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.

December 30, 2012

B&O Ironclad Car Finished

I finished the B&O ironclad car except for the gun port, some minor clean-up and touch up. I had trouble finding a good way to simulate the iron rail armor. It sounds simple, but getting the code 55 iron rail to create a realistic appearing armor in 1/48 scale was not easy. I tried four different techniques but ended up using a laser cut taskboard layer for the armor with separately applied bolts and washers that I laser cut. I did not use the first model I made shown in the previous post.

I added some barrels and boxes inside the car. There is also a field gun inside.
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Next is the B&O box car with the infantry firing ports.

December 25, 2012

B&O Ironclad Cars

I started building 1/48th scale models of the B&O Ironclad and Rifle cars.  These models are destined for the B&O Museum collection.  I am working with Dan Toomey of the B&O Museum to try to make these models as accurate as possible, but given the limited and conflicting information we have about the cars, much is educated guess work.  For example, there are several descriptions of an engagement where one of these cars was destroyed. Each account has different descriptions of the car and its construction. Most of them are summarized at this web site . It's is hard to know which one is right.

The cars are described in Alan Koenig's dissertation, "Ironclads on Rails: Armor Returns to the Battlefield, 1861-65. This was our main source as it cites several statements from the builders, as well as  observers that saw the car in service or after it was destroyed.

The ironclads are also mentioned in Robert Hodges, Jr.'s book, "American Civil War Railroad Tactics." The latter includes an artist's concept painting of what the cars may have looked like as no known images of the cars have survived.  While we agree with the overall look of the cars in the painting, there are certain details we will change.

The drawing shows our interpretation of the cars. The approach we used is to assume they started with standard boxcars and added the armor as an applique. These cars were built quickly, so it seems likely they started with existing parts if not whole cars.

According to Koenig, one source says the armor was mounted on a 45 degree angle. That is possible on the front of the car, but not possible on the sides as it would make the car too wide. So we made the side taper more vertical.

Koenig lists one source that states the rail was "T" iron, while another just says "railroad iron." We elected to go with "T" iron, in the form of code 55 rail, which works out to 2.6 inches in full scale. At this point most major railroads were installing 60 to 70 pound per yard rail on their mainlines, which scales down to about code 90 (0.093 inches inches tall). So the rail on this car represents lighter rail that was either destined for yard use or was retired. I had a bunch of code 55 on hand, so I used it.

Is code 55 reasonable? Yes, because heavier weight rail would have overloaded the 10 ton capacity of the car,  which was typical of a box car of the civil war era on two trucks.  The table illustrates that at 30 pounds per yard of rail the car would weigh about 10.2 tons loaded with crew, gun and ammunition. Even rail at 40 pounds per yard would have overloaded the car by 30 percent.
Heavier 60 or 70 code rail would have seriously overloaded the car. (Note that the number of rails per side for larger weight rail would be less than shown here as the the heavier rail is also wider. But the weight increases with the cube of the size, so the weight gain will out-pace the width related savings.)
"T" Rail added by the crew to protect the casement corner on USS Cairo

Some sources say the rail was spiked on, but Dan believes that it was bolted. I used the railroad T armor on the restored USS Cairo as a guide for how such rail would have been bolted on. In the case of the USS Cairo, the rail was bolted with the flat side facing out. I reversed it on the car as it was too hard for me to get the code 55 rail to look correct in that configuration. It would not lie flat as I assembled it.

Most sources state that the cars were equipped with one gun each, mostly small mountain howitzers, but one had a 6 pound brass smoothbore.  The first versions of these cars had cannon mounted in the vehicle suspended from the roof with a series of ropes. But later versions used standard field carriages as we show here.

There is a gun port on the front of the car. The artist concept in Hodge's book shows gun ports and cannon pointing out the side, but the car is too narrow for the standard field cannon to fire to the side. So there is no point to have gun ports on the sides, though there may have been observation ports. We elected to include 3 loop holes on each side instead of additional gun ports.

These cars were operated in sets. An armored train would have ironclads on front and back, with rifle cars between the ironclad and the locomotive. So a gun pointing out from each end of the train might be effective in covering the area around the train, especially if the gun could cover a 60 degree arc from its embrasure.

