Saturday, January 12, 2013

Graffiti for modern freight cars

There are times I wish I modeled modern freight cars. Many of them, to be sure, are bland and boring, compared to the transition era, but others are quite interesting, such as cars which have changed ownership (sometimes more than once) and thus carry patched and revised lettering. And deterioration due to rust is often more vivid nowadays, offering additional opportunities for creative weathering.
     One aspect I happen to like—in some cases—is the presence of artistic graffiti. Note I said “artistic,” since tags and scrawls don’t interest me, but creative and colorful artists’ work does. And freight car graffiti are simply a fact of modern life, which if ignored simply makes models look less realistic. A modern freight car free of graffiti is kind of like a transition-era freight car without weathering. Of course I know that many modelers (and railroaders, for that matter) hate graffiti and view it as vandalism. But as I say, it happens to be reality.
     It may come as a surprise to those who dislike this topic, but there are actually books about railroad car graffiti. One I own, and have found to be fascinating reading, is the book Freight Train Graffiti, by Roger Gastman, Darin Rowland, and Ian Sattler (Abrams, New York, 2006). I took a university class in typography a few years ago, and my assigned term project was exploration of lettering and character styles in graffiti, so I chose railroad car graffiti. It turned out to be an interesting and revealing experience.
     For those who wish they could have more realistic graffiti on modern freight cars, Microscale has just released a new decal set, 1364, for both HO and N scales (as usual, 87-1364 for HO, 60-1364 for N). It has a great assortment of styles, even including tags if you want to add them:

Here’s the Microscale web site link:
     One thing I learned from the Freight Train Graffiti book is that graffiti styles are regional, so a particular style for one area might be uncommon in an area far from there. But since many freight cars still go everywhere, there probably are no “wrong” graffiti.
     I always itch to model a modern car or two, and add some of these spectacular graffiti to them, for the sheer realism if nothing else, but certainly for the art and drama. I think some of these graffiti are actually pretty neat. For some, it may even be fun to display such a model, if for no other reason than to annoy the modelers who want to revise reality in their own modeling.
Tony Thompson

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