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.

February 26, 2018

Hay Transportation

During the civil war hay and straw were unremarkable, common place items used as animal feed, bedding, and even medical supplies. That is why there is scant photo record of it. If it is in a photo, it is usually in the background. Yet, the written records of railroad transportation on the Aquia Line show hay, called forage, was the majority of the cargo. So how did that hay get to Aquia Landing?

This image depicts an essentially ages old process of collecting hay and loading on a wagon. This drawing at the LoC has a caption of foraging for hay in Virginia. Note that forage as a verb means to look for food for both men and animals, while forage as a noun is the hay and grain used to feed animals.  By the time of the civil war, farmers and hay distributors made hay bales using horse powered presses as I described here. They shipped the  bales with concentrated hay from farms to urban areas.

During the civil war, the farms in eastern Pennsylvania produced prodigious quantity of hay, according to Hess in his book, "Civil War Logistics." The US Quartermaster Corps purchased bulk hay and shipped it to the Army. In the case of the Army of Potomac, the hay came by ship and barge. If you look at the three-masted schooner in the background of this image from City Point  you will see it is fully loaded with hay. 

The Merritt map of City Point shows a wharf labeled as "Forage Wharf." This implies a dedicated place to transload and store hay.  

To transship the hay to the hungry animals in the front lines the Army used wagons and railroad cars.  In the photo of City Point  at the left we can see a line of wagons proceeding to an area where piles of hay bales are stored. Look behind the trees on the right side to see the hay bales.

 If you look closely at the image below of the Aquia Landing, you can see a flat car loaded with hay bales on the right side of the image to the left of the locomotive. 

I have posted other pictures of hay bales on railroad cars such as here.  Armed with this knowledge, we can proceed with adding hay bales to our civil war railroad cars knowing we are on the right track. 

February 25, 2018

New Operation Sessions, Aquia Line 6 and PoLA 13

We hosted another pair of dueling Op Sessions today. JD Drye, Terry Terrance, Mat Thompson, Tom Pierpoint, Joel and John Salmons ran trains on the Aquia Line, while Kent Smiley and Brad Trencamp took care of PoLA.  I had to cancel the January session, so it had been a few months since the last op session, though we did have the kids work the layout in the interim.  I posted a video on youtube showing some of the action from today's session.

My main objective today was to evaluate the operation of the new passenger car. It worked well. However, we discovered that it just barely cleared the Clozet Tunnel portal. That means that if I make a longer passenger car, I will have to be very careful in the width to insure the roof doesn't scrape the tunnels. There also a few places where the mid-part of the body just cleared the switch stands. But they did clear!

Right at the start of the session, engine Haupt went dead. It also had a bug the night before -  as I was test running its decoder made some strange noises. I think it is time to replace the decoder in Haupt with a battery backup. Fortunately, Engine McCallum was available to fill in for Haupt and the session continued without delay. We did not run the General's Special today, but we did run 3 train at the same time.   It is also becoming apparent that I have enough freight cars for now to support a session. If i go to longer trains, I may need a few more.  Everyone liked the new hay bales.

I had replaced the frog juicer circuit that controls 6 turnouts in Aquia Landing prior to the session. The new circuits works perfectly. In examining the old circuit card I could clearly see some components that were damaged.

Newly weathered auto rack 

Kent and Brad got in late, so they got to run PoLA, which pleased both go them. Their session went smoothly and they had a good time. I had added two more auto racks to the scenario. My new plan is to use CMT as the auto rack terminal, instead adding an auto rack terminal as the modular addition. Instead, I will add an additional siding for Vopak as a FREMO module. The geometry here requires a sharper radius around 22 inches, which would be trouble if it was a auto rack terminal. With this design I get to run more tank cars to the expanded Vopak and the auto racks to CMT, along with other loads. Win-Win.

This started out as pan full of cookies.

My mom prepared the snacks today. She made Madeline cookies with bits of dates soaked in marsala wine and a cranberry cake that was delicious. I just got a small sliver, and when I went to get a second piece, it was all gone!

