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.

January 30, 2013

Baby needs new shoes

As I mentioned a few days ago, the bridge needed some type of shoe where the lower chords touch the abutments. This required that I remove some of the stone on the abutment to allow room for the new bridge shoes.

The abutments are two layers of aspen wood, so it was fairly easy to cut away one course of the stone from the first layer. I sanded the cuts smooth and then added a thin layer of Milliput to simulate the cut stone face. Once that cured overnight, I repainted the abutments and the surgery is barely noticeable.

I made bridge shoes from a piece of 0.25 by .375 inch basswood stock using prototype photos as a guide. I glued the shoes on the chords and test fit the bridge. One abutment needed a minor tweak and it was done.

As I looked at the bridge installed, I decided I did not like the contrast between the dark burned laser-cut edges versus the uncut edges of each member. So I used my airbrush to spray a thin coat of Vallejo Light Brown over the laser cut edges to lighten them. I thinned the paint about 50 percent and sprayed in light passes trying not to obscure the detail and avoid overspray on other parts. In the end, the effect worked and I think the bridge looks much better.

Now it's ready to be glued in place and track spiked up to it.

January 28, 2013

Truss Bridge Complete

I finished the truss bridge by fixing the reversed braces and adding the abutments. The braces now point in the correct direction.

The bridge was longer than we planned, so I had to do another iteration of shaving the left abutment to make room. I made the abutments with a double layer of 1/4 inch aspen wood. I laser cut the stone patterns. Then I added a layer of Milliput putty to the surface to simulate the rough stone typical of the era.

There is not a lot of clearance between the bottom of the bridge and the water, so I did not add a any type of bridge shoe.  However, there probably should be something. Adding a bridge shoe will require a slight modification to the abutment, but it is not impossible.

The bridge can currently be removed with the track since it is spiked on it. Once it is installed, we have to glue it in and attach the rail with joiners to keep it secure.

Next on the critical path is the turntable. I was planning on using my current turntable and popping in in place here. But now I think I will build a new one just for this layout.

One other task I wrapped up this evening was painting some figures. I started painting some of these Sash and Saber figures a few years ago, but never finished them. So tonight, I took two of the Trident miniatures and painted them along with finishing the other batch of Sash and Sabers. I painted these as African Americans with a Caucasian officer. These soldiers will represent part of the USCT infantry assigned to guard the depot. This was a typical mission for the newly raised USCT units at this time period. The Trident figures are very nicely sculpted. I would rank them as the best of the ACW 40mm figures I have tried.

Another Land Merrimack

I received a note from Greg Vigle, a collector of model artillery. He sent me some photos of an model of the Land Merrimack rail gun he bought from an estate sale. Here is what he said,

By chance I happened to find photos on the military railroad page of a remarkable model that you recently constructed of the famous Petersburg railroad cannon. I was utterly astounded, especially given the timing, to find this, because I very recently acquired an almost equally remarkable model of the same piece, made over 25 years ago! I am attaching a scan of two photos of this model, taken by the maker. The scale is probably about 1/24, with the entire model about 11 inches long
              The man who made it was named Joseph Sckripkunas, he was a former machinist who specialized in making incredibly detailed models of cannons. He made over 300 over a 30 year period, and was very well known in the model cannon world. I acquired a substantial number of his remaining smaller models last year from a friend of his who was the executor of his estate, he passed away early last year. This particular model was apparently one of his most prized, with good reason.
              Like you, he had only the two known photos to go on, plus similar amounts of additional historical information (he was an expert on cannons in general). But, he most likely only had access to photos reproduced in books, as opposed to high-res 8x10 prints (I now have the latter, of both of the known photos). 
It looks like a section of G gauge track under the model, so the scale is probably close to 1/32 assuming it was built on standard gauge track.

It is different from my model in some respects, but overall, it is a very attractive model.

Thanks Greg for sending the photos and story.

January 27, 2013

Star Power

Attention, Generals Grant and Sherman will be visiting Atlanta next summer. At least, 1/43rd scale versions of them will be. I worked on these two figures over the past two days. Here is a brief description of the work.

