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.

September 26, 2022


 I built three hooches for the camp scene at Falmouth. For the tent portions I used plastic tents by Reneda Models. I built the log portions and chimneys from wood dowels, balsa wood, pink foam, and wooden meat skewers.

I reserved the place in front of the hooch with the brick chimney for the soldier doing his laundry. Since I don't have a figure like that yet, I added him with photoshop. I will look for an appropriate figure, perhaps to 3D print.

Amby gave me some red Virginia  clay from his yard to use in the scenery. This is good stuff as there is no mica in it. But, you must grind it to a powder. Clumps of clay are impervious to water, that's why civil engineers use it for water barriers in dams and superfund sites, so it won't absorb the scenic wet water and glue. But once it is a powder, it works well and adds an authentic color. 

The Aquia Line Graphic Novel


Playing around with Photoshop. This was a great exercise in smart objects, layer masks and compositing.  In the past I would use Photoshop for the graphics and Illustrator for the layout, but this image was done completely in Photoshop. 

This is not the first time I tried doing a graphic novel. I did an eight page chapter for my brother's book, Nation's Fortress, about our family in America's wars from the Revolution to the Cold War. The graphic novel chapter was about our grandfather's experience in WW1.  Here is a sample page from that chapter. The rest of the book is regular text. However, each chapter has a different format. For example, the chapter on the civil war is told through letters to home. I wrote that chapter for the book. If you are interested in the book you can get a copy at this lin

September 24, 2022

First Op Session Since COVID

Amby switching the first revenue train at Falmouth

The Aquia Line hosted its first Ops Session since the start of COVID and the expansion of the railroad.  Amby Nangeroni, Leonard White, and Jacob Hol were the gallant volunteer operators. I acted as trouble shooter and official napper.  I maintained a log of problems encountered by the operators.

Leonard and Jacob working number 7 at
Aquia Landing 
The good news is that Fury, with its battery power, operated without trouble. Haupt with DCC and keep alive started off fine at Falmouth but started experiencing  sporadic stalls on the rest of the layout. The trouble was a result of dirty wheels and track as I didn't have time to thoroughly clean them.

The conductors check their paperwork
We also tested Whiton, McCallum and Osceola. We discovered that Whiton's Li-Po battery had popped. Good thing it didn't catch on fire. So I swapped it out and it worked fine. McCallum and Osceola also ran fine in limited testing, but I did spot a broken wire to Osceola's front pilot truck. I will fix that. Osceola is reserved for use by the Commanding General as its pulling power is insufficient for use on regular trains.

Two trains with 10-cars each at Brooke is a problem.
The operators had to saw by using the stub siding

I made a note that all track and engine wheels should be cleaned before the next session. 

We found box car 2429 with tight wheel gauge on the brake truck. Also 1344 needs new trucks, but I know that car was problematic.

The telegraph worked well. Once the engines were on the road, the messages were fairly constant. I may need a dispatcher as an active job in future ops sessions.  

Having meets with two 10 car trains at Brooke is a problem. The siding isn't long enough. Today the crews had to saw-by each other. The ultimate solution would due to extend the siding, but that would be difficult in the current track plan.  The short term solution is to move the meet to Stonemans. 

Amby runs the first revenue train over the new expansion
All in all the session went pretty well.  I need to clean the track and wheels better before the next session. Thanks for my gallant helpers. Thanks also to Alicia for making some great Ghirardelli chocolate brownies.

September 23, 2022

Commissary Warehouse at Falmouth

Artwork for the backdrop

 The commissary warehouse is a large shed that I salvaged from the old Falmouth. It was the first structure I built for the O scale Aquia Line. It will occupy the center of the Falmouth scene. 

The first step was to make an interesting backdrop for this part of Falmouth as it will be the focus of attention. I decided to use photos I took of structures at actual civil war museums combined with more of Brian's figures and my hand painting to blend it all together.  The above is the artwork I generated for this scene.

 The house is the Wyatt House at Gaines Mill/Cold Harbor National Battlefield. 

The hooches are from pictures I took at the White Oak Civil War museum near Falmouth.  I composited all the elements together, added shadows and a new sky. Then I printed the image in two parts and installed on the backdrop without the sky. I hand painted the trees and foreground to blend it all together.

Next I built the wooden platform for the structure. The platform is larger than the building to allow some space to store freight.

Here are some photos of the scene as the glue is drying.

September 21, 2022

The Golden Spike

Haupt and a few USMRR officials watch the crews drive the last spike on the Aquia Line extension

What it really looked like

I drove the last spike on the Aquia Line extension today. I got into a rhythm and the last  18 feet went fairly quickly. 

There was considerably less fanfare when the last spike went in  than would happen at Promontory a few years later. Nonetheless, it is a nice milestone. 

I am sure my helpers are glad that the tedious task is done. I did notice a distinct lack of enthusiasm among them when I asked for help with driving the spikes. Thanks for Jack Thompson for his help in driving in some of the last batch of spikes. 

I did a rough estimate. The total distance of mainline on the layout is about 165 feet, which is about 1.5 scale miles.  Counting sidings and mainline there are 225 feet of track, or just over 2 scale miles. There are on average about 25 ties and 100 spikes per foot of track on my layout. That works out to  5,625 ties and 22,500 spikes.  Whew! That's a lot of spikes.

I am happy to also report that Paul Dolkos visited today and had a chance to run an engine and switch Falmouth. Every thing worked well.