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.

August 29, 2018

Finding a Foundry

The word "foundry" is clearly visible on a building directly behind and in line with the water mill along the river.
 This seems to match the approximate location of the Hope Foundry
Thanks for Brian Kammerer and his friend, Frank A. O'Reilly, the Lead Historian at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, some of the mysteries of the second train were cleared up. Their consensus is that the train is a fanciful artist conception.   Here is what Frank says,
 Sometimes, the art isn't about chronicling what is, but telling a story about what is going on.  In this case, the lithograph panorama in question is a retread on old promise.  The 1863 litho, with the legend, "View of Fredericksburg, Va. Nov. 1862)," really is a doctored 1856 lithograph of Fredericksburg.  I'm attaching a couple of detail-shots from the 1856 to compare.  Even the trains are in the same place with the same smoke.  The only difference is that the artist in 1863 cleared off all the ships on the city dock, wrecked the bridges over the river, added a couple of Confederate earthworks in the background, and a Union cannon in the lower right corner of the piece.  Truth is, the artists were lazy in 1863--they neglected to remove the bridge over the Rappahannock upstream at Falmouth.  
Now, to your point that artists added to the scene to enhance it, there are a couple of features that appear in the 1856 and 1863 litho that weren't there in reality--one is the Mary Washington Monument on the outskirts of town.  The town intended to erect a monument but never got past building a base by the time of the Civil War.  Yet, it was in the lithograph because that was the city's signature significance/identity before Union and Confederate armies shot it all to hell!  The other is the crazy Falmouth bridge.  It remained on the 1863 litho because no one was looking for it--it never existed!  It was a bit of 1856 salesmanship, promising the city was modernizing and becoming well connected to the rest of the transportation networks in Virginia.  In precisely the same light, the artist "finished" the unfinished railroad, connecting Fredericksburg to the Virginia interior.  The right of way had been cleared by the time of the Civil War, but the company went bankrupt.  Several companies failed trying to resurrect it after the Civil War before the P, F and P ran a small gauge line out through Chancellorsville and Wilderness to beyond Parker's Store at the end of the nineteenth century.
So, the easy answer is yours: artists were taking license to tell their story--the story that Fredericksburg in 1856 was reinventing itself, modernizing, and harmonizing its past--the Mary Washington Monument--with the future--the railroads and river crossings, making it a transportation hub.  Only thing is: it did happen that way.  

Frank also answered I question I had about the foundry that the USMRR used in town. 
The authority, Noel G. Harrison,... suggested Hope (Scott's) Foundry, He documented the foundry in his book on Fredericksburg Civil War Sites (Lynchburg, Va.: H. E. Howard, Inc., 1995), Vol. 1, pp. 35-39.
"The Hope Foundry's Confederate war production was interrupted by the Federal occupation of Fredericksburg in the spring of 1862.  Union officers seized the enterprise, staffed it with soldiers and former slaves, and even laid a railroad spur along Princess Anne Street to convey their products--including at least one repaired locomotive--to the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad."  

With this additional information, plus a citation that credits a union bakery at Falmouth, I made the following revisions to the plan for the Fredericksburg expansion. I had to adjust the streets a bit to fit my space, but it is starting to convey the feeling of a large town.

The turnout to the bakery in Falmouth would be on a curve, but at least it is a wider curve than I have there now.

August 28, 2018

Fredericksburg Plan Revised

A panorama from 1863 showing the region near the railroad bridge. There are two tracks with trains on then
 headed south from town.  The right hand track to Marye's heights is a mystery.
I revised the plan for expanding the model railroad to Fredericksburg a bit to better reflect the actual buildings and tracks in the city based on some more research. The information on what the town looked like, especially the area near the tracks, during the war is relatively sparse. One problem we have in trying to understand what the railroad looked like in 1863  is that the RF&P extensively rebuilt the right of way though Fredericksburg and north in 1910. They elevated the line through town on a viaduct and built a new station. They also relocated the line that was north of the river to remove curvature and built new bridges. The bottom line is that most vestiges of the civil war era railroad were destroyed. It is hard to look at the current right of way for prototype inspiration. So we must rely on the few photos we have, most taken from the north side of the river, and some maps that show the railroad right of way, most notably a hachure style topographic map from before the war, a Sanborn map from 1886, and the panoramic drawing shown above from 1863.

