Re: History of Prototype Freight Car Modeling



I think Richard makes an excellent point about scale models with his analogy to the Greeks. By definition a scale model is a prototype model because it replicates something exactly (or as much as possible) from 1:1 scale to a different scale.

We like to label things and "RPM" does have the reputation of representing a group of very fine and admirable modelers who are dedicated to the true meaning of "Scale Model". But this has been going on far longer than I believe your scope might encompass. I tend to gather that this is more about when kit manufacturers began producing products that helped encourage the average modeler to create models to this extent rather than a history of modelers so dedicated to the "cause" that they scratch built everything. I think the first RPM modeler must have been the guy who first sat down and built a locomotive or car to as exacting a standard as possible way back when Model Railroading first got its start - and who was that? Whoever it was, he scratch built everything. And there you have it; at it's heart, imo, the roots of RPM are really in the realm of the scratch builder. But of course that is my opinion as a ranting purest.

Again, in my opinion, a great deal of influence to the RPM movement, that seems to have actually caught on in the late '80s and early '90s, is the Narrow Gauge modeler. If you are looking for who may have first used the term "Prototype Modeler" I would suggest you get a hold of Robert Brown, Publisher of the "Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette". This magazine (which has fallen far, far from its roots in the last 3 decades!!!) was the combining of "Finelines" and "Slim Gauge News". These date back to the late '60s and early '70s. In the '60s I believe it was called Fine Scale Modeling but by the time I got involved with NG modeling in the mid '70s we didn't call it RPM. We called it Prototype Modeling. MR touched on the subject pretty often and in 1969 published an article by Robert Brown in which he (and Linn Wescott in his Editorial) at least referenced Fine Scale Modeling and the group of modelers for which he published "Finelines".

Every group that comes along seems to have tendency to esteem itself but the truth is there isn't really anything new or recent about it – other than perhaps styrene and resin. Once again I remind all of you that our steam engines run off of electricity and to this date there are still no good reliable traction motors that depend on a diesel for power in our locomotives. And very few modelers go to the trouble of building a truly prototypical freight car from the ground up. When you are praising the gifted Kit Manufacturers and their wares of catalyzed petroleum distillates I hope you will remember the likes of Jack Alexander, Robert Brown and Al Armitage. It will be interesting to read your tome nonetheless.

Derrell Poole

--- In STMFC@..., Richard Hendrickson <rhendrickson@...> wrote:

On May 12, 2012, at 7:09 AM, up4479 (Steve Solombrino) wrote:
The concept of making accurate models is very old. It goes back
centuries. Over time, documentation of the prototypes, materials,
techniques, available components and communications have all
improved to enable better, more accurate models built by those that
desire to model what was in real life.
Many years ago, on a visit to the Greek island of Crete, I saw what
amounted to a scale architectural model in clay of a structure that
was apparently built exactly as shown by the model. So prototype
modeling goes back at least to the third century BC.

Richard Hendrickson

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