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I first noticed them in 2003 along the Columbia River near Portland, Oregon. Ominous and disturbing, I was drawn into their world. I contemplated how I would construct one, in model form of course. Mathematically I saw a cone, but it had columns and rows. Perplexed, I went about trying to calculate how each separate piece of sheet metal could be made flat. From these individual panels, I visualized the entire structure coming together. That was how I approached these problems; break it down, work on each one, etc. It was complicated and stifling.
Fast forward to January 2022! I was approached to do a model of a historic structure related Canadian lumbering, and if possible, to “please include a sawdust burner” on the diorama! This might be just the nudge I needed!
This time I approached “from finish to start”. I fashioned cardboard mockups, and experimented with different options for sheet metal, angle iron, and screening for the top. I considered what was feasible and how the whole thing could come together. I wasn’t thinking about a kit just yet, but I had a new secret weapon; I’d learned to design and print in 3D.
It wasn’t long and I thought maybe this could be a kit. I was enticed enough to move forward. And then It took several months to design and fabricate all the parts so that another modeler could do it, hopefully without too much difficulty. Once again, my naivety has served me well.
In the course of working with 3D materials, had I discovered that polylactic acid, aka “PLA”, seems “weld-able”. I found I could connect small or large parts instantly, and with the tiniest of “welds”. I was permitted to easily create configurations that would otherwise require cumbersome jigs. I was so enthused by the results, I took on a new project for my own layout; a grain cooperative complete with the elevator and all catwalks. My digital soldering iron served me well, so I dedicated some tips for this purpose. But with other modelers I mind, and I found a more affordable option in an inexpensive variable temperature soldering iron.
In hindsight, it seems it was sheer luck and circumstance that this model was even possible, let alone as a kit, following out a series of steps and from nothing more than parts in a flat box!
Production presented another problem entirely. So I pushed myself to learn about “automated 3D printing”. This is something that began just a few years ago, but was quickly spurred forward by the epidemic. Within weeks, I’d learned more about stepper motors and g-codes than I ever knew existed. But, I’d do anything to make it to "the end". In a matter of weeks, automated 3-D printing was up and running, making burner parts day and night. Having learned the nuances of this system, it is now possible to make multiple copies of complex shapes through flat-printing followed by addition and folding.
It's true: There's never been a better time to be a model railroader!
when I started designing the kit, had not realized that I had taken and stored away these photos of the Drain burner back in 2003! After having designed and completed THE WHOLE KIT and also producing a 30' video on the prototype, a whole day driving to Drain and back, and I find these???!!! Actually, I'm not too surprised at myself. Back in those days I had taken many photos and measurements as best I could of many western Oregon-based structures I found interesting along my paths (mostly running about as a windsurfer looking for waves and wind, with documenting prototypes for the future layout). I just missed that I had them already!
DRAIN, OREGON 06/18/2003