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  • A Rail-Marine Intermodal Terminal in N or HO Scale

    This container terminal is an N scale model, but the container crane must be built from styrene strips and shapes for either N or HO scale. In HO scale, the Resin Unlimited (P.O. Box 1 056, Menomanee Falls, WI 53052) replica of an ore boat could be modified to simulate a container ship. There are indexes of previous articles on intermodal modeling and on rail-marine modeling on pages 28-29 of this issue.
    Railmodel Journal - May 1998 - Page 44


    Bernard Kempinski

    The surge in container traffic has swept contemporary railroading, both prototype and model. Heavy trains of double-stacked wellcars loaded with colorful containers have replaced the familiar box cars of the past and are now the hotshots on many railroad systems. Fortunately, vendors now offer models of most intermodal equipment in both HO and N scale. Providing layout destinations for this equipment in the form of intermodal terminals, particularly the rail-sea terminals, will add interest, excitement and realism. In this article I'll describe how to design a model rail marine container terminal by describing the important components of such a terminal and illustrate how I built such a terminal on an NTRAK module.

    Container terminals evolved into specialized cargo-handling facilities to satisfy the peak demand and rapid turnaround required by container carriers. Modern container terminals allow the unloading of ships in a matter of hours where for merly days or even weeks were the norm. Fast turnaround time for the ship significantly contributes to the economic efficiency of the whole container transport process.

    Railmodel Journal - May 1998 - Page 45

    A specialized container terminal is not necessary for handling containers, but it is faster. Many of the ports in the United States do not have specialized facilities for handling containers, instead they make do with conventional layouts and handling gear used for non-containerized cargo. In these cases the ship's gear, mobile cranes on dockside or shore-based fixed booms unload the containers. In some ports the quays may not be wide enough for maneuvering containers. These require assembly areas near the port where containers can be stored and prepared for loading. However, the more interesting facility to model is the specialized container terminal . Shippers were quick to adopt these capital-intensive facilities because they produce the lowest overall cost. Fortunately, the unique, often colorful equipment presents exciting modeling opportunities.

    The large equipment required to handle and transport containers makes modeling an intermodal facility a challenge. Piggyback flats stretch up to 89 feet long, more than double the length of a traditional 40-foot box car. Furthermore, double-stack well cars with 45-foot containers and the length to accommodate the rail bogies are also large . The cranes and facilities needed to transfer, process and store containers cover many acres, while the container ships that dock alongside stretch up to 800 feet long. Even in N scale a ship this large would be 6 feet l ong. To plan a faithful representation, we need to distill the essential elements of the rail-marine container terminal into a manageable yet believable size.

    Rail-Marine Treminal Functions and Features

    To model a rail-marine container terninal, you need to consider the major functions involved in the preparation of containers for shipboard loading and then incorporate these in some form on your layout. The functions include the following: inbound receiving, consolidation, container in spection, marshaling , and finally loading ( see Figure I ).

    The inbound receiving point, located near the terminal gate, logs all incoming cargo. State-of-the-art facilities have automated systems that expedite in-processing. All less-than-car-load (l-c-l) cargo is brought to the container freight station and consolidated into outgoing containers, while inbound containers move directly to a truck operations yard, a temporary holding area where workers inspect containers and check paperwork . With inspections and paperwork com pleted, the containers move to the container marshaling yard. Containers in this area are ready for loading aboard ship.

    A close-up of the wheel units on the gantry crane at the Sea Land Terminal in Baltimore Harbor at Canton, Maryland.
    Railmodel Journal - May 1998 - Page 46

    When the ship arrives, yard equip ment moves the containers and positions them under the loading cranes. These cranes place the containers on board ship. The ship's crew carefully controls the process to avoid uneven loading that could capsize the ship. They also plan the blocking to expedite unloading at various ports. This is the most time-critical phase in the whole process. The ideal is uninterrupted movement of the loading cranes since this determines the overall loading rate. Whenever possible in the loading sequence, there must be another container waiting, ready to be engaged by the crane and hoisted on the ship.

    Terminal operators use various systems for container handling depending on several factors such as the relative availability of land area, labor costs, proximity to other transportation infrastructure and local demand. Many container terminals employ multiple handling systems to tailor their operation to local conditions. So there is ample justification for including several different container handling systems in a model terminal.

