Sintering Plant

This is a completed Plastruct fake-front sintering plant kit.  Sintering is a process which takes steel mill waste and converts it into useful materials.  The instruction sheet notes: ...”processes iron ore fines and other coke breeze into sizable lumps to be fed into the Blast Furnace. However, it is not limited only to this function and may be modified to fit many other Industrial facilities. For example, we use sintered bronze bearings in our model railroad locomotives; sintered bronze holds lubricating oil in the pores of the metal. For further information about the sintering process, please see here.

Although intimidating in appearance, this structure consists of six distinct assemblies:

  • Preliminary Work
  • The Main Building
  • The Silo Building & Lean-To
  • The Blower Support Trestle
  • The Blowers
  • Downcomer & Exhaust Stack

As with the other Plastruct kits, the instructions can be difficult to interpret; these pages are an effort to clarify the instruction sheets. There are two photographed examples of this kit (above and the structure photographed in the instruction sheets). Based on my experience in building this structure, I can tell you that each was built somewhat differently from each other, and what I built was different from the other two available examples. Which is to say that getting the outcomes to look right is more important than following the instructions to the letter.  As we get into this project, you will see why.

It is important to note that this kit is complicated.  It is very helpful to thoroughly study the instructions. It is also helpful to identify the various pieces of plastic which are the basis of this kit.  In the early part of the instruction sheet, the builder is reminded that:

The detail drawings that are part of the text are for guidance and are not to scale.

The instructions do have one peculiarity that you should know about in advance.  In some cases, the dimensions are given in actual inches, while in other instances, the dimensions are given in H0-Scale feet.  In the case of the preliminary layout of the basic kit pieces, these dimensions are made in inches. Subsequent dimensions are made in scale feet.

Take your time and enjoy this process.

Preliminary Work:

Instruction 1.  The Plastruct Sintering Plant starts with the preparation of the three plastic .060” thick sheets each of which initially which measure 12” x 24”.  One of these sheets is divided in half, creating two pieces which measure 12” x 12” €¯. I divided this sheet by using a knife and straight edge, scribing a line and then breaking the pieces apart from each other.

If you are not familiar with working styrene, please see here.

The two smaller segments are then joined to the larger pieces, creating two pieces which measure 12” x 36”.  These pieces are then scribed and cut into the various major pieces of the two structures which are the basis for this kit. In both cases, the two plastic parts are glued together with a butt-joint; each joint is then reinforced with a scrap piece of .060” plastic Backing Strip:

The two 12” x 36” pieces are then cut into the various major components of the buildings. I started by marking the sheets with a pencil and then made the various cuts by scribing and breaking. Please ignore my pencil notations; eventually their purpose will be made clear at the end of these pages. Here is the cut list for the first sheet:

In the case of the offset cuts (at upper right), I made the scribes and then gently bent the piece until it broke free. You may need to use a small saw for this task, making a slot cut at the “4 inches” point of the Lean To.  Also, the “RH Wall Lean To” appears to be the wrong dimension, but everything works out fine as you continue the project.

Here is the cut list for the second sheet:

I spent several weeks angsting over the notation “Main Wall” (upper right) until I finally figured out that this term was describing the second sheet of plastic rather than identifying an individual part used in the subsequent assembly.

Instruction 2.  At this point, you gently scribe thin lines on the walls of the structure which represent the foundation line and wall panels of the two buildings.  It is not necessary to scribe the Lean To because it will be covered with plastic brick material.  You will also find that I used the “Front Wall Extension” in a different way than is described in the instructions and you may want to delay scribing this piece until later. More about that piece in the Bunker & Lean-To section.

Instruction 3.  At this point, cut any door openings in the walls of the structure prior to assembly of the two buildings.

This is a plan view (looking downward to the building) of the general layout of the two buildings:

Main Building

The main building is the basis for the entire facility, simply a box which is placed along the edge of the model railroad.  It is important that this structure has square corners, which will make subsequent work easier.  The main building consists of the Rear Wall for both this building and for the bunker building, the LH Side Main Bldg. & RH Side Main Bldg. and the Front Wall Main Bldg. Both the ends and front have been scribed to represent the foundation and the wall panels.

