Friday, December 6, 2013

Lee & Gordons Mills

Modeling Project by Christopher Eldridge

Lee & Gordon's Mills is one of the more known photographs by George Bernard who accompanied Sherman during the Atlanta Campaign. Located on Chickamauga Creek, the Union Army occupied this area just prior to and during the battle named for the Creek. Interestingly enough it is a Cherokee name supposedly meaning "River of Death". 
This being a famous structure of the area there were several photos taken, below are two. The clarity and variety of photos and its position along the creek made it an easy choice to include on the layout.

Constructing the Mill
Midway through construction in this photo, Christopher used Northeastern siding for the walls and being a master carpenter was very precise on measurements and, more so, the accuracy of the model. He began in October 2011.
Chickamauga Creek has an east and west branch which converge into a main branch into the TN River. This main branch is simply known as North Chickamauga Creek. The mill resided on the west branch. Notably, the W&A traversed this creek approximately 12-13 times between Atlanta and Chattanooga. There is mention that covered bridges were common and although there was no such bridge near this mill, selective compression begs for the inclusion of one, hence, reasonable plausibility.
The balsa sections are the initial ideation for a wagon bridge that was actually there and nearly destroyed by Union cavalry. This crossing was a key ingredient for Gen'l Bragg and his Army of TN as they were attempting to close in for a battle with Army of the Cumberland. Here is the initial positioning of the Mill as the creek base is needing to be prepped for a pouring of Envirotex.

            Nearly a competed scene, landscaping and some structural details are to be added...
         A master at his best, true to form, he celebrates his progress and contribution. Nice slippers!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chattanooga Progress, posted Dec 10, 2014

Here are the latest photos of progress in Chattanooga. Our last posting of this section showed only a few mock ups and maps.
Below you see the addition of the Adams Express CO. and the Crutchfield House, the nearby hotel to the car shed, shown here as the white mock up in the background. 
DC added the platform. Although the platform is not shown in any diagrams that we've researched, nor is such a structure mentioned in any reading, for the purpose of a model railroad we included it for operations.
This photo is looking south, opposite from the above shot. We are 90% complete on this section. Other details and perhaps another commercial structure could be added in the open space at left.
Chattanooga was a terminus for the W&A and Nashville and Chattanooga lines. Later the East Tennessee and Georgia RR was added. The Memphis and Charleston passed through Chattanooga. Given that all these lines came into Chattanooga there are many possibilities for model railroading operations. 
The yard was filled with cars from different lines for the sake of the photo. These other rail lines are the Atlanta and West Point, Macon and Western and Georgia RR, all of which came into Atlanta.
These last two photos below show the scratch built Adams Express Co. and Crutchfield House, built by Chris Comport.



As with most model railroads a key element is selective compression. Here is a map, from our late contributor Zoe who was constructing a virtual W&A of the period, showing the rails into Chattanooga. There are two distinct features. One is the 2 tracks entering what is known as the Car Shed or passenger station. The other is the Wye track formation used to reverse locomotives. There was also a turntable in Chattanooga which appears in the next illustration below.

This drawing below showing the turntable is from a book entitled The Union Railyards Site, Industrial Archeology in Chattanooga, Tennessee by R.B. Council and Nicholas Honercamp. It was attached to the center track between the Car Shed and the other rectangular structure, the W&A Freight Depot, to its right. According to the authors, this is "The Federal plan of Chattanooga, 1863" and was from F.W. Dorr's 'Chattanooga and Its Approaches,' drawn after the battle of Chattanooga in November 1863. I chose to include the turntable, not the Wye since my space was too limiting.
Right and center is a notation, Battery Hazen, and was also know as Stone Fort. We have a tentative plan to include a portion of this fort at the layout edge.
Below is a photo taken from the area in the foreground known as the Stone Fort. So far there are no other details about this feature making it a creative endeavor for the layout. There is also mention of a Judge Hooke's residence in this view. Although barely visible, it was located in the grove of trees in the left background. This structure is being scratch built by D. C. Cebula. 

There are many interesting buildings to be considered. I chose prominent ones including a hotel known as the Crutchfield House, the Adams Express building and the home owned by Judge Hooke. Here is D.C.'s version as an HO structure, emphatically informing me that "...the chimneys are going right there!", as we debated the location given the photo. You decide and let him know... PLEASE.

These two photos of Hooke's residence were taken post war an deduced that the enclosed balcony was post war as well. As D.C. has completed the basic structure, next are the detailed elements and landscaping. One anecdote is that when Chattanooga residents were evacuating, the Judge was provided with his own house car to remove his personal belongings.

For the Car Shed I connected with Alkem Scale Models, (Bernie Kempinski) to laser cut and construct the building primarily for the exactitude given the numerous arches and trusses. 
Here is a period photo followed by Charlie Taylor's model. He is building the Memphis & Charleston R.R. in O scale. Here is a link to his site,

The Crutchfield House in mock up...

This will be scratch built by Christopher who has also done the Lee and Gordon's Mill and the Barnsley Garden Mansion. Both are featured in previous blog posts and in our Labels section.
Here is a long view to compare with the 2 maps at top of page... Photo is taken from the Wye area and the Stone Fort site.

