A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
©Bernard Kempinski All text and images, except as noted, on this blog are copyrighted by the author and may not be used without permission.

November 24, 2020

Teaching an old dog new tricks

Many thanks to all of you that expressed sympathy on the passing of my mom.  It's been a rough stretch, but getting back into my modeling projects has been a good tonic. So I'm back in the shop, well actually mostly on the computer, as I restart work on the locomotive.  The locomotive build project and techniques I plan to use on it are evolving as I work on it.

First, last month I purchased a Anycubic Photon 3D resin printer on sale. The price was less than $200. I also got their wash and cure machine, a few bottles of resin, some rubber gloves and alcohol. So I started dabbling in some 3D printing. 

Since I am mostly interested in printing items that I can use on my railroad, I'm pretty much stuck learning how to do 3D drafting as very few fine scale models of civil war era stuff are available. I had a little prior experience with 3D drafting, but I needed to learn a lot more to be proficient. The best way to learn is by doing, so I dove in. 

First useful parts from the 3D printer
The Photon machine is capable of very high quality prints when everything works. So far my success rate has been about 50%. But, I have made some useful parts including a smoke stack for the loco, some civilian figures for the layout that I downloaded from various sites, and a test print of the cylinders for the loco. Learning how to do 3D printing is a skill, or perhaps art, all on to itself.  There are hundreds of YouTube tutorials and websites with help. So I won't cover that here. I will say that 3D printing does change how you look at modeling projects in much the same way that the laser cutter did when I got my first laser about 14 years ago.

As I discussed a few posts ago, I was planning on laser cutting the frame side rails along with some other parts from metal using a outside service. I still plan to do that for the drive rods and some of the valve gear. But, I think I will have the frame and the cylinders 3D printed in metal from Shapeways. Various folks have reported good success in printing locomotive parts in brass. Unfortunately, my frame is too large for their brass 3D printing process. I could cut the frame in parts and solder them together, but I think I will try make the frame in some other 3D printed metal. Shapeways makes their parts in brass using a lost wax process. They also have other techniques for printing steel (actually a steel-bronze matrix) and many other materials. The metal prints tend to be much more expensive than plastic and it looks like their surface texture is not as good, so I need to tread carefully here.

One of the reasons for opting for 3D printing, is I decided to draw the locomotive, or at least most of the critical dimensioned parts in Fusion360.  Since I was creating the 3D file, I thought it might be fun to try printing several of the parts.

The design of the rear of the boiler, the firebox and the back head are tricky and warranted looking at their geometry in 3D. The fact that the boiler is wider than the frame helps complicate the design. Also, the compensating sub-chassis also requires some tricky cutting of parts to make room for it.  So the 3D plan is helping me check all the fits and dimensions. For example, by drawing it in 3D, I detected a problem with my 2D drawing in the area of the back head and cab floor. I still haven't sorted it out yet, but the 3D exercise has proven useful. 

I am also enjoying learning the program, although some things are very confusing to me. I still haven't fully sorted how to align objects. Steps that would take me 10 seconds in Illustrator took me hours to do in Fusion360. One of the factors that made my life more difficult is that I imported DXF files from my 2D drawing to use in the 3D drawing. But, when it comes time to make changes to parts derived from the DXF files, things get tricky. At this point in my Fusion360 skill level, I find it easer to start with a fresh sketch in Fusion360.  Anyway, I'll keep plugging on. 

November 10, 2020

In Memoriam Violet Kempinski

Post Op-session dinner

The  Aquia Line has lost a key member yesterday.  Mom passed after a tough fight with respiratory and congestive heart failure. She took on this final challenge like she did most things in her life, giving it her all. 

Mom admiring Tony Koester's portable O Scale layout
Many of you knew mom from my operating sessions, which she frequently helped co-host, as well as attending numerous model railroad shows with me. She loved meeting new people and seeing new things. She was the perfect railfan companion as she didn't mind waiting trackside for hours with her knitting as long as we ate good food and stayed away from steep mountain roads. 

A loving mom, she lived for her children, husband and her mother. We feel God gifted mom with a long and productive life as she devoted nearly 20 years to caring for her mother. She gave her sick mother total attention, feeding, cleaning and dressing her for years, and she did so without complaint and total devotion. She showed the same love and loyalty to her husband, Robert, and her four children, Bernard and Robert (the twins), Marco and Marlana.