We can log another good session in the books.

February 21, 2018

A Passenger Car for the Aquia Line

This USMRR wreck train of the O&A has an interesting assortment of cars including a 10-window passenger car. Note there are two wrecked locomotives suggesting that the train was double headed.

 The USMRR freight car rosters that I found in the National Archive show that the Aquia Line had one passenger car in the time period I model. I suspect this was the car that they used to transport officers in accordance with General Hooker's order documented here. That order establishes  three cars for passenger service, but the roster only lists one. They probably used regular freight cars to transport soldiers.

So, I need at least one passenger car on the railroad. The problem is that a full sized passenger car will be trouble on the tight curves of my railroad. When I was laying out the track, I made a simple passenger car from a block of wood. I made sure that the car would clear obstacles like rock outcroppings, fences, etc. I recently used a standard gauge 40-ft box car to verify these clearances. All was OK. But the coupler overhang on these long cars could be a problem. What I really needed was a short passenger car. Fortunately, the USMRR had one. See the lead image for an example of a 10-window passenger car on the the USMRR O&A Line.

I have copies of a drawing  for a 10 window passenger car that was built for the Pacific Road in the 1860s. I used those plans to get the overall dimensions and layout of my car. But I modified some of the details to match the car in the photo above.

I cut the core of the car from 0.13 inch thick acrylic plastic, which was nominally 1/8th inch, but you have to verify the actual thickness if you use tabs and slots in your design. After filling the gaps and rounding the corners with sandpaper , I gave it a couple coats of Krylon gap filling primer, my favorite primer.

Then I painted it a base color of Vallejo Light Brown, which was a slight yellow tint. the interior is Vallejo Burnt Umber.

I made the trim from wood veneer that had been prepainted and sealed to hide the grain. I painted the trim Vallejo Burnt Umber. This was a color scheme that Dave Schneider referenced when doing the SMR Trains USMRR passenger colors, as "two-tone brown."  I wanted the car to stand out from the other freight cars  on the layout. Furthermore, passenger cars in this era were often brightly painted.

However, in studying the prototype photo, it looks to be like the car is a single color, with perhaps a contrasting stipe down the center where the number is. I may repaint car in all burnt umber except for that central stripe.  What do you think?

 I began detailing the interior with trim, rest rooms, seats, and a stove based on other photos of cars in that era. The seats are based on a design for a B&O passenger car form the 1850s.  I made the seat frames with laser cut 1/32 birch plywood. The bottom cushion is a carved piece of 1/8th inch basswood.

The car will ride on a pair of SMR brass passenger trucks. The set comes with brakes on both trucks, but the drawing I have shows brakes on only one. So I will remove one set of brakes.

I plan to install the coupler on a pivoting arm to help with the tight curves. I will use a technique that is similar to how some HO scale 89-ft cars are done. The Accurail  set on the left is an example of a pivoting coupler are.

February 16, 2018

Freight operations in the early railroad era

The following extract is from a journal called "The Railway Agent and Station Agent: A Monthly Magazine Devoted to the Interests of the Freight Agent and Ticket Agent."The article describes the need for,  and the early adoption of, "Fast Freight" operations on railroads. It starts with a fascinating description of railroad freight operations in the early rail era, such as a civil war era line,  or even a military line too, except in that case the customer would be a military department.

