Engine House Module Benchwork and Subroadbed

December 28th, 2017

Here is the top of the benchwork.

Engine House Bench Top

Engine House Bench Top

5mm Luan plywood is mounted on top of the joists. Where the track is planned to run, I used white glue to attach 1/2″ Homasote. This combination is pretty light and I’m thinking/expecting/hoping that it will be stiff enough to keep everything nicely in place. My last railroad used 3/4″ plywood for sub roadbed and it was heavy and difficult to nail into, which are two reasons that I’m trying something new.

There is more work to be done where the engine house and turntable will be installed, as the substructure for both are below the grade of the roadbed.

The bluffs will be built up with foam. I will start rough shaping of the foam by using the pattern from the cut away homasote as a guide.

The current structures are simple mock ups that were made to help with the transfer of the track plan onto the Homasote.

Engine House Module Benchwork

December 23rd, 2017

The benchwork is complete for the first module on my evolving City Point Terminal layout. Besides being the central focal point of the model railroad, this first module basically will be used to trial model railroad construction and modeling techniques. If the construction and modeling techniques work out well, they will be replicated on future modules, hopefully, without too much change. A model railroad always starts with the foundation, so here is a picture of the underside, as it stands today.

Railroad Bench Bottom

Railroad Bench Bottom

Basic underpinnings of this module follow an L-Girder design, very similar to what I did with my original model railroad. L-Girder design is described in the book “How to Build Model Railroad Benchwork“, by Linn H. Westcott. I have the second edition.

Changes from my original railroad benchwork

  • Is a much smaller size. This was done to allow the railroad to be built in pieces, moved and reassembled with minimum amount of problems. This module is 6′ 6″ long by a maximum of 4′ wide. Based on what I see today, I think that this is close to the largest size that still could be considered somewhat portable. It will have to be tipped vertically in order to move through normal doorways, but I hope that the finished module will be light enough that this can be done by a couple of people without too much difficulty.
  • The legs are bolted on to facilitate moving and storage. The bracing on the legs is done differently than what I did before. The end braces are connected where they cross with a dato joint and attached to only one side of the legs, rather than crossing on opposite sides of the leg. This construction should result in more stiffness, with slightly less weight. The other brace going down the side of the L-girder, is shorter than before. This length should provide plenty of stability but allow easier access to the underside of the layout.
  • The sides of the benchwork where it will eventually mate with adjacent modules are edged with pine boards. The open edges where the module does not mate with adjacent modules will eventually be covered with painted hardboard.
  • Next blog post will describe the top of the benchwork and roadbed.

    First City Point Model Railroad Module Benchwork

    December 22nd, 2017

    This is the plan for the first module of my City Point Terminal Civil War model railroad. Additional modules will be added where each track leaves this module.

    Model Railroad Engine House Module

    Model Railroad Engine House Module

    At one point, I was going to model early December, 1864, as the 6th Army Corp returned from the Shenandoah Valley. However, I have decided that the late March, 1865 meeting between Lincoln, Grant, Sherman and Porter right after the battle for Fort Stedman would make a much more interesting moment in time. Besides major leaders, this moment also provides opportunities to depict masses of prisioners, and cavalry movements, as Sheridan’s cavalry passed near City Point upon his return from the valley during this time.

    The City Point terminal changed a lot over the period of Army occupation, and this is my best guess of the track layout at that point in time. This map has been edited in Photoshop to reflect differences between Merrick’s original map, which was made after the war and suriviving photos. There are two small buildings between the tracks on the right side of the diagram, that don’t show up on the map, that I will need to add. Also, there were two water tanks, one apparently was replaced by a small building before Merrick’s map was drawn.

    My next post will show the benchwork that I have already constructed for this module.

    IMac Repair Update

    December 14th, 2017

    My previous post on a couple of attempts at an IMac repair was here:http://www.willegal.net/blog/?p=8435.

    I glad to report that I’m convinced that the problem is resolved, as the unexpected power off issue has completely vanished.

    Modern Views of the City Point and Army Line Yard Location

    December 12th, 2017
    Taken November, 2017, This View From the Bluff Views the Location of the City Point and Army Line Engine House

    Taken November, 2017, This view shows where part of the City Point and Army Line yard was located

    This picture was taken from the bluff, where the impressive row of barracks were located. The First Baptist Church of City Point is located there now. The bluff at the far side of the picture is where the railroad hospital was located. After taking this and several other pictures, a resident asked me if I was with the company that was planning some development there. I said no, I was interested in Civil War history. He said that was understandable. Maybe I should have asked him what was up, but felt that I didn’t want to disturb the residents any more than I already had done.

    Here is a famous view taken from the same general location during the Civil War.

