Part I - Background & Fuel Tank
Nelson Riedel Nelson@NelsonsLocomotive.com
Initial: 7/11/03 Last
Two tanks are used on the Shay, a water tank and a fuel tank. I'm
planning to burn oil so both tanks are functional. My experience working with sheet metal has
been mostly bad so I was not anxious to build the tanks. In fact there
were many interesting things to work on such as the water pumps, brake
cylinder, etc. However, the tanks were beginning to loom over my
head so though it best to get to it. Once started, it
turned out not so bad ---- in other words, a tank
fabrication process that made it difficult to screw them up was developed.
Research: The first step was to
decide on how to piece the sides and the rivet detail. Kenneth
fabricated the rounded corners and then riveted the four sides to
the corners. That's a lot of rivets but it also insures the
sides are square with the corners. That's a photo
of Ken's tanks on the right.
|The tender tanks on the Cass shays had been photographed on previous visits
anticipation of building tanks. None of the
tanks on the Cass Shays are the same. Also, probably none
are original, so one has a lot of latitude here. The
tank on Shay No 5 has no rivets, it's welded construction.
All of the Cass Shays burn coal so all have coal bunkers
instead of fuel tanks.
The photos on right show the tender tank on Cass Shay No
6. One piece of steel is used on the sides and
back. There has to be a seam in the front but I failed the
photograph that seam. There is a close spaced row of rivets
at upper and lower edges to attach sides to the top and bottom. There are also staggered vertical rows of
rivets that attach internal
|On Cass No 2., the tank sides and rounded corners are single
pieces with the flat ends riveted to the sides. This has the
same close spaced rows of rivets to attach the top and bottom as
Shay No 6. The rivets
attaching the internal braces are in a straight vertical row
rather a staggered row as on Shay 6.
There is also a close spaced row of rivets around the outer edge of the
top ---- I think they're hidden by dust and dirt on the
I decided to make my tanks like Cass No 2 tanks. For the
water tank, will use four pieces: two sides with the corner
bends and two
ends. There will be four internal vertical braces
on each side and one on each end. For the fuel tank I
decided to make the front, two sides and four corners from one
piece and the back from a second piece. There will be one
vertical brace on each side and the rear and two braces in the
Rivets: The rivet heads on Cass Shay No 6 are 0.95 inches
diameter. The rivets in the rows along the top and bottom are spaced on
1.6 inch centers. For 1/8 scale, this scales to a 0.119 inch head
and 0.2 inch spacing. It was soon learned that you buy rivets based
on shank diameter, shank length and head style --- sort of like machine
screws. However, the head diameter was most important so went to
Internet and found the following specification for small round head rivets
( jay-cee sales & rivets, inc --- www.rivetsinstock.com).
Round Head Rivets
Notes: approx. proportions
Length tolerance for rivets shall be + or -
This says 1/16 inch shank diameter rivets are required. None of my
normal suppliers carried 1/16" diameter rivets.
The smallest Coles lists is 3/32" diameter. Ken
Schroeder told me to use copper rivets; the brass rivets are too hard to
bend over. jay-cee sales had 1/16" brass rivets, but no
1/16" copper rivets. (I tried some of the brass rivets and Ken
is right, they're too hard. Reminds me of something a female colleague
once said: 1 in 20 men will listen to good advice, the other 19 will go ahead
and pee on an
electric fence.) Found one place with 1/16"
diameter 1/4" length copper rivets at $20/500. That seemed
high. Finally used search engine www.dogpile.com
to find Hanson Rivet (www.hansonrivet.com/). They carry 1/16" diameter 1/8" long copper round head rivets for
A pound has over 4,000 rivets so that looked like the best deal. The
sales person was very nice.... suspect he normally sells in
lots of tens or hundreds of pounds but was happy to sell me a pound and
accepted payment via credit card.
Tank Material & Construction: Kenneth suggests using brass
or galvanized steel for the tanks--- 22 gauge for the sides and bottom and
18 gauge steel for the top. He also suggests bending some 1/2"
X 1/2" angles from the side material to rivet to sides and ends to
support top and bottom. After digesting this I sent a list of
questions to Kenneth. As to the material, he said he's used both
brass and steel and been happy with both. He did note that the water
tank is subject to corrosion so if steel is used, it should be galvanized
and it would probably be a good idea to paint the inside with one of the
epoxy paints made to seal water tanks. I also questioned
whether the water tank would support a fat (180 pound)
engineer. He said he's had a much bigger engineer than that on his
shay and no problem. As for the soft soldering, he uses acid core
solder, an acid flux and a large electric soldering iron.
