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.

July 27, 2016

Sneak Peek at Next Book

I am just about done with my part for the next book. Then the editors and publisher get to work their magic  to make me look good. Here is my mock-up for the cover. The final book cover is likely to be different, even the title might change, but this gives you the general idea of what to expect inside.

It will be nice to wrap up this book and return to the human race.

July 21, 2016

Model Railroad Layout Deathmatch


After Ramon's visit last weekend, I decided to do a better job of sketching out what a full expansion of the PoLA layout into the rest of my basement would look like. I took Trevor's advice and laid off the coffee too. That drawing is on the right. On the left is the plan for the final version of the Aquia Line. Once this next book is done I will take a breather and decide what I want to work on next. Time for a model railroad deathmatch!

In the left corner is the USMRR Aquia Line. Weighing in after 7 and a half years of on and off work, the layout  is essentially finished from Brooke to Falmouth. It is fully functional. With just a few more freight cars it could do some simple op sessions. It has been featured in Model Railroad Planning and Model Railroad Video Plus. Hundreds of people have visited it and many have taken a train over it. 

In the right corner is the upstart challenger, PoLA. I completed the Mormon Island portion in less than one years time. It is fully operational and showcases some of the magnificent RTR cars and engines produced by today's model manufacturers. It is an excellent test bed for new Alkems Scale Model products for HO modern era modelers. In it current form, it offers plenty of industrial switching. It has already hosted several op sessions despite its young age. I plan to operate it in ProRail 2018. So it needs to survive at least that long.

What to do next? If I proceed on the Aquia Line, then the next step is to start laying the track at Aquia Landing and building some freight cars. I have been looking forward to building the Landing for a long time. I saved it for last, as I knew it would keep me motivated to finish the layout.

If I want to take PoLA further, I would build Phase II as shown the diagram. That essentially occupies the area where Aquia Landing would be. Given that the benchwork is already done, and it is a very simple track plan, using flex track and ready-to-run turnouts,  building Phase II would not take that long. The ship and cranes would be the most difficult part of the job. I have been wanting to build a really big ship model and the container ship on PoLA Phase II would scratch that itch.

Perhaps a hybrid approach is the answer. That would entail building PoLA phase II next, operate it for a few years until I retire. Then salvage it and finish Aquia Landing as my retirement project. Or, if I find I like the PoLA more, then scrap the Aquia Line and build PoLA Phase III.  Either way it will be a lot of fun.

Before you comment, think about what Marcello Mastroianni once told Sophia Loren,  "never cry for something that cannot cry for you." 

July 17, 2016

Photo Shoot with Mr BNSF

Mr BNSF in his Heritage Orange shirt
Today, a day that we have both long awaited, Mr. BNSF, AKA Ramon Rhodes, brought part of his award winning collection of HO engines and freight cars to use as photo props on the PoLA layout.  We had a great time in between tripping on lighting cords and setting up for the next shot.

We got some great shots. Ramon was really digging the PoLA layout. I showed him a sketch I had made a few months ago showing how the PoLA could expand to fill the basement. I think that got Ramon's attention as he immediately started lobbying for the switch.

We learned that double stacks do fit in my staging tracks.

This is the sketch that got Ramon fired up.

Don't worry, it's not time to start panicking, yet!

July 12, 2016

Declaring Victory!

I have finished construction work on the PoLA layout for now. I plan to go back and work on the Borax factory and a possible extension later. But for now, we are declaring victory on this project.

July 4, 2016

Final Photos Test

Chase Marine Terminal - this is the free lanced part of the layout. It is the third layout I have built named
after my son Chase. The ship is named after my daughter. 
I took some shots tonight to test the final scenes.

It's almost ready for prime time. Just some minor details left.
The finished barge named after CINCHOUSE.

Updated PoLA track plan

Here is a drawing showing the updated track plan to the PoLA layout.

I would like to have more spots to set out tank cars. Right now the Vopak spur has three loading positions. So I am thinking about expanding the layout after the book is done.  it might look something like this. The expansion would be removable and perhaps as a  FREMO module.

Bespoke bunker barge build

Bing Birds Eye view showing bunker barges at Pier 181

Damen Bunker Barge
Most of the satellite and aerial views of Pier 181 in PoLA show bunker barges tied up to the wharf. Bunker barges are oil barges that refuel large ships. I decided to build one for the layout as it was a easy model to scratch build.
The model before detailing and weathering
I found a set of plans on line for a Damen Bunker Barge. These barges can be over 300 feet long. The Damen barge was too large for my space, so I shortened and modified it somewhat. I also incorporated some features I saw in other barges, for example the stairs over the central pipes. They were left over from the Walthers Oil tanks kits. 
A prototype oil barge with tug
The barge model is almost done except for some minor details and weathering.

July 1, 2016

USMRR Rules on Signals on Trains

First page - there is no title page

A question on the Yahoo AWCRRHS Yahoo Group list recently came up on signal flags used on trains in the ACW. I have a copy of the USMRR rule book courtesy of D.C. Cebula. It has a section that cover signals. The excerpts below are the pertinent sections.  Note that this is exactly opposite of later TT&TO Rule, where an engine displaying red flags or signals meant that no section followed that train.

There is no mention in the USMRR Rule Book on the use of white flags. 

Page 6
Page 5

Extract from USMRR Rules and Regulations (presumably for railroads in Virginia.)

15. Two red lanterns must placed
at the rear of every train that is on the
road after dark.
16. Two red flags by day, and two red
lanterns by night, shall be placed on,
front of an engine to indicate that the
engine is to be followed by another. In
case, by accident, two red flags or lanterns
cannot be obtained, one flag or
lantern shall indicate the same thing.

The difficulties with this system is that at night red signals would be used on front and rear of the train. That had to cause confusion, though the front would also have a head light.

B&O 1864 Rule Book
For comparison, here is a copy of a page from the 1864 Baltimore and Ohio Book of Rules. This rule adds the white signal on the front of  train when none is following. As with the USMRR, a red signal means that a section is following the train. They also use the term "convoy" of trains.

Again, this is opposite color system of the "modern" practice that started sometime after 1877.

These next two pages are from the B&O Book of Rules from 1852. Note that the rules are very basic and don't address following sections.

B&O 1852 Rule book