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.

May 11, 2019

ProRail 2019 Road Trip

I just returned home from a fantastic two-week road trip to ProRail 2019 hosted by the Tulsa, Oklahoma  model railroaders. I decided to attend the event via an extended road trip.  My wife opted to stay home, so I made the trip solo. Therefore, I took it easy each day and made sure I visited sites that interested me along the way.

ACW Model RR at New Market
The trip started on the Sunday before ProRail with a stop at New Market Battlefield in the Shenandoah Valley.  This battlefield is a must see for ACW modelers. In the museum they have a nice, but dusty HO scale model railroad diorama showing typical civil war era scenes. While the battlefield is interesting, the restored Bushong Farm is a great reference site for ACW era modelers. That deserves a separate blogpost later.

I stopped at Clifton Forge to railfan. There I saw three trains, a mixed freight with CN and UP power, AMTRAK and a eastbound coal train. The first night I stayed at Hawks Nest in WV. While there I did some rail fanning, spotting a few more coal trains, and hawk watching, hence the name.

Next, I travelled to Lexington, KY where I visited my son and cousins from my wife's side of the family. We had a great time including a dinner at a nice restaurant that Gus Fieri deemed to have the one of the top 5 burgers in America. I ordered it and enjoyed it but could only finish half, while my son got the rest. After a morning round of golf with my son and BBQ lunch (the first of many on this trip), I drove to Mammoth Cave via the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, KY.  The old mill buildings at the distillery were quite charming. I didn't have time for a tour but I took several photos and stocked up on bourbon and bourbon ball candy.
Local switching at Clifton Forge
with an insect for air cover

That evening I partook in a 3 mile hike in a portion of the Mammoth Cave system via illumination from gas lantern light only. That was fun, but not interesting enough to justify me to go back for a second hike the next day, even though I had already purchased the ticket.

Instead of a second cave tour the next morning, I headed south to visit Stones River National Battlefield near Murfreesboro, TN.  I had studied this battle extensively in the past, but I have never walked the terrain. It was about as I expected, expect for a very flat yet stony region they nicknamed the "slaughter pen." The terrain by McFadden Ford was very steep. Here massed Union guns destroyed a confederate charge on the final day of the battle. That has been a common theme on several of the battles I have visited recently.  The suburban area of Murfreesboro is encroaching on the battlefield site, but the park service has preserved a good portion of it.

I stopped at Parkers Crossroads for a brief look at the battlefield museum. This was a battle during the early stages of the Vicksburg Campaign where N.B. Forest got caught between two Union forces. He famously "charged in two directions and escaped." He continued to bedevil the Union until the war's end.

Harold and Charlie looking at future site of a cotton crane.
Harold will build and make operational
I stopped for the night at Dr Charles Taylor's house. He, along with his wife, Ginger, and brother, Harold, were gracious hosts.  We had another BBQ dinner. Then we had fun running trains on his large O Scale layout, and taking pictures and videos.

I departed the next morning for Tulsa. I took a scenic detour on the Pig Trail through the scenic Ozark Mountains on my way to see the Pea Ridge battlefield. The weather was perfect and the battlefield is beautifully preserved. The information plaques at each stop on the battlefield tour were some of the best I've seen at a NPS battlefield. The plaques depicted scenes from the battle with the same orientation as the viewer would have standing by the plaque. They were sponsored in part by Sams Club and Walmart, whose corporate HQ is nearby.

CSA gun line at Pea Ridge
Pea Ridge is called the "Gettysburg" of the west as the Union victory here ensured that Missouri would remain in the Union, despite the large number of slave owners in the state with secession tendencies.  The battle was another example of massed Union artillery smashing confederate lines. The Union artillery commander at Pea Ridge was Franz Siegel. He was the overall Union commander at the first stop, New Market, where his artillery was insufficient to ensure victory, though one battery did cover the Union retreat. The rebel commander at Pea Ridge was Earl Van Dorn. I lived for many years with my backyard facing Van Dorn St named after him, despite he being mostly unsuccessful in battle and murdered during the war by a jealous husband.

I arrived in Tulsa to find the ProRail hosts manning a table at the hotel. Many of my model railroad friends were present. It was fun to reconnect with them.

