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.

December 30, 2023

Some new scenery underway

 I finally had a chance to start to work on the scenery by the new trestle. The area behind the bridge will be largely forested. 

December 17, 2023

December 15, 2023

Shadow Box Diorama, "What Have We Done?"

 I am just about done with this small shadow box diorama. It features a figure from Scale75, called "The Casualty Toll."  I bought the figure as I thought the pose was very compelling. Later I learned the figure was based on an original painting by Keith Rocco entitled, "Lt. Col. Williamson, 6th Virginia."

The colors in the box art were quite blue, almost teal in coloration. Keith's artwork in more neutral gray. So I used Keith's colors as a guide. 

Overall box diorama

I built a small shadow box to display the figure. The scene is nighttime. Lt.Col. Williamson reviews the casualty list from the day's battle. The box is 6 inches wide, 7 inches tall and 4 inches deep.  I added a black acrylic front, but I think I will change that as it is very hard to keep clean. It shows every fingerprint and it is reflective. I am thinking perhaps a veneer of dark walnut instead.

I added a battery powered puck light with LEDs that can change colors to the top of the diorama to provide the moonlight. To reduce the intensity of the moonlight, I sprayed the diffuser of the puck light with a few coats of Tamiya clear blue paint. The puck also has a remote to control the colors. 

The campfire started as a tea candle. I took it apart and powered the LED that came with it with a 9V battery. I used a 22ohm resistor in series with the LED as I wanted the light to be brighter than it was with just the small 1.5 volt disk battery it comes with. I experimented with different resistors to find one that worked.  

Before adding additional
tongues of flame

I used the cover of the tea candle that is shaped like a candle flame. I added additional tongues of flame to that using hot glue. I painted the flame with orange, red, and sienna inks. There is no smoke on the diorama - I added that with photoshop. 

 I found some twigs in my yard to use for the firewood. I cut them into appropriately sized pieces. I used my soldering iron to scorch the logs. My shop seemed like burnt firewood, so appropriate.

 The intensity of the flame was reduced when I painted the flame with the ink. So, I sprayed some orange ink on the scenery to enhance the light from the fire and make it blend better with the backdrop. I also sprayed the grass in the backdrop with sienna and dark gray to reduce its saturation to look more like moonlight. 

I used the tree stump that comes with the figure. I added ground cover of dried leaves, some static grass and vegetation from Silfor obtained via Scenic Express. 

The backdrop is a simple photo composite. 

It is very difficult to photograph this diorama due to the colored lighting and spill light from the room. I shot the lead photo is a dark room. The sky in the backdrop looks much more luminescent when viewed in person. The camera can't capture that glow. The acrylic front causes reflections that are distracting in photos.  

I haven't come up with a final title yet. I like, "What have we done." But I'm still thinking about it. Suggestions for title are welcome. 


December 13, 2023

A New Project Opportunity

I had the pleasure of hosting Keith Rocco and Mark Fastoso today for a visit to the Aquia Line and a discussion about a new project. 

Keith is a very well known artist that specializes in military history. He has produced hundreds of paintings of many subjects especially the American Civil War and Napoleonic War that are available as limited edition prints. Many of those prints are also available in compilation books. He also has completed several spectacular murals including some at the The National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, Petersburg, VA.  His latest murals are at the First Division Museum, Wheaton, IL.  Several of the dioramas I have built have been inspired by Keith's work. 

Mark is an Emmy award-winning documentary executive producer at Alabama  Public Television. He also designs wargames and hosts the Youtube channel, Mark's Game Room. That is a Youtube channel devoted to wargaming and military history. It is know for extremely high production values and detailed historical analysis presented in a fun and engaging way. 

We started the visit with a tour of the Aquia Line. Keith is not a model railroader, but is very knowledgable in the history. I think he enjoyed seeing the layout. I was extremely flattered when he said he liked my backdrops. 

We are using some of my 15mm terrain and figures
to get a feel for the scope of the project.
After viewing the layout and running some trains, we sat down to discuss a new project idea. Keith wants to create several large dioramas depicting the morning of D-Day, June 6th, 1944. The project will be a collaboration between Keith, Mark and his gaming group, and I. The dioramas would be a traveling show to accompany some of Keith's art work. 

After bashing around some ideas we decided we would build several portable diorama sections in 1/100 (or 15mm) scale. The exact details are still in the design phase, but I am excited to participate in this joint project. My job will be the bases, terrain, and structures, Mark's group will provide the figures and vehicles. Keith will do the design and paint the backdrops. It will be fun to see this develop. 

December 12, 2023

Some new photos of the layout

I spent the past few days shooting pictures of the layout for an upcoming article. Even though the Aquia Landing area isn't done, this picture captures the look and feel I am going for. It just needs more of everything. 

I used PS Generative AI to extend the water into the aisles in the photo.

December 3, 2023

Sharing the Word on Civil War Railroad Modeling


I donned my ACW Generals uniform to present my talk at Leesyylvania State Park

It was a busy week for sharing the word of Civil War era model railroading.

It started last week when my son and his family were in town for the holidays and a conference. On two evenings we ran trains for the entertainment of my granddaughter, Ruka, and her parents. She seemed to be fascinated with the trains despite just turning one year old on Monday. 

The visitors continued on Friday when Jack Brown, his wife and their friend John Carroll visited the Aquia Line as part of a weekend trip to the Washington, DC area. It was Jack and John's second visit but the first for his wife. We had a nice visit.

On Saturday morning I presented a talk on Railroads of the Civil War to a group of 15 people at the Leesylvania State Park visitor center. The visitor center has a nice museum with lots of information about the history of the land that comprises the park. It was a pleasant surprise as I did not know that there was a museum there. 

 I learned from their exhibits that the Union gunboat Jacob Bell was involved in a small skirmish at Freestone Point. It remained in the Potomac River for much of the war. It would be a good candidate for a model of one of the gunboats that protected Aquia Landing. It was about 141 feet long, so not too big. Perhaps I will replace the Passaic with the Jacob Bell.

On Sunday I hosted an open house for the Aquia Line Railroad. I had 25 people sign the guest list. Five of the guests completed the scavenger hunt check list. I think that was popular with the wives as they all tried it. One couple stayed the whole afternoon looking for every last item.  

Thanks to Bill Mosteller and John Steitz who ran the trains during the open house. 

Alicia made cookies, which appeared to be a bit hit as none were left at the end of the day. Bill also brought some cookies.