The gun port was reported to be 6 inches square, but again that is unlikely as such a small size would not allow the gun to defect or elevate very much. The gun port must be a bit bigger. One source, Deffinbaugh, claims he found the gunport of the destroyed car and that it was a solid piece of iron.

The last puzzle was the rear of the car. Again according to Koenig, one source says the rear was also sloped with an embrasure for a gun. But most other sources say that only one gun was mounted in each car. If you put a 6 pounder smooth bore on a standard field carriage on a rail car that can travel along standard gauge tracks, there is no way the car can be wide enough to turn the gun around inside the car.  So one gun cannot serve both gun ports.  It seemed impractical to me for the car not to have a decent size access door, so I added one to the rear.

One of the problems I have noted with some artists' concepts and drawings of artillery mounted on flat cars is that they make the gun carriage too small in relation to the car. The drawing above shows both the gun and car in the same scale.  As you can see, a 6 pounder on a standard field carriage just barely fits in the car. There is some room to deflect the cannon right or left to aim, but firing off the side is not possible.

We welcome your comments or ideas. The famous ship historian and modeler Howard Chapelle once said words to the effect that you should never build a model until you have all the information you need, as others that view the model will not know where you guessed. (for more of Howard's argument see this link.)In this case, we recognize that the information is sketchy about these cars and do not claim that this is a 100 percent accurate representation of the car, but the best we can make.  We hope you enjoy it.

December 20, 2012

Rail Gun Encased

The Land Merrimack posed on my O Scale layout.
I added a diorama pedestal base and acrylic dust cover to the rail gun model. The base is a solid plank of cherry that I cut and routed into a base. It matches the base for the Dictator diorama. I still haven't perfected the acrylic case technique yet, as I got a glue stain on the top surface. But it will serve the purpose of protecting the model from dust and fingers.

The section of track is code 100 rail on hand carved poplar and basswood ties. I added some grass tufts and various leaf and pebble texture to the soil. All it needs is a laser cut name plate and it is ready to display. I haven't decided if I should add a figure to the diorama. It might help provide a sense of size and scale. The model is built to 1:32nd scale.

December 13, 2012

Rail Gun - Finished

I finished up the remaining details on the rail gun. I replaced the coupler on the rear. The first one was too big.  Since I laser cut the parts from 1/16th inch acrylic, it was a simple matter to reduce the height of the center part and and reinstall it. The nut detail is actually engraved. The coupler simply is glued to the wood frame.

The brake wheel hangers were the next challenge. I made the parts from 0.020 inch strip brass, a .042 inch brass rod and an etched brass wheel from my spares box. To fashion the parts I used my drill press with an x-y table to drill holes in a straight line. Then I used a new sharp  file to shape the parts. I secured the parts to the model and then added NBW details with CAA. I added a cast white metal gear to the shaft to represent the locking pinion.  To simulate the pawl, I added a small silver of wood.

I had to use brass for the parts  because the next step involved soldering the brake chain to the wheel shaft and the brake linkage on the truck. With everything soldered up, I tested the brake mechanism. It does work, though it would need some adjustments if this were to be an operating model.

Next I added an elevation wheel to the gun (not visible in these photos). I also mounted a small rod on the bottom   front of the gun carriage and added a wood strip with an iron strap on the rear. This allows the gun to deflect a limited amount in the casement while also tilting the gun forward. The tilt allows the gunners to run the gun out for firing, while the up slope helps absorb some of the recoil.

Next I must build the base to display the gun, and an acrylic case to protect it.

Having studied this gun, I am convinced that it was built solely as a weapon to counter other rail mounted iron clad guns. The heavy 32 pound cannon is impractical as a field weapon against mobile infantry and artillery targets. The limited traverse also hinders its use as a general field piece. The heavy armor only on the front meant that they did not expect it to be engaged from the sides.

To my mind the design of this gun supports Dr. Schneider's thesis that this was the "Dry Land Merrimack" that Lee had Brooke build for the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. They built the gun as a response to reports that the Union were also developing an ironclad  railroad gun. The Lee-Brooke gun was used once, probably found impractical as the Union did not have a matching railroad ironclad, and then retired to a siding, where it was discovered a few years later by Union soldiers.

