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.

September 30, 2011

Appearance on Model Railway Show

Trevor Marshall of the Model Railway Show recently interviewed me about my USMRR model railroad project.  The interview is a fast paced, 10 minute look at the project and it challenges.  Trevor is a Canadian and he brings a fresh perspective on the project and his questions reflect that. Their production values are first rate too.

 You can find the interview at Model Railway Show Episode 023.

September 27, 2011

The War Came by Train Trailer

Work still continues on getting the basement back in shape. The floor is done, but some chores still remain. With no progress on the railroad to report, I suggest you check out this neat trailer for the B&O RR Museum "The War Came by Train" exhibit for your Civil War Railroading fix.

September 20, 2011

Flood Repairs

It seems like Herman Haupt should not have been the only one concerned with floods taking out his trestle over Potomac Creek. I had my own flood to contend with and layout work has been stalled while we repair the damage. Though relatively minor it required that the whole basement carpet be removed. That wasn't too bad as a flood repair and mitigation company took care of it. They also brought in 8 powerful fans and a massive dehumidifier that got the basement dry as a bone in a few days. Even the carpet fragments under the sheet rock wall (more on this later) were dry. Since we rapidly drained the flood and quickly dried it out, there is no mold problem. Fortunately I was in the basement when the flood started. If I had gone to bed early that night, it could have been much worse.

The real work for us involves having to move all my camera equipment, Christmas decorations, lights, tools, furniture, electronic components, train stuff, books and magazines around to make room for the new flooring. Did I say books and magazines? Gosh, do I have a lot of them. I am taking this opportunity to cull down the pile. The 20 years of back issues of Model Railroader magazine went out today as my younger brother took them. Alicia promised to buy me the new DVD with 75 years of MR. That will free up prime shelf space which will be used for tool storage, including my new Sherline lathe that I haven't even opened the box yet.

New flooring in TV area
In the meantime, we decided to lay the new floor ourselves as the insurance company and flooring folks were taking their time. We went with a vinyl planking product sold by Home Depot called Allure. It is supposed to be "highly resistant to water" and ideal for basements. We'll see.

It is fairly easy to install, and looks remarkably like real wood. So far so good. Since it is comes in 6 inch wide by 3 feet long planks, you can do the area incrementally. So I will wait until the messy scenery work is complete in the main train room before laying them there. But the home office and crew lounge (AKA TV room) are done thanks to help from Joseph Franke and Alicia. In some places I used my automotive hydraulic floor jack to raise each leg of the layout as I slid the new flooring planks under. That worked pretty well.

Before I could install the floor, I had to partially disassemble a non-bearing sheet rock and stud wall to free a piece of carpet that a previous contractor had trapped. He built a new wall right over the existing carpet, driving the Ramset nails through the sill and carpet into the concrete floor. While a pain in the petunias, this was a great excuse to buy a new reciprocating saw and Estwing pry bar. My existing crow bar was too big to fit in the tight space without removing large chunks of sheet rock. It took about 3 hours to do the job, but I was able to finish it. The saw will come in handy as I cut some access holes to the benchwork under Brooke. Win-win!

Now I just need to replace all the shelf contents and sort through the disorder that comes from helpers moving all your stuff without knowing the organizational system.  Hopefully in about a week the basement and layout will be back to Full Mission Capable.

September 14, 2011

Civil War Museums in the Atlanta Area

The ACWRRHS Annual meeting included visits to two Civil War Museums with significant railroad content. We visited the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History in Big Shanty, GA and the Atlanta Cyclorama and Museum on Saturday. On Sunday I visited the Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus.  

We also visited the Kennesaw Battlefield Visitors Center Museum, which has a good museum for that battle and the Atlanta campaign.

  The Southern Museum was much bigger than I expected and had a variety of interesting displays, including the locomotive General, which is their main highlight. The engine is not in its civil war appearance, as it was extensively rebuilt over the years. But it was still fun to see. 

The museum also featured a display from the Glover Manufacturing Company showing tools, patterns and products from the turn of the century industry. This was really the best part of the museum as the majority of the civil war display was somewhat derivative, except for the General. 
This lathe dated to 1865

The Texas is on display at the Cyclorama museum.
It is situated in a position that makes
photography difficult.
The  Atlanta Cyclorama was very impressive. It compares favorable to the Gettysburg cyclorama.

The Gettysburg Cyclorama appears fresher, is better lit and has a better light show animation. The Atlanta cyclorama is bigger and the 3D diorama is much more elaborate. To view the Atlanta cyclorama one sits on a rotating set of seats, while at Gettysburg, you are free to move about.

Both cycloramas are worth seeing and I enjoyed seeing this one. The museum had a nice selection of Rick Reeve oil paintings but was otherwise fairly modest.
A view showing 3D figures and how they blend into the painted cyclorama.  The 3D figures are different
scales to create forced-perspective.

Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus was the best of the four museums I visited. It had been moved from the location where I last visited several years ago to a bigger location nearer the river. The museum also expanded and included some very impressive full-scale dioramas including the USS Hartford, the USS Monitor and the CSS Albemarle.
The CSS Albemarle at a wharf. This was an impressive diorama.
Interior of the CSS Albemarle diorama
Admiral Farragut in his stateroom in the USS Hartford full size diorama.
Dahlgren gun collection outside the museum.
These models were used in the movie, "Ironclads." In the background is the recovered remains of the
 CSS Chattahoochee. That ironclad was burned in Columbus, GA before being completed. Columbus
was the last point on the Chattahoochee River that was navigable.

September 11, 2011

ACWRRHS Meeting in Atlanta, GA

I'm back from the ACWRRHS Meeting in the Atlanta, GA area.  It was a fun trip with perfect weather, good friends, museums, battlefields, cool trains and a yellow convertible too.

This is a quick post to upload some of the group pictures, I'll post more info later. Make sure you click on the images to see the full versions.

Allatoona Pass (Click for animation)
On Kennessaw Mountain (click for animation)

Thom looking down on the steep cut at Allatoona pass

September 7, 2011

Earth, Wind, Water,....

Two weeks ago we had an earthquake.

Last week we had a hurricane.

This weekend we had a flood.

We don't need a fire.

A tripped circuit breaker on our sump pump circuit caused a small flood in our finished basement during a day and night of heavy rain. Luckily we caught it early and were able to avoid a lot of damage. We had up to an inch of water in some parts of our basement, while others did not get wet. We did have to pull out the carpet and pad as they were thoroughly soaked. The layout was undamaged. I am fortunate in that most of my tools and model train supplies are stored in plastic tubs and were not affected by the water. All my electronics and books were not affected as the water didn't rise high enough, or we moved it before damage could be done.

The sump pump is located under the far end of the layout at the Accokeek Creek area and is not obstructed by the benchwork, so it is easy to access. There was a place where the layout legs rested on the carpet under the Falmouth engine terminal. I had to use my car floor jack to raise the layout a fraction of an inch to pull out the section of carpet there.  With the help of a water damage specialist contractor, our clean up is well under way. We will take this opportunity to repaint and install new linoleum type flooring. No more carpet in the basement.

Most basements in our area are prone to flooding, but we had been lucky until now. We now plan to have a new dual pump installed with a battery back-up and alarm.  We had been thinking about the battery back-up for a while now, so this was the incentive to get it installed.

Work on the layout was slow this week as we were rebuilding the deck in the backyard. In a retrograde kind of move, we removed the old, nondescript deck and rebuilt it with a smaller deck (about half the area) with top end materials. The deck uses Fiberon decking, Azek  trim and Atlantis stainless steel railing. Next  we plan to add a flagstone stone patio with walkways and a small water feature. That work will be done by a contractor. The best part of the new landscape plan is that we will eliminate all the lawn in the back yard. It will be all flowers, shrubs and trees. No more mowing back there - Yes! 

A neat feature of the new deck is that one of the lattice panels is on a sliding track to allow access to storage under the deck.

On Thursday I depart for the ACWHSRR Meet at Kennesaw, GA. It looks like a good line up of events. I'll take plenty of pictures.

2011 Convention Schedule
• Motel check-in, registration, and informal meeting with other members
• 7:00 p.m. — Dinner (everyone on their own)
• 8:30 – 10:00 p.m. — Welcome and informal show and tell by members


• 7:30 – 9:00 a.m. — Breakfast
• 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon (all times include travel time) — Kennesaw National Battlefield
• 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. — Lunch
• 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. — Acworth and Allatoona Pass
• 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. — Etowah River Bridge and Cooper Iron Works
• 6:30 p.m. — Dinner (entire group at convention hotel)
• 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. — Presentations: (1) Harper Harris on the Great Locomotive Chase; (2) LeBron Matthews and Thom Radice on modeling the Western & Atlantic Railroad in HO scale.

• 7:30 – 9:00 a.m. — Breakfast
• 9:15 a.m. – 12:30 noon — Southern Museum (the General)
• 12:30 – 1:30 — Lunch {“Taste of Kennesaw”}
• 1:30 – 5:00 p.m. — Atlanta Cyclorama (the Texas)
• 6:30 p.m. — Dinner (everyone on their own)
• 8:00 – 10:00 p.m. — Model Railroad Clinics: (1) Bernard Kempinski on his O scale U.S.M.R.R.; (2) Alan Mueller and LeBron Matthews on modifying the Mantua General in HO scale; and (3) swap table

• 7:30 – 9:00 a.m. — Breakfast
• 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. — Motel check-out
• 10:00 a.m. — Drive to Columbus, Georgia, and visit LeBron Matthews’ Southern Branch of the Western & Atlantic R.R.