Friday, April 11, 2014

Dry Creek Coal Tipple #2

Over the past several months, I've been working on the tipple for Dry Creek Coal at Summit Springs. This structure is based upon Virginia Iron and Coal Company's Esco 10-K tipple at Esco, Kentucky. There are several excellent shots of this facility taken by Everett Young in Stephen M. Timko's recent book "Appalachian Coal Mines and Railroads in Color." Due to space constraints, I had to modify the arrangement of the tipple on the layout versus the prototype. Hopefully, though, I've been able to captured the basic feel of the structure and the location.

Using the photographs in the book, I drew up plans for the basic shape of the structure. The spacing between the tracks was already established and by using a hopper car as a guide, I was able to determine the height and width of the structure. From there, I simply sketched out the rest of the structure until the dimensions looked close to the picture of the tipple. Below is a shot of the basic framework.

Once the basic framework was complete, I went back and added all of the cross bracing. I had planned to use Plastruct angles for the cross bracing, but even the smallest sized angles looked too big. So I opted to use Evergreen scale 2 x 3's instead. The photos below show the tipple with the bracing in place.

Part of the challenge of scratch-building a structure like this is figuring out how to construct all of the various components in a way that allows everything to be assembled correctly and weathered appropriately. I knew that I would have to add a conveyor on the first floor of the structure so I couldn't have the top section of the tipple attached directly to the frame. Several other components would have to be built separately as well. The photo below shows all of the finished pieces, with the exception of the top part of the structure, ready for weathering.

With all of the major components built, painted and ready for weathering, it was time to turn my attention to the scenery in the area. First, I glued a small piece of wood in place to serve as the base for the structure. Then I added plaster to the area around the base until I had a fairly level surface area around the building. Next, I added some plaster to the road across the tracks and laid down the ties and rails for the crossing. I also built a small retaining wall between the tipple spurs and the main line. This helps highlight the vertical separation between the mine spurs and the main line. The photos below show the area at this point.

As the Thayer clan (Stuart and his brother Bill and nephew Peter) is stopping by for a visit today, I thought I would set the structure in place so they could see how it's progressing.

There's a lot of work yet to be done to finish this scene, but the end is finally in sight!


  1. Outstanding, as usual. How do you make your concrete footers so they come out symmetrical on all sides?

    1. Thanks. The footers were cast by Robby Vaughn and I'm not sure what he used as a master.

      Tom Patterson

  2. Tom,

    Given the opportunity do you prefer to build a tipple or mine structure against a bare hillside and finish the building first, and fit the foliage around the structure, or perhaps the other way round? I realize the photos and current construction may just reflect how things have turned out but I was curious if you have a preference. The building in question in the Young/Timko book is a wonderful choice. As always I am very much looking forward to your next creation.



    1. Gerry,

      In almost every case on this layout, I've built the tipple or mine structure first and then filled in the scenery around it. I've done this for several reasons. First, I'm not always sure when I start a structure exactly where all of the pieces are going to go, i.e. the conveyors, supports, etc. Second, finishing the scenery after the structures are in place, or even as they are being placed, allows me to build up the scenery around the structure. This step insures that all of the various pieces appear "built in" rather than placed on top of the scenery.

      It's hard to believe, but once this tipple is finished, there will only be one more to construct on the layout. I may go back at some point and replace the Laurel Ridge prep plant. Robby Vaughn and Stuart Thayer have a large number of photos of the Ajax tipple on the Lott's Creek branch of the L&N. It's a classic wood framed structure with corrugated siding that stood well into the 1990's. In addition to being a great scratch building project, I think it would fit really well at the Laurel Ridge location.