December 12, 2012

Rail Gun Update

I am almost finished with the Lee-Brooke Rail Gun. Here are some shots showing the model. I attempted to add any detail visible in the two existing photos. Everything on the model except the wheels has been built from scratch.

The iron armor is laser cut and engraved acrylic.
I still need to add the brake wheel and the cannon elevation wheel.  With the brake wheel installed, the brakes will work.

I plan to make a solid cherry pedestal and acrylic case for it to match the existing Dictator mortar model. These will be on display at the B&O Museum next year starting in January.

December 10, 2012

Baltimore Harbor layout

Holiday parties create a nice break from layout work. Making strawberry Santas and cupcakes is
much like making scenery, just more tasty.
On Saturday I assisted Paul Dolkos in hosting an open house for the NMRA. Paul is building a new layout with a Baltimore industrial harbor theme. The layout is about 40 percent complete, though most of the track is installed and operational. My job, along with Bob Warren, was to keep trains running while Paul entertained guests.

Here is a shot showing me switching the Western Maryland car float at Wagner's Point on Paul's layout.  (Photo by Gerry Fitzgerald).

After Paul's open house, Gerry Fitzgerald and Gabriella Petrick visited the Aquia Line. It had been about three years since Gabriella had last visited so there was lots of new stuff to see. It was a fun visit, enhanced with some homemade raspberry vodka provided by a colleague from work.

December 9, 2012

Civil War Ships Models at the Navy Yard Museum

 The US Navy Museum at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC is one of the least known, but best museums in the area. Here are photos of some of the ACW era ship models there.
CSS Virginia in drydock

USS Miami, a double ended gunboat

Mighty Mo!
Probably the most impressive models in the museum are the 1/48th scale aircraft carriers and battleships built by the ship contractors. These are huge and highly detailed.

December 1, 2012

A cupcake too far

Gerry Fitzgerald and Joel Salmons stopped by for today's cupcake, I mean work,  session. Brian and Michele also stopped by after the Scottish Christmas Walk to have a cupcake and check the  progress. Last, but not least,  Doug Gurin, the now famous Model Railway Show podcast personality, stopped by for a status check, plus a cupcake and slice of Gerry's infamous chocolate cake from Charlottesville (too bad most of us are on diets).

Gerry and Joel score and snap the pink foam
Everyone was satisfied with the LED lighting, drapes and bunting. So we moved on to installing the pink foam layer. But first we had to make a trip to Home Depot to get supplies to finish the walls for the staging yard. Little did we know that we also needed fresh tubes of adhesive for the foam. Because when we got back, we discovered that the tubes of adhesive I had on hand were old and seemingly partially set. But, we were able to get enough adhesive to stick the pink foam panels to the benchwork.

With the panels glue setting, we did some mockups with laser cut track templates and a bridge mock-up.

Pink foam installed on the first two sections

Mocking up turnout locations using the mini-mock up as a guide

Weighing down the foam while the glue sets

A laser cut cardboard mock-up of the bridge.

November 29, 2012

Drapes and Bunting

The drapes and bunting are just about done.  A few adjustments to some of the bunting and that will be it. The bunting is sewn to the drapes and the drapes attach to the wood with velcro strips, so installing and removing them is easy.

I also painted the valance and fascia of the non-staging sections. We still need to figure out how to attach the front panel of the staging section.  I think we should make it removable to make storage and shipping easier.

Blog Awards

Francois Simon selected this blog for a Liebster Award. Thanks. I'm glad you enjoy the blog.

I was unfamiliar with the Liebster Award prior to this. It is a way for smaller blogs to recognize each other. It's not a big deal, but it nice to get an "atta boy" every now and then. One of the rules of the Liebster is for the recipient to pass the award on to their favorite blogs with under 200 followers.

I follow a bunch of other blogs and sites. On the left side of my blog you will find a list of ACW RR related blogs. I would recommend those.

