Re: New Standards for Freight Cars Models

Denny Anspach <danspach@...>

Like so much water that has gone unwatched and un-noticed over the dam for so many years, it is almost impossible at this late date to retrieve all of the model railroad standards opportunities that have been lost over time. For understandable reasons, unchallenged, manufacturers have filled the resulting gaps with their own ideas, some very good, others quite mediocre, and some downright bad- if not worse . As modelers, we are left to play the field as we find it, i.e. we cannot ignore the huge current established base and current investment in track work, locomotives, and rolling stock- whether in or out of "conformance". However, nothing will ever be done unless authoritative people and publications step up, speak clearly, and are heard. Just because "everyone else is doing it" is no excuse for just standing around and wringing our hands.

I have been encouraged over the past several years by repeated reports of our national hobby leadership's willingness to address this problem, and I am personally acquainted with several very good people dedicated specifically to this effort. However, none of this will amount to anything unless this ongoing work-in-progress is published for discussion, and is published in a format that is clearly understood by all. I have seen no indication yet that our publications are even remotely committed to this effort- or if they even know about it. If they do not think a fundamental issue is not important, they should say so, and let the chips fall where they may.

I read softball "Product Review" after product review over the past years (all publications) where glaring standards and other quality issues are repeatedly either ignored, or buried. I do not know whether this is by poor editing, critical ignorance, or by design; but it certainly has impacted this reader's credulity for some time. I ignore most reviews these days because too many times, I simply cannot differentiate the review from a commercial blurb, or a feeling that what the critic might know about the subject was learned only an hour before deadline, or was merely a writing assignment. Pretty harsh, but sadly- perception can be the same as truth.

I had high hopes that the newly-revived house publication of our national hobby organization would also now be stepping up to plate in these regards. However, Instead of becoming a low-cost in-house venue for the dispassionate exposing of the standards and quality issues for discussion and education for the good of the hobby, it has instead elected unsuccessfully to try and emulate its more glossy higher-cost commercial competitors, but with some revived petty political/social twists thrown in that seem to me to continue to serve the few within, rather than the many without- a very common road to eventual failure.

For those who might ask, I do continue to subscribe to this publication, however, primarily so that I can tear out and keep construction articles from my favorite freight car modeling author, who has found a home there. I do also continue because I think our national organization is quite important, and if I stay within, perhaps at some time I can be heard.

National general interest national organizations everywhere are having a very hard time finding their niches in an era where the primacy of special or narrower areas of interest holds sway, and the internet has largely co-opted the need for social gatherings. Those that have been surviving have slimmed down in membership, thrown overboard outdated and cumbersome programs that are perceived to serve the few and ignore the many, eliminated or minimized the cumbersome horizontal organizational layering that no longer serves, and have focused resources and talents more narrowly and efficiently on the vertical service and education issues that have measurable long term benefits to the constituency.

Lastly, they are leaving behind the primacy of the no-longer-popular social functions that maintained them in the past, and instead are husbanding and focusing their resources on direct member benefits.

We do indeed need quality standards (we simply cannot do without them), and an umbrella organization that has the visible expertise and respect that can and will command attention in these regards. IMHO, this will not, nor cannot happen until our organization and its membership (us) recognizes the needs for reform and enacts it; and attaining support and keeping it by demonstrating that it is meeting the hobby's real needs.


Denny S. Anspach MD

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