Thursday, December 29, 2016

A Salty Tale by E. L. Moore

[A salt unloading conveyor described in E. L. Moore's unpublished article, An unloading and loading machine aka Morton Salt Conveyor. Photo published with permission of Model Railroader magazine / Model]

This lost E. L. Moore article is rather unusual: it's something of a mixed media project - involving wood and plastic - and a kitbash / scratchbuild hybrid. He mainly scratchbuilt with balsa and other wood and paper products, but projects involving plastics, not to mention kitbashes of plastic  kits, are more-or-less unheard of for E. L. Moore. That alone makes this article an important addition to his legacy regardless of its subject matter.
[Photograph of the prototype from E. L. Moore's archive.]

Mr. Moore submitted the manuscript to Model Railroader on 15 February 1971 under the title Morton Salt Conveyor. It was bought by Associate Editor Bill Rau on 4 March 1971 for $100. 
[Another photograph of the prototype from E. L. Moore's archive.]

Unlike the other lost Model Railroader articles, documents indicate it was planned for publication in the February 1978 issue, but for some unknown reason it didn't make it in and didn't ever get published. 

It appears that the working title and sub-titles for the article were:

A salty tale by E. L. Moore
An unloading and loading machine
Based on a prototype on the Seaboard Coast Line

That seems a little general and a bit vague. I think Mr. Moore's original title, Morton Salt Conveyor, is better, well, at least it seems a little more accurate to me.

All good things must come to an end, and it's no different with this 'lost articles' chapter of E. L. Moore's work: this is the last of the 6 unpublished Model Railroader articles. 

An unloading and loading machine
Morton Salt Conveyor

by E. L. Moore

Published with permission of Model Railroader magazine / Model

The prototype of this salt unloading/loading machine was located on a Seaboard Coast Line siding and had been in operation some 5 or 6 years when I photographed it in 1971. It began functioning as a naked machine and gradually evolved into what is shown: a simple shed covered with corrugated fiberglass, and a protective covering of the same material over the raised conveyor so as to keep out rain and snow. The lower end is set into a trench that extends beneath the track. An electric motor furnishes the power to run the conveyor belts.

In practice, the salt is dropped through the hopper car doors into a plywood hopper with a top about 5' square, set between the rails. This has sloping sides with a lower opening about 18" square. Set beneath this opening is the track conveyor with a cleated belt which carries the salt a few feet to a point just inside the shed, where it empties onto the longer conveyor belt which in turn empties into the waiting salt tanker. This conveyor belt is depressed in the center by means of frequently spaced triple rollers, the outside ones set at an angle.
Salt Tanker, top, was made from two Husky six-wheel trucks and a toy rolling pin hand filed to shape and covered with construction paper. Lower right photo: Salt Conveyor as made from construction crane arm (at left); and wheels taken from crane wheel base (with added parts in white); at top is corrugated cover.

My model, as show, is slightly compressed but is essentially like the visible portion of the prototype. It needs only sufficient material (Northeastern .040" thick, .040" spaced) to build the shed and the additional 9' x 12' portable simulated metal office. Three or four evenings of work should see the project through.

Besides the approximately 8" of corrugated wood, only one other item is required in the way of materials: an AHM U-310 construction crane. It's difficult to imagine any other single item so well adapted to the building of the salt conveyor as is this construction crane when dismantled. The rubber-tired wheels are the right size and set at approximately the correct distance apart; and the lower crane arm is about right in both depth and width to serve as the conveyor frame, and more than sufficient in length. Besides these, other parts are easily salvaged for such lengths of material as are needed. Even the necessary roller at the top on which the conveyor belt turns is provided. All that is necessary is to make a few cuts and weld-on (with plastic glue or liquid) a few pieces, and presto! we have it.
Our first step, however, is to build the 12' x 15' shed of corrugated wood around a floor of either sheetwood or cardboard, painting this latter a brown earth color. Stripwood posts, 1/16" square and graduated in length from 8 to 9 feet, are glued to the inside to support the 13 1/2' x 16 1/2' roof (which, however, should be left off until after we have installed the conveyor frame). A door and a 51"-square opening are cut in the lower end of the shed. At the other end is a 4' x 8' extension of stripwood, scribed to represent planks. This, in the prototype, covers the trench that extends from the shed to the track. As noted previously, the corrugated wood is meant to simulate fiberglass and in the prototype is of a greenish blue hue.
Unsnap the lower crane arm of the construction crane. Two sides, which will constitute the upper and lower faces of the conveyor frame, are about 48" across. Oddly, the other two sides vary; one is 39" deep and the other is 42", but this need not cause any concern.  The upper end, as shown in the drawing, has the end cut along the dashed lines and the tip portion discarded. The lower end is cut off square, giving us an underside length of 25 1/2'. Cement the frame in place in the 51"-square opening, the end resting on the floor.  Be sure the upper end is at the required height and angle as in the drawing. If desired, fill in the remaining distance within the shed with a portion cut from the upper crane arm.
Lower end of prototype conveyor with wheels.  AHM crane provides both wheels and conveyor in making model.

