October 30, 2014

DODX 41000 Series Flat Cars Available for Ordering

We are now accepting orders for the DODX 41000 Series Flat Car Kits, along with the decals and military style loading chains. The latter two are available separately.  See this link for ordering info.   You can also download a copy of the instruction manual at that page.  Kits will ship next week.

October 26, 2014

DODX 41000 Series Flat Car Production Kits on Hand

The production parts for the DODX car are in. I will work on the instructions and this will be ready to sell. It sure would make a great Christmas present.

Here is the finished model with a M1A2 tank loaded. The tie down chains and shackles are included with the kit. The models on the back track are the pilot models made with laser cut parts. The production model uses photo etched parts with a laser cut acrylic core.

 Here is a close up of the car end.

October 22, 2014

Trail to Freedom Heritage Tour

Hasmel Turner and I at the presentation.  I was not in uniform
as I did not have time to get changed before heading
through traffic to the event. 
On 21 October I gave a talk about Civil War Railroads and the USMRR Aquia Line at the  Stafford Public Library. The audience was quite large and very engaged.  This library is in the very area that my model railroad depicts. Several of the audience members live along the route and were very familiar with it. I had a great time presenting the talk and getting their questions and feedback.

One the of attendees was Hashmel Turner. He was dressed in the uniform of a Sergeant 23rd USCT, 4th Division, IX Corps. Reverend Turner is the unit Chaplain.  He alerted me to the Trail to Freedom Heritage Tour that will take place on 1 November. Here is the link.   If I have time am going to attend.

As I have discussed in previous posts, such as this, this and this, 10,000 slaves used the Aquia Line to attain freedom. This unique reenactment will recreate some of this history from the African American perspective.

The 23rd USCT is a reenactment unit from Spotsylvania County.  It was one of the first USCT units to engage in direct combat, fought in the Overland Campaign and was at the Battle of the Crater. You can learn more about them here. It should be noted that at the time I am modeling, the USCT had not yet been formed. So I do not have them represented on my layout. However, we do have a unit of USCT on McCook's Landing as they were frequently assigned to guard missions as they were newly recruited to gain military experience, before being sent to direct combat. About 300,000 African Americans served in the USCT during the war.

USCT Artillery unit drilling on McCook's landing.

October 17, 2014

John Ott's Miskantonic Railroad

I have been super busy with my fourth book and customer models. So I don't have much layout progress  to report. While I work on those, I suggest you check out John Ott's web page. It is quite possibly the nicest model railroad website, period. His 19th century models and layouts are incredible. His latest project is a layout set in a dreary New England town based on the H.P. Lovecraft horror novels. Trust me, you will be slack jawed when you see this (and his earlier layouts), even if you are not a Lovecraft enthusiast (which I am not). Enjoy!

October 13, 2014

U.S. Naval Academy Museum

After a wet round of golf today in Queenstown Harbor, AW and I stopped at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum on the way home. It had been more than 17 years since my last visit there. I had heard they did a renovation about 4 years ago, so a trip was due.

Overview of the Dockyard models
Readers of my blog will know I have a strong interest in ship models. My layout will eventually house several ship models.  My models will be essentially structures set in water. Though I will try to make them as accurate as possible, they will not compare to the models the Naval Academy's collection of Admiralty or Dockyard models. These were model ships built by the ship contractors of the time, probably as gifts to naval leaders they needed to impress. Since so few ships from this period survived, but several hundred models did, these are the best look we have at ship construction in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Many models dockyard models did not
 have rigging, but some, as this one, does.
The ship models in the Naval Academy museum came mostly from the Col Henry H. Rodgers collection. He was the son of a wealthy American oil magnate who collected ship models from antique dealers and private individuals. He bequeathed them to the Academy in 1935.  He also had a collection of prisoners of war bone models, also very impressive models. For more info see this video about the museum's collection .

Note the intricate carved gun ports and the female figures carved in the poop deck supports.

An example of the craftsmanship, 40,000 tacks used to copper plate the hull of HMS Minerva.

Close up of the bow

The museum also has a nice collection of other ship models, though their collection of ACW era ships are somewhat sparse.

The USS Syren, a fine looking brig.

October 10, 2014

Weathering ACW Era Rolling Stock and Structures

A frequent topic for discussion among ACW RR modelers is how much weathering should we apply to our models.

