Saturday, January 28, 2017

E. L. Moore's Alaska Railroad Cement Mixing Car

[Photo by John (T.H.E. BEARD) Henderson. Shot in June 1969 at Portage, Alaska.]

E. L. Moore's unpublished Alaska Railroad Cement Mixing Car had the undeserved fate of being rejected by the model railroading magazines of the time. Mr. Moore first submitted it to Model Railroader in December '69, but it was soon rejected as being so unusual that it would have limited appeal to readers as a "novelty" car rather than one that could be used regularly.

Well, undeterred, in January '70 Mr. Moore forwarded the article to Hal Carstens at Railroad Model Craftsman along with this story to help seal the deal :-)

Seems down in Texas, town of Denton, this McCaleb had a concrete products company which was flourishing. He lived in a mansion and had an air conditioned Cadillac. One day he met a neat young filly, went on the make and got some and wanted some more. Only trouble she was married to a jobless husband. Which was fine as McCaleb gave him a job driving one of his seement trucks. He'd arrange for him to take a seement mixing truck to the far side of the town and then he'd go see the gal. Things went fine until one day the fella forgot a letter he'd intended to mail and which was important so he turned around and drove home and pulled up to find the boss's Caddy parked in front. Suspicious, he tiptoed around the house and peeked in a window and what he saw 'em doing wasn't called parcheesi. Back he went to his trunk, backed it up to the Caddy, lowered a window and dumped his whole load inside the Caddy and left. Well the story got all over town and everyone wondered what had become of the Cadillac full of seement. A few days passed and a smart Chevy dealer put up a tent on his car lot and a sign which read SEE THE CAR WITH THE CEMENT IN IT. People came flocking to see it. Inside was a Chevy, the latest model, and standing in the back seat for all to see was two bags of Portland seement. A fine bit of promotion.

To no avail. 

I came across the article in E. L. Moore's files, and later found prototype photos, taken by one of his fans, a Mr. John Henderson, a.k.a The Beard. I found no photos of the model nor drawings of any sort. Without those it makes it tough to follow the build, but look at this way, E. L. Moore only had those prototype photos to start.

I should also note that this article is another example of a project where E. L. Moore used styrene where it made sense. I wonder if he ever did a scratchbuild mainly from styrene. No such thing was ever published, but maybe there was a commission or side project where he gave it a try.

I hardly know when I've enjoyed a project more.
E. L. Moore commenting on the Alaska Railroad Cement Mixing Car project.

[Photo by John (T.H.E. BEARD) Henderson. Shot in June 1969 at Portage, Alaska.]

Alaska Railroad Cement Mixing Car
E. L. Moore

I recently received photographs of a cement mixing car from a friendly critic up Alaska way. My first impression was "what a weird looking rig!" But, according to John (The Beard) Henderson, who photographed it, there are even "wierder" [sic] pieces of equipment up there. Actually, it is a practical piece of machinery, although somewhat of a departure from the smooth streamlined jobs we've grown accustomed to seeing. It has a rugged pioneering look that is quite befitting a state which must make do with what is handy.

It is nothing more than a cement mixing machine mounted on the end of a flatcar, with a few conveniences built around it in an extemporaneous manner. The storage bin in the center of the car holds a generous supply of conglomerates; that is gravel, crushed stone or whatever, while the two tanks mounted above assure an ample supply of water. The cement mixer itself is a squatty looking piece of machinery with a fat round belly and a neck and peak remindful of a pelican. When the loader is lowered a supply of roughage is allowed to spill out the bin chute into the waiting beak. But not automatically - the operator has to pull and tug at the ropes which raise and lower the door - then a ratio of sacked cement is hand dumped, after which a lever is pulled and the beak lifts majestically and all this dry gook slides its gullet into the waiting drum where it goes around and around while a supply of water trickles in to give it just the right consistency. When well mixed it spews wet concrete out the spout at the end of the car (pity that poor coupler!) and what appears to be another spout with a turned up nose, shuts off the flow at the turn of a wheel.
[Photo by John (T.H.E. BEARD) Henderson. Shot in June 1969 at Portage, Alaska.]

The fact that the wood framework appears to be the handiwork of jackleg carpenters nowise makes the rig less appealing. In fact, it is just the sort of thing I enjoy tackling; something out of the past when every man was his own carpenter and builder. Here was something of a challenge and I hardly know when I've enjoyed a project more. Indeed and I had to build my rig from the rails up, not having a suitable flatcar. Mine is a 40 footer, 9 1/2' wide, but we need not go into that - we'll assume you have one.
[Photo by John (T.H.E. BEARD) Henderson. Shot in June 1969 at Portage, Alaska.]

