Re: Kits? Yep...they're still with us

Anthony Thompson <thompson@...>

Another point worth making is that there really wasn't all that much scratch building 50 years ago or so. You just made do with what you could get. Layouts were full of Athearn and Ulrich metal cars, Varney plastic, and some paper-side cars. You could visit layouts all over the country and see the exact same freight cars (and structures and passenger cars and . . . ) because anything else was far too much trouble. Sure, some talented and energetic people were building great models, but I'd guess there were no more of them then than now. And what they built wouldn't be that impressive today. Just go back and look at the magazine photos.
Layouts like Jack Burgess's YV were really inconceivable then. Jack has had to scratch build an awful lot, but 50 years ago you couldn't even get sheet styrene (nor would you have known what to do with it), and the very first brass engines were just coming into view. People thought Ambroid kits were "too hard," and hey, those Bowser locomotives didn't look THAT odd with Belpaire boilers on your free-lanced short line. And there was hardly any serious prototype information being published; practically no modelers had discovered the Cyc and other resources.
The progress to today is really qualitative, not just quantitative. Richard Hendrickson is right when he says "THIS is the golden age." When we have one of these discussion about where the hobby is and where it's going, let's not forget where it's come from.

Tony Thompson Editor, Signature Press, Berkeley, CA
2906 Forest Ave., Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 540-6538; fax, (510) 540-1937; e-mail, thompson@...
Publishers of books on railroad history

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