I believe the answer is, as always, it depends. Freight cars and structures are no different than today.
The older the structure, the more it should be weathered. Locomotives are a special case.

On my layout, most of the structures are newly built by the USMRR, so I need to go easy on the weathering. But I have some older buildings that I can add more weathering, such as the water mill.

Freight cars were made mostly of wood. Furthermore, their paints and stains were not as long lasting as today's. In the civil war the cars experienced hard service. They should show signs of weathering. In some cases battle damage or vandalism by soldiers should also be depicted. Soldiers were known to “ventilate” box cars using their bayonets or spades during transport.  Notice the cars in this photo at Alexandria. Some shows signs of having boards taken out by soldiers. Note the wear onthe roof of the car onthe left without the roof walk. The roofing material seams are very visible.

In this photo even these recently repaired freight cars show extensive weathering. The foreground car has had some of its sheathing replaced.

The locomotives were a different story. In the 1860s locomotives represented the highest in technology. The owners were proud of their machines. They had numerous brass parts, colorful paint and gold leaf lettering -  that is part of their charm. Nonetheless, they saw hard service over rough, dusty or muddy track. The engines mostly burned wood, some of it quite green, and thereby were exposed to lots of sticky soot.  

Although engines in service were well cared for by crews, they still showed signs of being in use. I look to prototype pictures for hints on how to weather.

The tender of this engine shows signs of dust and soot. This photo shows the depot at Warrenton, VA during a time when the USMRR operated there. Note the dilapidated fence and the weeds growing along the embankment. 

BTW these are amazing photos loaded with detail. I suggest you follow the links and look at the high resolution .tif files to examine all the detail in these prints from 8x10 negatives. 

This engine shows streaks on the smoke box. The brass boiler bands have dust or soot  accumulated against them. The walkway has scuffing. The smoke stack is sooty.  The cab roof shows some textures, possibly waterproofing sheets. The vertical surfaces of the tender are dusty. But most of the brass is shiny.

Also note that the water tanks are brand new looking, with no signs of water seeping despite full tanks.

Another shot, this one from Nashville, shows the in-service locos with sooty smoke stacks. The cab roofs are dusty and show stains. The tenders look dusty. The top of light box looks dusty. Yet, the brass is gleaming. 
On the other hand, the rusty hulk in the foreground is quite weathered. The tender to the left is also looking dusty and weathered. 

Boiler is painted, not actual Russia iron
When looking at modern replica locomotives one needs to be aware that the boilers are not made from Russia iron. Instead they are painted to look like Russia iron. The weathering treatment may vary depending on the effect you are looking for.

The other factor to consider is the "scale effect" on colors. If you never heard of it see  this link  for an explanation, or google scale effect on color. I don't believe you can use fixed formulas to achieve the scale effect, you should use your own judgment in implementing it. But you should definitely consider it when painting a model.

As part of the scale effect, at a minimum you should dullcote your models, including those that are right out of the factory. Even if the prototype used high gloss paint, in scale it should not look as glossy. Nothing makes a model say “toy” than a full gloss paint job.  I dullcote all my scale models, taking care to cover all glass I want to look transparent.

For my well maintained locomotives, I tend to go easy on the weathering. After dull coating, I apply chalk dust to the smoke stack and smoke box, cab roof, and tenders. I add black wash to the crevices, but then wipe most of it away. Then I add streaks to the smoke box, and oil stains to the journals. 

My freight cars get a heavier weathering treatment. 

October 3, 2014

Book Update

My latest book is at the printers. It should be released by 1 January, but if you pre-order it you may get it in time for Christmas.

October 2, 2014

Large Scale RC Sailing Ships

There is frequently crossover among the modeling hobbies, both in techniques and the people that practice them. This is a tale of such a nexus.

 I read several armor and ship modeling magazines. I occasionally look at radio controlled (RC) armor, ship, and airplane websites  to see what they are up to. That is where I first learned how battery power is revolutionizing their hobbies and its spill over to RC trains. However, I was unaware of the large scale  (RC) square rigged ship modeling hobby until my friend, Brian Kammerer, started sending me emails about the model he was building.  Brian is the fellow who helped me with the camp scenes for my backdrops. He is famous for his animated movie called , "The Other Great Locomotive Chase."