    Water tanks and bluff where railroad hospital was located

    Water tanks and bluff where railroad hospital was located

    Here is a modern view of the cut leading to the yard.

    Cut leading to City Point Termnial

    Cut leading to City Point Termnial

    The US Military Railroad laid 3 parallel tracks in this cut.

    My overall impression is that there wasn’t a lot of extra space at City Point. Everything seems like it must have been squeezed pretty tightly together.

    Another Book about Lincoln at City Point and a Correction

    December 3rd, 2017
    two Lincoln at City Point books

    two Lincoln at City Point books

    The book, “Abraham Lincoln At City Point” was written by national park historian, Donald C. Pfalz and published in 1989. My new book, “Lincoln’s Greatest Journey” was written by Noah Andre Trudeau and published in 2016.

    Both books contain a remarkably similar account of Lincoln’s stay at City Point in late March and early April of 1865. I would say that Pfalz’s book is a bit more scholarly in nature. Trudeau’s book is written more for general consumption and contains more background information about what was happening with the war in general and at the Petersburg front in particular.

    Despite the duplicate subject matter, for someone modeling City Point during this period in time, I can’t imagine not picking up both volumes. There aren’t really that many books that use so much ink describing what was going at at City Point, at the time.

    Now, for the correction. A while back, I made this post describing a theory I had about about Lincoln’s travel to the front on March 25th.

    Though I still think that Mr Pfanz was wrong in his assessment that the train took them to Patrick’s station, I was missing some information, and didn’t read the train reports closely enough.

    My assessment was also wrong. I should have investigated further, but it turns out that Meade’s HQ was near the Aikin’s house, which was near Parke’s station. Here is crop of Michler’s map of the Petersburg fortifications, showing the area from Meade’s HQ to Fort Wadsworth, the area that Lincoln’s party visited. I have labelled the area of Parke’s and Warren’s station, which are not noted on Michler’s original map.

    Lincoln's Visit to the Front

    Lincoln’s Visit to the Front

    It’s interesting that the train report that Bernard Kempkinski found in the National Archives doesn’t list a Parke Station at all. I suppose it was more of whistle stop, rather than a regular station. I now believe that Lincoln’s party probably left the train at Parke Station and went directly to Meade’s HQ, which would have have been proper protocol for a commander visiting his subordinates army. However, if Parke Station didn’t have the facilities to unload the horses that were brought along, the most logical first stop would have been Warren Station.

    Meade’s HQ area is where Lincoln’s party saw the prisoners from the fight for Fort Stedman. I finally realized why there would be prisoners so far from where the fighting took place, which was part of my confusion in the past. Meade’s army would have had provisions and procedures for handling prisoners. During the Civil War, the army’s provost guard HQ was usually near army HQ. Most likely, all prisoners the army captured, were sent to a holding area somewhere near the provost guard HQ for processing. This is why the prisoners from the fight at Stedman were marched to near the Aiken house.

    I don’t believe that Lincoln actually saw the battlefield around Stedman, itself. Since they were so far from the big fight at Stedman, I’m not really sure how many dead and wounded that Lincoln saw that day. However because of all the fighting going on across the front that day, it’s very likely that some wounded and perhaps a few men that had expired from their wounds were in the area that Lincoln visited.

    From Meade’s HQ, it would have been a fairly short ride by horseback to review part of the fifth corps and then on to Fort Wadsworth. There, the party could have obtained distant views of fighting going on in the area. From Fort Wadsworth, the group could easily have proceeded down the line to Patrick’s station, before returning to City Point on the train.

    I think that Trudeau’s book describes this trip to the front, pretty well, though I’m kind of skeptical about how many dead and wounded men were seen by the group.

    City Point Rail Yard then and now

    November 28th, 2017

    Here are a couple of views of the US Military Railroad Yard at City Point.

    Rail Yard at City Point circa 1865

    Rail Yard at City Point circa 1865

    This one was probably taken in the winter of 1865.

    Former Railyard at City Point Nov- 2017

    Former Railyard at City Point Nov- 2017

    This is the approximate same view in November of 2017.

    Apple II rev 0 reproduction gerber and CAD files available for download

    November 8th, 2017

    I have made available Apple II rev 0 reproduction gerber and CAD files freely available for download. I actually put these files online a little while back, but didn’t make any announcement. I’m making this announcement, so that people will be more aware of the increased possibility of reproductions being passed off as original units. I.E. the possibility of fakes is increased.

    Here is the link:http://www.willegal.net/appleii/A2rev0.zip

    I believe that several people may already be making some new Apple II reproductions using these CAD files. If you are interested in having one, your best bet would be to make some queries in the more popular forums.

    PS/2 keyboard adapter calibration notes.