Instruction 4.  This directs you to make a series of triangle shaped gussets. The sides, back and front will be joined together with glue, and 3/16” square plastic will be used to reinforce the corners. These gussets are used in addition to the square plastic to make the walls stronger and more rigid.  Here is a plan detail of the joinery:

It should be noted that Plastruct also offers pieces G8, G12, G16, G20, G24 and G32, which are described as “Support Triangle Gussets"¯, ranging in size from 1/4” up to 1” (in 1/8” increments). Using them will make the work go faster, but you will still need to open up the corner of the gusset to accommodate the 3/16” MS-190 strips.

Instruction 5. The MS-190 pieces for the front and rear walls are glued .060” away from the edge, so that the end walls can be glued in place flush with the front and back.  That is, the front piece overlaps the sides.

Instruction 6.  To be real honest with you, I’m not at all sure what this is about. If you followed the cut sheet properly, everything should match up anyway. You’re on your own with this instruction.

(Instruction 13). The photo above illustrates the main building with the vents in place. You can add these later, prior to painting.

Bunker Building:

I have to admit that this section stymied me for months. It is a complicated assembly and, frankly, the method advocated by the instruction sheet is not strong.  Thus, this section is an alternate to:

Instruction 7, 8, 9, 10.  Likewise, I didn’t follow Instruction 11, either.  So, bear with me on this and take a look for yourself.

Instruction 7 (alternate). The structure is comprised of three portions, the main floor, which has windows and is covered with brick material, the bunker itself and the top section, called the penthouse.  The lean-to is an added structure.

The plastic pieces for this assembly are cut from the pieces identified as Front Wall Extension and RH Bunker.  These two pieces are cut to the scale heights of the elements of the entire structure. The front of this assembly is a total 42 scale feet high.

The main floor is (also called the “lower wall") is a scale 18’ tall; it has windows in it and the .060” plastic is covered with brick material.  The windows are prepared as per the instruction sheet.

Instruction 8, 9. (alternate)

After a great deal of thought, I became convinced that the approach advocated in the instructions is not strong. I had the good fortune to meet David Moltrop at the Philadelphia National Train Show in 2006. David built the first kit and helped with the instructions and is an expert on this particular structure kit.  He advised that an additional sheet of .060” plastic should be purchased to create support for all three segments.  One portion this added sheet would be for the front assembly and a second smaller piece would support the end pieces.  That is, the lower wall (and .250” spacers), along with the penthouse (and .250” spacers) would be attached to this additional sheet of .060” plastic. This extra sheet also represents the bunker wall and bunker end, to which the vertical bunker braces are attached.

The penthouse (also referred to as the “final wall”) is a scale 10’ tall along the front. The side heights are the same, except for the penthouse (or “final wall”), which is 10’ scale feet tall at one edge and tall enough to match their height of the back wall of the main building and the bunker).  The lower walls and the penthouse walls are attached to the underlying .060” sheets.

In the illustration to the right, the inner support wall measures in .185" from the front; that is, the inner wall is inset by the total dimension of the outer wall (both main floor and penthouse) combined with the .125” spacers.

The area above the main wall and below the penthouse is the wall of the bunker.  The vertical pieces of MS-1225 are then attached to this support wall.

Once the wall assembly was completed, I installed the vertical pieces for the bunker walls.  These pieces are .125” x .250” (MS-1225). I used a plastic square to insure that the pieces were vertical, but sped up the process by using a .250” spacer piece.  That is, once the first bunker brace was glued in place, I placed the .250” spacer next to it and, using it as a straightedge, lightly scribed a line in the plastic support wall.  I then would then remove the spacer and place the next brace along the scribed line and flow liquid glue along the side closest to the previously installed brace.  I would let things set for a moment and repeated the process across the bunker backing wall (which is also the support wall for the upper and lower outer walls).  Periodically, I would check to insure that everything had remained square, and correct any problems while the glued joints were still soft.

