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About me

As you have to do for introductions like this, I selected some pictures suggesting an exciting lifestyle doing questionable things around old industrial buildings.

Of course most of the time this is greatly inaccurate as I am a modeller before everything else, so usually you’ll find me in front of a desk covered in dust, paint and glue. I would even describe myself as a passionate modeller (which sounds nice but mostly means I will yell vulgar things loudly when things refuse to go as planned) and have been since primary school days, since then it has been gradually getting worse, through a steadily growing skillset, vocabulary and budget. After some maniacal revell and airfix glue sniffing I got my hands on some flea market treasures on 16.5mm-track and after these had been modified plenty of times things got serious when I started building my own cardboard models of dutch steam locomotives, later switching to plasticard.

As meanwhile the rest of life had pretty much come to a standstill it was really pleasant I found a job at Miniworld Rotterdam (called RailZ miniworld at the time), recreating quite a number of rotterdam landmarks in miniature, getting a proper taste for broodjes akong with sambal and learning the first steps of 2D CAD and CNC milling. Also, it’s really interesting to see what happens to model trains when they run 60 hours every week.

As the work at miniworld was mostly buildings, so relatively coarse, the hobby stuff concentrated on rolling stock, first still dutch, later switching to indonesian and polish. Also, a friend got me into urban exploration around that time, it’s always been a secondary hobby for me but a very interesting one.

After 5 years at miniworld I got the opportunity to switch to Artitec, where at the moment I write this I’ve been working for about 7 years now? maybe 8. don’t know. It’s fun so I haven’t been counting the days. Since the work at artitec is mostly on small really accurate stuff, the buildings-and-layouts-part of me started getting itchy again, well, basically that landed me this project. More about that below.







How I got into this mess….

I first visited the seraing area around 2008, and was highly impressed. A lot of old stuff was still there, blast furnace 6 blew some impressive orange clouds right in the middle of town, and there were many intriguing open spaces surrounded by crumbling factory walls. Sadly, at that point, because everything was still more or less active there was no point trying to give it a closer look and circumstances and budget prevented further visits for a while. In late 2013 we went to chertal for the first time and that was where things seriously started going wrong.

During the following years the more often I went there on urban exploration missions with 2 friends, the more we got hooked on seraing steelworks and we visited many sites, like the two remaining blast furnaces, the steelworks at chertal, the coking plant, the forge and electric arc furnace in seraing and many smaller buildings like workshops, pumping stations, offices…

Meanwhile, we did some attempts to find out more about the area but publications about the industry in the area are surprisingly scarce, especially considering how important this industry has been in Belgian history. The lack of publications meant a new hobby was rapidly born to fill the time we were not in seraing risking life and limb with the camera: finding scans of old postcards and other old pictures from the area on online auction websites and bickering about where exactly the picture had been taken, using an ever growing collection of pictures and maps. Slowly this started escalating towards ideas for a group modelling project, as not only urban exploration was a common hobby, we had all originally met through railway modelling.

After some brainstorming the plan finally stabilized on 3 scenes:

  • The ateliers centraux/rolling stock workshop with the unused liquid iron railway through downtown Ougrée, with level crossings and pipe bridge in between houses. We really wanted to model the level crossings and the rolling stock workshop would be a nice excuse to have basically every type of rolling stock on the cockerill sambre network on the layout
  • The old Cockerill blast furnace department as it looked like in 1988, partly demolished but blast furnace 5 and 7 and the charge silo still standing, with the adjacent power plant and forge.
    We had been able to explore the last Ougree blast furnace and the last Esperance-Longdoz blast furnace but the last Cockerill furnace had been gone since 1988. After finding a series of really awesome photos taken during demolition I figured making a model would be a nice chance to explore it anyway. (yes, I will be all cheesy and model our little urbex team on one of those blast furnaces.)
  • The dead end of Rue Philippe de Marnix north of the state railway tracks. I’ll leave it to the reader to find out why that part has to be built.