 Written by request for The Station Agent by W. W. Chandler. Agent,  Star Union Line Chicago
December 1889.
 In the early days of railroads, thirty to forty years ago, each corporation assumed that its cars must not get away from home, nor go beyond its own termini in either direction, lest they never get back. To insure such results, the projectors of different roads that were to be links in a long chain connecting far distant points deemed it essential that there be a break of gauge at each terminal point, thus necessitating a change of cars, not only for freight, but for passengers, as well. To illustrate the old method and primitive system of carrying on transportation business let me say for example that what is now so well known as the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern railroad whose line under one management extends from Buffalo to Chicago was thirty five years ago composed of several corporations with a full set of officers and agents and a full equipment of rolling stock for each. There was the Buffalo & Erie, the Cleveland Painesville & Ashtabula, and another connecting Erie and Ashtabula whose corporate name is not recalled making three distinct roads between Buffalo and Cleveland a distance of only 184 miles. Then came the Cleveland & Norwalk and the Norwalk & Toledo the Toledo & Adrain, the Adrain & Cold water if I mistake not and the Coldwater & Chicago.  It is the writer's impression that the three roads between Toledo and Chicago were consolidated before the track was completed to Chicago and that the name was then changed to the Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana. The two roads connecting Cleveland and Toledo were also consolidated after which the name was the Cleveland & Toledo railroad. The Cleveland Painesville & Ashtabula and the road connecting Ashtabula and Erie became one road quite early in their existence and the name assumed was the Cleveland & Erie.

  Subsequently the Buffalo & Erie and the Cleveland & Erie were consolidated not however without strong opposition and a desperate struggle. Old timers will remember the “Erie War,” when the good people of that ambitious and enterprising little city actually took up arms and fought the change of gauge, because, forsooth, such change would ruin their market for pie, pea nuts, and popcorn which a change of passengers in either direction afforded, and besides would dispense with the services of a large force of men who were employed in the transfer of freight from one road to the other.

 Despite this determined opposition, a uniform gauge between Buffalo and Cleveland became an accomplished fact. Still “breaking bulk” both at Buffalo and Cleveland was, by all parties, deemed inevitable. Merchants and shippers of the present day, who have commenced business within the last quarter of a century can have but slight conception of the trials and tribulations incident to the old-time method of conducting railroad transportation, hence the writer may pardoned for going back to the period between 1850 and 1860 by way of illustration.

  John Smith, a Chicago dry goods merchant, visits New York to purchase what he terms his fall stock which, when completed, aggregates fifty packages, boxes, and bales. The several houses where his purchases are made are instructed to ship them via the New York Central route and he insists that all must be delivered to the Hudson River Railroad or to the Albany steam boat, on a given day and he waits over to see that this is done and to secure his bills lading. At Albany his goods go into a warehouse or depot necessarily, whether they go by rail or by boat.  At that time,  through freight meant freight passed through half a dozen sets of hands and was transferred and re-transferred, carted and re-carted, coopered and re-coopered at every break of gauge --and fast freight did not exist;-- in fact, it was about the slowest thing of our fast American life.  Slowness was not the chief fault of the old system either --it was unsafe, as we shall see.

  Smith's fifty packages are now at Albany. Of course, they have had some rough handling, even up to this first point transfer. Possibly some of the contents of the boxes are broken and some of the bales of sheeting have received “hook holes” that are not perceptible, but which the consignee discovers to his sorrow when he removes the canvass wrappers. At best,  some of the boxes are shattered and require re coopering for which of course a charge is made beside most of the fifty packages remain in the warehouse overnight.  Night watchmen are only human and may have outside confederates, and no better chance for petty pilfering and pilfering that is not petty can be imagined than these points afford.  To pry open the cover of a box and abstract dozen pairs of shoes, a few hats, or a bolt of cloth, and then skillfully re nail the box is but the work of a few moments. And say the perpetrators who will ever be the wiser. Possibly, ten of Smith's fifty packages are loaded into car for Buffalo the same day of their arrival at Albany, together with goods for some other western merchants.  Meanwhile, another train has arrived from New York, also from Boston, each train containing numerous consignments which are dumped upon, and all around, Smith's forty packages.  The next train loaded for Buffalo is full before any of Smith's goods are reached.  The next day, and day after, the same thing is repeated.  The first ten boxes, billed Albany to Buffalo with the weight of the entire and the cost from New York to Albany of the fifty, is sent forward in the charges column of the way bill with notations, " Includes weight and charges on forty packages to follow." Perhaps by the third or fourth day after their arrival Albany, fifteen of the forty packages are loaded and westward billed.  Part of a lot weight and charges ahead except cooperage and cartage.  By this time, our first ten boxes have reached Buffalo, where after experiencing some more rough handling, consequent re-coopering, possibly five of the ten are for Cleveland carrying the weight freight and charges of original fifty. These five packages experience the same treatment at Cleveland for a day or two, when three of the five billed to Toledo carrying on the way bill the weight and charges for the entire lot. After another delay at two of the three are loaded billed, and started for Chicago with the weight and charges for the entire consignment, except the constantly accumulating charges for cooperage and cartage on the forty eight packages that are struggling after the two, which have finally reached their destination.
Meantime, Smith has arrived home, and for several days has been anxiously awaiting the arrival of his goods. He is overjoyed at last to receive a printed notice from the station agent at Chicago, which with blanks duly filled reads thus,