Bending Tool: I then reviewed several of Kozo Hiraoka's books
(Building the Shay, Building the Heisler and Building the
Climax) for tank
construction techniques. For his 3/4" scale Heisler tank he used 1/16" (16
gauge) brass for the sides so maybe I should go a little heavier than the
22 gauge Ken suggested. Hiraoka suggests a really neat tool to make the
corner bends ---- this was a breakthrough for me. Ken suggested
forming the corners around a piece of 1/2" pipe but I couldn't see how
to do that with any precision. Hiraoka's technique was to use
a couple bolts to draw a piece of angle against the round forming
piece with the sheet metal in between
|Here's my crude version of Hiraoka's --- that's 1/2" (0.825" OD) pipe, 1''X 1/8"
angle and 1/4" bolts. I tested it on both 22 gauge steel
(pictured here) and also on 18 gauge steel with excellent results
(Note the corrosion on the steel. This was after I
returned from a few weeks volunteer work in Africa. When I
was gone the spouse decided that it was a good time to clean up
the workshop so she scrubbed and painted the floor.
Apparently she also used a damp cloth to remove the dust from the
sheet steel. Wait till she goes away for a few days
--- I'm going to clean up her sewing room for her ---- using the sand
The bolts were later welded to the angle to make it easier to
use. As we'll see, these bolts will need some
After making a few test bends I realized that the round corners are
very forgiving --- the corner can actually be moved slightly if
necessary. This capability led me to the basic construction
The plan is to use two tops. The inner top is soldered into
place to provide rigidity. This inner top has a large hole in the
center to provide access to the inside of the tank. The second or
outer top is
slightly smaller, sets over the inner top and is held into place by a few button head screws (fake rivets).
The outer top provides the seal and has the finished appearance.
- Drill all the holes for the rivets and install rivets
(except near the bends).
- Install internal braces.
- Make bends.
- Join sides and ends to form a band.
- Cut top and bottom just fit into the band--- making sure pieces and
hence sides are square.
- Solder the inner top and bottom into place.
OK, what about all the rivets? The rivets that join the ends of
the sides and the end pieces will actually function as rivets. The same
for the rivets that go into the vertical reinforcement angles. The
rest of the rivets, specifically the rows along the top and bottom of the
sides are there for decoration only --- I'll solder them to hold them in
place and also seal the holes. The rivets around around the outside edge of the removable
top are also for decoration.
Geometry: One of the first tasks is to determine the dimensions
of each piece. The rounded corners complicate things a bit as
shown in diagram below. The curved section starts a distance of one half
the diameter of the curvature back from the corner as shown on left I think of each side or end piece ending at the center of
the rounder corner because that is where I need to place a mark to line up
the bending fixture. The distance from the start of the curve to the
center of the rounded part is one eighth the circumference of the round form
D/8 or 3.14 D/8. This means that the length of the side is
reduced by the factor [D/2 - 3.14 D/8] at each end.
This factor can be rewritten as 0.107 D. I'm using
1/2" pipe for the curved form. The diameter of my pipe is 0.825
inches so the factor 0.107D is 0.88". I rounder that up to
3/32" which will make the tank slightly smaller (and also increase the
probably that the base will be a tight fit or have to be cut
The tanks are 7" high and 12.125""
wide. They mount on floors that are 12.375" wide so there's
only 0.125" margin on each side --- not much room for error ---and I'd
already cut the floors. Then I started to wonder whether I should take
into account the thickness of the material. To be safe I decided to
use a width dimension of 12" and assume it's the inside dimension of
the tank. I was less concerned with the length of the tanks
(22.5" for the water tank and 7" for the fuel tank) since there is
plenty of margin in that direction.
