Hazel Mine Tipple - Construction
08/07/2020
This is about the best photo I have of the tipple (found it on the Internet many years ago). It was taken in the early 1900s, but later than 1902, since it already has the extension on the right-hand side covering over track #5 and beyond, which was a later addition. You can also make out the position of the windows quite well in the photo. The photo was taken from the east side facing the west side, in the loaded-cars yard area. The mine entrance is across the Chartiers Creek on the left-hand side. Canonsburg's border was the creek, so the tipple was located in Canonsburg itself, but the mine was under Buffalo Hill, which is in North Strabane township.
Hazel Mine Tipple
Since the building is quite sizable (it is 28-1/2" long), I decided to make its frame out of plywood. I will laminate the visible sheathing to this frame. I had originally thought about making a detailed interior for this structure, but I just don't have the time to do that right now, so this approach makes for a fast and solid construction. The ends were made out of 3/4" plywood, so that there would be some glue surface to glue the long sides to. The sides were cut from 1/4" plywood. The roof slope was extrapolated from known measurements and scaled estimates of prototype photos. The roof angle wound up being about 48 degrees. The main body of the building is a scale 16 feet tall, and the roof area is an additional 13 feet tall.
Hazel Mine Tipple
A long, 1/4"-thick side wall isn't going to be sturdy enough, so I decided to add interior bracing. However, I didn't want that bracing to interfere with the windows of the building, so I first had to determine where those windows are on the building. From available prototype information, drawings, and photos, I determined there were 6 large windows and one small one. The large ones are 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall. The small one is 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall. As near as I can tell from photos and drawings, all seven windows appeared on both side walls at the same relative position. The shaded areas in the photo are where the windows need to be.
Hazel Mine Tipple
This then allowed me to position the internal braces, made out 3/4" plywood, and glue them into place. I am gluing them on a glass plate, so that their tops are flush with the top of the side panels.
Hazel Mine Tipple
The next day I put the building in its position on the layout, when I noticed that the 1/4" plywood sides had warped. The tipple foundation blocks are perfectly positioned, so you can see just how much of a warp there was.
Hazel Mine Tipple
But, because I had made the internal braces all the same width (height in this scenario), I was able to cut another piece of 1/4" plywood and glue that all the way through the interior. This made the whole thing be straight again, while still allowing for some of the "openness" of the underside of the tipple to be visible in the future. In the real world, the interior of the building, of course, had a floor in it as well.
Hazel Mine Tipple
At the back of the tipple (near the creek, and thus the mine entrance), the two sides are of a different length. After studying prototype photos, I concluded that the original covered area ended where the short side wall ended. The roof line must have been extended at some point in time, a bit over the tracks coming up from the incline, maybe because of weather.
Hazel Mine Tipple
As they say, "measure twice, cut once", I re-measured from the drawings and photos the positions of the windows, and clearly marked them on the side walls. I then marked the center point of each of the windows, and then duplicated those points on the other side wall, too.
Hazel Mine Tipple
I could then use my drill-press and a Forstner bit to cut out the window openings. So, why cut circles when the windows were rectangular? Well, the 1/4" plywood walls scale out to 16 inches in S-scale. I seriously doubt the walls of the tipple building were that thick. The walls were likely just metal framing covered by corrugated sheet material, with probably no insulation. So, to avoid the 1/4" plywood from being visible at the windows, I made the hole bigger than I need for the windows, so that I can build up the edges of the windows from styrene later on.
Hazel Mine Tipple
When I cut the ends of the building out 3/4" plywood, I made two of them. I knew the one for the back of the building was more complicated. I determined where the shorter end of the building ended, and then cut that end panel on the table saw, to leave me with two pieces, both having the same roof slope. The shorter end of the building is closed off, but the longer end is open to the tracks coming up from the mine's incline. I then cut and fitted some pieces of leftover plywood to enclose the walls.
Hazel Mine Tipple
Next, I wanted to add supports to the roof sheets, but when I did that, I noticed that there was something odd about the building. The long sides were nice and straight, but the front end wall didn't seem to line up with the concrete foundations, which I know are perfectly aligned. I took a square to the corner, and, sure enough, it was off. I used a square to attach the front end wall to the two long side panels, but somewhere along the way while the glue was drying, it must have wandered off somewhat. This top-down photo clearly shows the amount of a gap, as the interior floor "brace" I had put in there, was cut nice and straight.
Hazel Mine Tipple
To solve this issue, my plan was to cut out the end wall and start over again. I set the tablesaw fence at 1/4" and put the building on its end wall and made the cut. When I did that, the end wall snapped out and wound up being perfectly square to the other wall, as can be seen by the placement on the foundation blocks. So, now all I have to do is deal with this gap, but that can be easily hidden when I get around to installing the exterior sheathing.
Hazel Mine Tipple
To make sure that the cut didn't weaken the structure, and to make sure that the end wall remained at a 90-degree angle, I cut and glued this piece of plywood into the interior corner.
Hazel Mine Tipple
And, so then I decided to make this handy hand-tool carrying box...