  John Smith Esq
Dear Sir  - Goods consigned to your address have arrived and are ready for delivery. Charges $394.82 Please send certified check or current funds.

 Gladly, Smith complies, but when his drayman returns with barely two packages of his entire purchase, poor Smith is disgusted, yes, for a while he is swearing mad, but is somewhat mollified when scanning his freight bill he finds noted conspicuously,  “Part of a lot balance will be along soon.”  He learns later, that “soon” means various dates extending through a period of two months for the forty packages that were left at Albany are subjected to the same delays, the same cartages, the same cooperages, and the same scatterment, as were the first ten two of which we have followed to John Smith's store,  Ultimately, Smith receives his fiftieth package which has been astray In Cleveland it was accidentally loaded in a car that was bound for Cincinnati, and after considerable delay in that city, it is finally billed to Cleveland – “ Free stray -- has been robbed.”

 When Smith has completed checking contents of his fifty packages with his invoices he finds that the vacant spaces observed in some of the boxes or spaces, where rags and rubbish have been substituted for original contents represent shortage, and he knows from former experience that shortage is but another name for stealage. By the aid of his invoices, he is able to make out a bill at New York cost price for what goods are minus, and he finds the aggregate to be $297.45, and the damage in transit on the goods received amounts to the further sum of $46.25 He presents these bills made out in due form to the agent of the delivering road,  who after a calm perusal of the several items says, “Mr Smith, I am really very sorry for you but I am confident that the stealing was not done on our road because our men are all picked men honest and reliable, and as to the damage from hook holes, I know we are not responsible from the fact that our freight handlers are never allowed to use hooks in handling bales. Some road east of our is responsible. I am sure we are not. If you will leave your papers with me as soon as I get a little leisure I will start a tracer for each lot and if possible will locate both the stealages and the damages. The bills amount to $343.70. If Smith gets his money in a year the chances are four in five that he has expended in attorney's fees and traveling expenses $417.99. This is not an overdrawn picture. but a fair sample of what may have happened to any considerable consignment of dry goods shipped in spring or fall when western merchants purchased their stocks twice a year. not as they do now a days ordering by telegraph day by day as they need the goods.
 While everybody grumbled at the state of things herein depicted., everybody was obliged to ship freight in this way over one or the other of the then three existing routes between eastern seaboard cities and prominent western points. The same system, or rather lack of system, prevailed on each, except that the Pennsylvania route very early adopted an iron rule which no clerk dared disregard to the effect that each package must be weighed separately, and the weight as ascertained by receiving clerk's scales, must be marked thereon with brush, and paint, then and there and in billing the separate weight of each package be they few or many must be entered on the way bill and that each package must reach destination carrying only its own legitimate charges not charges on packages to follow.  Of course, this involved more clerical labor, but it was right while the other plan was unjust. The extra labor paid the company well in largely increasing patronage. 
This matter of cooperage and cartage or a charge therefor became so much the regular thing, that way bill clerks or manifest clerks as some people call them to this day entered such charges mechanically or from force of habit, and sometimes the absurdity of such charges was really amusing to everyone except the victim the consignee who was obliged to pay all charges, however, they might have occurred before he could get his goods. Two samples of such absurd charges will suffice. One was the case of a careless or absent minded clerk who entered on his way bill,” $2.00 cooperage on a live bull.” Another equally ambitious and a promising clerk charged $3.00 cartage on a donkey that had been led ten rods from the station of one road to that of another.
 In those early days locomotives for new roads that were being built for the western states were mainly constructed at Schenectady NY and Taunton Mass. They were of whatever gauge the roads for which they were ordered might happen to be, but could not run on their own wheels over the several gauges intervening between the place they were constructed and that where they were to be used.  Still they must be transported somehow and the question was how. In this emergency Mr. Wm A Kasson of Buffalo said to the locomotive builders. “Give me the monopoly for transporting your locomotives for a term of years, and I will invent a way to do it,” which proposition was gladly accepted, and Kasson caused to be built several strong fiat cars and a set of trucks of different gauges to fit them. Then when a locomotive was to be moved, say from Schenectady to Chicago, Mr. Kasson sent one of his men with one of his able bodied cars, under which were trucks of 4 ft 8 4 inch gauge that being the width of the New York Central road. The engine was loaded thereon, and the car with its load was hauled to Buffalo. There the car was jacked up, the trucks removed and others of 4 feet 10 inch gauge substituted for the run to Cleveland, and so on to destination, changing trucks where ever a change of gauge demanded it. The man in charge paid the several roads their local rates and collected from the company owning the engine not only what he had paid for hauling his car, but also a liberal price for his own services, the use of car, and the necessary machinery for doing the business. Thus, Kasson kept several men and several flat cars constantly and quite profitably employed.