The Grant figure is a Foundry casting. They captured his face very well, along with the cigar in his hand. The pose is a bit strange as his feet splay wide apart.  I did not have the horse that came with the figure. So I scrounged around and used a 1/35th scale Cossack pony from a Dragon set. Grant's favorite horse, Cincinnati, was  big -- 17 hands tall -- and powerful, while Grant was 5'8" and slightly built. Nonetheless, the larger scale pony was a bit too big. To make the horse appear smaller I sanded the two halves by about 2mms thinning the body. I also took about 1 mm off the withers making it shorter. I added the general officer blanket to the saddle made with sheet pewter. Some two part epoxy created a saddle for the Army commander. I  added some reins using .010 by 0.030 inch styrene strip.

General Sherman started out ironically enough as the Trident Stonewall Jackson figure. He had Shermans'  6' tall, lean look. I did several modifications to the body. First I shaved off the buttons and replaced them with dots of putty in accordance with a Union general officer. I carved off Jackson's knee high boots and filed the legs to look like long trousers. I also lengthened the figure's frock coat using putty to look more like a Union officer's. I cut away the binoculars in the figure's right hand and reshaped the hand with epoxy putty. I made a new saddle and blanket using pewter and epoxy putty. I shaved off the cast on reins and added new ones with .010 by 0.030 inch styrene strip. I also used styrene strip to add shoulder bards. Finally, I swapped heads with a spare from a Trident set of Confederates. I had to reshape the hat, but the face was very close to Sherman's.

These figures will be placed on the road show, but for now I photographed them on my layout.

January 22, 2013

Rail Guns Delivered

Dan stands by one of the exhibits.
I delivered the model rail guns to Dan Toomey at the B&O Museum.  Dan is the curator in charge of designing the War Came by Train Exhibit at the B&O Museum. The exhibit changes each year to reflect the major events of that year 150 years ago in the ACW. The rail guns will be part of the third year exhibit.

The second year the exhibit focused on the Invasion of Maryland and the battle of Antietam, especially the aftermath in treating the casualties. Note the hospital car models behind Dan.

I also had the honor of buying the first copy of Dan's new book titled, "The War Came by Train -  the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad during the Civil War." It was hot off the press and Dan was graciously enough to sign it for me. I will do a detailed review once I have had a chance to read it. But in flipping through it I was excited to see it is not a dry economic description of the railroad, but a detailed account of the people, battles, equipment and operations of the railroad. There is a remarkable picture in it that I have never seen before of several B&O engines in front of the hotel in Grafton, WV.  I look forward to reading the book.

Dan gave me a  brief tour of  the museum to see what is new. The Mason is out getting a boiler refit, so it was replaced with a restored Camel engine.  It is a beautifully ugly beast -  resplendent in its red wheels and trim. I failed to get a picture of it. Doh!

Saying good bye to Dan, I drove to M.B. Kleins hobby store, now in Cockeysville, MD. I picked up some basic supplies, though MBK doesn't have a good supply of scratch building materials.

I purchased two new colors of the Woodland Scenics fine-foliage, light green and olive green, to test against the backdrop. I can't decide which color is best.

 After dinner I proceeded to work on the Truss bridge. I realized that the trusses visible in most of the photos we have were not pin-connected like my earlier arched truss, but "standard" Howe Trusses with counter braces and cast iron pockets for the diagonal members and wrought iron rods for the tension members. Note that the diagonals are doubled in one direction and single (the counter brace) in the other.
It took several hours of drawing to redesign the parts, but once I cut them on the laser, assembly proceeded quickly (including the 828 NBWs!) I need to finish the stringers, ties, rail and upper truss and it will be ready for placement on the abutments, which also need to be made.

In placing the bridge, over Muddy Creek it looks like we need to push the left abutment back about one more inch. That is easy with the foam construction we used.

I also realized that I have half of the diagonal bridge members reversed in the model. In a Howe truss the doubled diagonals should be symmetric to the vertical center line. So three panels are one way and three the other.

I laid them all out the same.  I hope that will not be too hard to fix.

Finally, to wrap up a big day, Andy at Train Troll sent me some photos of the packet boat that will be on the left hand part of the layout. This is an HO scale model of a scow-hull towboat that he will scale up for the O Scale packet boat. It is very similar to the Clinch that we decided to use on the layout.

