March 26, 2015

A Super-Structure

I worked on a bunch of different tasks tonight including a talk scheduled for next Saturday at the the Potomac Division Minicon, shipped some products for Alkem Scale Models, ran the spin caster for an hour making parts, and finally did some work on the superstructure for the ships on the layout.

Work continues on the superstructure 
I reworked the bridge valance parts, and added home-made some hand rails to the superstructure. The Anna Marie kit comes with etched handrails, but for this model I opted to make the railings from 0.020 inch phosphor bronze. I elected to do this because the phosphor bronze hand rails can be soldered and are much stronger than the etched parts.

I also thought some more about making the Anna Marie longer. The middle photo shows the kit hull with an HO Genset loco and a Ford Explorer. The idea is to make the ships dominate the trains. Thus I plan to lengthen the ship.

The ship needs to be bigger to dwarf the trains.
With a beam of 7 inches, extending the Anna Maire hull from 39 to 50 inches is very much within the realm of feasible. Seagoing ships have L/B ratios of around 7:1. For example the BBC New York class ships are 130m long and have a 16m Beam. That works out to 58.5 inches long and 7.2 inches in beam in HO scale. That generates a L/B of 8.1.

I think the best approach to lengthening the hull is to cut off the parallel mid body and fabricate new parts on the laser. That way I can add the scupper and other holes very precisely and easily. Those parts are essentially flat panels. The bulwarks on the kit require a bit of work in filing and sanding, so getting rid of as much of the kit bulwarks as possible will make for less sanding.

I still haven't decided what to do about the second ship planned for the scene. I may use the Anna Marie at the grain elevator and make a larger ship at the Harbor Island wharf, perhaps using the half hull concept.
 A BBC New York class ship near New Orleans, LA taking on bulk cargo. (photo from Shipspotting)

March 24, 2015

Reinforcements from New England

Randy as brakeman is dealing with the link and pin couplers, while engineer Jim seems to be enjoying the show.
This evening Jim Dufour and Randy Laframboise visited the layout. They are two New Englanders on a tour of layouts in Northern Virginia and Maryland. Both Jim and Randy have fine HO scale layouts. Jim models the B&M Chersire Branch, Randy models the Rutland.  You can find some videos of Jim's layout here.

and Randy's here 

This afternoon they visited Paul Dolkos's Baltimore Harbor. After  steak and beers at Hops, they toured the USMRR Aquia Line. They got a chance to run the RR and do some switching. They were also the first outsiders to get a view of the upcoming HO harbor layout. It was a fun visit especially since the Aquia line ran without mishap.

March 19, 2015

More layout mock-ups

After having dinner with my mom, I stopped by Home Depot on the way home to pick up some materials to continue testing benchwork designs. I got a couple sheets of 1 inch foam and some premium pine 1x2s.

Various models from my collection used to mock-up the benchwork.
I used the 1x2s as stringers supporting  the 1 inch styrofoam base. I clamped some scrap 1x2s to the legs of the Ivar shelves. The resulting benchwork was very stiff, especially the long span across the top of the TV where there will be 4 feet without any legs.

As I examined the benchwork and its interaction with the TV and shelves, I realized that I could drop it by the thickness of the 1x2 stringers. I was concerned with  the benchwork interfering with the TV screen, but when viewing the TV from the chairs, the slight lines are not blocked. In fact, the lower benchwork makes the underside of the layout harder to see.   The lower benchwork is desirable as it means I can more easily add a track under the stairs to make a fiddle yard.

In looking over the rest of the space, I ruled out the optional location of the staging track along the stairs. That was just not going to work. If I want to use off layout staging, it will have to be in the closet.

A Geared Bulk ship dwarfs the BNSF locos
One objective of this harbor layout is to show how the ships dominate the trains, To that end, I would like to have larger ship models, or at least one large ship on the layout.

I revised the drawing slightly to allow for a larger (wider or beamier) ship at the pier. However, some on-line research found some multipurpose cargo ships that are longer than the Anna Marie, but with the same beam. Adding a nine inch extension to the Anna Marie would be easy. That brings Anna Marie up to 106m in prototype length.

