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.

April 4, 2011

A Civil War Railroad Road Show

Over the past 20 years I have been very involved in N scale modular railroading. I still participate in the C&O Mountain Sub Division oNeTRAK group. But the thought occurred to me that a portable display layout with a ACW theme might be a good way to promote the topic and be a way to expand the fun beyond the basement.

Since I am deeply involved in building an O Scale layout at home, I thought that an O scale display layout would not be too much additional work. I have been casting about for some ideas. Two sections that are 6.5 feet long and three feet wide would fit easily in my current Chevy Tahoe. The display layout would feature a prototype based Layout Design Element (LDE). Since I model the USMRR, I would carry that over to the display layout. Three LDEs seem suitable, Gettysburg, PA,  Maryland Avenue, Washington, DC and perhaps Ellicot City, MD though it is on the B&O.

As I researched the subject, I seem to be leaning toward Maryland Ave. There are a couple photos available showing the depot and the Capitol in the background. I have a detailed track map that shows a station, depot, and turntable. There is a through track and a spur. It was the terminus of the Washington & Alexandria RR, but did have a through connection with the B&O. There was a lot of interchange there. The switch lists and conductors reports for this line are available at the National Archives.

Overall view of the Maryland Ave Depot and station. This scene is gone, replaced by urban development. It is
near the current L'Enfant Metro and VRE station. There are about 20 locomotives visible in this photos.

This photo looks uninteresting, until you look at some of the detail available in the high resolution image file.
 See the images below.

Note the wood box car with outside braces, the telegraph poles, the wood residences and of course, the
 US Capitol under construction.
In this shot you can see a good view of the wood rick, a gas light (working lightswould be a neat
option to add to a layout) ( using electricity not gas) and the brick town house in the background.
The far left of the image shows the end of a flat car with the truck showing the road number, the first time I have
seen an example of that. There is a grocery behind the trees, as well as a wagon or buggy park, and more
 tracks in the scene.

These two maps show how the depot fits into the Washington area, and a close-up of the railroad facilities. The LDE would be fairly simple to copy from these. I'll post my design later. The photos show more tracks than what are indicated on the maps.


These snips are from a larger map at the National Archives drawn by Merrick in 1865. Here is the direct link. A very high resolution copy of the map can be found here.


  1. Bernie: Do you recall which map the above is and year? Appears to be sometime before early 1870s as the B&P Station on the mall is not shown. This map seems to indicate that the MD Av. Depot did connect to the B&O via the tracks that were laid across the south grounds of the Capitol during the war.

  2. That map was drawn by Merrick in 1865 and is available at the US NARA web site. Here is the citation.

    Map of the Washington and Alexandria Railroad and its Connections with the Baltimore and Ohio, Loudon and Hampshire, and Orange and Alexandria Railroads. Compiled and Drawn at the Office of Chief Engineer and General Superintendent, U. S. Mil. R. Rds. of Va., Alexandria, Va., May 1865, By W. M. Merrick, Draughtsman., 05/1865
    ARC Identifier 305671 / Local Identifier 77-CWMF-RDS195
    Item from Record Group 77: Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 1789 - 1999

  3. The link to the very high-resolution version of that historic map seems to no longer work. Any idea where I could find a copy? I'd like to use it in a project I'm working on.