    The first system used was simply containers kept on trailers and pulled by yard tractors. This system requires the highest area but low capital investment and affords easy equipment availability. On the other hand, storing and stacking containers on the ground allows higher utilization of land area but requires a means to load and move the containers within the terminal. Several systems evolved for these purposes: for example, front loaders, straddle carriers and gantry cranes. Figure 4 shows the array of equipment Valmet produces for use in a container terminal.

    Modeling Rail/Marine Terminals

    Frontloaders resemble large fork lifts with special cradles that can pick up a container. They carry the containers side ways so they require wide aisles, but can double or triple stack, which permits higher utilization of land. They can unload containers from rail cars or from inbound trailers. In the prototype, operator visibility can be a problem since the container is carried in an elevated position, but this is not a concern in our models. Walthers stocks HO models of this type vehicle while an N scale model was once produced by N Scale of Nevada. It is currently out of production.

    A CSX GP38-2 pushes a Thrall articulated 5-car double-stack into position under the gantry crane. Containers and skeleton trailers are stored in the paved area in front of engine.
    Railmodel Journal - May 1998 - Page 47

    Straddle carriers resemble boat lifts. They straddle the container, then lift and carry it . They can be the principal carrier for the terminal or they can be used as an adjunct to other types of equipment. These vehicles are highly flexible in operation and permit high utilization of land area at the expense of higher unit and maintenance costs. For example, experience shows that a frontloader based system can store 56 forty foot containers per acre, but straddle trucks can double this amount. Thus for cramped model applications, straddle trucks are prototypically justified. No kit is available, but one could kit-convert a model of these by reducing the width of the rubber-tired Mi-Jack crane kits available in HO and N scale. A-Line has a similar die-cast metal single-width straddle crane in HO scale.

    The rubber-tired overhead gantry crane combined with trailers for moving longer distances provides an efficient system for terminals that handle larger quantities of containers. Rail-mounted gantry cranes can be even more efficient. The rails can support heavy cranes that can span several stacks of containers truck lanes or railroad tracks. Several gantry crane models are available in HO and N scale. A popular prototype system, and the one I chose to model, is a large rail mounted quayside gantry crane with rail and truck lanes below. This compact arrangement, ideal for model railroads, allows loading of containers from both trucks and rail cars directly to the ship.

    The N scale gantry crane is a somewhat-simplified version of the prototype crane at the Sea Land Terminal in Baltimore Harbor at Canton, Maryland.
    Railmodel Journal - May 1998 - Page 48

    The Gantry Crane Module

    The Chase Marine Terminal Module depicts a hypothetical modern intermodal rail-marine facility on a 2x4-foot NTRAK module. On the right side of the module, the Chase Marine Terminal, Inc. represents a fictional corporate entity operating an Intermodal transfer point for container traffic intended for US-Canadian intercoastal and Caribbean trade. The left side of the module depicts an older industrial district. The Canton area of Baltimore Harbor served as the inspiration for the setting and many of the structures in the module. A small container terminal at Port Arthur, Texas, the plan for which was published in the 1987 JANE'S FREIGHT CONTAINERS, provided the inspiration for the general arrangement of the gantry crane, freight house and access road. The fenced-in container yard has a check-in area with a lighted gate house that processes inbound containers . There is a yard office building near the entrance where clerks work. An adjacent small paved area provides room to store several containers and trailers.

    The track plan design shown in Figure 2 provides rail service to the container yard as well as to the American Can Company. The plan includes a spur to the container freight house for l-c-l cargo and two spurs for the gantry crane. These spurs can each hold one five-car double-stack articulated set. The plan includes a run-around track to shuffle cars and engine. The spur to the American Can Company is unrealistically placed in the sense that to serve this industry, the engine has to enter the container yard area. Ideally, the spur should branch directly off the run-around track, but there was insufficient room to accommodate this without a custom-made crossing track.

    The scenery on the module reflects the harbor-side theme w ith scratchbuilt piers, breakwaters and pilings. The simple scenery helps emphasize the detailed models of intermodal equipment.