Example of a half hull merchant steam ship model
I also drew a half hull 140m ship to see how it would look.  This would be a scratch build model, but being only a half hull, and waterline model would be much easier to make. It  might be just as effective as a full hull in this location. It is worth investigating. I plan to do a more detailed mock up of a half hull to see how it looks.   Half hulls are very common in ship modeling to show hull features. They usually don't have deck fixtures or rigging detail, but this model in the photo below shows how one such model would look.

March 18, 2015

Mocking Up the Harbor Layout

I  moved the books and toys from the old shelves to the new shelves, and then took down the old shelves. Next  I installed some grid benchwork sections from McCook's Landing to mock up the new layout.  To continue the mockup, I put some kits on the benchwork to better visualize the major elements of the layout plan.

The hull is from Dean's Marine Anna Marie kit. The crane is a HO scale die cast model of the Liebherr 500 mobile harbor crane. I also put one of my O scale building mockups on the layout to simulate the transit shed. The foam piece on the right is my Ft Hood diorama, which I will disassemble and recycle to this layout.

A couple things pop out from this test mock up. First, my wife was surprised at how well it worked out. She was worried that I was cramming too much stuff down there. Well, yes, I am, but lets move on.

Second, the Deans Marine kit, at 39 inches long, looks a bit small in that space. I may have to rethink which and where I put the ships. The ships do not need to be fixed in place, it is is conceivable that I can build different kinds of ships that vary between op sessions. For example, a heavy lift ship for wind mill parts, then a Ro-Ro for vehicles, barges for bulk materials etc.  Adding a few inches of depth to the wharf area benchwork will not be a problem.

Third, there is space on the far left to add a small peninsula extending along the stairs. If I put the fiddle track there, I can avoid having to cut holes under the stairs into closet. Since this is not intended to be a permanent layout, that might be a better idea. This would also allow a more accurate rendition of the actual track plan as the track can angle out to the fiddle track as in the prototype.

Here are some Google and Bing maps views of Beaumont.

Port of Beaumont switchers move M1 Abrams tanks on the dock tracks at Harbor island. Note the complex track
work between the sheds. The connection to the interchange yard extends to the bottom left corner. Also
note the DODX 41000 cars parked on the wharf tracks. The mobile harbor crane appears to be lifting the
tanks off the flat cars. I need to verify that.

Overview of the area to be modeled. This photo shows the area before the new storage yard was constructed. 

March 15, 2015

Ivar - Instant Benchwork

I have used Ivar shelves from Ikea as model railroad benchwork under the part of Aquia Landing  of my O Scale layout that is in my workshop. It is the perfect height for my benchwork. I decided continue to use it for the benchwork under the new modern harbor layout. I want  the track level no higher than 51 inches, as this will allow me to run a track under the stair landing to staging, if I decide to do that. It is also the height of Aquia Landing track, leaving me the option to extend Aquia Landing in the future. The trick here is that the new smaller TV is 48 inches high at the top edge. So any layout fascia can be no wider than 3 inches, at least as it crosses the TV area to avoid interfering with the image on the TV. Note this is assuming I continue to use the TV stand seen in the image. I would prefer not replacing that as it in good shape and works well.

Instant Ivar benchwork. The picture frames will be removed and the walls painted sky blue. I will probably go with a black fascia for this project.
 Why use Ivar? I compared the price of the Ivar shelves with home made plywood shelving. The Ivar was much less expensive and easier to build.

For use in this part of the room, which houses a TV, stereo and several display shelves, I decided to stain the vertical members black. I will leave the shelves natural wood.  The Ivar pieces are somewhat raw when they come from the store and need some finishing for use in a finished room.  The new shelves will be expand the amount of shelf storage in the TV room by about 250 percent. This will allow me room to display some of my dioramas and small collection of Porsche race car 1/43rd scale models.

I used Miniwax Pre-Stain Wood Conditioner (water based) on the uprights. Then I applied Miniwax Polyshades Black Stain. This later product is not water soluble and needs about 6-8 hours to dry.
Once I have the shelves completed, I will add  a  layer of 1x2 grid benchwork screwed to the Ivar legs. On top of that will be 1 inch of foam and a layer of 1/8 inch plywood under the track. The 1/8th inch plywood is soft and can be spiked.

So far the most time consuming aspect of this job has been waiting for the stain to dry, and fighting the crowds at Ikea (where my mom and I spotted Marty and Chris on Saturday.)

