Reference pages

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The purpose and uses of this blog

 From time to time I receive comments, either on individual posts, or in personal emails separate from the blog, asking, essentially, about the title of the present post. I have touched on these subjects in a number of previous posts, but thought it might be useful to bring my various points together into a single post. That is the present topic.

The blog began back in late 2010, as I have regularly recounted in my annual posts on the anniversary date, December 8. At that time, I had been toying with the idea of perhaps writing a blog, but really felt like I had no idea where to start. Then I read a blog (not one about modeling) which was exactly the kind of thing I wanted to write: casual, personal, compact, and very much on point for its subject. “I could do that,” I said to myself.

I immediately began browsing a variety of blogs about model railroading subjects. I very quickly realized what I did not want to do. I didn’t want to write excruciatingly long posts, but wanted to keep them short and easy to read. Also, I didn’t want to post as rarely as four times a year, as in one blog I found, but frequently enough that people could form the habit of checking it regularly and reading the posts. So the goal was fairly short, frequent posts.

In particular, I didn’t want to write a personal diary, for example mentioning when I had been sick, or bought new shoes, or other purely personal subjects, though of course much of the blog would be about my own model railroading activities. Modeling was to be the focus.

I think I have stuck to those decisions. And even now, when a draft of a post seems to meander in subject matter, I still ask myself, “What is the point here?” I want to stay on-topic in each post, and convey information and knowledge, along with modeling experience, and hopefully it will be of value and interest to readers.

Let me turn to uses of the blog. One of my most common  topics has been freight cars, and often about weathering them (note at the upper right corner of the present post, the links to “Reference pages” about my weathering techniques).

But of course the blog covers far more topics than that. I realize that with more than 1250 posts already to the blog, searching is essentially impossible in a browsing mode. But that search box provided, near the top of each post, is really very effective. I use it myself all the time to find previous posts. As with any search engine, you need to give a little thought to your search terms, and if you don't succeed in finding something with your first try, devise a different search term.

A comment about topics. I have chosen what I hope is a wide range of “key words” or labels for posts. I list them below to suggest the variety and kinds of things that you can find. Here’s the list, alphabetically:

Car fleet, couplers, electrical, freight car data, freight car modeling, freight cars, handout, history, industry, loads, locomotives, Mac Gaddis, maintenance, paint and lettering, passenger modeling, ,perishables, PFE topic, photography, publications, railfanning, scenery, signals, SP topic, standards, tank cars, techniques, trackwork, traffic, trucks, typography, vehicles, and waybills.

I am sure I was not always consistent in choosing these, but they do give a starting point in finding topics of various kinds. 

There have been a fair number of posts about projects around my layout, such as the photo below in my layout area called East Shumala, looking up Alder Street from Pismo Dunes Road. You can see Caslon Printing in the left background (modified from a KingMill Enterprises flat) and Phelan & Taylor Produce Co. to the right (a Showcase Miniatures kit), and of course the Union 76 gas station in the foreground, kitbashed from a City Classics kit. All three have been the subject of blog posts.

Showing the layout reminds me to explain that I am not modeling a specific place or specific structures. I greatly admire those who have done the research and, often, the extensive scratchbuilding to accurately portray a real place at a real time. That has never been my goal. Instead of a museum set-piece, my goal has always been reproduction of the Southern Pacific as a railroad, as it was and as its employees did its work. 

I do choose to try and convey a particular area, the Central Coast of California, and have chosen 1953 as the year. As described in a number of previous posts, the layout is primarily an “imaginary branch line” of the Southern Pacific. This allows use of the familiar locomotives, cabooses, structures, etc. of the SP while giving the opportunity to proto-freelance industries, consistent with the geographic area. All these layout goals have been discussed in a number of posts.

Naturally those goals lead to a considerable interest in operations of a prototypical kind. I have posted many times about the design and creation of waybills for use in layout operation, waybills that mimic prototype waybills, along with a prototype timetable and other documents. Operators are also notified of mainline trains not in the timetable, such as this mail extra passing the depot in my layout town of Shumala.

I encourage anyone wanting to find information in this blog’s extensive backstory to use the search box. I believe you will find it useful and effective, and give you access to a substantial amount of knowledge and experience that I have tried to share in this blog.

Tony Thompson


  1. Tony,

    You are doing an excellent job meeting your goals for the blog. I read it often - enjoy it and learn a lot about railroads. Thank.

  2. I don't even model HO (anymore) and I still find that I NEED to check your blog daily on the hope that you posted something new. The model railroad community and especially those who model Southern Pacific or operations (guilty on both) are better because of your blog. Keep up the great work!

  3. I really enjoy reading your blog. I don't always read every post as some of them are about things that don't interest me, but the ones that I do read always teach me something.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. I really enjoy reading your blog, and come here often to look things up. You’ve been a great help in developing my own SP branch line layout. Thanks!

  5. I very much appreciate your blog and applaud your fine effort. More than once I have recommended your blog to model RR friends even if they are not SP fans. I could not have built my Hatch Produce Plant (Showcase Miniatures kit) without your superb guidance. Never give up.

  6. Thanks to you all for the kind words. I continue to enjoy thinking up and writing the blog, and am delighted it is interesting or useful or both.
    Tony Thompson