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.

October 31, 2020

Changing My Approach

Last week I made some drive rods for the locomotive project and installed them. I cut them on the laser from two layers of  0.025 inch laser board. Then I glued the layers together.  They fit very nicely on the crank pins that come with the Slaters Wheels.  This short video shows the trucks rolling on the track.

This rolling test rig demonstrates the effectiveness of the compensating beams. I will need to add some spacers or make some new bushings for the space between the wheels and the compensating beams to limit some of the sideways play the axles.

As I was working on this project, I've been searching the web for materials and parts. I came across several companies that offer laser cutting of metal. I found a shop in Utah that will do small jobs. They have  4KW and 8KW lasers that can cut up to 1 inch thick steel. That is 1000 to 2000 times more powerful than my laser cutter.

They have some neat software on their website that takes .DXF files and converts them to 3D depending on the material you select. Then their software examines your files for problems and if all is OK, you get an estimated cost (see figure below.) Since this looks so easy to use, I decided to use their service to laser cut my frame parts from 0.075 inch thick stainless steel. I will also submit drawings for the valve gear and some other parts to laser cut in 0.020 inch nickel-silver. The drive rods will be included in that file as well as the parts for the compensating sub-chassis. Since the nickel-silver material is only 0.02 inches, I will double the drive rods and solder them. Nickel-silver solders very nicely. The nice thing about laser cutting metal is that for small jobs the cost is much lower than photo etching. 

The draw back to this approach is that I now need to draw all the parts of the model before I submit them. My earlier  approach of designing as I go will not work. Also, I decided to move ahead with engine Leach. I am using the Talisman drawing to inform the Leach drawings. But Leach was a bigger and heavier locomotive. 

So, now I am in the process of drawing the model in side and front elevations. Those two drawings should be enough for me to create drawings for laser cut parts. I will do test cuts at home with 1/16th MDF and resin-impregnated laser board to make sure the fit and function are OK.

I have spent a good part of the week doing these drawings and ordering materials. It's kind of a iterative process as you must design your parts for size materials that you need. So depending on what is available, you adjust the drawing. For example, brass tubes for the boiler are limited in available diameters. I went with a 1.125 inch diameter boiler on this loco as Leach had a chunkier boiler than other engines. At 1:45 scale, 1.125 scales up to about 50.6 inches. White says in his book on American locomotives that most boilers were under 48 inches in this era. But the photos of Leach show a boiler slightly bigger at somewhere between 50 and 52 inches. I consulted with John Ott on this issue as a sanity check and he agreed. 

The image below shows the work-in-progress of the drawing as of tonight. I have about half the parts I need to draw for laser cutting done. The blue parts at the bottom are the frame parts. The silver parts are some of the valve gear. This drawing also shows how the motor and gearbox fit in the loco. I may not have room for much of a flywheel as it would extending the cab interior. 
Abode Illustrator drawing to plan out the laser cut part.

This image at the left shows one of my frame parts loaded onto Oshcut's website as I tested it for problems. This will be  0.075" stainless steel. Note how I was able to include the spring details on  the chassis. Those would have been very difficult to machine without CNC milling.

Screen capture of a .STL file for 3D printing
 of the smoke stack.

Since I was doing computer drawing, I decided to take a crack at drawing a smokestack for possible 3D printing.  See the image at the right.  I have never drawn a 3D part for printing before, so this is a first for me. I used Tinkercad to draw this smoke stack. I have Fusion360, but I am not familiar with it enough to try this. Tinkercad is very easy to use, though not as powerful as Fusion360 and some of the other 3D software out there. I exported the image as a .STL file and sent it to a friend that is doing some other 3D printing for me for Alkem Scale Models. His resin printer does a better job than Shapeways. I am curious to see how it comes out. 

Also this week I briefly considered getting a milling machine so I could cut the parts as needed from stock materials. But I decided the laser cut parts are probably superior for this project. I may get a small 3D printer though as they are much less expensive these days and the resin printers do a great job. 

So all in all it was a busy week with a lot of computer time both researching information and drawing. 

October 22, 2020

Rolling Chassis

Close-up of the sub-chassis
 I decided that I needed to rework the sub-chassis as I was getting some binding. I believe it was because the hornblock bushings were not parallel. To solve this I made a new jig with some scrap MDF that held the axles parallel, while I re-soldered the hornblock bushings to the sub-chassis beams.  The result gave smoother operation.

Next I started on the main side frames. I built these from 0.09 inch square brass tube.  Again, I made a jig to help hold the small brass pieces while I soldered them.  The frame dimensions are not too critical as long as they allow the sub-chassis to rotate about the pivot axle. With the jig they came out pretty close to identical, or at least close enough.