March 14, 2015

Implications of Keep Alive Circuits on Layout Design-Having Cake and Eating it.

I have been a big proponent of simplification in model railroading. My own home layout while a daunting project due to the scratch building involved, is a rather simple track design mostly because I wanted to avoid electrical complexity.  Technology is finally coming around to address some of these concerns and it has an effect on layout design.  Lets trace the history of frog power and electronics using my layouts as an example.

To me the absolute least pleasurable task in model railroading was connecting switch motors to turnouts to actuate the points and electrically power the frogs.  Because I use relatively small 4-4-0 engines, powered frogs were a must.  Clean track is also required to allow uninterrupted power pickup.

First generation switch stand and frog power routing
At Falmouth,  the first section I built on my O scale layout, I used home made mechanical devices to electrically power the frogs. To actuate the turnouts, I made scale sized switch stands. The separation of mechanical actuation and electrical power was a step in the right direction, but still required a lot of uncomfortable under table work. As a bi-focal wearer, this is problematic as the normal angles of view in this work are not where the close vision lenses lines of sight are.

Before wiring the next section of the layout I discovered Tam Valley Depot's Frog Juicers. I blogged about them earlier. They are an elegant solution that uses complex circuitry to make a very user friendly and easy to install way to power frogs. They worked perfectly right out of the box and I was able to quickly wire the remaining turnouts on my layout. The prices was also pretty reasonable, about $16-$17 per turnout. 

While these solved the frog power issue for my O Scale layout, I still had intermittent electrical pick up issues to deal with on the locos. The Stanton Battery Power system came along and addressed that problem.  The Stanton system is perfect for a simple layout like mine. The main problem was finding space in my locos to house the decoder, speaker, batter and battery power supply. I had so far successfully converted two of my locos and they have been giving good service now for about three years.

At this point, my O scale layout has a mix of DCC power via the rails and battery power, also recharged through the rails. As I finish the layout at Aquia Landing, I plan to continue to follow this approach.

I also planned to use that same approach on the HO layout I am building for my next book. To keep the HO project manageable I decided to go with a plan that included 10 turnouts with frog juicers and a fiddle yard to do staging. I mentioned this new layout with Paul Dolkos as I was seeking his advice on what HO scale track he recommended. He  suggested Micro-engineering track as it looks the best, and their turnouts have integral point mechanisms. He also shocked me when he said that he does not power his frogs. Now, I have operated his layout many times and it runs nearly flawlessly.  I had no idea. All my previous experience in N and O scale indicated that powered frogs were a prerequisite. 

How can this be? He usually runs single or multiple diesels with all wheel pick up. Since he keeps his rail and wheels clean, the engines can usually bridge the dead frogs. As our discussion continued, Paul brought up the fact that DCC engines now have keep alive circuits that can bridge short sections of dead or dirty track. I had heard about these, but had not previously thought about them much. A light bulb went off.

I realized that if a layout can built without worry about powered frog and mechanical switch actuation, my two least favorite activities in model railroading were eliminated.  Then it occurred to me that the design of the layout can change too. Without all the electrical constraints, more complex track plans can be more easily attained both in terms of dollar cost and effort. Instead of powering every frog, one just needs to install keep alive circuits in each locomotive. The keep alive circuits cost about as much as a single frog juicer, so there is a trade off one needs to examine. If you have a big collection of engines, but not so much track, it may be less expensive to power the frogs. 

In the case of my HO project layout, I will have a small number of engines, so adding the keep alive circuits will be less costly. Furthermore, installing the keep alive can be deferred until actual testing shows that it is needed. Remember Paul's layout runs fine without them. 

Under this new approach, but still with the same philosophy of simplicity,  I redesigned the HO layout to have about 20 turnouts. Instead of a fiddle yard, where cars would have to be man handled during an op session, I added a visible staging yard. This opened up increased operational possibilities too.  Now the grain elevator could be a working switch job on the layout.

Without the need to purchase frog juicers, there was not much cost increase for the expanded plan. Using flex track and Micro-engineering turnouts, while not as simple as a building a Brio layout, will be much faster than hand laying track. This is looking like a win-win (except for Tam Valley, sorry Duncan).

