I use the blunt end of a butter knife, wrench, etc. in an old Cool Whip
container.  The container is strong enough to take the blows, has a lid,
and is disposable.  I use different size screens to get different sizes
of coal and then label the containers for the size of HO coal they
contain like "Buckwheat," "Pea," "Stove," "Egg," and "Lump."

Dan Bourque

HOSAM wrote "Dan,  What types of screens do you use?  That would be of
great interest to myself and maybe others......"

  Oh, I use anything I can get my hands on.  Bought some screen at the
hardware store.  My wife's kitchen strainer is another good screen (don't
tell her that), I've got some larger stuff I picked-up at the waste pile
of a construction site.  I don't label the screens, just the product.  In
fact, each screen produces at least two sizes of coal.  When I've got a
cool whip container full of strained coal, I shake it around, turn the
bowl about 45 degrees and tap on the sides.  The larger pieces slide down
revealing the finer coal at the bottom.  This way, I can "select a size"
when I'm putting together a coal load.  Works like a charm!

Dan Bourque


  Have been looking at the sizes of coal as delivered from the mines and
wondering what size screen would be appropriate for these sizes.

Description        size         HO Scale(inches)

Broken or lump  4" x 6"         .046 x .068
Egg             3-1/4" x 2-7/16"        .037 x .028
Stove           2-7/16" x 1-5/8"        .028 x .018
Nut             1-5/8" x 13/16" .018 x .009
Pea             13/16" x 9/16"  .009 x .006
Buckwheat       9/16" x 3/16"   .006 x .002
Rice            3/16" x 3/16"(Buckwheat #2)
Barley          3/16" x 3/32"(Buckwheat #3)
#4              3/32" x 3/64"
#5              3/64" x 100 mesh

  Seems as if the coal would be very small, even in lump size.
Would appreciate any suggestions as to what types of screens to use....


Sam, to answer your question on which size screen to use, I really just
use the kitchen strainer which has about a 3/32" mesh.  The coal that
strains through this gives me from dust to "egg" sized coal, but mostly
what I would call "stove" which looks best on most loads.  I use the
stuff that doesn't strain through for my "lump" loads.

Dan Bourque

I just use a piece of window screen to filter out the oversize pieces.
Gordon Mooneyhan

Remember that size is in relation to the preception of what you are 
attempting to do.  If it is scale size, all be the largest pieces 
will be dust.  Just as in modeling trees, the texture will be more
apparent then actual size.  Do a couple of mockups and live with 
then for a few modeling scessions and decide for yourself what 
looks best.
I have found in my own coal loads that no one gets out the micrometer
for a load of coal with the same religious fervor they do for a 
handrail or SAL paint.

Lawton Maner

  I wholeheartedly agree with Lawton on this one!  When I make a coal
load, I use whatever size coal I want to out of the bin to make it "look
right."  After I've built the load, I measure the average chunk of coal
on it and convert to HO scale.  Then I half that measurement and label it
according to the chart that HOSAM has printed on this list.  That way, I
get a variety of different loads, each with a different name (hence,
different tracks under the tipple).  The fact that each piece of coal is
twice the prototype size doesn't bother me because it looks right!

Dan Borque

Remember the coal grade and size discussion?  Scenic Express is 
selling several grades of coal in their Smith and Son Ballast line.
  From smallest size to largest they list:

Unit train,
Mine run,
and O-scale.

Has anyone used this stuff?  It appears to have a very coal-like glint 
and the shape is nice and angular.

Peter Berghs

I have three samples of different size coal from Scenic Meadows Supplies.
These are small/medium/large, in HO that's 1.3-2"/2.6-3"/2.6-5.8".  
Coal looks great!  
Lee Collins, 1730 Scenic Meadows, Imperial, MO 63052; phome
314-464-3507; e-mail

Jack Parker

S.A. McCall