It was already clear this would be a rather serious undertaking (understatement) even between the three of us, as I was the only one who had built full layouts before. Standards were set suitably high, all buildings homemade and rolling stock as accurate as possible, bought when available (which of course means at least half of it at least partly handmade as well)

As I was already working for Artitec at the time I could make use of the company facilities so serious amounts of resin and etched brass parts could be made for the project without becoming excessively expensive, greatly reducing the amount of work, making the whole thing seem slightly less impossible. (only slightly, though) In return, some project parts have made it into the artitec catalogue.

At this point one friend already started to feel a bit shaky about the whole thing and decided to quit. Well, a most sensible thing to do I’d say, and as said friend still offered to help hauling layout woodwork around the country, who am I to complain.

Meanwhile me and the other mate soldiered on, I started designing and making masters for all resin facades and after castings were made mate started on the buildings for the ougree part while I had a go at the cockerill part and some locomotives.

After a while progress on the ougree bit slowed more and more as my mate was going through some unpleasant times, so we decided I would just continue the build on my own to relieve him of the constant feeling of impending doom such a project instills in sensible people. He would still help me with all sorts of side jobs like being chief layout crew at shows, donate free opinions, brainstorm about all sorts of light and sound related stuff, organising show visits, designing Le Bassin stickers, successfully ordering things that actually get delivered and that sort of thing that would just not happen if left to me. Some day I might even trick him into some miniature gardening.

So… that leaves me here merrily slogging on, strangely somehow enjoying the ever growing endless project just as much as I did years ago when we started! I guess Seraing syndrome is like Stockholm syndrome but slightly worse.

Cheers,

Floris

weekend update 7

Well, the last couple of weeks has mostly been about making little detail bits, adding them to the layout, designing and making more detail bits, waiting for resin castings or etched parts for those detail bits and generally not feeling like there is heaps of progress, for lack of big projects. So, this time just a little tour around the layout, starting at the workshop we know so well and then venturing into the great outdoors!

steelworks layout problems

When modelling steel industry you need quite some background knowledge of many things, like for example price tags of consumer electronics in belgium in 1988.

Well, as I had no idea about that, I first made a pile of washing machines, tv sets (with led inside of course) etc…

Then flooded several people with questions… well, got some answers, so good enough for some signs that nobody will ever read…

and then put the building back in it’s spot. Still work in progress, but as I keep telling myself, slooowly getting there!

So, that’s it for today,

Cheers!

Floris

weekend update 6

Well, it’s not a weekend, but here’s an update anyway, and since I once called them weekend updates, why not stick to the tradition. Also, I get to drink a bit while writing this, so yeah. Some heavy belgian craft beers this time. not complaining.

So, on to the more interesting stuff: progress on the layout! Last time I reported having all pipes painted, so now time for finishing touches. There’s an awful lot of those, as I had basically done all buildings to about halfway in terms of weathering and specific detail, leaving some room for a final round of detail and weathering making sure it all matches nicely when it all comes together.

Also, it’s now time for some green stuff. A moment I had been dreading a bit since it’s a long time ago I did that sort of thing… luckily the products of martin welberg make it all quite a bit easier, basically just rip and glue. I especially like his layered tufts.
You can find it all here: http://www.martinwelberg.nl/

Ok, so, on to the pictures!

First going over this row of houses again, highlighting individual bricks with several washes to liven up the brickwork a little, add additional rust and grime, especially the locally very common black dust at spots where the rain will never wash it away, and further cheerful details like bin bags, a ropey moped, some old planks etc.

So, time for more of this sort of thing on the layout itself, like livening up the factory gate a bit with a bunch of signs, adding some extra grime and union posters to the concrete walls etc…

Meanwhile I had been looking at some pictures I took a few years ago and I figured the roofs still looked too bright. Had a go at the next row of houses and I think I’m getting there. Surely makes things look less appealing, which is a good thing in this case. Oh and yes that buffer stop still needs a bit of attention. It’s all still on the civilised side compared to actual belgian prototype, so who knows what else I might try.

So, that’s it for today,

cheers,

Floris

it’s all painted!

This time, a little milestone!

But first things first: wrapping up work on the rolling stock workshop for now. Things were mostly there already, so sticking random decals on things, then add dirt of various kinds. After adding a light to the hydraulic press I decided the whole thing was officially good enough for now and the workshop could be moved to the layout.

