Friday, March 9, 2018

Is the three-foot-rule obsolete?

So in this month's Model Railroad Hobbyist, Joe Fugate has an editorial that spells out a number of different levels of detail in a "realism contiuum" that leans heavily on the three-foot-rule.

I suggest, however, that the old three-foot-rule may very well be outdated and obsolete. Why?

Because modeling audiences have changed.

Back in the day the three-foot-rule became a thing, most people had but a single audience for their model railroad. A relatively local group of people that could come see it in person. This grew a bit if you were near a convention and chose to open your layout to tours, but generally speaking, the majority of the audience for your modeling work were those that could visit your basement.

A secondary audience was to be found at meets (particularly in contests) where you could bring a diorama, display, or locomotives and rolling stock. The best of your work would be seen by a larger audience, although outside of the context of the layout. As such, the layout might be held to a lower standard than the contest models.

For a smaller group of modelers, the audience was expanded by being featured in the modeling press. A magazine article on a layout moved the basement into homes across the world. So at least portions of the layout would be made more "contest ready" for the carefully staged and photographed segments of the layout. The layout may not even be finished, but that didn't matter since you could frame the photos to feature the finished portions.

So what's changed?

The internet and digital photography.

Nowadays, the vast majority of the people likely to see your modeling efforts will likely never see it in person. And like the magazine photographs, everything in the pictures is "scale size." Things that looked OK at three-feet might look unfinished, dramatically oversized, or out of place. This is where the three-foot-rule begins to fall apart.

One reason I've already mentioned - everything is blown up to 1:1 scale in a photo. But the second reason might be the bigger factor. Folks looking at it can study it like they think Waldo is hiding somewhere in the layout. Each photo captures all of the details, and practically invites the viewer to look at the smallest ones.

This is, by far, the largest potential audience for your work. It doesn't mean that everything has to be super realistic, or perfectly accurate. But I do think that when building a model and a layout, it is worth considering what the rest of the world will see of your work, and how you want to present it.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I-1 #1007 at New Britain Station

c1946. Kent Cochrane Photo

So here's another great shot of the passenger service at New Britain. This one is looking eastbound, showing a good portion of the Railroad Arcade. This was a building built by the railroad at the same time as the station. The building housed stores on the first level, and apartments on the second level. Originally, the station platform extended all the way to Main Street, which is behind where Kent is standing when he took this photo.

On the layout, the station and the arcade are just off the layout. I'll be making a model, or at least a facade, that will connect to the layout for the purpose of taking photos like this one.

The steel baggage car was formerly made as a resin kit by F&C, and rumors persist that Steve will eventually release a one-piece body of it. The second car is the ex-Besler train coach, imported in brass by Crown Custom. The heavyweight looks like one of the series with the taller windows that NKP Brass imported as an O&W coach.

I haven't identified a match for the truck, but it should be easily identified by somebody with more knowledge than me. I'm not sure what the truck is loading/unloading. They have a regular station cart with baggage or perhaps storage mail. Most of the passenger trains through New Britain carry REA traffic, it's just interesting that the truck is not labeled as such. Although it's possible that it is the shipper's truck, and they simply opted to load from their truck, rather than unloading it to the platform before loading it on the baggage car. I also find it interesting that so many of these trains carry REA traffic, since most of the passenger service through New Britain only goes as far as Waterbury (or Hartford eastbound). Train #472 comes from Waterbury to Hartford, and trains #131-136 are Boston to Waterbury and back (which also has an RPO).

In this case, I think it's #463, as the shadows indicate afternoon. During the summer this would be 4:46, (5:46 during daylight savings). This train handled REA traffic from Hartford to Waterbury (assigned 3'). Note that despite the full trees, #1007 still sports its pilot plow.

But one of the reasons I'm always hunting down additional photos of New Britain, despite the large number here at the station is that each different angle may provide a view of something in the background that I don't already have.

In this case a look at the coal and coke sheds for Union Manufacturing:

I find these quite interesting. The track is clearly labeled on some maps, and does not have an in-ground hopper for coal to be dumped. Looking at the height of the lower wall, it would appear that they most likely received gondolas of coal and coke that were unloaded by shoveling. At least that's my best guess. There's a gondola (probably coal for the T-2-b 0-6-0 switchers) and what looks like a New Haven double sheathed box car, both on the mechanical department track.