The hachure topo map from the LoC shows two sidings in the town. One on the north side of the main line that goes to the freight depot (we know it was the freight depot from the Sanborn map, though some think this was also the engine shed that Haupt refers to in his memoirs).  This map also shows a siding to the passenger depot on the south side of the mainline. The topo map shows a single track mainline, though a passing siding was probably likely, especially since the Sanborn map shows one too.

1886 Sanborn map
The Sanborn map gives a lot more detail, but it is from 1886. You must be careful as some things changed in the intervening 23 years from when I am modeling to the time of the Sanborn map.  You can also learn more about the area by comparing later Sanborn maps to this one. The good news is that many of the structures shown in the 1886 Sanborn map do match well with the ACW era photos.

By 1886 there was also a narrow gauge railroad that terminated near the RF&P depot. Some of its tracks show up on the Sanborn map, but those tracks were not there in the ACW. However, the panorama of Fredericksburg published in 1863 shows two tracks departing town to the south, one on the mainline and one to Marye's Heights. That track to Marye's Heights is a mystery to me as it doesn't show up on any other ACW era map or photo, except perhaps for the Mallory map that does show a junction south of the station. There was an unfinished railroad in this area that eventually became the Potomac, Fredericksburg and Piedmont Railroad. Could the rebels have built a line to Marye's Heights to supply their men there?

The revised track plan reflects the new information from these maps as well as some other study of photos that I have done. The track plan is a double ended siding, with stub ended spurs on each side.

The spur to the turntable is optional. Now that my locomotives have functional links on the pilots, I now longer need to reverse the engines at the south end of the line. However, I like how the turntable embellishes  operations by giving the crew something else to do, so I think I will keep it.

I included the bakery and the pickle factory in the design as they are interesting buildings. More on them later.

The following is a letter written by a soldier from the 2nd Wisconsin. It has some interesting detail about the railroad facilities in Fredericksburg in 1862.

