April 17, 2014

Accokeek Creek Scenery Part 2

Scenery work on Accokeek continues.  I filled in the woods behind the pines and extend the fence. I also muted the contrast of the pine needles under pine trees and the grass.

April 16, 2014

Accokeek Creek Scenery

I am wondering what to do between the pines and the trees to the right. I am thinking of connecting the two
areas with more bare trees.
I've been plugging away at the scenery at Accokeek Creek for the past few nights. The static GrassTechII is getting a work out. I am fairly pleased with it as it works great, when you remember to turn it on. In a few nights this area should be done.

Here are some work in progress shots with wet scenery. It is hard to capture the correct color with my iPhone.  The grass is not quite as green as the images show.

I plan to extend the fence at the angle to the backdrop

View toward Accokeek creek and the south end of Brooke siding.

April 14, 2014

Road Trip - Cabin Fever and more.

This weekend I did a road trip to Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  The main purpose of the trip was to attend a family event in New Jersey on Saturday, but the trip diversions are probably of more interest to the blog readers.
On Friday I visited Gettysburg, PA on the way to my mom's house in Lebanon, PA. It was raining steadily when I got to Gettysburg. So I just made a quick stop at the Toy Soldier Shop to pick up some miniatures for the layout. I stocked up on Perry American Civil War Cavalry and another set of Zouaves to join the set I already have. 
These Perry figures are injection molded plastic and are very nicely done. The cavalry are molded in several pieces. The horses are two pieces, while the men have various options for arms, hats, and weapons. Being plastic they are easy to modify.
On Sunday I stopped by the Cornwall Furnace in the morning. This is a museum and state historic
site based around a 18th century iron works. It is part of a National Historic Landmark District, and America's most complete remaining charcoal fueled ironmaking complex. The museum was not open when I was there, but I got a few shots of the furnace. It operated until about 1880 and provided ordnance to Union civil war armies. It is definitely worth a visit while it is open.
Later in the afternoon, I went to the Cabin Fever Expo 2014, the largest model engineering meet in North America. This was the first time I attended this event. I caught the end of the show and some of the displays were being removed. Nonetheless, I saw some very interesting models and tools.
The event includes live steam trains in all scales. The largest one I saw was a Union Pacific Big Boy that weighed over 3,000 pounds including the tender. Several of the Accucraft Gauge 1 live steam models were on display and for sale.  The fellow at the left was kind enough to pose behind his Pennsy T-1 to demonstrate the size of the model. 
The Sandy River and Rangely Lakes engine was impressive in large scale too.

This LST model caught my eye. It is a 1/96th scale model with HO vehicles on board. This model could be used to depict the LST railroad ferries used in the D-Day campaign. For more information you might want to check out my book when it comes out. I have a chapter on the D-Day operation.
 There are several 1/96th scale LST kits available for sale, but this would not be that hard of a ship to scratch build in HO, 1/87th scale.
 The business end of the LST. For a model railroad, this end of the ship would have the doors open and railroad tracks laid to the deck.

For those of you interested in O scale, the Scale Shipyard is producing a kit for a 1/48th scale LST. Now that would be a cool model and  layout!
There was a large temporary pond for radio controlled ships, as well as this dirt pile for construction equipment. There were also live steam tracks, a paved circuit for R/C cars and trucks, and a enclosed net for R/C aircraft..

The video below shows some of the models and tools I found interesting.

April 10, 2014

GrassTech II Static Grass Machine

The glue is still wet in these photos
My Heki Flockstar Grasshopper static grass machine stopped working a while ago. It was disappointing as I did not use it very much. Recently I ordered a GrassTech II machine from GrassTechUSA. It arrived today, so I tried it out.

Accokeek Creek getting some scenery work.
Note the new embankment for the creek.
It definitely works. I was able to apply tall grass fibers were easily using the plug-in cord. I did not try the 9V battery option.

I am adding a bit more green to the layout as the grass and trees start greening up in Virginia in early April, about when I am modeling. I haven't picked an exact date yet.

While I was at it I reworked the creek bed for Accokeek Creek building up an small embankment with mud (dirt and dilute white glue).
Once this dries I'll go back to clean up the loose fibers,  and add some individual shrubs and plants.

The GrassTech II - Made in the USA

April 5, 2014

South Mountain Division MiniConvention

I drove up to the  NMRA South Mountain Division Mini-convention today on a clear, but slightly cool day. Perfect weather for a drive in the country. (More on that later)

Clever way to stop the stain bottles from tipping over
The convention looked like a very successful meet. There were about 160 folks present.  Many were involved in hands-on clinics including track laying using Fastrax jigs, home made static grass machines, weathering, and many others. I saw a lot of kids working on the hands-on clinics- very encouraging.

Cold war train on the WM Modular layout
The Western Maryland Historical Society's Modular Group had a layout set up. There were some neat trains running on it including Mike Kieser's cold war era military trains. He told me he built it to showcase the types of tanks his father operated in the Korean War.

Two fellows brought interesting pieces of rolling stock for show and tell.

The first (I didn't record his name, so please let me know who you were) had a Camden and Amboy 1870s era box car that he scratch built from plans in John White's book He said the car was an ex-USMRR car featured in one of John White's book, but I could not find it. It was nicely done with arch bar trucks and knuckle couplers.

Steve Groft with his baby

Scratch built 4-4-0
Steve Groft show a work-in-progress scratch built HO scale 4-4-0. He made nearly all the parts by hand with files and Dremel Motor tool. That was a nice piece of work. I am looking forward to seeing it finished.

Steve Sherril was there with a neat On30 modular set-up he built to showcase the "Dead Rail Society." He was running some of his tiny engines on battery power. He was even showing how he plans to use solar collectors to power his locos. It was very cool. His layout consisted on small sections about a foot deep and 4 feet long. He uses no backdrop and no legs. He sets up on convention tables. It's all very compact and portable. Perhaps this is the paradigm for my next portable layout.

My talk went very well. I was in uniform for the talk and it was a good thing I brought it, as it was still very cold up in the mountains. But no snow fortunately. Several of the guys in attendance were Gettysburg Battlefield Tour Guides. It was fun to meet them.

I also showed a 5 minute video afterwards with scenes from my railroad.
"Waiting for Da Tow"

On the way home, I had a slight problem with one of my tires. OK, a big problem. Luckily I was able to pull over, then get the car towed to a safer location and then change the tire. Everyone is home safe and sound (except for that tire).

April 4, 2014

Some thoughts on battery operation in model railroads

I recently did a quick look article for MRH on the Stanton Battery system. The article was essentially a compilation of various of my notes from this blog. Long time readers of the blog will have seen most of it already. In this post I thought it would be useful to address some points not in the article, and answer several questions I got from people via email and forum posts. I realize that DCC is like a religion. These are my observations and I am not trying to convert you. 

I did not spend much time in the article spelling out some of the advantages of battery power. In case you are not aware, here are some things I find very handy.

1. Track need not be scrupulously clean. Since I charge my batteries through the rails, I need some degree of electrical contact, but not the "clean room" standards that normal DCC requires.
2. Shorts on the track power rails do not stop battery powered locos. During op sessions, when one causes a short, by splitting a turnout or derailing, all locos in that power district go dead.  So one has to divide up the layout into several power districts with separate boosters, or use power shields, or some other expensive solution to break the layout into power segments. Not so with battery power. They chug right through most shorts. No power districts needed. That is a real nice benefit that is frequently overlooked.
3. You don't have to wire your track at all if you don't want. My portable layout has no feeder wires to any of the rails except in the staging cassettes.  That is right ....no wires, no frog juicers,  no broken feeders. You do need to implement a recharging scheme but track power is not required.
4. With battery power, intermittent interruptions in track power do not cause the on-board loco sound to recycle.
5. Did I mention you don’t have to clean track.

Folks with large fleets of locos that are currently DCC may not want to convert all their engines to battery power. But, you could very easily add battery powered locos to an existing DCC wired layout. The two systems work well together.

