Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Heart of Model Railroading

This little hut stands in Dollywood theme park at the lower entrance to their "Craftsman's Valley" area.  This winding path climbs a gentle hill past glassblowers, a blacksmith shop, a pottery shop and places to admire or purchase other traditional hand crafts, along with food stands and attractions.  You can right-click on the image and open in a new window to get a much larger view and read the signs.
The upper sign is the one from which this post takes its title and it reads, "IF YOU WORK WITH YOUR HANDS, YOUR MIND AND YOUR HEART.....YOU ARE A CRAFTSMAN".  I think most model builders would readily speak about how they work with their hands to create their miniature worlds and the trains that run through them.  Most would even speak about the thought process behind their modeling.  But for a few, maybe more than I realize, the real core of what motivates them to model is what lives in their heart.
There's a balance in each of us who consider ourselves craftsmen* between hands, head and heart, and that looks different for each.  The technician may focus on the tools and mastery of their use while the historian or operations-guru digs deep into the minutiae behind the model.  But for us model builders who seek to improve our skills, that is, strive to be better craftsmen, I think it is a good idea to examine what is the role of the 'heart' for each of us.  
Somewhere in the creation of each model we build is a moment of imagination, or a scent of memory, or the simple joy of creation that comes from the heart.  I suspect that for some who lose interest in a particular model or facet of the hobby or the hobby itself, there is a point at which the heart is no longer in it.  Or it may be a fear, (a corollary of love that takes up residence in the heart sometimes) perhaps of making a mistake or failing to meet an unrealistic expectation, that stops us.
When I get right down to the heart of the matter (no pun intended), I find personally that I am invigorated by imagination and the story of the scene I'm creating, or the joy of overcoming a challenge or learning a new skill.  My happiest times as a model builder have been when my hands and head and heart have all been working together.  When I read this sign I immediately took a photo and knew it would be the subject of a blog post, because it resonated instantly and deeply within this craftsman's heart.

*I'm not trying to be gender exclusive, but there really isn't a better term in general use.  Craftsperson is awkward and adding 'ship' to the end makes it doubly so.  I get 'Flight Attendants' and 'Servers' instead of 'Stewardesses' and 'Waitresses', but those also have male counterparts as 'Stewards' and 'Waiters'.  'Craftswomen' may be correct as a counterpart, but I've never heard it used.  'Potter', 'Glassblower' and 'Blacksmith', like 'Model Railroader', all function without assigning a gender, so the problem (if there is one) may be in finding an alternative to the general group.  Perhaps this is what the 'Maker' moniker is trying to be?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below on this or the article in general.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Design Intuition

Something just didn't feel right about the eaves of the Fallburgh, er, Pine Branch Park station.  I decided it might need a strip of trim along the joint where the wall meets the overhang.  After a bit of searching I discovered my intuition was correct.  Where board and batten siding meets the roof, on Victorian-era structures, there is indeed a simple trim board, most of the time.

The fancy filagree gets the attention out along the edge of the roof and this kit allows for that with some fine little castings.  But where it is deficient is, interestingly enough, in a rather obvious place.  Or, perhaps, not so obvious.  Maybe that's why it wasn't included, as the designers felt it wouldn't be seen and so decided to save stripwood and the modeler's time by leaving it out.  The definitive, authoritative source (Fallberg's collection of Fiddletown & Copperopolis drawings) shows the station in several scenes but sadly, all portray the structural element in question in deep shadow.  No doubt he'd have drawn it in if it had been necessary, as his attention to architectural detail is impressive in other places.

In these images below the trim is far from complete but enough is in to show the obvious difference.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

"Rescue & Restore" Brings a Lost Loco Back to Life

I know there are folks out there who like antiques to look old and decrepit.  I admire the patina of age but WOW this engine looks amazing when this restorer is done with it.  I especially like the paint scheme he chose.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Gift Put to Use

I was given a Peco Loco Lift for Christmas.  It is a gift I had asked for, and was very happy to receive.  Here it is being used to remove the Mogul from the main line:

Eventually there may be a staging track abutting the railroad here, but for now the Lift works well.  And, once the staging is in place the Loco Lift will likely still be used for the engines and more delicate rolling stock.

