauge! I think you will like it here!
    I learned, early on as a ship modeler, that we build models of parts of ships, and then assemble them into a ship. first, there is a satisfaction of completion with each piece done, then, finally, with the whole project.
    BTW, A model railroad layout "is never finished".
    The ore dock: Each bay of the dock will need to be reduced in all three dimensions, to be believeable. I would take one bay, and write down what needs to be done to each piece of it. Then, build one bay, noting any problems,(and correct them), then you have a set pattern for each of the additional bays.
    The grooves, for the HO track, could be laid over with "timber" to act as "safety rails", with the N scale rails centered between, much the same way as a trestle deck.
    When I read that you were using an HO ore dock kit, the first thought that came to mind was my project, converting the Lindberg "Jolly Roger" pirate ship kit, into HMS Surprise, from the movie "Master and Commander, the far side of the world". Major kitbash !!! Again, if you document each "first step", you can simply repeat for each section. The hardest part of a kit bash, is deciding what to do to each part, to make it into the new item. The second hardest part?....accepting the fact that not too many people really know exactly what details make up an ore dock!, and giving yourself permission to "make it your own", especially if you are not modeling a specific prototype. May the build go well, and the result be pleasing to you.
  11. bigsteel

    bigsteel Call me Mr.Tinkertrain

    DR.G i cant wait to see pics of that ore dock :thumb:,i have a few pics of models and prototype in HO for reference as i was going to build on but couldnt fit it in my trackplan :cry:.if you want i can post'em for ya.--josh
  12. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    Boy, in the end I think it might be easier to scratchbuild an N ore dock than to try to cut down the HO one. You're going to have to reduce each chute by almost half, redo the supports underneath so it's about half as tall etc. My hat's off to you if you can pull it off, but I think I would concentrate on the other parts of the layout - an iron mine, a steel mill, and an ore dock all take up a huge amount of space even in N. I'd concentrate on two (or even one) area and not try all three.
  13. DrGeologist

    DrGeologist Canadian Down Under

    Yeah the chutes are the only really hard thing to scale down to N. I may just leave them as they are and hope that no one notices!!! ;-) I’m not to worried about the height because I will have the dock jetting out into the harbor, so the bottom several scale feet will be below water and it should look pretty good (hopefully) when it’s done. I’m pretty excited about it, and I’ll keep you posted, of course, as I progress.
  14. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    Not to be a wet blanket, but I would really like to see you do a LOT more research before starting the ore dock project. It's really not going to be easy to "cut down" the ore dock into anything approaching a realistic N scale ore dock. I would suggest - since you're modelling in the "taconite era" - looking at maybe scratchbuilding a concrete style ore dock like the one built by Erie Mining for unloading taconite, or Reserve Mining's combined taconite plant and ore dock at Beaver Bay. That would be a lot easier than what you contemplate and would probably turn out far better.
  15. DrGeologist

    DrGeologist Canadian Down Under

    Right on, thanks for the suggestions. I’ll certainly look into more modern, concrete style ore docks, but in the mean time, I’ll have to hold off scratch building an N scale ore dock until I develop my skills.

    Don’t be fooled by the ore dock, as the title of this thread implies; this is an iron ore mine and steel mill layout, not an ore dock project. The emphasis of the layout will be on the mine itself and the steel works. After building the dock I can always swap it out to perhaps a HO project that I may do way down the line, but for now I’m going to live on the wild side and see if she fits in peripheral to the steel mill.

    I also intend to use a modified version of the Walthers HO bridge crane in the layout. I’ve seen this done successfully in a couple other steel mill projects done in N. I guess my thinking is that the massive scale of these structures should tie together quite nicely. We’ll just have to wait and see…
  16. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    Sounds good, I can think of one instance of that kind of set-up in the real world. There was a steel plant in Duluth MN that got ore directly from the mines via the DM&IR, it mainly made smaller steel items like barbed-wire fences.

    Interestingly, Henry Ford wanted to build a huge Ford plant in Duluth, with it's own steel works - basically, iron ore and coal would come in one end, and automobiles out the other end!! But Duluth wouldn't give him the tax breaks he wanted, so instead he built the gigantic River Rouge plant in Michigan.

    I wonder how much the Duluth economy (and tax coffers) would have gotten back over the years if they'd been a little more flexible??
  17. DrGeologist

    DrGeologist Canadian Down Under

    Being away on vacation for the past few weeks, I haven’t made any further ‘progress’ on the layout, in the literal sense, however I did do a fair bit of online shopping. Now that I’m back home, Christmas has come early, as there were several packages waiting for me; so now, I can really get started.

    First of all, I now have 13 point turnouts and a couple of truss bridges. Also I now have some WS incline sets and tunnel portals and retaining walls. This means I can get started on laying down my extruded foam and do some serious terraforming.

    I also have my first loco -GP38- and some rolling stock to get me started. I’m still waiting on an absolutely beautiful ‘old school’ MRC dual train controller to power it though.

    Sadly I’ve left the download cable to my digital camera at my ‘inlaw’s house (4hr drive away) so I can’t show you any new photos yet, but as always: watch this space.
  18. Kevinkrey

    Kevinkrey Member

    Hey Dr Geologist. I am modeling the mighty DMIR in ho scale. I am building an HO ore dock completly from scratch. I havn't started yet, because I do not know where to. One suggestion, if you scale down yours, or if you rebuild one, (Id maybe be interested in your kit if you rebuild), maybe consider rebuilding the chutes into modern conveyer type chutes. they are used to reach out aand load the larger, wider ships that cant be loaded with regular gravity fed chutes, I will try and find you some pics.

    Is there a speciffic railroad you have in mind?

    Feel free to ask me if you have any questions. Hopefully we can help each other with our ore docks.
  19. DrGeologist

    DrGeologist Canadian Down Under

    “Specific railroad in mind?” …well, I could say the mining component is very loosely based on the Dampier region of the Pilbara iron ore province, down under here in Australia. Because I’m using ye old faithful Wathers Cornerstone blast furnaces, coke ovens, etc. I can’t really avoid the Great Lakes ‘feel’ for my Steel Mill, however the steel mills at Wollongong and Newcastle (outside of Sydney) are sorta the same flavour anyways.

    I noticed while researching ore docks that the modern ones often do have the conveyors (i.e. DM&IR Duluth dock no. 6). More interesting though, is that particular dock was upgraded from having chutes to using conveyors. So I figure I’ll just build the ore dock as is, and down the track when I have the parts, time, and initiative, may do the same to mine.

    Thanks again.
  20. DrGeologist

    DrGeologist Canadian Down Under

    My First Mistake

    So… as previously mentioned, this is my first ever model railroad project and I’m a complete newbie to this hobby… this was confirmed today.

    I obviously don’t know much about couplers. Silly me, I thought all N scale rolling stock and locos would have a single standard type of coupler, however, my GP38 (no matter how nicely I talk to it) won’t join with my coal/ore hoppers rolling stock.




    I’m hoping that I can find a coupler conversion kit out there for my GP38 because I quite like it and I’d hate to see it shelved because of my ignorance.

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