Regular readers of this blog will know that I am part of a cycle of writers who contribute to a column series in Model Railroad Hobbyist, a series entitled “Getting Real,” with the aim of discussing any and all aspects of prototype modeling. My latest column appears in the February 2017 issue (this issue of MRH, and any other issue, can be read or downloaded at any time, for free, at their website, which is www.mrhmag.com ). This column is about standards for model freight cars.
I have touched on this topic a number of times in this blog, but have never pulled it all together and tried to include all the aspects of the standards that I use. I wanted to do just that in the column, and also provide citations of sources for more information about several parts of the story. In particular, I wanted to emphasize performance standards, since they are so vital if equipment is to be operated. And performance is not hard to ensure with today’s excellent equipment.
On my second topic, which is appearance standards, at first I thought that it might not be practical to address those. After all, any of us might be satisfied with a stand-in for one particular car, while for another car we might wish to strive for the closest we can approach to museum quality and accuracy. Few of us are entirely consistent about any one point in that range, certainly not me.
What I decided to do was to concentrate on minimum standards of detailing and overall appearance, by which I mean the absolute floor I want to put under the appearance of my freight car fleet. And my experience has been that once I decide on such a floor, any car falling below it is pretty soon on the workbench for an upgrade. I wanted to convey that mode of thinking.
An example from personal experience was etched-metal running boards. When these first came on the market, I bought a couple and really liked how they looked. But the combination of expense and modeling time to convert my whole fleet made me decide to start by doing just a few cars, and then in future, replace old plastic versions a couple at a time, when I had time and inclination to do so. But the first converted cars looked so immensely better, that I soon gave in, and went to work converting the whole fleet. Without intending to do so, I had created a new minimum standard.
For appearance generally, I decided to concentrate on painting and lettering, After some reflection, I realized I always want to weather, even an almost-new car, and I add route cards to nearly all cars. On most cars, those that are more than a couple of years past their built date as of my modeling year of 1953, I would also add reweigh and repack data, as I have often advocated and illustrated on this blog. And more recently I have been adding more and more data blocks for brake servicing (usually on the reservoir).
Lastly, I add at least a few chalk marks on practically every car. Again, I have often mentioned that point in my blog posts, and the “Reference Pages” listed at the top right of this blog page will show the same indication of that usage, drawn from the joint clinic on weathering that Richard Hendrickson and I developed some years ago. Included below is one of the photos from those pages to illustrate the process, using a Prismacolor pencil. (The same photo is on the MRH column.)
This column was an interesting challenge for me, to boil down what I do all the time, though normally without much reflection when I’m at the workbench. In other words, these are standards that for me are well internalized. I had to think them through to assemble this month’s MRH column, which in a way was a rewarding process. I hope you enjoy reading about the result.