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.

March 27, 2013

So that's what barn red looks like!?

I fired up the laser tonight to cut some of the parts for the engine house. I decided to go with a single stall house. I used the engine house at City Point as a guide, but obviously with two less stalls, and only one engine deep. I laser cut the frames from my usual 1/8th inch aspen plywood. I also used some 1/4 inch stock for foundation beams, and some 1/16 basswood for the vents in the roof top monitor.  I painted the laser cut frames various shades of tan and khaki to disguise the laser burn marks.

Then I cut some sheets of scribed board and batten basswood  for the siding. They went on fairly easily. So I decided to give the siding a shot of Mt Albert Barn Red alcohol stain. I had purchased this  a few years ago and never had an opportunity to use it. I thought it could work on this building.  After brushing it on, I was not happy how it came out. First, I had some glue stains on the siding that prevented even absorption. It also accentuated the grain across several boards, and thus one could tell this was scribed siding and not individual boards. So I got out the airbrush and hit the siding with thin coats of Vallejo Hull Red, Black Grey, Black and Sand. I think I'll let it dry over night and see how it looks.

I may have to repaint it if it doesn't lighten a bit overnight as the alcohol dye evaporates. This photo by Paul Ward shows a barn with a red finish similar to the paint job I ended up getting. Looks like some gray drybrushing might help my model. But  the black air brushed stains look alike.

By the way, if you haven't try Vallejo airbrush paint, you should. It is the best air brush paint I have tried. The best feature is that it doesn't clog the air brush, plus it dries flat and covers well.

March 26, 2013

Road Show Track Plan Update

Here is an updated track plan reflecting the as-built track configuration. Some of the structres have been modified from the original plan. The QMD Clinch has been delayed indefinitely due to personal issues, so we will replace it with a barge loaded with forage and other supplies. We will leave a space for the QMD Clinch if it can be built later.

I added a small wharf at the far left. This is intended to help disguise the joint where the  river intersects the left hand backdrop. But, I am concerned that in all the photos I have seen of western rivers,  I have not seen any pictures of a wharf on the river.

If anyone has ideas on how to better treat that area, I am I open to suggestions.

I added the doors and roof to the depot. I still need to add the shingles, chimneys and the platform.

March 24, 2013

Running to the Road Show Depot

Before the run
It was a very early wake up, and a chilly morning for Steve Greene, about 700 others and I,  as we ran the Reston Half-Marathon (others did the full marathon). Steve is a KS fraternity brother from MIT.  He and I had never run a half marathon before, but we both did pretty well -  for two ancient Frat Boyz. I met my personal goal of running it under 2:00 hours, even with the hilly course (about 800 feet of vertical gain).

I was tired this afternoon from the run, so I worked on building the depot for the road show (which involved lots of sitting).  I used the depot at Cairo as inspiration.

I went with painted walls as I was getting tired of raw stained wood on most of the other structures.

I painted the laser cut interior  framing with khaki paint. Most of the interior will not be visible once the building is installed, but I will add some details that might be visible through an open door or window.  Speaking of windows, these  are Tichy parts that now come with very nice laser cut acetate glazing that fits perfectly.
The depot will be a half-flat against the backdrop. Most of the structures will be like this.

Interior structure will be largely invisible

March 23, 2013

Spikes, Staging and Cream Puffs!

We had a very productive work session today. First my mom finished the bunting sections as the last batch of fabric arrived. We put them up for a test of the final look, but we will remove them when scenery work begins.

Then  JB Weilepp, Joel Salmons and Paul Dolkos showed up.  Paul went to work on installing the rail on the ship yard warehouse siding extension, since it was his idea to extend that siding in the first place. I had previously installed the ties, so he just had to spike in the rail.

Fiddle yard in place
In the meantime, Joel was on spiking duty else where on the layout, filling in spikes as needed. Both Paul and Joel discovered that many spikes were bending upon insertion. I had the same problem earlier. I think the batch of carpenter's glue I used to secure the ties is too hard and it was causing the spikes to bend.

JB and I went to work on the staging/ fiddle yard. We built the front wall so that it is removable. It is framed around the perimeter with wood, to stiffen the wall and act as a ...well... frame.  We also added a lateral sky board to the right hand side of the bridge section. This sky board is removable too. Thus,  it can be removed and installed next to the depot section, if Gerry's bridge section is not available. This sky board will get a hole cut in it to allow the trains to pass, but we wont cut the hole until the spackeling I added along the bottom to fill in the gap dries. We inserted a piece of wax paper to prevent the spackling from sticking to the removable sky board.