Mom saw an amazing series of events during her life, including the Depression, World War 2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the onset of the Space Program, and the Information Age. Throughout she truly represented the greatest generation, learning and adapting to significant lifestyle changes. She even tried her hand at texting and Facebook while in her 90s. If we saw a text message with a bunch of emojis, it was from Mom, she enjoyed sending them.  

Mom in Cuba in lste 1940s 

She managed to get around visiting several continents. In the late 1940s she traveled to Cuba for a vacation – not a common thing for a single woman in those years. 

She visited me when I was stationed in Germany twice in the 1980s. She befriended my landlord, Frau Forster. The two of them took the train to N├╝rnberg while I was working. It must have been a hoot as mom didn't speak German and Frau Forster didn't speak English, but they managed just fine. She visited many sights in Germany including Hitler's retreat at Berchtesgaden where she hid her head under the bus seat during the precarious ride to the top of the mountain on a road built by Italian laborers provided by Mussolini. She accompanied me with a bus load of US Army combat engineers as we toured the Iron Curtain on the East German border. Never before were US soldiers on a road trip so well behaved. 

I took her to a German-American Military Ball at a candle-lit castle where she became the guest of honor. When the German Commanding Colonel introduced himself  he took mom's hands, clicked his heels while curtly bowing his head, I thought she would faint. She danced with all the German officers that night, ate smoked eel, and acted as a mother to the wives of the American officers in our group. It was a fairy tale of a night. 

Visiting the Iron Curtain along the East German border 
with a platoon of US Army Combat Engineers
She and I toured Italy twice in the 1980s. With Italian immigrants as parents, mom was bi-lingual.  I was amused when a little boy in Venice who was confused by her accent asked, "what part of Italy are you from?" "Brooklyn," I replied. An English couple we met in St Mark's Cathedral were charmed by her New York accent and said, "you sound just like the people in Taxi (a popular TV Show at the time)."  We visited her distant relatives in Rome and Naples and saw the graves of her ancestors. Her parents grew up on the eastern slopes of Mount Vesuvius. With our cousin we took a tour of Capri and drove the Almafi highway, albeit at 5 miles per hour as the road on the sheer cliff terrorized her.

I never forget her reaction to the rest rooms on the Autostrada where the facilities consisted of a hole in the ground with two foot prints. 

People seemed to like her right away. Once while we were admiring the dishes on display at a restaurant in Venice, the owner invited us to eat with his staff as he closed the door behind us. 

In 2002 mom and my brother traveled to Japan shortly after our Dad died and she had her second hip replaced. Despite some pain, she took on the challenge of walking quite a bit around Japan. They had the privilege of visiting the Japanese Imperial Palace bonsai collection. While standing inside of the palace, she said, with her typical wonder, “Never in my life did I ever think I’d be standing in the Japanese Imperial Palace.”  It must have been hard for WW2 survivor to take in but it illustrates the breadth of her life. In typical mom fashion, while on the trip she befriended an elderly Japanese industrialist who shocked her when he kissed her.

Anything Italian was great to her and my brothers and sister grew up with wonderful Italian cooking.  Sunday sauce, which took all day to simmer, filled our home with a great aroma. Grandpa’s Italian pastry recipes (Grandpa was a successful baker in New York city) led to a whole host of delicious confections – Italian wheat pie, cannoli, sfogliatella  and her favorite, cream puffs.   In her last hours we played her Pavarotti as his music brought her joy.

In addition to being a great cook, she had incredible skills as a seamstress. Whether it was shirts, dresses, pants, ski gaiters, or a fishing vest – she could make it. We remember her sewing prototype dresses for major NY fashion designers. When their pattern didn’t make sense she’d figure out how to accomplish the design. Supporting designers like that she had a tremendous work ethic and many times worked all night to meet the deadline. And she was so good the designers and factory managers let her work remotely from home so she could care for her mom, a pioneer in teleworking. She sewed all the skirts for my layout. She also helped make many of the wire trees. But mostly, she keep me and my crew well fed.