The rig can be built in a week of evenings, and at a cost so low it's difficult to estimate, but I'm sure 50 cents would amply cover everything. Possibly the single most expensive item, if you have to buy them, is the set of wheels. Selley sells a set of four #182, for 20 cents. These are 11/32", which approximate the 30" wheels needed. I am told that a later model machine would have rubber tires, so perhaps auto wheels would do as a substitute. And, while I built my mixer of styrene with the exception of the drum, it could be built of stripwood. Some minute quantities of materials are required as to make a list almost needless, but I'll come up with one (in HO):

2" 1/8" x 4" sheet balsa
4" 1/16" x 4" sheet balsa
24" 1/32" x 1/8" stripwood
15" 1/32" x 3/32" stripwood
10" 1/32" x 1/16" stripwood
2" 1/32" x 1/32" stripwood
12" 3/32" x 3/32" stripwood
10" 1/16" x 1/16" stripwood
3 1/2" 3/16" tubing or dowel
3/4"   3/4" tubing

Cement Mixer frame:
1 set (4) wheels, 11/32" dia.
1 sq inch or so of .040 styrene or:
1/16" sq stripwood and 1/16" x 3/32"
3 sq ins .015 styrene or index card stock.

The list is formidable only in length. My source of styrene was Walthers, their X-591 kit of assorted thicknesses from .010" to .040" at 1.25 being sufficient to last the average modeler for years. But, with styrene, use a liquid solvent rather than a cement. Also, before painting with Floquil colors, give a first coat of Floquil RR19 Barrier, otherwise the colors will reticulate. Instead of styrene the mixer may be built quite as easily of stripwood and index card stock, so don't let the styrene bit throw you.
Measurements as shown were estimated from available prototype photographs and while note guaranteed accurate they can't be too far off. The rig, as I built it stands 20' off the rails, but if necessary one could manipulate a foot off this height. As an aid to construction and to eliminate confusion I'm offering an alphabetical list of parts to which you can refer.

A Axles
B Frame base
C Tool Box
D Upright frame
E Cross frame brace
F Mixing Drum
G Spout
H Cutoff
I Splash board
J Gear wheel to actuate ladder
K Loader (side view)
K-1 Loader (top outline)
L Loader locking arm
M Chute to gravel bin
N Water Tanks
O Motor housing cover
P Gear to actuate drum
Q Wheel actuating cutoff
R Opening to drum into which loader throat fits

Some parts such as J, I and P, are of course not actual prototypical parts - gears used are from toy watches and are merely suggestive.

To begin construction, cut 1/8" balsa, eleven 12" x 18" timbers, each 11' long and cement in place in accordance with Fig. 2. The extras may be spaced to fill out rest of car. Cement a plank, (1/32" x 1/8" stripwood), on each side at ends of timbers, leaving a space 9' wide in the middle of car. Note that in Fig 1 the plank on this side stops short of the wheels of the mixer. Another plank, (1/32" x 3/32") for no known reason, extends only part way on top of the lower one as seen in Fig. 2.

Now we have out foundation and can commence on the gravel bin. The sides of this are 11' x 11', the front is 6 1/2' x 11' and the rear is 4' x 6 1/2', these ends fitting between the sides and making a bin 10' long and 6 1/2' wide (inside measurements) or 11' long, 7 1/2' wide and 11' high, outside measurements. Scribe the sides and ends. In assembly I braced the inside corners with 1/16" square balsa strips. The bin has a sloping bottom as shown by dotted line in Figure 2. I made this, too, of 1/16" balsa - with a brace of 1/16" square stripwood which runs through from side to side, the ends of which show in Figs 1 & 2., this strengthening the bottom. Set against this are two vertical braces, their bottoms resting on the car bed.

The outside width and length of the bin as shown in drawings is 8 1/2' x 12' and is accomplished by adding 1/16" square stripwood 13 3/4' long to each end at the corners, and 1/32" x 1/16" ones of the same length to the sides at the corners, these also forming the legs which are then cemented to the car bed. So the bin now stands 13 3/4' high, or 14' with the addition of top boards.

The wire braces at sides are #50 thread, doubled and twisted, with a turnbuckle of soft copper wire, shaped and soldered. A ladder of stripwood is added to one side as in Fig.1. At the front is a simulated door and a chute built at bottom to let out gravel, its lip not less than height shown.

We'll take up the mixing machine next. The bottom frame construction is shown in Fig. 6. While there's some space between wheels and frame of prototype I snuggled my wheels right up against the frame for rigidity. In the prototype a vertical timber is set inside the frame to hold the machine, whereas I left a cut-out space on the outside of my frame at base of front wheel for this purpose. The axles (A) are of .040" x 1/16" styrene, or in stripwood use 1/16" square stock. The two outside lengthwise strips (B) are of .040" x 3/32" styrene, the outside one notched at ends to fit over axles. Across, on the axles, another .040" x 3/32" is sided at each end, then .040" x 1/16" strips, five of them, complete the frame except for a bit of .015 styrene at the rear on which the tool box (C) rests.

