Coal bin for Leedham’s Mill

 photo PtRowan-FeedMill-CoalBin-01_zps7zsrug3w.jpg

I’ve just finished building the first of two coal bin kits – this one, for the Leedham’s mill at the end of track in Port Rowan. (The second kit is for the team track in St. Williams.)

The kit – from Crystal River Products – builds into a much larger commercial coal house, as shown on the company’s website.

I cut down the kit to half the size – which is closer to the size of the prototype bin as described on my map of the yard area. It’ll hold a gondola car’s worth of coal and not much more – but that will add up to dozens of bags of coal for the mill’s customers, and I’m sure the mill will order more coal as the pile dwindles.

This was an excellent kit for many reasons – but the main one is that the designer departed from the standard use of a laser cutter in this hobby: Instead of creating a standard laser-cut kit, the laser was used to create fixtures in which to build up the walls and doors, board by board. The boards were also cut to length using the laser, so things went together with the precision that a laser offers, while still enabling the modeller to individually distress and stain each board for a terrific “weathered wood” finish:

 photo PtRowan-FeedMill-CoalBin-02_zps2hp70h2h.jpg

Too often in the hobby, we’re enamoured by the tools: We have a laser cutter so everything needs to be laser cut. More recently, we’ve seen the same phenomenon with 3D printers. Like laser cutters, they’re great for some operations, and completely inappropriate for others. (I have a friend who runs a high-end machine shop. He has a 3D printer and 3D scanner at work that’s used mainly to create fixtures to hold pieces for machining.)

This kit is a good example of placing the priority on the finished model, not the easiest way to manufacture it. There’s a lot more laser time involved to create this kit than there would be for the standard “four walls plus a roof” approach. This is reflected in the price for the kit (US$140 last time I checked).

That may seem steep for a structure that fits in the palm of one’s hand. But I feel this is entirely worth the price.

There are literally hundreds of pieces of wood in this little shed. I stained each piece individually using three Hunterline stains in various combinations.

When I add up the time spent staining, distressing and assembling, I’ve invested about 50 hours into this kit so far. This works out to $2.80 per hour for hobby fun – so far – with the cost per hour to drop further as I invest more hours to install this structure on the layout and detail the area to turn it into a vignette. (Certainly, I got more enjoyable bench time than I would have had I spent that $140 on a ready-to-run locomotive.)

On top of this, I picked up many techniques – new to me – that I can put to good use on future projects. I can’t put a price on that.

This shed is the first structure for the feed mill complex. I have three more buildings to create, and all will be scratch-built. The coal bin has set a standard of quality for this scene: It was a great place to start.

 photo PtRowan-FeedMill-CoalBin-03_zpslxndbsm2.jpg

12 thoughts on “Coal bin for Leedham’s Mill

    • Thanks Simon.
      There’s a lot more that can be done with this kit, too.
      I’ve added a bit of distressing, but not too much as I want it to be a “useful” shed. I couldn’t resist splitting a board on the roof and do like how the “sunlight” streams through it and can be seen through the open door in the first photo.
      But one could go to town on a kit like this: damage from falling tree limbs, or being crunched by a backing truck… all the way to abandoned and falling down, with saplings growing through the remains.
      I enjoyed this kit so much, I could become a coal shed modeller… start a quarterly publication, The Nugget… attend coal shed enthusiasts conventions…

  1. Hi Trevor,
    Nice work on your coal bin! As an option,you might consider installing one at the end of the siding if you ever build Hammonds Mill. IN THE 1960’S, I remember it filled with paper bags of charcoal briquets that were off loaded by hand from one of those steel boxcars that Steve Lucas alluded to in a previous post.
    On a different topic, have you ever considered building a flanger to assist your snowplow on those winter days when the snow has drifted over the rails. I remember watching out the window at home on the farm in Forrestville seeing a snowplow and a flanger pushed by a EMD 1200 heading westbound…they sure weren’t observing the 15mph speed limit either as they bucked the drifts!

    Monte Reeves

    • Hi Monte:
      That’s the role for the second coal bin kit, basically.
      I’m still thinking about modelling Hammonds properly. I’m also thinking about how to rework all of St. Williams to more accurately reflect the prototype. That said, I also had an idea about adding a stock chute alongside the double-ended track – where the potato field is now – to give me an excuse to run a stock car or two on occasion: perhaps delivering new stock to a local farm.
      I’d love to do a flanger – and a Jordan spreader! I’m still researching both.
      Always great to hear from you and learn more about the branch.

  2. Hi Trevor,
    You have some great ideas too! Actually, there was a stock chute on the line at Vittoria where pigs were shipped. My mother spoke of horses shipped to Pt.Rowan in the late 1930’s by rail from the Canadian West to be used in the new tobacco industry. I don’t know where the stock pin was there but in Vittoria it was on the north side along the siding. A couple of options for loads…?
    Hope this helps.

    Monte Reeves

    • It sure does help, Monte. Thanks!
      I have a stock chute kit from Crystal River – the same company that did the coal shed – and I planned to build it just for the enjoyment of building it. But if I can also use it, that’s even better.

    • …horses shipped to… …be used in the new tobacco industry.
      As a (long time, now) ex-smoker, I know how addictive smoking can be, but some people will smoke anything.

      Was it a competitor brand to “Camel?”

  3. Trevor,
    Thanks for the story of the kit and more importantly your thought process while creating a wonderfully unique application of the kit. I suspect there will be more stories centered on the coal sheds as the Port Rowan story continues.

  4. Hi Trevor,

    Nice job on the kit. I have the same kit right up front on my Sn3 layout. As you said, it was a great kit to build, as are all of the Crystal River kits. Love your posts, keep them coming.

    Mike S.

  5. Combining laser cutting and board by board seems to be a trend. Dan and I are working on a Banta Blacksmith Shop Annex which consists of a laser cut frame and a bundle of sticks.

    • Good! More manufacturers need to get on board with this approach. Maybe it shows a maturing of the technology – that people are looking beyond the obvious approach (cut out a wall) to a better approach.
      And the best part is, no burn marks to try to remove!

  6. Trevor–great idea to shorten this kit. I built one, and kept the templates for a second, cause God knows how many coal sheds a town could have in the 30s and 40s. These do build up into fine models, what with all that individually stained wood framing on the outside. And it is hard not to individually stain the parts.

    Keith Hayes
    Leadville in Sn3

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