Fortunately, I don't have to worry about unloading the cars, just building the structure and spotting a few gondolas. The are visible in aerial photos, like this one:

But for the trackside view, that crop of that photo of #1007 is the best I have so far. In the aerial photo (from 1955) you can see a 44-tonner moving a New Haven box car on that track. Another box car is sitting on one of the mechanical department tracks (the same one as the gon and box car above), which used to be inside the engine house here. The workshop and one wall of the old engine house still stands. City Supply and Swift & Upton lumber are across the mainline. The stub track between the mainline and the billboard that now ends at Elm Street used to be to the two yard tracks (#15 and #17) that had, by this time, become a parking lot.

Despite the usefulness of such photos, it's amazing how much you can't see. I'll address something that's hiding in the shadows of that engine house wall in the next post, along with what used to be where those piles of lumber are.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Building a Roster: What is Rare?

K-1-d #404 with World of Mirth train in New Britain.
August 1940. Kent Cochrane 
A question was posted in response to a post by Marty McGuirk on the Modeling Steam Era Freight Cars blog some time ago. The post itself is regarding the percentage that each road comprises of a study of box cars through White River Junction, VT over several days in 1954.

The statistics are quite interesting, with 50% of the 3,605 box cars that were documented in those days. Marty included a pie chart along with a list of almost all of the reporting marks and their individual percentages.

Simon Dunkley questioned why the list showed that 50% of the cars were CN, but the pie chart shows at least 60% of the cars were CN.

The answer is simple - Marty only included the Top 10 roads in the pie chart. In which case the CN accounts for nearly 68% of the cars.

Ignoring the rest of the roads, no matter how small of a percentage of the total, skews the numbers. 

Individually, the roads represent what might be viewed as "statistically insignificant" in many cases. But collectively, they account for almost 27% of the cars during those days. I think it's important to remember that.

Freight Car Syndromes
I think it was John Nehrich that coined the "Pickle Car Syndrome." His point was that people like unusual cars (like pickle cars), and so they are overrepresented on our layouts. In general, I agree with this.

A related syndrome is "RTR Syndrome" in that we also overrepresent cars that are most easily acquired. I have far too many 1932 ARA Box Cars. Atlas made it simple by releasing the model with 10 different prototypical variations, covering nearly every one of the 26 roads that rostered the cars. So I have at least 10, probably more.

But for a prototype with around 15,000 total copies, I probably should only have 1 or 2 on the layout at any time. But because the current size of my roster is barely enough to cover a given operating session, almost all of them are on the layout during that session.

Many modelers combat this by determining how many cars they need of a given prototype (of the roster of box cars in 1950, for example, the 1932 ARA box car accounts for about 2% of the entire fleet of North American Box Cars. So out of 100 box cars on the layout, two of them should be 1932 ARA box cars. So they decide which two to purchase, and that's it.

This approach is often combined with a similar look at a given road's roster. For example, you might determine that you only need 1 box car owned by the New Haven railroad. They accounted for less than 2% of the national box car fleet. The obvious choice would be a 1937 AAR box car, since that was the most numerous box car owned by the New Haven Railroad in 1950. But they also owned PS-1 box cars, and more interestingly, 10' IH PS-1 box cars. What do you do?

This is where I think we fall victim to the "36-foot Double-Sheathed Box Car Syndrome."

In our quest to build a more "realistic" roster for our layouts, and ignoring budgetary concerns, we often restrict ourselves from purchasing rare cars, or too many cars of a given road, prototype, whatever. A number of studies have been done on 36-foot Double Sheathed box cars, which would seem to indicate that in 1950 your typical layout should have only one or two.

In 1950 only 8% of the national box car fleet were less than 40' in length, and of those, 71% were CN or CP Fowler single sheathed box cars. So in theory, out of 100 box cars, you need 8 cars less than 40-feet in length, and 5 or 6 of them should be Fowler cars, and 1 or 2 of them double-sheathed box cars.

The problem is, for many of us those specific 36-foot Double Sheathed box cars are always on the layout. Let's say it's an D&H car, F&C makes four variations of this car. There were about 1,000 still in service in 1950, or 0.1% of the national fleet. 

