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.

May 30, 2013

Forage Barge

Waiting for the glue to dry on the forage bales before deciding to keep them
Andy's barge arrived today.  It is very nicely down. I decided to try to make some fodder bales using some fine straw I collected from my wife's garden last year. I had been saving it for this purpose.

The straw is very fine and quite unruly. I grabbed a handful of it and wrapped it with tan colored thread. Then I went along the length with a bead of CAA to secure the thread and hold the straw fibers together. Once the CAA set, I cut 1.25 inch lengths of the straw to create the bales. Then I hit each bale with wet water and dilute white glue.

I arranged the bales in the barge to let them dry in place. Since I did not have enough bales to fill the barge,  I also added some barrels.

While I like the look of the straw, it is too unkempt. I will wait for the glue to dry and then attempt to trim the loose fibers. I have used paint brush bristles to simulate straw in the past. I may try them if these don't work out.

The barrels are wide enough that five can't fit snuggly and four are too loose. I suppose in a situation like that, they would lash them down. So that will be the next step.

If the forage can't be made to look right, we can replace the forage with lumber. Whatever ends up in the barge, I don't want to hide all the neat frame work on Andy's model.

Thanks Andy for a really cool model.

May 27, 2013

Making a Tennessee River Run

In between other jobs this Memorial Day weekend, I added the water to the Tennessee River.  I used about 12 light coats of Minwax Gloss Polyurethane. After the first few coats I realized that the surface prep was inadequate. So I stripped off the first water layers. Then I applied a thin coat of wood putty  to fill the imperfections and sanded it smooth when it was dry. Then I repainted the surface dark blue and black with a fade to mud at the shorelines applied by airbrush.

While I had the paint out, I gave the fascia a final coat of paint.

Andy Small from Train Troll sent me a note with a photo of the 40 ft hopper barge he built for the layout. He will be mailing it soon.  Andy still plans to build the Cinch, but it will have to wait  until the fall.

Paul Dolkos also called to say he had finished the covered barge except for the doors, which I will install with some scribed siding. He will drop it off soon.

Another thing on the do-list was to reprogram some of the CVs on the Whiton, the battery powered loco, to improve its operation. I was under the mistaken impression that the Stanton throttle can not program CVs. But it can do some of the basic CVs such as CV1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 29 and 65. It took a little experimentation and an email to the Neil Stanton, the system designer, but I was able to program the loco so that it starts smoothly and has momentum on start and stop. Bottom line is that the loco is 99 percent of where I would want it in terms of operation. The only complaint is that the minimum speed is about 1-2 MPH more than I would like. Now if there was something I could do about the noise in the gear train.

I also ordered a CVP Airwire T5000 throttle based on the recommendation of George Sebastian-Coleman. With that throttle, which is compatible with the Stanton system, I'll be able to programm all CVs on the battery loco. I want to at least disable the headlight dynamo and air pumps, as my engines have oil lamps and no air brakes. It will also gives us a second battery throttle. We'll see if we like it better than the Stanton before ordering more.

While I was on the phone with the CVP rep he told me that CVP is coming out with a smaller battery system that will fit in some HO, O and On30 equipment. It can convert a regular DCC decoder to radio and battery. The main problem is that it does not have trickle charging.  This is getting interesting.

I also had some visitors this weekend. On Sunday, Bill Barker from Hamilton, Montana stopped by. He and his son rode their motorcycles from Montana and Denver to participate in the Rolling Thunder Memorial event.  Bill is an Army veteran and a serious model railroader. He has a 30 by 40 feet HO layout devoted to the Milwaukee Road. He depicts the main line from Deer Lodge to Avery, including the electrified area. His layout features nicely done scenery and numerous scratch built buildings. He does not have a website. But in the small world department, he lives in the same town as the NWSL company and is friends with the owner, Dave. I let him run the Whiton,so he could report back to Dave on the success in installing and programming it.

On Monday Rainer Kurth and David Cooper stopped by for a quick visit. Rainer is on a sabbatical from his job in Switzerland. He plans to spend about 6 months in the US and Canada.  David is a local Alexandrian and will try to come to future work sessions. He has a HO layout. It is a sectional design devoted to an urban area. His intent is to incorporate it later into a bigger layout when he has more room.

