Coal dump pit – Charles scratch build

Charles has been in touch with his coal dump pit scratch build:

“I recently bought a Walthers Northern Power and Light building kit to assemble and use on my modest 4X8 layout I am building.

I would have liked to have used the complete coal dump pit that came with the kit but since there was a 2X4 sitting edgewise directly under where the coal dump pit was to go I couldn’t (or didn’t) want to use the whole thing.

So I decided to use what ever amount of the sides and edges of the pit that would fit with the top grate and have it sit on top of the plywood base.

I knew the cork road bed was 5mm (or 3/16 of an inch) high and the top grate had slots for the track to set into so I measured on the side of the coal pit slightly more than 3/16 of an inch from the bottom of the slots that the rails would go into and scribed a line all across both sides of the pit and cut along that line and both ends with a Dremel tool using a thin cutting disk.

I then cleaned up the edges of the melted plastic and did a trial fit into the section of road bed I had cut out for it to fit into. Of course it was too high which is what I had planned on. If cut too short then you would be left with a gap between the edge of what was left of the pit wall and the plywood.

I then sanded by hand with sand paper in a sanding block and would sand a bit and try it for fit then sand some more. Need to test often. When I finally had a perfect fit I painted the area directly under where the unloading grate would go with black paint.

BTW: the pebbly surface left from removing the cork road bed resulted in it looking like little lumps of coal which l thought was great. When finished I put everything together and had what I thought was a great looking representation of a coal unloading pit without actually having a real pit underneath.

I thought perhaps some of your readers might like to know how I went about accomplishing this.

The first two pictures show just how little is left of the coal pit once it was sanded down to fit. The next picture shows the pieces ready to assemble. The next two pictures show the finished assembly. And the last picture shows what was left of the pit that was not used.

State of Missouri, USA”

coal pit grill

coal pit scratch build

coal pit grill

coal pit grill

coal pit

coal pit

And now on to Mike, who has made these marvellous creations:

“Hello Alastair:

I have a friend who collects aircraft. In fact he has a large glass shelved case with 40 airplanes in it. He has a couple of Spitfires (my absolute favorite aircraft from WWII).

I decided to build a control tower similar to one’s I found on the Internet. My mum’s family were from Essex, so I chose a field there. The only purchase was the windows. Everything else was from materials laying around in my scrap. A lot can be done with a little.

I found this display case in a second hand antique mall. It is perfect for keeping and displaying my locos dust free.

After building for others for the last few years, I finally started working on my own layout. Progressing slowly to plan.

I include three of the scratch built structures that I am incorporating into my own layout. My era is 1950 and prior. I am traveling to our Midwest (Nebraska) to meet up with my cousin. He was the chief designer for the Lincoln, NE museum.

We will spend two days traveling around the state looking for and photographing, taking dimensions of old wooden structures to scratch build. The best part of model railroading is building structures….

model train layout

model train scratch build

model railroad scratch build

modle railway scratch build

model railroad scenery

model train scenery

Cheers, Mike from Clermont, Florida”

“Hi Al, just received my Deltic PD1 back with sound and EM2 speaker fitted, great sounds now from a very nice looking Loco.

I also have the other deltic which is under repair just now, but imagine the sounds from 2 of these Beasts roaring around the layout?

All The best


deltic loco

A huge thanks to Charles for his coal pit scratch build, and to Mike and Dave, I really did enjoy putting this post together.

Fingers crossed I’ll have a better week than last time (we all get them, don’t we?)

Everything seemed to go wrong for me, and I know some of you, for some reason dropped off the list. Hopefully you are back on now.

If you missed any of the posts, these links should get you up to speed:

Bob’s very different way to make a railroad

More from Jim on his stunning layout

Bill’s latest layout update

That’s all for today folks.

And if you’re itching to get started on your layout, don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here.

That’s all for today folks. Please do keep ’em coming.