In our attempt to show that short double-sheathed cars are rare by only having one or two in our roster, we have instead given the impression that the D&H short double-sheathed car is relatively common in small numbers. Why? Because it's always on the layout.

This is a similar problem as reducing a list of approximately 60 road names with little representation, to a Top 10 list. We've skewed the numbers. In fact, by attaching hard numbers to several days' worth of data is undoubtedly skewing the numbers as well, almost certainly in favor of the CN and CV in that particular study.

A Cure?
So what do we do? Well, in terms of a study such as the one Marty references, that's among the best we have. So it's a great starting point. If we're modeling a specific prototype like New Britain, I can also look at the industries themselves to help determine appropriate roads based on prototypical offline industries. I can go further and look at the traffic on the through trains, and their origination and destination.

With the Waybill studies that have been done by others, plus other resources (such as American Commodity Flow published in the early '50s) I can see where the bulk of inbound cars are coming from with loads for CT. All of this helps.

But what do we do with this actual data? First, understand that nearly every box car that is owned in 1950 is fair game. This is part of your roster. If you want one 1932 ARA box car for each road that owned one, that's great. The more the better. 

Because what you roster doesn't have to be the same as what you run.

Sure, if you have different operators at every session, then you can run the same cars representing the same day every session. I would like more variety than that. I'm already accounting for changes over the years by building structures that can be swapped out as needed. Autos can be changed, and the era was a busy time for building new freight cars showing the evolution of freight cars in this period. And the New Haven not only retired steam in this era, but their diesel acquisitions were so rapid that the motive power changes on almost an annual basis during this time too.

The data from studies like the one Marty references is fantastic for populating your operating session from your larger roster of freight cars. I classify cars as common, uncommon, and rare.

Common cars are the ones that should not only appear in every session, but probably in quantities greater than one. In my case that includes PRR X29 box cars, NYC USRA-design steel box cars, and CN/CP Fowler box cars, among others. 1937 AAR box cars in general also fit this category. This also includes roads themselves, such as PRR, B&O, NH, CN, CP,  NYC, etc. in my case. For these handful of prototypes I need to figure out roughly how many (usually 2-3) would appear in any given operating session and make sure I have enough quantity to meet this demand. These cars account for about 50% of those in a session.

Uncommon cars are those that should appear in most sessions, but rarely in quantities of more than one or two. In Marty's post this comprises the roads that have a greater than 1% distribution. These cars account for about 25%. The quantity refers to the roads as a whole, individual cars may be different prototypes from the same road, or even the same prototype if there is a large amount of a single type of car on that road. Most of these cars will appear every few sessions.

Rare cars are those that shouldn't appear in every operating session. Or everything that is less than 1%. Of a given road or prototype, there probably shouldn't be more than 1 per session. This is about 25% of the mix based on Marty's post. These can be just about anything. While these make up a sizable portion of what's in the mix on the layout, a given car might appear very, very rarely.

DER-1 (DL-109) locomotives with Strates train at Whiting Street Yard.
October 10, 1950. Kent Cochrane.
So the example of this post are some circus trains in New Britain. In various books are photos of the Ringling Brothers train in New Britain too. But there won't be a circus train every session. Maybe not more than once or twice a year. Most likely one will be used for my more seasoned operators, since they will tie up a lot of yard tracks making regular work more complicated. Otherwise they will be display and photograph models.

Another example is the PRR X30 box car. These were built specifically for servicing American La France in Elmira, NY to deliver fire engines. Sometime c1950 New Britain received new fire trucks, at least two, a pumper and an aerial from American LaFrance which were probably delivered in one of these box cars. The pumper is very similar to the Sylvan Scale Models 700-series open cab model. Corgi makes (made?) an American LaFrance aerial that could be a good starting point. The Jordan fire truck looks a lot like an earlier truck that was still in service as well. There is a fire station next to the police station on Commercial Street across from New Britain Station, so these are models that I'll be able to use. Of course, the station itself will be a flat, but the models being delivered in an X30 box car would make for an interesting photo too.

So buy or build whatever you want. Personally, as a freight car enthusiast, I want pretty much anything that is appropriate for my era that I can get. That's great. Because a larger roster allows you to more accurately populate your operating sessions. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

DEY-5 (ALCO S-2) #0604 at New Britain Station

Another Kent Cochrane photo, c1947. 

