Freelance: a concept

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by sumpter250, Nov 27, 2007.

  1. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    Freelance. basicly, for the sake of this discussion, the art of scratching,or kitbashing a structure/bridge/locomotive/whole railroad/etc. from concept, as opposed to, from prototype. Walt Disney once said that things need not be accurate to be believed, just pausible. And what makes something plausible? has to look as if it really could have been.
    Freelance can be an excuse to build a diesel locomotive that looks like the starship enterprise (which has been done), and if that's what you want, so be it. Or, it can be the freedom to create something which might not actually exist, but looks as if it did. The art, then, is to look to the prototype, actually several different prototypes of the same type of structure. Look for, and note all the things these structures have in common. Construction, hardware, style, accessability, setting, etc. Why?
    industrial buildings will generally exist in similar locations, or have similar receiving/processing/shipping facilities, all of which contribute to the appearance of the building.
    Locomotives will generally have a similar appearance to other locos used in the same industrial application. They also have a common development history...some things work, and some things don't.Appurtanences will generall be mounted in "convenient to service" locations. That's why you will see these things in similar places on most railroads. What's easy for one to reach is usually easy for all.
    When you create a freelance model, the one thing you should try to do, is include the common things that the prototypes have, in a manner that is unique to your building. There are certain "conventions" that appear in construction methods. If your structure is to be a brick building, study brick buildings for the common items.(the material usually dictates the method of assembly, sometimes learned from previous mistakes) Wood structures, likewise, engineering is a trial and error process, and much of how things look today is the result of correcting the mistakes.
    You may not model the exact size, shape, or even material of the "prototype", but you should always try to model the "engineering". Observe, record,and use this information to design your model. If you do, you will have a distinct item, that looks like it very well could have been.
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Nice start to an interesting discussion. :thumb:

    If I could add my $0.02...

    Freelancing can apply to everything from individual structures to an entire fictional (but believable) railroad. Some people also base fictional events/locales in the real world - in literature, this is done all the time - think Tom Clancy, or works of "historical fiction" like Sarum. Modellers have created fictional divisions of real railroads, or selectively compressed and modified actual facilities.

    One other point to remember is the timeframe also can make things believable. One example of this is Canadian National in the 1930s. Despite the Depression, this government-run railroad had a social mandate to fulfill as well as operate (more or less) like a business. They therefore employed a large workforce in a time when lots of companies were wiped out, they undertook projects that were more or less "make work", and they were not allowed to abandon trackage that represented a loss. And one reason that steam engines were in such good shape in that era was that it was cheap to hire a bunch of engine wipers.

    Another favourite of mine is the streamlining of steam engines like the 20th Century Liimited or the Empire State Express. While ultimately done in by the difficulties created for servicing the locomotive, the streamlining did survive for a number of years, simply because the company was willing to take the financial loss in return for public relations gains (or whatever else they felt it was doing for them).

    So while building a USS-1701X diesel loco may seem far fetched, there's more than just engineering considerations that may make it feasible, or at least believable.

  3. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    This is interesting! I've admired some of the famous freelanced model railroads like the G&D and the V&O, both well publicized, and both achieving a sense of reality despite being fictional and, in the G&D's case, sometimes whimsical. My freelanced Kings Port and Western was originally only intended to be a shortline represented by one switcher that would come onto the railroad from a hidden siding and pull away a small string of freight cars at an "interchange". Once I painted the loco KP&W blue and orange I found myself wanting to do more until I now have some 25 cars, four cabooses, and six locomotives (three are dummies) painted in the scheme. They say that a freelance can't be modelled "wrong" because everything about each one is individually prototypical. :) I am appreciating Pete's comments about plausibility though and am trying more and more to clarify the whole concept of my road and its connection with my original Penn Central themed layout.