Now the next step is to try installing some keep alive circuits on the engines. I would be happy to learn of my reader's experience in this regard. Have you done any of these? How tricky was it? I see that some DCC decoder manufacturers are building keep alive in their decoders. Can anyone share their experience with those?

March 12, 2015


Several of you have noted that I have not made much progress on the Aquia Line lately. Yes, it is true that other projects have bumped it back, but I do intend to finish it. Keep reading to see why.

I recently started working on my next book for Kalmbach. That book will include a couple projects including a brand new layout. That layout will be based on a modern harbor, probably based on Beaumont, TX.

I selected Beaumont for several reasons, first I wanted a topic  that was manageable in that I could build it less than a year. Beaumont is a major port, but it is composed of many discrete elements.  Picking a piece to model was not easy, but it was fun. Second, I wanted a port that shipped military vehicles. Beaumont is a major destination for US Army military shipments. This will allow me to use the DODX cars I am developing in an actual layout.  Since those are HO cars,  it has to be an HO layout. That ties in with my plan to develop more HO kits for Alkem Scale Models, so this layout provides a test bed for developing new products.  Finally, I want the layout to provide some interesting operations. Looking at the prototype plan you see some very interesting track work.

The track work in between the transit sheds at Harbor Island includes four diamond crossovers.

The yard throat to the grain elevator would rival
Chicago (OK, not really) but it does have a double crossover
and at least one double slip switch.
Last weekend I had a chance to operate on Paul Dolkos's new Baltimore Harbor Layout. I worked the B&O Carroll Street job. That job operates over an area about 1.5 by 12 feet long. There was plenty of thought provoking switching operation in just that area.  That reinforced my belief that a small harbor switching layout in a similar footprint could be fun to operate.

Here is a draft track plan I envision of the project layout. It uses the recycled benchwork from McCook's Landing, along with a new extension on the left wall.  Under this extension will be new bookshelves.

The Phase 2 oil terminal will be built later, as it is not needed for the book, but does add an interesting industry to operate. It can also be made removable, even as a  FREMO module.

I call this layout Chase Marine Terminal 3, since it is freelanced, but it is based on selectively compressed areas the Harbor Island and Carroll Street sections of Beaumont. This will be the third iteration of Chase Marine Terminal. The first two were N Scale.

For now, I will not discuss this layout plan much except to ask that any readers that know about this area, please let me know your thoughts or comments. I would like to learn a little more about how the railroads work this area.  I will also tap my network for suggestions on DCC, rolling stock etc. This is a first major foray into an HO scale layout and I am very excited about it. But, I am not that familiar with all the HO stuff available.

I plan to include discussion of the port layout on this blog, since I did not feel the extra work of a second blog was worth the effort. It will focus on aspects that will not be in the book. Things like DCC installs, loco repaint, etc.

So what does this have to do with Aquia Line except provide more distractions? As part of this next book, I also intend to complete the wharf at Aquia Landing as project. So I will be working on that too (among other projects).  See - Convergence.

March 3, 2015

Cast Metal Trucks and Detail Parts

I had a chance to fire up the vulcanizer and spin caster this evening to try making some metal parts.

A few years ago, Eric Cox, of Panamint Models,  made some O scale truck parts for me in Shapeways. Our idea was to try using the 3D printed parts as masters in my vulcanizing mold machine. The first attempt was somewhat successful, but some adjustments were necessary.

So Eric redrew the parts and set me a revised set. In the meantime, I figured out that the silicone rubber mold material I had was beyond its shelf life. Thus the rubber would not vulcanize properly. So I ordered a new set of rubber mold blanks. This time I ordered a low temperature silicone rubber that cures at 190F. These are intended for molding 3D printed masters and other low temperature materials. The drawback is that the silicone rubber is not as strong as higher temperature rubber.

I put the revised trucks in the mold. I also put some of my 3D printed DODX brake detail parts in the mold. Shapeways has been somewhat unreliable lately. The have been shipping the parts after months delay or outright canceling my orders. So I though it would be prudent to make metal copies of the brake details.

The low temp rubber worked well with the 3D parts. The molds looked good. I cut the gates in the parts and started spin casting. As normal, the first couple pours did not work too well. But as the mold warmed up and I added some gates and vents, I got a pretty good yield. After about 25 pours the mold started to deteriorate.