For now, its sole job is to hold this locomotive.  When I bought this Mehano 2-6-0 it came without a box.  I need to make one, ideally before I finish the fine detailing. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Last year I found a book in a thrift store that caught my interest; in general as a student of history and specifically as a modeler of the 1920s.  The book is titled "Good Life in Hard Times: San Francisco's '20s and '30s" and is by Jerry Flamm, a native son of the city in the title.  Flamm grew up selling newspapers and later went on to work for the Chronicle as a copyboy and a reporter and staff writer for the Call Bulletin.  It is no wonder, then, that the first chapter of this fine book is titled 'Front Page Days' and recalls the ignominious history of the fierce competition and colorful tales from the major San Francisco newspapers.

Flamm's writing is excellent; his stories, gathered from veterans of the era, colorful and interesting.  Though I model a small town in central Florida, the reliance of the public on the paper for their news transcends the geographic location.  Radio was in its infancy, television was unheard of.  If you needed to know the score or the stock price or the sales in the stores, you looked in the paper.  A small town rag might cost a penny.  In the big city by the bay, two cents or even three would get you the news. 

So inspired by the tales of plucky newsboys on the street corners and brash reporters and photographers, I began to wonder how I might capture some of this spirit in 1:87 scale.  Naturally I thought of figures.  I had recently purchased a set of Preiser figures on eBay and they included a newsboy and a man in a suit reading a paper.  Mine came in a large set of figures from the 1920s, all unpainted, but I don't believe that set is available anymore.  However, the two figures pictured below are still available in the set #12133, "On the Platform, 1900-1925 (am Bahnsteig)" though you'll likely pay as much for the 6 painted figures in that tiny box as I did for the 40+ unpainted figures I found.

Note the stands I made, allowing me to prime the figures then hold them for painting.  The corks are epoxied onto washers, and the figures are stuck there with crafter's stick-on glue dots.  

While I was able to find figures for this side of the equation, the sales and consumption of the news, I have yet to find acceptable figures for the other side, the reporting and photographing of the news.  There are photographers out there but they look more suited for the 1960s at the earliest.  I have seen no reporters wearing caps and holding note pads, but plenty of folks holding microphones standing in front of cameras, both on tripods and shoulders.  It would be nice to get such figures to pose at the scene of an accident or some other event, or as they often would be, waiting outside a police station or courthouse to get the scoop.

There are several more chapters in Flamm's book, and I hope they will provide me with as much inspiration and general background knowledge as this first one has.  Up next is all about radio, and there are subsequent chapters on dining, sports, swimming, and of course the Southern Pacific's ferry operations across the bay, and more.  It is highly likely I'll mention this book again on this blog.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Caption This Photo

This is the Jordan Highway Miniatures Old Farm Wagon.  I'm building it to be placed at the team track in Pine Branch Park, across the street from the station.  Of course, in that setting both horses will be in front of the wagon. 

Anyway, I have thought of a few funny captions for this image, but I'd like to hear your suggestions.  Leave them in the comments below.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Aziz, Light!*

Original two lights, both two the left of this image:

Next, adding the new light directly ahead beyond the railroad:

Finally, the other original light, behind my right shoulder: 

Much better.  This level of light is adequate but still not ideal.  However, it will suffice for moving ahead on scenery.

Now I can truly say, "There are FOUR lights!"**

* Even if you didn't care for the Fifth Element or have never seen it, you only have to watch a few minutes to get to this quote.  I suppose, thanks to YouTube, you can just find that clip if you're really in a hurry.

**No, really, there are FOUR lights.  Okay, eight if you count each tube within the double tube florescent fixture.  The reference is from a Star Trek TNG episode.  Poor Picard.  Though, in his defense, no other person would be sane after enduring just half the stuff he had to go through.