I used a Northwest Shortline “Chopper” to cut the bunker ribs.

The Chopper has adjustable pieces (or “stops”) which allow you to mass produce the same length of part. I would cut one strip of plastic and install the braces, then check to see if a length adjustment was necessary before cutting the next strip’s worth of braces.  Although this is a bit slower than cutting all of the braces at one time, it insured that I was not mass producing a large number of unusable parts.

Instruction 10. (alternate)

This step was performed in the previous two steps. A close-up of the completed walls (note the .060” backing, visible through the window openings):

The completed assembly, including Lean-to (Instruction 12):

Note that the small gaps at the corner of the penthouse walls and at the main walls below will be filled with strips of styrene. The penthouse corner will be sanded smooth, while the brick material will cover the irregularities of that corner.

At this point, paint will be applied after an initial primer coat. The lower wall, which will have plastic material attached to it, was masked off prior to priming so that the plastics could adhere to each other using normal solvent cement.

Instruction 11. (alternate)

I scribed the roof pieces as per the instructions, but you should make these scribes very lightly since the roof material is so thin. Too deep a scribe mark will allow the thin material to warp. I chose to use strips of scrap .060” at the bottom edge of the roof to hold the roof pieces in place rather than the “T” brace approach in the instructions.  The roofs were later glued in place with tube type adhesive after being painted.

The scribe consists of a hardened steel tip and a handle.  Scribing the roof panel lines calls for a light touch.

Instruction 12.

This assembly was built as per the instruction sheet.

Instruction 13.

Well, I built this wrong, laying the .040” x .060” frames on their side instead of vertical.  See photo below:

The left hand vent was built with the MS460 strips “flat"¯, leading to a wider vent & frame. Upon sufficient reflection, it seems that the vents should be built with the frames “on edge”, as on the right. This results in a vent with a more pronounced depth.  It’s a classic example of the vagaries of this series of kits and the fact that there often are two ways to do something.

Instruction 14.

Regardless of which way you do the vent frames, it seems best to wait for a bit before installing them.  I discovered that I had placed a vent in a space which would be used by the trestle framework.  Fortunately, I was able to get a chisel shaped knife blade under the improperly located vent, prying it off and sanding the roughened surface to remove traces of adhesive.

Instruction 15.

Likewise, it is best to delay installing the dormer assembly until the end of of the assembly process since it will be connected to the blower assembly.  The dormer itself is relatively easy to construct; the completed assembly with unattached roof pieces is held in place with temporary tape:

I used the reinforcing triangles and scrap strips to make this assembly stronger.

This completes the Bunker & Lean-To assembly.

The Blower Support Trestle

The “V” shaped support trestle is the most prominent element of the sintering plant kit, the first thing that draws the viewer’s eye.  Fortunately, it is also the most enjoyable portion of this kit to build. The instructions treat this trestle and the blower assembly as one general series of steps, but I have broken it down into two major assemblies which are joined together during the building process.  At the heart of the trestle are the two V-shaped supports.

Instruction 17.

I made a photocopy of the trestle template and taped it to a piece of scrap wood:

All of the cuts were made by placing the plastic pieces on the template and cutting them with an Xacto® handle equipped with a saw blade:

The angles which are cut at the ends of the vertical columns are complementary, which is to say that each angle cut is a few degrees away from a right angle cut of 90°. All of the other angles cut are also variants based upon the same angle; the cross braces are also cut at the same angle.  Although you could make a cutting template, it really doesn’t seem to be necessary since you can use the paper pattern for a point of reference.  Once the angles are glued together, gussets cover the joint, adding both strength to the joint and hiding any irregularities.  In short, this part of the assembly is a joy.

To be sure, the gussets could be slightly different from what the instructions describe.  The instructions call for square or rectangular pieces, but general practice would more likely call for angled corners, something like this shop doodle drawing:

In any case, I doubt that most observers would notice, much less care about the corners being angled instead of straight as per the instructions.  You build the two end supports, then build the support frame that rests upon these end supports.

