Just off the workbench: PC 9633

The newest addition to my small collection of locomotives to operate at the paper plant on my layout is this Atlas S2. It’s a sound-equipped model that I painted, lettered, and weathered with acrylics, powders, and graphite pencil. I made an attempt to model the paint chipping along the frame, revealing white frame stripe that was part of its former NYC paint scheme. Also of note is the non-standard application of the corporate logo: the words Penn Central do not appear on the locomotive hood, and the numerals were applied using old NYC stencils.


The above photo represents the most accurate depiction of the prototype that I can muster with my collection. The prototype locomotive and caboose were both assigned at North Tonawanda yard. In the photo below, 9633 pulls a cut of boxcars across the switch to the bulk coal storage area.



SOO 17330

This is Fox Valley Models rendition of a Soo Line home-built 7-post boxcar. This is an excellent model. The quality rivals anything on the market today. I’m no expert on Soo Line, but from the photos I’ve found, this model is a dead ringer* for the prototype. The only thing I added was cut levers. Air hoses will be added when I get some more.

This car was built in April 1970, so it would have been no older than six years during my era. I was aiming for something like four years of service. I sprayed the underbody, trucks, and wheels with a grimy black colour by Vallejo called German Black and then applied a range of powder colours to everything.


Since writing this post, I’ve been schooled on the nuances of freight car spotting. I’m told that the model is 6″ too short, the door is too narrow, and the overall height of the car is off. It seems that the thickness of the side ribs is objectionable as well. 


SSW 40102 Gunderson 5200 cu ft Boxcar

This is one of the “Express Series” cars that ExactRail produced. It seems this model is accurate, as SSW had 300 of these in class B-70-37 numbered 49100 – 49299. The yellow door signifies paper service, which is fitting for my layout. The model has a BLT date of 1970, so I didn’t want it to look too dirty for my early-70s layout.


According to David Hussey, there are several classes of SP and SSW cars that are similar. Here’s a list showing class, builder, roof style, and cubic feet of capacity. The model has non-overhang diagonal panel roof, so it appears to match up with the information here:

B-70-31 PCF Non OH diagonal 5271
B-70-31R PCF Non OH diagonal 5271
B-70-37 GBER Non OH Diagonal 5200
B-70-37R GBER Non OH Diagonal 5200
B-70-49 GBER Non OH Diagonal 5230
B-70-49 GBER Non OH X Panel 5230
B-70-52 GBER Non OH X Panel 5230
B-70-59 GBER Non OH X Panel 5230
B-70-61 GBER Non OH X Panel 5230

According to Lee A. Gautreaux’s website, the B-70-37 group of cars was actually built in late 1966 and early 1967. It seems that everything else about the model as it comes from ExactRail is correct, with the BLT date of 1970 being the only error. I learned about this after it was weathered. I have a second model with a different road number, so if I have a set of SP/SSW boxcar decals in my collection, I’ll make that correction.

I added lube plates and ACI labels, and I plant to add cut levers and air hoses after I stock up on detail parts. To weather it, I sprayed a dusting of Vallejo German Black, a grimy black colour, onto the underbody, trucks, wheels, and along the bottom edge. When that was dry, I used a range of powder colours to create a lightly weathered look. Other than that, this model is a stock, economy-line car that I bought for under $20. And some say the hobby is dying.


Thanks to Ian Clasper and Tim O’Connor who shared prototype info relevant to this car on the facebook group Freight Car Enthusiasts.

Green Team SW1 8470

I’m pushing to get the paper plant section of my layout to the point where I can operate regularly. Part of that effort involves completing a few different switchers. I finished one tonight, and another is on the work bench getting closer to being ready. Presenting PC SW1 #8470:


It started as an undecorated Walthers SW1. The paint and decals were straightforward. Getting the weathering right is still a work in process. The key feature of this locomotive’s charm is the fact that the road numbers are in New York Central font, and the NYC logo is beginning to reveal itself from beneath pealing paint on the side of the cab. The intention was to depict this locomotive nearing the point of being scrapped.

Weathering was done with artist oils, acrylics, powders,  and 8B graphite pencil. There will be some final touches applied when the supplies and parts arrive, but it’s ready for service on the layout.


Pulp Making and Bleaching


The list of raw materials arriving at a paper mill is exhaustive, and that list varies greatly depending on the time period, the type of product being made, the geographical location of the mill, and the type of process being used. My research leads me to believe that it’s not possible to compile a list of raw materials that would be correct for every paper mill because of the range of chemical options available to accomplish similar things.

I’ve been continuing to gather information as I proceed with the construction of my layout, all the while refining the details of exactly how the plant operated. Having arrived at the point that I need to build up a fleet of freight cars, I’m examining the flow of raw material more closely than I did in the planning stages. Here’s a basic outline of my limited knowledge. I think it will be obvious as you read, but I’d like to make it abundantly clear that this is my best summary of an extremely complicated manufacturing process. I’m the farthest thing from an authority on how paper is made (or chemistry for that matter), and I’m actually not terribly concerned with the exact details. I’d like to know just enough to make the traffic flow at my model paper plant seem correct. In the process of doing that, it helps to have a basic idea what’s in all of those freight cars. I welcome any information, particularly with respect to the chemistry involved with making paper in the 70s.

Here are the basic steps to arrive at pulp that can be put into the paper machine.


This is the basic material from which paper is manufactured, so it might seem obvious. But not all paper mills use woodchips as their starting point. Some buy pulp from a pulp mill and do the rest of the work on site. My mill received woodchips from central and northern Ontario from about 1965 until the time it ceased operating in the early-mid ’70s. I’m modelling the Penn Central era, so that fact fits nicely with my needs.

