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Book Review
Model Railroads Go to War
Model Railroads Go to War
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

With the burgeoning interest in railroads for military modelers, and for military loads for model railroaders, Model Railroads Go to War by Bernard Kempinski from Kalmbach Publishing is an excellent inspiration for modelers who want to merge the iron horse with the war horse.
    Model Railroads Go to War is the only book that covers a large scope of model railroading wartime scenes. Written by veteran author Bernard Kempinski, it spans the American Civil War through Operation Iraqi Freedom. This guide provides detailed modeling information and historical insight, making it ideal an ideal choice for both modelers and history buffs. It also includes:
    • A rare combination of historical text and photos.
    • Step-by-step instructions.
    • Track plans that illustrate how to model a military railroad from various time periods.
    - Kalmbach Pub.

This softcover book measures 8 1/4" x 10 3/4", is 96 pages in length, boasts 200 color photos, with ISBN: 9780890249536.

The author Bernard Kempinski is a respected modeler and historian of the American Civil War. He has also published other railroad titles such as The Model Railroader's Guide to Steel Mills.

This is one of those titles that ties everything together in today's modeling. When I unwrapped the book it was like a dream come true! Forget the exceptional models displayed through excellent photography, this book melds my interest in railroads with my interest in military history. And in the tradition of Sheppard Paine, it spans decades and generations.

Model Railroads Go to War is brought to you through 12 chapters in 96 pages;
    Chapter 1: Railroads Redefine Warfare
    Chapter 2: Beanpoles and Cornstalks: the USMRR in Virginia
    Chapter 3: The Cracker Line: Civil War Railroads in the Western Theater
    Chapter 4: Railroad Guns and Armored Trains
    Chapter 5: Cambrai: the Trains behind the Breakthrough
    Chapter 6: Arsenal of Democracy: American Railroads in WWII
    Chapter 7: Cherbourg: Gateway to France
    Chapter 8: Cold War and Beyond: Railroads in Modern Conflicts
    Chapter 9: Rockets on Rails: Kennedy Space Center Railroad

    Additional Information
    About the Author

The author wrote this book in a well organized and easily read manner. He imparts knowledge easily. I found only a single meaningless typo. In Railroads Redefine Warfare the first use of railroads in a war effort (United States, 1846) and the first use of railroads in a military operation (The Crimean War, 1855) is recounted. It leads the reader through the history of war in the railroad age: American Civil War; Franco-Prussian War; Russo-Japanese War and others. The First World War is detailed, including the light railways which brought supplies to the trenches, and the congealing of America's railroads which led to the United States Railway Administration (USRA). The herculean effort of the railroads during the Second World War is explored, including the use of armored trains by many countries. The role of railroads through the Korean War and the Cold War, through their utilization today are examined. The use of armored trains and rail guns is touched upon.

The style of writing is different from most ‘model railroad how-to’ books, as explained by the author;
    Given this brief overview of the railroad in warfare, the following chapters examine the railroads of the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War in more detail, with an emphasis on how to model them. Because this is such a vast subject, the book takes a case stud approach. Each chapter focuses on a detailed study of a particular subject including track planning, modeling ideas, and sample layouts and models (where available).

Both Beanpoles and Cornstalks: the USMRR in Virginia and The Cracker Line: Civil War Railroads in the Western Theater focus on the American Civil War, where possession of railways was as critical – if not more so – than control of rivers. Thus, railroads became a strategic asset and both sides strove to destroy or capture them. The Union created the United States Military Railroad to operate portions in areas with frequent enemy activity.

This chapter may be most fascinating to many of you as the models and layouts shown in color photography are of a subject and era seldom modeled on a grand scale. The author's layout is O scale - 1/48 and features lengthy bridges and other sweeping scenes, as do some of the other modelers' featured in the book.

Railroad Guns and Armored Trains combines exceptional modeling in many scales with prototype images, including the US Navy's 14-inch railroad guns used during WWI near Verdun. It also features photographs of German super-heavy artillery and Russian armored trains, as well as O scale-1/48 armored train models.

Large dioramas combining 1/72 and 1/76 military subjects and light railway models tell the story of the great tank attack in Cambrai: the Trains behind the Breakthrough. The author identifies the models used, e.g., Emhar, W^D Models, Meridan Models, Juweela.