Jig to keep axles parallel
To make the top beam I soldered two brass tubes together. Then I measured where the bends should be. Using my mototool with a cut-off disk I cut small slots on the beams on the acute angle side of  the bends. When I bent the beams I bent both of  them, thus both were identical. I  unsoldered the beams and put one in the jig. I soldered the additional members one-by-one, cutting and fitting as I went.  I used my disk sander to square up the ends and my mototool and files to make the mitered joints.
Frame jig showing top beam with bend.

With both frame sides built, I cut two brass 0.5 by 0.8 by 1/32 inch  plates and two 0.09 by 0.09 by 0.8 inch square tubes to act as transverse members. Again, I soldered them together and used my disk sander to square the ends and make them all the same length.  The photo below shows the completed sub-chassis and the main frame.

I have to figure out a way to cover the gaps at the bottom of the hornblocks. I'll probably add small keeper plates that will be soldered on or maybe screwed in if I decide they need to be removable. I don't think they do, so solder may be OK. 

The sub-chassis installed in the main frame. 

Next I fitted the gear box and motor to the front axle. This took a little bit of fiddling to make it work.

Motor and gear box on the front axle. 

Here is a short video showing the chassis rolling on Potomac Creek  bridge. The results have been encouraging so far.

October 20, 2020

Compensating for something

I started my build for an O scale 4-4-0 locomotive. My plan to build engine Leach got derailed when I accidentally ordered only two drivers from Slaters instead of the four that I needed. So I had to drop another order for a second set of drivers and some other parts. They will not arrive for about a week or so. 

In the meantime, I started a test build with the wheels I have on hand. They match up pretty well with the engine Talisman. John White has a good set of plans for this locomotive in his book, "American Locomotives." The locomotive is similar to the USMRR Deveraux engine, so maybe that is what this will become.  The next step is to adapt those plans to an equalized (compensated) suspension model locomotive.

A scaled drawing sized to fit the wheels I have on hand. The gold and brown object at the bottom is the template I made to hold the hornblocks in position for soldering. 

I plan to use a pivot beam design. You can find out a little about it at this link, but if you are like me, you will find the explanations very hard to follow. Luckily, Eric Gates, has built locos like this and is helping coach me.

I built my pivot beam sub-chassis with sections of 0.090 inch square brass bar and brass hornblocks bushings.  The first thing I did was to solder two sections of the brass tube together, trimmed them to the same length and drilled a 0.040 inch hole through both with my drill press. That way they were identical. They will be the pivot beams. Then  I made a laser cut template with 0.025 inch thick resin-impregnated laser board (see the drawing above.) The templates held the hornblocks in position while I soldered the bar to the top of the blocks.  That worked pretty well. I used the axles in the hornblock bushings to square up the hornblock to the pivot beam. Note the hornblock bushings do not slide up and down in the hornblock guides in this design. They are fixed to the pivot beam. So there is no need for springs etc. This is one of the key advantages of this design. 
Pivot beam sub-chassis

The other advantage is that the compensating sub-chassis is "hidden" behind the drivers and main frame. There are no out-of-scale pivot bars connecting the pilot truck to the suspension. This is important for US style 4-4-0s where there is a lot of open space under the boiler. 

Laser cut MDF farm for testing fit and function

Next I laser cut a test frame from 1/16th inch MDF. The purpose of this was to check for fit and function. Everything seems to be working well. The Scale Four diagram says this frame is "cosmetic", but it does have some structural purposes. It holds the pivots beam,  locates the pilot truck and carries the boiler and cab. 

So I will use the MDF frame as a template to build up the frame from brass. I plan to make the frame with 0.090 inch brass bar stock. That should be fun. 

The last remaining critical task is to make the side rods. They need to be precise to avoid binding. I plan to use a laser cut  template to make them. I hope that works.  I have two drill presses, including a miniature one for model building, but I don't have a vertical milling machine.  So I have to use templates and other techniques to make identical flat parts.