May 23, 2013

Model Figures as view blocks?

This evening while waiting for the laser to do some cuts,  I mocked up the road  scene on the depot section. I am looking for the most interesting and pleasing arrangement of several items including the Grant and Sherman vignette, a column of marching troops representing a squad from a USCT regiment, and a supply escort wagon with a full six mule team.

Initially I planned to have the wagon with the mules at the depot platform, but the mule figures I have all are walking, so it wouldn't make too much sense to have them at the platform, unless one assumed they were just getting ready to leave. So I moved the wagon with mules to the street, having them point to the backdrop.  I tried arranging the wagon coming out of the back drop but that did not look right to me.  The wagon is paper cut out for now. A 3D wagon is on the do list.

The soldier at parade rest is screening the awkward angle of view where the fence meets the backdrop.  He also is trying to look sharp with the Army commanders nearby.

The two mounted generals help disrupt the view of the street going on the the backdrop. Just enough is visible of the backdrop to be convincing.  O scale figures are big enough that they can serve as "view blocks."

The foreground will get more clutter with piles of lumbers and supplies on the ground.

The flag on the Post Office is also a test. It adds a nice vertical and colorful element to the scene. The post office is based on this building in Cairo, IL.  The color in this post card was added later and may not be correct.

May 22, 2013

Floquil No More? No problem.

There has been a lot of chatter on the internet recently about the demise of Floquil and Polly-Scale paints. This will not be a big issue for me because I have already made the switch to Vallejo Acrylics. I never used Floquil due to the health hazards associated with its solvent. I found Polly Scale acrylics impossible to airbrush. They would clog all my airbrushes immediately, including Azek, Badger Crescendo and my favorite, the Iwata Eclipse SC. The latter is supposed designed specifically for acrylics, but Polly-Scale still clogged it.

Home-made paint rack holding Vallejo Airbrush paints
Vallejo Acrylics offer a complete line of acrylic paints including primer, brush, airbrush, airbrush thinner, and clear coats. Their airbrush thinner is based on the same formulation as their base paints. This allows one to thin the paint to the point where a very low airbrush pressure will still spray a fine mist. With low pressure one reduces over spray and makes infinite shading with no discernible droplets possible.

Being acrylic the paints pose less health hazard than nastier solvent based paints. Still, I wear my respirator and use my booth when spraying.

The Vallejo line is oriented toward military and figure painters, but they offer so many colors it is not hard to find ones to match the color you want. For example, their Israeli Sand Gray is perfect for concrete.

I still use craft acrylics for scenery and backdrops. But for painting models and figures, Vallejo is my preferred route.  Since few local shops carry Vallejo, I order my on-line from Squadron Shop.

May 12, 2013

Punch List

The backdrop is a key element of the depot scene

Repainted backdrop on Biscuit Run

The remaining tasks list to finish the road show is still pretty long, but it took a good hit Saturday after our work session. Paul Dolkos, Joel Salmons, Gerry Fitzgerald and new comer, Michael Spoor, participated in the session. Paul took on the task of building a covered barge. Andy Small had earlier agreed to build a well barge. So that should give us two barges for the river front. I also built a row boat to help clutter the waterfront. Joel finished the artillery revetment. Michael worked on installing the windows in the engine house. Gerry built the platform for the depot, installed the start of a pole line, drilled holes for the burned dock and added some more scenic details to Biscuit Rn.

 I worked on the shipyard warehouse. I also installed the sidewalk for the post office and sutler's store, finished the backdrop behind the depot including a forced perspective fence.  On Biscuit Run, I added the burned farm house, and added more trees.

I also decided to repaint the backdrop on Biscuit Run. As I studied the photos I realized the trees behind the burned farm house were too light.  Now the backdrop matches the foreground trees much better.  Finally I got out the airbrush and painted the shoreline and blended the scene with an overspray of various browns.
Michael installing the engine house

At this point Biscuit Run and the Depot sections are just about complete, with just some fine details remaining and the water.