15 Responses to Coal dump pit – Charles scratch build

  1. Greg Schaefer says:

    This might be a good time to review the advantages of L girder construction instead of a fixed box for the base. If Charles had used L girders, he could have gone under the layout, removed a few screws, shifted the girder 3 inches and installed the coal pit whole. But Charles did a great job of adapting to his situation. Very neat work.

  2. Kevin McArdle says:

    Just a suggestion, but why don’t you put your locos on track inside the cabinet. It would be more visually interesting, and would limit the locos movement if the case was inadvertently hit. Great job on the models.

  3. Jonathan Scott says:

    Mike, if you are in Nebraska, take the drive to the town of North Platte where you can visit and see the largest rail yard in world!! They have an 8 story tower which is fantastic. The people, history and view couldn’t be better. We were driving cross country and figured we would stop and see it. Never did we figure we would be there all afternoon! This is a Union Pacific Yard where they service over 100 freight trains a day! It’s also amazing watching the hump yard in action. If you have binoculars, even better. Best, Jonathan

  4. Dan Hulitt says:

    Great stuff guys. Dave’s Deltic is quite a nice looking engine.

    Nice adaptation Charles, looks well done.

    I agree with Jonathan that you should check out North Platte and the Golden Spike Tower. You can get a commanding view of the yard from there, plus the staff will answer all the questions. In one way, that is the largest layout in the world, as the engines with the blinking yellow light on them are actually remotely controlled by the ground crew, no engineer. The yard crew carries a remote control device in their hand that controls the locomotive. Like a giant DCC layout, haha.

    There is a building in Wood River (16 miles west of Grand Island) that is an old station that is in need of repair, but enough to model. It was moved from the tracks years ago but has neat architectural effects, corbels and the like. The building is about a block north of Rt 30, behind the Caseys gas. The building runs north and south.

    If you want to model an old-time gas station, check out this one, also on US 30 on the east side of Grand Island, near the jail. Still operating, just 2 pumps. The sign simply says
    GAS. Behind the station is some of the original concrete road of the Lincoln Highway, or US 30. These concrete sections were called transitional miles to get people used to them when they were only used to dirt.

    MN Dan

  5. Joe Graffi says:

    Charles; I did the same thing with the same exact pieces! My coal dump is under the coaling tower. The loaded gondolas ‘dump’ their coal here. When I find the pic, I’ll post it.


  6. Svet says:

    Stunning,enjoyed every moment ,thank you ,Dave

  7. Nice buildings. I like too many of them.


  8. Michael Ilkenhons says:

    Dan… Thank you for your info. My dad, grandfather and great grandfather all worked for the CB&Q. My dad was born in Pawnee City and lived in Havelock. I have indeed been to North Platt and Grand Usland. I hope Inlive long enough to model all the structures I would like to build. If I were faster, I’d build some to sell to fund my own projects…

  9. Richard Gregory says:

    What a fantastic control tower. I love seeing scratch built stuff.

  10. Rand Martin says:

    Hey Al, I missed several emails, even though I resubscribed 4 times. I followed your instructions from last week and i’m getting them every morning again. Nice hand built structures. There are some some truly gifted modelers on this site. Thanx again. Rand in TX.

  11. Rudy Niederkohr says:

    The best!!

  12. Dennis Finegan says:

    Dave is going to need ear plugs if he puts sound in a second Deltic. Sounds great. Thanks for sharing.

  13. What a wonderful video on Dave’s Deltic PD1….. Much like it was noted in the first article, “Charles, State of Missouri, USA” would it be possible to start listing locations for ALL your presenters??? For example, I’d love to know where Dave’s layout is??? Now, having said that, I realize we might want to preserve the EXACT location for privacy reasons. But maybe even just “England” or “Wales” or “Ireland” or “Australia” under their names/submission would be most interesting.

  14. Patrick Hanlon. says:

    Your control tower is awesome. It reminds be of a Bomber Command Air Traffic Control Tower from World War 2. Looking for the Memphis Bell to come flying over the free line. Lol!!

  15. Patrick Andrew Talley says:

    Mikes buildings are fantastic. We have 2 of them on our Club layout.

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