Saturday, August 29, 2020


Track-side industry was scarce, even rare in the 1850's and through most of the 1860's. Although there may have been more, I have not researched past 1865 being a stickler for this time period. However, when industries can be identified, especially if my intention is to simulate operations, I will find a way to position it. This became so with a mill just outside of Atlanta, the Schofield Rolling Mill. The photo below shows the remains of the mill taken by the photographer who accompanied Gen'l Sherman during the Atlanta Campaign, George Barnard, in 1864. The remains of a whole lot of rail cars plus a couple of locomotives also fill the scene. Atlanta was under siege and General Hood's Army of TN was in retreat. Abandoning Atlanta required abandoning the trains as well because Sherman's army cut off the rail lines. Consequently, the trains were  intentionally torched. The rail cars also just happened to be loaded with munitions! Hence, the mess. 
There are other images of similar rolling mills, however, this is the only photo of Schofield I could find. And as you can see, there are two tracks. Most likely, but uncertain, is that one track is a passing siding and the other a main. 
You may recall the scene in Gone With The Wind where Rhett is leading a carriage with Millie, her new born and Scarlet through the burning cars in the Atlanta rail yard. That was the a depiction of Confederate soldiers needing to burn the cars and inadvertently so went the mill. Matter of fact, Wilbur Kurtz, consultant to the movie, had the prop builders add a sign to one of the buildings that read MILL. You can see this on photo outtakes of the film.

A close proximity to how the Schofield mill looked is this illustration. The caption lists it as Atlanta-Rolling Mill-1871. Serious selective compression will be required. I am modeling the 1863 version which, with poetic license, compression was required. 
Apparently, production output of the mill included mostly rail and canon tubes. One interesting feature of the structure is that it was open along most walls. This makes sense given the hot summers down south and the need for ventilation. Further research, and help from my buddy Gerry Dykstra, surfaced images of how the interior may have looked. 
This following painting is by von-Menzel depicting a mill in Europe. Many conversations later I was able to confirm that the interior was built of wood beams. Gerry indicated that the floor most likely was iron sheets vs. brick or stone as they would have exploded like shrapnel if hot iron hit it. The vertical beams would most likely have  been wrapped with iron sheet as well about 4' from the floor up to protect against flame. 
This next painting is a mill in Toronto. A big difference here is the roof design. This looks to be an A-type. The Atlanta mill roof was curved, similar to those of the Car Sheds in Atlanta and Chattanooga. Bow trusses will be built to accommodate the mill's curved roof. As you can see, there are a plethora of possibilities to be considered for the interior.

To begin,  I had identified a spot for the mill. The layout expansion not only solidified this plan, it also allowed the inclusion of a passing siding and room for a very compressed model of the mill. This will be north of Atlanta. 

However, the real mill was adjacent to two tracks, the Georgia RR and the East Tennessee & Ga. RR. Location was actually west of Atlanta. The diagram below was done by an on-line friend, Zoe, who unfortunately passed away a few years ago. Her plan was to create a virtual W&A. Although not completed, her research was invaluable. The W&A roundhouse is left, northwest of downtown. The tracks along its left side headed south passed the mill.

Speaking with Gerry Dykstra, he sent me a drawing of the floor plan as he would imagine it, as there is no such drawing, at least in my research. Working off this period photo, Gerry was able to draft a floor plan including rollers, furnaces and other essential elements.

The roof will be 3/4 with the open end of course facing the aisle.

Nest step was to build a base. The majority of layout structures are removable. The same is planned for the mill. As I could not find a thick enough styrene, this is a laminate. Quick Grip is THE BEST!
Next was to add the iron plating Gerry mentioned. These were each 5'x7'. It took a few... The gear is from a Faller steam engine model, #180388.
Base done, next was needing to build the roof first because it has a steep curve. Similar to the card shed, the roof is built first then the bow trusses. To built roof a jig was required. The jig is thin sheet metal.
First layer of styrene is little more than paper thin. Roof texture, Evergreen Metal Roofing #4521, is the top layer. 'Bondene' is the adhesive which works GREAT with most styrene, vs. Testors which seems to work only with Evergreen. 

Several sections of the metal roofing were needed to complete the length. Once these were set, next was to add the seems. These metal roofs were made in sections. The material was a tin makeup. The seems represent the soldered sections.

As you can see, MANY of these little buggers were required. Once done I chose a silver metallic spray paint as a base color. Roof was then painted a heavy wash of gray craft paints.

You notice the area where seems stopped. This was to allow the back section of the structure to be attached. The sides were cut from the Dykstra template...

The oval areas were louvers. Once attached as the sides, the roof interior was next. A terrific web site,, offers free images. I was luck enough to find wood that matched what we deduced for the ceiling. A key bit of research came from another friend, Charlie who did the Chattanooga Car Shed... O scale! Charlie had this done to full scale; it came out to about 4'. 

For my HO version, another good friend, Jimmy Judge, scaled the image to HO. As you see, these were cut into strips as I needed to install the cross bracing first because these needed to be glued directly to the ceiling. The paper would have impeded the adhesion. 

