Re: History of Prototype Freight Car Modeling

Greg Martin

Doctor Fruit Growers ask:

The seminal styrene kit I think it could be argued was the "Innovative
Model Works" 1937 boxcar kit. When was this kit introduced. Does anyone have
any good stories about the development of this model by Jerry Porter they
can send me?

Can anyone furnish me with info about the beginnings of McKean, Front
Range, and C&BT, i.e. the people involved, initial offerings, and or course
nicely built up models.

Anecdotes about these pioneering styrene efforts and the people involved
would be appreciated.


I think there were efforts to refine tooling earlier than IMWX, let us
not forget the effort of Pacific HO ( and I am looking at the instructions to
my NP kit ~still in parts~ and can't find a date) their Golden Spike Series
~Mechanical Reefer~ kit. But it has separate ladders and grabs, a good set
of drawings for the underframe and to think this tooling sits at Walthers
unused. This particular kit I bought cheap as it was started ~ never
finished ~ and an attempt was made to disassemble it and too think if the poor
SOB would have just FROZE the kit solid for a couple of weeks he could have
tapped the glue joints it would have fallen apart without damage, as the
glue lines just break nice and clean. I have tucked away more for JIT

Then a bit further back there was the Kurtz Kraft 40-foot PS-1 and
although not state of the art now at the time (and in the time line) the kit was
well done. I can remember my first run in with the kit was the Jeff English
article in Mainline when he re-built the kit into a nicely done NYC
Central car, I believe that was in about 1991 IIRC. Kurtz Kraft predates the
Pacific HO kits.

In the evolution of things IIRC correctly along came Robins Rails with
their PS-1 50-foot boxcar. Then the two 65-foot mill gondolas and all the
article that attempted to refine the truck stub into a truck bolster. I know
for a fact the G-26 was a correct representation of the PRR car and the ATSF
version was well done (for the era) but the underframe was incorrect. I
still have ladder spruces left from when they offered those separately and
they are useful for some things, they're not as over-scaled as you might
remember if you have them without a thick layer of paint. Robins Rails became
Eastern Car Works and that is history.

It was about this time that I remember attending my first Railroad
Prototype Modelers meet in Fountain Valley, CA at a church on Newland Ave. There
was a fantastic "Buzz"... a fellow was running around with rubber molds of
an F unit nose ... a well spoken fellow was taking about some "detail kits"
to correct the errors in most of the Athearn freight car kits and a fellow
with a Southern California Citrus Grove vignette that captured a
signature of everything I remembered growing up near the Orange County Orange
Groves. I was on the track to more accurate modeling.

I seem to remember Mc Keen coming to market about this time and the
Prototype momentum billing. Then right behind Mc Keen was Front Range with kits
with a one piece body with separate parts like the Mc Keen kits.

Modelers like Mont Switzer, Richard Hendrickson, Jim Six, Wayne Sittner
(sp?) and others were now my mentors and wanted to produce more authentic
models that truly represented the era I wanted to model ~ the 1950's ~ Guys
were re detailing, kit~smashing old RTR models (like Roundhouse 'modern
boxcar' no running board 4~4 dreadnaught end cars into cars of my era... )
their work was truly inspiring.

Then it seem to me IMWX and C&BT Ships kits came along just as Front Range
was taking the dive... we (my close friends) attributed it to tooling of
too many ACF covered hoppers in too short of a period of time, i.e., not
allowing the older tooling pay for itself first. Seems to me just slightly
ahead of this was the emergence of GOULD~TICHY but their offerings were
limited and suddenly regardless of how nice the tooling the offering just
stopped. ACCURAIL came along somewhere in here picking up the Mc Keen and Front
Range dies, spinning one of the boxcar kits tools to Red Caboose IIRC.

Intermountain came along with there Long's Drugs Exclusive Santa Fe
Reefer. I would go to Longs as I only lived a few miles south and would walk in
on Saturday and check out the offerings on the chalk board to see which
paint scheme was next. They were taking reservations even then. In Southern
California in the early 90's Longs was the place to be. A well stocked, off
retail, hobby shop in a drugs store. Somewhere along about 1994 CB&T fell
away form the mainstream supporter (like due to the Reefer issues maybe) and
re-tooled the ladders and grabs back onto the boxcar and I remember
questioning Dick Swagger about that at the 1994 NMRA convention in Portland and not
getting a straight answer but reminding me that his cars had more accurate
doors than his competition ~ Front Range~ who was already a dying beast.

Then IMRC, RC, LL, Atlas, BLT as well as all the others were the fierce
competitors in the mid 90's and later.

The wave has been building and although the players have changed there are
certain companies that have just moved forward and they range from the
simplest kit builders like ACCURAIL to the expensive Run to Run highly
detailed and extremely accurate offerings from Kadee and others in that league.

I have yet to COMPLETE a single resin kit in all the years I have modeled
in this arena, and I can say I honestly have only a select handful (like
less than 15) resin kits that I will ever build but as my wife say you could
open your own hobby shop with what I own and will never build, luckily I
have two grandsons... 3^)

Greg Martin

Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it.
Norman Maclean

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