Re: USRA SS boxcars

Frank Valoczy <destron@...>

Anthony Thompson wrote:

Well, Frank, here's what you DID say: "RailTT's model is the CN
version of the USRA SS "clone" with the fishbelly centre sill". I'm
sorry, "clone" does not mean "sort of the same general appearance." I
understand your point, that you are identifying GENERAL similarities,
but in that context, the word "clone" (your word) is entirely
inappropriate. Otherwise you foster FURTHER confusion among those
reading the list.
That's a fair point. I *did* say that... because that's what I understood
the word to mean, in my previous encounters with it.

What, then, *is* an appropriate, but nevertheless "catch-all", word/phrase?

Part of the issue may be that those of us on this list have a different
definition of "different" than the average person, including the average
model railway hobbyist, and the deeper we get into analysing the more
minute details, the easier it is to lose sight of the fact that to an
untrained (or even an in-training) eye, a 1937 car is pretty hard to
distinguish from a 1944 car.
Quite true, but adding to the confusion by NOT distinguishing
among similar but DIFFERENT cars does not help the problem. You're
right that this list tends to the sophisticated side of freight
car information. But I believe the way to move those "untrained
eyes" forward is to give them the RIGHT information and explain
why, not to gloss over differences and, in effect, say that
various 40-foot single-sheathed cars are "pretty similar" or
"kinda all the same."
This is also a very fair point.

However - to try to defend myself a little bit - I'd like to put it into a
bit of context.

The point of the big descriptive list I made was, "this is the model we
have available - let's see what we can do with it", and from there I went
on to describe what the model is accurate for as-is, and then what can be
done with it with modifications, pointing out the modifications that would
be needed to make an XY&Z RR 1000-1999 series car.

The way I presented this info, I tried to do it TT-specific, and assuming
no detailed knowledge of the subject (beyond the basic "immediately
obvious" things, e.g. Howe truss vs Pratt truss being 'obviously
different'), and I tried to keep it informative without being overly
verbose or going too far into technical language that'd make it difficult
to read for an outsider. Kinda like how if you're writing about, say,
English grammar, if you're writing for a general audience, you have to
write differently than if you're writing a paper for a peer-reviewed

In a summary form, my premise was "this is a group of cars that is broadly
similar in appearance; here is how they differ from each other".

I agree with you that the details are important - all the details. But I
also think it's better to make introductions using broad, general terms.
If I meet someone just getting into the hobby, just starting to learn
about the basic differences between various boxcars (and I don't think I'm
too far wrong in saying that for the bulk of hobbyists, the differences
between a '37 car and a '44 car or between a USRA SS car and a B-50-14
aren't nearly as important (or as noticeable) as the difference between a
'37 car and a B-50-14), I've found that you often even have to point out
the most glaring difference between a USRA SS car and a War Emergency
boxcar (namely the truss arrangement).

So, in my experience, I find it more effective to use generalisations
first, whether the subject is freight cars or grammar; better first for
the learner to become comfortable with regular verbs (including mistakes
they will make trying to apply regular forms to irregular verbs), before
starting into irregular verbs and how they behave, than to give them a
daunting pile of information that may actually make it more difficult to
sort through. That's what I tried to do - but of course, that's not to say
I necessarily succeeded.

Talking about this makes me curious now, as to how the rest of you handle
this question. How do you start explaining things to someone who is
interested in modelling accurately, but essentially completely unversed in
the various details of freight cars?

Frank Valoczy
New Westminster, BC

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