Re: RPM history (was Chicagoland Photos)

Tim O'Connor


An excellent addition to the conversation!

As I said, we'd need a real (serious) publication to do the subject justice.

In the meantime, let us not forget the launch of FRIENDS OF THE FREIGHT CAR by
Tony Thompson at the Pittsburgh NMRA convention in 1990 (where Tony was then a
professor at Carnegie Mellon). The same convention where someone stole a whole
bunch of Richard Hendrickson's hand crafted models! (I hope at least they found
a home on a layout, and didn't end up in a dumpster.)

More timeline questions - when did Microscale first start making railroad decals?
CDS? Greg Komar? Mark Vaughan? AccuCals? Railroad prototype modeling was greatly
aided by artistic efforts to produce super-accurate lettering for our models. And
those efforts (aided by people like Richard Hendrickson) inspired Champ to start
producing super-accurate lettering sets too. And the accurate lettering movement
has been taken up by Ted Culotta, Dan Kohlberg, and a great many others.

And of course, RPM has had a HUGE influence on almost every hobby manufacturer.

Tim O'Connor

Well, I'll nominate William J. Clouser's WJC Custom Cast line as the beginning of COMMERCIAL resin kits. Others may have used what was at the time called "tooling resin" for personal parts, but the Clouser boxcars were the first product of this sort offered for sale. While Bill is better known for his traction models, IIRC the boxcars came first, and were actually developed because he needed accurate models to populate a courtroom display, illustrative courtroom models being a major portion of his custom model making business. Once the masters had been made on someone else's nickle, it was easy to produce more. I believe these became "proof of concept" for his later traction model line. I recall Bill being out at the Illinois Railway Museum in the very early seventies to gather measurements for the North Shore interurban that became his first traction offering, and the boxcars had been done several years earlier, perhaps in the late sixties. At any rate, at a time when MR articles were mentioning Cerro metal castings made in latex rubber molds, Clouser showed there were better materials.

And of course, there would be no cast resin models if it wasn't for Al Westerfield, who not only did extensive research on his prototypes in an era when accurate and complete data was hard to come by, but also developed a workable method of producing kits at a price that encouraged the market. Clouser 1/4" scale kits were nice, but they were pricey. By comparison, Al's kits were priced where the average modeler could actually believe that he could populate a layout with them. One thing that few mention is that before Al actually went into business, he basically published his whole methodology in the hobby press, in RMC, IIRC, in a series of articles in the late seventies.

While I was only producing resin kits for a couple years before moving on to other things, I would not have even known where to start without the knowledge of what these two individuals had already accomplished.

I should also mention Tom Madden, also a professional modelmaker, who lead the industry to its "second generation", consulting with and teaching several manufacturers the secrets of viable one piece resin bodies.

I'm sure there are others who made significant contributions; these are the ones who stand out to me.

Dennis Storzek

Tim O'Connor
Sterling, Massachusetts

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