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.

January 31, 2021

15th Annual 24 Hour Build Finished


I finished the 24 Hour build. The kit was simple in terms of number of parts. But, the parts did not fit very well.  I know it wasn't entirely my lack of build skill as even the sample photos with the kit show large gaps, especially in the rear clip. Tamiya designed this kit so that the doors and rear clip could open. That might explain the large gaps

A nice looking engine was included in the kit, but the rest of the rear clip was not very well detailed or missing. The kit did not include the inner wheel wheels or even a whiff of the tubular suspension. I started adding some fuel lines and wires to the engine, when I realized that the the rest of the engine bay was not worth looking at. So I glued down the rear clip sealing the engine inside. The photo at the left is the last look at the engine before I sealed it up. 

It was a fun project. Having to rush to build it was both exciting and frustrating as this model would have benefited from a more careful build. 

Some lessons learned if I do this next year.

1. Pick a model type that you have more experience in building. I think a 1/56th scale armored vehicle is a good type of kit for this challenge as I know I can build and paint one in less than 24 hours.

2. I used acrylic paints for the finish. It dries fast and I had a lot of it on hand.  But acrylic paint is very hard to sand when dry and impossible to wet sand. If you need a glossy, flawless finish acrylics are probably not the way to go.

3. Pick a simple paint scheme. I did that in this case and it helped a lot. Especially when at the 22 hour mark, I had to sand and putty major gaps.

4. Car models are fun to build, but the finish can be very tricky. This was the first car model I have built since 1978 when I was living in Detroit and built some F1 race car kits.  It reminds me why I like railroad and military models. In railroad or military models if you make a mistake in the finish or have a glue glob, you can usually weather around it, add some battle damage,  or add some stowage to hide the error. That is much harder to do on on car models.

January 30, 2021

15th Annual 24 Hour Model Build

 My brother convinced me to try this challenge. This challenge is organized by a Facebook Group. Their "About" statement  says, 

This group is for those builders (and spectators) who participate in our annual 24 hour build. The object is to get together with a friend or friends or go it alone and build a model of any kind in a straight 24 hour period of time! 


Start at noon on Sat and end at noon on Sunday during the weekend of the 24 Hours of Daytona race.

New or unstarted kit. (You may wash the parts and strip chrome ahead of time)

You are allowed to glue up to 4 pieces to body ahead of time.

You must paint your model during the build.

Please post pics during the build here on Facebook as you go along.

The #1 most important thing is to have fun.

Here is the Fotki photo site that Gary Kulchock put up where all photos of the finished builds will go... 



You can build whatever you want. Since this is an event based on a automobile endurance race, I decided to build a model of a Porsche 910. This kit was given to me by my brother. He got it from a guy who started to build it, made some mistakes and gave up. It looks like the errors will be easy to fix and all the parts are present. So I should be able to build it.

I will be making it car 17 from the 1967 Nurburgring. This car is somewhat historic as it was the first overall winner that Porsche had at the Nurburgring. The actual car is in a museum in Naples, Florida. It is still in operable condition having been fully restored. 

However, given that I am a model railroader and military modeler, my car will have be weathered as if it just finished the race. See the bottom photo. Note the weathering on the  car and the black tape holding down the frunk (i.e. bonnet). 
Check back in 24 hours to see if I was successful.

From the Porsche Legends website

After the race: Udo Schütz and his winning No. 17 car.

Six hundred twenty-one miles forever

While Formula One is going through a rough patch in Germany six years after the death of Graf Berghe von  Trips and twelve years after the withdrawal of Mercedes-Benz, a great age of sports-car races is beginning— with  Porsche leading the way. TV cameras are on hand to broadcast the 621.4-mile race to the world, as well as its historic result: for the first time, a race car from Zuffenhausen takes overall victory. During the race, the Nürburgring provides the requisite drama: holding a sizable lead, Lucien Bianchi and Gerhard Mitter are forced to abandon the race on the final lap with a broken alternator. Nevertheless,  sweeps the top four places. Leading the charge: Udo Schütz / Joe Buzzetta. How quickly the drama of motor racing can turn to tragedy is seen during the 1969 season two years later: Bianchi dies at Le Mans in the spring and Mitter on the Nürburgring in August.

Date: May 28, 1967
Winners: Udo Schütz, Joe Buzzetta 
Car:  910 
Distance: Forty-four laps of 14.173 miles (Nordschleife)
Winners’ average speed: 90.4 mph

January 27, 2021

What are you?

My niece asked me to explain what a "Train Goober" was after I used that phrase in a sentence. The best way I could explain it was in a flow chart, but even this isn't 100% accurate. So where do you fit in?

Is 3D Printing Scratch Building?

This question has come up on some modeling forums in which I participate.  The immediate follow up question is, "who cares?" Well, some people do, especially when it comes to contests for model builders.  The NMRA is not alone in hosting modeling contests. In fact my impression is that plastic scale model builders and figure painters are even more focused on contests and awards than the NMRA.

A similar question arose when digital photography became available. At first the film advocates argued against digital photography in contests. Now, 15 years later, film is dead and no one thinks twice about digital photography. I suspect the same will happen in model building.

The NMRA has addressed the subject of 3D printing in its requirements for Achievement Program judging.  From the NMRA website

The term "scratchbuilt" carries the implication that the builder alone has accomplished all of the necessary layout and fabrication which establish the final dimensions, appearance, and operating qualities of the scale model.  This definition does not prevent the use of any tools or jigs as long as the builder alone has done the work necessary for the tool to make the part.  This would include drawings or computer files to control CNC, automatic lathes, laser cutting machines, 3-D printers, and other tools.  If a third party changes the builder's inputs, then the parts are not considered to be scratch built. 

Meanwhile, other modeling contests have taken a different approach. For example, The rules for the  Bandai Hobby Open, a modeling contest for models made using parts from Bandai kits, says, "a part which is made by 3D printer or 3rd party resin will be not judged." Now this may be because they are trying to promote the use of their own kits, though they will allow, "scratch built parts." So clearly they lump 3D printing in  the non-scratch built category.

If you frequent modeling forums you will see a split opinion on whether 3D printed parts can considered be scratch built. For example, one fellow made an interesting point that it is much easier to make a perfectly symmetrical part when 3D drafting and printing, so called additive machining, than by traditional subtractive machining. OK, that might be true. So what. Use the right tool for the job I say.

I view 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC milling machines, computer controlled paper cutters simply as additional tools in the model building arsenal. If you start with raw materials, you do the design work,  and it becomes a part, then it's scratch built. If you buy a 3D printed part, or you download a stl file to print on a 3D printer, then that is not scratch building any more than buying a commercial injection molded or cast part would be.  That pretty much is in line with the NMRA guidelines.  

I suppose one gray area might involve a person that designs a part, but has a commercial house, such as Shapeways, do the printing. That might not meet the NMRA guidelines.  I know from my own experience that printing the parts on your own machine can take a fair amount of experience and skill. 

3D scanner in action
I am not sure how 3D scanners fit in this category, as those seem to be more like a copying process. But, I suspect there is a lot of art and skill involved in making a useful 3D scan that can become a 3D printed part, so I will remain open minded on that. I read that the new iPhones can do 3D scans, so the technology is becoming more and more available.

Kit bashing is a gray area that lies between scratch building and not.   The NMRA allocates a variable number of points for scratch built content in contest or judged models, so they recognize there is a continuum is this area. Furthermore, the NMRA did adapt their AP requirements to allow super-detailing, especially diesel models, as an acceptable way for a model to gain points in their scoring system.  

In conclusion, this is not an question that I get too worked up about. I do find it an interesting subject and thought it worth some discussion.  I am not a big advocate of model contests in general due to the great amount of subjectivity it involves. I think the NMRA merit system is actually a pretty  good approach. 

January 18, 2021

ACWRRHS Group Build

We recently announced this on the ACWRRHS. I am posting it here too for general information. Some folks have already started. 

For the first time ever the ACWRRHS is holding a group build event.  In this event, anyone that wishes to participate will build a model under a specific theme.  The theme for the premiere event is “Civil War Era Box Car.”

This is NOT a contest. It is a way to get us involved in building and sharing our work, even if you don’t have a layout.  All skill levels may participate. Any materials may be used. You could start with ready to run model and re-letter and weather it it. You could build one the the kits available from our vendors. Maybe you want to 3D print something, that’s fine. just about any idea you want to try is OK. Get creative. You can display the model on a plain background, ot show it in a diorama full of troops and supplies. 