The brake details came out very well. The truck parts had a lower yield, but I still got a pretty good set of parts with which to experiment. The rubber mold material in the axle holes and some other spots that had undercuts had problems with tearing after a few pours.

I assembled a truck using some of the new castings. The revised design has very close tolerances. That combined with some deteriorated axle holes, meant that I had to do some grinding and filing to get the parts to fit without interfering. The wheel sets seemed to spin smoothly, but in testing on the track I noticed some sparking due to shorts. I added some 0.010 inch styrene shims to  insulate the wheels from the side frames and that worked to remove the electrical shorts.

The cast metal trucks don't have working brakes. But they do have some nice detail. The cast trucks add weight down low, so they should help the cars track better.

Given I have to fiddle with them to get them to work well, there isn't too much labor saving. So the jury is still out on if I want to do the rest of my cars with cast metal trucks.

February 22, 2015

Unexpected bonus

The remnants of the foam layer of the layer makes a relatively small pile.
As I was taking the foam pieces to the trash, I noticed that I could pop some of the track sections intact from the foam scenery. I used 1/8 inch plywood sub roadbed glued to the foam.

I was able to salvage three turnouts from McCooks, a double crossover and a single turnout. Since I only need 9 more turnouts to finish my home layout, these will come in handy.
Three turnouts salvaged from McCook's Landing.

February 21, 2015

I came in like a wrecking ball....

There is a perverse pleasure in taking a wrecking bar to your layout.

Good thing I'm not a surgeon, look what I found under the foam layer!
A nasty snowstorm followed by icy rain was a good reason to stay home this afternoon. As I was doing some chores, I noticed one of the switch stands on McCook's Landing had a broken solder joint.  Instead of fixing it, I reached for my wrecking bar!

Catalyzed by the broken part, I started the recycling process for McCook's Landing. Several months ago I had decided to recycle its benchwork into a different layout. While I don't have my new design figured out yet, I went ahead with demolition.

Having thought about this for quite some time, it was very satisfying to actually being the work. Yes, I did feel a little like Sherman as he left Atlanta.

Please note that I am NOT dismantling my home layout, The USMRR AQUIA LINE, only the portable display layout called McCook's Landing. 

The shipyard got scrapped.
I did save as much as possible, so Haupt will not be upset.  As I removed the details, switch stands and most of the structures, I went around my home layout and looked for places where they might work. I think I can use just about all the structures. The figures will also come in handy. I did not bother saving any track. The turntable pit was solidly glued in and could not be removed. Unfortunately, the ship yard with the marine ways can not be used on my home layout. I was able to save the major assemblies, but the ship yard got scrapped.

I also removed the lighting valance. Since this will not be an exhibition layout, the valance wasn't needed. It also interfered with many good photo angles. So I took it down. But the LEDs were a big success and I would consider using them again.

I intend to raise the revised layout about 6 inches. This means the legs will be folded up, or maybe even removed.  I have not decided what to do about the backdrop. It took some damage during the demolition process. Instead of fixing the damaged spots, it  might be easier to  replace it with two 8 foot sections.

Some things I noted during demolition. It took longer them I expected as I plan to reuse the benchwork. So I had to remove glue globs, etc. The Liquid nails glue pulled up fairly easily. Carpenter's yellow glue was much harder to remove. By the most difficult stuff to remove was the polyurethane water surface, especially where there was sand at the shoreline.

I started mocking up potential next layouts. This is an HO mock up using some of my military vehicles. I am not sure what the final layout will be yet. 

February 19, 2015

Alexandria's Witness to War and Reunion Lecture Series

Things have been hectic here in Alexandria. While work on the layout has been on hold, many other projects are moving forward. I will post an update later. In the meantime, I wanted to mention that the Lyceum lecture series on the Civil War continues.

As the 150th commemoration of the Civil War comes to a close, The Lyceum: Alexandria’s History Museum explores the end of the war and its aftermath through a series of lectures.