Observing the defects in the system of transporting dry goods, groceries, hardware, etc. over long routes from east to west, Mr Kasson conceived the idea of having an agent and a few laborers as freight handlers stationed at each transfer point between New York and all prominent western cities to promptly transfer the contents of one car to another thus avoiding the delays and risks incident to unloading into freight depots. He placed an agent in New York to solicit business and to issue bills of lading on this plan. This agent contracted with shippers at a rate say 50 cents per 100 pounds $10 per ton above the sum of the several local rates of the half dozen different roads traversed, and merchants were glad to avail themselves of this improved method, whereby the cartage, cooperage, and stealage nuisance was abolished, and were glad to pay the extra price. This was called Kasson's Despatch and was the first institution which the writer ever heard denominated a Fast Freight Line. Kasson's only investment in the scheme consisted of office rent and the salaries he paid his men, he paving the roads their respective local rates and the $10 per ton extra left him a liberal margin as clear profit. The cars carrying Kasson's Despatch goods were furnished by the respective roads, and were not run on any faster schedule than were the regular freight trains of such roads. In fact, constituted a part of each west bound freight train, and the only thing that entitled such cars to the term Fast Freight was the fact that goods were promptly transferred to other cars at transfer points, and they were promptly dispatched therefrom. But, the great point gained was safety, and besides what started from New York as a car load arrived at destination as that same car load, albeit the packages had occupied several cars en route.

 You can read the rest of the article this link.

February 12, 2018

Hay, let there be light

Say hay! Finally have some forage to haul.
I took a break from building warehouses for Aquia Landing to do some miscellaneous jobs on the layout. I have 5 new warehouse buildings in various states of assembly.

New light over Burnside's Wharf. Some of the new warehouses
are also visible in the image.
First odd job was to add a new light over the Burnside's wharf area. My operators have complained about that area being dark and hard to see when switching. For the light I used a new low profile, recessed LED light that only draws 15W but puts out 850 lumens. It was pretty easy to install and the results are great. It is much easier to see the link and pins there now. I also like how the backdrop is much more evenly lit now too.  It pays to listen to your operators. This has got me thinking about retrofitting the rest of the lights too.

I also added some ballast to the wye tracks. I find that doing a small section of ballast at a time makes for better results.

