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Model Railroading > Grain elevator from PVC?

Date: 09/21/07 10:35
Grain elevator from PVC?
Author: ns6669sd60

Has anybody ever made a grain elevator out of PVC pipe for HO scale? I was wondering what a good height would be, in inches, to make the silos? Anybody have any pics to share?

Also, I seem to remember that some guy had a website where he made custom buildings like elevators and others but I seem to have lost the site address, anybody know what it is?


Date: 09/21/07 11:22
Re: Grain elevator from PVC?
Author: JasonCNW

Here is a shot of a typical Iowa grain elevator.

Date: 09/21/07 11:50
Re: Grain elevator from PVC?
Author: pepperidge

ns6669sd60 Wrote:
> Has anybody ever made a grain elevator out of PVC
> pipe for HO scale? I was wondering what a good
> height would be, in inches, to make the silos?
> Anybody have any pics to share?
> Also, I seem to remember that some guy had a
> website where he made custom buildings like
> elevators and others but I seem to have lost the
> site address, anybody know what it is?
> Thanks

I built one elevator out of PVC and was quite satisfied with it. I recommend having the PVC cut at the place you purchase it. This will give you a nice, clean and even cut. I used the Walthers kit as a guide for the height. You can also scale from elevator pictures on the web, e.g. the BNSF site. Elevators come is all heights and diameters, so somewhere there is bound to be a prototype like the one you end up building.

The biggest challenge lies in attaching the silos together. Adhesives don't work--at least for me. You will need to carefully drill every silo at the exact same point so that you can slip a nut/bolt/washer set through the holes and each silo will sit level.


Date: 09/21/07 11:59
Re: Grain elevator from PVC?
Author: TopcoatSmith

I guesstimated mine at about 100 feet tall (height varies by elevator anyway). I used thick cardboard rolls from a hobby shop's shrink-wrapper (not Gary Coleman btw ...) cut in half length-wise, glued together at the edges and wrapped with butcher paper and painted concrete grey.
If you have a way of cutting PVC length-wise the same basic plan would work and you can use the nut/bolt method to attach them. I spaced the ends of mine about 4 inches to represent two rows of silos back-to-back.

TCS - it's been on two layouts so far but it's gone on to somebody else's now ..

Date: 09/21/07 12:02
Re: Grain elevator from PVC?
Author: birdman

PVC can be glued together. If it couldn't, the stuff would be useless for plumbing applications. To adhere PVC pipe, you need two things which are available in any hardware store, plumbing supply store, or Home Depot type store. Those two items are cleaner and adhesive. The pipe must be cleaned and then the adhesive can be applied to each of the surfaces to be joined. Work quickly, as the adhesive sets up in just a few seconds.

Date: 09/21/07 12:40
Re: Grain elevator from PVC? You bet!
Author: chilli

To ensure a pretty smooth even and straight cut, just start measuring the PVC pipe from the factory cut end, these seem to be damned square, at least the ones I have used. Mark the distance from the end at the height appropriate in about four places around the circumference, then put a strip of masking tape around the pipe connecting all four marks. There's your cutting guide line.

It'll be as square as needed. I found a blade in the old sabre saw rated for cutting plastic, run at a slower than normal speed, gives a really smooth, clean cut once you get the "teeth of the blade" into the line along the tape.

I used some Elmer's Woodworking Glue to bond it to the backdrop, and once set in place on the flat base of the layout board at the building site, it doesn't wiggle. Then you can add thinner styrene discs cut using a compass marker and X Acto blade to the tops, using ordinary liquid styrene glue. A bit of patching and sanding around the joint, and it's ready for painting. Add the headhouse details and the pipes leading everywhere, and you've got a nice set of concrete silos for a smidgen of the price of kits or ready-built models. You can make them the diameter you want, the design (or footprint) you want, and no one can say your elevator looks the same as others! I guess you even add simulated corrugated metal sheathing to the sides if you wanted a metal bin.

As mentioned in previous posts, you can model just half of the silo, butted against the backdrop, and I have my stand of eight elevators this way, using 3 inch diameter PVC.

This same method is great for producing various diameter tanks at refineries and vegetable oil processing plants too. Many ways and methods / materials to make the rounded or semi-rounded tank ends...try it, you'll like it.

Date: 09/21/07 13:10
Re: Grain elevator from PVC? You bet!
Author: kevink

I haven't tried building a grain elevator yet but I did rework some drains with PVC pipe and I found that my power miter saw worked great for getting nice square cuts. By adding a stop, one could quickly cut several equal lengths of pipe.

Date: 09/21/07 16:28
Re: Grain elevator from PVC?
Author: rschonfelder

ns6669sd60 Wrote:
> Has anybody ever made a grain elevator out of PVC
> pipe for HO scale? I was wondering what a good
> height would be, in inches, to make the silos?
> Anybody have any pics to share?