For a couple other non-ACW railroad related blogs I would nominate these:

http://boatbuildingwithburnham.blogspot.com/ This blog covered the building of an authentic Pinky style wooden schooner in Essex, MA

http://bentobjects.blogspot.com/ This blog has 3000 plus followers, but it is very clever and funny.

http://dclawyeronthecivilwar.blogspot.com/ Is a frequently updated blog with research and stories about the Civil War in the Washington DC area.

http://tuscarorarailroad.blogspot.com/ Fine scale modeling in the garden.

http://cwerailroad.blogspot.com/ Tom Patterson has a very nice layout and blog describing it.

http://themodelrailwayshow.com/cn1950s/ Trevor Marshall's new S scale layout

http://www.aorailroad.com/  An amazing O scale layout

http://mattforsyth.com/ Matt's brass engine work is as fine as railroad modeling gets.

http://nevardmedia.blogspot.com/ Exceptional modeling and photography of UK prototypes.

I can't forget the blogs of my buddies:

http://trainfanatic.blogspot.com/   Norm's Wolfe's little slice of the RF&P

http://prrhc.blogspot.com/ John Drye's N Scale Horseshoe curve (alas not updated often enough but they are making progress)

http://centralvermontrailway.blogspot.com/ Marty's on and off again SNE vs CV layout.  The double deck is gone and progress on the single deck CV theme is moving ahead.

Hope you enjoy perusing this list.

November 23, 2012

Lincoln -- A Movie Review

After a fine Thanksgiving dinner, AW, my brother, Marco, and I went to see Spielberg's new movie, Lincoln.  We all enjoyed it very much. I knew I would enjoy it, but I was glad my wife and brother did too.

I have been doing a lot of research on the Civil War lately, so I felt like I was watching old friends on the screen. This was especially true since the actors look uncannily like their real-life counterparts. The make-up and costumes were absolutely stunning.  Daniel Day-Lewis really looked like Lincoln. Even the other actors playing cabinet members were clearly identifiable, especially Seward, Stanton and Wells. Of course the latter two had very distinctive beards so they were easier to get right.

This is an important movie in several aspects. First, it will serve as an excellent history and civics lesson for all that see it. It shows how slavery was the key issue in the war. While not everyone in the north supported abolition of slavery, the balance of power between slave states and non-slave states was the issue that led to the war. The scene where Alexander Stevens, the Confederate vice president, asks Lincoln if the rebelling states could surrender and be admitted back to the Union in time so they could have the chance to oppose ratification of the 13th amendment was a key point to me in the movie.  To drive the point home, the script has Stevens go on to explain how the South will be economically devastated by the end of slavery. I doubt that he actually said that to Lincoln. I suspect that was there for the modern viewer's benefit in case they forgot.

(In this same scene I was disappointed that the movie omitted the exchange between Hunter and Lincoln, where Hunter said, "even Charles I entered into agreements with rebels in arms against his government during the English Civil War.  "I do not profess to be posted in History," replied Lincoln. "All I distinctly recollect about the case of Charles I, is, that he lost his head." )

Secondly, it demonstrates how even a greatly revered President has to sometimes gets his hands dirty in  leading the country. The exchange between Pennsylvanian Thaddeus Stevens, the Chairman of the  House Ways and Means Committee,  and the president illustrates the point.  T. Stevens argues for unswerving dedication to the moral compass that points toward “True North.” Lincoln counters that this is all well and good, except when your moral compass takes you into a swamp. Your True North doesn’t matter much then. You’re stuck in the swamp." I don't know if this is an actual Lincoln quote, but it is very apropos.

One of the reasons I find the Civil War fascinating is that it shows to me that little has changed in Washington and how this country gets things done over the past 150 years. People sometimes say that the nation is divided now as political passions heat up. But it is hard to envision the country more divided than during the 1860s. Movies like this can help calibrate the significance of issues that divide our political scene now.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed this movie. But, there were a few disappointments.

First,  as this is a model railroad blog, I am sad to report that there was no scene in the movie showing period railroads. The only train I could detect in the movie was a panning shot of one of Tad's toys, a wooden locomotive.

However, the steamship River Queen gets several key scenes. They appear to have built a full sized prop depicting the ship, so they might as well have used it. Some of the street scenes in Washington were well done. The scenes depicting the burning of Richmond were brief and not explained.Perhaps it was an allegory for the overall end of the Confederacy. But, I think the film missed a great opportunity when it failed to include a scene showing Lincoln visiting the burned city after the Union Army occupied it and the freed slaves' response as he moved about.