Instruction 18, 19.

When cutting these girders, plan your cuts since each of the uncut pieces provided in the kit are sufficient for one long and one shorter length of girder.  If you cut a series of shorter girders from one piece, the second piece will not be long enough for the two longer girders.  A square holds things in place while the glue dries and the gussets are applied:

The support frame for the blowers is then applied to the support trestles. Note the vents on the Main Building which interfere with the support frame; one vent was removed so that the frame could rest on the side of the Main Building. Here, a test fit:

Instruction 20.

The support beams are added to the top of the trestle assembly.

Instruction 21.

One long cross brace is added; note the pencil mark in the middle of the brace.  Two pieces will be added for the other cross braces for the opposite corners, which meet at the pencil mark.

The center gusset hides any mismatch at this point:

At this point during the assembly, only the front cross braces are added. The back cross braces will be added after the silo cones are placed on the bottom of the blowers.

The Blowers

The two blowers are part of the distinctive assembly which makes this structure so interesting.  In the strictest sense, these two devices are actually “cyclones”, taking air and material from inside the building and separating it.  The sintered material falls down into a cone shaped collector, while the air continues through the large curved “downcomer” and then out through the tall stack.

Instruction 22. The fan housings are shaped like the number “6” (or, if you want to look like it in another way, the number “9”). In any case, the top and the bottom of each blower is cut from sheet styrene and the two pieces are spaced from each other with pieces of .060” styrene.  Keeping in mind that the drawings in the instructions are not necessarily to scale, I photocopied the drawing of the blower top and bottom. As it turns out, the drawing is pretty close to scale, and perhaps the only thing I would do differently is to make the straight segment of the blower a bit longer. It is easier to cut something back to a shorter length than to make it longer.

I scribed & snap-cut the styrene spacers into 8 scale foot strips, then made individual pieces which were 4 scale feet wide.  I did it in this way assuming that the height of the spacer (8’) was more important to get consistently accurate.  In this way, the top and bottom of each blower would more likely be parallel, which becomes important in later steps.

It is also important that the top and bottom be closely aligned with each other. After attaching the top to the spacers, I went back with a square and made sure that everything was even.

Instruction 23. Once the top and bottom assembly was completely dry, I added the .020” siding, starting with the short straight piece.  I used the square to keep things in alignment while the added piece dried.

Instruction 23. Once the top and bottom assembly was completely dry, I added the .020” siding, starting with the short straight piece.  I used the square to keep things in alignment while the added piece dried.

Once the glue had dried thoroughly, I used a mill file to level the edges of the blower sides.  There were some small irregularities, which left gaps that were filled with Squadron putty. Again, once dry, the putty was sanded smooth.

The exterior braces, strips of .040” by .060”€¯, were added next.  In most cases, I followed the locations used on the drawing, but in several instances there were minor bulges in the side.  I used the strips to conceal these bumps, “averaging” out the other strips to make things look consistent. Here, a test fit:

Instruction 24. Next, the two vertical towers were added, starting with the alignment rings on top of the fan housings.  Note the orientation of the two fan housings:

The instructions call for making a 10’ scale length of 1 1/4” tubing, then capping it with a piece of .030” styrene. In the “It seemed like a good idea at the time” department, I initially tried cutting the tubing with a tubing cutter, the thing that plumbers use to cut pipe.  Unlike plumbing pipe, the Plastruct tubing is not as rigid, and the cutter tended to compress the plastic as much as cut it. I went back and cut the tube again with a saw.

Capping the tube with styrene was another interesting problem. Here, a tower assembly being clamped:

As it turns out, no clamping in the world is going to make this assembly any stronger if you use liquid adhesive to join the tube together with the cap piece of styrene. The Plastruct tubing is butyrate, while the cap piece is styrene; these dissimilar materials do not bond well when using solvent type adhesives. In spite of serious pressure during the process, the styrene tended to simply pop off the moment trimming started.