    Let's hear some more!
  4. eightyeightfan1

    eightyeightfan1 Now I'm AMP'd

    Another two cents.....
    Freelancing gives the modeller the opportunity to "do as he/she pleases", when building a model railroad.
    Freelancing gives the modeller the opportunity to run a branchline to their hometowns, even if the rails never even went there. Here, the modeller may pick an era, allowing him to run the equipment he loves, under his/her favorite roadname. What makes it possible is coming up with a plausible story, or reason for a line to be built to his/her hometown when in real life history, none was built. Maybe there is prime logging, a vein of coal or some other reason for the "head office", to loosen the purse strings, to build a line there. Lets not forget the support industries that would follow, which may also need rail service. Others may tell you "No train ever ran here." But a great fictional story will give your model railroad a reason for coming to your town.
    Another freelancing technique would be to extend the history of a line or railroad. Maybe, a mainline or branchline that did go to your hometown was abandoned, or the railroad that owned that line got swallowed up in a merger, or just went belly up. The modeller then can, create a a plausible history for that line or railroad, starting it where real history ended. Even if the railroad did get swallowed up in a merger, the modeller can create a history, where the "homeroad", bought the line, but kept the name in a division, or branchline, again giving the modleler the chance to run his favorite roads eqipment, or as a sub-division, keeping the original name. Extending the history of a railroad also lets the modeller run equipment, that was built way after the road even exsited.
    So, when thinking of a theme for your next layout, and reading the prior posts, give freelancing a try.
  5. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think one of the great advantages of free lancing is that I can't afford to buy my own railroad, not even a short line. I can build my railroad, name it what I want to call it, and run the equipment I want to run in small scale. Of course, in my case I like prototype, but I'm kind of locking my time frame to the mid 1950's.
  6. doctorwayne

    doctorwayne Active Member

    Freelancing also lets you choose the best aspects of your favourite prototypes, and if you combine them in a logical way, your modelling will look more convincing.
    You can use a prototype structure for your inspiration, but build your model to suit the space that you have available. You can change the windows so that they match something that's commercially available, or scratchbuild exact copies, whatever is most practical for your interests and situation.
    For your trains, try to establish a "family" look for locos: even a few minor details like headlight style and placement, or the location of the bell, along with a "company" paint scheme can go a long way towards making things "look right". Develop a numbering system for your freight and passenger cars, along with standard colours and colour schemes will also make your freelance look more prototypical.
    I've tried to combine my several freelanced roads with models of real prototypes, too. This sets your "make believe" railroad in the real world, and hopefully, makes it easier for others to accept it as "just another prototype".
    I also have an established history for my lines, along with an ever-expanding cast of characters to help tell the story. Most are based on real people (at least for the names) and the stories may be real (but embellished) or completely made-up to suit the situation. All of my placenames are real, although none of the places bear even the slightest ressemblance to their prototypes. Many have a personal significance for me, while others just seemed to be the right name for the place. ;)
    If you're lucky, enough of these elements will be believeable enough that your entire scenario will be accepted as looking "right", high praise indeed for something that you "just dreamt up". :-D

  7. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    It seems to me, that the most common shortcoming of freelance railroads, isn't the equipment, the scenery, or the buildings...but the lettering/paint on the equipment. It is amazing how many monochromatic freelance locomotives are out there...lettered in Times New Roman. It is amazing how this one neglected area can so greatly undermine the realism of a layout. Really believable freelance railroads have character...and you can see it in the lettering/paint scheme/logo.

    It is also a good idea to make something slightly different. I never could buy Tony Koester's Midland Road because it was too similar to the NKP. He did too good of a job of modeling the NKP for me to believe that it was a different just looked to me like it was mislabeled...especially since so much NKP equipment ran on his road.

    I recently purchased a DSP&P On3 mogul...and killed my hobby budget (hence the no new scratch building projects). It came lettered as #71 of the Oxon Hill RR...with a solid gloss black paint scheme...despite having ornate 1884 lines. Just changing the font on the tender...or putting the number on the tender...would have made the Oxon Hill 10x more believable.

    I loved it how 2-8-2 was going to massive trouble last January to come up with the paint scheme for his railroad. That was cool...and it felt so much more like it was alive.
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    You can also extend the "company treatment" to any rolling stock on the line, maintenance of way equipment, and most commonly (especially in times gone by) rr-owned buildings. A "structure" paint scheme can tell you who owns the station, section house, shed or whatever, just with a glance. This can be especially helpful if you represent more than one railroad on your layout.

  9. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    That was the whole point. The AM was a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NKP. I also wondered why he didn't just model the NKP - and, eventually, he did.
  10. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    The key for me was that it was in between the relationship of the W&LE upon absorption into the NKP...and the NKP/C&O relationship under the AMC/Van Swerigan ownership. The equipment was too closely related to the post-NKP assimilation W&LE...related roads only share equipment designs from when they were related (hence the similarity of NKP & NYC equipment in the 1920s...but modern equipment being distinctly different).

    Tony, much like Harry Brunk, duplicated the prototype to closely for me to buy the "freelance road"...because it had too much of the prototype's character.
  11. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    these are the Sagaponack Montauk & Cindys Harbor BL20-2s #3050, and 3055. The Cindys Harbor is a modern "operating museum" that uses steam, and steam era rolling stock, to haul "less than carload" loads, or "nuicance loads", as a subcontractor to the Northeastern rail lines. The BL20-2s were purchased to settle a grievience with the unions, and the rail lines who provide trackage. Cindys Harbor is a wholely owned sudsidiary of the Sag Harbor Shipbuilding and Drydock Company.