It did even sort of fit in place and required only minor surgery. Good times!

Well, with the rolling stock workshop mostly done and back on the layout, it’s time for the last major job on the ougree part: finally painting all those gas pipes! These were the last major bits of unpainted eyesore in ougree, now they are a painted eyesore. While planning the layout (most of that happened while I was building it, so don’t get tricked into thinking I indulge in weird activities like thinking ahead) I mocked up pretty much everything, but carefully ignored those pipes, as they will just be there, blocking the view on everything I made during the last couple of years, strongly discouraging track cleaning and making sure the trains are mostly hidden in shadows. So much for a layout as a theatre for trains, well, no spotlights for my engines.

To celebrate this milestone some pictures for you and a glass of whisky for me!

So, that’s it for this week. Meanwhile I’ll have another glass while enjoying the cheerful view.

cheers!

Floris

Weekend update 4

Once again, rolling stock workshop stuff.

Well, two more weeks of being locked up in here, bad news to everyone except modellers. Ok, mostly artitec projects, but also some belgian things in between!

First quite some very necessary but not necessarily fun work, like attaching lights to the ceiling of the workshop protruding in the direction of the viewer, to eliminate some annoying shadows at the very front bit. Sounds easy enough, until you have to crack open the roof construction that had been glued shut a month of two ago to install the wiring and then repair all the damage… oh well.

Then on to mass producing furniture and other equipment and detail bits for the old part of the workshop. Some kitbashed artitec leftover castings, lots of scratch built closets and contents cobbled together using styrene strip, some Busch workshop detail bits and pieces and a hydraulic press scratchbuilt using some pictures of the real thing in ougree. And indeed, while making those red and grey plastic fastener-boxes I was asking myself what the hell I was actually doing, but I think it paid off. Next will be sticking decals and paper notes everywhere like on the real thing.

Some in between-project I had been working on lately was 3D-drawing a cummins NTA855 engine, the type used in the little cockerill engines and 2 in the GE 110 ton centre cab switchers, a 3D print has been unceremoniously dumped in a scrap car for lack of better use at the moment, accompanying a pile of rolling mill offcuts (actually painted sheet metal scrap from the workbench)

So… enough warbling, pictures!

so, that’s it for this update, stay safe and see you next time!

cheers,

Floris

Weekend update 3

More rolling stock workshop stuff

Yes, there has been more than 1 weekend since the last update. Well, one weekend renders more interesting results than the other, so in this case I decided that it would be better to wait a bit and show some more afterwards.

Sooo… well, as is to be expected, work on the rolling stock workshop continued. After all big chunks had been painted in their main colours there was still a load of detail work to do, also the main roof hadn’t been painted yet as it was still missing some detail bits. Well, this has all been taken care of last weekend…

The next step would be adding load of detail stuff. More pipework that would be impossible to assemble when the building was still in pieces and of course all the equipment kicking around in a workshop. Most detail stuff was at least inspired by urbex pictures taken in the workshop, as it is basically the only information I have. Undoubtedly quite a lot in there must have changed during the last 30 years, but it’s one of those cases of well, if I don’t know, the audience won’t either. At the moment the front part of the workshop is already being filled up a little, the main part will be next. Weathering is still on the to do list, as is putting up signs, notes etc just about everywhere. I’d say it’s slowly going somewhere though.

Well… with all that official update stuff out of the way, time for some bonus pictures.

As I’ve been working at home lately some samples of this years new artitec stuff basically stranded here because the whole pandemic thing will delay production, so why not have a bit of fun with a little volvo loader. I have a feeling I might make myself an extra sample.

Next are some bonus pictures of some new additions to the fleet, being put to work immediately. Thanks to Evan Daes I was able to buy some more US style centre cab locomotives, so a lineup with the existing centre cabs was of course inevitable…

So, that’s it for this week. Hope you enjoyed this update!

Cheers!
Floris

weekend update 2

Splashing some paint on the workshop

This weekend the rolling stock workshop was on the workbench again. (well, it had been all the time, I just built the ladle cars on the bits of workbench left over.)