Marking off the fuel tank sides & ends:
Kenneth suggests that the seams for the end pieces be about 1" from the
corners. The tanks are 12" wide so I decided to make the end
pieces 10" long, hence the end pieces are 7" X 10"
pieces. The fuel tank is 12" wide and 7"
long. Recall that I decided to make only one end piece --- at the
back. The total distance around the tank if the corners were
square would be 38". Because of the rounding, each end of the
sides and ends are shortened by 3/32" inch or a total of 8 times 3/32
inches or 3/4" making the total distance around the tank
37.25". I decided to lap each joint by 1/4" so
there requires an additional 1/2" for the two laps. The end is
10" wide so the other piece must be 37.25" - 10"(for the end
.5"(for the laps) = 27.75" The layout for that piece
Marking off the water tank sides: The water tank is
22.75" long, 12" wide and 7" high, the same width and height
as the fuel tank. The end pieces are 7" X 10", the same as
the back piece of the fuel tank. I used a technique similar to that
for the fuel tank above to compute the length of the sides with corners to
be 24.875" The layout for the sides is shown below.
Sheet Metal List: After all these computations I was able to
make up the material list for the steel store. Kenneth had suggested 22
gauge for the sides and bottom and 16 gauge for the top. I decided to
use galvanized steel and make things a bit heavier: 20 gauge for the sides and
ends and 14 gauge for the top and bottom. The complete list is:
20 Gauge galvanize:
3 pieces 7" X 10" (the ends)
1 piece 7" X 27.75" (fuel tank sides and end)
2 pieces 7" X 24.875" (water tank sides) (These dimensions were
~10 linear feet of 1/2"X1/2" angle bent from this same material
(for internal reinforcing)
14 gauge galvanized steel:
3 pieces 12.125" X 7" (fuel tank bottom and tops - slightly
3 pieces 12.125" X 22.75" (water tank bottom and tops - slightly
I faxed the order to steel store in the morning and then visited
Mill Creek Central RR to learn about track work. Spent most the day
learning about cutting ties and stopped by steel store on way home.
They were just about to start the cutting. Man do they have a big
shear --- hydraulically operated --- can handle a 13 foot cut of
1/2" thickness ---- if I only had more room my shop.......
They cut everything as ordered; the pieces were to the correct dimensions
and square. One difference from the order -- they didn't have the 20
gauge so they used a larger gauge. When I got home I found the sides
and ends were 0.56" thick. That's 17 gauge --- but maybe it's 18
gauge with 3 or 4 thousands of galvanize coating on each side. Wow ---
I forgot about the thickness of the galvanize; sure glad I decided to make
that 1/8" reduction in the width of the tanks!
Rivet Hole Templates: There are about 700 rivets in the fuel tank
and about 1300 in the water tank so I'm not about to try marking off and center
punching that many holes ----- after the first few, there'd be a
staggered row. The solution of course is to make a set of drilling
templates using the indexing capability of the mill table.
Three templates are needed as follows:
- Holes centered 0.125" from the edge for the lower row on the
sides and ends and the edges of the lap joints. The hole spacing for this template is
0.2" (5 per inch).
- Holes centered 0.625" from the edge for the upper row on the sides
and ends. The hole spacing for this template is also 0.2" (5 per
- Holes in a row perpendicular to the edge starting at 0.5" from the edge and ending
6.125" from the edge for the vertical reinforcing
braces. The hole spacing for this template is
|The three drilling templates are shown on the right. To drill the holes, the template is held firmly against the edge
and the end hole is drilled. A #0 screw with nut is installed in the
hole to hold one end of the template. A hole is then drilled in the
other end and a second screw and nut installed. The screws hold the
template in place so the holes in between can be drilled very
quickly. The screws are then removed and the template is then
slid down the sheet and one end secured with a screw through the last hole
drilled so that proper spacing is maintained. Works slick!
|Before starting on the actual tanks I made several
using the drilling templates and the bending fixture on scraps
that I collected at the steel store. The piece on the
right is the end cut of one of the side pieces ---- it's 18 gauge galvanized.
I soldered the rivets in place using paste flux and acid core solder
and the very fine tip on the Sievert propane
torch. The solder flowed very well on the galvanize.
I'll have to also try an electric iron as Kenneth suggested.
The paint is from an old partially used aerosol can of engine
paint. This sample looked good to me so it was
time to do the real thing.
|Fuel Tank Construction: I started with the fuel
tank. I drilled all the holes in the rear end piece first as
shown on the right. (The piece is actually square, the
distortion is due to camera angle.) After
confirming that the hole pattern was correct, I used this plate as a
pattern to drill an identical hole pattern in the front and rear end
pieces for the water tank.
|The next step was to use the end as a pattern to drill mating
holes in the large piece that will become the front and
sides. The two pieces were clamped together and two
holes drilled and #0 screws inserted to hold the pieces in
position. An additional set of holes were then drilled
at the other end of the long
|I next put rivets in the top and bottom of the rear end
piece. These rivets were temporarily held in place by masking
tape over the heads and then soldered in place using Ruby Flux and 50/50 acid core solder. That's an old 200 watt
soldering iron I bought for $5 at a garage sale some 20 years ago.