Hay warehouse in Alexandria, VA

Two  of the major scenic shortcomings of the layout are been the lack of forage and not enough supply wagons.   Modeling forge is important because it was the predominant cargo on the line. So tonight I made about 140 hay bales. That should be enough to create loads 4-5 cars. I'll probably need three times that many in total for car loads and scenery at the wharf and stations.

Flat car laced with forage at City Point
The mechanical hay press was invented about 10 years before the civil war according to this web site and documented in this booklet from 1842.

To make my bales, I used balsa blocks for the basic shape. I tried to add some variation in size and shape as hay bales in this era were not uniform, as you can see in the image at the left.  The bales were pretty big, about 300 pounds.  Mine are 0.9 inches long and half inch square cross section.

Then I painted them with a mixture of straw color acrylic paint and white glue. Then I sprinkled on a layer of static grass that was mixed with clippings from cheap bristle brushes. Once dry, I glued the blocks together and wrapped them with baling twine.

I used Woodland Scenics harvest gold static grass with some clippings from cheap bristle brushes. Hay comes in different types and colors.  I went with hay that is not quite so green, since I model the late-March time period, so the hay  would be a few months old.

Note the hay bales on the roof of the barge.

February 4, 2018

Open House for Cub Scouts and Neighborhood Children

Can you see "The Penguin?"

Wow, what a day! We never had more fun with the layout. Even Alicia was down in the basement enjoying the visit.  Today we hosted an open house for a pack of cub scouts and the neighbor hood children. Derek Trunkey organized the cub scouts, while Sean Heather organized the local kids. Mike Spoor, an experienced model railroader,  was visiting and he helped out. We planned the event in three waves. First was the cub scouts, then the neighborhood girls, and last the neighborhood boys.  There were a total of 19 children.

Each wave entailed watching a 6-minute video describing the layout and background, then the kids took turns running trains and doing a scavenger hunt.

The scavenger hunt was a YUUUUGE HIT! The children and their parents had a great time looking for the items. Some of the items were obvious, some needed a little explanation, and a few were well hidden, like the penguin hiding in the first image, or Gumby hiding in the tunnel. Turns out, most of the kids did not know who Gumby was!

The kids kept their scavenger sheets as souvenirs. Some of the children had a hard time seeing the layout details because they were too short, but I had hidden a few items that they would have a better view of seeing compared to taller people.

Every kid from ages 4 to 10 got to run a train.  There were several derailments, many due to contraction of the layout due to low humidity (see more below), but the kids didn't mind.  Here is gallery of some photos.


The event was so successful, that we are planning a follow-on event where each child will get a chance to assemble a building. I'll design the building kit so it can be assembled without sharp tools and with simple white glue. Some of the children suggested this, so you know it's going to be be effective. They want to learn how to make a model railroad!

The low humidity caused the usual track problems, which manifest in some of the turnouts that become too tight as the wood bases shrink under them. The solution seems to be a whole house humidifier. We plan to upgrade the HVAC in the house, so that will be an add-on to the new HVAC system. We may have to move that up on the priority list.

Engine Haupt wasn't running well, with several stalls. It needed a tune up that was mostly an adjustment of the pick-up wires, and a wheel cleaning. Right at the end of the open house Fury stopped running, though it had sound and the motor was grinding. Something was jamming the drive. I took it apart and discovered that the rear universal popped out and was jammed. It was a simple fix and it was back in operation.

All in all a great day.

February 1, 2018

In memoriam John William "Bill" Worthington

It is my sad duty to report the passing of my father-in-law, Dr. John William "Bill" Worthington on January 24, 2018 at his home at Charter House in Rochester.

You can read his official obituary here. But I'd like to take this moment to reflect on the great times we shared together.

