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.

January 27, 2023

Photos of Falmouth


The editor of the newsletter of the local division of the NMRA needed some photos of my layout to announce an open house. I thought that was a good excuse to shoot some new photos of the almost finished area near Falmouth. Focus stacked and sky replaced in PS.

January 26, 2023

Topaz Photo AI - Upscaling Low Res Images


Full original unsharpened image.

Photographers might be interested in this, especially if you have some low res images you want to use in a print project. I was going through some of my older railfan images for use in a writing project. I found some low resolution images I took around 2001 that I would like to use. The base image was about 3.1 mega-pixels (2160 by 1440 pixels) at ISO 100 and 1/180sec. The image was not noisy, but it was low-res and a bit soft.

I put the image in Topaz Photo AI and let the software recommend improvements. It can remove noise, sharpen, and upscale. In this case it only recommended a 2x upscale. But in the process, it made the image sharper. So it doubled the resolution in both axes for an image size of 11.9 mega-pixels (4234 by 2822 pixels) and gave a sharper image. That is some black magic.

Here is a comparison of both images in Photoshop. The upper image is the original image enlarged to 200%. The bottom image is the same image after Topaz AI upscaling. Check it out.  

Original image at 200% compared to the image in Topaz Photo AI upscaled and sharpened at 2x

But wait you say, what if you just took the original image and sharpened it in Photoshop? I tried the same image using Photoshop's new neural filter Superzoom. It didn't work near as well. It did upscale the image, but it was soft. If I tried to use Photoshop smart sharpen or unsharp mask on the upscaled image, I did not get as good results as there was a lot of fringing and artifacts See the second image for the comparison.

Photoshops new neural filter Superzoom compared to Topaz Photo AI

Topaz Photo AI also works on old slide scans. It can get rid of grain and other artifacts too. You can even upscale low res images you get off the internet. It is very impressive software. 

January 10, 2023

O Scale Trains Magazine Article Jan 2023

O Scale Trains Magazine is featuring the USMRR Aquia Line on the cover and article inside. I haven't seen the actual issue yet, but I have been getting nice notes from folks that have.  

If you want to get a copy you can find it at Barnes and Noble or order it direct from their website. https://shop.whiteriverproductions.com/products/ost-202301

What's up with all DeNoise?

Danica the Cyborg - rescuing a old picture with Topaz Aps

The year has started out very busy with no work on the Aquia Line but lots of other fun projects and distractions. I spent a good part of the week working on some track plans that will be published later this year. In between that I have been doing some birdwatching and learning more about how to use photoshop. 

I recently purchased the Topaz AI suite of products for photo enhancements. These products aren't that useful for model railroad photography as we can usually shoot those images in ideal condtions with low ISO. But if you are doing any action photography such as wildlife, or even fast moving trains in low light where you use high ISO,  you might be interested in the aps. I was skeptical of them at first as they use social media to advertise. But I watched enough Youtube videos to think they might be worthwhile. They allow you to freely download their products to evaluate them, you just can't save until you purchase or activate them. So I was able to give them a good test before buying. And I was very pleased to see they really work. I find that the DeNoise program is the best as it consistently gives good results. I find the sharpen function to be less in demand, but it is useful when it is needed. They also offer an all-in-one application that will analyze your image and suggest denoise, sharpen, and even upscaling.  It works well too. 

Here is an example of a high iso image that I processed thorough Topaz applications. I shot the cardinal on my Canon R7 at 3200 ISO, but after Topaz DeNoise there is practically zero noise in the image.  That is pretty amazing given the high ISO I used on a compact sensor camera. 

Old snapshot that I cleaned up with Topaz AI
The Topaz aps work best with RAW images, but they are also useful when taking older images and cleaning them up. Here is an example where I took an old snap shot of my daughter at one of her modeling shoots.  I used Topaz AI to clean it up, sharpen and upsample. 

Since she doesn't normally wear her hair and makeup like that, I decided to manipulate the photo for a new effect. She reminded me of Pris from the original Blade Runner movie. 