Adams Express is in the early stage of mock up. It was situated between the Shed and Crutchfield House. Here's about a 20x, zoom from a period picture:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

LeBron Mathews' Western & Atlantic R.R. South Branch

This W&A is sub-titled South Branch to distinguish his layout from my 'North Branch' as LeBron resides near Columbus GA. LeBron and I met though D.C. Cebula when D.C. posted an ad in a Model Railroader issue inviting modelers interested in ACW RR's to connect via internet. At that time D.C. had attracted about two dozen people. Shortly thereafter D.C. formed our current group the

LeBron and I had our first meeting in 2001 at the Georgia State Archives, both of us in the early stages of our respective layouts. Since then LeBron has just about completed not only his railroad, but has redone or renovated a variety of his modeling elements. Although built in a room about 8'x10', the detailing is truly extraordinary and very much a work of art. I have the pleasure to feature some photos of his best-in-class modeling., a master modeler indeed.  

This is his panorama of Atlanta and the skyline. His Backdrop was initially a commercial photo backdrop and runs along three walls. His layout is along three walls and is a walk-in. Trains run north or to the left. Atlanta is the end of the line. Over the years LeBron has used a variety of mediums including reduced photos pasted onto the backdrop and then painting additional details. He also has hand painted structures, fields and vegetation. An example is the church shown in the photo center.

If not all, a clear majority of LeBron's structures, most being scratch built or kit bashed, represent actual businesses and, or homes in 1862, the year he models. Middle foreground in the following two photos is the Trout House. No not a fishery or restaurant but one of Atlanta's premier hotels. Also notice the building to the right. It belongs to the Free Masons, their meeting hall.

Below is a George Bernard photo. He accompanied Gen'l Sherman and the Union army during 
Atlanta campaign. Compare this pic with the one above to see how LeBron built an exact replica of the Trout House as well as the building to the right belonging to the Free Masons.

Here is the famous Car Shed all scratch-built  of course. I believe he used primarily Evergreen styrene, Grandt Line details and the brick is a Micro-Mark paper product. LeBron has also added functioning gas sconce lamps for night operations on the inner structure which unfortunately is not visible here. Actually his layout is set up for night running. Many structures have internal lighting.

The dominant structure below is LeBron's depiction of the Concert Hall, one of the signature structures in Barnard's Atlanta photos. In the foreground are two trains, one arriving the other departing. Operationally, he has made gondola inserts and flat car loads, such as the artillery unit, for the quick on and off. 
Looking closely at his backdrop you can see his structure and field additions. The entire layout is full of details covering nearly every inch of benchwork. We'll be sure to add another post perhaps a video during an operation and views during one of W&A's summer evenings.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Al Mueller's Orange & Alexandria R.R.

October 1 I visited Al Mueller at his home in WI, also the home of his HO scale Orange & Alexandria R.R., depicting 1861-62 Virginia. He plans to run both Union and Confederate operations and has the fleet of locos to do so, 10 to be specific and nearly all Mantua Generals that have been re-motored. Two of these are featured in a video posted a few days ago.
Al is fortunate to have a huge and nicely finished basement. In the background is a layout he built but depicting the 1950's. He has since seen the light and now models a most colorful era for locomotives. He has posted many photos of his locos on our yahoo sight
Al has been extremely helpful to a few of us as he wrote a manual for re-motoring the Mantua General. The two 4-4-0's in this photo however are of my W&A which I brought here for fine tuning by the master. Although seemingly basic, we were able to adjust everything from CV's in order to standardize speeds, learn differences between decoders as I use 2 different manufacturers, and some 'general' tips to increase performance. 

Al has set up the digital readout to the left on his fascia to show loco speeds. One of his talents is his engineering mind and patience, key skills especially for me as I continue to educate myself on the modeling nuances.
In his past he had a passion for rebuilding cars. Although slightly distinguishable, the black and white photo on his wall to the right of his cloud backdrop is him next to one of his autos. 
This is the Lincoln House by Laser Art Structures. The portico and columns were Al's addition. He is currently building a foundry with unbelievable detailing. Look forward to a posting once completed.

I had to show you the scope of his "workshop". Every tool a modeler would not mind having or at least access. Thanks Al!

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Brian has been a part of this railroad scene since 2003 when he along with DC Cebula and Chris Brannigan came to visit at my home. It was our second time together, the first being Timonium - a neutral location that seemed most reasonable to all especially since we had a relationship only through emails. We of course hit it off and Brian offered to began painting the backdrop. His first foray was painting a 35'x3' canvas. Ever since then he has visited many times and continues to add backdrop scenes as the railroad evolves. April 29, 2013 I captured a few stories on how he began his interest in modeling the American Civil War. Hope you enjoy our interaction.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Orange & Alexandria R. R. A Visit to Al Muller's Layout

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to spend two and a half days learning from one of the masters. Al wrote the MANTUA GENERAL REBUILD manual for converting the basic General into one that runs with precision quality and to be extraordinarily detailed. Of course I brought along several of my 4-4-0 Generals to get Al's "laying on of hands" and came home with more than I could hope for as we fine tuned, machined and took my work to the next level. You will be seeing these in action in a future post... I hope! For now, here are 2 videos I shot while visiting Al's O&A. 

