Archive for the ‘Model Railroads’ Category

Modern Views of the City Point and Army Line Yard Location

Tuesday, 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

Sunday, 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

Tuesday, 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.

First Pass of a Mantua General Repaint

Sunday, 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.

Model Railroad Foundation/Benchwork

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

Here is my first attempt at building a benchwork foundation for the first section of the City Point layout. Main motivation is light weight while maintaining maximum rigidity in order to allow for portability. My last layout used an L-Girder design. While the L-Girder design was very suitable for a stationary layout, because of space considerations, I need to make this layout movable. A L-girder design would be hard to make portable.



It is made of plywood underlayment. It is cut into 3 & 1/2″ strips and notched to interlock on 16″ intervals.

notch in plywood

notch in plywood

While it is light, I’m hoping that when fastened to the bottom of the plywood layout that it becomes rigid enough that I don’t have problems with damage to the track work and scenery during moves.

Engine House Mock Up

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Using photoshopped, colorized images of the side, entrance and roof of the real engine house, I have created a HO scale mock up of 2 sides of the engine house and one side of the roof. Images were printed on matte paper on an inkjet printer and glued to foam core board. The engine house was actually 150 feet long by 50 feet wide – this is a true HO scale mock up, so its a little over 20 inches long and 7 inches wide. I will likely improve the look of the mock up in the future with a thinner roof made with cardboard or plastic instead of foam core and some detail parts and add the cupola that belongs on the roof. I have found that Grandt Line makes 6 over 6 windows that should made a nice upgrade over the printed windows. Any edges of the foam core that show will be painted over.

engine house mock up ii

engine house mock up ii

A front view gives a little better perspective of how the mock up looks next to a Mantua General.

engine house mock up with track plan

engine house mock up

Finally a view of this section of the layout with the rough track plan highlighted in yellow with photoshop. This gives an idea of the proportions of this part of the layout. The water tanks would be just to the side of the engine.

engine house mock up track plan

engine house mock up track plan

The open space towards the bottom of the image will contain a bit of the bluff that was on both sides of the cut that lead to the wharf. The next module to the right side will contain a piece the end of the trench line that protected City Point, as well as some crossovers on the incoming tracks.

Engine House colorization version 2

Saturday, May 17th, 2014
engine house side-version 2

engine house side-version 2

I hope that this is the final version, as I have other projects to pursue. Changes include coloring railroad trucks, the engine and most noticeably the wagon. I also slightly “weathered” the roof and tweaked things around the foliage. The color I’m least confident of, is the wagon box. I made it blue to match quartermaster wagon colors, but it’s just a wild guess. The red wagon and railroad wheels were very common at the time, so at least they are plausible.

Next thing I’m going to try to do is to build a model engine house with foam core board covered with printed (colorized) images of the actual engine house.

Colorized City Point Engine House Picture

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

Just learned how to colorize a black and white image with photoshop. It’s easier than I thought it would be. Though this image is just a hack job, it shows what it possible. It also can be used to help pick the colors in my actual model.

Colorized Engine House Picture

Colorized Engine House Picture

Let me know what you think of the color choices.

First Mantua General Remotoring Experience

Thursday, May 8th, 2014
Mantua Remotoring

Mantua Remotoring

I generally followed Al Muellers recommendations for replacing the drive line – though I did have difficulty drilling and soldering the music wire into the brass rod on the engine side. The tender side was easier, since I drilled the smaller hole and used it as a pilot hole for the motor shaft. This caused the drive wire to be lined up with the shaft, even if it wasn’t perfectly centered in the brass rod.

The shortened drawbar was cut out of scrap PCB material. The copper side is cut, so that there is no short circuit between the tender and the cab.

The other thing I changed was mounting the Nichibo PC-130 motor. I found I had a couple of screws that fit the mounting holes on the face of the motor. I presume that these are a metric size. I decided to use some scrap sheet metal to make a mount. It is bent at a 90 degree angle and using a #6 screw, mounted to the tender floor, opposite the hole that is used for feeding track power back to the tender. This provides a solid mount that, if necessary, can easily be removed or adjusted. I will eventually add DCC, but not sound, as I am looking at developing an external sound system, which will be able to produce far more dramatic effects that the small speaker in a tender could produce.

The Nichibo PC-130 motor produces incredibly improved low speed operation. I’m just amazed at the dramatic difference that this made. I haven’t yet calculated scale top speed using a traditional 12 volt power pack, but I’m guessing that it is way below capabilities of a real 4-4-0. Since I’m only modeling the yard and port, where speed would be low anyway, I’ll probably live with it.

I have some more things to do with the locomotive.

  • improve tender truck electrical pickup
  • replace front truck and tender wheels
  • address an issue with tractive effort, which seems inadequate at this point – perhaps more weight is all that is needed
  • add tender couplers – may use knuckle couplers initially in order to do some testing, but eventually I want to use link and pin
  • paint and detail as Liet. Gen Grant
  • Brass Bands at City Point

    Monday, May 5th, 2014

    During lunch hour today, I took the opportunity to visit the Addison Gallery of Art on the campus of Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. The purpose of my visit was to see the original painting, “City Point, Headquarters of General Grant” by Edward Lamson Henry. The painting is currently in storage, but by arranging with them in advance, the curators were kind enough to bring it out for me to see.

    City Point by Edward Lamson Henry

    City Point by Edward Lamson Henry

    What a treat to see the painting in person. The painting is incredibly detailed and digital images do not do it justice. Here is a better image than what I was able to capture. View the zoomable image to see the amazing degree of detail in this painting. Among them, is a brass band, playing in front of Grant’s Headquarters. Brass Bands were a fixture at City Point, especially during the winter, when active campaigning was of questionable value, due to what the weather could do to the the Virginia road system.

    Brass Band at City Point

    Brass Band at City Point

    I expect that the figure sitting on the bench at the left side of this detail, is meant to represent Grant, himself. I think Mr Henry was trying to tell a story with this painting, much like some model railroaders do. I’ll try to make an effort to post some more images with details over the next few days.