Huge 1/96 ship models blend with HO trains in Arsenal of Democracy: American Railroads in WWII and Cherbourg: Gateway to France. From this point on Minitanks and other HO scale military vehicles laden the trains.

Finally, Cold War and Beyond: Railroads in Modern Conflicts and Rockets on Rails: Kennedy Space Center Railroad demonstrate that even in the nuclear and space eras, colorful trains are still important to drab national exploration and security. Ever wanted to model the Space Shuttle with model trains? Here's your inspiration!

This book is a feast for modelers who draw inspiration and ideas from other modelers, throughout the industrial age.

photographs, graphics and artwork
Perhaps this book is not lavish in this regard, yet it is most impressive! Hundreds of high-quality photographs enhance and compliment the text. Maps and charts and tables also bring the concepts to life, specifically:

Some of these are worth the price of the book n and of themselves, such as the author’s scratchbuilt O scale-1/48 wooden arched truss Potomac Creek bridge. A scratchbuilt Herrman Haupt ‘W trestle’ bridge that saved time and material by avoiding traditional diagonal braces and bents is also shown. Yet the most impressive is the O scale High Bridge over the Tennessee River at Brookport, Alabama!

I. Railroad lines and track gauges during the Civil War showing those built before 1861 and those built by the Confederates during the war.
II. Location of winter quarters of Union and Confederate forces March-April 1863 around Fredericksburg.
III. Opening the Cracker Line, October-November 1863 - suppling the Union army at Chattanooga.
IV. Western Theater Summer 1864.
V. Battle of Cambria, October-November 1917.
VI. Railroads west of Paris in used by Allies, Mid-September 1944.
VII. NASA Kennedy Space Center Railroad.

Graphics & Charts
a. Comparision of the North and South, Civil War, 1960, by population, economy, railroad capacity and potential.
b. Inset: Haupt’s Rules - 5 rules of running the USMRR.
c. A timeline of the bridges at Potomac Creek showing the major battles supported by it, destruction of the bridge and its rebuilding, with photographs or prints of the structure.
d. USMRR Aquia-Falmouth Line Daily loaded cars delivered
    • Forage
    • Commissary stores
    • Quartermaster stores
    • Mail and Passengers
    • Railroad supplies
    • Ammunition

e. Railroad assets in 1940 of United States, Britain, France, Germany and Russia, by
    • Locomotives
    • Freight cars
    • Passenger cars
    • Track miles
f. United States military railcar owbnership from WWI to today by war, year, and type of car.

Model trackplans
1. USMRR Aquia Line, northern Virginia.
2. McCook’s Landing on the Tennessee River, Alabama, July 1864.
3. Brooklyn Army Terminal, Brooklyn, New York; October 1944.
4. Cherbourg Harbor, Normandy, France, October 1944.
5. Kennedy Space Center Railroad, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 1985.

Sidebars/special pages
Converting figures.
Building stub switches.
Modeling the Western & Atlantic: two pages of scenes between Chattanooga and Atlanta, 1863.
Modeling battle-damaged structures.
Battle of Cambria at Picardy, France, November 1917; based on the UK War Department Railways and US Engineer Regiments.
Modeling WWII flatcar loads.
• Shipping battle-damaged vehicles.
• 2015 DFRIF fleet

Model Railroads Go to War is an excellent book for enthusiasts and modelers of railway subjects during wartime. It presents inspirational models through an exceptional selection of photographs, and it identifies many models used in the scenes for modelers who might want to acquire them. The author includes histories and narratives that enhances the bare model potential. For modelers who want to try their hand at a railroad layout of the subject, clearly illustrated layout plans are included.

A de minimis typo is the only thing the keeps this book from perfection.

I wholeheartedly recommend this excellent book!

We thank Kalmbach Publishing for providing this book for review! These books can be found at quality model shops and book outlets. Remember to tell people that you saw this here - on RailRoadModeling.
Highs: Inspirational models with an exceptional selection of photographs, and it identifies many models used in the scenes for modelers who might want to acquire them. Clearly illustrated layout plans.
Lows: De minimis.
Verdict: An excellent book for enthusiasts and modelers of railway subjects during wartime.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 12483
  Suggested Retail: $19.99
  Related Link: Author's website
  PUBLISHED: Jan 06, 2015

Our Thanks to Kalmbach Publishing Co.!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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