I was already slowly preparing the workshop for some paint for a while, this has to happen some time halfway the build as a lot of pipework and other detail stuff is criss crossing through the girder posts supporting the crane rails and since these girders have a different color than the walls they have to be sprayed separately. Keeping all the stuff that is partly attached to the girders and partly to the walls detachable is a substantial headache so I figured just spray the thing now and figure out the rest later. The main roof will have to wait for a bit though, as it needs some extra resin bits that I’ll have to cast this week.

after paintwork came the rather tedious job of glueing all 3D printed lamps for the inspection pits to prepainted strips of milled styrene and after the glue had dried glue them over the holes with the leds in the inspection pits. Overall the inspection pits were quite a hassle, especially the lighting, but I think they look pretty cool now.

After this I had to assemble the workshop again to see what it looks like of course, here are some pictures:

That’s it for this week. Stay safe and happy modelling!

cheers

Floris

Junkerath ladle cars

As this week progress on the layout is pretty much non-existent but I had a bit of time to finally finish the ladle cars, time for a little special on those things.

These cars were built in the 1950’s by Junkerath for Cockerill-Ougree as part of a big modernisation going on in that era. At this point all operations around seraing were still fairly compact and local so there was no need for torpedo ladles to prevent heat loss during longer travels as the distances were all fairly short. The map below gives a nice impression of the state of affairs at cockerill-ougree around 1965 and the tasks these cars had to fulfill: haul liquid iron from the ougree blast furnaces (4) or Cockerill blast furnaces (1) to the Ougree Thomas steel plant (2) or Seraing LDAC steel plant (3)

As the 1970’s progressed the cockerill blast furnaces and ougree thomas steel plant were closed and ladle car service was limited to trips from the only remaining blast furnace in ougree (blast furnace B) to the only remaining steel plant, LDAC Seraing.

In 1984 it was decided to concentrate all steelmaking in Chertal. LDAC Seraing was closed and dismantled soon after, this was the end for open ladles as hot iron from the Ougree blast furnace went to Chertal in torpedo ladles. For some reason 3 of these cars managed to survive since then, sitting on a siding in ougree until recently, when the tracks through downtown ougree were lifted the cars yet again survived and are now awaiting their fate on the torpedo ladle preparation tracks near the ougree blast furnace.

a little bit of footage of the cars in action can be seen here at 8:08:

A nice 1967 picture showing them in pretty much original shape with a cab on 1 end: https://flickr.com/photos/131491887@N02/16826559229/

Some recent pictures I took showing the cars in Ougree. apart from three of these Junkerath cars there are three heavier Paul Würth ladle cars of Espérance-longdoz origin there as well. https://flickr.com/photos/floris_dilz/albums/72157712636345036

The model

This was just another sketchy job as there are many on this project. I went to take pictures of these cars, but decided I was too lazy to actually measure them as they were visible on their old spot on the siding in ougree on google maps, so the main dimensions would be easy enough to figure out. (Also, the thought of being caught by securité d’Ougrée while spending way too much time around these cars in plain view with a measuring tape didnt seem very appealing)

So, good old eyeballing again, resulting in a 2D cad drawing. I did also draw the fat Espérance-ladle because, well, I don’t need it and it takes quite a lot of time.

in an unprecedented rush of modernity I actually managed to draw some more complicated bits like the actual ladle and the wheel bearings in 3D so they could be printed at work.

the rest of the cars would be just old fashioned cnc-milled styrene sheet and some etched bits. As this wasn’t particularly interesting to design I managed to put it off for a couple of months, got bored with the lack of progress while still not wanting to properly design it so made it a late night sketchy rush job, milled the parts at work the next day and the whole thing went together reasonably well so everything went better than expected. As I wanted more than 1 car I made some castings of the styrene and 3D print-parts, smuggled the etchings in between some artitec test orders and waited a bit.

