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.

May 29, 2024

LCT Hit by Mortar

Here are some photos of the completed LCT on the diorama. The scene depicts seconds after a mortar hit the ramp and blew it off.


Just a few items on the punch list and the diorama will be done.


May 28, 2024

Get to the Choppa!

The punch list on the diorama is shrinking. On Saturday, Jeff Hammer stopped by and installed most of the remaining barbed wire sections.

Meanwhile, I started scratch building the Landing Craft Tank Mk 5 (LCT) number 2227. 

I decided to use styrene parts applied to an acrylic base. I cut the acrylic base on my laser. I also used the laser to cut some of the larger styrene parts. However, the laser cannot cut small parts ins styrene, especially those with sharp angles. So, it was time to...


LCT almost ready for paint

It has been a while since I scratch built using styrene since most of the work on the Aquia Line I do with wood. I have an old NWSL Chopper that has seen better days. But it did a good enough job cutting the parts for this model. Styrene is easy to work using scribe and snap, model cement and putty. The chopper allows making repeat parts easy.

One of these days I need to upgrade to the Ultimation Slicer. It is a great tool. Some of my friends have the Slicer and say it very handy.

I have the Ulimation Sander and Repeater shown at the left. That is an excellent tool for working with styrene and wood. I use the Ultimation Sander to clean up cuts. The miter table is very precise. The gap between the sander and the disk is very small, making it easy to use on small parts.  You spin it by hand, so it doesn't melt plastic and it doesn't shoot dust everywhere.

I used to have a small Proxxon disk sander for modeling. It was cheaply built primarily with plastic.  It broke when it fell on my floor. The miter table it came with was toy like. It could not do small parts due to the gap in the table and the disk, and it was very loud with a shop vacuum attached. 

When using the laser to cut styrene it seems best to have the laser make slashing cuts that extend beyond the part you wish to cut. For example,  to make a right angle you would make a X-shaped cut instead of an L- shape. That seems to minimize the time the laser is in contact with the styrene at the vulnerable sharp corner, as the laser will speed by the spot where the corner will be, giving the plastic some time to cool 

thus minimizing melting. Or course, this technique doesn't work on parts with interior corners, like a window frame.  The other technique one can try on styrene is multiple light passes with a lower power setting that does't cut through fully. 

For the LCT model, I used some photo-etched stanchions and 0.015 inch phosphor bronze wire that I had on hand to make the hand rails. They are very sturdy with just CAA. I had a set of stairs and some plastic ladders in my spare box that worked.

I printed some additional parts such as the life raft, watertight doors, bollards, and vents. I added lots of punched styrene disks and other small plastic parts. 

The LCT lost its ramp during the fighting due to a mortar strike after the tanks unloaded. It became beached in the shallow water for quite a while. Its anchor also malfunctioned. While it was stranded,  it received numerous hits from small arms fire and fragments, some which created holes. But none of the crew were injured, as they stayed in the armored part of the hull until they could get moving again.

LCT 2227 loaded with trucks probably before D-Day

Nice color photo of a different LCT in Italy. It shows extensive weathering and provides some detailing ideas.

May 24, 2024

Almost Done


Soldiers from the 29th Infantry fight for their lives at Vierville Draw

We had an extended 2 day work session to finish up the D-Day Diorama Phase 2 - Vierville Draw.

Keith painting the cliffs
The work session started when I met Keith at the Army Navy Club to take down the Phase 1 diorama. Once that was secure in Keith's van, we headed to my house to work on the Phase 2 diorama. Keith is an amazing hard worker and we got right down to business. First Keith worked on finishing the water surface. He painted in the surf line. Then he worked on painting the rocks I carved. Meanwhile, I worked on the German bunkers and  houses in Vierville Descent (the part of town near the beach.)

After dinner, John Drye, John Kephart and Sean Barrett arrived. JD worked on the boat people, Kep painted the remaining buildings, and Sean did the tanks. There were 2 duplex drive tanks and 3 deep water fording tanks with snorkels. One of the fording tanks had a dozer blade. I worked on finishing the LCAs. Keith began applying scenery after I gave him a brief instruction on how I do it. It was amazing how the diorama transformed in that one night.

The next morning I continued with finishing the LCAs and tanks. Keith started adding the figures, obstacles and explosions. Once the boats and tanks were done, I started with scenic details such as groynes (jetties), concertina fences, and touch up painting. 

We still have some work to do, but the diorama is almost complete. 

Soldiers from D Company, 116th Infantry Regiment suffer casualties as they exit the landing craft

Overview of German Bunkers along the beach. Naval gunfire rips into the hills above while numerous American casualties lie on the beach. It is a true hellscape. 