From the Second Wis. Regiment  Camp Ginnie's Station, Va.
May 26, 1862
Dear Tribune:-
Your correspondent has remained silent thus long from the fact that his department failed to furnish anything worthy of note. Since I last wrote you our time has mainly been occupied in giving "a fancy drills" and "parades" for the especial benefit of our new Brigadier General. But within the last few days the white glove style has ceased and we now find ourselves the peaceful occupants of a former secesh camp nine miles south of Fredericksburg and within four miles of Ginnie's  Station on the Fredericksburg & Richmond Railroad. How long we will remain here I know not but it is presumed that our forward movement will again commence by tomorrow.
To rebuild the railroad bridges a detail of six hundred men was made from this Corps, fifty-one of which are from this Brigade. The three bridges between Acquia Creek and Fredericksburg were built inside of three weeks-the one crossing the Rappahannock being three hundred feet in length and the other one about ninety feet each in length- the whole work is under the supervision of Mr. Stone, U. S. Bridge Builder, Philadelphia
An extensive foundry and machine shop owned by a Mr. Jones, a rank secessionist, was seized and from the Bridge force a detail of fifty men were put at work building cars, repairing locomotives, &c., a steam portable saw mill has been turned out of this building within the last week and is now at this station. A Battery of cannon has been cast here and will soon be ready for service. A blacksmith shop is attached to it where twenty-two hands are employed shoeing army horses. You will understand this force employed at labor in this establishment are all Western men - Wisconsin and Indiana. They have material a-plenty to work with and are capable of turning out anything man may desire - either of wood, iron, brass or copper. As a matter of complement let me tell you that Mineral Point is represented in this establishment in the person of Nicholas Geig.  Budlong is acting Commissary and general Orderly for the Commander of the force. He attends to the seizing of Secesh lumber whenever their representatives of the Davis click refuse remuneration for their property.The rebels when occupying Fredericksburg appear to have delighted in acting the part of barbarians. For instance the monument to Mrs. Washington, the mother of Gen. Washington, bears the marks of seventy-five bullets besides its being chipped off at the four corners. The monument is on  a high eminence and from the mound you have a fine view of the city and surroundings. The citizens assert that this piece of architecture was used as a target during last winter. I understand an effort will be made through the soldiers to repair the monument. Hundreds would willingly contribute to so humane an object.
From the monument of Mrs. Washington you have a full view of the two rebel burying grounds. In one there are three hundred graves and in the others a hundred and eighty. No regard appears to have been paid to color. The citizens say that the white soldier often became the occupant with the slave of the same vault. These are mostly North Carolina and Georgia troops and nearly all died with three months.
On Sunday the rebel magazine at Fredericksburg exploded killing a private who was guarding it throwing his right leg over thirty feet from the spot . The brother of this young solider was an eye witness and but a little way from him  but strange to say was unharmed. In the magazine there were seventy boxes of cartridges and two torpedoes which but a few days since were taken from under the platform at the depot and placed in the magazine for safe keeping. The cause of the explosion is unknown. A number of arrests have been made but whether any of the unruly secesh are implicated in the transaction is as yet unknown.
Soon after the explosion and while the affair was being investigated a secessionist standing by remarked to one of our soldiers, "that the private killed was served right and had received his reward for being among the invaders" this man had no sooner finished his sentence than he measured his length on the mother earth. He was roundly thrashed in the presence of his fellow citizens and raised on his feet and told to "hunt his hole," and not dare to ever again offer an insult to the Union soldiers. It will teach him as well as hundreds of others of sympathizing rebels that their lips must be sealed when in the presence of the Union boys that our soldiers know how to resent an insult notwithstanding their feelings.
This part of Virginia is thoroughly secesh and they have been bold in their remarks. The women in particular have a general abhorrence of the Union soldiers. To show their contempt rather than walk under the Stars and Stripes which are hung out in front of the City Hall, they will walk in the middle of the street, draw their veils closely over their pretty shaped faces, turn up their noses and trot along as gay as you please. If you look at one she become desperately fidgety and almost frantic with rage and if you speak to her oh! my the silly thing flirt's around almost beside herself and gives you to distinctly understand that her cap is set for a "bold southerner."- Perhaps they don't understand that we Northerners are inclined to furnish them with subsistence - that but for the ready hand of Abraham they would starve in less than a week. As for good looks you cannot flatter them - in fact they have become so used to turning up their noses in contempt for things to their disliking that it spoils their good looks if they ever possessed so necessary an article.
Last evening we received the news of the falling back of Gen. Banks but the stories are so mixed up that we fear to say anything on the matter. In fact we are watching McClellan and expect every hour of hearing of his taking the Southern Metropolis

August 26, 2018

O Scale National Finale

Judy and Tony Koester pose behind their new P48 layout while mom gets a ground level view.

My mom and I attended the O Scale National Convention on Saturday. We visited the dealer areas and saw some portable layouts, including Tony Koester's new P48 portable layout. Later in the afternoon I presented two talks to the attendees.

Can you image the layout needed to house this structure? Yes, O Scale is big.

Alicia and mom posing with their new toys from  the convention

On Sunday a few of the convention attendees visited my layout since they could not make the Thursday open house. On Sunday afternoon I went to Marty McGuirk's house to work on modules with him. We got his modules almost ready to lay track.
(L - R) Andy Brusgard (father), Andy Brusgard (grand father),
and Andrew Brusgard (age 6)
Robert Lavezzi tries his hand at link and pin couplers,
while his wife, Karen, looks on.
Peter Gentieu tries his hand at running an engine. Peter is a local guy a
and signed on to the call board as a future operator for the Aquia Line
George Wallace and his daughter Karen visit the layout.
George had previously visited in 2012

Working on Marty's module

August 24, 2018

Alternate History Layout Design

Looking north across the Rappahannock to the destroyed railroad bridge and downtown Fredericksburg beyond
A few days ago I came up with an idea for an expansion of the Aquia Line that relies on an alternate history. The idea involves extending my layout into the crew lounge by placing Fredericksburg on the far wall.  The main modeling motivation for this is to add another big bridge on the layout and a large town.

