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 23, 2012

The light at the end of the...bridge?

It was a busy weekend and by the end of it, the Potomac Creek bridge scene was almost done. The scenery needs to dry so that I can install the final layer of details and add the resin water. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Gerry spiking rail at Brook
On Saturday, the USMRR Construction Corps showed up for a work session. Gerry Fitzgerald was the instigator, as he emailed me earlier in the month requesting a session. He went to work spiking rail at Brooke.

JB Weilepp installed stumps along the backdrop behind the cemetery.

John Drye worked on building a revetment for the battery that the rebels originally built on the south side of the bridge, but now used by the Union Army. Records from the archives show only two 3 inch rifles assigned to guard the bridge.

JD working on the gun position
Doug Gurin and Marty McGuirk worked on twisting pairs of floral wire for trees. Marty followed Grodon's Gravett's technique while Doug used the Harvard Forestry Museum technique to create pairs. Doug's technique involved twisting increasing smaller loops. It created very detailed, but smaller branches. Marty's pairs left the long end of the wire untwisted, so they will make a nice big tree. I suggested he aim for a Tulip Tree (also called Yellow Poplar in Virginia). They are characterized by tall straight trucks with a large crown. I may try using Dougs pairs with a a heavier gauge wire trunk to simulate a yellow pine, but there still is the pesky issue of the pine needles.

Doug watching JB ad stumps behind the cemetery. Photo by Gerry
The model trees did not get finished, but they made enough pairs to make at least two good sized foreground trees.

Here I am installing the road using Durhams
Water Putty. Photo by Gerry
I worked on the Potomac Creek scene. I added a dirt road with a simple road bridge over the creek.

After a dinner break, we watched a VHS copy of a silent, 1935 era film showing how the Harvard Museum workers made the dioramas for the forest museum. That was a neat video, though I must admit I dozed off during it. They actually used photo etched pine needles for their model pine trees! I wonder if I should try that?

Later that evening some of my daughter's friends, Chris Dembowski and  Becka James visited the layout.

On Sunday, it was quite rainy, so I spent the afternoon and evening trying to finish up the Potomac Creek scene, I added lots of background trees, stumps and debris around the bridge piers. I touched up the backdrop in a few places to better blend with the foreground scenery.

Then I built a 28mm wagon kit from Perry. I added a canvas cover using cooking parchment paper. I tried using tissue, but it did not hold up when I painted it. I lettered it for 5th Corps Supply Train, the unit stationed near Potomac Creek. I used a fine marker to add the letters. I gave it a basic paint job, as it will be a background model.

This is not an very accurate model for an 1860s era Army Escort Wagon, as the feed trough is missing, the front seat is different and the detailing of the wood sides is not exactly right. But it does have the overall, correct appearance, so it works well in the background. The mules that came with the kit are nice models including the tack and hardware attached to the mules. I did not model the straps and reins. That would be a challenging model to try at some point.

The wagon helps hide the seam where the road meets the backdrop.
Good overview of the road bridge and wagon

A view from under the bridge looking toward the backdrop

The artillery revetment on the south rim of the gap.


  1. Absolutely gorgeous! Museum quality, Bernie.
    Hope to get over to see it some time soon.


  2. Re - Pine Needles...how about brown or dark green static grass?