Yes, I did this for an exhibition layout a group of us have and are still working on. The fellow above did the same thing I did for joining them by using screws. I however, placed a piece of clear wood moulding in each crevice between each PVC silo. If you look at the real thing, the circles of a silo do not interconnect like pipes lying on top or beside one another. They actually overlap which is what gives the structure strength.

Cutting them a uniform length is necessary but there is no way the place I bought it would cut them. It is the Australian equivalent of Home Depot and you are lucky to find some one let alone ask for this to be done. Instead, I can offer what I did for cutting these square.

I used 100mm PVC plumbing pipe. I used a drop saw (you might know it as a Sliding Compound Saw) by rigging up a common length using a clamp and a piece of wood. Since I found there to be some ever slight deflection in the cheap Chinese saw I borrowed, and there is no way the blade would go all of the way through a 100mm depth, I came up with a new variation. These saws have a depth control mechanism so adjust that to go down enough to get through the thickness of one side of the PVC pipe. With the saw on (I had to state the obvious) cut into the top bit and once you have reached your depth setting, rotate the pipe around until the cut is complete. You should get a square and uniform cut in all cases and this is necessary to get these "silos" to stand together. Make sure you hold tight against your fence and the piece of wood you clamped to it.

Don't get hung up getting an answer on how high they are. IIRC mine were 500mm (you can convert back to your own measure as you wish) but I would suggest this to be a good height. They can all be different in prototype but we wanted that "awesome huge" look of a Silo against little HO cars. Walthers only offers their silos at a height which accomodates shipping, packing and stocking considerations. Inadequate for my wants so I hope this helps you out because I had to do some playing to get the cuts square and believe me it is important.

Melbourne Australia

Date: 09/21/07 17:15
Re: Grain elevator from PVC?
Author: NSTopHat

I'm using large diameter PVC for coal storage silos myself. I've found that Home Depot & Lowe's carry 4" dia. or less. If you go to a plumbing supply store you can get larger sizes. I got an 8' length of 8" dia. pipe, which scales out to 58'- 0-3/4" at a local plumbing supply house. I'm cutting them to 14" to 18" lengths (101' to 130' high), measuring off of the factory cut end.

There are two methods that will work for a concrete textured surface. One is to wrap it in 600+ grit wet / dry sand paper, which may limit your overall height to 11" when using 8-1/2" x 11" w/d sand paper. Your joint line should be on the back of the structure and adhere with a barber's pole pattern of double-sided tape.

The second method is to lightly sand blast the PVC in a grit blast booth until you have the texture of 600 grit or greater (meaning up to 2000 grit) sand paper, then spray the appropriate shade of concrete grey. Note that cast-in-place silos are currently built using what is called a slip-form method, with a continuous concrete pour schedule until the structure is finished, henceforth the apparent rings of differnt color on the concrete surface.

I plan on building a grain elevator for my layout, using PVC and "gusseting" between the silos, so that the joint between silos isn't seen. The gussets will be .100" sheet styrene, with tapered edges at the bond line. The cast-in-place concrete roof will be the same. Preferred method of attachment is to build the roof and then add silos with plumbers PVC glue.

I'll see if I can get a coal storage silo built in the next week or so and I'll post photos.

Now if you're going to do a steel "Butler" built silo, it's my understanding that those are in excess of 150' (20"+) in diameter, but less than 100' tall. A friend of mine who's a grain-nut, and no he's not from NoCal, is using Sono Tube and sanding the wax coating off, CAREFULLY heating corrugated styrene to form around the Sono Tube and liquid cementing the styrene in place. He's then using heavy duty rubber bands to hold the styrene in place while the plastic cools and the glue dries.

If you're not familiar with Sono Tube, it is a wax coated heavy duty solid cardboard form used in construction for concrete casting of round footings and pedestals for light poles and such. You should be able to get this at Home Depot or Lowe's. Larger diameters over 3' look for a local concrete materials supply company, or ask your local ready mix supplier.

Hope this helps.


Date: 09/22/07 20:04
Re: Grain elevator from PVC?
Author: moose

I used 1.5" pipe for my elevator, about 100 scale feet tall. To join the pipes together I ran each one through my jointer to produce a flat area on the sides. The PVC cement doesn't hold well if at all on a curved surface, but a flat of 1/4" or so works great. I found fender washers of the correct diameter at AceIsThePlace and built a rectangular structure on the top to cover the holes and simulate the enclosures I've seen on several elevators

Date: 09/25/07 07:28
Re: Grain elevator from PVC?
Author: vasouthern

Should work fine....

Cutting is EASY in a compound miter saw. I cut up to 3" in mine when plumbing the house.

For a rough surface, what about hand sanding in various directions tp rough up the surface and add texture. Then the right color should give a decent "stucco" result.

Basically the same as working with styrene, but pretty cheap for the size!


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