As the last of her generation in her family, she leaves a hole in our hearts, but her love and devotion lingers in the ones she left behind. And one thing is for sure, the food in Heaven is going to taste a lot better with her cooking.

Violet Maria Kempinski March 27, 1924 – November 9, 2020

November 2, 2020

Leaving the Stone Age

Yes, even a cave man like me needs to evolve. For many years I've had learning how to do 3D drafting for 3D printing  on my do list. This past week I finally started to make a more serious attempt to learn 3D drawing, first with Tinkercad and now with Fusion360. While I am still an absolute neophyte in the applications, I was able to make a few decent drawings. 

As I mentioned in my last post, I drew a smoke stack for my locomotive project using Tinkercad. Unfortunately, that drawing did not have enough polygons to make a decent 3D print despite my setting it to maximum steps. 

So, I decided to try drawing the same part in Fusion360. It took me a few hours, but I got a decent drawing that Shapeways says will print.   I have an associate that has a high resolution resin printer that will try to print it for me.

 Emboldened with my newly learned skills, feeble as they are, I tried doing a test drawing of the frame of the locomotive. 

I exported the side frames as a DXF from my drawing in Adobe Illustrator. Then I imported that into Fusion360, copied and offset it the appropriate amount,  and extruded some cross members.

The resulting image looks like this.

Then I uploaded the frame part to Shapeways to get an estimate of the cost to print in metal. I was surprised to learn that the frame would cost about $50 including shipping if printed in steel. I thought the price would be much higher. So now I think I will proceed with finishing the drawing in 3D including adding the cylinder and smoke box saddles, and perhaps the cylinders and hangers. Then trying printing the frame in steel or aluminum. The steel printing process involves a furnace sintering step that results in shrinking. So steel might not be a good choice for this part. The aluminum process uses direct laser melting of aluminum powder, so it is more accurate and doesn't shrink. But it is three times as expensive. 

One advantage of 3D printing is I can add some additional detail to the springs to better capture how they look on the actual locomotive. Also, the frame will be assembled when it is printed. I do not know the tolerances that the 3D printed metal will allow, but most of the dimensions are not critical. I will make the holes undersized and uses reamers to get precise diameters.

I will proceed on the drive rods and valve gear with laser cut nickel-silver or maybe stainless steel.

Meanwhile, the brass tubes and some sheet nickel-silver I ordered arrived. The boiler will be made from a section of 1.125 inch brass. The side walls are 0.064 inches so the inner diameter is just under one inch. The motor will fit nicely inside. The thick walled brass will also add some heft to the loco. 

October 31, 2020

Changing My Approach

Last week I made some drive rods for the locomotive project and installed them. I cut them on the laser from two layers of  0.025 inch laser board. Then I glued the layers together.  They fit very nicely on the crank pins that come with the Slaters Wheels.  This short video shows the trucks rolling on the track.

This rolling test rig demonstrates the effectiveness of the compensating beams. I will need to add some spacers or make some new bushings for the space between the wheels and the compensating beams to limit some of the sideways play the axles.

As I was working on this project, I've been searching the web for materials and parts. I came across several companies that offer laser cutting of metal. I found a shop in Utah that will do small jobs. They have  4KW and 8KW lasers that can cut up to 1 inch thick steel. That is 1000 to 2000 times more powerful than my laser cutter.

They have some neat software on their website that takes .DXF files and converts them to 3D depending on the material you select. Then their software examines your files for problems and if all is OK, you get an estimated cost (see figure below.) Since this looks so easy to use, I decided to use their service to laser cut my frame parts from 0.075 inch thick stainless steel. I will also submit drawings for the valve gear and some other parts to laser cut in 0.020 inch nickel-silver. The drive rods will be included in that file as well as the parts for the compensating sub-chassis. Since the nickel-silver material is only 0.02 inches, I will double the drive rods and solder them. Nickel-silver solders very nicely. The nice thing about laser cutting metal is that for small jobs the cost is much lower than photo etching. 

The draw back to this approach is that I now need to draw all the parts of the model before I submit them. My earlier  approach of designing as I go will not work. Also, I decided to move ahead with engine Leach. I am using the Talisman drawing to inform the Leach drawings. But Leach was a bigger and heavier locomotive. 

