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 30, 2010

My ship(s) has come in

Today brought a double treat to the mail box. UPS delivered my copy of the Dumas Mt Washington, and USPS delivered a package from Bob Santos.

No, it is not a mini-kayak, it's just the plastic
hull to the Mt Washington kit.

Here Alicia is posing with the vacuum formed plastic hull of the Mt Washington. To put the model size in perspective, she is 5'8" inches, As I said, this model is big! The kit is very much a craftsman style kit. Aside from the castings and some vacu-formed parts, the rest of the kit is strip wood and styrene.

The package from Bob Santos described a 1/96th scale model he built of the SS Maple Leaf. Bob is both a model railroader and a professional ship modeler. Check out his gallery at Santos Models. He has some nice work on display there.

A photo by Bob Santos of his 1/96 scale model
The Maple Leaf is probably the most famous (infamous?) cargo ship from the civil war as it sunk after hitting a torpedo in the St Johns River in Florida.
The wreck was in shallow water and many artifacts have been recovered from it.

The Maple Leaf was originally built in Canada, but sold to a US firm in Boston and then leased by the US Government during the civil war.

There are also models of the Maple Leaf at two different museums in Florida. The Jacksonville Science Museum has a nice 1/48th scale model of the ship in their collection. I may try to visit that museum when I go to Florida in January. There is also a maritime museum in Jacksonville that I plan to check out.

You can learn more about the Maple Leaf at the following Maple Leaf Shipwreck web site.

The Maple Leaf was 181 long, about the length of the Mt Washington.  Since I now have the Mt Washington kit, I'll probably aim for a smaller second paddlewheel steamer for my dock.  The Maple Leaf has a hog back frame, a feature common on pre-war steamers.  That was a feature I'd like to show in a model.

In   researching steamships I found another very similar ship that was about two thirds the size of the Maple Leaf. This is the SS Mystic. It was built in 1852 in New London, CT. At 154 tons, 117' length and 25 feet bean, it will better fit into my dock scene along with the Mt Washington and other planned ships (maybe even an ironclad).

The Mystic also has an interesting history. William Miller of New London, CT built her for the commuter run between New London and Mystic in 1852. In 1854 it was sold and served Norwich and New London, Mystic and Stonington. In 1860 it moved to Gloucester, MA where it made the run to Boston.

In 1863  the US Army Quartermaster Department leased her for a rate of $150 per day. It transported troops and supplies on the Virginia and North Carolina rivers. In May 25, 1863 the Quartermaster bought it outright for an undisclosed price.

On April 15, 1865, a detachment of 67th North Carolina infantry surprised her near Maple Cypress on the Neuse River, NC and burned her.

National Park Service Fredericksburg Blog

I recently discovered a nicely done blog by staffers at the Fredericksburg National Park, though the blog is unofficial. Eric Mink,  Noel G Harrison, and John Hennessy are the primary contributors. They cover all aspects of the civil war in the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania region. They have posted several items that are directly applicable to my layout. Some that I found interesting and useful are:

Aquia Landing Slides a Powerpoint slide show with pictures of Aquia Landing and some useful maps, but I believe they have the location of Yuba Dam and Burnside's wharf backwards.

Aquia Exposed a view of the pier remains at Aquia

The Evolution of Aquia Landing  A nice summary of Aquia Landing.

The Railroad Bridges over Potomac Creel - Bean poles and trusses  The comments that accompany this post are quite good and include links to the original hand written letter Herman Haupt wrote describing why he built the trestle.

I reported this incident in my earlier post,  Haupts encounter with Hooker, but this link will take you to scans of the original letters.

Their post on the Washington Woolen Mill also provides a lot more information about this mill that I mentioned in an earlier post.  It was actually in Fredericksburg, but I may relocate this to Brook on my layout. I already have an N Scale model of the Charlottesville Woolen Mills that I could use in the background for forced perspective, or I could build a model of the Washington Woolen MIll mill.

