Author Topic: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria OH (11/30/18)  (Read 3171 times)

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jdcolombo

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Hi folks.

I've posted a little about this in the layout engineering thread, but it occurred to me that this topic might be of more general interest.  So here goes (and if the moderators think it belongs somewhere else, please move it).

When I started my NKP layout, I made a conscious decision that I would NOT try to copy prototype industries and buildings, except for a few iconic structures like the Bellevue Roundhouse and the Rocky River Viaduct.  And so it went - I'd make up some industry buildings, give them "real" names (e.g., real names of industries served by the NKP) and that was that.  Until this past May.  That's when a former member of the Midwest Central RR Club who posts here as Old East RR stopped by for a visit.  Eyeing one unfinished part of the layout with a few rail spurs in the middle of plywood, he asked what was going to be in that spot.  I told him that would be my mythical rendition of National Carbon in Fostoria, OH, which in the 1950's was a major customer for the NKP.  National Carbon still makes carbon motor brushes at the Ohio plant, but in the 1950's, it was part of Union Carbide and also made batteries (or at least it made the electrodes for dry-cell Eveready batteries).  Lots of traffic both in and out of the plant.  Here's what that area on my layout looked like when Old East visited:

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Anyway, Old East RR was intrigued.  "Do you have any photos of the plant" he asked.  "No, but I do have a Sanborn Map of the south end of the plant - that's how I decided where to put the three spurs that serve that area," I replied.  "Well" came the response, "why not model the real buildings?"  To make a long story short, Old East agreed to help do this, by fabricating "kits" that copied as much as possible the real buildings at National Carbon in 1957 that I would then put together and build the scene.

Of course, to do that, we needed some photos of the actual buildings.  Fortunately, I found an arial shot of the plant from the 1950's with a pretty good view of the south end that would be modeled.  After doing some measuring, I drew a line on the photo showing what parts of the plant would fit on the layout and e-mailed it to Old East.  On Old East's advice, I also e-mailed the company to ask for more photos.  National Carbon is now owned by Morgan Advanced Materials in England, and I never believed they would be interested in helping a model railroader recreate a plant they didn't even own in the 1950's.  But much to my surprise, a few weeks later I got e-mails with photos attached from one of the plant managers - the photos were from different eras (one from the WWII era, another from the late 1960's), but they were all helpful in showing the area of the plant I had decided to model.

Here's the photo we started from, with the area to be modeled indicated on it:

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We started this journey with the buildings on the west (left) end of this photo.  The two buildings most easily seen here are the pump room building in front (near the water tower) and right behind it, the "box making" building, with its low saw-tooth roof.  Behind that was the shipping warehouse, but I would have room only for a small piece of that building.

Old East went to work, and a few weeks later the first of the kits showed up for the pump room and box-making buildings:

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And I put it together, painting the parts and assembling the structure:

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Eventually, a completed building appeared:

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And here is that structure in the layout space:

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[Story to be continued in next post]

John C.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2018, 03:51:03 PM by jdcolombo »

jdcolombo

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2016, 11:14:30 AM »
+2
Next up was the water tower.  I had suggested just using a Walthers built-up city water tower for this, but Old East decided that the Walthers tower was way too big proportionately, and therefore a nearly scratch-built version was called for - he used some parts from a Walthers kit, fabbed up a new tank and roof, and then I took the parts along with some .010 brass wire for cross bracings to make the new tower:

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Old East was right about the proportions, by the way.  Here's a photo of the new tower next to the Walthers tower with the nearby pump room/box-making buildings - the Walthers tower clearly would have been too big for this scene:

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And here's the more or less final version (more or less, because you'll see we decided to add a sort of fantasy detail to this later):

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(Story continues in next post)


jdcolombo

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2016, 11:33:04 AM »
+5
The next building up was the Forcing Mill complex, which was a combination of three separate saw-tooth buildings that sat just to the east of the first rail spur and right in front of the furnace building.

Again, Old east fabbed up the walls and rooflines, and sent me parts - lots of parts (four bags of modified Tichy windows; several different wall sections, etc. 

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And once again, I started painting and assembling.  This building isn't quite finished, but here's the progress so far:

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And here are a couple of shots of where this scene stands today (still with the unfinished forcing mill):

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And you may have noticed a tiny addition to the water tower, which we think is sort of a fantasy, but adds a bit of fun to things:

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I plan to continue this thread as we add buildings and finish up this scene, which will take at least several more months.  But the experience so far has taught me two things.  First, copying prototype factory buildings in a complex factory structure is HARD.  Without Old East, I never would have undertaken this project (he's a very talented kit-basher and scratch builder; me - not so much).  But second, doing this at least for one or two scenes, is a lot of fun and incredibly satisfying.  We won't have an exact copy of National Carbon's south plant when we're finished, but we'll come pretty darn close - close enough that I bet whoever took that 1950's flyover shot we started this project with would recognize the scene if they visited the N-scale NKP in Savoy, Illinois!