Instead there is a scene where Lincoln rides through the trenches of Petersburg. It was way over the top and unrealistic, as was the initial battle scene allegedly depicting the Battle of Jenkins Ferry.  As historically accurate battle scenes both get a D-. The real story of Jenkins Ferry is even more tragic.

I think the early scene where Lincoln talks with some soldiers far fetched, almost dream-like. It was a clumsy way to set the stage even though it included the Gettysburg Address.

I also found Sally Field as Mary Lincoln a poor choice. She did a good job acting the part, but she is literally too old for the role. Mary Lincoln was nearly 20 years younger than Sally. Even Hollywood make-up couldn't bridge that gap. I think her mental anguish would have been even more compelling if they had cast a younger actress.

Although he appears very briefly, I thought the actor they picked for Robert E. Lee was too heavy even though his face looked very much like Lee. Jared Harris on the other hand was a dead ringer for Grant. I liked how the movie showed the close and trusting relationship between Grant and Lincoln, and Seward and Lincoln.

Overall, I believe it is a must-see movie for all Americans and any others that wish to understand the civil war and our government better.

Mom turns the dining room into a sewing factory

My mom wanted to see the movie, but like me, she can get obsessed with projects. So she stayed home to  finish the drapes and bunting for the road show.  They are almost ready. We'll post more about them later.

November 18, 2012

December Road Show Work Session

The next ACWRR Road Show work session will be 1 December starting at 1300.  At this session we plan to install the foam terrain, roadbed. We also need to finish the framing for the staging section including devising a means to secure the front panel so that it is removable. Then we will paint the fascia, valance, and perhaps the base coat on the backdrop.

In the meantime my mom and I will be working on the curtains to hide the legs and a patriotic red, white and blue bunting for the front. The bunting was Marty's idea. I think it will add a nice touch to the layout.  My mom is visiting the next couple weeks and she brought her sewing machine with her.

Also at this session we will assess the lighting and decide if we need to take steps to adjust the colors of the light.

The recent Narrow Gauge convention in Seattle featured the debut of the Hangman Creek Narrow Gauge display layout. It won Best of Show at the convention. Here is a link for more information about it. Our project is much smaller in scope, but the two layouts share many ideas in presentation style.

November 13, 2012

Alexandria Design Revisited

Last weekend Gerry and I were discussing the potential layout expansion, which is at this time a mostly hypothetical exercise. I mentioned this a few weeks ago on the blog and showed two possible designs. One focused on Alexandria and the other expanded the Aquia Landing portion of my current layout. Gerry is an advocate of the Alexandria expansion. If I heard him right he believes this design would add variety to the layout and provide an interesting switching operation.

It is true that Alexandria waterfront would provide the opportunity to build an urban scene. I am not convinced that the switching would be that interesting.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the most important and predominant job would be the switching the car float. But that is just the reverse of the operation at the main wharf at Aquia Landing.  There are one or two other industries that could be worked in Alexandria. But it really isn't more than one crew to handle.

Another issue that makes me uncomfortable is that I don't have any reference material describing how the USMRR actually worked the Alexandria waterfront. I suspect that it was a local switch job served mostly by the former O&A yard at Duke and Henry streets, with occasional interchange with the AL&H yard at Oronoco Street.

Recognizing that the car float is the main operational feature, I redesigned the Alexandria layout by shrinking it and focusing on the car ferry operation. In this plan there would be two other industries to switch- the quartermaster warehouse in the old foundry, which was the location of the former Alexandria Locomotive Works, and a team track in front of (or is that behind?) Pioneer Mills.

One cool aspect of the Alexandria the plan is that it uses the area under the stairs to make the Wilkes Street tunnel active as a staging track. How many waterfronts have a tunnel one block from the water? Convincing my wife about adding another hole in the wall is a different story.

I did some rearranging of the buildings to place the biggest structure in the far corner. But the plan does include an "urban canyon."

Gerry suggests I put this up to a vote to the blog readership in the spirit of recent election in the US for our next president. So what do you say? You don't have to be a US citizen to vote. Just look at the previous plans on the earlier post and pick which you like best. Try to describe why you prefer it. Feel free to introduce alternate ideas if you wish. It's a relatively open slate.