November 27, 2010

Ship Kits for O Scale Civil War Layouts

This is a list of ship kits I found appropriate for an O scale civil war Potomac River scene.

Dumas - Mt Washington - paddle side wheel steamer 1/48
Bluejacket - Smuggler  -schooner 1/48
Bluejacket - Seguin - tow boat 1/48
Bluejacket - America - schooner 1/48
Bluejacket - Jefferson Davis - Baltimore clipper revenue cutter 1/54h scale
Corel - Shenandoah - Sloop 1/50
Corel - Flying Fish - Schooner 1/50
Corel - Ranger - Revenue Cutter 1/50
Artesenia Lania- Scottish Maid - schooner 1/50 (can be hard to find now)
Model Expo - Benjamin Lantham - schooner 1/48

Model Expo - Chaperon Rear paddle wheel steamer 1/48 (not appropriate for use on the Potomac or James River, but ideal for western river scenes).

The Benjamim Lantham is probably too modern for an ACW era scene. The Smuggler would be a better fit. According to Jeff Marger at BlueJacket Ship Crafters,
"SMUGGLER was built in 1877, and designed before then. Her hull form is entirely consistent with an 1863 time period. After all, the extreme clippers were built in the early 1850’s! You may not wish to use this type of hull, but the time frame is consistent with your layout. "

Bluejacket Smuggler solid hull model cut at water line
None of these kits are water line models. They all include full hulls. Converting a full hull kit to waterline can be tricky. The techniques used depends on the kit construction. The most common kit types are solid hull, plank on frame and plank on bulkhead. There are also styrene and fiberglass hulls from the radio controlled ship hobby that might be usable (such as the Dumas Mt Washington).

Solid wood hulls can be cut with a power saw if appropriately supported. My brother converted my Smuggler to water line by cutting the hull on a band saw. He screwed the hull to a plank, making sure it was square and ran it through the band saw. Then he used a block plane to flatten and true up the bottom surface as the saw cut was a bit rough.

Plank on Frame and Plank on Bulkhead model types compared

Admiralty Style Model
If you are new to ship models you should be aware that there is a difference between "plank on frame" and "plank on bulkhead" models. Plank on frame models have each frame from the prototype accurately modeled. While this creates an impressive model it is much more difficult and time consuming to build. Frequently modelers that build plank on frame models leave some of  the planking off to make the frames visible.   No sense hiding all that work! The Royal Navy Admiralty Models are great examples of this type of model building.  Plank and frame models are really not well suited for conversion to water line models.  These kits are usually more expensive than other types because they include a full representation of the actual wood frames used in a ship. It would be a shame to cut away these frames to make a water line model.

Plank on bulkhead models use fewer transverse bulkheads secured to a longitudinal board (like a super keel) to simulate the hull. The bulkheads are usually solid die cut or laser cut parts. The hull must be fully planked to hide these non prototypical parts. From outward appearances, the hull is indistinguishable from a plank on frame hull.  Note how it would be hard to show the interior of a plank on bulkhead model, say through a hatch or open top, as the non-prototypical bulkheads might be visible.

To convert a plank and bulkhead model to water line, you have to cut each bulkhead at the water line. That is easy enough. But then adding the planks will be tricky as some planks will lack support. You will also probably lose most of the keel. So to keep the planks properly spaced, you may have to build a new waterline "keel."

For some model ships, it might actually be easier to scratch build the water line hull from wood, styrene or even a slab of extruded styrene foam, and then use the kit parts for the superstructure. This is especially true of riverine steamships as their hulls have little free board and resemble floating planks. The Monitors ironclads being the most extreme examples of this phenomena.

November 23, 2010

More artwork for the Aquia Line

The Library of Congress posted some new (to me at least) drawings  of scenes on the USMRR Aquia Line.
Train crossing the Potomac Creek bridge. The revetments on
the right were labeled as abandoned Confederate work

A pencil drawing of Aquia Landing
The destroyed Potomac Creek bridge.