January 20, 2013

First Run on the Road Show

Fueled by another of Gerry's chocolate cakes and a great dinner by Alicia,  Chief Vivandière, the USMRR work crews made a lot of progress today. Gerry arrived early and after a brief discussion proceeded to widen the gap over Muddy Creek by removing some of the embankment fill.

This made the scene work better with the planned Howe truss bridge. During the ACW railroad engineers would opt for trestle work or longer wooden bridges instead of earthen fill embankments. Moving earth was expensive in this era. Wooden structures were cheaper. The through truss represents a pre-fab bridge installed by the USMRR after the original was burned.

Bridge mock up over the widened Muddy Creek

Gluing in the first ties
When that was complete, we proceeded to glue the ties in for the track. We started with the right hand turnout at the start of the passing siding. That is the most important siding as the mainline begins a curve as it exits that siding. Using some pre-cut turnout templates and rough ties, all cut on the laser, the tie installation went smoothly and quickly. We had all the ties except for the turntable lead installed before dinner.

View down the track

After a delicious chicken dinner we sanded the ties and Gerry stained them while I started the artwork for the laser cutting of the Howe bridge truss. With all the ties stained, we quickly spiked in some rail and ran the first train on the road show.

I was hoping to have trains running by Christmas, so we are about 25 days late. But progress is now going rapidly and we should be ready for the summer NMRA show in Atlanta. 

Using laser cut jigs to hold the rail while spiking

The first cut of the Howe truss was helpful to check the design even though it ended up being about a half inch too squat. I need to redraw it with an additional half inch added between the chords to allow clearance for the locomotives in the through truss.

January 17, 2013

Tree Test

I experimented with some trees tonight to determine how the colors and techniques were going to work. For the basic process I used SuperTrees with a wire and wood armature to make a deciduous tree.

I had several packages of Woodland Scenics Fine-Leaf Foliage, medium green (F1131). These packages contain about 75 cubic inches of SuperTree material  that has been treated with an adhesive and coated with ground foam.  They seem to force the clumps into "tree-like" shapes because if you examine each cluster, you find the smaller branches going in random directions instead of radiating out for the main trunk. In O scale these trees will only work in the background or as bushes. Their trunks are too wispy to represent a mature tree in O Scale.

Before clipping the needles
I had a tree armature left over from a pine tree experiment (see photo at left).  I was not happy with the bumpy chenille I used as pine needles. So I clipped them off and repainted the bare trunk.

Then I took the worst-shaped clumps of fine-leaf foliage from the WS package and started gluing them to the armature with CAA and zip-kicker.

I found that I had more reticulation in the armature than I needed as the clumps of fine-leaf foliage were able to cover fairly big gaps. I used about one whole package of WS Fine-Leaf  Foliage for this tree, though I also got one good looking O Scale shrub to use along the backdrop.

Once the foliage was on, I sprayed the whole tree with matt varnish and sprinkled on some green blend ground foam to cover some bare spots.

I found that the faded green trees on the backdrop were not dark and saturated enough to blend with the WS medium green foliage, especially when the foliage is right against the backdrop.  So I got out my paints and used  Cadmium Yellow and Ultramarine Blue (green shade) with a touch of Paynes Gray to add an area of more intense colors where the trees will abut the backdrop.  I darken the shadows and added brighter highlights.  I think I got a good color match.

One O Scale tree covers a lot of ground!

Overall I think the test was a success. There will not be a lot of trees on the layout, so the ones we have must be well executed.

January 16, 2013

Basic Terrain and Backdrop Coloring

The Muddy Creek bridge is a forested and swampy area. 
I painted the scenery today. Since we are using wood ties for the track, the terrain under the ties must be painted before installing the ties. So using a mix of burnt sienna, golden brown, brunt umber and trusty C&O Mountain Sub green, I gave the terrain a basic coloring. Before I did that I painted the blue sky with a few clouds as I didn't want to drip blue paint on the painted scenery. C&O Mountain Sub green is a grayish green color I have used on many of my previous modules and layouts. It works very well with the scenic materials from Woodland Scenics and others.

The overall layout depicts a scene on the Tennessee River, so I used some photos from that area to get ideas for the backdrop. I painted a distant ridge line on the backdrop. I haven't decided how the foreground of the backdrop will be painted. Much of it will not be visible once the structures are installed, so I may wait until they are done to see what works best.