October 16, 2020

Prototype Fidelity Versus Practical Reality

The current issue of O Scale Resource magazine contains an article which will be the first of a series on scratch building locomotives in O Scale. Glenn Guerra is starting the builds as he will be making two 4-4-0 locomotives.  The series begins with a discussion "where to start." It's an interesting discussion to me as I am in about the same place he is. This paragraph from the article was especially germane,

"I say this a lot and, I will  repeat it here, draw your model in the scale you will build it. This is especially important in the computer age where many of us do computer drawings. It is tempting to draw what is on the railroad drawing and just scale your drawing. So let 's look at what happens when you do this. Suppose there is 1/4" clearance between some of the valve gear parts and you draw it up that way.  When you scale your drawing to O Scale, you now have around .005" clearance. How good are your machining skills? Can you actually make that stuff? Suppose your prototype has a dimension of 4-3 /4" somewhere on it. If you divide 4.75 by 48 (our scale) you get .0989". Great, where are you going to get material that thick? On my models, the frames ,are 4" thick. That's .083" in O Scale. You can't get sheet brass in that thickness , but you can get .080" thickness, so that is what I used. The other problem is all the parts of your model are related. Now that I changed the frame thickness , how does that effect other parts of the model? I decided the outside dimension of the frame, from side to side, was what I felt was important, so I made that to the drawing. That decision now affects dimensions of the cylinders, firing deck, pilot beam and valve hangers. As you draw the model, you will be thinking of how things are going to fit together and how you will make then. I would recommend that you get the mechanism and boiler designed to fit before you start building. The rest of the parts are not critical to your model running."

 I think he is right on the target with this statement. This is fact of life when building any model. Rarely can we build a model with every dimension true to scale. This applies to structures, rolling stock and even track. The key in a locomotive is that all parts have to interact and function, and not just look nice. 

In the case of a locomotive with equalized suspension, the scale factor is even more out of whack. We (well, most of us) can't build perfectly scaled down versions of 1860's 4-4-0 locomotives with true scale suspensions, as shown in the image at the left. If you want a equalized suspension on your model, there will be components on the model that just don't exists on the prototype, not to mention that our locomotives use electric motors instead of steam.  Other prototype parts will be too small to make. It's a fine line to walk, but that's part of the challenge, isn't it.

Year in Review 1861 American Railroad Journal

 I was reading some past issues of the America Railroad Journal during the time period of the civil war on the Linda Hall library online archive. The excerpt below is the American Railroad Journal's  summary of the effects of the first year of the war on railroads and American business is general written at the start of 1862.  I found it very interesting. It mentions the grain rush that northern railroads were experiencing as well as new track building. It is surprisingly optimistic in those dark times. Note some of the text was missing from the original scanned document, so some sentences may have missing words. 

American Railroad Journal.

 New York, Saturday, January 4  1869. 

Railway and Financial Review for 1861. 

The year just closed has been, by far, the most eventful in our history. A disruption of the country has taken place, and whatever may be the future, still continues. Nearly one-half in area, and one-third in population has practically disappear-ed from the circles of business as well as of personal intercourse. Almost complete, non-inter-course exists, and with it a vast change in the mate-rial condition of the country. 

In one point of view, consequently, we cannot display with our usual complacency, the vast material progress of the country during the year that  was just closed. The customary exhibit shows an increase in the mileage of our railroads to have been only 631 miles, against the usual average of over 2,000 miles for several years past. The small extent opened was in the early part of the year. In the Southern States, we presume that there is not a person employed upon new works. In the Northern, but little is doing, the great contest absorbing the whole attention as well as the means of the country. The cessation of the work of construction is of very little consequence, for present, as there is hardly a section of the try that is not now well accommodated by new lines. 

The change in the political condition of country there has been a corresponding one in commerce. Before the outbreak of the rebellion last cotton crop had very fully gone to market, and its value been realized. The threatened political troubles had, in the meantime greatly diminished commercial transactions, so that the importations into the country for the calendar year have been only about one-half the amount of 1860, or say $180,000,000, against $360,000,000. The fortunate circumstance of a large demand for breadstuffs and provisions, occasioned by droughts in Europe, lead to shipments of these on an unprecedented scale, bringing the balance of trade so largely in our favor as to cause an importation in gold to the amount of nearly $60,000,000, within the year, against an export of an equal sum for 1860. For the first time, the exports of domestic produce from the port of New York have largely exceeded the imports of merchandise. Notwithstanding that cotton has disappeared from our exports, these still continue largely in excess of our imports, excluding specie, a really wonderful phenomenon, considering that the value of cotton exported, for several years past has averaged nearly $200,000,000. This fact is striking testimony in favor of the resources of the country, and the capacity of our people of instantly adapting themselves to an altered state of affairs. The causes referred to have averted a great commercial revulsion, for although the Banks have recently suspended specie payment, the step was not caused by any lack of specie, or capital in the country, but to a disturbance in internal exchanges, for the want of a proper system of taxation, to return to the centres of trade the loans made in these on account of the war. 