Now, presuming you have removed the wheel base, cut off the holding nibs at the rear and attach these, along with the roller, in the cutout angle at the top end of the conveyor frame as shown. The conveyor belt can now be installed: use gray cloth binding tape, cut to 3/8" width or narrow enough to fit over the roller, one length extending along the top of the frame and the other inside. Hold it in place with a touch of glue. Inside the frame, in the prototype is a length of fiberglass, depressed in the center, to catch any salt that spills off the conveyor belt. This can be simulated with bond paper: lay it over corrugated wood; then run a dry ballpoint pen down each groove. A 42' x 22' strip should suffice. Paint it before installation. Next, carve and sand a funnel with a nipple, from balsa. Attach it to the top end with cement and add side braces of .020" x 1/32" stripwood. A bit of paper can be rolled to form an extension of the nipple if desired.
Base of prototype salt conveyor showing vertical and horizontal supports and bracing.

The wheels and underframe supports are all that remain now.  Cut or saw across the front end of the wheel base (the end with the tongue attached) in a line about even with the tires. It's a tossup now as to which side takes the vertical supports and which takes the horizontal brace members. In either case, unsnap and discard the tongue. For the uprights, you can salvage frame corners from the crane arms. I happened to have some small round lengths of plastic on hand, so I used these, attaching cross braces as shown, and a rectangular box that contains the hydraulic fluid which in the prototype raises or lowers the conveyor to the desired height. The only essential point in attaching the braces and supports is to get them at the correct angles as shown in the drawing. The photograph of the partially assembled conveyor shows the original portion of the wheel assembly in gray, while the attached members are in white. When finished and attached to the conveyor frame, paint the machine a medium gray, including wheels and tires. An accessory is a 17' ladder which is sometimes used to reach the funnel to clean it out and also to reach the hatches of the salt tanker.
Top end of prototype conveyor with protective hood and funnel through which salt is loaded into truck-tanker hatches.

The final touch is the protective cover of corrugated wood simulating fiberglass. The diagonal cover has a 7 1/2' x 19' top with 18" deep sides, the lower ends of which are cut diagonally to fit against the shed wall. The top cover is 8' x 11'. It fits over the tip of the other and is held in that position with cement. Inside cleats prevent it from shifting from side to side.  Paint the covers to match the shed. I used Floquil light blue, white, yellow, and a touch of light green to get the greenish blue hue. Of course, any other color can be used if you prefer.
The Morton Salt Company trademark as applied to their salt hoppers.

Salt is shipped in two types of hopper cars, both bearing the Morton Salt Co. Symbol: a squarish letter M with the little girl and umbrella trademark below. AHM's 47' covered hopper car provides an exact model for one type and the Center-Flow hopper car does for the other. My photos show a scratchbuilt hopper car similar to the latter, while I substituted a Tyco sugar hopper car for the former although it is a much smaller car. In any case, since Morton Salt Co. isn't listed among the cars available, it will be necessary to repaint both cars. I painted the Tyco a medium olive and my Center-Flow a light tan; light gray with a touch of yellow in it.
At one time, the salt (which is used only commercially in manufacturing plants) was hauled away in ordinary dump trucks. More recently a specially designed salt tanker was built and is in use.  I built my model of this from two six-wheel Husky trucks and a toy rolling pin. This entailed cutting down one truck and using the wheels of the other. The rolling pin was filed to shape with an added piece at one end, then was covered with a lightweight white construction paper and banded with heavy cardstock. Rear fenders were improvised and installed and a compressing unit was set at the rear -- and, of course, there are hatches on the top and funnellike outlet valves below. 
Two short lengths of hose (plastic-coated wire insulation) are shown draped around the rear end, providing extensions to the underbelly pipe through which the salt is unloaded.  (The prototype unloads the salt under pressure and is able to hose a stream some 50 feet or more.) The tanker is painted an off white, using 1 part Floquil primer gray to 10 parts white. An AHM army fuel tractor-trailer would provide an even simpler chassis solution, plus double wheels.
A little baking soda scattered around simulates spilled salt.


If you are thinking about building this model, here is what the AHM U-310 construction crane looks like.
My understanding is that AHM imported it from an Austrian company called Umex.
I took a look in the February 1978 issue of Model Railroader to see if there were any clues as to why the Morton Salt Conveyor never made it in. It's hard to say for sure, but there is an article called The big truck bash by Edward C. Steinberg on using toys and such to kitbash HO scale trucks. Since E. L. Moore's article has a truck kitbash, maybe they thought there would be too much about truck modelling in that issue. As well, there were a couple articles on structure building, so since E. L. Moore's article seemed to touch all those bases, maybe there was too much overlap with other material in that issue.


  1. MR discovered that the crane was no longer being produced. That'd be different in today's Internet/eBay world.

    1. Ah! That explains a lot. I'm curious to see how much the crane costs in today's world.