The image at the left is the ship Brian built last summer, a four foot long model of the HMS Surprise. The hull is plastic extruded foam covered in vinyl siding and putty.  He used an RC motor boat inside for power. The sails and rigging do not work... actually that is not true. Lets say they work, but not in a way that allows one to actually sail. They do catch wind and move the ship!

The most amazing thing is that Brian built this ship model with scraps, odds and ends, and craft store supplies. It is an incredible demonstration of scratch building. I helped in a tiny way by laser cutting some detail parts like the windows and the bowsprit. Here is a link to a forum with more photos.

Once he had his ship done, he connected with Ray Grosser, a name familiar to many model railroaders. He and his wife are serious model railroad enthusiasts with several amazing layouts on their resumes. But, Ray was also a serious RC ship sailing hobbyist. Here is a sample of Ray's 1/24th scale HMS Surprise sailing in brisk wind. It really is amazing.

I have several ship models planned for my layout, but they are going to be static models. Basically they are structures that happen to rest on water. But when you see these ships in their moving in their intended element, it is much more interesting and exciting. Perhaps this will be my next hobby once the layout is done?

September 19, 2014

I remember that, sort of...

I was searching through the MR and Train DVD collections doing research for a book project. As I flipped though an issue looking for something else, this photo filled my screen. "Hey, I recognize that!", though in truth I forgot about it. This was a photo submission for a MR Photo Contest that did not win. But it did appear in Trackside Photos. Michael Bencs owned the locos. I borrowed them for the photo shoot.  The bushes were Supertree sprigs, a new product at the time.

A different photo from that diorama did get third place in the photo contest.

I have the MR and Trains DVDs. They are well worth the purchase price. The search engine that comes with the DVDs is not very good, but you can use the Model Train Index on the Kalmbach site to help with searches. It is a lotos fun to read MR from the 1930s and 40s. Stories about guys scratch building locos with a almost no tools in war zones, and some sophisticated layout designs. Very cool.

Trains Magazine's early issues are pretty crude compared to today, but the info is there. Here is a neat story that popped up in my searches. I and heard about this bridge, but never saw any pictures.

There was another article that discussed the railroad that served the Washington Navy Yard. It is all gone now, but at one time there was a pretty incredible railroad operation there.

September 17, 2014

Happy, Happy, Happy?

Marty and I recently had a discussion about model railroads and happiness. Without getting into his specifics, which I am sure he will blog about at some point, we came up with this Happiness versus Layout Complexity graph.

Many model railroaders assume the red line is the approach to happiness. Bigger is better. 

Others insist that only a large complex layout allows them to attain  happiness. They ride the blue line. 

Some people are never really happy regardless of what they build. Those are the yellow line folks. 

I suspect that most of us in the real world of commitments other than hobbies walk the green line. Yes, a layout can be too big.

While you contemplate this, enjoy this cover rendition of the popular song "Happy" by the Canadian Group Walk Off the Earth and Parachute. 

September 16, 2014

MARPM After Action Report

Last weekend I attended the Middle Atlantic Railroad Prototype Meet in Falmouth, VA. Yes, that is the same Falmouth that is on my layout. This is an after action report from my participation at the show, not a full recounting of everything that happened. Overall it was a very good event. As the event grows it is likely to get even better with more clinics and models on display.

The event took place over Friday and Saturday at the Wingate Hotel in Falmouth. It was a nice hotel. The rooms were nice, clean and up to date. They had a pool and exercise room. The meeting areas were spacious. The main lecture hall had excellent acoustics for the speakers, though it was hard for speakers to hear the audience's questions (at least I had a hard time). The hotel provided coffee and water all weekend, a nice touch.

About 100-120 folks attended the event. Except for a slight overlap, it was definitely a different group than one sees at most local NMRA events. The average age was probably lower than at an NMRA event, but not by much.  Nonetheless, it is good to see younger people getting involved in the hobby.  I met a lot of new people as well as old friends. A group of vendors set up shop including the ACL Historical Society.  The vendors seemed happy with the meet, but took down their stuff late Saturday afternoon, earlier than planned. Possibly because the show wound down quickly on Saturday afternoon.