The year has, on the whole, been a very favorable one for the railroads of the Northern States. Their earnings the present season greatly exceeded those for 1860. Their traffics have immensely increased, to supply the foreign demand for breadstuff's. Their operations have not in a single instance been interfered with on account of the war, which has been carried on exclusively on Southern soil. Whatever may be the result, there is no probability that any Northern State will become the scene of hostilities. It is, consequently, a somewhat remarkable fact, that in a period of civil war, the value of railway properrty should have improved, while that of all other kinds has greatly deteriorated. We see no investment so little liable to be injured by it, as in railroads. The closing of the Southern portion has had a tendency to increase the traffic of great lines reaching inland, which for the wi(??) will show a great increase over 1860. 

While the general retrospect for the past y(??) is not encouraging, and while we do not chose to indulge in speculations as to the future, it is small consolation to point to the great interest which our JOURNAL is devoted, as the one which  remains unaffected, unfavorably, by the war, and whose prospect for the future is most encouraging. The internal commerce of the country has been and remains most active, and the works over which this is carried on, most prosperous. Every year is likely to add to the traffic, showing that investments in them promise for the future to make up in a considerable degree for the losses and annoyances of the past, and to prove a stay and support when everything else is sinking from under us, or yielding greatly diminished returns. 

October 11, 2020

Scratch Building a Locomotive

USMRR crew show the result of battle damage on engine Leach

I am finally able to sit at my computer and get some work done. So, inspired by Eric Gates presentation at the ACWRRHS Zoom conference last week, I decided to proceed with a long desired modeling task - scratch building a locomotive.  My objectives are two fold- one, I relish the challenge of building the model, and two, I hope to build a locomotive that runs well and quietly.  Some of my current locomotives have noisy gearboxes. The noise is not as evident during op sessions, but is readily apparent when I record videos. To achieve those two objectives means that I am going to try some type of equalized suspension so that the loco can handle my rough track work.  I also plan to use a high quality gearbox from Slaters that I hope will run  quietly. If you never heard of Slaters, they are one of the major players in the British model railroad hobby industry. They offer a wide variety of parts for people looking to build a locomotive from scratch. When it comes to scratch building or just assembling kits of locomotives or cars, the British are orders of magnitude ahead of U.S. hobbyists. I hope to benefit from their experience.

The first step is deciding what to model. My eventual goal is to build a model of the 0-8-0 Washington flexible beam engine built by Baldwin. I have discussed this model on my blog previously such as here. However, I feel that might be too complex a model to try as my first engine scratch building experiment. So, instead I am looking at building the 4-4-0 Leach as shown in the photo above. The reasons for selecting Leach include it ran on the Aquia Line in the period I model, it's a chunky 4-4-0 with room for a 18mm diameter can motor in the boiler-firebox, and we have at least 3 photos of the engine. Also, John Ott, noted early rail locomotive expert,  sent me some photos of other New Jersey Locomotive and Machine Works engines that have similar details.

The actual Leach weighed 56,000 pounds, had 56 inch drivers, 16.5 inch cylinders, 24 inch stroke, 865 square feet heating surface,  a 1900 gallon tender, and a fairly large boiler judging by the photos. It is definitely one of the bigger 4-4-0s in USMRR service.  

In trying to decide what driver wheels I should order I discovered an odd fact. My existing SMR locomotive models are built to 1:45 scale, not 1:48, at least based on measurements of their actual drivers as modeled.  That scale ratio coincides with the scale of the track, that is, if you divide 4'8.5 inches by the 1.25 inch gauge of O Scale track you get a ratio of 1/45.2 The following table shows the data and calculations from my measurements.   I always suspected that the locomotives were a bit bigger than O scale, but I never systematically measured them. The difference is only 6 percent, but it is there.  I once asked Dave Schneider about this years ago and he said, they were built to 1/48. But the numbers support a different conclusion.  I suspect the builders made the models to be properly proportioned on O gauge track. This is a happy accident as I can now claim that my model railroad is built to the proper gauge. Also, it means that  British 7mm and 40mm scale war gaming model figures are closer to scale.

I selected the Slaters 7855A7 4'7" 15-spoke driver for my model. The 4'7" is computed at British 7mm scale or 1/43.5. So that makes the wheel have an actual diameter of 1.26 inches, about 0.02 inch larger diameter than a 56" driver at 1/45 scale.  Leach had a 16 spoke driver, but no manufacturer offers that driver in 1.25 inch diameter. I do have a set of Slaters 16 spoke driver with a diameter of 1.33 inches. Too big to use on Leach. The Slaters drivers have an ingenious squared axle design that makes quartering the wheel sets trivial. The drivers are secured to the axle ends with an allen screw, so disassembly for repairs is easy.  The drivers have insulated spokes making electrical issues simpler too. These British guys have this stuff figured out! 