That is what I did. Two of my locos have conventional DCC. The other 3 (with a 4th coming on board soon) will have battery power. Ted Pamperin added battery power to some of his problematic steamers to improve their performance on a HO scale DCC powered layout.

I had previously wired the first sections of my layout for DCC. I still need to finish about 30 percent of my track. The question I face is whether to wire the remaining section for DCC or not, If I don't add the DCC wiring, then I will have to convert the last two locos from DCC  to battery. However, I have already run the main bus wires into that section. I also have a frog juicer 6 pack unused. The frog juicers make DCC wiring pretty easy. So my current thinking is to wire the rest of the layout for DCC and use it as a power recharge source and DCC control for my first two non battery locos. If I was starting from scratch, I would not bother with wiring.

Yes, one can assign any Stanton equipped loco to any Stanton cab.

There are some other battery systems out there  (see Del Tang,  CVP Airwire,  TamValley). Some are smaller and will work in HO scale locos. Note that my O scale steamers are not much bigger than HO modern diesels.

It is also important to realize that installing a battery DCC system in my small steamers is actually easier than regular DCC. Why? When I do a DCC install, I have to completely disassemble the locos to add insulators and pick-ups on all the wheels. If I do not, then the loco performance is erratic and I have issues with dirty track, stalls, sound break-up, etc. With battery installs extra pickups are not needed. In fact, I got rid of the pickups on the pilot trucks on my first two installs as they aren't needed.

The challenge I had with the first 2 locos has been room in the engines and tenders for the battery and battery power supply. The latest generation of SMRs brass locos has more room in the tenders, so installing will be much easier.

The issue with the plugs between tenders and engines in not unique to battery power. The DCC locos have it too. I plan to hard-wire the rest and have a permanent drawbar between the tender and engine. My experience with moving these engines around is that the less handling the better.  So the plugs will be moot.

Using the Airwire T5000 I am able to program the Stanton Radio Tsunami DCC decoders to fine tune the performance. 

Notice I did not mention cost. I don't know if battery power is cheaper than DCC. I have both systems, so cost is a moot point. What I want is outstanding performance and simplicity. Battery power gives me that. 

With the current state of the art, I would say that battery power is not yet for everyone. Like the adoption of DCC, battery power will really take off when manufacturers start adding it to the new locos.

The Stanton System is intentionally designed for layouts with just a few engines. The Del Tang system is incredible small and may find lots of applications. But any layout where electrical pick-up is an issue (just about all of the 200 plus layouts I have operated on including some of the biggest and most famous) could benefit from freedom of picking up current from the rails.  For layouts like mine, where I am dealing with small, highly detailed, but finicky locos, battery power is imperative.

Radio controlled battery power has other applications on model railroads. Radio controled road vehicles are possibilities, especially with the tiny Del Tang system.  

April 2, 2014

Mid 19th Century Track Scale

Fellow ACWRR modeler Marshall Stull alerted me to the following document that contains several interesting items for 19th century railroads. Fourth Annual Catalog of Locomotives and Car Builders Supplies. It has a bunch of interesting drawings in it, especially of tools and surveying equipment.

One item in particular caught my eye, this railroad track scale. It  looks like an interesting item to add to a layout.

Note the operator using a switch stand to move the rails from through route to the weighing tracks.

It is unlikely that the USMRR had one on the Aquia line, but any commercial railroad would need these at several locations.

Note the floor depot scale at the bottom, another useful detail one could add.

April 1, 2014

Updated Speaking Schedule

I have added two more speaking engagements to my calendar.  All but one of these talks will be about civil war railroading.  If you are interested, here is the calendar of events. I hope to see you there.

