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.

June 17, 2021

The Mysterious Case of the Malfunctioning Lights


New LED lights provide nice even lighting 

Last month I reported on several of the florescent lights in the layout room over Potomac Creek that burned out. The lights were on separate circuits and different makes. Yet four fixtures stopped working at the same time. I removed the burned out lights and fixtures and ordered replacement LEDs, but did not have time to install  them. 

Then a few weeks ago, I noticed that another 48 inch florescent fixture had become detached from the ceiling, fell through the egg crate diffuser, and landed on the layout. Luckily, the wire trees by Weilepp's Cut absorbed the brunt of the fall. They did not suffer any damage. The opposite end of the fixture landed on a parked train and derailed several cars, but again no damage. The light fixture did hit and pulled off two insulators from the telegraph line (the scenery ones, not operational). Luckily, these are lycra line and did not break. So, all in all there was not real damage as it was a simple matter to clear the fixture and re-glue the lines back on the pole.

Today, I installed the new LED lights. These can be ganged together creating a continuous line of even lighting.  They are mounted closer to the valance thanks to their low profile. Thus the light on the layout is now more front lit than back lit, of a constant color temperature, and the lights draw less current. So all in all an improvement.

I still have a few florescent lights on the curved sections of the valance. I will order smaller fixtures and replace them too. 

You can see the new LED fixtures ganged together to create a continuous line of light. There are now
no lights above the egg crate diffusers. Note the frontal light on the Potomac Creek bridge.

I will be working on my layout expansion in the coming weeks as well as building a model for a new museum. 

May 20, 2021

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

There has been a lot going on here with regard to modeling and my hobbies, but not much to report on the Aquia Line.  I received some excellent 3D stl files from Gerry Dykstra to print some ACW era battery wagons and forges. I haven't had a chance to print them yet.

Right about when I hurt my back, I had a set of florescent lights in the front train room burn out. I ordered new LEDs to replace them, but haven't had a chance to install them.  Other than that, I haven't worked on the Aquia Line. 

I have been catching up on some writing projects that are or were due. Hopefully you will be seeing the Aquia Line in the MR press within a year or so. I am also working on a new book project. It is a track plan book, but I can't say much more about it at this point. 

Speaking of track plans, the Hostlers in Odgen, Utah liked my basic track plan, but had some modifications to it that they desired. So I made an updated copy for them. I am waiting to hear back before I do their final track plan.

One of my major distractions has been wargaming. It is interesting that several of my wargaming friends also are model railroaders. There is a lot of overlap in the hobbies. So I have been learning new game systems including a new WW2 skirmish level game. I  helped Mike Kelly with some of his 3D printing.  He hosts local game meets at his house. I am also working with Bruce Weigle to produce forts for his upcoming wargame on the planned but cancelled Nazi invasion of Malta. Malta is covered with stone forts. Bruce is world famous for his intricate, bespoke terrain boards.  I will be laser cutting the forts to use on his new terrain board. 

An example of one of Bruce's bespoke terrain boards

Alkem Scale models is also keeping me busy. I have a new batch of DODX cars for sale. In addition I have 4 models for clients in various stages of production. One of those is a model for Alexandria's new Museum of Freedom. This will depict the 1840's appearance of the slave jail that was on Duke Street. More on that project later.

AMTRAK near the former RO Cabin on the RF&P just
northof Crystal City. The new Amazon HQ will be
 close to this site.
My back is getting better, but I am still not 100%. I have been doing a lot more exercise recently, including riding a new bike. I call my new bike "the tank" because compared to my old carbon fiber road bike, the new bike is "indestructible." I am riding for fitness, so I am more concerned with durability and safety versus speed. The bike has an upright riding position and chunky 700 by 45 tires. I am lucky in that we have lots of trails near my house including some that parallel the old RF&P so I can railfan while I ride. 

Finally, we installed a new bird feeder in our back yard. We have been enjoying it immensely. I never knew how many different species of birds frequent our yard. 

May 3, 2021

Can You Say Wind Chill?

I am back from a weekend trip to Pennsylvania to attend the Columbia Railroad Day. My itinerary took me to Gettysburg, PA on Friday and to Columbia, PA on Saturday.