This was an unnecessary surprise, but, fortunately, ACC (“Super Glue") does join things together more strongly.  Once dried, the cap piece was sanded smooth with the tube sides.  As noted in the instructions, these towers should be easy to rotate, part of the later assembly process of the entire piping structure.

I added the square gear boxes and motors to the top of the styrene caps. The observant will notice that I did not make the motor supports suggested in Instruction 27.

The instructions suggest that you can make up detail parts from discs of thin styrene; these would be access panels and the like.  The work, so far:

Instruction 25. This step creates two rings which are inserted into the two TPS-40 saddle pieces.  Doing so narrows the TPS-40 opening so that a TPS-32 saddle piece can be inserted.  A completed TPS-40 on the left, note the smaller opening:

Instruction 26. Here, the two fan housings are attached to the trestle frame. Initially, I had planned on delaying this step until the trestle had been painted, but I chose to continue the assembly process as per the instructions.  I did this so that all of the styrene parts would be directly joined to other styrene parts using the liquid adhesive. Once the entire assembly is completed, I intend to paint it one base color and brush paint in accent colors (motors, for example).  The fan housings will be further enhanced by light airbrushing of weathering colors.

Instruction 27.  This is one of the more complex assemblies, yet it also is one of the most interesting.  Perhaps this diagram will make things a bit more clear:

This assembly does require a degree of patience, but you may not want to follow the instruction sheet. Personally, I chose to start with one of the vertical towers, attaching the TPS-40 stub-in-tee first, aligning the vertical tower so that the saddle was parallel with the front edge of the framework.  I inserted the TPS-30 stub-in-tee into the TPS-40, then attached the 38’ scale long TP-32 tube.  Once this assembly was firmly glued, I attached the second pair of TPS-40 and TPS-32.  It is important that the 38’ long tube be parallel to the front edge of the frame and perpendicular to the straight edge of the fan housings.  Perhaps additional photos will help:

The above photo is a view of the rear of the structure, with the fan housing ducts that connect to the Main Building. Below, another rear view:

Instruction 28, 29, 30.  Well, I ignored these instructions. I may later regret this action, but the steps called for in these three steps seem to be overkill. At the bottom of the fan housings are two cones which represent silos filled with sintered material:

The kit includes three vacuum formed plastic cones, part ”VC-1”.  Initial preparation of these pieces requires trimming the excess plastic away from the cone shape.  I removed large portions of excess plastic by scoring and breaking, then used scissors to get close to the actual cone shape. I then carefully sanded the bottom edge to make it smooth.  Because the plastic is limber, this process requires patience and deliberate action. I then attached the VC-1’s to the bottom of the fan housings with tube type glue. Any minor irregularities between the bottom of the fan housing and the cone will be covered with putty.

Instruction 31.  I interpret this instruction to mean that a brace should be located on the building wall around the fan housings where they enter the building.

Instruction 32. Two small pieces of 3/8” square tube (STFS-12) are modified and placed on the trestle frame as part of a support bracket for the discharge chutes.

The chutes themselves are made from the same square tube, with each end capped with styrene. A small hole is drilled in one end of the chute assembly; the tip of the two VC-1’s are later inserted into these openings. Here are both the drawing and a completed assembly (note that the bottom chute has not been added at this point:

Instruction 33. Because I did not located the two fan housings properly, I was not able to install this lower platform.

Instruction 34, 35. I started by cutting a platform piece, using it to locate this support tower and the dormer.  As with the other girder assemblies, this piece grows stronger as you add the gussets and braces:

Instruction 36. The crane rail and the hand rails were added at the end of assembly and painting.


Downcomer & Stack

Well, this is it, the only thing left to make. Central to this assembly is the Main Blower Housing.

Instruction 37. This housing is a box made of .060” styrene, 16’ scale on each side.  I built the box with plastic triangle reinforcements to keep things square while the glue was drying:

Using a square, I marked the box for the location of the MS-406 strips for the housing detail:

Instruction 38. This is the preparation of the last VC-1 cone.  As with the other VC-1’s, I trimmed the excess plastic away from the base of the cone.  I then used a section of TB-32, placing it on to the top of the cone, marking the VC-1 with a pencil and using this ring mark as a point of reference for cutting the top of the cone. The idea is to start with a cut at that line, then slowly expand to a larger opening from there. Using a section of the TB-32 for reference, I kept trimming the VC-1 cone until it would accommodate the tubing.

