Prototype Rails 2009 -- my opinions

Aley, Jeff A
 

Prototype Rails 2009, in Cocoa Beach, FL, was a good meeting. I am the Clinic Chairman, and here are my biased comments.

As usual, it was a lot of work and a lot of fun. Attendance was pretty good; we had 241 folks show up, down slightly from last year's ~275. Considering the state of the economy, I think this is pretty good.

I attended a few clinics when I wasn't running around keeping things on track. Here are my impressions:

Greg Komar did a clinic on model photography. I learned a lot about lighting. Greg showed how much more realistic a model photo can be if you give it strong light that casts sharp, dark shadows, instead of that uniform gray light we all get from our fluorescent tubes. If you want to show off your underbody detailing, go for the uniform "high overcast" lighting. But if you want a photo that looks like a prototype photo, go with a bright point-source light to simulate the sun. He also demonstrated Helicon Focus, and after seeing it in person, I'm sold on it!

Brian Carlson showed how he analyzed a bunch of yard photos to confirm the Nelson - Gilbert boxcar distribution model, and then how he applied that to his model fleet. He took the analysis a step farther by examining each of the railroads with large fleets, and determining what type or class of cars best represent a given RR.

Greg Martin, with help from Denny Anspach, presented this year's Shake-n-Take clinic. Denny gave a tutorial on how to install Accumate scale couplers (w/ scale coupler boxes / draft gear) and the proper air hose w/ PSC bracket. Greg then showed us how to kitbash the Accurail stock car to produce a UP S-40-10. The kitbash included new resin ends from Southern Car & Foundry. I know there were many folks who worked behind the scenes to make this clinic happen, and I will let Greg or Denny point out who those folks are (lest I leave someone out).

Jon Addison showed how he makes realistic water. He demonstrated how he paints the bottom of a stream, and how he applies DAP Crystal-Clear caulk (not "clear", but "Crystal Clear") for waves. The caulk usually is applied over a layer of Envirotex. He also showed how he uses Liquitex Gloss Medium and poly-fiber to make rapids. The latter was the most impressive to me. I had heard of people using poly-fiber to make rapids, and I had even seen some examples, but none was as good as Jon's. He stressed that with poly-fiber, "less is more".

Jim Murrie showed how he built a prototypical model of a large passenger terminal. He selected Everett St. Station on the MILW as his prototype. He showed a lot about the passenger train operations (switching out various cars between trains) and how there was plenty of passenger action to keep operations interesting.

Finally, I moderated a panel on boxcar distribution, and how it influences the fleets of boxcars that we should have on our railroads. The distinguised panel included Brian Carlson, Armand Premo, Larry Kline, Frank Peacock, and Mike Brock, with lively comments thrown in from the audience by Bruce Smith. There was some debate, but the general consensus was that one should start with the Gilbert-Nelson model (boxcars in proportion to the national averages), and then adjust it for home road cars and interchange partners. The latter should be dealt with carefully, since some roads interchanged more traffic than others (e.g. SP-UP (many cars) vs WP-UP (few cars) at Ogden, UT). Armand also clearly showed that Canadian cars had a big impact on roads near the border. Era and even season (grain rush) is also a factor.

Other thoughts:
The hotel did well, as usual. Nobody bothered with their lunch - everyone chose to go out, for various reasons. Dinner was pretty good and the banquet was surprisingly quick. The weather was all that we had hoped for - sunny and warm. Many folks are not looking forward to going home to deep snow and ice.

As usual the model displays were great. Bruce Smith displayed a flat car with a boiler load that used Archer decal rivets. They looked great (and in fact, the car is pictured on the Archer website). Bruce explained to me how he did it, and I'm going to buy some Archer rivet decals very soon. Ted Culotta uses the "small" rivets in some of the patterns for his resin kits. I also learned a bunch of stuff about laser kits from Jon Cagle, and a bunch about the St. Louis RPM meet from John Golden. I also had a quick look at the war-emergency box cars from IM (I'm not really qualified to review them). There were lots of good folks to talk to, and lots of good stuff to learn.

I will look forward to comments from other attendees to see what they thought of Prototype Rails 2009.

Regards,

-Jeff

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