So Chris pointed out that several of our recent posts have been well synchronized. Perhaps this one will be as well, a photo he found along with one of #0604 in Essex down in his neck of the woods.

Although I had a copy of this picture, the fact that he just resent it was a bit of luck as well. I hadn't seen the email yet, when I sent him an email to let him know that Westerfield just released the NYC USRA-design steel auto car as a one-piece body and suggested that he should have one. Imagine my surprise when I opened the email he sent me, and there is that very prototype right behind #0604.

I haven't identified the single-sheathed box car or the tank car yet. But I love the shot. The 22 S-2s were delivered to the New Haven in 1943 to 1944. The first nine had horizontal radiator shutters as seen here. #0605 and #0606 were assigned to the Cedar Hill to Holyoke freights (NY-2, NY-4, YN-1, YN-3) starting in 1945, displacing the J-1 class mikados. So for an all-steam session I need to go back farther than 1946, to November 1944.

#0604 here had dual cab signals for use on both the Hartford Line (allowing it to work the NY/YN freights) and Shoreline (which is how it would have ended up in Essex on one of the Shoreline locals). The cab signal box can be seen in front of the cab.

The current Atlas model is definitely the way to go, although Chris and I are looking into how we'll do the New Haven style low-clearance cab. It's not just a function of lowering the roof (with a different but documented radius), but it alters the windows, and the rear door is shorter to accommodate the reverse lights lower position. Also note the whistle in front of the cab instead of a horn.

I'll model #0605 and #0606 and let #0604 visit periodically from Chris's layout.  I'll probably model one with the vertical radiator shutters as well. Atlas makes both variations.

Note the amount of trash and debris on the station track, and another auto in the background to identify. I wonder what color autos to get - they all look black in the photos, but models come in a variety of (presumably accurately researched) colors.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Household Fuel Part II: Operations

So I've established that the primary supplier for Household Fuel is the Glen Alden Coal Company of Ashley, PA, with locations in several other Pennsylvania towns. The largest breaker of the company is serviced by the CNJ, and the others by DL&W.

The CNJ and DL&W have two primary entry points to the New Haven via established routes. Specific trains vary by year.

By Car Float via Oak Point
CNJ at Jersey City > car float > NH at Oak Point
  • GN-4 > Bridgeport > EA-2 > New Britain
  • HN-2 > Cedar Hill > NY-2 > New Britain
  • HN-4 > Cedar Hill > NY-2 > New Britain
  • HN-2 > Cedar Hill > NY-4 > New Britain
  • HN-4 > Cedar Hill > NY-4 > New Britain

By Rail via Maybrook
DL&W > NYO&W > NH at Maybrook
CNJ > L&H > NH at Maybrook
DL&W > L&H > NH at Maybrook
  • OA-2 > New Britain
  • OA-4 > New Britain
  • OA-6 > New Britain 
Car service rules indicate that when an empty car is requested, that all attempts should be made to load a car from the destination road, or a road that is along or beyond that route and will share in the revenue. But I think hoppers are a unique class. The New Haven had 993 hoppers in 1950. I believe most of these stayed on home rails. Something like 60% of bituminous coal entered CT by water. Much of this was for railroad use. But many industries relied on this coal as well, and I believe the coal that came in by water was delivered to such businesses in NH hoppers.

On the other hand, anthracite was shipped to the NH almost entirely by rail.

The New Haven didn't originate any coal, and other commodities like trap rock were heavy and tended to not be shipped very far. So I think that the chances that there were empty NH hoppers on the DL&W or CNJ is low.

While one could make a case the B&O, NYC, or PRR had plenty of free roaming hoppers and could be loaded, none of these roads were in the established routes from any of the Glen Alden collieries. So my guess is that most of these loads would be delivered in CNJ or DL&W hoppers, depending on their source. Furthermore, in pictures of collieries, the cars waiting to be loaded (or with loads ready to ship) tend to be primarily those of the home road.

So on the New Haven, there is a good supply of hoppers from other roads, especially the B&O, CNJ,  NYC, PRR, RDG, and others, and I think they would primarily be in hoppers form the home road where the colliery is located.