    The Marco Solo Container Ship is a scratchbuilt model based on the Bell Corporation R class container ships. The prototype's compact 86-meter length can accommodate 120 twenty-foot containers. It is typical of the short sea type container vessels and by virtue of its relatively small size is ideally suited for a model railroad harbor. I obtained the plans by successively enlarging a small set of plans published in 1985 JANE'S MERCHANT VESSELS. I was fortunate in that the 1982 JANE'S MERCHANT REVIEW published several photos of the same ship. The hull is typical of modern vessel design in that it has a parallel mid-body that also makes modeling it much simpler. I carved the model hull from a 1-inch x 4-inch x 19inch poplar board, while the superstructure and bulwarks are made from sheet styrene and Plastruct shapes. Commercial ship fittings and containers as well as scratchbuilt and plaster-cast containers complete the model. If you elect to make the ship larger, remember that stacks of containers, three or more high generally require lashing.

    Modeling the Gantry Crane

    The Container Gantry Crane is also a scratchbuilt model based on the Paceco 32-ton gantry crane prototype located in the Sea Land facility at the Seagirt terminal in Baltimore, Maryland. This is one of the oldest, as wel l as smallest shore side container gantry cranes. Nonetheless, I had to reduce its dimensions to 80% and remove two sections of the boom to fit i t into the scene. Figure 2 shows the side elevation that I drew working from photos and measurements of the prototype. I then used photos as a guide while constructing the top and end views. Although seemingly complex, the model is a collection of many simple shapes; it uses approximately 500 individual pieces.

    A view from the top of the gantry crane reveals that the boom is wider than it appears in most photographs of the prototype. The white outlines at the hand rails.
    Railmodel Journal - May 1998 - Page 49

    I used Plastruct 3/8-inch square tubing for the main structural A frame members. This is a simplification, as the actual crane frame members have a varying cross section which tapers towards the ends. The lack of the taper is not too noticeable in N scale. However, builders in a larger scale might consider scratchbuilding these pieces to include the taper. The large mitered cuts on the top of the A frame are covered with .010-inch plastic sheet. Trim pieces of .30 x .30-inch styrene glued around the tubing simulate the bolting flanges between main components of the A frame.

    The boom consists of pieces of Plastruct C channel cut to fit. Use the plans and prototype photos as a guide. An impressive aspect of the model are the see-through walkways. I built these by first cutting appropriate lengths of .40 x .40-inch strip styrene. Then I superglued .25-inch-wide strips of Scale Scenics' Micromesh to these strips. Finally, I glued Plastruct handrails to the sides and ladders to connect the various walk ways. These are time-consuming to build but highlight the model.

    I airbrushed the frame a dark grey and drybrushed with a lighter shade of gray. The handrails received a bright yellow a plied with a small brush. The prototype crane is in remarkably good shape given its age. There is little weathering evident other than faded paint, and the model reflects this. I applied dry transfer letters along the upper cross frame to advertise the name of the facility. I scratchbuilt the spreader from photos, assembling it right on the container. I subsequently obtained a set of drawings for a different spreader and they are shown in Figure 3.

    The American Can Company building is based on the defunct but colorful factory of the same name in Canton, Maryland. This scratchbuiIt model used styrene and embossed brick plastic. I made the window mullions using door screen, clear acetate and thin zap-a-gap glue.

    Warn Ink Factory, Atlantic Southwest Broom Company, Gus' Mobil Station and the Freight Warehouse are N scale building kits slightly modified to fit their sites. The pier adjacent to the warehouse was scratchbuilt with toothpicks and scale lumber.

    Other scenic techniques included a water surface created by gloss Mod-Podge applied in multiple layers over midnight blue paint. The painted masonite skyboard depicts a typical hazy day. Durham's water putty over matboard bases serves as paving for the roads and parking areas. The fences are either photoetched kits or Micromesh superglued to wire posts. Scribed .40-inch-thick styrene simulates the concrete side walks. All vehicles, structures, figures and rolling stock are painted, weathered and dull-coated.

    A rail-marine container terminal can provide an exciting focal point for any contemporary layout. Although the prototype facilities can be very large, this module demonstrates that a convincing model with realistic operational potential need not require a large area if the design includes the important function.

    The dockside wheel u nits on the N scale model . The container-grappling arm on the N scale model
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