The USMRR Aquia Line did extend across the Rappahannock River through Fredericksburg and about 10 miles beyond from  May 1862 (when Haupt took over the line) until September 1862 . They used the RF&P workshop in Fredericksburg and also had a large bakery there. During this time the bulk of the Army of the Potomac (AoP) was on the Peninsula south east of Richmond, and General McDowell was operating just south of Fredericksburg with about 30,000 men. Unfortunately, the USMRR abandoned this area in early September 1862 (See this post), and never rail rails back to this area again during the war.

I could back date my railroad to May-June 1862.  But, that would require that I change seasons depicted on the layout from winter to spring-summer. Also, I would have to convert the bridge at Potomac Creek to the bean pole and cornstalk trestle.

So I thought about how else I could use the existing winter layout, but extend the line to Fredericksburg. In November 1862 when Haupt rebuilt the Aquia Line after the Battle of Antietam, he implored General Burnside, the commander of the AoP to cross the Rappahannock River and move south before Lee arrived. Instead, Burnside delayed his move until his pontoons were on site and Lee was able to fortify the heights behind Fredericksburg. That lead to the disaterous Battle of Fredericksburg, he was replaced by General Hooker, and the AoP went into winter quarters north of the river.

What if Burnside had crossed the river and moved a few miles south before winter hit? The bulk of the AoP would be in fortified positions south of the river, supplied by a depot at Fredericksburg. The stations north of the river would have smaller concentrations of soldiers, but they would still maintain stations on the railroad.  Falmouth would no longer be an important stop, but Fredericksburg, just across the river, would be a major hub. I would have longer sidings there able to support longer trains.

Close up of rebels on the bridge. Note the building
with the cupola in the background - that might be a
freight house or engine shed.

The water mill and other structures besides the bridge in Fredericksburg always appealed to me as a scene worth modeling (see photo at left).  In this layout design, the large churches and municipal buildings of the city would be behind the operators, and therefore not modeled. Other than the above mentioned mill, then town buildings that would be included on the layout would be smaller homes and stores. They would be a lot of fun to model.

The main attraction is the long bridge over the Rappahannock. It would be a trestle built over the stone piers of the original RF&P bridge that was destroyed by the Confederates. That would be a neat scene. The bridge and its depth would require me to move the TV to the opposite wall, not a big deal.

This looks like a neat design if you don't mind alternate history.

August 23, 2018

O Scale National Convention

Kent Smiley runs a train while Steve Bird (I think - his handwriting was hard to read)
Marty holding forth on civil war naval guns

The O scale National Convention is underway this weekend in Rockville, MD. I hosted an open house for the attendees. About 30 of them arrived to see the layout. Kent Smiley, Marty McGuirk, Brad Trencamp, Doug Gurin, Jeff and Christian Peck helped run trains while I answered questions from the guests.

On Saturday I will be presenting two talks at the convention.

Yes, Marty has a padded room in his house.
Hmm, is this ruler straight?
One of my modules in the Honda CRV
On the module front, one of my modules made its first road trip to Marty's house so he can catch up on constructing his module. Next weekend we'll get the track down and then my two modules will return home so I can finish all the track.

August 1, 2018

Viaduct? Why not?

Chooch Stones for the viaduct walls
This project has been a real quacker. I finished adding the stone walls to the viaducts on my new modules.  I used Chooch flexible vinyl sheets for the stone walls, as they were just about perfect size for this project. The cap stones are carved basswood. It took several iterations of materials to get the right height of the road bed. One of the problems with using pink foam is that the thickness is not uniform over the whole sheet. So you have to take measures to level it out.

I painted the stone with black acrylic primer. I did some quick dry brushing with gray, but they will require a little more painting to get the colors right.

This is what the stone viaduct looks like now. 

This is starting to look like something other than a wooden table