The staging/fiddle section and side sky board really do a nice job of encapsulating the layout. They really pull the scene together.

JB then started work on converting the O Scale Lou's Cafe to the Post Office. This kit is a styrene building flat. JB removed the third story and added a new cornice. The new cornice uses a crown molding left over from when I built a doll house for my daughter, plus a new dentil trim that I laser cut. He also cut 1 inch wide clapboard walls to give the flat some depth. He promised to bring the completed model back next week.

Removable sky board with future hole for tracks. We have to wait for the spackling to dry. Wax paper prevents the
spackling from sticking to the removable sky board.

Some trees temporarily placed to show how the exit hole will be hidden

The fiddle yard

Joel and JB also volunteered to build flat cars. So both went home with flat car kits that I laser cut.

About half way through the session we stopped for a coffee and cream puff break. These were Italian style Profiterole di San Guiseppe, which are cream puffs stuffed with vanilla custard spiked with Vodka and Triple Sec (we did not have rum). My mom and I had made them on Thursday and we had about a dozen left to eat. They are like little bites of heaven. Yummy!

All in all a great session.

March 21, 2013

No matter how many times I cut it, it's still too short

I installed the tracks on the turntable and lead. Here is a short video demonstrating its operation. It is a manual turntable both in model and prototype. 

The turntable is based on a design used by the USMRR in several locations. Here is an image of one in Alexandria, VA

March 17, 2013

A Multi-Pronged Assault

3D master model above
a wooden truck
Work progressed on several fronts this weekend. First, my son Chase was visiting and we fired up the vulcanizer and spin caster  to try making some cast metal freight car trucks. I have been working with Eric Cox at Panamint Models to develop an O scale truck. Eric did the master using a 3D software package and the Shapeways Printing Service.

The image at the left shows the 3D master compared to one of my wood trucks. I was concerned that the master was too wide. But the parts fit together amazing well. The precision of the 3D printer is impressive. Eric is also an excellent designer. The parts had all the correct detail.

The Ultra Frosted Detail resin from the 3d Printer survived the vulcanizing mold making process at 300 degrees F for three hours. However, the undercuts on the brake shoes caused them to rip off as we removed the softened resin from the mold.  After prepping the mold with gates and vents, we made about 15 pulls with white metal. The mold worked well, though we were getting some leaking near the end.

As cast parts. The bolster was too wide.
The casting had some flash, distortion and shrinking, so the parts did not fit as precisely as the master. But they looked great. As I suspected the master was too wide and the NWSL wheel sets barely fit in the truck.

I decided to laser cut new bolsters. They were 1.55 inches long and fit perfect. These are visible in the last truck photo. I drilled out the axle hole in the first truck I tried, so you can see the axle shaft. But I found out that wasn't necessary to clear the side frames. So the second truck has the journal caps in place.

Revised trucks with laser cut bolsters
I sent samples of the casting and two NWSL wheel sets to Eric so he can evaluate them.  He plans to revise the master to fit these wheel sets better.

The brake detail on these cars is great, but making the brakes work will be tricky.

I also learned that I needed to add insulating washers on the axles to prevent the outer face of the wheels from rubbing the side frame and causing a short.

Also arriving this weekend was a package from Brian Kammerer with a batch of twigs he found that have excellent branch detail. He had prepared them in glycerine and water. I let the twigs dry in the garage over night. Then I hit them with brown, khaki and black paint. I used some of them as background trees and to fill in some of the forest areas. They look great. Thanks Brian!

On the road show, I added the sub road bed for the tracks to the engine terminal.

My mom is working on revising the bunting. We replaced the earlier swags with a pleated skirting made with the red-white and blue with stars bunting. So far, everyone agrees that they look better.

If that wasn't enough we had golf lessons and I did a 10.25 mile run to prep for a half marathon next weekend. Whew! A busy weekend.

New bunting for the road show

March 11, 2013

First Op Session on the Road Show

It was ladies book club night again at the Dolkos House, so Paul discreetly slipped away to my house play trains with me. He brought a bunch of goodies with him, including some trees he built for his previous layout that he no longer needs. They will be used in the deep scene near Accokeek Creek.

He also had a copy of the current Popular Photography magazine where there is an article describing Paul's work as a model railroad photography specialist. That was very cool.

