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 28, 2017

Steam into History

I found this photo on the Steam into History Facebook page.  I thought it was a great depiction of a civil war era railroad scene as there are no anachronisms visible. Well, maybe just three. Can you find them?

Updated: Of all the comments below, no one picked up on the steel joint bar. In the ACW joint bars were made of wood.

Other items people spotted:
1. Headlight should be off in daylight. ACW oil lamps only run at night
2. Knuckle coupler should be a link and pin
3, Air hose and air compressor. ACW era trains did not have air brakes.
4. Paint horse not correct for ACW era cavalry in Pennsylvania
5. Road may be paved - if so, not ACW correct
6. Camps chairs may be too modern.

Steam into History is a nonprofit, educational, charitable organization. They operate a steam train that chronicles the role York County, PA. played in Civil War history.  They are holding an event this weekend to recreate a confederate raid on the railroad. There is more info at this link.

July 25, 2017

Updated PoLA Plan

In between golf, chores, and binge watching Game of Thrones, I did an update to the Revised PoLA plan based on some feedback from the client. He plans to reuse an existing staging level with a helix. Since he already had those built, it wasn't a big deal to modify the plan to include them. He also asked to include the option to include some ship models on the layout. Finally, he asked for suggestions on what to include in the second room, which the first design listed as future expansion. This version reflects those changes as well.

July 20, 2017

A Revised PoLA for a Reader

One of the readers of my book, "Waterfront Terminals and Operations" asked me if I could develop a modified plan of my PoLA layout to fit his space. He was currently modeling a plains railroad in HO scale but was unhappy with its design. In particular he felt he had tried to cram too much stuff in his layout. He liked the PoLA design for its operation potential and manageable scope. He also requested wide aisles to ease access. He has two rooms available for his layout with an assortment of doors and windows. The overall space is 31 by 15 feet with a few obstacles here and there.

Here is the plan that I developed for his space. It's an enlarged version of my own plan with longer sidings and a few extra industries. Initially his back room is reserved for staging, but the layout could easily be expanded in that space later with some of LA's shoreside industries.

This layout supports a lot of varied operation. There are industries for tank cars, auto racks, covered hoppers, box cars and a break bulk terminal that can accept just about any type of car including double stacks, gondolas, depressed center flats, steel cars, etc.

The long sidings add interest to the operation especially when combined with industry spot numbers. For example, switching the single siding at Vopak can be quite involved when cars have to be placed at specific spots.

Some of the sidings are quite long, in contradiction to normal model RR design practice where designers try to cram more, but smaller sidings into a design. I don't like that approach. First, most of the industries on a modern layout have long sidings to provide the rail transportation service they require. Otherwise, they probably use trucks. So designing a layout with longer sidings is prototypical.

Secondly, switching long cuts of cars on a layout feels more  prototypical than the usual one car out-one car in used on some layouts. It  requires good engineer - brakeman coordination. It also presents an imposing spectacle. Watching a string of 15 auto racks going in and out of WVL is really cool. See the video below for an example.

The same concept would apply when switching Pasha, where there are 4 parallel long sidings. This could almost quality as a model railroad yard. Switching this industry can be akin to working a yard with sorting and blocking. The operation can be made even more involved if some cars on the long sidings must remain, while other cars deeper in the siding must be pulled. I do that on my layout when I have more advanced operators to make the tasks more interesting.

July 19, 2017

The Generals

I was looking through my old photos and thought this one would benefit from some clean up in Photoshop. So here it is.


July 8, 2017

Lyceum Exhibit on Alexandria in WWI

Overview of part of the exhibit where the sub chaser is displayed
The Lyceum has opened it's exhibit on Alexandria in WWI. My mom and I stopped by today to get a look at it. The exhibit has an interesting array of artifacts. While I am proud that the sub chaser model I built is prominently displayed, the exhibit that I find the most amazing is R. Fawcet's chest. He was the first citizen from Alexandria to die on the war in an flight training accident in Illinois. The military shipped his belongings home in a footlocker just as he had left them. The Fawcett family kept the chest for 100 years and left it unopened for 80. It was quite moving to see the man's uniforms, texts and personal effects largely untouched 100 years later. Alas, I didn't take a picture of the footlocker.

Mom poses by the sub chaser model

Mom really enjoyed seeing the civil war replica costumes
used in filming PBS's TV show "Mercy Street"
The WWI weapons are on loan from the NRA Museum.

July 2, 2017

Reconfiguring the Borax Pier

I finally had a chance to work on the layout this weekend.  First, I looked at some ways I could get rid of the Borax peninsula by making the silos and wharf parallel to the back wall, similar to the way I first had the layout, but with deeper bench work. Using the ship and silos as mock-ups I realized none  of the ideas were satisfactory, so I decided to leave the track and benchwork as is.

 However, I decided to modify the borax wharf to allow a bit more sea room for the ship.  The tracks stayed where they were. I removed a wedged-shaped sliver from the wharf. This allowed me to move the ship a few inches away from the edge of the benchwork.

The task was easy because I used foam and task board for the terrain in this area. Both are easy to cut with a knife. The ship's hull will hide most of the cut area, so patching the gap will be easy.

The ship looks better with a little bit more water around it. The extra water surface will help protect the fine details on the ship from errant sleeves and elbows as people move in the narrow aisle between the borax peninsula and  Aquia Landing.

I also purchased 12 more feet of 3-inch PVC pipe to make bigger silos. The pipe is much less expensive if you buy it in longer pieces.

I cut the pipe on my chop saw, a messy job that took more time to clean up than to cut.  The new silos are 10.75 inches tall and 3.5 inches OD. The new silos better match the cargo ship in volume capacity. They also act as a nice view block.