Our most recently completed commission
has been a model gas works.

It looks like this...

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 to a plan of the 
 works.

Here we see the model Gas Works from the "business end". 
The details of which bit does what are contained in the key below the plan.

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 to next photo.
1  Coal arrival siding  Coal is shovelled into 2 or 3. 10  Tar Tank   Collects tar from 3, 8 and 9 for resale.
2  Coal Stack  Enough kept for 24 hour's use. 11  Washer  Washes impurities from the gas.
3  Retort House  where coal is loaded into the retorts. 12  (top bit) Purifier Boxes   Removes "eggy" smell.
4  Coke Heap  Coke is the biggest by-product. 13  (lower bit) used/fresh Iron Oxide bins for purifiers.
5  Coke Loading Area into railway wagons. 14  Meter House   Meters the amount of gas produced.
6  The Boiler House with its chimney. 15  Column-Guided Gas Holder   The familiar type!
7  The Exhauster House  Powered by the boiler. 16  MAN Water-less Gas Holder   A 20s innovation.
8  Condenser  Cools the gas. 17  Site & Sales offices   (Coke was sold by the bag at
9  Tower Scrubber   Removes particulate impurities. many smaller gas works, often removed by old pram!)

model railways

 The Retort House. 
 Click for next photo.

indentAnother view showing the Retort House.   To its left are, at the front, the Exhauster House and behind it the Boiler House with its enormous chimney.  To the left of those is a tall black cylinder which is the Electric Condenser and to the left of that, the Tar Tank.
indentGas is made by heating coal in the retort house which drives gas out and leaves coke.  The gas is pumped away by the Exhauster (a simple pump driven by steam - so-named because it exhausts the Retorts}, into the Condenser which cools the gas.  The pressure produced by the exhauster pumps the gas through all the other equipment and pumps up the gas holders.

model railways

indentBefore we get to the condenser itself, note that the Retort House features vents at the top of all its walls, as well as more along the roof, to let any leaking gas out.    The Boiler House too has a vent (it gets hot in there!), and around the edge of all the massively contructed brick buildings is a stone course of the type so beloved by the Victorians.  Up until the Second World War many gas works were given architectural ornamentation to a greater (Victorian and Edwardian ones) or lesser (post WW1 buildings) extent until World War 2 when such fripperies seemed suddenly unimportant. This helps us date our model as an early Vertical Retort House from pre-WW2.

indentNow we can move onto the condenser itself which is another piece of equipment which helps the knowledgeable date the model.  So far modellers have reproduced either early 19th C. air-cooled condensers or the later Victorian water-cooled "Annular Condensers". From  the 1930s onwards these were gradually replaced with more efficient types in which the water was pumped through tubes to cool the gas.  The version we have chosen to model is is one of the tubular type, others were rectangular; often in multiples.

 The Condenser; a late 30s 
 type. (Click for next photo.)

indentThe large pipes feed the gas through the equipment, the small one rising to the top feeds the water in while the small bent one at the bottom is the electricity supply provided from the equipment cabinet next to it. To the left of the condenser can be seen part of the Tar Tank which collects the tar produced by creating gas.

 The Tar Tank base.

indentThe Tar Tank is one of the simplest models since in a small works such as this, a normal model railway water tank is as good as anything!  This kit one is mounted on brickwork to (almost) match the rest of the buildings.

indentIt is worth noting that this model represents a gas works situated in the South of England.  This is because the layout it was commissioned for is modelled on an ex-LB&SCR location and dated around World War 2.
indentDorset modeller Mike Walshaw has recently made an excellent model gas works and his, quite correctly for a West Country setting, makes great use of the local stone.  However in Sussex the stone was largely chalk (or "clench") deemed unsuitable for substantial structures, which is why there are so many brick houses in Sussex!  Our gasworks naturally had to follow suit.  You can see therefore that not only do we attempt to choose appropriate equipment for the period modelled but that we also try to use the correct materials for the geographical setting.
indentThis photo also shows the route the unsold coke (i.e. most of it!) would have been barrowed over to reach railway wagons - more model railway traffic!

indentBefore moving on; if you'd like to know what traffic a gas works could create on your railway, click here!

indentThe next piece of equipment in our gas trail is the Tower Scrubber (the tall round sectional thing on the right).  These sections - the number varied according to the size of the works - were filled with coke and sprayed with water; hence the numerous small pipes to each section.  The unit removed the larger "particulates" or bits of coke, tar and dust which were suspended in the gas.
indentThis, (like the Washer in front of it), was made from one of the very few drawings of gas works equipment available - both in this case by the late John Royd.  They can be found in the 1936 volume of the Model Railway Constructor.   (I got mine from Martin Bott, bookseller.  See links page.)

indentThe similar horizontal cylindrical tank on a brick and concrete plinth is the Washer.  This removed most of the ammonia before the gas passed on to the elevated struture behind it.

 The tall Tower Scrubber 
 and the similar Washer.

"I'm bored with all this; can I go back to the general stuff?"  Yes.

 The Elevated Purifier.

indentHere we have the Purifier.  This consists of 4 boxes containing Iron Oxide.   Passing the gas through these removed the sulphur which, when it leaked out, caused the "rotten egg" smell which was so familiar around gas works all those years ago. 

indentIn the foreground is the vent on the roof of the Meter House where the gas was metered before being pumped into the holders.

model railways

indent And, finally, both we and the gas come to those most familiar of gas works features, the holders.  In all but the smallest works there were at least two so that one could be kept in use while the other was serviced or repaired.  The tall one clad in corrugated sheet is a M.A.N. "dry" or "waterless" gas holder.  Normal gasholders sat in a tank of water which sealed the gas in. This type had a sealed tube with a piston which moved up and down, rather like a bicycle pump.
Lurking behind it is that most familiar of structures, properly known as a "Column-guided Gas Holder".

 The Gas Holders. 
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 our last photo.
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indentSo, with a final look at the whole model from the gas holder end; there you have it! A model gas works in about 3 feet (450cm) by just over a foot at the widest point.  Yes, it is a bit cramped but then most model railways are far more cramped than reality so nothing unusual there!  An interesting project and a very enjoyable model to make, probably because it was such a departure from the normal railway structures and pretty cottages with which we are so familiar.

So this is how Way out of Gallery... Return to "Gallery General" entrance Move on to next Gallery General page. he does spaces!