John C.


Maletrain

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2016, 11:37:55 AM »
0
Nice work!  By both of you.

Cajonpassfan

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2016, 11:41:31 AM »
0
This is very cool, John, I love protobased scenes! And yes, attempting to follow the prototype is much, much harder than simple freelancing, but it's also very satisfying to recreate actual places which may no longer exist. Very nice work, keep the pictures coming!
Otto K.

MVW

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2016, 03:27:05 PM »
0
Very nicely done. Hat tip to both of you. Thanks for taking the time to document the process.

Jim

OldEastRR

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2016, 07:20:28 PM »
+1
The complicating part of making this factory was the construction/addition of the buildings spanned the 1870's through the 1950s, with each using the current modern construction methods of its era. The contrasts are pretty stark. But some original 1877 buildings are still in use today!
In comparison, building "modern" (post WWI) factories even totally from scratch is almost effortless.

powersteamguy1790

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #7 on: December 20, 2016, 09:29:10 PM »
0
Nice work guys. :) 8)

Bob.......... 8) 8)

Santa Fe Guy

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #8 on: December 20, 2016, 09:45:42 PM »
0
Great work you two. Nice to see that friends are able to assist in producing great models to add to the model RR experience.
Rod.
Santafesd40.blogspot.com

w neal

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2016, 05:52:26 AM »
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I dunno. I'd argue that modeling (or simulating, as I do) a prototype is not that hard once you begin the process. I think that even coming close to the prototype, is very rewarding. Its a great deal of fun to watch a scene come together and begin to actually look like the real place. A great benefit is that it helps give voice to our internal reminders that we can do better. A kit my be a good stand - in, but we know it can look better. In my case, it may begin with just attempting to recreate one wall section. Then another, and so on... Soon, one has a decent recreation of the real thing. Many times this effort, no matter how bad you may think it looks, is so much better than anything that exists in the kit world.

Another great benefit is that you end up learning so much more about the prototype, that you come away with not only a better education about it, but a greater appreciation of that industry.

Well done sirs. Keep it up!
Buffering...

Blazeman

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2016, 08:59:46 AM »
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Putting MODELling back in model railroading for sure. Outstanding from conception to execution.

Roger Holmes

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2016, 02:48:16 PM »
0
Excellent work resulting from a great collaboration.

John, I'm teaching in Normal for the next few months but after that I'd love to plan a short road trip from Springfield to Savoy (where I lived and worked during law school) for a layout tour and to hear your sound installations in person.

The "work" in Savoy while I was a student was playing drums for three years in a big band that played ballroom dances every Saturday night at the Rec Arena on US 45.  Quite a band full of U of I music school faculty and often including Elvis' Las Vegas trumpet player who lives in Champaign-- my closest brush with fame if you don't count standing at a urinal next to Mike Ditka :D
Best regards,

Roger

There are 10 kinds of people in the world.  Those who understand the binary system and those who don't.

robert3985

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #12 on: December 21, 2016, 03:44:12 PM »
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John,
Very interesting post!  I'm also a BIG fan of prototype scenes (LDE's) and I fully agree that faithfully reproducing a prototype scene and era is a lot more work than imagineering something, or using a kit or RTR structure out of a box. 

The only drawback to it is that it usually takes longer, sometimes a LOT longer.  However, for me, the wait is worth it.

I also reproduce prototype track configurations in my scenes.  I started this early (30+ years ago) because I wasn't an expert in how the prototype laid their trackwork, nor the logic behind it...but along the way, it became obvious when operating an LDE why the track was configured the way it was.  Glad I did that, and it just looked "right" also...not typical model railroad practices by any means.

I'll be coming back here often to see how things are progressing!

Cheerio!
Bob Gilmore

jdcolombo

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #13 on: December 21, 2016, 04:14:13 PM »
0
Excellent work resulting from a great collaboration.

John, I'm teaching in Normal for the next few months but after that I'd love to plan a short road trip from Springfield to Savoy (where I lived and worked during law school) for a layout tour and to hear your sound installations in person.

The "work" in Savoy while I was a student was playing drums for three years in a big band that played ballroom dances every Saturday night at the Rec Arena on US 45.  Quite a band full of U of I music school faculty and often including Elvis' Las Vegas trumpet player who lives in Champaign-- my closest brush with fame if you don't count standing at a urinal next to Mike Ditka :D

Hi Roger.

You're welcome to come by any time - just e-mail me at my gmail account (jdcolombo) and we'll set up a time.  Always happy to have visitors!

John

jdcolombo

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Re: The Making of a Prototype Factory: National Carbon in Fostoria Ohio
« Reply #14 on: December 21, 2016, 04:49:18 PM »
+2
And here's a shot of the scene as it stands today, with most of the roofs on the Forcing Mill building.  Next photo will be after we get the Furnace buildings in place - probably in late January.

Thanks for all the feedback, folks.

John C.

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