The result was gratifying, especially after some gritty weathering.

Of course I did not recognize the need for corbels as this project was learn as you go. These were willed with my Dremel hitched to a vise and used as a lathe.

Roof completed, work on the lean-to section commenced.  

This roof would be where the chimneys from the furnaces and boilers protruded. The chimneys came out to be the featured element.

Using another paper, each chimney required 8 pieces to achieve the look of the period photo.

After many conversations with different construction friends and Mr Dykstra, copper flashing was deduced.

Stay tuned. In another couple of weeks I will have completed adding the bow truss rods, boilers, furnaces, steam engine and steam hammer.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Member's Bin Busy!

Over the last several weeks, as we have been honoring the "stay home" recommendations, I have been hearing from several friends and members about their respective projects. This post is to give y'all an idea on what folks are doing, from masters to beginners. There are four, most of whom you have seen before. First up, Charlie Taylor's M&C, Memphis and Charleston. He is currently further detailing the area in and around Memphis. Charlie is one of us 'crazy' modelers. In addition to hand carving tunnel entryways as limestone block, Charlie just finished carving this cobblestone street. 
This is the area planned for the cobblestones, around the M&C Depot. 
He uses a sheet of bass wood for carving the stones.

And here are two photos with final results...

Next we have a relatively new modeler, Paul Ciesmelewski. I met Paul through a local hobby shop, Hobby Masters, which unfortunately is no longer. However, Paul is one of those other rare modelers focusing on civil war and coincidentally, the Western & Atlantic. He has already scratch built the Chattanooga Car Shed and a church. His next project is the premier hotel of this dirt water town, at the time, the Crutchfield House. It was located within a short walking distance from the shed, or passenger depot. 
He has a unique approach in that he is building the shell to be able to be removed from the interior structure. 

Paul is dividing the interior into three floors and about 16 rooms. 
Main structure complete, he is adding this roof. Eventually Paul plans to add basic interiors, wall paper and home made furniture items. His 'crazy', however,... adding lights to the fireplaces! His layout will also depict the battle of Mission or Missionary Ridge in 1863. 
Someone known to most ACWRRHS members and perhaps in the model railroad community, LeBron Mathews, is DE-constructing his W&A with a reno plan to allow more options to run his railroad, operations and, as important given his inventory, storage. As he has begun to remove structures and dismantle track, to counter balance the remorse of tear-down he is also upgrading structures with finer details, if you can imagine that for LeBron. The LOC (library of Congress) is his primary source. 
Most of LeBron's work is scratch building. One example of his upgrading is the Atlanta Hotel. A photo prior to the changes below.
His rebuild shows a completely different roof trim, sign with yellow trim, balcony spindles removed for a solid wall and red shutters. What other changes can you see?
How does he know this? There are a couple of sources. One is the LOC where TIFF files reveal slight variations of color as well as details otherwise undetected. Second source is information about structure building at that time. As an example, two primary colors were used for trim and shudders. Generally speaking, green was primarily used on residential and small businesses. Red would be found on the more high end establishments such as the Atlanta Hotel, one of a few in Atlanta.

In addition to his scratch building, LeBron also uses kits. One of the most similar looking period structures is made my DPM, Design Preservation Models. Here he changed out the roof from flat to tin.
His coloring and weathering is off the charts! George Selios would be proud!
Next up is the Delaware Central RR. Our good friend, and co-founder of the American Civil War RR Historical Society, DC Cebula is beginning his foray building a layout. After MUCH re-configuring... no not the layout plan although that is always a process, he is revamping his basement first! Already with new lighting, outlets, relocating his "stuff" and having purchased lumber, here is his latest track plan. Grids are 1' so this will be a 4'x12', however I believe he mentioned he is working to extend it to 18' . The red line is the backdrop, narrow side for staging. However, please do take a ride to and into his new BLOG! 

One fella you may have heard about in one conversation of another as only a few of us know is Rhett Tyler. He certainly has the right name for our era. Rhett has been nt only modeling but has built some of thee most detailed accurate models of locomotives. He did one for me based on a photo from Chattanooga, #50, a USMRR 4-4-0. That was when I was planning to have Union forces in Chattanooga and Confederate in Atlanta. However, after he built this gorgeous model I soon after dropped the Union idea. It is now being reconfigured as the Tennessee, a Georgia RR loco. Check out the piping and the prototypical cross head guide. 
Decals are compliments to John Ott, another master who we quite honored to have in our midst and joined us for the Gettysburg meet in 2015.

Rhett is modeling the New York Central & Hudson River RR. His bridge is scratch built. And these are just a few of his collection of locomotives. I believe he has close to 14. His knowledge of locomotives is extraordinary as well as rolling stock of the era. I have called him on many occasions when uncertain about a design element when doing my own rebuilds.

As you can see, and perhaps you as well, we are channeling our energies that can uplift us when the news can be quite disturbing. In one way we intend that these posts and photos will be a contribution to you, as an inspiration or at very least an enjoyable read. Very Best! 