View of the Round Tops from the jump off position of Longstreet's Corps

The weather was warm and sunny when I left Virginia. When I arrived in Gettysburg, the skys were clear, but the wind was steady with gusts up to 60 mph and the temperature in  the 50s. My plan was to ride my bike around the part of the battlefield that saw action on the second day of the battle.  So I parked on  the saddle between the Round Tops. From there I rode my bike to the top of Little Round Top, then down the hill and west to the Peach Orchid and back. I was clever enough to plan my route so that my return climb to Little Round Top had a tail wind, but the otherwise the wind was brutal. Unfortunately, I did not pack clothes that were warm enough, so I was thoroughly chilled, despite the climb. I then jumped in my car and decided to tour the rest of the battlefield by auto.  

I wanted to stop at the Gettysburg Train station, but those plans were literally  short circuited.  I was driving north on Stratton Street near the railroad tracks, when I heard a strange humming noise. I thought something was wrong with my car. I looked up and noticed that there was a large orange-blue flame above my car. I drove forward another 100 yards and I saw it again in my rear view mirror. So I stopped and got out and it happened a third time. A pedestrian said to me that a tree was swaying into a power line. Apparently the last time the tree swayed  it caused the power line to snap, or a breaker to trigger, so the flames stopped. I did not get closer to investigate. Instead, I decided to head to the north side of the battlefield to check out the scenes of the first day of combat.   

View from Oak Hill to the east where XI Corps was
pushed back by Ewell's attack on the first day
 The wind was actually getting stronger as I toured the northern sectors and clouds were gathering. I managed to complete most of the auto tour and decided to call it a day. I heard later that the wind caused a tree to fall on a car and a porta-potty at the battlefield. A man was trapped in the potty had to be rescued by the local fire department. 

I arrived in Columbia, PA and met some of the hosts for the model railroad weekend. 

The next morning, the weather was again sunny, but with temperatures in the 40s and wind gusting to 30-50MPH. The meet was held at the Columbia Pavilion, which is an outdoor covered deck.  The cold weather resulted in light attendance at the meet. Nonetheless, Thom Radice from the ACWRRHS was there as well as several of my friends from Facebook that lived in the local area. It was fun to meet with them. 

Despite the small crowd, there were several vendors and exhibitors present as well as a reenactment unit. 

A female re-eanctor was making samples of 1860 cuisine including some hard tack she had prepared in advance. I got to taste some and it was pretty good and not that difficult to chew. She said the cracker would get harder after a few days of drying out. So I brought some home to test out. She also made some tasty corn meal mushies and some kind of stew that I did not get to sample.

The 45th PA Infantry reenactment unit was on hand with an encampment and display of civil war era weapons. Some of the weapons were originals. They even let spectators handle them.  I got to handle an original Sharpe's rifle and a smoothbore musket.

Scott Mingus lead off the presentations with an interesting discussion of the Gettysburg RR.  I also purchased his latest book on the Cumberland Valley RR in the civil war. 

Larry Hoover shows a local police
officer a civil war era weapon
Then Joel Moore showed photos of his highly detailed HO layout and described how he used his railroad as a setting for some novels he wrote.

I presented two talks. The first was an Introduction to Civil War Railroads, a talk I have done many times before. Alas, I was so cold during the talk that I was shivering as I spoke.  That made for an unpleasant experience for me and many of the folks watching expressed concern afterwards. I should have worn my civil war uniform as it would have been perfect for the weather instead the light cotton clothes I had with me. 

Luckily, the weather warmed up a bit and the wind died down for my second talk on my Aquia Line Model Railroad. That talk went off quite well.

The last talk was by Chris Vera on how the people of Columbia were involved in the underground railroad.
In between the talks, my host Barry Schmit, took me to see the Columbia Model Railroad Club layouts.  They have large HO and O scale layouts in a former church which is now the Columbia Historical Society building.

I returned home safely Saturday night. It was a fun weekend, despite the cold and windy weather. 

April 25, 2021

Florida - Part 3 Model Trains and Planes


Wrapping up my documentation of our trip to Florida, I will mention our visit to Rick Bellanger's N Scale layout and the Titusville Model Railroad Club.