  12. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

    the SHLC #2821 was transferred from the Cindys Harbor, when the shipyard aquired the lumber company. The road number didn't change so wasn't repainted. There are companies who make custom decals, the Cindys Harbor logo, on the BL20s was done by Rail Graphics, South Elgin, Il.
    This link is to another freelance discussion:

    Attached Files:

  13. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    The nice thing about freelancing is that it allows the modeller to extend the economy and the life of his particular favorite period.

    For example, I can choose to make the narrow gauge railroad to the gold mines very successful and profitable and keep it that way long after the mines actually began to close.

    From there, I can imagine that some modernization took place and I can upgrade my trackage and equipment as a result.

    To me, freelancing a railroad based on actual prototypical operations is by far the best of both worlds, one in which you can have you cake and eat it, too! :thumb:
  14. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    For me, it means that when I do build my DSP&P's Alpine Tunnel District...It will be able to host heavy traffic, tourist specials, and more passenger trains if I feel like it. It also won't have to have as extensive of snow sheds of Alpine Tunnel as the road really had in 1884 which basically turned the Pacific portal into a 1/2 mile long wooden tunnel...with even the "station" area and engine house completely layout will have the snow sheds of around 1890...after fires toasted the original sheds. I also might add the Woodstock station which was destroyed in the tragic avalanche on March 10, 1884. Further, I can justify more of the 26' DSP&P freight cars which weren't on the roster in 1884...such as...probably/maybe...the Barney & Smith boxcars. Being from so close to Dayton...and having a wife from Dayton...and knowing the historian whom wrote the B&S book...I have to have B&S cars on my layout.

    The ability to freelance certain aspects is great.
  15. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    That will be a layout worth seeing! Just think - all you have to do is model the immediate tunnel area and surrounds and your whole layout will be "above 11,000 feet"!

    That is a perfect example of freelancing. You could also take one of the small spur lines through the Rockies and make it hugely successful. There is no limit at all.
  16. nkp174

    nkp174 Active Member

    Mountain Man, your new avatar is the most beautiful avatar on this website...DSP&P #51...better known by its 1885 renumbering to 191. Since I'm all about the South Park prior to the renumbering...I intend to add a scratch built model of her and one of her sisters to my they appeared right before the renumbering. I've actually compiled a list of the parts that PSC, Coronado, Grandt Line and NWSL offer which could help...unless MMI comes out with a class 56...or maybe a class 60...for me to bash.
  17. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Well...thank you. I love the Narrow Gauge Circle history, and this was the best shot I could find that exemplified that period. I know she's old, and I know diesels are more effecient and all that, but she is a beauty in a class by herself, isn't she?
  18. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think the 2 biggest pitfalls of trying to do a believable freelanced railroad is making it so close to a prototype that people who are familier with that prototype ask "Why didn't he/she model the prototype?" The second pitfall is to fail to understand why the prototype ran the equipment that they did. For instance the NYC is known as "The water level route." You won't find big power on a flat railroad during the steam era. The Pennsy ran through a lot of hills, so they tended to run bigger power than the NYC, but the Pennsy locomotives generally ran Belpaire fire boxes on their units which gave them a distinct look. The Santa Fe was almost 2 different railroads. From Chicago to Eastern Colorado and in Texas & Oklahoma it was a flat railroad. From Raton Pass West it was a mountain railroad except for the lines up through the Central Valley of California from Bakersfield to Oakland and along the "Surf line" from LA to San Diego. When you start mixing and matching power units because you like different locomotives but do freelance because you don't know of a railroad that had all of the equipment that you like, it may be because the the equipment is not compatible.
  19. Mountain Man

    Mountain Man Active Member

    Depends on your particular viewpoint, I suppose. I believe in the Golden Rule; if it's my gold that paid for my layout, then I make the rules. :cool:

    After all, it's all about enjoying yourself.
  20. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    There is a lot of disciplines with freelancing a railroad if one wishes to have a believable railroad.The hodge podge locomotive roster should be avoid as most railroads settled on locomotives from one or two manufacturers.Why? For the ease of parts inventory .This holds true for the smaller class II and class III railroads.Also selection of industry should match the railroads location.A coal mine would be out in Northern Ohio except the Massillon feild located in Stark,Wayne and Summit Counties which is in the East central part of the State.Stone quarries abound in the North Central part of the State.
    However,coal could be lined haul from a connecting railroad to a dock located on Lake Erie.
    Of course if medium manufacturing was served then we would need boxcars,centerbeams,steel coil cars,covered hoppers and gons.
    Of course a road that serves the grain and farming industry would need lots of covered hoppers,few boxcars and some flat cars hauling farm implements.
    All of that makes a freelance railroad believable..

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