    November 2nd, 2017

    I put the design files for my PS/2 to parallel ASCII adapter online when I ran out of PCBs. I get an occassional question about programming the AVRs. Mostly it is straight forward, however for the RS232 port to work properly, the internal RC-oscillator must be calibrated. Here are some notes about the calibration procedure.

    Calibrating and programing is a four stage process. The calib and operation FW are built from the same source. Look in the source for a .IFDEF CALIB to see the difference.

    When booting the calib image, it will output a 4Khz square wave out port B.

    The calibration is done by connecting a terminal to the serial port and typing one of the following 4 commands.

    I – this increases the calibration frequency
    D – this decreases the calibration frequency
    W – this neither increases or decreases frequency
    Q – this quits the calibration process, displays the calibration variable, writes it to the last location of EEPROM and exits the calibration process

    You need to connect a frequency counter or scope to one of the “B” port outputs and either increase or decrease the frequency until it is as close as possible to 4Khz. These days, many inexpensive meters have frequency counters that will be accurate enough for this job.

    The AVR will not echo the correct character to the RS232 port, when it is out of calibration. The calibration routine will default to decrementing the calibration value if it receives a character that it doesn’t understand. Just keep typing and eventually it will wrap around into a good range, at which point you can fine tune it.

    So the four steps are:
    1) First load the calib file (AVRPS2_keyboard_calib.hex) and run it to adjust the frequency, as described above. When you have the frequency in a good spot, type Q and the the controller will output the calibration value and also writes it to the last location of the EEprom. For record keeping purposes, it is a good idea to write the calibration value with a marker on the underside of the chip when you are done.
    2) I have an AVR dude script that reads the EEPROM – I would run this to get the calibration value into a hex file.
    3) Now you can program the regular firmware (PS-2keyboardv3.0.hex). Unfortunately, with AVRdude, this process also erases EEPROM, so you need to reprogram the calibration value into the last byte of the EEPROM.
    4) Reprogram the calibration value into EEPROM using the AVRdude script provided, using the EEPROM file you read from the system in step 2 and you are done.

    If you are doing a batch of them, once you get things set up, it takes only about 30 seconds or so to go through the scripts, to calibrate and program, each part.

    In this design, it would have been nice to use a crystal for clock generation to avoid the calibration hassle. However, that would take two pins of the AVR, which I didn’t have available. I could have freed up a couple of pins by configuring the settings with the keyboard or serial port. It would have taken time to write the software that I didn’t have available, as, at that point, I was in the middle of the inital Apple 1 cloning effort for Mimeo.

    First Pass of a Mantua General Repaint

    October 22nd, 2017

    First see this old old blog post about the remotoring and change to the drawbar that I did a few years ago.

    I am not a master modeler, but more recently, I’ve been working on changing an old Mantua General Locomotive over to the paint scheme of a US Military Railroad Norris type locomotive. With City Point being my main area of focus, I found some really good images of the Govener Nye, and decided to use that locomotive as my prototype.

    The original paint job was severely chipped and probably not very great to start with. I stripped the old paint off with lacquer thinner and then repainted. Here is the result.

    Generic USMRR Locomotive - paint based on Govenor Nye, a Norris built 4-4-0

    Generic USMRR Locomotive – paint based on Govenor Nye, a Norris built 4-4-0

    I used an ancient can of Humrol #96 RAF blue that was left over from my days as a wargamer for the Russian iron, and am very pleased with the result. Other paints were from what I had on hand. I’m not all that happy with the green, but it will do for now. Decals are from Microscale’s Eastern USMRR set.

    Besides the repaint here are some other things that I have done with this locomotive.

    I added a DCC decoder using a Digitrax DZ-123 Z scale decoder, which can handle the 1 AMP motor. At this time, I don’t plan on adding sound to my Civil War locomotives, thinking that an external sound system will be more impressive. For example, I’m contemplating having an actual whistle that will be controlled with the DCC throttle, just like any other locomotive with a built in sound system.

    I also added an engineer to the cab, but he is not very visable.

    After mucking around for a bit trying to make the Matua supplied wood pile look more realistic, I ended up replacing the wood in the tender. I scored the sides of some round toothpicks with a fine tooth metal cutting sabre saw blade. Then I stained them and then cut them to size using a end cutting pliers. After positioning them losely on the tender, I used diluted elmers glue to attach them to the top of the tender.

    What’s up next? I will add a line so the miniature engineer can ring the bell. I’m considering adding a working headlamp, but that may wait for a later date. I also need to program the speed tables for the DCC decoder. I will probably add a small magnet to the smoke/steam, so it can be removed when the locomotive is shut down, yet be a little more firmly attached when the locomotive is in motion.