November 21, 2010

O Scale Switch Stands Available for sale

My O Scale Switch Stands for stub turnouts are now available for sale. They can be used for two and three way stubs switches on O, On2, On3 and On30 layouts. The kit includes 4 types of switch targets to allow a variety of railroads to be modeled.  You can see a pdf copy of the instructions by clicking here.

The price is $9.99 per kit.

Please see http://www.alkemscalemodels.com for more details and to order. Or, you can order them via Paypal direct from this blog by clicking the button below:

  This will open up a Paypal shopping cart page.

I am investigating offering these in HO Scale but they are not available yet.

November 18, 2010

Updated Track Plan

Here is the updated track plan based on the "as-built" sections of the new benchwork. The main differences from before are that the Yuba Dam peninsula is only 4 feet wide instead of 5, and the land area at the wye is reduced. Both of these changes were done to maximize the aisles, and in the case of the wye, to allow better access to my spray booth, which is located just under the upper legs of the wye. As Joe Fugate once wrote, the least expensive feature to add to a layout is the aisle.

I added the turntable to the inside of the wye. This isn't necessary from an operational view point, but would add visual interest and operational flexibility. 

Included in the drawing is a scale drawing of the ironclad Passiac. It's hard to see where it could fit in. One possible solution is to make the ships removable so they can be replaced or rotated for variety. One drawback would be that the seam between the modeled water and the ship waterline would be visible. This can be fixed in photos using Photoshop, but might be unsightly in person.

November 15, 2010

Road Trip to Tom Radice's W&A Layout

 I had the opportunity to visit Tom Radice's HO Scale W&A layout in Long Branch, NJ. Tom held a work session this weekend.  I drove up Saturday morning and returned Sunday morning.  Brian Kammerer showed up to paint backdrops while I was assigned to take pictures for eventual publication in a model railroad magazine.

Tom's layout depicts the Western and Atlantic from Atlanta to Chatanooga. Brian was working on the backdrop for the area behind Chatanooga including Lookout Mountain. 

I concentrated my efforts on photographing the finished scenes, of which Tom has quite a few. The scenery and detailing in the finished sections is outstanding. Combined with Brian's backdrops, Tom has an outstanding model railroad.

Here is a sample of Tom, Brian and LeBron's work.

A beautiful scene on Tom Radice's layout. Brian did the backdrop while LeBron worked on the bridge.

Paul coupling cars in Falmouth

Paul uses the magnetic coupling pins
After I arrived home, Paul Dolkos stopped by to pick up my static grass machine. Paul will learn how to use it on his layout and then will use his newly developed skills to help scenic my layout.

While Paul was here, he took a short train from Aquia Landing to Falmouth and back. He used the engine Whiton with sound, tried out the turntable and the link and pin couplers. All went well. With this short test session, Paul may have attained the honor of being the  first guest operator.

Paul also had the chance to inspect the new benchwork at Aquia Landing and offered some useful suggestions on the sky boards.

November 12, 2010

Picking some ships

Now that I am expanding the layout space I am thinking about what ships I want to build. It is important that I have an idea of which ones I will use, as I need to allow enough room in the plan to accomodate them. As I mentioned earlier, 1/48th scale  ships models are big.

A drawing showing a the USS Passiac. It was towed to Washington, DC in the
winter of 1862-63 and could have possibly stopped at Aquia Landing.
My friend, Dr. Gerry Fritzgerald, has been lobbying for a Monitor type ship. While it is possible that a Passiac Class Monitor was patrolling the Potomac in my time period, it would be a stretch to dock it at Aquia Landing, This class of ship was 200 feet long and 46 feet wide. That works out about 50 inches long and 11.5 inches wide.  It would actually be a fairly easy model to scratch build. Amazingly, they served in the Navy until after the turn of the century.

I have always liked ships with walking beam engines, paddle wheel drives and sails. The references photos show many of these type ships docked at Aquia Landing. The US Navy leased a large number of these civilian steamships for use as patrol boats and cargo ships. The challenge is finding a set of plans.