March 4: Iron Confederacies: Southern Railways, Klan Violence and Reconstruction, by Scott Nelson, The College of William & Mary

April 30: The Meaning of Freedom in the Aftermath of Slavery, 1865-1867, by Leslie Rowland, The University of Maryland

May 21: The Art of Memorializing the Civil War by Susan Cumbey, Director of Fort Ward Museum and Historic Site

June 11: Remembering the Civil War, by Caroline Janney, Purdue University

 Tickets for each individual lecture can also be purchased for $5 each. You can get tickets at this link

January 30, 2015

SMR Engine Washington Cancelled

Hiding among all the good news this week, I learned that the next engine I had on order from SMR trains, the flexible beam Washington, has been cancelled. According to the Dave Schneider, the owner of SMR Trains, the Korean manufacturer has increased the price beyond economic feasibility.

It's too bad because the Washington was one of the engines that actually ran on the Aquia Line. I blogged about it here and here.

So, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This setback will help incentivize me to scratchbuild the loco. I have that task on my bucket list, so now is the time to try it.

January 29, 2015

Next Book Manuscript is Done - 45 Track Plans

This week I completed the manuscript for my next book for Kalmbach Publishing. This one has a working title of "45 Track Plans." Yes, the book contains 45 new track plans ranging from 18  to 2500 square feet. The subject matter is mostly in the United States, but there are some plans set in England, France, Peru, Iran in WWII, and even one in the future on Mars. The eras covered  range from the 1860s to the modern and beyond!

The Mars layout is a based on the scenario described in Robert Zubrin's book, "The Case for Mars." The layout looks at what  an iron hauling railroad might look like on the  Red Planet. The omnipresence of iron is how the planet got its name. The railroad is based on sound science and technology just extrapolated to the future.  I had a friend who is a geology professor at Arizona State (and a model railroader), as well as aeronautical engineers from NASA, Northrop Grumman and the FAA look at it for feasibility.

The Iran plan also bears special mentioning. The railroad across the Zagros Mountains is one of the more spectacular railroads in the world. There are hundreds of tunnels, thousands of bridges and a Tehachapi style loop under a mountain!  During WWII the USMRS operated the sections from the Persian Gulf to Teheran. It was a busy railroad in an important era in history.

For this book, I adopted some improved graphic techniques. So these layouts look "prettier" than my earlier efforts. I plan to update my home layout drawing soon to reflect these new techniques.

Look for the book sometime around next Christmas.

January 14, 2015

Lincoln Train is on its way

Dan Toomey from the B&O RR Museum stopped by last night and took delivery of the Lincoln car model. It will be part of the War Came By Train exhibit at the B&O Museum, which will open soon. They have had over a million visitors already. If you haven't seen it yet, this is the last year for the exhibit. In April they plan to reenact the Lincoln Funeral visit to Baltimore in 1865.

 This was a very difficult model to build, especially given the large scale. I am glad it is done and Dan was happy with it.

 With that project done, I will have time to get cracking on Aquia Landing, the next major phase of my layout. Well, actually,...I am wrapping up another book for Kalmbach, but I will start on Aquia after that.

 I know I am starting to sound like the Monty Python skit with the PLF from the Life of Brian (one of my all time favorites.)

January 13, 2015

John Hill Passed Away

John Hill passed away today of heart failure in New Mexico. Most known for his game designs such as Squad Leader and Kasserine Pass, John was also a die hard civil war historian, reenactor and game designer. He designed the wonderful civil war game Johnny Reb. 

I first met John at a game convention where I  played in a Johnny Reb game he hosted. We became good friends. We worked on many joint projects. I have many fond memories of those.   In large measure I can attribute my interest in the Civil War to his influence.  He was an amazing military historian. He had a knack of getting to the crux of an issue. He was brutally honest, but fair.

He was also an excellent model builder. He taught me many scenery and modeling techniques and tips. This photo of an N Scale diorama is one of the joint projects we worked on. Alas I don't have many other good photos. 

In his life he worked as a professional defense analyst, ran a hobby shop, owned a game publishing company, and had a beautiful narrow gauge model railroad But he really loved war gaming, especially the civil war. 

He is survived by his wife Lu, and daughter Stephanie. I will really miss him.

January 3, 2015

President Lincoln's Coffin and Veteran Reserve Guard

The last part of the Lincoln Funeral Train project was to make a model of Lincoln's coffin and one of the Veteran Reserve Guards.  References indicate that the coffin was only 6' 6" long, a tight fit for the 6'4" President.

The coffin is black with laser engraved details. It was hard to get a decent photo of it. I placed the coffin on a small platform that is cover with black drapes.