I used Photoshop to convert her into a cyborg warrior. This was an exercise in using many of the features in  Photoshop including layer masks, blending modes, etc. There are over 30 layers, including adjustment layers and masks.  I think it came out pretty well. My daughter suggested some weathering on the arm and vest. So she liked it too.

December 31, 2022

2023 - The Year of the Ship

This picture encapsulates the year with plenty of trains, planes, and automobiles.

Another year has ticked by. All in all it was a good one with lots of trains, planes, and automobiles.  Let's review the highlights.

  1. Finished the expansion of the layout to the point where it is operational and about 50% sceniced. The expansion includes a new 5 foot long trestle over a meandering creek, a balloon camp and tracks that can house 10-car trains plus engine. 
  2. Hosted three official op-sessions including one each for the ACWRRHS and the NJ-DMV Interchange groups, and two open houses. One other op session was cancelled due to my contracting a case of COVID, which fortunately was very mild. 
  3. The telegraph came into operation thanks to Amby, Steve, and Seth efforts. In particular, Amby was promoted to Chief Signal Officer of the USMRR Aquia Line for his meritorious service. 
  4. Brion delivered the schooner he had been working on for me and it is beautiful. I added a tug boat to the fleet and started another schooner. 
  5. 3D printed some highly detailed cannons, limber, and railroad trucks.
  6. Several road trips for model related events including riding the Autotrain to Florida for Modelfest 2022, a two-week road trip to Cincinnati and Indianapolis for back to back train meets and presentations, another long road trip to Omaha, NE for the IPMS national meet. Locally I participated in the National Capitol Model Soldier Society Annual Meet and I managed the Middle Atlantic Railroad Prototype Meet in Timonium. I and my brother received several awards for our models. The highlight being the Arsenal of Democracy Award for our Sherman Tank Factory Diorama. That diorama will be going to Florida in Feb 2023 to be donated to the Valiant Air Warbird Museum.  
  7. It was a good year for museums. I visited that Valiant Air Warbird Museum, Titusville, FL,  the USMC Museum in Quantico, VA, National Museum of the US Army, Ft Belvoir, VA, USAF Museum in Wright Paterson AFB, OH, the Strategic Air Command Museum  and the Museum of the  West, both in Omaha, the Brevard County Veterans Museum, Merrit Island, FL , Freedom House Museum, Alexandria, VA,  Lexington Battlefield Museum in Lexington, MO, Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs CA, Ft Eustis Transportation Museum and the Mariner's Museum both in New Port News, VA, Fort Monroe, Hampton, VA, American Sign Museum, and Entertainment, Cincinnati, OH., C&O Historical Society Museum, Clifton Forge, VA .  Not to mention several national and state park visitor centers and hikes in nature preserves, mountain top forests,  deserts, and wetlands.  
  8. Visited several layouts this year in Omaha, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania,  Florida, Virginia, and Maryland. Hosted several dozen visitors to the Aquia Line and have been helping some friends with their layout projects as I have time. 
  9. Other road trips included 5 visits to see my new grand daughters in Alabama and Kentucky. I rode twice on The Catalpa Falls Group private cars thanks to invites by Eric and George Payne. 
  10. Wrote several articles for the model railroad press. MRP 2022 ran a nice piece of the expansion the Aquia Line. I did another article for MRP 2023 that is due out in Feb. O scale magazine is doing a piece on my railroad in the upcoming January/Feb 2023 issue that is due any day now. I also did a piece for hire for Kalmbach for Chris Moore's layout in the Philadelphia area. Kalmbach did a Meet the Modeler segment on me which was fun to help write.
Whew, seems like a lot when you do list it that way, but it also feels like I have a lot more to do. 

My objectives for 2023 include making some progress on Aquia Landing, especially the ships. I hope to tackle the big paddlewheel steamer this year. That kit has frustrated me quite a bit.  I also want to finish the scenery on the expansion.  I have several non-railroad projects in the works too,  but, for the most part, I think next year will be the ship. I have said that I saved Aquia Landing for last as I knew it was going to be the most fun. So now it's time to do it.  HAPYY NEW YEAR!