Sunday, April 26, 2020


90% completed and closing in on several details, this is pretty much how she'll be looking with the Crutchfield House, the premier hotel of Chattanooga in the background. Not my backdrop though.
When viewing this structure in period photos they all have the roof showing up white. Being a metal roof of tin, that is understandable given it would be reflecting the sun. But the actual color of course is not white. After looking at many photos of tin roofs on line, several conversations with friends and one or two with metal workers, the roof has a dull to very low gloss of gray. I am still experimenting such as a medium gray with light gray dry brushing to a semi metallic gray color on the cupola. All brush painting and no airbrushing or spray painting.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020


It's what can happen when my honey decides to go visit one of her friends for more than 4 days... INVITE THE CREW! In addition to DC and Andy, a very good friend and contributor was able to visit as well, LeBron Matthews. One day we will feature his remarkable modeling as he too models the W&A, referenced as the south branch. LeBron is from Columbus Georgia.

This crew was here on Wednesday working on different projects as well as to help prep for the Thursday night ops session. DC continues to scenic the new section. More on this section and DC's work in a future post.

 LeBron scenicing Atlanta; grass was more likely in many areas around the tracks and yard than I considered. Where there is no traffic most likely there'd be grasses. Needless to say, the added greenery has a few effects. 1) it pulls the elements of Atlanta together, the green is the connector to the structures. 2) it fills out the area of Atlanta; makes it "pop" as some like to say.
3) the color adds a pleasing invitation to the eye.

Andy took on his first structure, a Woodlands Scenics casting of the Tack Shed. The door off the hinge was his intention!
Six other fellas came by for the session. Adding LeBron and Paul, we grouped them into four 2-man crews, one engineer and one brakeman. In addition to operating the loco, the engineer handled the way bill/schedule. Brakeman had responsibility for coupling, switching. Here Lebron, engineer, along with his brakeman Paul, maneuver the Dr. Thompson consist into Big Shanty. DC and I were trouble shooters.

Engineers and Brakemen
Left to right, LeBron, DC, Ray, Paul, Bill, TR, Dave, Hilmar, Ed and Andy. Paul, Ed and Hilmar are from our local RR club, Garden State Central. Paul is building an HO scale W&A layout, focusing on the Battle of Mission Ridge. Ray has a MASSIVE HO multi-level layout, Norfolk and Western. Bill and Dave contribute to his layout and all three are members of the Model RR Club. Andy is our resident photographer and videographer. He excels at tree making ,and during this visit apprenticed with LeBron on scenic work.
Lessons learned or reinforced
1) Prior to ops session, have a friend review the schedule/way bills. We found out, 30 minutes prior to people arriving, the schedules included the same cars! During staging this was most apparent as one person set up a consist, went off to do another, only to return and find the cars he set gone!  
2) Always invite guests to offer feedback. Most often they will not offer input to avoid offending. This also shows them that your intention is to improve the efficiency and fun. 
3) Just because a person has done the brakeman job a few times does NOT mean they know how to engineer a locomotive! Although we are familiar with shorts, we had an excessive number this time. Speaking with one engineer at the end, I realized this engineer did not know that he could not run a loco into an adjacent turnout if the rails were not aligned to the track he was exiting! Good news is that this one breakdown indicated that we did not have a massive, layout wide, short issue to untangle.
4) Coupled with number 3, invite operators who are familiar operating on your layout. Then be sure to partner the most familiar with newest guests.
5) The realization that metal wheels can cause a short when the stub rails are either too close or wheel sets are too loose and hitting both rails simultaneously.


Since the layout expansion I have been quite busy laying new track including 4 stub turnouts, one being a 3-way. The latter is quite the challenge in finding a workable solution for switching the single fly rails as the typical machine throws one way or the other. Mike Prokop of our NMRA Division suggested, and confirmed by my good friend Ray Russel, that a "servo" is the way to go. Of course I have NO idea what that is or means. However, with the 2-way stubs I am most familiar. 
I use assembled stubs by BK Enterprises, known today as Trout Creek. Although you can ask for a #4, 6, etc., they typically come with longer rails than needed; they are also adjustable given the frog size you may require.
These come with metal plates that hold the switch together. You need to unsolder the plates, then align, gauge then spike the rails. 
Simply apply your hot iron and separate the rails. There is an advantage to having the turnout nearly cut to size, most so the frog. My track, however, required modifications of these by either adjusting length and curve  to meet the already laid track, and then of course ensuring gauge and flange gaps were accurate...

In all, two curved, one straight and one 3-way were installed. Unknowingly, I used #4 templates thinking that's what I needed. However these were too acute. I used closer to #6. 

Above photo also shows the initial positioning of the 3-way. Ray fortunately laid the ties using a jig. I simply spiked the rails. However, I had NOT considered the foundry being a visual impediment to the stub; therefore I needed to move the stub!

 I made a variety of cuts and end shapes for the ties. Photos of the times show everything from milled to roughly hewn, different lengths and naturally weathered since there was no creosote then.