As castings and etchings came in it seemed keeping the rather thin frame straight could be a bit of a challenge, but so far my models seem ok. So, I quickly assembled 1 car to check if everything worked out as planned, well, it pretty much did, then I lost interest again, reworked the car as a flat car load of a disassembled ladle car for Artitec, finally assembled two more…

….and last weekend I finally got around to paint and weather them. I’ll go into a bit more detail here: First the cars got their pre-paint-weathering. In this case this mean putting some sand/pva-glue muddy mixture on pretty much all horizontal surfaces, then sprinkle some very fine sand/dust over the top of it.

The the first layer of paint, humbrol flat black (33), on top of that slightly transparent rust (humbrol 70 and 62, about 2:1)

After this had dried overnight I painted the dirt with a mix of humbrol 33 and 29, about 1:1, and painted on some white numbers. After this the whole car got a wash using humbrol 33.

then I got out the oil paints. Just added some small bits of burnt and raw sienna, vandyke brown and zinc white…

them wiped them away into streaks with a wet brush. This also damaged the numbers on the ladles a bit as they hadn’t really dried yet. I rather liked that actually. Numbers on cars like this are repainted very often and not very carefully.

I felt some green algae was missing so I mixed up a nice tone of green using chromium oxide green and raw sienna and applied green streaks using the same method.

Then some new numbers were slapped on

A bit of drybrush using humbrol 72 and the paint looks good enough for now. In the background some scenery stuff for the next step…

the real cars in ougree had a proper jungle growing on the dirt on the frame. As I am modelling an earlier era I won’t make a proper jungle but some bits of grass would be nice of course. For this I used some scenery products by Martin Welberg: http://www.martinwelberg.nl/index.html
Just cut some tiny bits and glue it on, basically.

Well, time to put these things on the layout and take some pictures!

For those who like pristine ladles better, you’re in luck, Artitec 487.801.84 might just be what you’re looking for to put some flatcars to work

Artitec 487.801.84

So, that’s the ladle car story for now. Maybe I’ll build those Espérance things at some point, I do already have castings of the ladle and bogie sides… And a little gem had managed to survive inside the cockerill works until 1988, buried in between a pile of old rollers, wouldn’t be surprised if that thing would make it to a model and hence into this blog at some point. we’ll see.

cheers!

Floris

weekend update 1

Apart from longer posts concentrating on a single subject, I’ll also try to do frequent bits and pieces about recent progress on the layout, usually after a weekend successfully avoiding life so the weekend could be entirely squandered on modelling.

This time, more work on the overhead cranes in the rolling stock workshop. They’re now just about ready for paint and after that some rigging. It never ceases to amaze me how many hours go into these things.

Also, I finally managed to assemble the third Junkerath ladle car. As there are still three of these cars in existence, that would be a nice number to have on the layout as well. I’ll do a full story on those things some other time.

and a rare bonus pic of the outside of the rolling stock workshop

Cheers,

Floris

Back to the present: the Ougrée rolling stock workshop.

After yesterday’s trip down memory lane it’s now time to write a bit about the project I’m currently working on: the Ougrée rolling stock workshop.

It would have been nice to flex some knowledge here, like build dates etc, but sadly all I know is that it is already on a 1950 aerial view of ougree, lurking in the background. It started out as a fairly simple rectangular building, about 25 m wide, 140 m in length, with 3 tracks running most of the length of it, partly fitted with inspection pits.

1950 aerial view of the ateliers centraux in ougree. Arrow marks the rolling stock workshop.

Later (some time between 1954 and 1963) the building was enlarged by adding a saw-tooth roof extension on the western side of it, resulting in the L-shape it still has today. As both parts of the building have more recent looking ceilings in the workshop area and the overhead cranes in the original part of the building were made in 1982, my guess is the whole building was modernised around that time. Below a google maps screenshot from a similar viewpoint

same place, around 2018. google maps screenshot.
a plan of the “halle a wagons” and surrounding open-air storage. (wheels, bogies and perhaps other large parts as well used to be stored outside. A narrow gauge track, marked “decauville” was built to transport these parts) This plan is dated may 1976.

As far as I know this building was originally only for wagon repairs and maintenance, but as large parts of the cockerill sambre railway network were disappearing in the 1980’s and 1990’s locomotives were also serviced here, right until the end, as evidenced by a partly overhauled GE 110 ton switcher still sitting there after the place was abandoned, looking rather smart in mittal orange livery.

