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Peter's Model Railroading | The Layout | Stops | The Hazel Mine Complex | Hazel Mine Tipple
Incline Detailing


This is probably the best prototype photo I have of the incline. Photographer is unknown, and I downloaded it from the "prr_panhandle" Yahoo Groups mailing list back when it still existed. The photographer is standing on Buffalo Hill across the Chartiers creek from where the Hazel mine tipple was located. The mine itself went hundreds of feet under Buffalo Hill. You can clearly see the loaded mine carts going up the incline on the far track, and the empties coming back down the other track. They latched on to a pair of constantly moving chains.

This photo/drawing/artist-rendering shows the as-built image in 1900. You can see the incline from the other angle; almost diagonally across from where the above photo was taken. You can see the two abutments that the incline sits on, as well as the mine entrance portal on the other side of the Chartiers creek.

I decided to build the track first. This is the engineering diagram's portion that covers the incline's track area, as seen from above looking down. Between the abutments the track appears to be laid on ties that span the entire incline's width. This would make sense as that would allow employees to walk up and down the incline should something need to be worked on. The documentation I have, stated that this track was gauged to 3-1/2' (42"), so in S-scale that would be Sn42. The tracks are very near the edges of the ties.

Since the top of my incline framework only has 7 H-beams going across it width-wise, I decided that I'd need to build the I-beams that would provide support for the cross-ties. My incline track area is 19-1/2" long and 3" wide. I decided to use 1-foot wide I-beams, but I only had enough of the Plastruct ABS sections left over for three, and they weren't long enough (14"). Luckily, I had several pieces of Evergreen styrene I-beams that were also 1 foot wide. So, the first thing I did was I created the four I-beams and cut them to 19-1/2" long. I decided to use code 55 rail for the track (leftover from my N-scale days). I made those 20" long, so that they would stick into the tunnel portal of the mine entrance a little bit. On the left side of the photo, you can see some thin plywood squares. Those are my track gauges for Sn42. I made them from leftover sprues of laser-cut wooden kits. I put arrows on them to point to the edges that need to be flat up against the rail heads, as the other sides are random.

Once I had the gauge squares cut, I needed something to hold them in position. I have a pile of these popsicle sticks (available at Hobby Lobby, for example), so I first glued the squares at roughly the center of the popsicle sticks. This then allowed me to place them in between two of the plastic I-beams. If I were to actually have running track that needed to be gauged to Sn42, I'd make some much better ones, but for a static model, these are fine. So, the idea is to put the I-beams under the rail as much as possible. I used metal weights to keep this delicate assembly in position. I could then use superglue to attach the 3-inch long cross ties. I spaced the initial set at 1-inch increments. This gave me the fundamental framework for the track.

When that was cured, I went back in and put three cross-ties in between each of the first set of ties.

The next step was to stain the ties. I used a Minwax stain pen ("Dark Walnut") to do the bottom and sides of the ties. It worked, but it was a bit tedious. This was the first time I had used one of those pens. I let that dry overnight, and the next day I applied the famous india-ink-and-alcohol mixture on the tops of the ties. What I found interesting was that when that had dried, there wasn't much of a difference in the look between the two applications, and, frankly, I liked the alcohol approach better and it stunk less. I wanted to stain the ties first, so that when I got to painting the I-beams, the paint "spills" wouldn't seal the wood to the stain. So, the next day I painted the I-beams with Vallejo "German Black Brown". The day after that I started gluing the rail to the ties using superglue. I placed the outside rails one scale foot away from the edge of the ties. Once that rail was in position, I used the make-shift gauges to position the other rail, and placed metal weights on them in the area where I was applying glue. I glued every spot where the rail met a tie. When this was done, the whole assembly became very solid. I normally work on a glass plate, but mine is only 12" square, so I had to use my desk for this assembly, as I needed 19-1/2" of flat surface.

I used Vallejo "Surface Primer German Red Brown" to paint and age the rails, being careful to wipe off any paint from the tops of the rails as I went. One coat appeared to be enough. Any paint getting on the ties was OK, as that represents rust bleed. As you can see in the photo, there were a couple of spots where I missed painting the I-beams, so those were all touched-up as well, as I reviewed the entire assembly before installation.

That completes the work on the track section that I built off-line. I used gel superglue to attach that section to the incline's framework. To make sure it would stay down while the glue cured, I needed to put metal weights on it, but they would, of course, slide down the rails. So, I came up with this idea of using the plastic clothespins to hold the weights in position. The area near the top of the incline seemed the most prone to want to pop up, so I put two weights there.

I really need to start working on some photography view blocks as the surrounding room's "clutter" interferes with the module's photos. But here is the from-the-back-of-the-module view of the incline's track fully installed. I plan on adding weathering to the ties in the future, and eventually I will also build a large number of mine carts to be positioned on the tracks. I may also add the chains to which they are hooked, although that will be hard to see from the front of the layout. Again, my overall focus is to get the big items built and installed; other details, which are easily within reach, can be added at any time in the future.