I ordered a set of the plans for the Mt Washington. As I mentioned earlier, Dumas makes a nice 1/48th scale model of this ship. These plans are actually from the kit. It is about 43 inches long and 12 inches in beam.  Here is a photo showing the plan view of the Mt Washington on a mock-up of the bench work for Yuba Dam. I placed some freight cars alongside to provide a sense of scale. The hull of the schooner Smuggler is in the background. It looks tiny in comparison. Note I've also starting layout out some of the new bench work in the far background.

The Dumas kit makes a beautiful model and is a close match to civil war era paddle wheel steamers.   Mr. H. Lauer documented his build of the kit at this link: Mt Washington kit build. Another forum has a great description of this kit including prototype information in French by the modeler Gerald Hautier. Here it is translated to English.

The question is, should I order the kit or scratch build it? The kit comes with a full hull, which I would not be able to use. Even the paddle wheels are practically hidden when the model is on the waterline.  The photo at the left shows the bottom of the hull from the H. Lauers build. It seems like a shame to buy the kit and not use the hull. But the kit comes with all the fittings, which would probably cost as much if bought separately  as buying the whole kit. Perhaps a hybrid model using the kit superstructure with a scratch built waterline hull is the way to go. Dropping a full hull model in a corresponding hole in the baseboard is another possibility.

Another kit I have been considering is the Bluejacket's Seguin. This is a large steam tug, that is very similar to screw tugs used to pull barges on the Potomac during the war, even though this one was built in 1884.  This is not a waterline model, but as you build up the hull, making it a waterline model shouldn't be too hard.

November 10, 2010

New space ready for layout

The contractors are done with the remodeling. These photos show the new layout space. I put a section of an older N Scale layout I had in storage to provide a sense of where the new benchwork will go. That section is about 7 and a half feet long.

The guys did a good job.  The sheet rock work is smooth and they repaired the wooden trim.

The carpet is trimmed with a metal edge, preventing people from tripping on it. This edge will hopefully not be too obvious when the layout benchwork gets built.

I will pick up some styrene sheets to extend the backdrop tomorrow.

At lunch today, Marty thought that the extra space might allow me to add an operator at Aquia Landing. That may work out. We'll see as the layout Gets closer to operating.

November 8, 2010

And the walls came tumbling down

Thanks to help from elements from the 1st Regiment of Peruvian Volunteer Infantry, the USMRR has acquired sufficient territory to execute its expansion plans.

Looking south from the workshop. This was a wall with a painted
 river scene. The backdrop will extend down the
wall and over the door.

Here are some photos showing the closet in various stages of demolition. Work will continue tomorrow to finish the wall board and trim.

View from the TV room. The harbor will
extend towards the viewer above the shop vacuum.

P.S. een speciaal onthaal aan mijn Nederlandse bezoekers

November 2, 2010

Expansion Plan - Green Light

I gave the contractor the green light for the expansion plan. They will start on Monday to remodel the walls for the expanded harbor area. Based on advice from Paul, Marty and Alicia, we will not be adding the new wall, just removing the existing closet. Not adding the wall actually allows about the harbor scene to extend an extra foot or so. Here is a revised drawing.

The benchwork will utilize a enclosed structure thereby creating storage space under the layout to make up for the lost space from the removed closet.

I will remove some of the existing benchwork and skyboard painting in the current workshop to make room for the new space. The contractor was worried about losing the artwork, but I explained that I understood it must go and that I'll paint new scenes.

Once the space is opened up, I will assess how big to make the harbor. I think this will be an impressive scene. Here is a conceptual look at what it might look like as you come down the stairs.

A Halloween Story....

Here is a short three minute story to help you celebrate Halloween.  It is done in the style of an old time radio show so there is no video,  just audio. Let your imagination take over. Click the link below. Enjoy.

Errata: That should be Springfield, Illinois, not Ohio.