Model Grain Elevator Construction

traingeekboy Oct 25, 2006

  1. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

    I was some what inspired by Greys thread about scratchbuilding. So I started looking around for materials and thinkig of what would be the most likely candidate for scratchbuilding. Since I'm a flatlander when it comes to my layout the most essential structure is the grain elevator.

    The easiest material to come by cheap is paper towel rolls. So my big question is, are paper towel rolls too large a diameter for a large cement grain elevator like I want to have on my layout.

    I've already mocked them up on the layout and I like how tall they are. They dwarf everything in site, exactly like I remember seeing the prototype do.

    Anyone with info on a good track arrangement is welcome to reply as well.

    I have priced out many of the kits and they come up well over 30.00$$ I figure a home made one will be unique and cheap.
  2. Gats

    Gats Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Concrete siloes have been built with diameters 9' to 146'. The paper towel inserts here measure at 40mm which gives a diameter of roughly 20.5 feet. On the smaller side but good for a small or compressed facility.
    Have a look at some of the images HERE to give you an idea or proportion.

    I have found a great site for any grain handling information. Sometimes you need to hunt through the companies to find what you want but there are drawings scattered all through the individual company sites.

    I personally prefer PVC pipe and couplers (joiners) for grain bins and silos. The couplers can be found cheap enough at the hardware store and can be dressed up with a little effort. Same with the pipe and if you know a plumber or electrician they would have offcuts from jobs all the time. Ask if they could collect a couple for you. You would want something in the 1-1/2" and 2" diameter range.

    That it will be, just like the prototype! :)
  3. Paul Bender

    Paul Bender TrainBoard Member

    I'll second the PVC pipe route.

    An advantage to the PVC pipe over the paper towel rolls is that you can find it in more than one diameter, so you can do silos of differing sizes.

    The elevator I'm working on right now is 2 rows of 6 silos that are a scale 100 feet tall, with a diameter of about 20 feet. The elevator on mine is between the 5th and 6th silos,and it's width is the same as the diameter of the silos, so I"ve just built a bank of 7. I used 1.5" pipe for this particular silo.

    The only complicated part of all this is the top. I personally just trace the outline of the assembled silos onto a piece of sheet styrene and then cut it out very carefully.

    I'm actually building a feed mill complex. I still have one more (smaller) set of silos to build to match the prototype I'm doing. This one gets 2 banks of roughly 10 foot diameter silos, but the elevator equipment is between the silos, so there isn't a separate elevator tower. That be an interesting build.

  4. Nelson B

    Nelson B TrainBoard Member

    I'd also suggest the PVC pipe. If you have any construction or remodeling going on in your area you can usually get scraps for free. If not it is pretty cheap to buy. Places like Lowes and Home Depot will sell it by the foot if you don't want a whole 10' length.
    You also won't have to deal with trying to hide that spiral seam in the paper towel roll.
  5. moose

    moose TrainBoard Member

    Grain elevators

    Go over to Atlas and in the HO forum do a search for INRAIL (archived). His layout features nothing but elevators :eek:mg: and some from very simple kitbashing.
  6. HoboTim

    HoboTim TrainBoard Supporter

    Scratch Building ANYTHING!

    I am an avid believer in Scratch Building! Scratch building creates unique and one-of-a-kind buildings (unless you go into business and mass produce). From misc scraps around the house and shop to professional building materials. Scratch building is the way to go.

    Have you ever put together a kit building and celebrated a major accomplishment when you finished it? Did it make you feel like a champion? I doubt it very seriously. After you build one or two kits, they all seem to be the same.

    Now, building something from scratch is a major accomplishment when it is finished. It produces more pride in what you have done and expressing that pride is just as strong. Photos to everyone!

    Cardboards, card stock paper, balsa woods, bass woods, miniature plywoods, sheet and shaped styrene plastic, cast resins, metal etchings, laser cuttings, and the list goes on! Their are so many supplies to scratch build projects.

    The first sentence I wrote above stated I am an avid believer in scratch building. The reason I stated this is because I model in Z scale. The availability of ready made kits in Z scale are next to none. Most Z scalers have to scratch build their items or rely on someone else to scratch build their items for them. This is exactly what I started nearly two years ago.

    I researched casting resins and etching on the internet. Not really much info out there. Micro-Mark came out with a home etching kit and I bought one. I learned to build RTV molds and use casting resins. I have purchased a pressure pot and a compressor to improve casting results, a Unimat lathe/mill, and numerous other small tools to help make my scratch building efforts.

    The reason I posted to this message is because one of the first Z scale items I scratch built was two different grain elevators. The first was a bit older than the second. I built styrene masters, made molds of them, then used casting resin to make more. I used brass etchings I made for added details. Here are photos of the two elevators. Remember, they are Z scale!