The next big step is to create and install the abutments that the incline actually rests on. The three images at the top of this page provide just about all the info that I have on the abutments. I have made abutments out of plaster before, from a mold I made myself, but that is a lot of work. Also, the stone that the prototype's abutments are made out of are pretty rough-faced, which I wasn't confident I could reproduce. So, I visited Pre-Size Model Specialties' web site and looked for items that matched what the photos above show. Their part number PS511 "Stone Bridge Abutment" seemed to be a very good match to the stones shown in the photos.
(external link: Pre-Size Model Specialties)

What you get is very high-quality material, but it is not cheap (rightfully-so, in my opinion). Normally you need two abutments for a span, but when I looked at the photos, I realized that a good portion of the abutments would be hidden by the river bank scenery base. Also, the upper portion of the abutment isn't needed by either of the abutments shown in the prototype photos. So, after thinking about it for a while, I realized that I could just buy one of these, and then cut it up into four sections. The orange lines indicate where I am thinking about making the cut lines. The bottom section will be the abutment for the incline near the front/tipple side of the incline (and won't really be visible from the front of the layout). The center section with the overhang, will be the abutment on the far side of the incline (across the creek in front of the mine entrance portal, and it will be visible from the front of the layout). The top section will be cut down the middle vertically to form the two side walls of the far-side abutment. The abutments will be placed on wooden blocks to get them to their proper heights, and those will be hidden by the river bank scenery base later on.

The abutment is hollow in the back, so it will require a bit of creativity with the scenery layer later on to hide that, but that shouldn't be too big of an issue.

So, the first task is to cut this one abutment up into the four parts. I wanted to keep the amount of material lost due to the cutting to a minimum, so I started off with using the X-Acto handsaw, but it took "forever" to make a cut. So, I switched to using the dovetailing handsaw I have (shown in the photo) and that went much faster. It also has a relatively thin kerf, so I didn't loose too much material. The photo shows the four parts I cut out. The Pre-Size material is easy to cut with the appropriate saw, but it is sturdy material. The company claims that it is nearly unbreakable, and I would definitely agree with that.

My initial plan was to position the four parts as shown in this photo. The abutment on the left would go on the side where the main tipple building is, and the rest would go where the mine entrance will be across the creek.

However, when I test-fitted the parts by the mine entrance, I realized that the depth of the cut-off of the abutment was a good match to what the prototype photos show, and so the two small cut-offs aren't needed there. But the other abutment needs to be positioned such that its hollow back is toward the front of the layout. The prototype photos shows a couple of rows of stones used in the backside of that abutment. So, a light went off in my head, to simply glue the two small cut-offs to the top of the back of that abutment. This is shown in this photo. I placed the abutment upside-down on a sheet of wax paper (after cleaning its top ridges) and placed the two small cut-offs against its back. I used 5-minute epoxy as I needed that adhesive's strength, and the parts weren't a perfect fit, so there were some gaps in spots, so the glue would fill those gaps. I applied a liberal amount of the epoxy, as I figured I could file off the excess. This photo shows the result of the glue-up with the abutment stood right-side up. The gap is due to the fact that the original abutment is skinnier at the top than it is toward the bottom. Since that gap will be behind the tipple, and I plan on adding a scenery base in that area anyway, this was not a concern for me.

What was a concern for me was the open top (as shown in the photo above). The tipple's incline is supposed to be resting on this. So, I placed it upside-down on a sheet of styrene, and roughly marked off the outline of the top of the abutment. I then cut that out of the sheet, and glued it to the top of the abutment using gel superglue. When that had cured, I filed the styrene at the top to match the profile of the stones of the top row of the abutment. There was a good-sized gap in some areas between the top of the abutment and the styrene, so I back-filled that gap with liberal amounts of Aleene's Tacky glue; kind of using it like a caulk. I noticed that the gel superglue let go in a couple of spots as I was filing the styrene, so I applied regular superglue to the joint between the abutment and the styrene on the under/back-side. So, there are now three glues used to, hopefully, permanently attach this sheet of styrene to this resin abutment. This photo shows the assembly in its position on the module. I need to raise it up with some wood bracing to get it to touch the underside of the incline framework. This bracing will be hidden by the river bank scenery base, so that is not a problem.

The other abutment was a near-perfect fit for the incline. I had to file the bottom of it by just a hair. I want the abutments to not go beyond the right edge of the module (in the prototype photos it does go a bit farther to the right), so as to not interfere with the next module. However, the vertical edge of the module base itself stuck up a bit from the top of the horizontal base, so I had to file the vertical edge down a bit to get the abutment to sit flush with the edge of the module.

I decided to paint the abutments on the workbench, as that would be easier to do, as well as their tops are unreachable once attached to the incline's framework. The top of the abutment shown on the left in this photo, was just a flat sheet of styrene. I wanted to make an attempt at making it look like it is a continuation of the stones of the abutment casting. I used a dental scraper to make grooves into the styrene, closely matching where the tops of the stones would be. This photo shows only the very first layer of paint applied. I used Delta Ceramcoat "Charcoal" acrylic paint, slightly watered-down, and let that dry overnight.

