Re: WWII oil transport

Gerry Fitzgerald

Hi George,


Thank you for your very gracious, encouraging, and detailed response to my earlier message on clinics. It was very nice and will encourage me to try to give more clinics in the future. Let me further contextualize my earlier message. This may be slightly off topic (?), and hopefully I will be put in the penalty box, but a few additional thoughts about clinics and railroad history, a topic that in all fairness has overlap with this wonderful site.


Model railroad clinics for me can be complicated as I have a Ph.D. in the history of science and technology, and often look and frame my clinics through a historical lens that contextualizes the past a bit differently than many modelers, although I have had more success with the RPM crowd. Giving online clinics through the Hindsight 20/20 on both WWI and water softening technology during the pandemic has been extremely enjoyable as the people watching are very positive and ask informative questions. While I like the NMRA and have been a long time member, giving what I would term a “public history” clinic on model railroad/railroad topics can be problematic, although that is more a reflection of a small vocal minority. And here I am speaking from my own personal experience and other modelers have no doubt had more positive clinic presentation experiences. A number of years ago I gave a clinic at the NMRA national in Atlanta on modeling the American Civil War and talked quite a bit about slavery, which made a small number of people violently angry. Interestingly enough, I got the same response, at an NMRA meet in Pennsylvania so trying to bring a broader historical context to clinics can be problematic regardless of location. In addition, an article I wrote while editing the LDSIG journal on modeling the Jim Crow aspects of railroad operations met with even more vitriol. So doing public history and doing “real history” -as someone once said in a derogatory manner- in the hobby can be frustrating, so these days I just do less except, for a few RPM meets. Marty McGuirk did a wonderful blog post a few years back on select people in audiences who can be less than kind during clinics and that can be discouraging which is worth reading.


Let me also note that I also agree with your position on the various model railroad historical societies and I read a number of their magazines, both online and in paper, and find them invaluable. Years ago I helped out the ACl-SAL online ‘zine and helped edit some of the early articles. While I model the C&O, I love the AT&SF, N&W, and of course the amazing Pennsylvania modeling publications. These publications include just incredible amounts of information, not to mention the models and layouts, all bringing the past to life. The editors and authors all deserve our thanks.


With respect to chemicals, oil, pipeline construction, and railroad operations during WWII, I have given a lengthily clinics on that topic from the perspective of the C&O and maybe will do more on that topic clinic wise in the future. I am also writing a new book on the environmental history of industrialization in the US during World War I and am paying special attention to railroads, the USRA and the War Industries Board, topics that some in model railroad circles may find interesting.


Let me note I very much appreciate many of the posts on this site and have learned quite a bit over the years about the “internal” history of freight car design, construction, and operations. I have what academic historian call an “external” approach to technology -all PhDs have that outlook really because of our training- which as I say looks at the past through a slightly different lens. History is my profession and I love the hobby but it is not always easy to combine the two. But I do my best and will try out some new topics and maybe give some older clinics on railroads and clinics in the future.


For those interested in a short paper that deals very much with freight car operations in NYC during WWI feel free feel free Google “Arcadia,” which is an online journal on the website of The Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, which is Munich Germany and this article title “New York Harbor and the Vicious Circle of the Winter of 1917-1918,” Arcadia, (May 2020). A clinic version of this paper was well received earlier by the Hindsight crowd and I may submit a different version to “Classic Trains” later this year.


Sorry for the long message… and if and when I publish a chapter on chemicals, oil and railroads, I will post a link to it here. Thank you very much for your encouragement and all the thoughtful and informative posts.


Stay safe and be well



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