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.

July 9, 2011

Trimble Splices and Pole Line

The Falmouth and Clairborne Creek areas are now getting some final details.
Pvt McGuirk guards the newly installed pole line
and splice bars.
Wooden splice bars are now installed
every 28 feet.

I added wooden splices to simulate the rail joints (later these would be known as Joint Bars). These 48 inch long wooden pieces use 4 square headed nut and bolts to hold sections of rail together. I cut a batch of splices on my laser using 1/16th inch think basswood. The laser engraved the nut detail saving me the tedium of applying hundreds of NBWs.

Sections of rail in this era were 28 feet long. I filed small groves in the top surface of the long rail sections and then glued a splice bar on the outside of the rail. In the prototype the inside did not get a wooden splice, just the opposite end of the bolts and a small iron bar. I did not add these as they are practically invisible under the web. I touched the nut heads with a rusty red color pen.

This work went fairly quickly. The result is subtle as the laser cut wood splices blend with the ground color.

Next I added the telegraph pole line. This will start at the engine terminal shed and will extend all the way to Aquia Landing.  The pole line will require a wooden poles, insulators and wire.

I used 1/4 inch dowels for the poles. I roughed up the surface to simulate bark texture as these were basically logs.

Brass insulators with a stub protruding from the bottom helps strengthen the final
assembly. The ACW era insulators were secured to the pin with tar
or linen, but not screwed.
ACW era "hatpin" type
Next was the insulator. The photos of the telegraph poles at Stonesmans Station show the "hatpin" style of insulator being used with a wooden pin.

I made a trip to the local craft store to find some glass beads that would make a suitable insulator. I didn't find anything that would work. So I made insulators from brass rod using my Dremel mini-lathe.  I used square tooth picks for the pins. I drilled a .030 inch hole in the center of the toothpick and then glued the stub from the brass insulator into the hole. Then I glued the wooden pin to the pole. I drilled a hole through the wooden pin into the pole and then added a NBW to help secure the pin.

Poles waiting to be installed

The pole line without the wire 

Typical installation.
The telegraph desk is in this shed.

I painted the poles dark brown, dry brushed with grey and tan. The insulator was painted a light green while the pin got a light wood color. I installed the poles about every 18 inches. I used lycra thread to make the telegraph line.

Next I want to make a figure climbing the pole like the one in the photo. I started modifying a suitable lead figure. I'll finish him in a later post.

This shows the cut lines to reposition the figure


  1. This is beyond museum quality work. I just love reading about this project.

  2. Thanks for the note. I am glad you are enjoying it.