Naw, just kiddin'! I had some leftover angle bracket wood, and glued two of them into the building, flush with the angled tops of the ends walls (the second one is behind the one visible in the photo). These will provide the support for the roofing material to be installed.
Hazel Mine Tipple
I spent some time thinking about whether or not to scratchbuild the window frames for this structure. The odds of finding the exact size in the exact configuration were pretty slim. I searched both S-, O-, and HO- products, but couldn't find anything that matched exactly. However, the amount of time it would take to do a credible job at building the window frames from scratch would be quit large, especially knowing that I'd have 14 window frames to make. So, I decided to go with the items sold by Tichy Train Group. There is one small 2'x3' window at the end of each side of the tipple. I found an exact match to the size in Tichy's S-scale "Work Car Window" (part #3536).
Hazel Mine Tipple
These come with window glazing, so that makes it easy. There are six per package, but I only need two.
Hazel Mine Tipple
There are six large windows per side. These measure 4'x6' (from my own estimation by measuring prototype photos). I was not able to get an exact match as far as size, but I found the 9-over-9 configuration more important than the dimensions. Tichy has these 27-pane windows, which are 9/9/9 format. So, my plan is to cut one of the 9x9 panes off of each, which leaves me with the configuration that is visible in the prototype photos.
Hazel Mine Tipple
This close-up photo shows where I plan on cutting these windows. There are 4 individual frames per package, and I need 12 frames. The Tichy frames are 41" wide instead of the desired 48", and the cut-off portion will be 96" tall instead of the desired 72". So, I will have to make some adjustments to the wooden frame of the building. The package also comes with "weathered" glazing. This is Tichy's part #3520, intended for use in roundhouses or factories.
Hazel Mine Tipple
A number of years ago I received a package of six of these metal sheets. They seem to be some sort of tin, and they are corrugated. At the time I already knew that I was going to build this coal tipple, so I set these aside for this project. Six of these sheets should be enough for the vertical walls for this building. It's not enough to also do the roof, so I will be making the roof out of formed heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Hazel Mine Tipple
So, while I was waiting for the Tichy window frames to arrive in the mail, I started cutting up these metal sheets into scale 4'x8' sheets, which it appears that the prototype had for its external sheathing. The metal did not take any pen or pencil marks, so I covered it with blue masking tape, and laid out the 4'x8' cutting pattern on that.
Hazel Mine Tipple
It cut well with an older pair of medium-duty scissors, so I cut the sheets up into these scale panels. The corners curled a bit as the scissors cut them, but that is easy enough to fold straight again.
Hazel Mine Tipple
Enough for one of the long sides.
Hazel Mine Tipple
And now it is time to start working on the window frames. This photo shows one of the Tichy's window frame sprues.
Hazel Mine Tipple
Thinking about how to cut this frame up to make it closer to the size that I need, I decided to cut the top 9x9 portion off, while keeping its outer edge (on the left in the photo). I set up the NWSL Chopper, with its stop aligned with each of the cuts (since I have to do that for each of the 12 frames) and then just slowly cut through the part.
Hazel Mine Tipple
After a bit of filing, I could then just glue the top edge back to the larger piece, to form the window frame that I wanted. The metal weights hold the parts together while I apply the glue to the gap. I am doing the gluing on a sheet of glass, so that the glue doesn't stick, and to make sure that the parts line up perfectly.
Hazel Mine Tipple
This is the final frame, in its correct position. Since the prototype photos show no trim around the window openings, I am going to be installing this window frame "backwards". The photos show the bottom 9x9 section as sliding up, so I am going to position it such that it is on the inside of the building. So, this is the way the window frame looks when viewed from the outside.
Hazel Mine Tipple
Since the entire window frame has to fit within the opening (the 1/4" plywood is thicker than the total depth of the window frame part), I need to make the holes larger. I placed the center of the frame along the horizontal center line drawn through all the openings, and then traced out the outer edges of the frame. You can see where I shaded the to-be-cut-out parts.
Hazel Mine Tipple
I used a small handsaw to cut the vertical lines first, and then used a jigsaw to make the horizontal cuts. I was worried about the top of the plywood breaking, so I made sure to have the jigsaw cut as slow as it would go, and all the cuts went without a hitch. The window frame needs to fit somewhat loosely into the opening.
Hazel Mine Tipple
As I stated above, the window frame is thinner than the plywood, so I added some styrene strips to make up the scale 8" or so it was too short. They were glued in such a manner so as to not be visible from the outside. Remember that the frame is going to be positioned "backwards", which is why I glued these to the window frame's trim.
Hazel Mine Tipple
After making sure that each of the frames fits well within its opening, I cut two strips of 4"x10" styrene, applied 5-minute epoxy to one of its thin edges, and carefully positioned them on the inside of the building, on top of the window frame's styrene strips.
Hazel Mine Tipple
When the glue dried, this is what the interior looks like (upside-down). These long strips connect the window frames to the plywood sub-structure, and also prevent the windows from accidentally being pushed in if they are hit.
Hazel Mine Tipple
And this is what it looks like from the outside (right-side up).

Rinse, and repeat, four more times. Stay tuned!...
Hazel Mine Tipple