So you like the history, but are not a modeler? Try it anyway. You might enjoy it. You’ll end up with a memento of the group to display in your office or den. If not, at least you’ll get to marvel at everyone else’s work. 

You only do computer modeling? Fine, make a box car in your computer.  

You like to use cereal box cardboard for construction material, go for it. 

All you have to do it decide to join in and make what you want as long as it somehow relates to a civil war era box car. 

Now, for the rules, such as they are.

Starting date:  January 15, 2021. 

Ending date:  April 30th,  2021, just in time for the spring campaign seasons

Allowed themes: Everything is allowed from every theater of the war, any railroad, any setting,  as long as it involves a Civil War Era box car. Again, be creative. If you are not sure wether or not your idea fits within the frame, ask the group.

How it works:  If you plan to join in you can start a message thread on groups.io with the following Subject, “ACWRRHS 2020 Group Build, <Your name here>”   The thread will be where you describe your project and show progress. You can post pictures as you go. Others can comment on it as they see fit. 

The last  hard rule:  it must be a new project you are starting. You shouldn’t use a model that you have previously built. 

At the end of the time period, the group moderators will do a consolidated message showing model photos and or videos of all the models, finished or not. There are no prizes or penalties. That’s it. 

We look forward to seeing your builds as they progress. 

January 15, 2021

Friday Fun

 Here is a shot I took recently of Haupt stopped at Potomac Creek Station. The engineer and conductor have dismounted and are in the cabin discussing the next move with the agent.

January 12, 2021

Compendium of Photos of Engine Leach

 I thought it would be handy to have a single blog post with all the photos I have found of the USMRR engine Leach. John Ott was very helpful in sending some of these to me. The first two I had previously posted on my blog.

The next two are actually the same image, except one is a wide view and one is close  up. 

The last image came via John Ott. Note the circular headlight in three of the images. Only the one image shows a rectangular headlight. Since Leach had suffered battle damage during its career, some parts were likely changed. Also not in the second and last photo there is an odd ring-like part on the rear steam dome.  On some of the photos the lettering on the tender is barely visible.

This photo is not very clear, but we can see the rear dome is partially disassembled. Also
not the fact car loaded with wheel sets. One of my readers pointed out that the connecting crank rod on 
the port side appears to be missing.

The following images are of other locomotives made by NJLW that John Ott sent me. They may share some family traits with Leach. But Leach is the only one with three domes. Leach was also bigger than most other ACW era locomotives. She also had a longer wheel base than most.  

January 11, 2021

More Archives of Civil War Era Photos

Front quarter view image of Locomotive Leach at the UMBC Digital Collection. Note the lanterns
hanging from the light bracket.

In doing some research for an article I am writing, I came across two archives of civil war photos that I had not seen before. Those archives have some images that are new to me. There are not that many photographs of the civil war in comparison to later wars, so when you find some undiscovered images it is a treat.  Especially when one is germane to one of your modeling projects. 

The first archive was at the University of  Maryland Baltimore Campus Digital Collection. They have several photos I had not seen before. But the best discovery for me was the photo of Engine Leach from the front quarter view (see above). The link to the image is here. I did not have a nice clear image of the front of the locomotive. This image answers a lot of questions I had on the front details. This image is now the fifth image I have of this locomotive. The caption at the UMBC archive says this note was hand written on the back, "A Famous locomotive in the Virginia campaigns fought for, taken and retaken, disabled and recuperated."

The second  archive was on website for  The Met, which is the nickname of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. They have an on-line collection of civil war photos. This image at the left of Culpepper, VA is part of the collection. I don't believe I have seen this image before. There is the link to the image. I did see some captions that were incorrect, so be careful when you read them. 

January 8, 2021

Update on the Locomotive Build

 I have received several questions on the status of the locomotive build.  I decided to take a break from the locomotive project to work on some other things that I have been thinking about for a while.  But here is where I left off on the locomotive.

A few weeks ago I painted and assembled the parts of the locomotive that I had completed. I used some new metallic paints from AK Interactive in Spain. They are very good. They look like metal but are easy to apply.

As I was examining the model, I realized  I needed to make a lot of changes. In particular, I did not like how I did the crosshead guides. I also need to make changes to the firebox and the interior of the boiler.  The frame needed  modifications to the rear saddle and the back deck. On the inside of the stack, I need to add a lip so the screen will sit securely and not fall into the stack. I needed to correct the rivet pattern on the smokebox. I want to name a name plate holder on the side of the boiler. Most importantly, I need to adjust the location of the hole for the subframe. Somehow it ended up too far forward by about 1/8 inch.

All those changes required that I modify my drawing. But, because of the way I drew it using imported dxf's and joined bodies, making changes was very difficult. This is was because I am not that familiar with Fusion and didn't know about the proper way to set up a file so changes would be easier later.  Fusion uses a top down approach, so each new part references existing parts. If you make changes to a part, the changes bubble through the whole drawing. I was getting a lot of errors as Fusion was unable to implement some of the changes I was making mostly because I did not set up the file correctly. 

So I started the a new drawing from scratch using the proper file layout.  A big change in the design is how the cylinders and cross head will attach to the frame. It will be easier to show later than to explain now. 

 I did about 8 hours of screen time on the new drawing.  It was getting tedious,  and the way Fusion works with my mouse, my fingers were getting sore. To pan you have to push down on the mouse wheel and to orbit you push on the mouse wheel and hold shift. The pressure on my finger from pushing on the mouse wheel was making my index finger sore, so I took a break.  It is possible to reconfigure the mouse buttons and that is something I should look into doing. I am using a nice Logitech MX Master 3 mouse, but the mouse wheel is big and take a lot of pressure to push. I have thought about getting a Wacom tablet. My former Wacom tablet, which was about 10 years old,  would not work with the new computer and OS. 

Anyway, here is a screen cap of where I left off on the new drawing. Note the file structure on the upper left. Hopefully this will make changes easier. I still haven't quite figured out how the timeline in Fusion works. I have learned that doing multiple un-do's using control Z doesn't work in Fusion like it does in other programs. Also, all the parts share an origin, which makes things a lot simpler. My previous drawing did not, and parts were referenced from different origins which made alignment tough. I have to chalk this up to learning pains from teaching myself Fusion360. I am sure an experienced user would have no trouble with this. 

I ordered some brass detail parts made by  Precision Scale for the loco from my favorite shop, Mainline Hobbies. They came in and I did some work assembling them. The light bracket, bell and whistle will work just fine on the loco. I'm not sure about the cow catcher yet. It won't be hard to draw and print a proper cowcatcher if the brass one doesn't fit.  Also, note how the brass parts compare to the painted 3-D printed domes. The painted parts look just fine.  I was able to put a nice shine on the brass bell.  I can always make brass domes on my lathe if I find I want them really polished. 

January 6, 2021

A Steam-era Inspired Game/Work Table


I’ve been playing around with some ideas for a new combination game-work table for my basement. Most of the time I will use it a general-purpose table. I do a lot of mail order fulfillment, and general purpose work on the temporary table I have in my basement. But it is really simple and has cheap folding legs. The new table would be much nicer and add some additional functions and storage.

Overall size of the new table would be 5 feet wide  x7 feet long and 30 inches high. The central wood area that is the  "play" surface is 4 by 6. A lot of fancy game tables have the central area depressed so a game could be set up and the table still used for other functions, such as dining,  by installing temporary panels above the depressed section. I don’t think I need that as this table will not serve as a dining table. If I don't depress the center, I can add some sliding drawers to the fascia. They would slide under the top surface.

The holes are drink holders. These would be handy even when it is just me using it as well as when guests are over. The slots are for dice and pens etc while gaming. Otherwise they will catch sawdust.

The central area would be plywood, may be decorated to look like teak planks (see theme below). I would probably have to make the table top in two sections pieces because if it was all one piece it would be really heavy and hard to move down the stairs. The gray surround would be 6 inch wide hardwood (poplar stained/painted opaque gray).  The edge would be rounded or chamfered off for comfort. 

The fascia would be hardboard similar to how I built the fascia for my model railroad. The table will have a steam era theme with simulated rivets, brass details, and maybe some military insignia. The rivets are purely decorative. I used a similar technique on my WWI model railroad layout.

The pedestal is 2x4 feet. It is offset deep enough under the table to allow playing while sitting. The pedestal would have some storage. It would ride on locking casters. Lately I’ve been putting all my workbenches on casters. Makes cleaning etc very easy. 

What do you think?