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.

February 28, 2023

Blasts from the Past with a Topaz AI twist

A shot of on my former HO Scale PoLA layout.  I used PS to replace the sky and Topaz AI to sharpen it. The engines were provided by Ramon Rhodes.

I recently went through some of my older photos of the various model railroad layouts I have built  for use in the local NMRA newsletter.  I decided to process some of the images through Topaz AI to see how they looked. I was very impressed with how  images looked after processing. Noise wasn't too much of an issue with these images, but the Topaz AI sharpening algorithms cleaned up the images much better than PS unsharp mask could. Here are some examples. 

A photo from my former N Scale Mountain Sub layout. I used Topaz AI to sharpen it. The details, especially the red truck in the foreground, look good after processing.

This is a real blast from the past. This is a photo of the first model railroad project I built,
my former Chase Marine Terminal NTRAK module in 1991-92. I did not have a high res scan of this image, so I used Topaz AI to upsample it and to sharpen it. I did the sky replacement years ago with an early version of PS.

February 24, 2023

Grand Tour of the South East U.S.

Battle damaged Fort Pulaski, GA

 I am on the tail end of a nearly three week-long road trip across the southeast of the US.

The trip started with an automated phone call from AMTRAK on Tuesday evening telling me that the Autotrain I was supposed to take the next day was cancelled due to equipment problems and would not be rescheduled. I had planned to take AMTRAK Autotrain to Florida for the start of a 3 week-long road trip. AMTRAK leaves Lorton, VA late in the afternoon and arrives in Florida the next day. I had a roomette reserved as well as a spot for my car. I was looking forward to a relaxing trip. Oh well, that was not to be.

Fortunately, I was nearly all packed when I got the call, so I got up early Wednesday and drove south. I arrived in South Carolina before my scheduled train would have.  I spent the sunset hours at Santee Nature Preserve.  I stayed in a hotel in Savannah, GA later that night.

Lighthouse at Tybee Island, GA

Battle damaged gun at Ft Pulaski
The next morning, I got up early to catch sunrise at Tybee Island. Alas, there were almost no shore birds around for me to photograph. After a few hours on the beach, I headed to Fort Pulaski, GA. I had not been there for more than 20 years. I toured the fort and hiked around the grounds.  I departed at lunch time, stopped in Savannah to take some pictures of the harbor, and arrived at my brother's house in Melbourne, Florida in the late afternoon.

On Friday, my brother and I prepared our models for the IPMS JAXCON show. I brought the large Star Power 1/35th scale tank factory diorama with me since we will be donating it to the Valiant Air Museum in Titusville, FL after JAXCON. JAXCON would be its last public show (but that changed - see below.)  I also brought a few of my other models to exhibit.

This diorama was best in show at IPMS JAXCON

We arrived at JAXCON on Saturday morning and got everything registered and placed on display.  Then we had a chance to socialize and look at the some of the 425 models on display. Later than afternoon, I was shocked to learn than my diorama, "The Very Vortex of Hell," received a gold medal, was selected as best diorama, and was awarded Best in Show. My other models also received awards with my tugboat and "Natural 20" diorama receiving silver medals, while my "Corinthian Hoplite" bust received a gold medal and best figure in show.  I was floored by the results as there were many excellent models on display. 

This was the largest of the alligators I spotted- about 8 ft long

Anhinga in flight at Viera Wildlife Preserve

Back in Melbourne on Sunday, Rob and I worked on a new diorama we plan to take to the IPMS National Meet in Texas next summer. Jennifer also hosted us for a combined 134th birthday (Rob and I are twins.) I also visited another nature preserve in Viera, Florida that was teeming with wildlife including alligators, snakes, and hundreds of birds, many of which I had not seen before. 

We also had a chance to visit Rick Bellanger's HO/HOn3 layout. It is coming along nicely since our last visit. He works very quickly.

Thursday, we packed our models again for a trip to the Atlanta Figure and Armored Modeling and Preservation Society (AMPS) joint show in Atlanta. At JAXCON we meet the president of the AMPS south and he suggested that we bring Star Power to the AMPS show next weekend in Atlanta. We agreed.  So, we packed up Star Power for one more last trip. Every time you move a large model like this risks damage. This would definitely be the last show for it. 

Some of Lebron's Vietnam dioramas
We first stopped at Columbus, GA to visit the Naval Museum of the Civil War. Rob and I were joined by Dan Pierce and Piere Feltault. After dinner, visited Lebron Mathews HO scale model train layout. It was great to see Lebron and his wife Patty again. Lebron has a wonderful HO train layout. Plus, in his office he has a collection of dioramas he built depicting incidents he experienced in Vietnam. Based on these well-done models, one can assume that he had an action-packed time in Vietnam. 

Dan examining the Jadgpanzer V

Friday morning, we had a special opportunity to visit the US Army Armor and Cavalry Collection at Fort Benning, GA. That collection is in new facility where the US Army consolidated many of its historic armor vehicles from various forts and bases. The collection is not yet open to the public, but the AMPS arranged a special visit. The new facility is huge with at least 100 and probably more (I forgot to count) historic tanks and vehicles on display. The vehicles are indoors, which will help them last longer compared to the being left outside as many were in their previous display locations. Some highlights included several WWI tanks, German Panther, Tiger I and Tiger II with cutaway armor to reveal their interiors, a complete line up of US post war heavy tanks, and many other experimental and in some cases odd ball vehicles like the T28 assualt gun, Twister and MBT 70. Also, they had examples of the German WW2 Jadgpanzer V and a Jadgtiger in other bays awaiting preservation. It was a great morning for armor historians and enthusiasts. 

An overview of part of the tank collection building

It looks like Airborne School hasn't changed much
since we went in the 1970s.

Rob and I stopped by the US Army Airborne School to reminisce about our times at jump school in the 1970s. It was refreshing to see so many polite and fit young people at the school.  Then we visited the National Infantry Museum. It is one of the better military museums filled with all kinds of interesting exhibits and artifacts. 

We arrived in Atlanta after a stop at the studio of one of Rob's friends who makes pottery for bonsai trees. Then we checked into the Atlanta Figure and AMPS Show. This show was not as large as JAXCON but did include some excellent models on display. Again, it was fun to meet some new and old friends. I met well-known figure modeler Doug Cohen who had a fantastic diorama of Thundermug, a naval B-24, on display. I was surprised to learn that his father-in-law is James Harper, also a well-known P48 O scale modeler. Small world.

Doug Cohen's Thundermug diorama was a top
award winner

On Sunday we attended the brief awards ceremony. I received a gold medal for the tugboat, a silver for the Hoplite bust and bronze for the other dioramas.  

It is interesting to compare the varied results between the two shows. It makes you realize that the awards process is highly subjective, and one shouldn't get too worked up over it, but it is nice to receive recognition. Furthermore, the AMPS judges leave feedback on what they saw when they examined a model, which can be helpful in improving your skills. 

That wraps up the model related aspects of the road trip. Four museums, three nature preserves, two train layouts, two model shows and one fort.  Now, it's on to Alabama and Kentucky to visit with my children and their families including my two new granddaughters. I'll be back in Alexandria soon to get back to work on the Aquia Line. There has been some interesting work going on for the layout while I was gone, but I will update you about that later.

Footnote, Rob delivered the Star Power diorama to the Valiant Air Museum on Wednesday. They were very happy to receive it.

Norm Daniels, commander of the Valiant Air Museum,
examines the Star Power diorama.

The diorama outside the museum