So, now I am in the process of drawing the model in side and front elevations. Those two drawings should be enough for me to create drawings for laser cut parts. I will do test cuts at home with 1/16th MDF and resin-impregnated laser board to make sure the fit and function are OK.

I have spent a good part of the week doing these drawings and ordering materials. It's kind of a iterative process as you must design your parts for size materials that you need. So depending on what is available, you adjust the drawing. For example, brass tubes for the boiler are limited in available diameters. I went with a 1.125 inch diameter boiler on this loco as Leach had a chunkier boiler than other engines. At 1:45 scale, 1.125 scales up to about 50.6 inches. White says in his book on American locomotives that most boilers were under 48 inches in this era. But the photos of Leach show a boiler slightly bigger at somewhere between 50 and 52 inches. I consulted with John Ott on this issue as a sanity check and he agreed. 

The image below shows the work-in-progress of the drawing as of tonight. I have about half the parts I need to draw for laser cutting done. The blue parts at the bottom are the frame parts. The silver parts are some of the valve gear. This drawing also shows how the motor and gearbox fit in the loco. I may not have room for much of a flywheel as it would extending the cab interior. 
Abode Illustrator drawing to plan out the laser cut part.

This image at the left shows one of my frame parts loaded onto Oshcut's website as I tested it for problems. This will be  0.075" stainless steel. Note how I was able to include the spring details on  the chassis. Those would have been very difficult to machine without CNC milling.

Screen capture of a .STL file for 3D printing
 of the smoke stack.

Since I was doing computer drawing, I decided to take a crack at drawing a smokestack for possible 3D printing.  See the image at the right.  I have never drawn a 3D part for printing before, so this is a first for me. I used Tinkercad to draw this smoke stack. I have Fusion360, but I am not familiar with it enough to try this. Tinkercad is very easy to use, though not as powerful as Fusion360 and some of the other 3D software out there. I exported the image as a .STL file and sent it to a friend that is doing some other 3D printing for me for Alkem Scale Models. His resin printer does a better job than Shapeways. I am curious to see how it comes out. 

Also this week I briefly considered getting a milling machine so I could cut the parts as needed from stock materials. But I decided the laser cut parts are probably superior for this project. I may get a small 3D printer though as they are much less expensive these days and the resin printers do a great job. 

So all in all it was a busy week with a lot of computer time both researching information and drawing. 

October 22, 2020

Rolling Chassis

Close-up of the sub-chassis
 I decided that I needed to rework the sub-chassis as I was getting some binding. I believe it was because the hornblock bushings were not parallel. To solve this I made a new jig with some scrap MDF that held the axles parallel, while I re-soldered the hornblock bushings to the sub-chassis beams.  The result gave smoother operation.

Next I started on the main side frames. I built these from 0.09 inch square brass tube.  Again, I made a jig to help hold the small brass pieces while I soldered them.  The frame dimensions are not too critical as long as they allow the sub-chassis to rotate about the pivot axle. With the jig they came out pretty close to identical, or at least close enough.

Jig to keep axles parallel
To make the top beam I soldered two brass tubes together. Then I measured where the bends should be. Using my mototool with a cut-off disk I cut small slots on the beams on the acute angle side of  the bends. When I bent the beams I bent both of  them, thus both were identical. I  unsoldered the beams and put one in the jig. I soldered the additional members one-by-one, cutting and fitting as I went.  I used my disk sander to square up the ends and my mototool and files to make the mitered joints.
Frame jig showing top beam with bend.

With both frame sides built, I cut two brass 0.5 by 0.8 by 1/32 inch  plates and two 0.09 by 0.09 by 0.8 inch square tubes to act as transverse members. Again, I soldered them together and used my disk sander to square the ends and make them all the same length.  The photo below shows the completed sub-chassis and the main frame.

I have to figure out a way to cover the gaps at the bottom of the hornblocks. I'll probably add small keeper plates that will be soldered on or maybe screwed in if I decide they need to be removable. I don't think they do, so solder may be OK. 

The sub-chassis installed in the main frame. 

Next I fitted the gear box and motor to the front axle. This took a little bit of fiddling to make it work.

Motor and gear box on the front axle. 

Here is a short video showing the chassis rolling on Potomac Creek  bridge. The results have been encouraging so far.