 Next, I used the scale drawings of the Slaters gearboxes and motors superimposed on the photo of Leach to see if they would fit in the loco. Unlike many other small manufacturers, Slaters provides excellent scale drawings of their gearboxes and motor drives. It looks like there is plenty of room. 

So I ordered the parts needed. Next step will be to make the drawings based on the actual dimensions of the wheels and gearbox when they arrive. I may try to etch the major pieces for the model as I don't have a milling machine to make my own. I do have a lathe and two drill presses.  
I should mention that I already have a complete brass tender for this locomotive. It is an extra model that I got from SMR trains a few years ago for this task. It scales nearly perfectly to Leach's tender. 

A Slaters 1.33 inch 16-spoke driver in front of the extra brass tender. In the
background is the SMR Osceola
You might have noticed a change to my blog. The template I was using was several years old. I had customized it. Unfortunately, it was getting incompatible with the new Blogger. So I had to update to this new format. Hopefully it's more readable. 

October 8, 2020

Military Traffic on Northern Railroads

Over the last several years I have been trying to determine how much military traffic was carried by the northern railroads during the civil war. I have found bits of data here and there, but never got a complete picture. I recently found this table in the American Railroad Journal, March 8, 1862 when it was  cited by Thomas Weber is his book "The Northern Railroads in the Civil War 1861-1865." (I have been doing a lot of reading and rereading of civil war books in the past month.)
This table lists the total bills presented (and presumably paid) by the United States Government for U.S. Army Transportation for a 10 month period from April 1861 to Feb 1862.  There are 73 railroads listed in the table for a total charge of about $1.8 million dollars (or about $47 Million in 2020 dollars.) It is interesting to note that the top three, and 7 of the top 10, are eastern railroads.
The next step would be to combine this data with the railroads overall revenue to get a sense of the percentage of military business each railroad did.  Also, it would be nice to find this data for other years in the conflict. but this gives a nice snapshot. 
One of the reasons that western railroads are under represented in this data is that a large portion of military traffic in the western theaters was carried by steamship. But that is a subject for another day. 

The following is a statement of all bills presented by railroad companies, for transportation for the United States Army, from April 1, 1861, to Feb. 1,1862:


Baltimore and Ohio 



Pennsylvania Railroad



Northern Central



Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana



Cleveland and Pittsburg 



Phil., Wilmington and Baltimore



Cumberland Valley



Camden and Amboy



New Jersey Railroad



Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien



Portland, Saco and Portsmouth



Connecticut River



Erie and Northeast



Bcston and Providence 



Elmira and Williamsport



Fall River Railroad Line



Detroit and Milwaukee



Kennebec and Portland



Philadelphia and Erie



Old Colony and Fall River



Cincinnati and Chicago Air Line



Boston and Worcester



NY and Erie



Cleveland and Toledo



Norwich and Worcester



Androsroggin and  Kennebec



Androsooogin and Kennebec



Annapolis and Elk Ridge



Western Railroad



St. Louis, Alton and Chicago



liannibal and St. Joseph



Hudson River, Troy and Boston, Rutland and Buriington



Dayton and Michigan



Hudson River Railroad



Philadelphia and Reading



Buffalo, New York and Erie



Lake Shore and Michigan steamers..



Lafayette and Indianapolis 



Milwaukee and Chicago



New York and New Haven



Pittsburg, Fort Wayne and Chicago



Iron Mountain



Rutland and Washington



Allegheny Valley Railroad Company  



Chicago and Milwaukee



Allegheny Valley Railroad Company .



New York Central



Eastern Railroad



Chicago, Bnrlii-cton and Quincy 



Worcester and Nashua



MIchigan Central Steamers 1 026



Central Ohio



New York and Boston Express



North Pennsylvannia



Terre Haute and Richmond



NY, Providence and Boston



Indiana Central



Chicago and Northwestern



Little Miami, Columbus and Xenia



Keokuk, Fort Des Moines and Minnesota



Cleveland, Colunilins and Cincinnati ..



Indianapolis and Cincinnati



Columbus, Piqua and Indianapolis



Troy and Boston



Buffalo and State Line 43 88



Boston and New York Express Co.



Stonington Line Railroad 



La Crosse and Milwaukee



Lackawanna and Bloomsburg.



Hailford, Providence and Fishkill 



Cleveland and Mahoning



Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton