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.

July 28, 2022

Road Trip Recovery

I returned from the road trip to the IPMS National in Omaha. It was a fun trip. 

It started out when I drove out to my son and daugher-in-law's house in Lexington, KY.  Rob and Dan met me there as they drove from Florida. The next morning, we trans-loaded  the stuff I was carrying to Rob's pick up with a camper top.  We made it to Omaha in one day with stops in St Louis to see the former Union station and to have some awesome BBQ at 3 Bay BBQ.

The Anderson House, home of a wealthy merchant, 
was to be a field hospital but ended up in
 the thick of the fighting.

We also stopped in Lexington, MO to tour the Missouri State Park for the Battle of Lexington, 1861. This was the site of a siege early in the war when the status of Missouri was still being decided. Missouri was a slave owning state, but the majority of the citizens were pro-Union. Lexington, MO was the last point on the Missouri River that steam boats could navigate, so it was an important transportation town. The siege lasted 4 days with the heavily outnumbered Union soldiers surrendering largely because they did not have a good source of drinking water. 

Did we reach the end of the world? Sunset in Nebraska
We arrived at the park late in the day, but the park rangers kindly stuck around and gave us a quick description of the battle. We also had a chance to tour their museum. It was quite nice.  I did not know anything about this battle before we visited, so I am glad we stopped. 

We arrived in Omaha just as the sun was was dropping below the horizon in an incredible orange display.

A U-2 in flight. I took the photo at the museum and added a background with Photoshop.

Bombs away!

The next morning we toured the Strategic Air Command Museum in Ashland, NE. This is a fine museum similar to the USAF  Museum in Wright Pat AFB, but with a smaller scope focusing on SAC. They have two hangers full of aircraft including a few that are not at Wright Pat such as a British Vulcan bomber. They had some of my favorite aircraft there including a really weathered B-58 Hustler. The museum is privately funded. Most of the aircraft sat outside for many years and need restoration. 

They had a diorama at the museum that featured General Eisenhower and a group of paratroopers by a C-47 with invasion stripes. A local IPMS club built it. The diorama was based on Ike's famous visit to the  101st Airborne before they jumped into Normandy.  I mentioned that I really liked this diorama to Rob and Dan. Dan, who is a dealer in model kits, stated that the diorama was based on an old Monogram kit. Sure enough, later in the week he found one of the kits and got it for me. Thanks Dan, I guess now I have to build it.
I liked this diorama of Ike with the paratroops.

We entered our models in the meet at the hotel later that afternoon. There were about 900 registered attendees, 600 walk-ins, and 2800 models entered at the meet. That number of models is actually an under-estimate as several entries consisted on multiple models. So 3,000 is probably a closer guess.

Luis Vargas and the kit he gave me
With our models entered,  we had a chance to admire the other entries and visit the vendor area. Rob and Dan bought lots of stuff over the long weekend. I didn't buy any kits but I did get a courtesy copy of a 13 inch mortar from Luis Vargas, of Vargas Scale Models. He said he used my blog and my book as a reference for some of his civil war models. 

I did buy some tools and a piece of art work from Squadron Signal. There was a former employee from Squadron Signal selling the original artwork from their books. If you are a serious scale modeler you probably have some of their books. I was able to get a print of the armored vehicles I used when I was in the US Army in the 1980s. Now I need  is a wall to display it.

We managed to play a round of  golf at Iron Horse GC. I was disappointed to learn that their logo is a black horse and not a locomotive. It was a beautiful golf course with some of the best greens I have putted. A few of the holes were very tight and I lost a few balls.  But I did have a birdie and a few pars.

The Big Boys
We also visited Keneflick Park where there is a display of Union Pacific Big Boy and DD40 locomotives. They are situated on a bluff over looking the city. It must have been fun getting them in place. 

Paul De Luca's NYC
On Wednesday night we visited Paul De Luca's  NYC model railroad. He models from NYC to Albany on about 5 levels without a helix. It is an impressive design and operating layout. He is also working on scenery and several places look really good. Dan got to run a train back and forth across the whole layout. That takes about 30 minutes.

Steve Rodie's Multideck MIL Layout

 We also stopped at Steve Rodie's new free lanced Milwaukee RR.  He and his crew were busy working on track and benchwork. His layout is multi deck and includes a narrow gauge branch.

When the model meet closed we had a chance to visit the Western Heritage Museum in the former Omaha Union Depot. It is a wonderful museum with not just trains and a model railroad, but also rooms depicting life in the west from native American dwellings to prairie homesteads. 

The awards banquet was Saturday night. The IPMS is all about model contest awards. They have about 150 categories that they select first, second and third.  It makes for a long awards night, but it goes quickly as they present the winners as a slide show. They also had special awards. We were happy to learn that our Star Power diorama got 3rd in class and also was awarded the special convention theme award for the Arsenal of Democracy- Sherman. 

I was a judge in the figure categories. IPMS judging is a bit different than NMRA. IPMS judging focuses on finding flaws in a model so it can be ruled out of award consideration. There was little discussion of artistic merit. I suppose this is to try to make the awards system more objective. They do not consider accuracy, which I find interesting because many plastic modelers spend thousands of hours "accurizing their models,"  i.e. making their models more realistic and accurate. IPMS judged models do not benefit from being scratch built except as tertiary criterion. The best is show was a scratch built model, but many other scratch built models did not get awards. The IPMS does not consider 3D printing scratch building, even if you do the original drawings.  I think I like the NMRA system better. They both are subjective, but at least the NMRA does reward scratch building and research. 

 Rob and I decided to each take one trophy of the two that our joint model was awarded. The diorama came home with me. Alas it was 104 degrees on the trip home and the heat in the back of Rob's Ford pickup truck damaged some of the model windows. I am not sure I can easily fix them.

I stayed a few days in Lexington, KY to help my son and daughter-in-law work on their house. I am home now recovery from an exhausting week and hoping to get back working on my model railroad. It was a fun trip. Dan and Rob were great travel partners. 

July 17, 2022

Star Power - Chrysler Detroit Arsenal

For the past 3 months my brother and I have been building a diorama to take to the IPMS National Meet in Omaha, NE. The theme of the meet is Arsenal of Democracy. You don't have to build a model for the theme, but I think it makes it more fun. After some discussion we decided on a diorama of part of the vast Chrysler Detroit Arsenal. 

They made about 25,000 tanks during WW2 in the city block-sized building. The factory kept working until about 1997. I have two personal connections to this factory. One I worked for Chrysler in 1978 right about when they sold their tank division to General Dynamics. Later, I worked on the operational testing of the Abrams tank.  I think I may have been in this building during one of my many meetings at Tank and Automotive Command in Warren, MI.

We decided to exploit the Rye Field Models 1/35th scale model of the M4A3E8 Sherman Tank with full interior. My brother built a Rye Field Model tank kit before and knew they were high quality. We divided the work- he built the tanks and the car,  I built the factory and the trains.  He worked down in Florida while I proceeded in Virginia. About 2 weeks before the meet, he flew up to Virginia to do some last minute work.

This structure was perhaps the most difficult model I have ever built. The biggest challenges were the size of the model and the totally exposed nature of the structure. I could not hide anything inside. I used my laser cutter and 3D printer extensively.  In retrospect, I think this would have been better as a photo etched model. But it's too late for that.

Dioramas must tell a story. We wanted to convey the total dedication of the USA to the war effort. So we included a vignette of Hollywood movies stars that toured the plant to raise money for War Bonds. So while the actors and actress ham it up for a photo. the workers keep plugging along.  The title of the diorama is "Star Power."  Can you figure out the triple entendre built into the title?

Some stats. The dimensions of the diorama are 35.75 inches long, 23 inches wide, and 18 inches high. There are 5 tanks, 2 railroad flat cars, 1 automobile, 27 figures and dozens of small details. 

I head to Omaha  tomorrow.. If you are around this weekend, stop by the meet and check it out. 

July 7, 2022

Visit to Freedom House Museum

The model I built is displayed with a key to the structures 

Alicia examining the model

 Alicia and I stopped by the Freedom House Museum in Alexandria today. It opened a few months ago, but  this was our first chance to visit. 

The museum has 3 floors open for exhibit. The exhibits are quite interesting as they tell the history of black Americans in Alexandria from the slave era to today.

The museum exhibits and the interior of the building are nicely done. However, Andrew, one of the docents, told me that the building will need major structural renovation. So they are not at the final configuration. Thus, the basement that was once a graphic depiction of the slave jail is not open. But the rest of the museum is worth a visit now.

There were several exhibits that caught my eye. First, the large picture behind the model I built is a photo of USCT soldiers that were wounded, some at the Battle of the Crater. They were at the L’Ouverture Hospital and Barracks, a Union military hospital for African American soldiers as well as escaped slaves  and freed slaves during the Civil War.  That hospital was adjacent to the house that houses the museum. They have identified each person in the picture and provided a short biography of them in the little booklet you see by the window. 

One of the side projects I have for the Aquia Line is to get a list of some the people that the USMRR Construction Corps hired. Many of the were former slaves.  

One of several galleries
In one of the upstairs gallery they have an exhibit of paintings of various free African Americans in Alexandria. One depicted a man who owned a grocery, the first free black to have a business in Alexandria. Alas, I did not write down his name, but I will next time I visit. 

They had an interesting graphic that traced the number of freed black people that lived in Alexandria. There were up to 30 percent in 1810 if I read the chart correctly.  That was more than I would have guessed

I also saw a photograph of a sugar mill that was once in Alexandria on N Washington Street. The mill had several slaves working there, including some young boys. I don't think I ever saw that photo before.