Thursday, June 28, 2018

Further appreciation of Richard Hendrickson

In 2014 and 2015, after Richard had passed away on June 28 of 2014, I gave a short talk at a few of the meetings he and I had often attended, intended to memorialize him and his accomplishments. These were  the “Naperville” (now “Chicagoland”) and Cocoa Beach meetings, for example. Several people afterward asked about the additional material and comments I had included, beyond what I had written for this blog, shortly after his passing  (you can read that post at: ). I really did not feel up to expanding my written remarks during those days, but have not forgotten those inquiries, with which I was certainly sympathetic.
     So with the fourth anniversary of his passing now at hand, let me return to the topic of Richard’s qualities and contributions, along with a little more about his life. In that previous post, I tried to convey how helpful he was to so many modelers,and how much he worked to get accurate prototype information out to modelers and to manufacturers. That was because he believed that the only way modelers would demand more accurate models from manufacturers, was for modelers to have sufficient information to understand accuracy. Otherwise, they wouldn’t request better models from manufacturers.
     Let me add some of the photos and commentary that featured in my oral talks about Richard. As I mentioned in my previous post (link above), he had learned to fly as retirement approached, and after a few years of airplane rentals, he purchased a Citabria airplane, and proudly flew it as often as he could. I remember him saying that on a nice morning, nothing would clear your head and make you enthusiastic for the day like driving to the Ashland, Oregon airport (ten minutes from his home) and going up in the Citabria for 30 minutes or an hour. Here he is with the plane at Ashland.

     Another important aspect of Richard’s life was his interest in automobiles. Having held a competition license at one time, and having worked as a racing mechanic, he knew and loved automotive performance, and drove peppy cars all his adult life. After his Navy service during the Korean War, he earned a Bachelor’s degree at U.C. Santa Barbara. The photo below, taken at Santa Barbara in 1955 when Richard was 23, shows him (at right) in his MG TD with the third-place race trophy he had won.

     Last, I want to show a photo of Richard’s workbench. Built when his children were small, and thus needing to be capable of being closed and locked, it reveals his tidy arrangements of lots of tools (though there were still more tools in drawers), along with some projects on the bench. Above the bench on shelves were vast numbers of freight car parts, of every imaginable kind. Just visible in this view is the fluorescent tube inside the top of the bench, which gave plentiful illumination.

I now have some of the tools you see here, and rescued most of the in-progress projects, as I have mentioned in a few previous blogs. Most are on the way to completion, a few are now finished.
     But now to what is perhaps a more interesting topic. I was asked recently, what was my recollection of the most outstanding thing about Richard’s modeling? It is an interesting question, and in trying to answer it, I want to go beyond the comments I made in writing the In Memoriam post I wrote about him (see link in the first paragraph of the present post).
     My core thought on this subject, of Richard’s truest talent, was his ability as a kitbasher, and that talent in turn arose from his phenomenal memory. Back 30 or more years ago, modelers of freight cars didn’t have an awful lot to work with. Resin was just emerging as a pathway to short-run kits for freight cars, and the accurate models of Innovative Model Works, Red Caboose, and InterMountain, and such successors as Kadee, Owl Mountain, or Tangent Scale Models, were still in the future. Instead, we had the injection-molded products of Mantua, Roundhouse, and yes, Athearn in Blue Boxes.
     Richard had spent a lot of time poring over those models and knew in great detail what the components (ends, roofs, etc.) were in each case. That is where the memory came in. He had spent even more hours poring over Train Shed volumes from different editions of the Car Builders Cyclopedia, as well as model magazines and prototype books. And he could remember the details of many, many prototype cars.
      So if you were to say to Richard, back in the day, “I would really like to model one of the high-side gondolas of the Wheeling & Lake Erie,” not only would he know the prototype you were thinking of, but would immediately say something like, “Well, the Mantua gondola has the right number of ribs, but you would have to change the ends. Probably the Athearn gondola end could be cut down to fit.” I could multiply examples like this endlessly.
     Numerous models in his collection were built in just this way. Most are so skillfully done that it is hard to decide which parts came from where — exactly as he would have wanted. In fact, it would take someone with his depth of knowledge to disentangle some of the assemblies of parts in his models. A good example is the Western Fruit Express car he built from a Silver Streak kit, and not only upgraded many details, but corrected the roughly 10 percent oversize car body (typical of many Silver Streak kits). This was described in Prototype Modeler magazine, in the issue for January 1986, pages 39 to 41. Here is a photo of the completed model:

This project brought into play all his modeling skills, and more importantly, his combination of prototype freight car knowledge, and knowledge of available model railroad parts and what they could represent.
     To illustrate, let me show a couple of photos of this model that were not in the magazine article. Richard knew from prototype photos that the roof ribs on this car were not evenly spaced, but had one narrow panel. He modeled that detail, along with the characteristic Fruit Growers hatch rest bars that you can see inboard of the ice hatches. (You can click on these images to enlarge them if you like.)

     For the underframe, he represented the steel center sill along with the truss rods, and did include K brake gear (all right for his modeling year of 1947), but did not otherwise add the kinds of detail that would not be visible when the car was on the track. Note, though, that he did include the brake reservoir servicing stencil.

     Or for a more extensive kind of kitbash, I greatly admire his model of a Santa Fe automobile car of Class FE-13. He has reproduced the reverse corrugated ends on these rebuilt cars, with modern steel sides, doors and roof (note roof is slightly raised), but still with its original, very deep underbody sills set back from the car side. This is not only a very distinctive prototype, but a model created from a range of different parts, assembled into an impressive model.

     These are only two of his models, but I think they help convey Richard’s modeling skills. Still, that is only one of things I miss about my friend Richard Hendrickson.
Tony Thompson

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