Friday, October 16, 2009

Model Railroading vs Railroad Modeling

Having returned to a more "public" and involved level of modeling of late, old friends and new acquaintances are often curious about the way that I describe my current modeling pursuits.

I most often will describe what I do as "Railroad Modeling" as opposed to the more traditional, "Model Railroading". So what's the difference you may ask, really not much more than semantics in reality, but being the anal retentive type at times, it seems an important distinction.

I think of model railroading as what most model railroaders do, someone actively involved with model trains, and the building of an operating layout (or participation in a club type environment) The trigger here is the word "railroading", which to me indicates operation or at least planned operations.

I've lived in a townhouse (actually 2 different ones) for the last 21 years. Both are slab construction, no basements. Both have/had a one car garage suitable for storing a single vehicle if you had no specific need to get in or out of it, or storing all the typical junk a homeowner has (ladders, tools, gardening supplies, lawn chairs, holiday decorations, etc, ad infinitum), but not both. In both cases, the homeowner junk has always won out, thank god for remote car starters in our Chicago winters. In the end, the garage, not an option (Even now that I got rid of my motorcycles !)

So, I've been relegated to taking over a standard 10x10 foot bedroom for my modeling efforts.
In most scales, 10x10 doesn't give you much to work with, when you're doing 70% of your modeling in 1/2" scale, and a typical interurban car is over two feet long, if you opt for that operating layout you get a few short runs and a lot of turns. Not very believable in my view, sort of defeats the whole purpose of modeling something like the car itself as prototypically as possible.

With that in mind, I've turned my focus to strictly railroad modeling. Much like the modeler who goes to the local hobby shop and either buys a kit to model a car, truck, plane, boat, etc (or buys the raw materials to build it from scratch), the model is built with the ideal as a static, stand-alone display item, not intended to be driven, flown, floated, etc. Similarly I build my railroad themed models in the same way, as static models.

Having said that, I have built all of my cars so that the "dummy" trucks on any given car can be removed and power trucks can be installed fairly quickly and easily. Similarly, power can be run from the roof mounted trolley poles or pantographs to the the trucks for overhead operations.

This allows me a couple of advantages.
First, I'm not laying out sizable chunks of cash for motors, gear boxes, etc. Quite the practical stance to take not having a regular place to operate anyways, at least in my humble opinion.

Secondly, being in large scale for more than 4.9 seconds, everyone is faced with the ultimate question we all have to face,, what scale/gauge are you modeling ? Most people are mixing any number of scales (1:20.3, 1:24, 1:32, 1:29) and running them all on the LGB 45mm track standard, which then, dependent on your scale, gives you a variety of track gauges as well. Which is fine, do whatever makes you happy !!

My swap out method allows me to have the "proper" 1:24 scale trucks with appropriate 4 foot-8-1/2" gauge, yet should the urge arise, be able to swap out a power truck either for the scale/gauge combination, OR, something that will allow my car(s) to run on LGB track as well.

Have to be careful about that last option, 1:24 scale equipment, especially full-sized is well,,, big.

Traction equipment is typically narrow enough that it's not an overly obnoxious or objectionable sight to anyone except the most pure among us when it's riding on track that scales out to somewhere in the 42" range as opposed to 56.5 inches, but you really need a couple of S L O W test runs to check those clearances.

So that's pretty much it in a nutshell, fully admit it's 99.7% semantics, but as always, the devil is in the details. I honestly think everyone should at a minimum consider building something in this manner, ideally in a different scale than you're currently in. It's a good way to flex your modeling muscles a bit, and open you to some similar, yet slightly different ways of doing things. Give it a shot, what do you have to lose ?

And now, time for me to do some real modeling so I have something legitimate to post and publish here,, although this has been a pretty decent way to kill about 30 minutes at the office on an otherwise quiet afternoon !

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