Archive for May, 2014

Mocking DuPont

Posted: May 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

It came the time to select the buildings for the DuPont chemical complex. Chemical complexes are huge and modelling even a modest one would eat up loads of real estate. Check out Auriga Chemical near Spartanburg, SC. My modelled complex consists of three spurs and various structures

  • A materials building with plastic pellet tanks
  • Warehouse
  • Shipping and receiving building
  • Chemical storage tanks (2)
  • Guard house with barriers
  • Factory (flat)
  • Distant storage tanks on photo backdrop

The idea here is that most of the complex is assumed to be off-layout (beyond the edge of the layout) and we are just seeing the place where the back of the more modern DuPont property butts up against the aging Industrial District. I wanted at least one structure large enough to anchor the area and provide a sense of mass that would be present in a large complex. Another couple of buildings provide a loading dock and a crowded industrial “canyon” feel for boxcar, flat and gondola spotting. These also act as a view block for the tank car deliver area. By hiding the end of the these two spurs, the viewer easily imagines they go on into the distance. Bins for plastic pellets and a guard shack round out the area.

For the largest building, I chose to model a modern warehouse. These structures can be built from scratch with a minimum of materials because prototypes are often just a large building with few windows and doors. I mocked up a quick structure from foam core and poster board to represent a gray concrete building. I also had a smaller sand colored one I had used for previous mockups exercises.  To go along with these, I found two buildings I had made circa 1980 when I was in high school – an old Suydam (now Alpine Models) Swift meat-packing plant painted gray and another partially assembled blue warehouse made from poster board. See figure 1 for an overview of the area.

First DuPont mock-up with materials building in the south east (lower right) corner.

Fig 1. First DuPont mock-up with materials building in the south east (lower right) corner.

It turns out the large gray warehouse was a bit too big, and I decided to go with the smaller blue warehouse. Then I rearranged the other buildings to get the best configuration. I took photos of every combination and went back and studied them on my computer. The final arrangement is shown below.

Having slightly smaller structures gives the entire area a bit more breathing room typical of a more modern industrial park. The blue warehouse is build from scratch with Evergreen corrugated sheeting. The Swift plant remains with some upgrades as an administration building while the sand stucco building in the rear provides a shipping receiving area. A loading door is added and half a boxcar will be put in place.

First mock from a lower angle.

Fig 1a. First mock from a lower angle.

Figure 1 shows the original configuration with the materials building on the south side of the warehouse, adjacent to the plastic pellet tanks. Bottles of contact solution with their labels stripped stand in for the pellet tanks. While this provided a nice canyon for the covered hoppers beside the warehouse, I thought it was a bit claustrophobic.

Materials building moved north of the warehouse.

Fig 2. Materials building moved north of the warehouse.

In figure 2 I moved the materials building to the north side of the warehouse, and there it can be used as administration or an addition to the shipping and receiving building.

Fig. 3. Gray concrete swapped out for blue corrugated metal warehouse.

Fig. 3. Gray concrete swapped out for blue corrugated metal warehouse.

I thought the warehouse was still a bit large, however and in figure 3 I have swapped it out for one with a smaller footprint. Notice, too, that the modelled material has changed from gray concrete to a blue corrugated metal. The change in color adds interest and is more in line with a modern warehouse. I’ve flipped the shipping/receiving building on end to try something with a little more height.

Fig 4. Materials building moved back to provide space in front for vehicle traffic.

Fig 4. Materials building moved back to provide space in front for vehicle traffic.

Figure 4 moves the shipping and receiving building up against the warehouse to provide space for the spur to enter the dock area. Finally, moving the pellet towers from the grass area to the concrete pad frees up some more breathing room. Inverted cans for mixed nuts represent chemical tanks.

More storage tanks can be seen in the distance on the photo backdrop. Printing a second, flipped, image will allow me to effectively double the picture and cove it around the corner of the physical backdrop, while creating a place “back there somewhere” to deliver those tankers and hoppers.

Fig 5. Final configuration showing all buildings in place and pellet tanks positioned on top of concrete pad.

Fig 5. Final configuration showing all buildings in place and pellet tanks positioned on top of concrete pad.

The end configuration is shown in figure 5. Missing are the guard shack and the chain link fence ringing the property. Still to be added are details such as workers, vehicles, and general clutter found in a busy industrial area. The next step is build the usable structures.

By using simple materials to make some crude mock ups, I was able to quickly get a feel for the placement of buildings without investing in expensive structure kits that might not even fit the scene. Taking photographs let me review the changes in a neutral setting and compare differences side by side. High definition photos also identify trouble areas in modeling work, as well as give a feel for how the final scene will be rendered when published.

Some quick takeaways:

  • Use cheap materials such as boxes or empty food containers to stand in for structures
  • Move buildings around, testing different arrangements
  • Try different sizes, colors and materials for models
  • Photograph each scene change from multiple angles
  • Don’t be afraid to swap out finished structures if you are not satisfied or after your skills have improved
  • Have fun!
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