    It is amazing what you can do in scratch building your own creations. If it is something you need more than one of, a small investment in Micro-Marks RTV Rubber, Casting resins, and metal etching will produce some nice duplicates of your main work of art.

    I will leave you with these two links to my latest Z scale creation. This particular model is outfitted with four 2mm x 3mm white LEDs for night operations. Enjoy!

    Hobo Tim
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 26, 2006
  7. moose

    moose TrainBoard Member


    Fantastic elevators Tim!!!
  8. mdrzycimski

    mdrzycimski TrainBoard Supporter

    I too used pvc pipe to scratch build my elevator. I used 1 1/2" diameter pipe. A 10' section was only a couple of dollars. The rest is styrene sheet and styrene shapes for the loading pipes.

  9. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    My ego will never be the same. :)
    Hmm, maybe it is time for me to get out the paint and do some also. It is easy for me to challenge people. Guess I better produce.
    Good luck with your project.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 26, 2006
  10. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

    thank you thank you thank you

    thank you everyone. Lots of good info there.

    I am aware of the PVC pipe, the thing is I want to see what I can come up with that's basically free. I tried inserting golf balls in the ends to make them keep the proper shape and that seems to work. I have some water based KILZ sitting around from a house project.

    What got me really inspired to do this project is that I have a gravel dealer that I can see from my front porch everyday. When I drive by it, the collumns almost have a marbled look like faux finish paint work. It's all base layer of grey and then another layer of tan smudged on with streaks oif a different color with dark cracks in the middle. I got this idea that if I applied that sort of a fake paint job I might be able to make even cardboard tubes look like cement.

    I will post pictures in your thread when I get some progress. Right now I am collecting more rolls. I figure about twelve should do. I have six, so it'll be a week or two longer before I have a whole elevator to paint up.

    More questions for the informed elevator fans out there.

    #1 How tall? I sort of like the general height of the Paper towel rolls.

    #2 Any suggestions on piping and details and elvator building? I'm not too worried about detailing overly since this is N scale. I have always admired the cable reinforced pipes I see on elevators, so I would like to try that aspect, maybe in brass wire with a cut out spider shape for the middle section. Would these be appropriate for the seventies era?

    Thanks guys, for my small layout this thing will be a real center piece. Kind of like a coal mine on any other layout.
  11. David Bromage

    David Bromage TrainBoard Member

    This one was made with cardboard mailing tubes.


    You can't see it in the photo but there is a flashing LED on top as an aircraft obstruction light. A single AAA battery will keep it flashing for a whole weekend exhibition.

  12. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

    Nice. Is it just for loading cars and not recieving goods?

    I was going to be making a main storage type facility so I assume you bring grain in via rail and then ship it out via rail. Is there another way of handling the grain?
  13. bnsf_mp_30

    bnsf_mp_30 TrainBoard Member

    I use the cylindrical plastic containers that Crystal Lite drink mix comes in for silos. There are 2 "heights". Not sure if the diameter is prototypical but the height works for where I use them.
  14. Gats

    Gats Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Yep, brass wire as you suggest and I think it would be fine for the 70's era. I couldn't say when it was developed.

    From memory, I used .010" brass wire for the cables and .015" for the spider. Drill through the styrene tube near the ends at 90 degree intervals and the same for the spider, except offset it slightly so the wire goes through over each other. The cables were bent to suit (90 at ends and slightly at centre) and ACC'ed to the spider and tube. I may or may not have nothched the ends of the spider.
    Once dry it does as advertised - gently try to flex the tube!

  15. Thieu

    Thieu TrainBoard Member

    One of our clubmembers used the Pringle tubes, and therefore called it 'Pringle Grain'. I plan to use a same kind of tubes, used for small cookies that are traditional during our holidays. I only have to eat a few more of these to get enough for a grain elevator.

    Here my elevator, scratchbuild:

  16. Flash Blackman

    Flash Blackman Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Google Search

    I did a Google search for Pringle Grain and... :eek:mg:

    [edit] Link below is broken.

    Pringle Grain
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2008
  17. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

    Beautiful work there. do you have a pic of it on the elevator?
  18. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

    Thats funny. It looks like those guys are having a good time doing US proto modules.
  19. BrianS

    BrianS E-Mail Bounces

    Most elevators recieve grain from local farmers by truck and resell it to processors, shipping by rail. Some recieve by rail if they are located along with a processing plant. Very rarely is grain unloaded from rail and then reloaded; it is commonly stored in the rail cars.
  20. ppuinn

    ppuinn Staff Member

    Geeky and BrianS:
    FWIW--In the 1970s about a dozen RRs came into the Peoria Illinois area from central Illinois. Frequently, the major commodity was grain brought by rail from small town elevators along the ROW, just as Brian described. Tabor grain was located next to the Peoria and Pekin Union Railway main yard in East Peoria, and they often stored grain in the cars on tracks in the B Yard.

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