November 12, 2012

LED lights Installed

The layout with the LED strips installed. Note the different colors. The iPhone camera accentuated the
color difference. It is not as noticeable to the eye, especially with overhead lights on.
I installed the LED strip lights to the inner edge of the valance over the past two days. They work well. I used two strips on the narrower sections and three strips on the widest section. After installing them, I noticed that the second strip I installed is not the same color light as the first. I ordered only cool white lights, but it looks like I got one of each. For now I'll live with it. But I may have to go back and swap some of the strips to allow each section to have similar colored light.

The issue that some have noted with LED strips  of light spots reflecting off the rail tops does not seem to be a problem. It may be a function of the relative angles of the lights and rail.

We tried a clear, patterned diffuser, but it didn't enhance the lighting. It was also very difficult to cut without cracking. So we opted not to use it.

The mock-ups show how quickly O scale models fill up the layout space. If you convert this 29 feet long layout to N scale it is equivalent to a 6 inch by 4 feet layout not counting the staging.

Some good photos angles will be available on the layout

November 11, 2012

Road Show and a Movie

Gerry came up for a work session Saturday and we worked on finishing the bench work for the Road Show. First we tried different combinations of valances and supports. Once we decided on a path, another trip to Home Dept was required to pick up the necessary supplies.

We decided to use 1x2's and 1/2x2's for the valance framing. This made it strong enough that one can lift the sections by the valance without damage.  We used tee nuts and 5/16th inch bolts to connect the sections. So there are no clamps needed.

The sections are fairly light, about 5-10 pounds with folding legs and valance. We did not use any exotic materials in the construction. Mostly kiln dried, premium pine lumber, quarter-inch plywood and eighth-inch masonite.   Each section can be lifted by one person, though two people make it easier as they are a bit bulky. We are glad we kept them to four foot lengths.   Gerry and I were discussing the fixation some have on light weight construction and we both believe that it can be taken too far.  Stay away from three quarter inch plywood and you'll be fine with regard to weight.

This shows the integral folding
legs on the slanted section
 The sections have integral folding legs with diagonal braces. Most of the sections have one set of legs, except the big end section and the bridge section. Gerry plans to work on the bridge section at his house, so he wanted it to be able to stand on its own.

To assemble the road show layout, the only tool needed is a 1/2 inch wrench. If you are in a hurry, a 1/2 inch socket in a power drill speeds things up. It should not take us more than 15 to 30 minutes to set up.

 On Sunday I finished adding the valance and fascia. It is now ready for the next steps -  lighting and the foam terrain.

On a separate subject, I received a notice from Google that my photo quota has reached its limit. So you may find some older photos missing as I go back and purge some images.

November 8, 2012

Cherbourg Harbor Diorama

It's been a busy time so no work to report on the rail gun, home layout or Road Show. However, I did come across an interesting diorama that I thought would be appropriate to share on this blog. It depicts a scene from World War II showing the Allies harbor in Cherbourg, France. It is built about HO scale with 1/72 to 1/96th scale models used. It is a massive project built by a club with members from Belgium.  Check it out.

We are having an ACWRR Road Show work session this weekend, so hopefully there will be progress to blog about soon. If you are in the neighborhood and want to check it out or help out, drop me a line.

October 30, 2012

Lee-Brooke Railway Gun

We made it through Hurricane Sandy with no damage. Our power flickered a few times, but it stayed on. Our sump pump was working nearly continuously and it did its job. We have battery back-up on the pump, but I am thinking a generator might be a good investment. Without that pump, the basement and layout would flood.

The Lee-Brooke Railway Gun. The LoC has a high resolution
 copy of this image.

Since I don't have enough to do, I added some more projects to my do list. The first is a model of the Lee-Brooke Railway Gun in 1:32 scale to match the Dictator mortar model I had made previously.  These two models will be on display at the B&O Railroad Museum next year. The Dictator is done, but the Lee-Brooke Gun has to be finished in a few weeks.

I plan to document the Lee-Brooke Gun construction in more detail in my book, but I posted some in-progress shots here. This is a tricky project as only two photos exist of this gun and many details are not visible. Dr Dave Schneider, of SMR Trains, did a good job of researching the gun and some of its construction details, but there are still many unanswered questions.

I was able to get good measurements of an existing rifled and banded Brooke 32 pound 57 cwt cannon at the Navy Yard in Washington.   I machined the model gun from brass rods. The main tube, trunnions and knob are separate pieces. Being brass they were easy to solder using my torch.

