Image courtesy of Wm. K. Walthers, Inc.

These notes were originally written in 1996, for the Walthers N-Scale North Island Refinery (No. 933-3219). I have also built the H0-Scale version (No. 933-3013), which is materially the same kit with some minor differences.  Further comments and ideas are printed in italic.  Sorry that there are no photos. ROC

Some Notes on Building the Walthers Cornerstone Series REFINERY in N Scale

I have just completed the Walthers Refinery kit in N-Scale.  It is an interesting kit, with lots of detail. However, there are several areas which you may find to be difficult, and you can take these comments for what they are worth.

Overview:  Generally, this kit can be built with few tools (diagonal cutters, model knife, small file, sand paper), glue (I prefer Faller Expert), and paint.  I prefer to build things in sub assemblies, paint them, then complete the construction.  So, in this particular kit, I completed the furnace, then painted it, and continued with the construction. Likewise, the Walthers Refinery kit has several cylinder shaped towers and other structures which require special attention.

I built the different cylinder shaped vessels, allowed the glue to dry, then smoothed the seams of the two halves of each vessel.  This smoothing process can be time consuming, but there really is little alternative if you are seeking to produce a good looking model. Once the two halves of each cylinder shape have dried together, there are several ways that you can clean up the seams.  To prevent damage to adjacent detail, you can place masking tape adjacent to the seam which is being dressed. In the case of the Refinery, there is no cast rivet detail, but there are several mounting lugs on the pipe stills.

The actual cleaning of the seams can be done in several ways. I prefer a medium sized mill file, lightly stroking in one direction. This "knocks down" the raised seam and any glue that may have oozed out.  Any file marks can be dealt with by using sand paper or by using the back edge of your modeling knife (the blunt side), scraping down any raised edges. You also may need some body putty or filler to fill any large gaps, although I did not encounter any with the particular kit I was building.

So, step by step through the instructions:

Step 1:

Step 2:

This is the flue of the furnace. Both the base (parts 4), and the stack (parts 5 & 6), will need to have some light seam cleanup.  It seems to be easier to initially not glue the completed stack to the base. In this way, the stack can be painted flat white later.  Allow this assembly to dry for a bit.

These cylinders are later placed within the pipe manifold. There are three types: E, F, & G.  E has two cylinders, F has one cylinder and a square structure, and G has one cylinder.  The different pieces of each assembly have locating pins which are meant to align the two halves of these cylinders. In my kit, I found the halves did not match up properly. Removing these pins and sanding the edges to be glued lightly on the mill file help make the two surfaces smoother and resulted in a cleaner joint. Once sanded, I buttered the edge of one of the halves with glue, then joined the second half to it.  These were set aside to dry.  Once dried, any rough edges were dressed, and each cylinder was painted flat white.  These assemblies also have small legs on the bottom, and they could be painted flat silver or such.

Step 3:

Step 4:

This is the balance of the furnace construction. This is where the crude oil is heated for the distillation process, along with water being heated to produce steam, if necessary.  When you begin construction of the upper part of the furnace (parts 13, 14, 15, 16, et al), you must insert the furnace flue (Assembly step 1) at this time. You cannot insert this flue after completion of the furnace. Note that some parts have beveled edges at both ends, while others (such as 15 and 18) have bevels at one end only.  This makes a difference during construction.

This is the completion of the furnace subassembly. At this point, I did not add parts 25 (4 pieces), nor the access platform and railing (parts 23 & 24).

Step 5:

Well, this is it, the pipe manifold. This is where things begin to get hairy. This structure, once complete, will immediately draw the eye.  The end result is impressive, and it is worth the effort.  Don't let it intimidate you, just break this task down into its component parts.  This entire structure is the heart of the refinery, the area where different products are routed to different areas of the refinery.

Step 5, support structure

Step 5, piping

Parts 30 (5 pieces) and 31 (2 pieces) are the support structure for the pipe array.  I chose to assemble the support structure first, taking care to keep all corners square between parts 30 and 31. I made a small gluing jig, with square corners drawn on a block of wood. I then applied glue to each part, joined them together, and used masking tape to keep things square during the drying process.  Once dried, I painted the support structure light gray..

Parts 32, 33, and 39 are the pipes themselves. I chose to paint these bright silver, prior to final assembly.

Step 5, end caps

The end caps (parts 34 & 35) correspond to assemblies "E", "F", and "G" of Step 2, and are attached to 32 and 33.

There are a total of six pieces of part 34, three per side and twenty six pieces of part 35, thirteen per side.  I cut them off their sprues, cleaned them up somewhat, then glued them into place (cleaning off the silver paint in the area where the glue is to be applied).  In the same manner, I glued the valves (parts 36) in place; there are fourteen pieces, seven per side.  Once these all had dried, I finished cleaning any sprue or flash from these parts, and hand painted them with a brush. The end caps are painted either silver or flat white, while the valves are painted red (based on the cover photograph on the kit box).

