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OMI PRR Coal Tower Diorama Packing H | by Twin Ports Rail History
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OMI PRR Coal Tower Diorama Packing H

Brass model trains do come, and go. Sometimes their stay is brief, some longer, and some models just stick around forever because they are our favorites. Special others—are in a word—unique. Such is this older, Overland Models advertising diorama that was built to show off this wonderful HO scale model when we went to shows. It helped to sell quite a few unpainted coal towers because modelers and collectors were given the opportunity to see up close and personal, just how lovely this structure was, when it was painted, weathered and installed in a scene complete with track, ballast, and scenery. It's difficult to tell the entire thing is made of brass—not cast concrete.


This particular model diorama was built by my friend, the late H. Arnt Gerritsen. Arnt was Overland's most productive draftsman. He transformed blueprints and photographs into scale elevation and detail drawings that were used by the factories to produce perhaps as many as 3,500 of the 5,500 different prototypes that were produced and imported by Overland. Arnt's career began drawing plans for Nickel Plate Products. That was his profession. Design drafting. His hobby was model building and his HO scale Ann Arbor layout was featured in several magazines over the years. He loved to create dioramas to showcase new products. He always wanted customers to see what COULD be done with their models with a little extra effort. He always led the way in this regard during my tenure at Overland. And this was certainly one of his finest efforts that really showed what brass models were all about.


I became custodian of this model in 2017 and recently, one of my clients decided that this diorama MUST become a part of a new layout that he will be constructing beginning in 2019. Happy as I am to know that Arnt's model will now be part of a functioning layout, the problem frankly, is shipping this diorama without damaging the delicate components that are fastened to a heavy wooden base. In fact, this model can NOT be "shipped" at all. But with the right packaging it can be hand carried on Amtrak as a carry-on in a private compartment sleeper car.


So this little story is actually about what I did to create a good box so that my client can take this lovely model back home with him on Amtrak's overnight train..."The Texas Eagle".


Images A and B show the diorama with a pair of wire loops that I added to the wooden base. These allow the diorama to be set into it's box, and pulled from it, without touching the diorama itself.


Images C and D show the shipping box. All seams on the box have been triple-taped inside and out. The wire loops remain upright after the diorama was set inside the bottom of the box. I used rigid wire so that it would not change position during transit. I don't want any of the small details to get damaged by loose wire, wrappings, etc.


Images E, F and G show the cardboard tower that I built from 3 x 3 square tubes that were assembled and taped together. These form a sturdy bridge over top of the coal tower itself and provide a top surface for the box that will include a clear plexiglass top.


Images H and I show the clear plexiglass top. First with the backing paper still applied, then without it. As this box will be scrutinized by Amtrak security, I decided it was far safer to provide a clear window into the box contents, than to have a lid that could come loose during transit. The idea is to help make the train trip as trouble-free as possible.


Images J, K, and L show the metal grommets that I installed in four corners to provide safe anchor points for the bungie straps that will be used to carry the box on and off the train. The plexiglass sheet has been secured with shipping tape as have the top flaps of the box.


My last shot, Image M, shows the coal tower in its box standing on end just to show that this model could be stood on end or even placed upside down for a time, if necessary. But chances are good this 20 lb. package will be right by my client's side during his journey from Chicago to Texas.


With everything secure at last, all that we need now is for Amtrak's conductor to shout out, "All Aboard!!!", and this lovely model will be on its way to a new future, where I'm certain it will be cherished and enjoyed for many years to come.


All for now. Cheers!

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Taken on August 8, 2018