May 8, 2013

Photos from 150th Chancellorsville Reenactment

Michael Spoor sent me these images from the 150th Chancellorsville Reenactment. He is a Sergeant with the U.S. Army and serves as a photographer for the Signal Corps. He was at the reenactment as an official photographer as his unit sent some soldiers to participate in the event.  Michael and his father are dedicated model railroaders.  His father is a leading expert on the CBQ and has a large layout in his Houston home.

19th Century Waybills or Switch Lists?

I have been doing some research on how railroads made switch lists and waybills in the early 19th century and how to apply that to a model railroad. 

From the sample waybills I have seen from 19th century RRs, they seem to cover less than carload shipping from a customer to the railroad. They seem to be receipts for shipping more than instructions for train crews and conductors. I have not seen any 19th century waybill that contains information on what railroad car the freight is carried on. This is considerably different from the way model railroaders use waybills.  
CV Waybill back
1889 Waybill Back
CV Waybill front
1889 Waybill Front

What I have not been able to find are examples of 19th century switch lists or car forwarding information.  This one from the Central Vermont in 1889 seems to be the closest to what we need. 

I have copies of the conductor reports used on the USMRR. I previously posted copies of these on my blog. These look like switch lists but appear to me to de done after the fact, hence the term "conductor's report." See this image for an example of a conductor report.

I have made my own copies of these and printed them on "antique" paper. For now we are using these as switch lists, but I wonder if this is correct. If you would like a copy you can download a pdf version at this link

This hand written version of the conductors report was used on the USMRR Aquia Line.

I also have copies of the USMRR agents' report for the two terminals at each end of the line, Aquia and Falmouth. These list what cars were delivered and the contents.  See this image for an example.
Note how each car has a consignee. Occasionally you see a listing for "misc. goods," which may mean what now call less-than-car-load good.  

Also note the entry for "express" at the bottom of 
the form, train number 9, car 1253. That is probably for the Adams Express.  From this I gather they did not use their own cars, but used USMRR cars.  But photos exist of Adams Express cars on the USMRR, so this may be a peculiararity  of the Aquia line.

What I have not found is the paper work that would go with each car.  Any suggestions?

May 7, 2013

Marine Ways

Note the capstan for winching  the cradle out of the water and the boiler parts sitting on the river bank on the left. This is an example of a very crude marine shipway used by the Quartermaster near Chattanooga. (National Archives)
One of the points we want to illustrate with our McCook's landing - the new name for the Road Show layout - is the role that superior logistics had in enabling the Union victory. In transportation assets; steam boats and rail, the North enjoyed overwhelming advantages.

Although this is a model railroad, we should note that rivers played as much as a role, if not more than railroads in military logistics. To support the campaigns around Chattanooga the Union built shipyards near the front for steam ships and barges to supply the Army. For example they had shipyards at Chattanooga, and Kingsport on the Tennessee River.  There were also numerous shipyards along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.

Therefore we decided to depict a military shipyard on the layout.  It is probably the main industry on the layout, though supplies for the Army are also important. These images show examples of typical riverine shipyards. They were somewhat simple and crude, especially the photos of the marine way at Chattanooga.
The cradles visible on the right have interesting round holes cut into their sides. The hull frame  is sitting on scaffolding which will be removed when the cradle is positioned for launching.  Photo of a US Army Quartermaster shipyard  near Chattanooga, TN.(National Archives)

Although a post war image on the upper Mississippi, this photo gives a good idea of how the cradles work on the marine railway.  Railways designed for ship maintenance have to be much more carefully built as they need to pull ships out as well as launch them. The stiff leg derrick crane on a stone foundation is another interesting feature. http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/LaCrosseSteamboat
This photo shows how a horse is used to wind the capstan. Note the worn path in the ground where the horse walks to wind up the rope. Also note the blocks and tackle to connect to the ship to the capstan. (http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/LaCrosseSteamboat)

This shipyard was located in Jeffersonville, IN near Louisville, but we plan to add a structure like this to our shipyard. The sign on the building is very cool. This building will be a flat, but there should be enough room to show some of the saw mill equipment inside the openings in the wall.  (http://digital.library.wisc.edu/1711.dl/LaCrosseSteamboat)

Scenery Continues...