Next, add the two upright frame sides (D) as shown in Figs, 3 & 4. These are inverted J frames, cut in one piece from .040" styrene and are cemented, one to each side, the legs being attached at points shown by dotted spaces in Fig. 6. Little triangular braces may be added to outside of each leg for sake of rigidity. If made of stripwood you will of course require there pieces to each frame. Two cross braces (E) as shown in Figs. 1 & 2 will be required to hold frame side rigid at top, but better wait until we fit in the mixing drum (F), the middle of which supposedly revolves. For this you'll need a half inch or a little more of 3/4" tubing. For this I picked up a plastic tube, a "print coater" from a Polaroid camera, and sawed off about 4' (see how much it takes for a tight fit), drilled a 3/16" hole in the centre of the solid end, cut a circle of cardboard with a 1/2" x 3/4" opening (E) as shown in Fig. 4 for the other end. I cemented some narrow strips of paper around it, painted it a dark gray and cemented it within the frame then added cross braces (E). I added, in addition, a centre brace to which I had cemented a gear wheel (J) from a toy watch. This supposedly actuates the loader, which we'll build next, and does actually serve a purpose as the hinged arm (L) which is attached to the loader, has a small brass nail at the opposite end which can be locked into the gear teeth so the loader may be locked in an upright position.

The motor housing (O) is built of .015" styrene but a double thickness of index card stock will do the trick. I had a bit of Kemtron fine brass screen which I used for the radiator grill but a piece of nylon stocking stiffened with starch will do after being painted with aluminum. A radiator cap and exhaust pipe got left off mine until after the photographs were made but show in Fig. 1. The watch gear and stem might well have been left off, it isn't too realistic as an actuator of the drum. Vents on side of motor housing are inked lines on card stock and cemented to side.

The spout (G) I made of index card stock to shape as shown in Fig 7 and cemented to side of drum. The cut-off (H) fits inside the spout and presumably lifts and lowers when wheel (Q) is turned. I used an HO brake wheel although an O scale wheel would be nearer prototype.

Now we come to the loader, our pelican's beak, (K) and (K-1) in Fig 7. I used .015" styrene here again but a double thickness of index card stock will do the trick as I built a trial one of this. I found it easier to put together if you cement cross pieces of similar material between the two sides at dotted locations, then fitting the bottom in. The bottom is cut a bit longer than the sides but it will end up about even. Add a top piece which should extend only to the dotted lines in K-1 leaving the rear or wide portion open at the top. When finished, fit the throat into the drum opening. It need not be fastened in as it can't go anywhere once the machine is positioned. Add a hinged loading arm (L) as shown in Figs. 1 & 2. A cut off lill or small nail inserted near end of arm will allow it to lock into gear wheel (J) teeth as in Fig. 3. I painted frame and loader of machine a green, also wheels, and the drum a dark gray as well as the spout and splash board. Gear wheels are painted black. And the tool box a bright red.

Before setting mixer in place you'll need to floor the space between mixer location and bin so workers won't break a leg. 1/32" x 1/8" stripwood will do although you may have to inlet it into the cross timbers as I did to keep loader down level with lip of gravel bin chute (M).

Fit the machine in place, notching out floor timbers if necessary to enable setting the upright 3/32" square timbers in their proper position. These uprights are 12 1/2' long and rest on the flatcar bed 6 1/2' apart. The rear two are set an equal distance apart but for some undisclosed reason the one in Fig. 1 is set about 9 scale inches away from the gravel bin while the opposite one is snug against it. The horizontal members are of the same size and are cemented to the tops of the uprights. Braces of various widths and lengths are now added. At the top, cement in some 1/16" x 3/32" cross timbers to the bottoms of the horizontal members for the water tanks to rest upon.

I had 3/16" plastic tubing which I used for the water tanks, filling the end into which ate pipping extends with balsa plugs, then cementing paper over both ends and painting grimy black. Or rust. You can use 3/16" dowel if preferred. Drill holes in end near bottom for outlet pipes, holes at top for inlet pipes, then mount and cement in place. Instead of that board shown in photo, which has since been corrected, you'll need a slim piece simulating iron, welded to the fronts. I made a Y of wire, soldering the joint, then poked the two short ends into holes in the tank ends and let the shank of the Y hang down.

I weathered all woodwork, first with a wash of raw sienna with brown (oils) in turpentine, then later with successive coats of a gray wash until it dirted up. Paint would be out of place.

A few sacks of cement should be stowed handily along with tools and a wheelbarrow and buckets. Dust machine and floor with cement or talcum.

My finished car without extras weighed in at 1 3/4 ounces.

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