May 18, 2024

Making Waves

We had our first group work session for D-Day Diorama Phase 2 - Vierville Draw. John Drye, Tom Karstens and Jeff Hammer joined me today for a long work session.  I have been working on this diorama for about 3 weeks, though we had house guests one of those weeks so I didn't get much done in that period. The group got a lot done today. 

JD painted the "boat people" figures. These are figures intended to be US soldiers riding in landing craft. However, many of those will be converted to casualties.  He is doing this by sanding the figures so they would lie flat on front or back. He marked the side that should face the ground with red paint - so the red is not supposed to represent blood. However, this diorama will have a lot of casualties, over 100. So there will be some blood visible.

Jeff painted infantry figures on land and obstacles. He will bring the finished figures later this week.

Tom prepped all the LCAs and tanks for paint. That involved removing marks from the 3D print supports. He them primed them. Next he airbrushed the boats after I gave him a short block of instruction on using an airbrush.  It was his first chance at using an airbrush. We said, "I'm sold on airbrushing now."  It didn't hurt that he was using a Harder Steenbeck Infinity airbrush. One of the finest on the market. 

I worked on the ocean waves and the seawall.  I had previously made the wooden base and terrain using foam in a manner similar to Phase 1. However, this terrain has more bluffs and a small village.

May 10, 2024

Down to the Sea in Trains - Ships for Model Railroads

 I'll be doing a virtual clinic for the Potomac Division of the NMRA on May 11th at 3:00PM. I believe the clinic will be posted to youtube after I present it if you are not a member of the NMRA.  Here is a brief video clip showing some of the material I will be covering.

May 5, 2024

MFCA Show 2024

Three of the dioramas I exhibited 

I attended the Miniature Figures Collectors of America (MFCA)  Annual Show in Trevoise, PA this weekend.  The show has the reputation of one of the top miniature shows in the US, and perhaps the world. Artists come from all over the US, Europe, and Asia.  Some of the most well know figure painters were in attendance. I had a chance to meet some of them and all were extremely friendly.  They hosted a Q&A session with the grandmasters in attendance before the awards ceremony. I thought that was really neat. 

Keith and Libby Rocco were also in attendance. Keith was selling his artwork and books. His display was very impressive.  On Friday evening Dave and Darci Hoffman, Mike and Linda Pierce, Keith and Libby Rocco, Zack Becker, Bob Huebner and I had an enjoyable dinner at a local restaurant. Following that the MFCA hosted a hospitality suite with drinks and snacks.

This year they had about 780 models on exhibit divided into several categories. The quality of work was very high. It was very inspiring to see so many wonderful models.  I posted many pictures on my Facebook page at this link.

The MFCA makes it clear that they judge to a standard, but they also say on their website that awards represent percentile of the models entered. So Bronze is a top 30% model, while silver in top 10% and gold top 5%. The bottom line conclusion is that it is very difficult to get a medal at this show. 

I entered 6 pieces and received two bronze medals. One for a bust of Medussa and the other for the Oracle of Delphi diorama. I was happy to receive the recognition. I do admit being surprised that those were the models the judges selected. In past shows, the other models I exhibited this weekend were selected by judges over these. Of course it is all subjective and some variability has to be expected. 

The Medusa bust was only figure I entered where I used oil paints over an acrylic base. The more I use oils the more I like  them, especially in doing skin tones. 

I noticed a couple trends in examining the models at the show.

German Gunner by Jim Rice

 First, a lot of artists are including small backdrops with their individual figure models. For example, this German Machine Gunner by Jim Rice. I like this idea as they help place the model in a space or set a  mood. They also allow more room for artistic expression. 

Roman vignette by Mike Blank

One thing I did not like so much was the high contrast and saturation that many artists use in their painting, especially in skin tones. However, I may be in a minority as many of the figures painted in that style won awards. 

This vignette by famous artist Mike Blank did not fall into that category. Note the muted colors and low contrast. This looks very realistic to me. It received a gold medal.

I thought the Marilyn Monroe figure  below had very realistic skin tones. It won a gold medal but I did not catch the artist's name. 

I like the metallic sheen on the muzzle of this Parrot rifle.  This received best Civil War award.

Many artists use flat  acrylic paints to simulate metallic surfaces. This technique is called Non-Metallic Metal. I am not sure I like this or that it is even necessary. There are amazing metallic paints available now that look like real metal, even in scale. I think the most convincing effects combine the use of these new metallic paints with tradition shading to emphasize shape and texture. I need to experiment more with those techniques. 

I noticed some artists use strong directional lighting in painting their figures. These create dark shadows away from the light. It can be effective if done well.  Similarly, a lot of the figures painted light amber or florescent colors on to the figures to represent light from a point source. That is called Object Source Lighting.  They are interesting techniques that are very difficult to pull off. 

Note the lighting on the face and armor from the "glowing" weapon.  

It was a fun show and I look forward to going back.