Thoughts on modeling from the prototype

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by pdt, Aug 9, 2004.

  1. pdt

    pdt Member

    Do any of you folks out there attempt to make your models match a particular prototype? I caught on to this concept several years ago and since then I'm hooked. It seems the more I seek out information to make these models the more interested I am in them. Now each model has a history, almost a life of its own.

    I started out taking some photos of the grain elevators in my family's home town of Bottineau, North Dakota thinking maybe, someday, I'd make models of them. Once I ran through a roll of film, I sat down to sketch the remaining elements of the scene. Later, a train came along and for some reason, I began taking notes of the car numbers, paint scheme, some rudimentary comments on the type of car, etc. I bought another roll of film and began taking more photos. I finally ended up shooting two rolls of film that week and the photos have remained inspiring all these years.

    Anyway, without getting too long winded, I finally created a web site to show what I've been working on in my spare time for the past 13 years. Admittedly, it's not much and in fact, it only represents maybe a quarter of my modeling efforts in that time.

    Let me know what you think about the site, the concept of modeling a place in a week worth of time and the concept of modeling from the prototype in general.

    Here's the link to my site:
  2. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    RC,At one time I was stickler on my modeling as far as locomotives.Now its close enough/good enough.You can look at my C&O units and say yes that's what a C&O unit look like.As far as building a exact model of a local grain elevator,interlocking tower etc then the answer is no..However,to my untrained eye in car details my cars looks just as good as the super models of the same car.Savvy? So I do not bother with car details nor do I lose sleep if the road name is not correct for that given type of car.I do like uncoupling bars though but,only if they are not in the way when I operate which is of course the bases of my hobby. :D

    Now,awhile back I had this wild idea of doing C&O's Peach Creek Yard outside of Logan W.Va.However,this yard seems to be a "ghost" as far as finding history, pictures or other details..I found out just enough information to make a wild guess of what the yard may have looked like in the 60s but nothing solid. :cry: :(
    I did however file this information away for future reference and still look for tidbits of information..

    I do think that modeling the prototype in detail is a interesting facet of the hobby but,one that can be taken to the extreme if one is not careful and get so involved that he looses reality and starts finding faults with his/her own modeling to a point where nothing pleases them regardless how great looking their models or layout is. :(
    Now before I had my light heart attack I was beginning to wonder about my modeling..Was I modeling to please myself or others? Was I modeling to the Nth degree so I could crow the loudest on how correct my locomotives was to the prototype? Before I could answers those questions truthfully for myself I had that light heart attack which of course change my outlook on the hobby and life in general.
    So my thoughts is to have fun and enjoy the hobby in the way that pleases you and nobody else.
  3. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I'm impressed by your faithful observation and interest in recreating a memory in detail.
    I imagine you might derive a lot of satisfaction modeling the scene so realistically.
  4. RioGrande

    RioGrande Member

    I haven't done any building modeling to speak of, and I am blessed that the New River Mine sold by Walthers is a selectively compressed copy of the Edna Coal mine on Rio Grande's branch to Yampa Valley!

    But as for model trains, I do try to locate models of freight cars and engines which are as close as I can to real ones. In fact I have Jim Eagers Rio Grande Color Guide to Freight Car and Passenger Equipment which I use to match models to real prototype cars. I also avoid "bogus" models which are painted for Rio Grande but do not match anything owned by them. I do have a few cars which are pretty close but are not totally accurate matches.
  5. Espeenut

    Espeenut Member

    ...on a lot of my model railroading I try to base it on photographs of the real thing, both for equipment and structures. Sometimes you can luck out, Kato released one of their SD40-2's as BN #6333, I happened to have been in Vancouver Washington one rainy afternoon when this particular loco was doing its thing, got quite a few good shots, and they will be the basis for doing an accurate redition of that exact locomotive in HO scale. I have often kitbashed structures to acheive the look I'm striving to obtain, one good source for all of us is DPM, with their modular concept it makes it very easy to come up with quite accurate depictions of many of the structures we see in typical light industrial sections of most cities today.

    Lorne Miller
  6. trainworm

    trainworm Member

    i just started doing this eairly this year. now when i build or detail any locomotive, before i start, i find some pictures of that exact prototype. i dont match them exactly, that would take much more time than i have. but i do add enough details to make a decent model that looks good enough to me.

    but for me, that only applies to locomotives. when it comes to freight cars, a boxcar is a boxcar and a gondola is a gondola etc... maybe one of these days i might try to match the prototype with my freight cars, but that is not importiant to me. i still have several freight cars with the same numbers running on my railroad. no one really pays that much attention to them anyway.
  7. pdt

    pdt Member

    Ralph, you hit the nail on the head. There was more to it that summer than just watching trains. I rarely got to see my grandparents very often, maybe 15 times in my life and that summer was when I spent the most time with my grandma. After I was through making my sketches and taking notes and photos for the day, I'd walk back to the house and then we'd hang out. We'd stay up all night talking about everything a kid about to go to college thinks about. I really got to know her well then. Those weeks are some of the best of my life for that reason alone. The trains just ended up being the tangible element that brings those times back to me.