  • 11:00AM, April 5  Introduction to the Railroads of the Civil War, at the South Mountain Division Minicon, Fire Station,  Blue Ridge Summit, PA.
  • 10:00AM May 31, Introduction of Railroads of the Civil War and the USMRR Aquia Line. At the RF&P Historical Society, Salem Church Library, 2607 Salem Church Road, Fredericksburg, VA. This is a 1.5 hour talk that combines my ACWRR talk with a detailed description of my home layout. Membership in the RF&PHS may be required.
  • 10:00AM Aug 2, Introduction to Railroads of the Civil War,  at the B&O Historical Society Mini Con, St John's Lutheran Church, 101 W. Martin Street, Martinsburg, WV Membership in the B&OHS may be required. See http://www.borhs.org/Events/events.html for more info.
  • Time TBD, Aug 8-10, Capitol Limited, N Scale East Convention, Chantilly Expo Center. See http://www.bigtrainlayout.org/ for more detail. This is part of the N scale convention. Resistration for the convention will be required.
  • Time TDB, Sep 12-13, The Model Railroad Goes to War, Middle Atlantic Railroad Prototype Meet (MARPM), Wingate by Wyndham Hotel, Fredericksburg, VA. See http://www.marpm.org/ for more info. Registration for the meet is required.  This will be a new talk I am developing to coordinate with my upcoming book about the role of railraods in warfare. The talk will include dozens of additional photos obtained from the National Archives and other sources not used in the book. Hopefully I will have copies of the book to sign at this event. The convention staff asks that you resister as soon as possible in order to reserve a spot.
  • Time and October date TBD, Porter Branch of the Stafford County Library. http://www.librarypoint.org/porter
    This library is just a few miles from the location depicted in my model railroad.  We haven't nailed down the date yet. I'll post it when it is available. This event will probably be free to attend. 

Taking GI Joe to a whole new level

This is a group of UK modelers, called Kampfgruppe VonAbt, that work in 1/6th scale. They specialize in photographing their models to create realistic scenes.

 Here is their website.

There are hundreds of photos of their hyper realistic dioramas on the site. That is real fire in the sample image from their Scorched Earth gallery.

The fellow standing next to the Dora Rail Gun puts the size of these models in perspective.

And yes, they do make 1/6th scale ACW figures. A 1/6 scale 4-4-0 would be awesome.

Check out Rosewoods website for some well done ACW scenes, but no trains.

March 31, 2014

Book Review - The War Came by Train

Every wonder why the West Virginia state outline has the twin panhandle shape? You can find the answer as well as many other fascinating stories in Dan Toomey's book, "The War Came by Train, The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in the Civil War." It is a highly readable and interesting account of the role the B&O had in the civil war. It is not a dry business history, but a living tale full of the characters and actions from the civil war.

To say that the B&O was central to the civil war would be an understatement. As the only railroad linking Washington, DC to the north through sometimes hostile territory, the B&O was vital to the Union. But it was also a trunk line linking the eastern seaboard with the Ohio River valley while passing through the coal mining region of Western Virginia.  One of its main commodities was coal, and the B&O's fleet of iron coal pot hoppers figure prominently in the book.

Of all the northern railroads, the B&O had the highest percentage of military traffic. It also suffered the most damage of any northern road. Robert E. Lee once said of destroying the bridges on the B&O in the Cheat River valley it would be, "worth to me an army." If you are a fan of the B&O, as I am, you will cringe as you read Dan's well researched telling of the damage and depredations the Southern armies and bandits inflicted on the railroad.    The damage that Jackson and the rebels inflicted on the B&O,  including plain old train robbery, went a long way to ensuring that the state of Maryland remained staunchly in the Union. In spite of constant raids and damage, the railroad was able to quickly repair itself and continue to conduct business, albeit with some prolonged gaps in service due to rebel occupation. Dan does a good job of chronicling these raids and keeping them in the overall context.

Dan's story starts with the John Brown raid. Did you know Robert E. Lee and Jeb Staurt rode the B&O on a light engine from Washington to Harper's Ferry to take command of the federal response to Brown's raid. He progresses through the war to the funeral train that took assassinated President Lincoln home to Springfield through Baltimore. The final chapters on the post-war B&O's efforts to recover propety stolen during the war and the B&O's role in the veteran reunions that took place up until 1938.   Dan also also has fascinating chapters on the role the B&O had in West Virginia's statehood, and in the troop transfer for the Chattanooga Campaign.