(The tips cost more than $5 now and I got at least 6 tips with
|After the rivets were soldered the ends were flattened against a
piece of tool steel (lathe bit) as shown in the photo. The head of the
rivets were driven with a punch made from 1/4" drill rod.
The end has a recess made with a # 3 center drill (~
7/64") that matches the rivet head. That's the
lower row of rivets on the side/front piece.
|The next step was to rivet the stiffeners into position.
First the stiffeners were clamped to the side or end pieces and the
rivet holes used as a pattern to drill through the stiffener.
I drilled a couple holes and put in a couple #0 screws to hold them
in position while the rest of the holes were drilled. Rivets
were then installed and the ends flattened. As shown on the
right, the punch for the head is held in the vise and the end
flattened with a flat end punch --- or just use a hammer and forget
the flat end punch.
|After the stiffeners were riveted in place the seams and rivets
were sealed with solder. The iron worked really well.
The photo shows the long piece that will be come the sides and
front. Note that some rivets are missing. That's the area of
the bends for the corners. The heads would interfere with the
angle part of of the bending tool. Another point, one side of
each end of the stiffening angle is notched so that it doesn't interfere
with the top and bottom rows of rivets.
|This photo shows positioning the bending tool in preparation to
making the first bend. The position of the side of the pipe was
carefully calculated and measured. (The earlier
drawings show the position of the bends relative to the edges.
The side of the pipe is of course half the diameter of the pipe from
the centerline of the
|Everything started well and then one of the bolts broke. And, that
red stuff ain't paint ------ too late to caution about the sharp
edges. The original bolts were poor quality carriage
bolts. Replaced them with a couple fine thread grade 8
bolts. No more problems.
|Success!!! I was really worried about whether I would get
vertical bends in the correct position. It looked good and
then I fastened the rear end to the bent piece with four #0 screws
and nuts. This is the front side.
|This is the rear side, Still have a lot of rivets to
install. Before proceeding I smoothed all sharp
edges with a file.
|This shows the first three rivets between the rear end and the
sides. Note that the seam is much narrower under the
rivets. All the remaining rivets were installed, the rivet
ends were flattened and the seams and rivets sealed with solder.
|Next the inner top was cut to fit and soldered in place. (I
want a liquid tight seal around the inner top so the fuel oil
doesn't seep out the top. I plan to use a gasket between the
inner top and the the outer top to complete the seal.)
The bottom was then cut to fit and soldered. I initially
soldered the top and bottom seams with the iron. The easiest
way I found was hold the tank at a 45 degree angle with the seam at
the bottom, cut a piece of solder the length of the seam and lay it
in the seam, flux the seam and then run the iron along the seam.
seam was liquid tight but not uniform so I applied Ruby Flux along
the seam again and then used the propane torch to carefully heat the seam
until the solder flowed creating a more uniform fillet as shown on
the right. After this step the solder appeared to have flowed
uniformly into the seam making a strong seal.
|This is the back with top and bottom in place.
The white stuff on the side is soap residue.
|The front of the tank. The smudges are soap residue.
The difference in the tank color between this photo and the one
above is due to the flash in the previous photo and no flash in this
The fuel tank at this point is a success. The galvanized
steel worked great; glad I used it rather than brass.
The soldering went much easier than expected with the solder adhering
very well if the joint is fluxed. The Ruby Flux tends to not wet the
surface very well when cold but when heated it flows and
coats the surface. The 50/50 solder (50% tin/50% lead) worked
very well too. (With the use of lead in the solder it's probably
wise to not drink the water from the
water tank --- same goes for the oil in the fuel tank.) The steel does solder differently than brass or
copper because it's a poorer conductor --- it's easier to get a
small point of solder to flow and more difficult to get a large section
like a few inches of a seam to flow all at once.
This is a good point to end this section. Still need to make the
outer top with the hatch. Will do that as well as show the construction of the water tank in the next part.
The control valve and output to the burner will be shown in the burner