The clinics I saw were very good. I enjoyed them all, especially Ramon's talk,  "Military Trains You Never Heard Of." Marty in his clinic, tried to blame me for "making him build a double deck railroad." Hmmm, that was not my memory of the sequence of events.  I presented my clinic entitled, "The Model Railroad Goes to War."  My talk got a late start as I went to dinner with a large group Friday night and it took forever to get out. Thus, I ran out of time at the end and could not finish  the talk. I will do the talk again next weekend at the James River Division meet. Hopefully I will get through it then.

I brought my Ft Hood diorama to display. It  seemed to get a positive reaction. The diorama is very easy to move around even if it doesn't fit in the Alkem HSRV (High Speed Railfan Vehicle.)  I also had some of my Alkem Scale Models stuff on display, but I was not acting as a vendor. I had the pilot models of the new DODX Flat cars on hand and took reservations for them. They should be ready soon.

There were a lots good models on display, but I forgot to get any pictures. Fortunately, Shannon Crabtree posted a bunch here. Some of the RPM guys bring a very military modeler mindset to the hobby. By this I mean they strive for exact replication of detail on their models. This is a good thing IMHO. I like going to these shows to see the hobby envelope being pushed.  If a person can achieve this level of detail, and make a operating layout, then more power to them!

The RPM also showcases a subset of modelers that specialize in realistic weathering. They achieve good results, especially considering they frequently use ordinary RTR out-of-the-box kits as starting points.

On Sunday, after sinking a 76-foot putt for a birdie, I had a mini-open house for the Meet attendees. About 20 people stopped by to see the layout and eat some of AW's brownies. The layout ran great even though  I didn't clean the track before hand. Battery power, baby! Gerry helped by running trains while I chatted  with the visitors.

I am looking forward to next year's meet. Hopefully, more of my layout, especially the harbor area, will be complete by then.
Some of the visitors- John, Marco, Warren, Kim, Jeff, Ashley, Tom, and a smiling Gerry!

September 10, 2014

Up coming talks.

I will be giving this talk Friday night at the MidAtlantic RPM in Fredericksburg. See www.marpm.org for more info. I will do it again the next weekend at the NMRA James River Subdivision in Richmond. More info here. If you can't make either of those dates, I will present it again at the MER Convention in October at Hagerstown. More info here.

If you can't make any of these dates, the book will be available for sale on 1 Jaunary. One can pre-order it now via Kalmbach or Amazon.

From the primitive 19th century iron horse to the thundering diesels of today, railroads have played an important part in enabling, changing, and sometimes inciting warfare. This talk is an overview of how railroads served in wars, and how to apply this information to design and build operating model railroads. Starting with the Crimean War in 1855 and extending to current times, the talk features protoype photos, maps and plenty of examples of world class modeling. It puts special emphasis on the US military in the American Civil War, WWI, WWII and Gulf Wars. Hopefully it gives you a better understanding of the role of railroads in warfare and acts as a tribute to the men and women that served.

September 1, 2014

More Projects.....DODX 41000 Series Flat Cars, books and visitors

The past few weeks have been very busy here with lots of projects under way. The first bit of news is the pilot models of the photo etched HO scale model for the DODX 41000 series flat cars are ready. The pilot worked out well. There are few minor modifications to make and the car will be ready for sale. It includes photo etched brass, a laser cut acrylic core and 3D printed detail parts.

In the meantime, work continues on the Lincoln Funeral car and the Thurmond coal dock model.

If that wasn't enough work, I signed a new contract with Kalmbach Publishing to do a fourth book, tentatively called "45 Track Plans." This book will be a departure from my first track plan book because it will include many more track plans, but each layout theme will not be covered in as much detail as compared to my first book. The new book will tap my layout design notebooks from nearly twenty years of drawing designs for model railroads for railroads from Z to G scale.

Over Labor Day Weekend, the Aquia Line had some more visitors. Today Dave Olsen visited. He is a Duke graduate mechanical engineer now an Army Major (soon to be Lt Colonel) with an Armored Cavalry background. He provided me with dozens of prototype photos of the DODX car. He is getting ready to deploy to Pakistan as a Military Liaison. I gave him a copy of the pilot model kit to help him pass the time and to wish him well.

Yesterday, Joe and Carol Post, and Amy and Gary Spears visited. Amy and Gary are architects from Kentucky near Cincinnati. Gary comes from a long family of railroad men, mostly for the Southern Railroad. He quit school and worked as an agent operator for the L&N for a while. He decided he did not like it and went back to school to be an architect. He seemed to enjoy the layout, but advised me to play more golf!