    I've seen some of the work a few of you guys have done, namely trainworm, who posted many of his models on Atlas. When he did his NS high hoods there was a change in his approach, an extra step that shed light on the "whys and wherefores" of this or that detail. It hooked him like it hooked me. However, I don't think either of us worries about any details on our models. I'm not a slave to finishing anything or making it perfect or even considering what criticism someone will offer. Really, who needs that kind of pressure in your hobby?

    Being a prototype modeler doesn't mean you have to have the skill of Dave Hussey or Ed Ryan or Brian Banna. Skill has very little to do with it. It's just a different thing to think about when you construct your models.

    RioGrande (is that you, Jim?), I think, has gone so far as to create a table of all the correct models for Rio Grande, which inspired me to create a table of all the models produced in the BN schemes (accuracy wasn't a factor, just availability). I didn't get to far, but the list is still pretty long. [Join the BN list if you're interested and look under database.] It sounds like work, and it is, but it's a labor of love.

    Now, I understand what Larry is saying quite well, but for me this isn't a stressful activity at all. Again, there's no pressure to get it right or even to finish. Very few people, except you guys out there on the web, even see this stuff. I don't do it to please anyone but myself. And I don't worry about details too much. If its readily available, I'll add it. But I'm not going to worry about anything being right, wrong, out of place, wrong color or anything like that. A good example is my ex-GN big sky blue PS hopper. It's an Athearn model I painted with Testors light blue spray paint. I did a poor job on it, the model is utterly lacking in detail, and like five or six other cars, sports hand-lettered reporting marks and numbers (I was a draftsman). But, it's close enough for me. And the prototype actually looked pretty beat up, too.

    Like Larry, I'm interested in operations. I don't know all that much about what to do, but I'm learning. I doubt this train will ever make a lap around a layout because that just doesn't interest me. Switching the cars does, though. So, the rolling stock must operate well and details are going to have to play second fiddle to that requirement. In the end, I don't expect the individual cars to be judged on their own but instead as a whole train which is a key player in a complete scene. Nobody will ever appreciate this like I do, because my imagination fills in the blanks with my memories, just as the models help my memories stay fresh in my mind. But, some of us can at least relate in some way to the sometimes perceived insanity of my pursuit.

    Anyway, I'm glad to have a discussion about this with you folks. And I appreciate you taking the time to look over my work. I only hope to get another 13 years of enjoyment out of this project.

    Here's to never being finished! Because getting there is all the fun for me.
  8. lemscate

    lemscate New Member

    I take well to the prototype modelers' philosophy. Just creating things that catch one's eye in a fashion that fits the benchwork has never appealed to me. I much prefer to take some scene that only a railfan could love, and recreate it in small form. When I add a locomotive to my fleet (not often) it is always the specific model that my prototype has, and I detail and weather it as the actual one is. If the real one has some spilled paint on the walkway, so does mine. Of course, it helps that I model a shortline, so the locomotives never travel far or mingle with ones from other roads. I can't say the same for my fleet of ore cars, because there are so darn many! Instead, I just give them the appropriate number series and weather them as most of the real ones look.

    My yard essentially has two structures: a yard tower and enginehouse (well, right now only the tower, I need to secure enough styrene for the engine house, which is rather large). The tower was scratchbuilt as close as possible to the real one (I had to work off one photograph and my memory, so it's not entirely accurate). I find this much more satisfying than gluing together some kit that appears on hundreds of other layouts.

    My layout as a whole was intended to capture the feel of the real railroad. It's a small point-to-point with a yard on either end, and the only sign of non-railroad civilization is a single grade crossing. This is the one thing I noticed when railfanning it; it's pretty much isolated except where it crosses a road. Overall, I must say that prototype is much, much more rewarding than total freelancing. There are actual challenges to overcome (how to fit the trackplan into a given area, etc) which just don't come with freelancing. That, and the end product is unique, with specifically detailed trains, structures, and scenes. I just couldn't bear to have a layout which has the same trains and buildings as everyone else's, only put together in the shape of my basement.
  9. Rusty Spike

    Rusty Spike Member

    To each their own works best doesn't it? I dabble in the middle of free-lance vs. prototype. Seeing something on the tracks nearby makes it much more likely to find a home on my layout.

    I was in my LHS the other day and the store keeper and a customer were nagging back and forth about a club that was failing b/c the primary members were "rivet counters" and that they couldn't tolerate someone running an out of era diesel or rolling stock for their specific place and time. They also complained b/c there was often evidence at the club that someone had been running trains at other times than the one night designated each month for running trains.

    All in all it didn't sound like fun and I was glad I'd stuck to modeling what makes me happy in my own basement.

    I'm thrilled you are thrilled by how you're doing it - some of what you say will inspire me to consider trying new things to keep my interest fresh - thanks for sharing.

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