Sadly I haven’t been able to take decent pictures of this building as I was there on the evening of a very dark winter day, so for my model I had to rely on other explorers. Some really nice interior shots can be found here for example: http://www.urbanexploration.nl/sambre2.php
https://flickr.com/photos/154808163@N02/albums/72157695470771335

And now on to the model…

This workshop is going to be a quite prominent feature on the layout, as it is situated on the front, cut longitudinally revealing full interior detail. Even though its a fairly straightforward building and I’ve reduced the length of the building quite a lot (it’s about 110 cm, full length it would have been over 2 m) to make sure it fits on a single baseboard to save some of the headache of having to make a split building line up nicely, it’s been a considerable amount of work so far.

Work started on the floors, as these would determine the location of the tracks and would be needed when track laying was going on on the layout. Some 1mm plasticard did the trick, with some chunkier bits underneath to make up for track height. Walls were constructed using resin castings. Some care had to be taken because these fairly big pieces tend to be slightly different in size, as the silicone moulds used tend to grow slightly after each casting as a little bit of resin penetrates the silicone, increasing the volume a tiny bit. pairing up adjacent castings is quite important.
When assembled, the walls were not glued to the floor, but fitted in place using bits of brass rod that fit in holes in the floor, so the building can be disassembled for further construction work and painting.

After the walls were done, the later part of the workshop got a ceiling with some built in floodlights, made using some very bright LEDs I found in an ikea LED light bulb. These will work fine on 16V, some fiddling with various resistors to determine the right amount of light, a bit of dodgy wiring and job’s a good one. After this, the saw-tooth roof was built on top of the ceiling. As the roof girders would still be partly visible through the windows on the roof, these had to be made as well. Because I was too lazy to make this all by hand with a load of evergreen strip I cut out the most important pieces on the CNC milling machine at work.

After all this frankly not very inspiring work it was time for something a bit more interesting as it actually did involve detail: the overhead crane with associated rails and girders.

I did find a few pictures showing this crane, enough to make a reasonably accurate interpretation of it, unknown details, (mostly the travelling crab) were made using pictures of similar cranes around the area. A cad design was drawn up, a paper mockup printed and assembled to see if it looked about right, the cad-design was reworked to some cnc-milling drawings and I had my own crane model kit. I think I’ll do a separate post on overhead cranes in the future, as these things are actually quite interesting to model and just about every steel industry building has at least one.

After the crane was largely finished, attention was diverted to the other part of the workshop, which has a rounded ceiling, quite a pig to make, though it also lends the roof a bit of rigidity once finished. The middle of the ceiling contains some clear panels to make use of the skylight in the roof. This meant parts of the roof had to be transparent, or at least let some light pass through. Part of the roof has to be constructed using acrylic sheets, my favourite material *cough*. Well, in the end it wasn’t so bad actually. The strips in between the individual bits of glass were imitated by scoring the acrylic surface using a stanley knife with 2 blades in it. This double cut line will later retain quite some paint when you paint the surface and then wipe the paint off again. After the frame of the roof was put together, LED floodlights were added like in the other part of the workshop and inspection pits were made in the floor, very well lit by some very cheap hacked up led light chains. fingers crossed these things will still work in a couple of years… Then the roof was closed off using resin castings of corrugated iron roofing and work on the building stalled for quite some time as pipe bridges slowly entangled it like industrial jungle vegetation…

About a month ago, after the new models for the nurnberg toy fair were finished, I decided it was time to get this building finished as it is basically the last big job on the Ougrée part of the layout. It’s now sitting on a wooden frame on my workshop table, so I can move it around without it all falling apart as it still consists of many separate parts, making up something only slightly more solid than a house of cards. I’m already looking forward to the day I am able to put some paint on it so I can actually glue things together. Lately I have been adding detail all around the building. Some roll-up doors and plumbing in the newer part, overhead crane rails and overhead cranes in the old part, some more leds and wiring, well, the usual. As work continues I’ll post short updates on this blog from time to time.

That’s it for now,

Cheers,

Floris