Using the gun dimensions and the rail gauge visible in the photo, I was able to scale most of the other dimensions of the model from the photos.

Brass cannon
I concluded that the plans in Alexander's book, while very good for overall proportion are off by about 50 percent. He assumed that the wheels are 33 inch wheels. But they are smaller, probably closer to 26-28 inches. I used 42 inch O scale wheels from NWSL (thanks are due to Derrel and Linda at NWSL for the rush job in shipping the wheels to me.) These scale out to 28 inches in 1:32nd scale.

I machined axles out of iron rods. The trucks are laser cut wood and plastic. I used photo etched brake parts from my O scale cars to fabricate the brakes for the rear truck.

Trucks and frame before decking.

I decided to make all the wheels on pivoting trucks based on the truss rod patterns on the side frames. They indicated to me that the front truck was similar to the rear two trucks. It is moot since in normal viewing, you really can't see the trucks. I also added the truss rods on the frame even though they are not visible from above.

It should be noted that this car has no evidence of longitudinal truss rods. I suspect that the lengthwise planks  as well as the heavy wood framing for the ironclad casement also serve as the the longitudinal stiffeners. I originally added longitudinal frame blocking, but removed them after reconsidering the location of the truss rods. I probably should have added two lengthwise beams and used transverse blocking. Oh well. I will change that the next time I do it, maybe in O Scale.

The gun carriage was really a dilemma, as I could find no other cannon with a carriage like this one. It looks to me that they took a seacoast casement  carriage from a fortress and modified it to fit. It appears to be a cross between the casement carriage (Plate 10 US Army Ordnance manual) and the carriage for flank  casements (Plate 11 US Ordnance manual). But many of the visible details don't match either of those guns. The number of steps on the side walls, the screw elevation and the type of gun are different. The Plate 10 carriage is close but there is no tongue on this gun, and the wheel tracks on the rails are different. In fact, the wheel tracks are not visible in the Lee-Brooke Railway Gun photo, but I assumed they are there and hidden by the view angle of the photo.

Gun and carriage sitting on chassis. The casement is
So the approach I took was to copy all the detail that I could see and then did a little imagineering for the rest.  Based on the angle that the carriage rails sit on, I suspect it may have some type of pintle giving it a limited traverse.  I plan on adding that feature.

Given the dearth of information, any suggestions would be appreciated.

October 28, 2012

Meanwhile, back on the layout...

Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on the Mid-Atlantic and we are all standing by hoping it will spare us. With our storm preparations complete, I thought I would do a blog post to catch up some loose ends.

Last month I did a quick scratch build of a simple cook house for the tavern scene. The idea for the cook house came from some books I borrowed from Gerry Fitzgerald about vernacular architecture. In particular the book, Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery (Fred W. Morrison Series in Southern Studies) was very handy. I based my building on a similar structure from this book. This building houses a kitchen and servants quarters. The servants were likely slaves before the Union Army arrived. The building is now being used by the Army as a kitchen and Quartermaster office.

I used Tichy windows and scribed siding. The roof shingles are laser cut red cedar with self-stick adhesive. The chimney is a simple scratchbuild from sheets of brick paper over a wood core. Due to the steep hillside, I had to install the building on wooden pilings.
The cook house uphill from the tavern

To complete the tavern scene I will also add a well house, cold cellar, hitching post and other details. I started adding some fencing, but more of these will be required. I also need to paint the backdrop in this area.

Edwin Alexander's figures
A photo from Alexander's book showing some of these
figures on his layout.
Yesterday I received in the mail and package from John Brazaitis containing 6 O scale figures. He purchased these figures from Edwin Alexander near forty years ago.

This is a real treat for me, because about 20 years ago I purchased a copy of Alexander's book, "Civil War Railroads and Models." I saw it on the discount table at Crown Books (now defunct) and purchased it.  Since then I  have studied and examined this book endless times so that the binding is worn out and the pages are coming loose.  In large part it was my inspiration to try some Civil War Railroad modeling. So I am very grateful to John for sending me these figures. I look forward to painting them and adding them to a prominent place on the layout.

Lets hope we have a home and layout to come back to after the storm passes over.