Monday, April 13, 2020

Freight car graffiti, Part 11: tagging

As you can detect from the fact that this is Part 11 of a series, I am in the process of posting a fair amount of information about graffiti application on post-1980 freight cars. You can easily find all of the preceding parts by using “freight car graffiti” as the search term in the search box at right.
     One very significant component of the kinds of graffiti we see on buildings, freight cars (and other places) is what is called “tagging.” Sometimes this term is used as a synonym for graffiti generally, but those closer to the subject would restrict it to simple line art, often words or initials or slogans, sometimes including simple drawings, and very quickly done. An example is shown below, with drawings among all the other tags. Note that although black is the predominant color, as is usual, there are certainly other colors used for some tags.

This image is repeated from my article on graffiti in Model Railroad Hobbyist, in the issue for January 2020; more about it can be found here: .
     (If you would like to know more about the history and terminology of graffiti relating to railroad freight cars, I strongly recommend the excellent book, Freight Train Graffiti, by Roger Gastman, Darin Rowland, and Ian Sattler [Abrams Books, New York, 2006], which contains over 1000 images of graffiti on freight cars.)
     It is especially true for graffiti on buildings, but somewhat also true for freight cars, that lots of taggers add their marks on top of existing graffiti, even on large, complex and colorful pieces. One may or may not wish to try and reproduce something like the image below, also repeated from my MRH article.

     One more example, showing these kinds of tagging on a freight car: this is an AC&F “Center Flow” covered hopper, photographed in 2019, and to the right of the large graffiti piece in blue can be seen numerous tags, and even a few atop the large piece. (You can click on the image to enlarge it if you wish.)

     For modeling these kinds of tagging events, a fine pen will suffice. The “Micron” pens from Sakura in Japan have a range of tip sizes, expressed in fractional millimeters (such as 0.1 mm) and in both colors and in black. The ink is permanent, and is not affected by an overspray of flat finish. This is a blue Micron with an 0.2 mm tip.

Shown below is one model covered hopper that was tagged with a Micron pen after graffiti application and weathering (including rust patches; see my post at: ). These tags can be anything that occurs to you, but note that many seen on the prototype are written with a kind of angular letters.

     For another example, here is one of the relatively new cars in the group to which I recently applied graffiti, and it has tags only (see my description at: ). As is usually observed, these are all along the lower edge of the car. (You can enlarge the image with a click if you wish.)

    I don’t mean to suggest that only Micron pens are suitable for tagging. I also use artists’ colored pencils, thereby easily obtaining a range of color for tags, and of course the degree of sharpness of the pencil permits a range of line thickness. A wider pencil tip usually makes a less than sharp line, which actually does look like spray can work.
     Experience with a number of brands of these pencils has convinced me that the Prismacolor brand works best for writing on freight car models. I use the same pencil brand (in white, light gray, and yellow) for creating chalk marks on freight cars for my 1953-era layout.
     I should perhaps mention again that my modeling of freight car graffiti does not constitute an endorsement. Graffiti application is vandalism and a crime. But like it or not, it’s reality on freight cars since 1980. As with weathering, you can choose whether or not you want to model reality.
     For the 1999-era layout for which I’m adding graffiti to freight cars, tagging needs to be part of the result. Adding tags to any graffiti application is realistic and easy, and I believe adds to the overall effect that can be achieved for modern freight cars.
Tony Thompson

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