The soldier measures about 6 feet tall. The figure started as a Monarch Miniatures Gunner. I added the belts, epaulettes and other details to depict a Veteran Reserve Guard.

The platform and the figure are on a small section of wooden floor. I did not have any photos of the coffin on display in Baltimore, so I kept this simple.

December 31, 2014

Diary of Edwin B. Weist of Company A of the 20th Indiana Regiment

Gordon Bradshaw has posted a transcribed version of the diary of Edwin B. Weist, Company A of the 20th Indiana Regiment. The transcribed diary starts with the the regiment's camp at Falmouth and extends through several of the campaigns in which the Army of the Potomac participated including Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Mine Run.  Like most civil war diaries, the bulk of the entries describe  routine duties. As I read more of these diaries, I find the typical soldier focuses on his own comfort, health and duties and knows little of the actual events. There are several entries based on rumors, such as a report that Vicksburg fell in the early winter of 1863,  that would prove to be incorrect. Although he participated in several major battles, they get scant mention.

The Aquia railroad gets mentioned several times in the diary. He also gives a good record of the weather they experienced, including some heavy snow.  Here is a typical entry from his time at Falmouth and Belle Plain.
Sunday March 8. Got a good comfortable bunk up composed of small poles covered with cedar boughs. It resembles a bed more than that we generaly have. Our camp is said to be about three mile from Bell plains landing, and about five from the old camp. The railroad is within sight, so allso is the Potomac river. We are not as much in the woods as we expected to be.
        Monday March 9. The weather to day has been beautifull indeed, resembling a May day. The view from the top of the hills wich surround our camp is grand indeed. The sparkling surface of the Potomac river in the distanced; the neighboring hills covered with camps; a train of cars just crossing the bridge, 75 feet high, and a regiment of cavalry on drill in the valley beneath, is a subject for a painter.
        Tuesday March 10. Was very disagreeable raining nearly all day, wich turned to snow in the evening. Weesner and Marsh were on detail, Mr. Thorn was sick so I have to cary all the wood we used during the day no inconsiderable job.

This regiment was one of the group that got sent to New York to stop the draft riots. Along the way, the rode a number of trains. That section is worth reading if you are interested in railroad operations behind the front line.

December 28, 2014

Gauge 1 Lincoln Funeral Car Finished

Here are some photos of the finished 1/32nd scale models of the Lincoln Funeral car. The model is posed on my O scale layout, so the tracks are too close, but the customer requested some photos on the layout.

December 20, 2014

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Haupt's Car Float

An empty ferry off Aquia Landing. Box cars can be seen on the wharf, but the loading ramp is not visible.

Joel Salmons recently alerted to the some fascinating information regarding a letter about the USMRR Alexandria-Aquia car float operation that was posted to the National Archives Blog. Here is a link that includes all four pages of the letter 

The NARA blog post discusses a letter from Herman Haupt to Quartermaster Meigs. It is what we in the defense industry today would call a "cost-benefit analysis" of car ferry operations at Alexandria to Aquia. He analyzes how operating a car ferry could save money for the Union treasury. There is lots of good data in the letter.

I thought it interesting that Haupt says that even with a single loading track they can load or unload the ferry in a half hour. That seems very quick to me. I suspect it actually took longer than that, and that is why the added the extra two ramps at Alexandria. There are several photos showing the triple ramps at Alexandria. There must have been a comparable set of ramps at Aquia. Unfortunately, I can find no photos showing those ramps at Aquia.

Although Haupt proposes using  the ferries to haul all supplies, they never did completely convert to only using car ferries. Ships continued to bring a lot of supplies direct to the wharves.

The NARA has copies of the USMRR Report of Operations at Alexandria Railroad Wharf. While I did get some data from that document, my review is not complete. I did note that in most days in April they shipped one ferry a day,  but on May 1st, three car ferries departed Alexandria. I need to revisit that document and completely tabulate the car ferry operation. Also this log shows that the USMRR shipped barges  from Alexandria to Georgetown, Norfolk and even North Carolina.

From a model railroad perspective, having both car ferries and warehouses to serve with direct-from-ship  (break bulk) cargo will make the switching at Aquia more interesting. But it is fun to think that the USMRR Aquia Line could be considered the first use of containerized shipping ever. Chalk up another great idea to Herman Haupt.

December 18, 2014

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