One of our family's Somerset County, PA ancestors, Christian Petenbrink, served in an iron-clad railroad car that was used to defend the vital Baltimore and Ohio Railroad during the American Civil War. He was in Captain Petrie's Company K of the Second Regiment, Potomac Home Brigade, Maryland Volunteers. Our 19th century cousin Nicholas Deitle also served in Company K. For information on some of the battles that Captain Petrie's iron-clads were engaged in, and copies of Christian Petenbrink's military records, click here.
The model pictured above is an artistic interpretation of what the iron-clad might have looked like. The model is based on Benjamin Deffinbaugh's eyewitness description of one of Captain Petrie's iron-clad railroad cars in action. Mr. Deffinbaugh wrote "These troops were loaded on flat cars with an iron clad ["tent"] attached, which was constructed from rails taken from the road and made in this shape A and mounted on car wheels with an eighteen pound piece of artillery within." This description does not tell us if the ends of car were vertical or angled. The model uses angled ends, because that would make the most sense from an armor performance standpoint. Another contemporary account tells us that personnel entry was through a small trap door in the floor.
This O-gauge model was built primarily from wood by my 12 year old son, Carl Dietle. He used funds he won in a sixth grade school art contest. Each of the vertical strips is a separate piece of wood. All told, it took him about seven evenings to finish the project.
One thing to bear in mind when looking at this model is that the wheels of O-gauge electric trains are not to scale in proportion to track width. This means that on the actual iron-clad, the wheels would have been smaller in proportion to the car body.
If correct, Mr. Deffinbaugh's description "an eighteen pound piece of artillery within" indicates that the ironclad had a decent-sized cannon. Cast iron weighs from 0.254 to 0.279 pounds per cubic inch. Based on this, an eighteen pound cannon ball would be sized in the range of 4.976" to 5.134". Using the median weight of cast iron, the cannon ball diameter would be 5.052".
April 23, 2008
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