Haupt inspects the new scenery

I did a couple hours of scenery work tonight. I added a second layer to Biscuit Run. This included various colors of ground foam, chopped up twigs, more patches of dirt and static grass. I added a few trees in the background too.  A few more, better detailed trees are required for the foreground.  Biscuit Run is almost done except for some trees, the burned dock, and what ever other details Gerry wants to add.

Wet scenery on the Shipyard section

I continued to the shipyard section where I added ballast and the base coat of texture.Then I worked on the trail along the foreground that leads to the site of the future marine shipways by adding static grass, twigs, and muddy ruts on the trail.

I really am enjoying building this green scenery. The winter colors on my layout were getting tiresome, though I think I do prefer the winter scenery overall.

Last week I received a sample of Microtrains N Scale ACW era cars. They are very finely done.

I must admit that after working primarily in O Scale for the past 4 years, I had trouble getting the N Scale wheel sets back in their trucks as some popped loose in shipment. But I eventually got them seated. I posed three of the box cars on one of my flat cars.

At some point, I plan to try a small N scale diorama with these items and some of the other cool stuff that GHQ, Atlas and other manufacturers offer in N Scale.

May 5, 2013

Cassette Staging, First Scenery and a New Name

Bridge over Biscuit Run just before entering staging
Gerry Fitzgerald came up for a work session today and we got a lot done.  Gerry painted the front panel of the staging yard, the fascia and valance with a fresh coat of Union Blue. We will have to touch the paint up one more time after the basic scenery is done, but the finished look of the painted surfaces really helps give the layout a professional look.

Removable Cassette
Entrance to staging needs to be hidden by trees.
The path was a happy accident made by dragging a finger through
wet scenery. 
While he was painting, I went about building a removable cassette staging track. I did this instead of just a fixed fiddle track because I realized that having to pick up the loco every time it came into staging to turn it around was not good for the loco. With this design we can pick up the whole train (4 cars plus loco) on the staging section and turn it around. If we want to add a few more cars, the loco can enter the layout while the additional cars are added to the end. The task of building the cassette was made easier by the fact that with battery power, there was no need to power the rail. We also used flex track to simplify things. We do plan to add a recharging track in the staging section to charge engine batteries.

Base coat of scenery
With the cassette glue drying, we started adding the base coat of scenery. Gerry sifted a big bucket of Utah dirt that we used for ballast and base scenery coat. Then we added a little ground foam to add some color.

After dinner, we hooked up the static grass machine and added a first coat of static grass. Then we cut in the dirt path on the Biscuit Run section, added a few Woodland Scenics trees as view blocks and the posts for an abandoned fence. The idea is that soldiers have removed the rails, but left the posts.

Finally we spent a bit of time fleshing out the story to the layout. So far we knew it was somewhere on the Tennessee River, but we want a better description for the show.

Here is a brief summary. Gerry will work on the full story.

It is the summer of 1864. Sherman is fighting south of Chattanooga toward Atlanta, but Atlanta hasn't fallen. This is a freelanced line that went west-south-west  from Nashville to Bentonville (a fictional town), a small steamship port on the Tennessee River. The town had started the line but had not finished it by the start of the war. The USMRR completed the line in 1863 to act as a back-up route to supply Nashville.  They named the port McCook's Landing in honor of Brigadier General Robert Latimer McCook, who died in 1862, allegedly shot by rebel guerrillas while he lay wounded in an ambulance (though the story is disputed by Confederates).

The town had a small shipyard and various other structures before the war.  It was not burned by the either side, except for the railroad bridge and some farms of suspected guerrillas along the river. The USMRR rebuilt the bridge with a standard design, expanded the wharves and warehouses, and added earthworks with artillery.

May 2, 2013

150th Anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville

This weekend marks the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Chancellorsville. There will be a series of events including a battle reenactment on some of the actual historic battle ground. More info about the event can be found here. I do not plan to attend due to other commitments.

I also learned recently of a new book coming about about the Army of the Potomac winter encampment along the USMRR Aquia Line. The book is called,  "Valley Forge" 1863: 93 Days That Saved America" by Al Connor. I have not read the book but reviews of lectures based on the book indicate that Connor describes the rebuilding of the Army over the winter under General Hooker as the key component to ultimate success of the Army of the Potomac. I look forward to reading it.