Paul working on the link and pin couplers at the depot track
With the niceties out of the way, I made up a switch list and put Paul to work doing a test session on the road show. It was an abbreviated session as the turntable is not yet in service.

Paul was able to switch seven cars using the battery powered Engine Whiton. It took him a bit of acclimation to get familiar with the link and pin couplers and the Stanton Throttle. But once he got the hang of it things went smoothly. Right at the end of the session car 1142 derailed on a switch. I pulled it off and it looks like one of the wheel sets was sticking. I added some lube and it was back in service. (Note: a day later I did some more testing and decided to swap out the problem truck with a new one. I am redesigning all my trucks to use NWSL wheel sets. Any that cause trouble will be replaced.)

Over all things worked well. Paul is taller than I. The valance is at an inconvenient height for him when he works the layout.  It might be possible to add extensions to the legs to raise it up a few inches. Right now the legs were limited by the need to fold into the benchwork. So the track is about 48 inches high. A few extra inches might help.

He suggested an extension of the shipyard siding onto the adjoining section to make room for another car.  That is a good idea that I thought about too and now plan to add.

We also looked at the configuration of the engine terminal tracks. We discussed adding a third radial track  to expand the capacity and making a two stall engine house. But then we came upon the idea of using just one track to the engine house but making it longer. In this scheme, an engine could be in the house and one on the approach track. This would also leave ample room for the water tank and wood rick between the approach track and the engine house. That seemed like the best solution.

March 10, 2013

A little garden work

Going static grass crazy. I also added sedum bushes to fill in the underground on the edge of the tree line.
This weekend gave us a little hint that spring might be on the way.  I helped AW do some yard chores including harvesting sedum and miniature crepe myrtle shrubs for use as scenery on the layout. 

Shoe box full of sedum
We had one large sedum plant that made many, many seed clusters. Unfortunately, AW accidentally discarded half of the total in the compost pile. But I was able to get enough flower clusters to fill two shoe boxes.

The sedum flower clusters have an incredible amount of fine textured branches terminating in the seed pods. You must remove the seed pods by gently rubbing them with your fingers. If the plants are dry, most of the seed pods easily fall off. Some of the branch texture invariably also falls off too, but usually there is enough left if you are careful to make decent O scale shrubs.

You can not use the flower clusters as finished trees as they have a flattened shape that resembles trees on the African savannah. But the individual twigs make great shrubs. I used one shoebox-worth to detail the area between Accokeek and Potomac Creeks.
The seed pods can also be used as leaf litter. I screen them in a strainer to remove the twigs. Them I put the seed pods in a blender to grind them finer.

We had less luck with the miniature crepe myrtles this year. They have gotten bigger and as a result, the twigs are too leggy. They no longer have the branch structure to make good O Scale armatures. I was able to use a few of them in the tree line.

Since the sedum were nicely dried out, I decided to try out them on the layout. While I was at it I added some Silfor Goldenrod plants along side the sedum bushes in select spots. I put the goldenrod in foreground locations so they would be obvious.

Static grass and goldenrod help detail the paddock near the mill.

Conductor Bisgeier admires the goldenrod plants

The area in the notch in the fence by the mill was a good spot for a dense thicket of sedum shrubs.

Finally I added static grass to several locations. Since my layout represents early April 1863, some of the grass would be starting to green up.

This kind of scenery work is my absolute favorite part of model railroading. It really makes the layout come to life. The new static  grass and Silfor products combined with natural materials can really be effective.

Goldenrod and sedum detail the slope around the culvert. The dry sedum is fragile so placing it in
foreground locations can be trouble.

March 9, 2013

As the table turns

The turntable for the road show is nearly done. I completed the pit and the bridge. Once the glue holding the pit in place dries, I'll be able to spike in the rail and finish up the track on the road show.

March 4, 2013

Sterling Models Trees

AW and I were in Florida last weekend to try to find some warm weather and play golf. But alas, mother nature didn't cooperate and it was down right cold. Even the birds were confused.

We returned home to find a large box from Sterling Models in the mail. I had ordered three yellow pine trees from them in November. Sterling Models is a husband and wife team that make trees and other scenery  items. They have a long backlog, so the trees just arrived nearly 5 months after I ordered them.

I was extremely impressed with the packaging. The trees were individually packed in custom fitted tubes with detailed instructions for unpacking, which included pulling a lanyard to pop certain glue joints. Very cool.

I temporarily placed the trees on the layout to see how they look.

I plan to order more. They are not inexpensive, but they do look good and save me a lot of time. I placed an order for 8 more.