All in all a great book. If you are a B&O fan, this is a must read. Others will find the book useful as the B&O was at the center of most of the war's critical campaigns including Antietam, and Gettysburg. But be careful, after you read this book, you might find yourself wanting to build a railroad depicting the B&O. I know I am.

More on the Engine Washington

The famous Beanpole and Cornstalks Bridge with a 4-4-0 engine and car,
 not the USMRR Washington, which was an 0-8-0.
High resolution version available here.
Identifying the service record of the Baldwin 256, an 0-8-0 engine in USMRR service as Washington, was difficult as the data conflicted and was  incomplete, and there was at least one typo in a source. To complicate matters,  there were three engines with that name in USMRR service.

This research indicates that the first engine to traverse the famous beanpole and cornstalk engine bridge was the USMRR Washington.

Supporting Details:

I sent Rich Hochadel a note with a question about the the engine Washington's entry in the USMRR Roster that he authored. Rich said that there were three engines with the name Washington in service and the data is contradictory.

Here is a note from Rich on how he arrived at his conclusions.

I've spent the morning and half the afternoon going through the research I used for the USMRR roster, seeing how I sorted the info on the three different Washington's in the Department of Virginia. 
Here's how I listed them:  1st Washington: Unknown-B  
2nd Washington: Baldwin-256  
3rd Washington: Norris-1038  

 First of all, I now realize that should be:  1st Washington: Unknown-  
2nd Washington: Norris-1038  
3rd Washington: Baldwin-256 
A Russell photo of unknown-B in Alexandria in 1863.  Can anyone identify the builder?
 Going through the sources and notes provided by the R&LHS, I found that one person's roster had the Unknown-B as "captured at Fredericksburg Summer 1862," and another had Baldwin-256 as "Abandoned at Fredericksburg 1862." An undated "Statement of Locomotive Engines and Cars" provided by the R&LHS lists a Washington, costing $4500 (which would indicate Baldwin-258) lost "at Fredericksburg, under Gen'l Burnside," which would mean late 1862. 

 However, in his Memoirs Haupt quotes a telegram he sent to McDowell on May 14, 1863, concerning the new bridge over Potomac Creek, “I propose, as soon as I can get track timbers down and track closed, to pull over the engine Washington, by means of ropes. It if goes into the creek, it will cease to trouble us for awhile...” Since we know Haupt was disparaging Baldwin-256 in May of 1863, it must have been Unknown-B lost at Fredericksburg.  

The fact that there is no mention of the engine in official records after early May of 1862 also argues the same case, though it makes late 1862 seem less likely. The discrepancy in the "Statement" must be a clerical error, confusing Unknown-B, which was apparently never on the official roster, with Baldwin-256 when listing engines lost in action.  And I have no idea where I got the December 1962 date in my roster. As for documents at the National Archives. 
Some of the notes I got from the R&LHS are from sources identified as: 
  • Engine book from Oct 1862 to Feb 1863 (#10 on cover) (Memphis? 
  • Engine account book - Alexandria, Va., April thru July 1864
  • Engine account book - Alexandria, Va., Dec 1864 thru Oct 1865 
  • Engineers time book Engines on hand as of July 1, 1862 
  • Engines repaired at Orange & Alexandria Shops - June thru Nov. 1862 
  • Engines repaired at Orange & Alexandria Shops - Dec 1862 thru July 1863 
  • Engines repaired at Orange & Alexandria Shops - August 1863 thru Feb 1864 
  • Material account for Orange & Alexandria Shop - Feb to April 1862 (Tag #13)
  • Materials and labors expended on engines at Alexandria, Va. April thru Sept. 1863 
  • Material distributed at Alexandria, Va. May-Qug, 1862. (Tag #16) 
  • Operating Expenses - Alexandria, Va. - June 1862 to Feb 1864 
  • Statement of Locomotive Engines and Cars on Hand, present location also destroyed and where Statement of Locomotive Engines, Cost of same and from whom purchased 

 This is an excerpt from Haupt's Reminiscences (page 48) that mentions the engine Washington. Apparently it was not the best engine as Haupt didn't seem to mind if it fell in the river while testing the bridge.