Instruction 39. This directs you to make the foundation support for the blower assembly after making girder supports for the blower box.

Instruction 40. The instructions call for placing an RI-32 on the top of the blower box assembly to keep the vertical section of TB-32 perpendicular during assembly.  In this case, find the center of the top of the blower box and then locate the RI-32 ring.

The TB-32 was cut to the specified length of 15 scale feet and glued to the top of the blower box.  I then slipped the VC-1 cone down over the tube, gluing it in place at the bottom with tube type cement. I sealed any gaps with putty, then sanded until smooth.

Instruction 41. I assembled the smokestack as per the instructions, then made the connecting duct with each side approximately 7 scale feet. I cut an opening in the blower box to accommodate the blower duct, widening it with a file until I could fit the connecting duct into the opening.

Using a measuring gauge, I marked a series of lines on the smoke stack.  Using the gauge, I measured out the width of the connecting duct and marked the width onto the tube.  Using the same approach, I also marked the height for this opening. Using a Dremel with a cutoff wheel, I cut the general opening in the side of the smoke stack. I then used a mill file to clean up the opening:

As you can see, I made the opening too large, and will come back with .020”€¯ sheet styrene to close this opening.

The completed structure prior to painting:

The Finish

With the assembly completed, all that remains is to paint most of the structure, apply the plastic brick material and do the final trim matters.

Prior to painting, I masked off the areas of the structure that would later have brick veneer applied.  Doing so allowed for two plastic surfaces to be glued together rather than gluing plastic onto a coat of paint.

I primed the structure first, using the gray color of the primer to detect and correct minor surface flaws and such.  I painted the storage bin first, using a very dark gray color (Testor’s Panzer Gray). After this dried, I masked that surface off and painted the main structure color (Humbrol matte Red Brown). Although I had originally planned to use a dark blue, I later changed my mind and chose the red/brown color. It seems that all who have built this kit so far have chosen a similar color. I used a medium dark gray (Floquil Reefer Gray) for the blower assembly and downcomer, a lighter gray for the blower box (Testor’s Dark Gull Gray) and stack and a lighter gray color (Testor’s Light Gull Gray)for the roofs.

The brick material was attached by using tube glue.  Once it had set in place, I painted it a reddish brick color (Humbrol Brick Red). After it dried, I wiped liquid white shoe polish over the surface, then wiped off most of the polish with a rag, leaving white mortar lines in the brick material.

The “glass block" windows were fitted into the openings, using Micro-Scale Krystal Klear to hold them in place. This is a white-type glue that dries clear and is useful for locating aircraft canopies and such. It dries slightly tacky and flexible and is quite useful in any clear glass application. Using ACC glue is not recommended for clear parts because it often leaves a white “cloud" or bloom that is unsightly.

I also tried the white shoe polish technique on one of the windows, then decided that it did not make enough difference to have been worth the trouble. Once the windows were located in the structure, however, it became apparent that there was enough of a difference to be noticeable. In this case, either you do all of the windows with the shoe polish or you do none of them. In retrospect, the extra minute needed to detail the windows would be worth it.

Once the structure is fixed in its final location, it will be weathered to enhance the realistic appearance of this facility.

The observant will note that I have built this structure as a mirror image of what is called for in the plans. In most of the previous photos in this description, I have flipped the photos so that what you see is what you would most likely be building if you followed the instructions specifically.  Obviously, I didn’t, because the situation on the railroad called for things to be the other way. Once the structure was located on the railroad, its owner decided that it worked better in the opposite direction, so the kit was reassembled in the same manner as the plans called for. Oh, well......

This is a tough kit, but it is not impossible. I hope that what I have described here will help you build your model of the sintering plant. It is worth the effort.

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