An interesting side story is the removal of the temporary block of wood I had holding up the far end of the incline framework. When I was attaching the framework, I made a temporary contraption that was just the right height to hold the far end up. I decided to just have it hold enough to where it wouldn't fall off, but be easy to remove. So, that block of wood had to be removed before I could test-fit the small abutment in the back. Well, this photo shows the power of one small drop of superglue! That's all I put on the bottom of the block of wood when I attached it to the top of the Gatorfoam base of the module several months ago. I thought I could just twist it off, but it would not budge. I finally had to get a very thin-kerfed flexible saw in there to start to work it loose. The damage is not a problem as this area is under the abutment, but it does show what superglue can do!

I added some layers of paint, and a final coating of the india-ink-and-alcohol mixture. I am not 100% happy with it, but I'll apply some more colors and weathering to the abutments in the future, when the surrounding scenery is in place. To install the abutment on the left (in the photo), I needed to make a wooden base to raise the abutment up to where it met the bottom of the incline. I did have to sand the bottom of the abutment down every so slightly to get it to actually fit. After I built that, I installed it with 5-minute epoxy, and then covered its surface with the same epoxy and slid the abutment into its final position. The other abutment was a perfect fit already, so I applied 5-minute epoxy on the module's surface and slid the abutment into position. Some strategic applications of regular superglue where the incline actually rests on the abutments finalized this permanent attachment.

The last main component I want to add to the coal tipple's incline, is the walkway that is visible in the prototype photos. There is about 4 scale feet between the edge of the incline's framework and the edge of the module. I cut a number of Plastruct ABS L-beam sections that were a bit over 5 scale feet long, and glued them to the top of the bottom frame rail, using superglue. The prototype photos don't show a good angle of how this is actually attached, and so I just made my own. This is in the back of the module, so the feature isn't really that visible from the front of the layout, so no need to go overboard on this. After installation, I painted the individual strips.

Although the prototype photos are a bit grainy, it looks to me like the boards of the walkway are all over the place. They don't appear to line up nicely (judging by the shadows). So, I decided to mimic that by cutting a bunch of 5-1/2" scale wide strip wood boards to lengths varying between 6 and 10 scale feet. After dunking them in some india-ink-and-alcohol mixture and letting that dry overnight, I glued them to the L-beams I had installed, using Aleene's Tacky glue. There is a handrail on the open side, with six vertical posts, so I tried to copy that, and tried to match the top of the handrail.

The final part of the walkway that is visible in the prototype photos is the staircase on the tipple-side of the walkway. Having scratchbuilt staircases before, I know how much of a pain they are (almost identical to building them in the real world), so I opted to buy the system that Rail Scale Models has available. This photo shows a jig that they sell. This thin plywood jig holds two or more stringers in position (you can use the spacing to determine the overall width) while you glue on the treads. I glued my jig to a piece of leftover 3/4" plywood so that this jig can last me a long time.
(external link: Rail Scale Models)

They, of course, also sell a package that contains a number of 38-foot stringers with a bunch of treads, some of which are pre-cut to 36" wide and the rest are for flexible widths.
(external link: Rail Scale Models)

Together, these make it near trivial to make a nice set of stairs. I held one of the stringers up against the abutment, which allowed me to mark off where I needed to cut the stringers to length. After placing them in the jig, I glued on the 36" treads. Once the glue had dried, I cut and shaped the platform at the top of the stairs, which was cut from leftover laser-cut structure kit sprues. I carefully glued that platform to the stairs, and, when the glue was dry, I dunked the whole assembly into an india-ink-and-alcohol mixture. The photo shows the wood to be a reddish color, but in person, it looks aged-black (my digital camera broke so I am having to use my cellphone in the meantime). I let the india ink dry overnight, and then glued the assembly into position using Aleene's Tacky glue, and then doing some touch-up gluing with superglue. I then cut the strip wood to build the handrails. I made them a bit rickety-looking as well, and stained them with the india ink mixture.

This, then, officially completes the detailing of the incline, and also with that, the official completion of the whole Hazel coal mine structure project! This was a project I started, in calendar time, one month shy of three years ago. Of course, there were a couple of "interruptions" along the way, not the least of which was demolishing my previous layout and the construction of this module.

Here is the final photo of the completed structure. Of course, the actual scene isn't finished yet, as I will be adding scenery details, including landscaping in the back area, figures, barrels, tools, weeds, automobiles, and doing some touch-up weathering of the building here and there as well. While this has been a monumental undertaking, I am very happy to finally have a 3D model of the Hazel mine sitting here that I can enjoy for many years to come.

This photo shows the other side of the module. The vehicles in the photo are period-correct, but ignore the diesels as they are the only motive power I have.