Bill was a brilliant doctor but you would never know that if you just talked with him.  He had a quiet, modest,  thoughtful manner.  He graduated high school at age 16, and then went to Franklin and Marshall College on a special pre-med program with the U.S. Navy during WWII.  In his typical understated way, he once described to me how each Monday morning they had a formation of students. Those who  did not make passing grades were immediately dismissed and sent to serve on  warships in combat for the Navy. "That was a good incentive to study," he quietly said. He graduated F&M and went to Duke Medical School. He then served for several years in the U.S. Navy as a doctor.

After the Navy, he went to the Mayo Clinic where he became the head of a Section of Rheumatology. He was an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine on the faculty of Mayo Medical School.

He was a generous, kind person, with the highest integrity of anyone I knew.  This is a trait that his daughter and my wife, Alicia, inherited.

He and I shared a common interest in cycling and history, especially American history.  We had many long talks about that subject. We made several trips together to investigate subjects as diverse as his family's genealogy, which goes back to original settlers in Maryland,  whaling in Nantucket, silver mining in Utah, and the gold rush in Alaska.

Genealogy was a strong interest of his. He discovered that his ancestors were very influential in Maryland's development. They even have a valley west of Baltimore named after them.  At the Battle of Monocacy, his ancestors had a farm that was at the center of the battle. It is now been restored as part of the National Park.

He was not a model builder, but he enjoyed seeing my layout and other model railroad projects. He was always supportive and considerate of my efforts in this regard. He told me stories of how he rode the C&O Railroad to and from Elkhorn City, KY as a young man. His father was a minister and so they had passes to ride the railroad.

He will be missed.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Mayo Clinic Department of Development for medical research or Minnesota State Services for the Blind.

Ripple Effect - Adding a Telegraph

Last week I was discussing with Seth Neumann a possible design for a telegraph system for the Aquia Line. I discussed a possible telegraph system in an earlier post. The basic idea is that each conductor would report arrival and departure at each station by pushing a button at that station. The button would activate an Arduino microprocessor to create a telegraph message in the dispatcher's office telling the station and the train number using Civil War Count Code - a simplified form of railroad morse code used by the USMRR as it was easier to learn.  The Arduino would also create a text version of the OS report, in case the dispatcher missed the morse code. The dispatcher would be the only one that has to know the code.

While reporting arrival and departure, sometimes called "O-S-ing" in later TT&TO eras,  was done by the prototype Aquia Line, it is really not necessary on the model railroad, as the dispatcher doesn't have much else to do. The main purpose of this system will be to allow the dispatcher to maintain a train sheet and to create a realistic noise. The telegraph is in effect adding "audio scenery" to the layout.

So having a dispatcher with a telegraph clattering away would be really neat, but it creates a ripple effect on other aspects of the layout especially the layout design. If I am going to have a dispatcher, then he or she needs a work space. Probably an antique style desk.  Then,  I'll need a picture of Lincoln and a period flag based on the photo of the restored station at Ellicott Mills as a guide.

Where to put the dispatcher? Probably the best place is in the home office area. Since the dispatcher will usually be me, and I need to go in  and out of the office during an op session to answer questions, fix problems etc,  I don't want to be trapped in the office with a duck under  section of layout in the way. So if I went with layout design  v19 I would need to make a gate or other section to allow access to the office.

Or, I could change the design and go to a version 20 see below. This version adds a passing siding at Potomac Creek by moving Stonemans and Falmouth into the main room, thus making 5 possible places for meets. The extra passing siding is not that critical as the train density would not change, but the extra length of run wouldn't hurt.

The blob by Robert's Ridge would make it impossible to have a couch in that part of the room. To compensate, I would move the crew lounge to the office area. But then I couldn't have too many book shelves in the office.  I could install book shelves under Falmouth and Roberts Ridge to make up fo r the loss in the office.  The aisle by Falmouth could be a problem especially with two train crews there, so I made the aisle in that area as big as possible.  In this design, I lose the expanded Burnside's wharf, in return for a longer run and easier access to the office.  However, it does keep open a possible expansion of Burnside's Wharf into the office if I run out of things to do later too.

All this just to hear some noise ripple across the layout.

Version 20