Apparently, the woodchips were shipped in unmodified boxcars. The woodchips were unloaded from the boxcars and stockpiled at the site of the former log yard. A conveyor took the woodchips to the digester. I’m not modelling any of that process on my layout. Instead, I use one track of hidden staging that represents the unloading of boxcars. I’ve accommodated for a maximum of ten 40′ boxcars to be staged just off the layout, either loaded and awaiting unloading, or empty and awaiting being taken away.


A digester is used to transform woodchips into pulp. It’s basically a tall skinny pressure vessel in which wood chips or other raw materials are cooked into a pulp. Modern digesters operate in a continuous feed manner, but I’m guessing that mine operated in a batch-by-batch manner. Aerial photos show only one obvious digester, so unless there was another one in the plant that I can’t see in my photos, I’m assuming they did specific batches and then stored the pulp in a large storage tank until they had enough to process into paper. A digester looks like a tower anywhere from 100 to 200 feet tall and about 15 feet in diameter.  The cooking process requires a supply of woodchips, cooking liquors, steam, and a few other chemicals to manage the Ph of the pulp.

I’m not including a model of he actual digester, which was buried behind a maze of tanks and metal buildings. But I’m modelling the buildings and facilities where the materials were stored and unloaded from railcars. Cooking liquors arrive in tank cars, and some of the minerals (like paper makers’ alum) arrive in covered hoppers or paletted in boxcars.


The process of cooking wood into pulp in the digester produces a by-product called black liquor, which contains more than half of the energy content of the wood. A recovery boiler is used to extract white liquor out of the black liquor, which ends up being waste. White liquor is used again in the pulping process (ie. fed back into the digester).

The recovery boiler also produces liquid lignin as result of the extraction of white liquor. Liquid lignin can be burned to produce steam which can be used in steam-hungry processes (like the digester and recovery boiler). You should start to notice that a paper plant runs the pulp through and the pulp extracts through many cycles where the extracts are refined to be used in the original pulping process, and the by-products are scrubbed clean and put back into the process in one form or another.

Liquid lignin can be turned into solid lignin, which seems to be some kind of salable by-product. I don’t know what solid lignin is or what it’s used for, so I’m not sure how (or if) it leaves the plant. But I do know that sulfuric acid and water are needed to transform liquid lignin to solid lignin. Sulfuric acid will show up at the paper plant in tank cars.

BLEACH PLANT – This is a facility designed to whiten, to whatever degree necessary, the pulp that is created in the digester. This part of the operation is comprised of washers, chemical preparation units, pumps, tanks, piping, etc., all of which is designed as part of a system for bleaching pulp. Chemicals in this process are fairly nasty, and much of this particular operation produces harmful dioxin which destroys every living thing its path. Much of the process of bleaching changed after Love Canal, which I suspect was the reason that the plant I’m modelling closed.

This aspect of the mill is represented on my layout by some smaller buildings, tanks, and one very large metal-clad building. This step in the process uses chemicals such as chlorine, chlorine dioxide, sodium hydroxide, hydrogen peroxide, sodium hypochlorite, oxygen, ozone, and other stuff I’m not yet familiar with. Bleaching involves several stages, each one followed by washing to remove colour and chemicals from the previous stage. There are flocculants used to get impurities to stick together and therefore make them easier to remove from the pulp. Flocculants are typically things like calcium oxide, aluminum sulfate, calcium hyrdoxide, and ferrous sulfates. I suspect that all or most of these things came to the plant by rail. There were plenty of chemical processing factories within 40 miles of this paper mill. In fact, the interchange with Niagara Junction Railway, which served Hooker Chemicals in Niagara Falls NY is about 8 miles away by rail. I think most of this stuff came into the plant in tank cars, but it’s possible that some of it came in granular or powder form in covered hoppers or on palettes in boxcars. I’ll make some assumptions until I learn otherwise.

Freight Car Movements (So Far)

I’ve compiled a list of the materials needed to make bleached pulp for input into the paper making machine. I’ll look at the next step in the paper making process in a future post. I have no idea whether all of these things were necessary, or if some of these things are substitutes for others. But just for fun, here’s a list of commodities and the freight car most likely to have delivered them to my paper mill. My knowledge of industrial chemicals is nearly zero, so if anyone can correct any errors with respect to the purpose of the chemical or the method by which it would have been shipped in the early 1970s, please feel free to enlighten me. Also, with the exception of the woodchips, I’m not completely clear on where these chemicals might originate. Help there would be appreciated as well.

Here’s the list (I’ve been editing this list as I learn more about the various chemicals and the processes)

woodchips – very old boxcars

white liquor – tank cars ?? (could have been created on site using water, sodium hydroxide and sodium sulfide… see comments)

chlorine – tank cars

chlorine dioxide –  tank cars

sodium hydroxide, sodium sulfide – barrels in boxcars

hydrogen peroxide – tank cars

sodium hypochlorite – tank cars

oxygen – cryogenic tank cars or trucks oxygen delignification appears to be a process created after my era (see comments)

ozone – ?  the use of ozone for bleaching appears to be a process created after my era (see comments)

sulfuric acid – tank cars

calcium oxide – covered hoppers or boxcars

aluminum sulfate – covered hoppers or boxcars

calcium hyrdoxide – covered hoppers or boxcars

ferrous sulfates – covered hoppers or boxcars

Black liquor could leave the plant in drums to be sold for the production of turpentine.

Next stop: the paper machine.

In a future post, I’ll try to outline the process whereby pulp is spread out on a continuous belt, and then dried, pressed, and stretched into a continuous roll of finished paper. There are a couple of important raw materials that go into that process as well, so I’ll address those at that time.