The following telegram to General McDowell from Potomac Creek, May 14, 1863, reports some difficulties: There are so few men here able or willing to climb about on the high trestles, that I fear the work of bracing will be extremely tedious. Out of twelve men selected to spike poles on top of bents, only one made his appearance. I must therefore resort to new expedients. I propose, as soon as I can get track timbers down and track closed, to pull over the engine, Washington, by means of ropes. If it goes into the creek, it will cease to trouble us for awhile ; if it reaches the other side, it will have a good road and may keep the track. We can readily get cars over by planking between the tracks and pushing. The rain gives us much trouble, but I will spare no effort to get an engine to the Rappahannock by Saturday (17). Men are wet, dull and no life or activity in them. With all these difficulties, the bridge was finished in ample time, as the army did not move until May 26, and then it was a retrograde and not an advance movement.

The date on the telegram as quoted in Haupt's book has to be a typo as this incident happened in 1862, not 1863. If so, that helps corroborate that Baldwin 256 was the Washington in question. It must have  abandoned in Fredericksburg on August 31, 1862.

Here is a New York Times article with details of the evacuation of the Aquia line. Though full of interesting detail and somewhat biased reporting, it does not mention abandoning the engine. But since the Union had repair shops at Fredericksburg, it is possible it was left there.

September 3, 1862 

Destruction of the Bridges, & The March to Aquia Creek. Safety of the Whole Command and its Materiel. 

 FREDERICKSBURGH, Va., Sunday, Aug. 31, 1862. continued during the fore part of the day, admonishes us that the Fall rains will soon be upon us, and with them that there will be an end to all effective use of Virginia roads. Narrow, steep, crooked, sticky and stony, one day's hard, rain is sufficient to render them almost impassable for wagons and artillery. The necessity of locking wheels while going down steep places, scoops outdeep holes in the roads, which soon become reservoirs of water, and grow into gullies and holes, which test the skill of drivers and the strength of the best army-wagons to pass safely through. To-day the roads are simply execrable, and two days more of rain would more effectually out off our "retrograde movement," than the most effective rebel force in the rear. 
Union rebuilding the railroad bridge at Fredericksburg
on May 6th, 1862.  

 Under the orders of the War Department, Gen. BURNSIDE might have vacated this place a week ago; but reluctant to abandon a position which has been so long held, and which has been deemed of so great strategetical importance -- and which might still become so -- he has moved with great deliberation, and has finally consented to fall back in strict conformity to orders -- not on account of the threatening attitude of the enemy's forces.

Meantime all the regimental baggage, material of war and army stores have been carefully sent away, and are saved. It is the first apparent retrograde movement of Gen. BURNSIDE, but I do not believe he regards it as in any sense a retreat. The motives of it, if I knew them, I would not be at liberty to reveal. 

