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.

December 28, 2017

A Slightly Late Christmas Present

I received a note from John Ott today that the drawing he was working on for me is ready. In case you don't know of his work, please check out his website at this link.  His modeling and layouts are superb. My favorite is his latest layout project, the Miskatonic Railroad. It's a late 19th century railroad set in Arkham, Massachusetts a fictional town invented by H. P. Lovecraft.  The craftsmanship is splendid,  but the story that layout tells is also marvelous. It is as creepy and exotic as the inspiring author's stories. I am not a big Lovecraft devotee, but I love John's layout.  The rest of his website is chock full of wonderful graphics and modeling. I would nominate it for  "best model railroad website award " if such an award existed.

One of the neat graphics projects John has been doing is making drawings of early rail locomotives in  style similar to original builders prints. His drawings are exhaustively researched and expertly rendered. I have one hanging in my stairwell as you enter my layout.

A few months ago, John published a new print of a Baldwin flexible beam locomotive. In seeing it, I asked if John could do a version decorated for the USMRR Washington, which I have previously discussed on this blog here and here.
John agreed, but demurred until he could accurately research it.

So I asked some of my friends that are early rail and locomotive experts if they had any insight into the USMRR Washington. Nick Fry, who is Curator of the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library and The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Historical Society Vice President of Operations, found some very useful information.

John, using the information, came up with this sketch. I'll let John describe his thought process in making the drawing.

I attached a drawing here (as well as the inline drawings later in the note). Thought you might like to see progress on the USMRR Washington we discussed a while back. Although a lot of it is speculative, I think we're on our way to having something that looks probable, if not absolutely accurate. Until a photo turns up, I think this is a reasonable rendering based on good assumptions.
Per Nick Fry's recommendation, I started with the drawing of the Reading sister engine, Kentucky. Used those dimensions and layout of the engine components. Since sixteen years passed between the Washington's delivery date and its acquisition by the USMRR, I added the things that the Reading would have added in the meantime.
There's no indication in the Reading roster that the Washington was ever rebuilt, so these would be fairly minor additions: cab, sandbox, second safety valve, headlamp, and cowcatcher. I copied these components from drawings of uprated Baldwin flex-beams in my Pennsylvania RR reference collection. The original components are all still there, including the A-frame bell bracket.
I considered swapping out the V-hook valve gear for link-motion, since that was a common upgrade, but that usually happened during rebuilds, which apparently the Washington never got. So I kept the V-hooks. From the looks of the Kentucky drawing, the engine didn't have an independent cutoff like the Pennsylvania engines. That's actually good news. Simpler to model, that way.
The frame seems to have been the same for most flex-beam engines. I found a separate drawing of the Baldwin flexible-beam truck with its plate-metal frame:

The two-tone frame paint job was stolen from Iron City lithograph.
I was able to reuse a drawing of a Bury boiler I had from a rendering of another Baldwin engine built about the same time as the Washington. Same general boiler dimensions. The second safety valve, in its tall cannon, seems to have been standard on the Reading. I added a whistle to the haystack dome. This was another usual placement. I kept the same stack as the Kentucky. The headlamp bracket is kind of generic. The headlamp is a style I've seen on several other USMRR locos, like the Haupt.

When you get to the cylinders and crossheads, notice how the water pump shaft is attached. The crosshead guide was a single triangular shaft, not the usual four-bar arrangement. The main rod attached outboard of the side rods.
I gave the machine a standard 1850s Baldwin 8-wheel tender, because I think that's what it would have ended up with by 1862. The original 6-wheel tender probably wouldn't have lasted.

Finally, I gave the Washington a paint job that I think was probably typical for USMRR engines. The paint jobs ran from overly simple to extravagant, based on some criteria I don't understand. (Other than the fact that the commanding officers got engines with elaborate decoration schemes.) Bronze green with vermillion wheels was kind of a default color treatment. The Washington has simple tender stripes and panels plus Egyptian block lettering (taken from an 1850s sign painters guide) with two levels of shading.
For special decor, I added a portrait of Old George to the headlamp and a patriotic "e pluribus unum" eagle to the sandbox. Nothing that would have seemed out-of-the-ordinary for an engine in that era.
So-- here's the Washington, as I imagine it straight from the USMRR Alexandria paint shop, ready to go to Aquia Landing and glory.
As a final treat. I suggested to John that he add a background appropriate for Aquia Landing. He presented me with four options. I selected the bean-pole trestle, as that is the bridge that Herman Haupt used Washington as a test load.  The only drawback is now I need to find a place to hang this print in my already full walls.

One of the great things about model railroading is the spirit of cooperation and generosity of many of the participants. John and the sharing of his art work is a quintessential example of such munificence.


  1. John's work is indeed brilliant, as your article attests, Bernie !

  2. Excellent work!!! What a nice gift for you!