Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Route cards, Part 30: modeling

As the post title tells you, I have written a substantial series of posts about route cards. These were initially posts about the prototype size and shape (for example, see this post: ). A more recent series of posts has shown a wide variety of prototype route cards (an example can be found at this link: ). 

At the risk of repeating earlier material (admittedly, material from several years ago), I often add route card boards to models that don’t already have them, by simply gluing a short length of HO-scale 2 x 6-inch styrene to the car in the appropriate location. This is usually near or above the left-hand truck on each side of the car, or on boxcar doors.

But prototype photos should be always consulted, because sometimes the boards are located in other places on the car side. Here’s an example (SP photo, my collection),  one of the thousands of Enterprise General Service gondolas purchased by Southern Pacific. Obviously the route card is in the far right panel, with a route card on it.

SP modelers for decades have had a serviceable model of this car, in the form of the Ulrich white-metal model. But it was manufactured with no route card board. Most of my Ulrich cars have received one, but I spotted one still needing a board. Here I applied my usual method, small piece of styrene 2 x 6, attached with canopy glue:

Then of course the new board is painted body color. Now we need to put a card on the board.

The modeling approach for route cards has for many modelers, including me, primarily meant adding small squares or rectangles of paper to the route card boards. That looks fine in most situations. But some prototype route cards do have lettering on them big enough to read. Here’s an SP example, from a previous post (this card, and its meaning, were at: ).

It would sure be nice to be able to have some of our route cards look like the one above. And now, an  alternative has actually emerged.  Owl Mountain Models now offers a small decal sheet, only 2 inches square, but it has plenty of card images: 124, by my count.

You can purchase these on the Owl Mountain website, and as you see above, this is set #1220. Scroll down the page at this address: . This sheet, that would do 62 cars, is only $2.00! I’d say these are way underpriced.

Applying these is, of course, like any decal. In fact, I like that you don’t have to trim them exactly to size; the clear film around them allows you to simply cut close to the printed image. I’ve been putting these on a variety of cars, and totally enjoying the look that is achieved. First, one end of the Ulrich gondola that I showed above:

I also chose one of my freight cars that had no route card on it, which happens to be a car I inherited from Richard Hendrickson. We know that the Santa Fe, like SP, used route cards with large, bold numbers (coded, of course, for a range of destinations). I showed examples in an earlier post (see it at: ).

Finally, I used one of the route cards on a wood-sheathed car. These of course could be tacked anywhere on the car side by a clerk, but the most common location was above the left-hand truck, at a convenient height for the clerk.

I really like these new Owl Mountain decals for route cards. It’s true that you can’t really read them when they are on a model. But they beautifully fulfill one of Richard Hendrickson’s lettering principles: that “there should be something there” that looks like lettering. Mission accomplished.

Tony Thompson

1 comment:

  1. That's a nice, easy to apply detail . . . great for those times when you'd like a quick and easy project to do. It's one of those subtle details that make a car stand out.