In the video below, the first train is led by the 4-4-0 Senator. The second loco is another of Al's transformations, the Lexington, also of the O&A. The second video is Al's Warrenton pulling a passenger train of resin kits by John Canfield.

As it passes the town of Atlee VA you may notice the young man butchering the pig as it hangs from the post. Al's rolling stock is BTS, Alkem, Classic Miniatures, Concord Car Works and a few resin Passenger cars. The structures include kits from BTS, Bar Mills, Blair Line and several scratch built. Enjoy the sound in these beauties,  Soundtraxx Micro-Tsunami decoders,TSU-750, #826001.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Water Scene by D.C.

Clearly DC has the most time into this layout. To date his accomplishments include 7 scratch built structures, about 15 structure kits and kit-bashed buildings, one being the Dalton cattle pens. His scenic contributions are much of the rock formations at the base of Kennesaw mountain, the creek at the south end, Alatoona Pass and Rocky Face Ridge. Some of you may be asking what the heck I've been doing.... Later! 
DC has also helped with bench alterations and backdrop framing. You can see his work in the LABEL listings on the front page of the blog. Here's one of his latest...

and that is scenicing the swamp below Rocky Face. It is loosely inspired by a drawing in 1864, shown above, made along the W&A just outside of Dalton. It was Mill Creek Gap. Using selective compression, DC placed it at the layout corner and was able to include a small section of the creek also. We began by cutting out and lowering a section of the benchwork base. DC took it from there using sculptamold for the contour. The reeds are a combination of scratch building using wire. He then used a kit by Scene Master - Waterlilies which was also quite intensive. Recently I found a product by JTT Scenery Products, HO cattails, #95535. No more scratch building for his next project.

W&A RR North Branch - Video.

This video features LeBron's Texas after a complete fabrication, everything from a new boiler to smoke stack and a variety of detailing including the addition of sound. We were testing pulling ability. During the war trains up to 23 cars were hitched to a loco, in some cases double headed. Here the General is pulling 11 cars. You also get to see and hear us in the background during a rare working session when LeBron, Christopher, DC and our videographer Andy could all be here, a rare treat. Toward the end you have a view into the troubling moment when a short occurs. This happens when all was well just the night before when a train had run that section without a hitch. Such as it is with model railroading. Always the adventure, fun and the shear enjoyment when the crew's in town!

Sunday, March 17, 2013



Brian has been with us since the beginning, 2003. And fortunately he lives reasonably close in CT. Hence, the bulk of the backdrop painting Brian has completed including Lookout Mountain. Approximate total length is 60'. With His latest visit earlier this month he added some details with figures, plowed fields, clouds and touched up the Oostanaula River. Too bluish, given my brownish 3D version, his blend is none other than perfect. Have a look...
He is blending the painted rock into the bench, highlighting the edges. This is the north end of Rocky Face, a dominate feature west of Dalton. Heavily fortified at the time of Sherman's campaign to Atlanta, unfortunately for Joe Johnston's Army of TN Sherman chose to out flank his Confederate opponent and avoid a head on charge against a fortified enemy, lessons first learned during the battle of Fredricksburg.

As Brian adds clouds, I am taking a few lessons on the art of cloud creation. Prior to Brian I have painted all the clouds which, as humble as I can sound, came out pretty good. They show up better in photos however, as seen in the September 2009 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. Brian's look great in person or photographed.
Untitled by Tomaj1
The tent far left and third from left has the back half painted onto the backdrop.
As Brian mentioned throughout his visit, it's all play now for him since the panoramas were quite tedious and although he very much enjoyed the visits, it required a lot coverage. Now it looks like he may even want to scratch build some scenes.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Kingston to Dalton and Beyond

A recent visit this March by friends who have been contributing to the construction of the Western and Atlantic RR for many years, DC Cebula, Brain Kammerrer, Christopher Eldridge and Andy Salcius, have moved us toward the last phase on this layout. 10 years in the making, Andy, aka Uriah Stephens, shot this "creative" video with a few sound effects, unlikely heard in any steam locomotive sound decoder.

The following photos attribute the recent work projects with their respective authors. I use this term author deliberately since the skills that each person brings is at a level where I trust their ability to "author" their sense of a scene or scene element. 

 LeBron, on his January 2013 visit, has painted, inserted and here is dry brushing the perimeter fence (Musket Miniatures) of the Barnsley Estate. Godfrey Barnsley, if you missed prior postings, was a cotton trader. With offices in Atlanta, New Orleans, Savannah and London, interestingly he was opposed to slavery and paid all his workers.
He was also known for his extraordinary gardens, some of which we plan for the center section just in front of his home. This mansion was scratch built by Christopher from book illustrations in Barnsley Gardens. You can see Chris' work under LABELS for Barnsley.