Re: Freight car condition in the 50's; weathering

Gatwood, Elden J SAD <Elden.J.Gatwood@...>


Our recent discussions on the perceived condition of freight cars during the
steam era, weathering, and all, really got me to thinking, particularly since
I've been revisiting (and going to considerably more effort on) this subject
in my modeling recently.

I had begun to think that my weathering and treatment had become a little too
one-dimensional (or "pat"), although indeed, I wanted to evaluate the
statement by some that freight cars in the steam era were in pretty good
condition and not overly weathered or beat-up.

I went back and stared at a bunch of color photos and color guide books, in
an effort to step back and re-evaluate what I was seeing, and to make sure I
was not coloring my view with false beliefs.

I also began to think that this could also be in part due to the roads I
model, and my primary road, influencing this process.

I began a re-look at the hundreds of great color shots of cars and yards that
I have. I was immediately struck by how vastly different many of them were,
in condition. Even a given class of cars painted in the same scheme in the
same general time period might look completely different!

I also stumbled on a great photo of L&N's DeCoursey Yard, taken by John
Dziobko in 1956, in a copy of "Freight Train Cars" (pgs. 18-19), one of the
Enthusiast Color Series books, by Mike Schafer and Mike McBride. It shows
some L&N engines shifting cuts of cars around the yard, with some great
foreground subjects.

Key among these are the two gons in the immediate foreground, in hideous
condition. Honestly, they are worse than anything I have ever modeled. The
one you can only see part of is a PRR G31A, on which the only fairly
unblemished paint is on the ribs. The remainder of the car is thoroughly

The next car is a shallow fishbelly NYC gon, which is in even worse
condition. The lettering is almost thoroughly obliterated, with NYC just
peeking through its scabrous rust. The interior is a patina of hundreds of
rust colors. A beautiful gon.

Next is a C&O radial end, in pretty good condition. Although there are large
rust colorations on the sides, the paint is pretty much intact, although the
logo is almost gone. The interior is still black.

Next is a pretty good condition Southern gon, with a somewhat rusty interior,
but otherwise in pretty good shape.

This is followed by two good condition boxes, one a NCStL yellow stripe, both
in pretty good condition, although the L&N box has lost its roof paint.

The remainder of the cars in this string look to be in pretty good condition,
although they are all weathered to some extent.

Other color yard shots of this era show similar conditions.

The point of all this is that everything is weathered to some degree. Yes,
the PRR and NYC gons are in truly horrible states. Yes, cars from other
roads are in better condition. But, not only should we include a few cars in
"just re-painted" condition, but there should also be a large number of cars
demonstrating a really broad range of weathering techniques, reflecting a
broad range of operating conditions and services. At least some should look
really horrible.

It has really inspired me to go back and keep working on making my cars more
realistic, and representative of what I see in photos. I will also try and
try to get that one car looking like that one photo, if I can do so.

Hope you can find some new inspiration, too!

Elden Gatwood

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