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.

August 16, 2023

Artist Preservation Group Exhibition at Gettysburg, PA 18-20 August

The Artist Preservation Group will be conducting an American Civil War themed miniature art exhibition in conjunction with with the National Parks Service and the Gettysburg Foundation at the Gettysburg Visitor Center on 18 through 20 August.  I believe there will be over 60 artists exhibiting work. Most will be military miniatures, but I plan to bring some civil war era model trains and ships along with some dioramas too.

The event actually kicks off on Thursday with a figure painting class, but that is already sold out. The exhibit will be open to the public on Saturday and Sunday as long as the visitor's center is open.  Sunday morning there will be a guided terrain walk retracing the steps of Pickett's Charge.

The Artist Preservation Group is a gathering of like-minded historical artists whose mission is to generate capital through fundraising and donations in order to aide in the preservation and restoration of threatened historical sites and/or artifacts. They are committed to using artistic talents to actively support historical sites as they continue their dedication to the preservation, restoration, and interpretation of events that shaped history. For more information about APG see,  https://artistpreservationgroup.com/

August 10, 2023

IPMS National Convention 2023

We just finished a whirlwind trip across America’s swamp land to the hill country of Texas. The main purpose of the trip was to attend the IPMS USA National Convention in San Marcos, TX. But we did a lot more that just drive through swamps and desert to get there. Highlights of the road trip included a tour of the Tabasco factory in Avery Island, witnessing 2 forest fires, seeing two model railroads in Houston, visiting the Texas Military Museum in Austin, seeing the battleship Alabama in Mobile, AL, and the US Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola, FL. I went birdwatching most mornings and saw 22 lifers. We met two college friends.

The trip began with me riding AMTRAK Autotrain to Florida. I brought my car loaded with models and dioramas to exhibit at the meet. Those included the "High Road to Rome" diorama that my brother and I jointly built, the "Oracle at Delphi" box diorama (actually a vignette in IPMS rules), "Backdoor to the City of Charlemagne" a 1/56th scale vignette I built last year, and my SS Atlantic Tugboat and Railroad barge with 4 cars. The latter came straight off my Aquia Line layout. I built some carrying cases for them as I also plan to bring them to the APG Exhibition in Gettysburg in a few weeks. 

Once in Florida I stopped at the Orlando Wetlands park to do some bird photography. I stayed at my brother Rob's house in Melbourne. I did a bit more birdwatching on Sunday at Sebastien Inlet. 

Staging the models we would bring

Rob had some models he planned to exhibit, so we packed those too.  We headed out early Monday morning and linked up with Dan Pierce in Orlando. He was driving his own vehicle as he planned to bring back a lot of model kits to resell in his business. So we had three drivers for two vehicles. That worked pretty well as no one got too fatigued over the 2,500 mile road trip.

Our first night was spent in Lafayette, LA. Of course we ate Cajun food that evening. 

Rail fanning near Lafayette, LA

Next morning Dan had to drop his truck off at a mechanic's shop for some repairs. So we spent the morning rail fanning, birding Spanish Lake,  and visiting the Tabasco Factory on Avery Island. The Tabasco factory was very interesting. It still retains the charm of an old style factory despite getting peppers from around the world and shipping hot sauce in return after 3 years of fermenting.  

Dan, Al Partlow and Rob

That afternoon we arrived in Houston, TX and toured Al Partlow's and Mike Spoor's model railroads. We then visited Rob's fraternity brother, Spotswood, and his wife, Susan. They live south of Houston and have a large spread with a horse and donkey. We spent the night with them. 

Sunrise on the Blanco River at the house we rented

On Wednesday we drove to San Marcos, but now our convoy had 3 vehicles as Spotswood drove too. He is a retired chemical engineer who is starting to build air plane models that he has been collecting for much of his adult life.  We arrived at the convention and set up our models in the exhibit area. Then we drove to Wimberley Texas, about 20 miles west in the hill country where we had rented a beautiful house on the Blanco River. One other modeler joined us, Will Findley from Lakeland, Fl. So we had 5 modelers staying in the house. The house was beautifully equipped and decorated. It reminded of something Joanna and Chip Gaines from the TV show Fixer Upper might have done. Wimberley is a charming small town with many shops, restaurants, parks, and a Rock Island caboose on display. 

The convention was huge. Around a 1,000 modelers attended. There were over 3,100 models on display in 7 major categories. Those were divided into smaller sub-categories. Aircraft dominated with 53 sub-categories, followed by 38 Military Vehicle, 16 Figure, 18 Ship, 22 Automotive, 10 Space/Sci-Fi, and 12 Miscellaneous.  Almost all of these models are judged and awards for  1-2-3 are declared in each subcategory.  That is a lot of awards to process, but they seem to have the system down pat. If you want to see photos of almost all the models at the meet click on this link.

The vendor area was big, encompassing three rooms. But it was not as big as a typical National Train Show that usually accompanies the NMRA National Convention. Despite being smaller, it seemed like it was much busier in terms of sales. I saw lots and lots of people buying model kits, tools and books.  I purchased only one model kit and a single bottle of Vallejo paint. But, my 5 house mates fully joined in the frenzy. Our vehicles were packed to the brim with model kits on the trip home. 

IPMS members have what they call, "stashes." Those are piles of model kits they buy and accumulate. Model railroaders with hundreds of unbuilt kits will immediately identify with the concept, though I don't think model railroaders call them stashes. Many or most of the kits in the typical stash will never get built. Many eventually get recycled in estate sales and flea markets. But some do get built as evidenced by the 3,100 models on display. 

The IPMS USA National is a bit different than the NMRA National Conventions. The IPMS is focused on the model display and especially the contest. They do offer some seminars and clinics, but just a handful. They also offered a couple organized tours to local attractions. Compare that to a typical NMRA Convention where there are nearly 100 clinics and dozens of  tours, while the contest is much smaller. If 100 models show up at a NMRA contest that is a lot. 

Friday afternoon we visited the Military Museum of Texas at Camp Mabry in Austin. It was an excellent museum focused on the military history of Texas. We returned to the convention as we all we involved in judging. 

We are happy to report that we won some awards, despite the competition from many excellent models. The diorama Rob and I built jointly received a second place in group build category. I received third place awards for my Aachen vignette and for my tugboat and railroad barge. My Oracle at Delphi diorama received an informal award from the Huntsville Plastic Modelers Society. Finescale Modeler Magazine featured Rob’s Model T in their convention web gallery.  

We were joined for dinner by my fraternity brother Winslow Cuthbert and his wife Cathy on Saturday. While we were visiting, there was a forest fire just north of the house we are renting. Our dessert was interrupted as we watched Texas CL-415 Water bombers fly over to fight the fire. The home owners texted us and told us that we might have to evacuate. So we packed up just in case, but the firefighters got the fire under control and we did not have to leave early.

On Sunday we headed back. We stopped in Mobile, AL to see the Battleship Alabama and look at some of the other items they had on display. We arrived after the museum closed, but we still had a chance to look around the park. Then we had a delicious seafood dinner at a local restaurant that had fresh fish. 

We spent the night in Pensacola, FL. The next morning we visited the Naval Aviation Museum on the Pensacola Naval Air Station. It is a fantastic museum. It has been expanded into two buildings. There is also a restoration workshop that did not have time to visit. 

I made it back to Virginia on Thursday again via Autotrain. It was a great trip. We are energized to work on another group build. More on that later.