Suffice it to say Fredericksburgh has been abandoned; the three bridges, which were constructed for connecting the two banks of the river for our own use, have been destroyed; the railroad buildings on the Falmouth side, including the offices of Post-Commissary and Quartermaster, with a small amount of stores only, have been consumed by fire; the machine-shop and foundry in the town of Fredericksburgh, formerly used to so good advantage by the rebels, but more recently occupied as a repairing shop for our engines and railroad, has been blown up, and the large bakery establishment at Falmouth has also been burned. So far as this position is concerned it is now being converted into a "howling wilderness" for the occupation of the rebel army, now soon to return, no doubt, to the place. The citizens of the town were surprised while on their way to church in the afternoon, by dense volumes of smoke arising over our encampment. In fact, I was surprised myself, and received the fact as a gentle token that I had better pay my livery stable and board bill, and transfer my interests to the northern bank of the Rappahanuock. On looking about me, I found an unusual commotion once more among the people of African descent in the town, and a decided tendency of the tide of emigration toward the wire bridge, which runs from the foot of Williamstreet. Knots of Secessionists congregate at the corners of the street, but particularly opposite the bridges, to witness the exodus of the white as well as the black population. Several Union families, who have recently been watched and threatened, took the hint, and packed up. Ladies, dressed in their Sunday-go-to-meeting, looked out of their windows, or congregated on the hill-tops, to see the Yankees go out, and Stonewall Jackson come in. After so long and grievous a suspense, and hopes deferred, who could grudge them this hour of elysium. I met on the bridge pioneers with axes, arid barrels of tar which they were industriously plastering along the walk, to render the structure the more inflammable. There were also piles of chips and rubbish deposited in the wooden frame-work which crowned the different stone abutments and sustained the wire cables which held up the bridge. In a few minutes more the torch would be applied, and -- a handsome bonfire to light the pious rebels the way to church. 

 As yet, however, the Provost Guard occupied the town, and the Eighth Connecticut were on picket duty, ten miles on the way to Richmond, scattered along the bowling green, the plank and telegraph roads. 

On reaching headquarters, at the Lacey House, I sound all the [???] had been struck; the ambulance and army wagons were hitched up; officers' horses were all saddled for a start, and everything [???] a decided movement. Infantry regiments stood in line upon the wide plain fronting headquarters; long lines of wagons and artillery occupied the main road, and calvary men [???] in their saddles ready for the word "march." in the midst of this serve the commanding General wax observed walking leisurely to and fro, dispatching orders to the different regiments, and watching in calm silence the movements of the various commands. It was indeed an hour of deep interest and concern to him. For days and nights he has watched with sleepless vigilance every movement of our own and the enemy's forces, as they affected his own position, and something of weariness could be detected in his usual elastic step. At this juncture a poor woman with three lovely children clinging to her side came up the hill and passed through the gate, bringing each of them some [???] article of household furniture. The quick eye of the General immediately recognized her as un excellent Union lady, of Fredericksburgh, who was escaping with her children and little effects from the town. "Have you anything else down at the bridge, Madam?" asked the General. "Only a bed and a few smail articles, Sir," she timidly answered. "Send down an ambulance, wagon-master, and have them brought up and carried to the depot," was the General's orders, and it was done, in a few minutes the poor widow had the pleasure of seeing all her remaining goods safely deposited on the cars for Aquia Creek. 

Meantime, all other arrangements having been completed, a mounted orderly was sent to the point to order the Eighth Connecticut, on picket duty, to retire. Col. HARLAN accordingly ordered his men to fall in, and they immediately fell back on the town. When they reached the river, the railroad and wire bridges were already on fire, and they went down and crossed on the only remaining bridge -- that constructed of canalboats -- at the lower part of the town. The Provost Guard had already been ordered to vacate the town. Shortly after 5 o'clock P.M. the torch was applied to the railroad station, which was already well consumed before the bridges were fired. Shortly before this was done, the Sixth New-York Cavalry came in from the direction of Barnett's Ford, and reported that an ambulance and wagon train which overtook them on the road was hurrying [???] with great speed, and reported that the rebels in considerable force were behind them, having crossed just above, and were pressing on their rear. General BURNSIDE and Staff were the rest to leave the ground, after seeing, everything [???] off, and proceeding along the [???]. The railroad train was filled with people, white and black, with their household goods, receive to [???], employees of the Aquia Creek Railroad, that they [???] engaged, night and day, for a seek just, [???] goods and [???] to and no [???] no hour of the night [???].Their kindness and considerate treatment of the poor contraband exiles, with their cart-loads of duds, also entitle them to the gratitude of the good everywhere. I regret that I do not know their names, to mention them in this place. 