August 8, 2014

"Model Railroads Go to War" Available for Pre-Order

Kalmbach Publishing has released a cover image for my next book. You can pre-order it  here.

Model Railroads Go to War is the only book that covers a large scope of model railroading wartime scenes. Written by veteran author Bernard Kempinski, it spans the American Civil War through Operation Iraqi Freedom. This guide provides detailed modeling information and historical insight, making it ideal an ideal choice for both modelers and history buffs. It also includes:
A rare combination of historical text and photos. 
Step-by-step instructions.
Track plans that illustrate how to model a military railroad from various time periods.

Softcover; 8 1/4 x 10 3/4; 96 pages; 200 color photos; ISBN: 9780890249536

Model Railroads Go to War is expected to ship 12/31/2014.

I will have signed copies for sale on my web site in January.

August 3, 2014

Martinsburg Roundhouse

On Saturday I gave two talks at the B&O Railroad Historical Society Eastern Mini-con at Martinsburg, WV.  I was first to speak, which meant a really early wake up in Alexandria to get to Martinsburg by 0830.  But it was a beautiful day for a drive in the country. Loudon County, Va has to be one of the most beautiful places in the US. Martinsburg is a nice town too. I had fun doing my talks and I think the audience enjoyed them.

Afterwards John Teichmoeler did a talk on  B&O’s Marine Operations on the Ohio River, starting in 1855. I found this talk very interesting as he explained how the operation worked in great detail. He also mentioned how during the move of XI and XII Corps in 1863, the river was so low that the engineers built a pontoon bridge to get the Army units across the river.  You can read more about the history at the article by Frank Dewey at this link.

John has developed a set of plans for one of the paddlewheel river tow boats that the B&O used. We may cooperate in the future to produce a kit for it. He also implored us to pick up a up of his book on Pennsy Hoppers as the funds go directly to Kathy's, his wife, cruise fund.

John at his dispatch desk. Photo by Paul Dolkos
from MRP 1998. Gosh was that 16 years ago already?
Next John King described the thought process leading to the design of his B&O Winchester layout. His presentation showed a nice selection of color images he shot during his not-so-misspent youth chasing trains in Maryland and West Virginia while hanging out at operator cabins and towers. He really likes winter rail fanning as he had a bunch of nice winter images.

John's layout was featured in MRP 2005. One aspect of John's layout that is really neat is his dispatcher's office. It includes full set of authentic equipment. At some point I'd like my dispatcher's area to be similar to this.

After the meet I stopped by the Martinsburg Roundhouse as it was open for touring. These structures were built right after the Civil War as the original buildings were destroyed during the war. There are two roundhouses there, but one burned a few years ago. There is an effort to restore the remaining roundhouse. See here for more info.

During one of the breaks between talks, David Bridgham, showed me the plans for a layout he is building. I was thrilled to see that he is using the larger HO plan for Sparrows Point that I included in  my book on Steel Mill Modeling. He has modified the plan slightly to fit the space he has.  This is an ambitious plan, and he expanded some areas, such as the skull breaker and coke works,  to have even more of the mill actively modeled.  I am excited to see how it turns out.

August 1, 2014

Updated Speaking Events and Book News

A friend recently alerted me that Amazon is now taking advanced orders for my new book, "The Model Railroad Goes to War." It is due 1 January 2015.  I do not have any further information, but will post any news as soon as it is available. I will offer signed copies from my website when the publication date approaches.

Below is an updated schedule of events where I will be doing talks in the next few months. If you are nearby please consider attending.

9:00AM Aug 2,  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.  I will be doing two talks, One is the Intro to RRs of the Civil War. The second is on the B&O Armored Car project.

2:15 Aug 9, Capitol Limited, N Scale East Convention, Chantilly Expo Center. This is part of the N scale convention. Registration 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.  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 railroads in warfare. The talk will include dozens of additional photos obtained from the National Archives and other sources not used in the book.  The convention staff asks that you register as soon as possible in order to reserve a spot.

Time TDB Sept 20, James River Subdivision of the NMRA. The Model Railroad Goes to War. See http://jrdnmra.blogspot.com/ for more info as it comes available.

Time and October date TBD, Porter Branch of the Stafford County Library.  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.