That being the case (accurately or not), for Household Fuel I'm looking for CNJ, CRP, and DL&W hoppers. Other industries and coal dealers will receive hoppers from other roads, depending on their origination.

So the 1947 rosters with suggested models are:

62000-62999 1905 Common Design (812) (Bowser is close)
63000-64999 9-Panel Hoppers (1198) (F&C)
65000-65499 USRA Hoppers (345) (Accurail, MTH, Tichy)
66000-66999 9-Panel Hoppers (640) (F&C)
67000-67999 Welded Fishbelly Hoppers (765) (Bowser/ex-Stewart with modifications)

I'll be building two 9-panel hoppers (one from each series), and a welded fishbelly hopper (along with some Reading hoppers of the same design).

10001-10500 AAR Standard 50-ton Hopper (500) (Kadee undec with wine door locks)
62500-62999 1905 Common Design (174) (Bowser is close)
63000-64999 9-Panel Hoppers (771) (F&C)
65040-65499 USRA Hoppers (150) (Accurail, MTH, Tichy)
66000-66999 9-Panel Hoppers (349) (F&C)
67000-67999 Welded Fishbelly Hoppers (232) (Bowser/ex-Stewart with modifications)

I'm planning on an AAR Standard hopper, and have a USRA hopper. I might do a 9-panel hopper as well.

The DL&W fleet is a little harder to model, unfortunately. Any help is appreciated!
76000-77599 (69 + 23) Standard Steel 1903 Design Twin Hopper (similar) (modified Westerfield)
78100-78599 (299 + 62) 10-panel Standard Steel Twin Hopper
78600-79949 (847 + 199) 12-panel Standard Steel Twin Hopper
79950-80949 (20) (?)
81000-81799 USRA Twin Hopper (704) (Accurail, MTH, Tichy)
81800-83299 (1249 + 234) 10-Panel Standard Steel Twin Hopper
83300-83799 (498) Enterprise-Design Twin Hopper
84082-84949 (821) Enterprise-Design Triple Hopper
85000-85499 (499) Enterprise-Design Twin Hopper
85500-86499 (500) PS-3 Welded 50-ton Twin Hopper (built 1947) (Train-Miniatures, now Walthers)

I'll need to figure out more options, but I'll start with a USRA hopper.

Modeling Notes
For the USRA hoppers, I have settled on the MTH model. The dimensions are accurate (unlike the Tichy model) and they have separately applied details (unlike the Accurail model). They all have K-series brakes, despite the review in Model Railroader years ago, and either horizontal (stemwinder) handbrakes, or the USRA lever-style.

I've refitted a CRP hopper with AB brakes and an Ajax handbrake to experiment. I'll need to do the same for the NH hoppers, and a CNJ one as it appears based on the ORER the CNJ cars had geared handbrakes. Most of them I'll leave with the K-series brakes to make things simpler. Accurail and Tichy detail parts are both available

The downside to the MTH models is that either the paint schemes are too early for my era, or they don't have the correct schemes. So I'm stripping and redecorating them. I've disassembled one to do this, but I'm going to try leaving the next one intact other than removing the trucks and couplers.

Builder's photo from the 1940 Cyclopedia

The DL&W Enteprise-Design Twin Hopper is similar to the later AAR Standard twin, but about a foot longer. Several other roads had hoppers built to this design in the '20s and '30s. I might use one of Resin Car Works models for this, or perhaps I can convince Frank to do this earlier, larger version.

Pictures of the DL&W 10-panel and 12-panel hoppers are in Martin Robert Karig III's Coal Cars: The First Three Hundred Years. I am not aware of any models of these, even though they are the largest classes on the road in 1947. Perhaps I can persuade Steve Funaro to make them...

The DL&W Enterprise-Design Triple Hopper is another tough one. I don't know if it's an ARA triple or just similar yet. It has the "chisel taper" like the other cars of this design. There isn't a good model for this that I'm aware of. MDC/Roundhouse and Athearn both have cars that superficially resemble it, but the ends, sideframes and number of posts are wrong. The Accurail and Bowser cars have a different taper and are of different cars altogether.

What it really comes down to is that the DL&W had an unusual hopper fleet, either unique, or of less common designs that only resemble the much more commonly built cars. So I'll have to settle for the USRA cars for now.