Dan Thompson (l) and Tom Fausser by his SBTRR
I had a chance to test the Proto Throttle on Steve Davis's KCS layout.
 It is interesting. A fun way to run a diesel. I really liked the horn switch
Over the next 4 days I operated on 4 nice HO scale layouts: Sammy Carlile's Sante Fe line, Tom Fausser's South Brooklyn Terminal Railway, Jim Sinclair's SP Donner Pass and Dave Steenland's  HOn3 Silverton & Lake City. I also visited 4 more layouts. Tulsa has a surprising concentration of nice operating model railroads for a city of 1 million folks. Two more BBQ lunches were wedged in between the op sessions.
Jim Sinclair's layout is a large mushroom design

Port of Catoosa switcher
On Monday I headed up to Kansas City with stops at a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Tulsa, Westhope,  historic Route 66, and the Port of Catoosa. There I was able to watch a local switch engine shuffle a car.

Don Ball 
Don and Becky Ball hosted me for two days in KC. We toured the WWI museum and saw two layouts, Mark Steenwick's HO scale beer line and Mike Fyten's S scale Kaw valley,  in addition to Don's magnificent Stockton and Copperopolis RR.

B-2 and SR-71 in the cold war exhibit
After saying farewell to Don and Becky, I left KC,  and headed toward Dayton, Ohio to visit the National Museum of the US Air Force.  Wow, what a museum. It is huge. I spent 5.5 hours walking around and saw most of the air craft, but not all the exhibits. My impression was that the Vietnam era exhibit was the best, but the cold war exhibit had some of my favorite aircraft, especially the B-58 Hustler and the XB-70, the only surviving example.  There was also a B-1 and B-2 and two variants of the SR-71. It's well worth a visit.
B-58 Hustler

On the final leg of the trip, I stopped in Pittsburgh to visit my daughter and son in law.  I went to a yoga class she taught. I needed it as my legs were sore from all the walking at the USAF museum.

I took hundreds of photos on this trip. If you want to see more, you can visit the Facebook Album at the link below.



  1. If you're ever in the area, you should check out Monocacy Battlefield in Frederick Md. There's a nice diorama in the visitor's center that shows the flow of battle & explains the movements of troops. The B&O RR played an important part in the battle.

  2. Thanks. I live near Washington, DC. I have been to that battlefield several times and walked the terrain. However, I don't recall much from the visitor center, so perhaps another visit is needed.

    I should point out that the Worthington Farm on the battlefield was owned by distant relatives of my father-in-law. Several years ago, we did a family genealogy tour with the descendent of that farm owner. I have a copy of the book, "The Battle that Saved Washington" that he gave me.

    Also, the first miniature war game I ever played was The Battle of Monocacy at Larry Bond's house. The game system we used was Johnny Reb II. I later became much more involved with John Hill and Johnny Reb III.

    So I have several connections to the Monocacy Battlefield.

  3. I've read Fighting for Time By Glenn Worthington. Glenn watched the battle from his basement & after the battle he was wounded by an exploding cartridge while trying to retrieve a bayonet from a pile of discarded muskets. Later in life he became a lawyer & then a judge. He was instrumental in getting congress to make Monocacy a battlefield park.

    You might like reading Four Years in the Saddle by Col Harry Gilmor.

    1. Ooops, you're right. I had the title wrong. It was "Fighting for Time," by Glenn Worthington. The other book I referred to was Desperate Engagement: How a Little-Known Civil War Battle Saved Washington, D.C., and Changed American History. by Leepson, which I also have and read. Oh well, it's been a while since I read them. Perhaps I need to reread them before making another trip.

  4. I glad you enjoyed the AF Museum. Having grown up in the area (my father worked at Wright Patterson AFB), I didn't appreciate it. I had to trek out to it every summer when cousins would visit. When I grew up and moved away, I started taking my sons there during visits to the homestead. Wow! A world class museum in my old backyard! I must see for anyone!

    1. It's funny how we, as residents in the Washington DC area, so infrequently go to the great museums in town. As I neared retirement from a job in downtown DC, I made it a point to visit as many of the museums as possible, either during lunch or after work. I'm glad I did. I still have some visits to the National Archives I need to make.