Rick Bellanger is an accomplish model builder and long term N Scale model railroader. His house is practically a museum filled with well built models of ships, planes and armor as well as a nicely built, double deck N scale layout. 

Rick and his layout
Rick is originally from Florida but lived in LA for many years. He was a member of the Belmont Shores N Scale and the Tehachapi HO scale model railroad clubs.  

His current freelanced layout features the UP and Sante Fe railroads.  It is well built and features many illuminated buildings.  Rick said he is interested in selling his N scale layout and equipment, preferably in one transaction. If you are interested, let me know and I can put you in contact with him.  He has a lot of rolling stock and many structures. 

Engine terminal on Rick's layout

After visiting Rick's layout, we stopped by the Titusville Model Railroad Club layout. We got to met some of the members and had a chance to look at their layouts. They have three layouts, the O gauge 3-rail and N scale layouts are finished. They are in the process of rebuilding the HO scale layout. It is coming along nicely. Alas, I forgot to take pictures at the club.  

The guys at the model railroad  club suggested we check out American Aero Services, New Smyrna Beach, FL. So we did that the next day after a round of golf at nearby Venetian Bay (note, I was the caddy, my back was still not healed enough for golf).

American Aero Services is a restoration and maintenance facility that specializes in serving the War-Bird community. They restore aircraft, military vehicles, armor, missiles and rockets. They do complete restorations, repairs, maintenance and annual inspections. They also have a museum. Amazingly, they let visitors wander around their two hangers to see what they are doing.  

The tank is a former Soviet T-55 that they are visually modifying to look like a WW2 Tiger.

This B-17 is being refitted for flying service.

You don't see this too often

On my last day in Florida I took a long walk on the beach and saw a large, dead  turtle washed up on the sand. This is the second time I have seem a large turtle dead on the beach. The first one was larger than this one, but was in an advanced state of decay. This time the turtle appeared in fairly good condition, so it was not dead for long. However, it appeared to have three wounds on the left side that were probably strikes from a propeller. One of the wounds was pretty deep and looked like it was oozing. It may have been a fatal blow. The state of Florida tracks these turtles, so I reported it to the local lifeguard and he called it in. I am not sure how the orange markings got on the turtle. 

That  wraps up our trip to Florida. It was a fun week despite the issues with my back and the unfortunate turtle.

We are back in Virginia. My back is getting better and more projects are getting added to the do list. 

April 23, 2021

2021 Columbia PA Railroad Day

Next weekend will be an interesting day for people interested in civil war railroads.  

The  2021 Columbia Pennsylvannia Railroad Day program is scheduled for May 1 after cancelling last year's event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be using the new Columbia Crossing River Tails Visitor Center for facility for their Civil War Railroading theme presentations. It is located along the Susquehanna River at 41 Walnut Street, and offers full audio/visual support and extensive seating both inside and out.

Columbia, PA is located east of York near the former Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge, which the scene of an important skirmish and bridge burning during the Gettysburg campaign. The burning of that bridge pretty much ended the rebels plans to cross the Susquehanna River during the invasion of Pennsylvannia. 

I plan to drive up the day before and revisit Gettysburg on the way. In addition to my talk, I will have some of my ACW era models on display.

The schedule of events is as follows

09:00AM - 09:30AM: Civil War Railroad Day Opening Remarks.

10:00AM - 10:45AM: Civil War Railroad to Gettysburg, Scott Mingus.

11:15AM - 12:00PM: Civil War Canals and Railroads, Doug Bosley.

12:30PM - 01:15PM: Railroads During the Civil War, Bernard Kempinski.

01:45PM - 02:30PM: Civil War Aquia Line Model Railroad, Bernard Kempinski.

03:15PM - 04:00PM: Rails to Freedom in Columbia, Chris Vera.

Other planned activities during the all-day program include four Civil War Encampments on the Columbia Crossing grounds. The Columbia Historic Preservation Society will host three all-day model railroad activities: their large HO Columbia and Susquehanna Model Railroad Club that depicts Columbia in the early 1950's, the O-Scale Lower Susquehanna Model Railroaders modular layout, and several NMRA Susquehanna Division model railroad displays. Lastly the new owners of Rail Mechanical Services may allow tours, displays, and speeder activities at their site.

It should be an interesting day.