It is amazing what a difference the backdrop makes. I also noted that the LED lighting is very effective with the brighter backdrop. They are working out just fine. It is starting to look like a layout!

I placed a depot from my home layout on the Road Show to get an idea of how things will look.

Testing one of Brian's backdrops behind the depot. This building is also from my layout
and is a stand in for now. The water battery is in the foreground.

January 15, 2013

Road Show Terraformed

The revetments for the water battery can be seen in this photo
With the terrain forms carved I added a layer of light weight patching plaster to smooth out the carved terrain. Before I did that, I made sure all the pink pieces were securely glued to the plywood surface and backdrop. I used yellow glue along the perimeter in places where it was needed.

I carved a trail heading down to the waters edge on the shipyard scene. Most of this slope will be covered with a marine ways showing a barge under construction.
The bottom photo shows a mock-up of the through truss bridge planned for that section. Also visible are some bluffs and slopes I added to give that section some vertical relief. This will add some variety as the other sections are essentially flat.

January 13, 2013

Road Show Work Session and Visitors

With the rail guns complete it was time to get get back working on the road show. Gerry stopped by on Saturday with another chocolate cake to energize us as we laid the sub-road bed for the layout.

Modifying the track plan
As we laid out the turnout mock-ups to see how the track plan looked in full scale, we decided to make some tweaks.  There would have been a nasty "Ess" curve in the three-way turnout in front  of the ship yard, so we removed it and simplified the whole design a bit.

With a finalized track plan, we cut strips of 1/8 inch aspen plywood for the sub-road bed. We glued this to the foam with yellow carpenters glue. We placed weights on road bed sections so they would dry flat and smooth on the pink foam.

River bank taking shape in front of the ship yard

With the glue drying on the road bed pieces, we used knives, key hole saws and Surform tools to shape the foam terrain.  In some places we glued small sections of foam back on the layout to make the river bank look more varied. The yellow glue on pink foam can take a long time to dry, especially in areas where the pink foam abuts pink foam. In some cases, the glue will never dry as it makes an airtight seal. But as long as it dries on the perimeter, we should be OK.

Mike, in his secret mission as a rebel spy,
is  plotting how to sabotage the Aquia Line.

Later on Saturday Mike Garber from Richmond and Peter Sefton from Alexandria stopped by to visit.

Mike is a HO modeler from Richmond, VA. He works for VDOT. He has relatives that fought in the ACW for the CSA.

Peter Sefton and I discuss the burned station at Falmouth

Like me, Peter is native New Yorker, but unlike me, is now retired as a census official. He  is very involved in historic preservation of structures in the Alexandria and Washington area. He lives in Alexandria. He has an interesting web page here 

January 11, 2013

New Maps of USMRR Aquia Line

I recently discovered the Historical Map and Chart Collection of the NOAA Office of Coast Survey. After some searching on their site  I found two new maps (to me at least!) of the USMRR Aquia Line.

The first one is quite interesting as it shows the HQ locations of the major units. It also shows many of the structures that occupied the area.

The second map shows the USMRR Aquia line in the upper right corner of a fairly large map. It is interesting as it shows a lot of woods and stream detail. Many of the farm houses are also identified.  You can find that map at this link http://historicalcharts.noaa.gov/historicals/preview/image/CWEVA

January 1, 2013

B&O Ironclad Car -- Take 2 (or 3 or 4?)

I was not happy with the earlier model.  So I tried again. The armor should be railroad iron. So it should have a "Tee" rail profile, not a rectangle. I was using code 55 rail to simulate the armor, which is close to the scale size, but is very fine.

I tried several techniques to secure code 55 rail to the sides of the car to simulate the iron armor. On the fourth try I decided to use two-sided transfer tape. That make sticking the iron bars easier to position and reposition if necessary. It also prevented glue globs from showing between the rails. I used the laser to engrave a set of lines to help in the spacing. Even with that the rails did not line up perfectly, but I think it helps the model.

The two finished cars compared. A couple others ended up in the trash.
The transfer tape is quite permanent. The rails are secure enough, especially for a static model.

As for colors, we don't know what they actually were. The dark gray armor on freight car red looked good to me.

So this is the version that will go to the B&O Museum. The earlier version will go on my layout for escort duty.

A slightly revised rear end.

The business end with the gun port cover. The cover was operated by a lever inside the car.