 The march from the river to Aquia Creek was very difficult, and occupied the whole night. The roads, flooded by the morning rains, and cut up by incessant travel of animals, vehicles and cannon, were almost impassable in some places. Gen. BURNSIDE kept along with the train, and seemed always in the place where there was the most difficulty. On several occasions he dismounted, and standing leg deep in mud, put his shoulder to the wheels, and called on the men to imitate his example, in order to extricate the ambulances and wagons from deep holes in which they had become stalled. One ambulance was upset near Station No. 9, and three or four persons who were in it narrowly escaped being killed. One or two other teams were disabled by the breaking of axles or [???], but nothing of a serious character occurred on the road. 

 By daylight nearly the whole of the immense train was safely through the hills, and encamped within sight of the landing. Without waiting for sleep, an hour of which he has scarcely experienced for forty-eight hours, Gen. BURNSIDE rode up to the hillsides overlooking the place, and selected positions where batteries were planted to enfilade the approach to the landing. 

 As an additional protection, four gunboats He atanchor within easy shot of the roads which must bepassed in approaching the position. Gen. BURNSIDE's Division is all right. Further this deponent saith not.

 _____ E. S.

A Fence Post

Redoubt No. 2 painted on backdrop. Better make
sure the flags blow the same way. The figures
are still on their temporary bases.
Is this a post about fences?

With a vey rainy weekend, it was time to do some scenery at Brooke.

I finally painted the last section of backdrop. This area is mostly a bare hill dominated by Redoubt Number 2.  That completes all the backdrops, though I may have some touch up to do in Aquia when I get there.

Supertree Copse
 The deep scene is nice, but the problem with deep scenes is that they are....deep.  It was very difficult to paint on the wall as the scene is very far back and hard to access. I knew this was coming, perhaps thats why I put it off so long.  But it came out nice in the end.

I decided to add a copse of trees where the backdrop bumps out to avoid a plumbing pipe. The trees help soften the visual impact of the protrusion. I used Supertree twigs attached to small sticks for trunks. I wanted the trees in this area to be smaller for some forced perspective so I didn't make wire armature trees.
Fences run all along the main line from Accokeek to Broke.

One of the key scenic features in this area are the fences. Since the terrain is mostly open, the fences add a nice detail.

The story is that the Union has a large herd of beeves here. So they installed or repaired the existing fences to make sure the cattle stay put.  There is about 36 feet (actual) of fence so far, with plans for abut 10 more feet.

I have a pack of Woodland scenics cows, but I probably could use more. 

March 29, 2014

Working on the railroad

This is a brief video showing the back-in-action Fury hauling a train load of empties north to Aquia Landing. It features the completed sections of the layout.

March 27, 2014

McCooks Landing For Sale

I decided to retire McCook's Landing a little earlier than planned. It served its purpose well. I need the space for other projects.  I plan to recycle as many as the components as possible. However, before I disassemble it,  I will make it available for sale if anyone wishes to buy it. The sale would include the three left-most sections, engine terminal, ship yard and depot. It does not include the section with the howe truss bridge.  The rolling stock and engines are not included. Legs, lighting, skirts, track, structures and details are included. In other words, if it is glued or screwed down, it is included. Please contact me offline if you are interested.

This shows 2.5 of the 3 sections for sale. 

March 26, 2014

Bad battery, bad! Good battery, good!

I swapped out the battery on Fury tonight. It was rather trivial, as the battery simply unplugs from the Battery Power Supply (BPS). I installed a new battery, reconnected the wires from tender to engine and she was back in operation. I plan to get rid of the plugs and hot wire the tender and the engine. The plugs are a pain, especially if one has to man-handle the loco at all (more about that later).

While I was at it, I trimmed the wood pile a bit. It now does not completely hide the electronics, there are a few view angles where they can be seen. But from most angles the smaller wood pile looks better.

Paul was over last week taking photos of Fury and Whiton for an article about battery power for MR. His article will survey some of the new systems available by using Steve Sherril's and my layout as case studies.
Steve uses the Del Tang system. It is incredibly tiny. If you have a small engine that you would like to add battery power, that system might be the answer.

The video by Joey Ricard describes Steve's system.