Note that there are locating holes in the kit baseplate which correspond to locating pins on the support structure. Note that there is a definite top and bottom to piece 39, with the pipes curving downward toward the sides of the support structure.

Also note that the tops of the pipes on 32 and 33 correspond to pipes on part 39.  The sides (parts 32 and 33) are attached to the support structure and to part 39.  Part 32 is located closest to the refinery towers, while part 33 faces away from the refinery towers.

Once I had oriented things properly, I glued the top of the pipe array (part 39) to the completed support structure, and let it dry for a bit. Once dry, I used a model knife to clean off the sprayed silver paint from the pipes which are to be glued to 32 and 33.  With the top (part 39) securely located, I attached one side of the array (either 32 or 33).  Both 32 and 33 were slightly warped, and I would glue the pipes of these parts to 39 a few at a time.  Gluing a few connections at a time served to work out this slight warpage. Again, the glue was allowed to dry a bit before moving along.  Once these were finally positioned, and things had dried, I returned the assembly to the baseplate of the kit, orienting side 32 toward the tower locations.

Step 6:

With the pipe array completed, the balance of the refinery is assembled. Again, take things slowly and don't be afraid to dry fit pieces prior to gluing.  There are four cylinders which represent the "refining" parts of the refinery.  The large tower is the fractionating tower. The three smaller towers are pipe stills and smaller fractionating towers. Using the technique described earlier, I glued each 1/2 cylinder together with its matching piece, allowed things to dry, then cleaned up any rough seams.  The access hatches (parts 33 & 49) were then glued in placed. Any rough edges were cleaned up (as in section 5), I then painted the completed tower with spray paint.  The cover illustration of the kit shows these towers painted flat white. However, it seems to be common practice for these towers to be a silver color, so either color choice is appropriate. I identified all piping parts (such as 48, 81, 82, 90 and others) and spray painted them the same silver color as 32, 33, and 39. Once this was dry, I began the final  assembly.

With the benefit of experience, it seems that the best place to begin is to first locate parts 82 and 83. These pipes connect to part 32, and also have small locating "pads" cast in the baseplate. Lightly glue these parts in place (perhaps one or two points only), then locate one of the small pipe stills.  I chose to place the small still at the end (parts 43 & 44) first, then connect this still to the pipe array with part 86 and 90. Next, I chose the second still (again parts 43 & 44), located it properly, and continued with assembly. Once this is completed, you will begin to get a feel for how things are meant to fit together.

At this point, it seems best to install the platforms and hand rails.  With the two small stills located, the platforms can easily be installed after the pipes have been located.  In the case of the larger fractionating tower, it seems easier to install the platforms first. This is especially true of parts 78 & 79, which MUST be installed prior to installing the piping.  With the platforms properly placed, the tower can then be placed in its initial location. Use part 81 as a reference point, gluing it to both the small pipe still and the fractionating tower. From there, part 47 can be attached between part 81 and part 83. This should result in correct alignment for the tower. In particular, install parts 87 and the parts 88 (four pieces) at the same time.  Note that they connect to the top of part 39 (the pipe array) at point "A". Complete the piping connections. Also, remember to connect the furnace to the piping array with parts 25 (four pieces). These are connected to part 39 at point "B" (refer back to section "4" in the instructions).

Step 7.  [Since this was written, the H0-Scale kit has been upgraded to engraved ladder and cage stock.  I am not sure about the N-Scale kit, but it may be better to use Plastruct ladder and cage stock.  Likewise, chemically engraved ladders and cages are available from Gold Medal Models.]

Although the N-Scale kit includes ladders, I have not installed them at the time of this writing.  The ladder stock is heavy, a necessity due to the nature of injection molded plastic.  Although the manufacturer has made these ladders as delicate as possible, they simply are too heavy and detract from the appearance of the kit.  I do not see an immediate, easy, solution to the problem. Those seriously determined individuals may choose to carve, cut, file, and sand these ladders down to a more realistic size.  The ingenious among us may fabricate something from other materials.  Chemically engraved brass comes to mind right away. In practice, these ladders would have "cages" around them as a safety feature, so engraved parts would be a natural.  For the moment, I chose to not install any ladders, and few have made mention of this fact. There are, of course, the usual people who feel the need to make wise comments......

I must admit a certain affection for this structure. Although this is not a beginner's shake-the-box type of kit, an individual with average skills and a willingness to take the necessary time can produce an outstanding model.

There is room for addition of details. Certainly, the Interstate Oil Depot kit could be added; this kit has several smaller oil tanks and a Quonset style building. A larger tank car terminal could be added, as could larger storage tanks and gas holders. In all, a nice kit well worth the effort.

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