Topics

New Standards for Freight Cars Models

Kurt Laughlin <fleeta@...>
 

It seems to me that there are a number of influential and respected people on this list that are of the opinion that certain (as yet unidentified) standards are needed to help Prototype Freight Car modeling in particular and model railroading in general. I'd suggest that these people propose the new standards themselves and offer them to the various manufacturers, perhaps as part of their normal contacts. The folks here also seem to be well represented as authors in the hobby press, so getting the pubs on board - and the word out - ought to be easier than for us lesser mortals. (GWMRG/MRG published the with N-Trak standards back in the '70/80s, as an example.)

Good standards that make the hobby and hobby industry better will stand on their own feet whether it gets some hobby club's imprimatur or not.

KL

Mike Brock <brockm@...>
 

Kurt Laughlin writes:

"I'd suggest that these people propose the new standards themselves and offer them to the various manufacturers, perhaps as part of their normal contacts. The folks here also seem to be well represented as authors in the hobby press, so getting the pubs on board - and the word out - ought to be easier than for us lesser mortals."

OK, I'll bite. First, what are you talking about? IOW, give me an example of a "standard". For example...Coupler or a coupler pocket? Wheel dimensions? Truck sideframe sizes? Axle lengths? Rivet sizes? Weight? Grab iron sizes? Second, what do you propose that "these people" do to manufacturers that produce something that fails to meet these standards?

Mike Brock

Kurt Laughlin <fleeta@...>
 

----- Original Message -----
From: Mike Brock

OK, I'll bite. First, what are you talking about? IOW, give me an example of
a "standard". For example...Coupler or a coupler pocket? Wheel dimensions?
Truck sideframe sizes? Axle lengths? Rivet sizes? Weight? Grab iron sizes?
Second, what do you propose that "these people" do to manufacturers that
produce something that fails to meet these standards?

----- Original Message -----

Thing 1, I'm referring to messages such as the ones of 18 May stating:

"We're on our own here, guys. Almost without exception, the
trucks, wheelsets, axles, couplers, etc. which serious scale modelers
are using because they're superior in appearance/performance do not
conform to the old (very old!) NMRA standards, and the NMRA is in a
state of permanent paralysis about trying to update the standards.
Discussions of the need for this are pointless on this list; it ain't
gonna happen."

and

"The NMRA in fact IS relevant to this list in one particular: modeling
standards. The now-ancient existing standards could certainly use
updating in several areas, and I think the desirability of such action
has been made clear in several posts on the list. Unfortunately, it
ain't happening, and I'm among those who fear it never will."

"Serious scale modelers" need/want either new or revised standards. The NMRA (of which I little knowledge, less interest, and zero history) is apparently never going to do anything. If I'm proposing anything it's that the luminaries in Prototype Modeling Community do it themselves and ignore the NMRA altogether. Write up what you think needs to be standardized and send it out to the manufacturers and tell them why it's important and desirable for them to conform. Send it to the magazines and tell them to publish them and explain why the new standards are important. Post it the STMFC Files section and on the historical societies' modeling pages. Do the work, make the case, spread the word.

Thing 2, They should probably treat non-compliant manufacturers the same way the NMRA does now, which, I believe, is to do nothing. In fact, the NMRA injects itself deeper into the process with their "warrants" than (successful) real life standardization organizations like ASME or ASTM. ASME-authored National Standards include in the front matter: "ASME does not 'approve', 'rate', or 'endorse' any item, construction, proprietary device, or activity." The Standards are approved by consensus and are voluntary, however dang near every manufactured item worth anything claims to follow them.

Unfortunately, none of this is as easy or fun as carping about how nothing good ever happens anymore . . ..

KL

Larry Grubb <larry450sl@...>
 

Kurt,
It is wrong to belittle the significant contributions of those on this list who have been instrumental in raising the quality standards of prototypical freight car models and pretend they are simply having fun and taking the easy way out. Expressing their frustration with the existing standards & the difficulty of updating those standards is not carping.
Rather than suggest that those who are already making a large contribution must do even more, you should ask yourself what you will do to contribute to the effort to improve freight car models.

Larry Grubb

Kurt Laughlin <fleeta@...> wrote:


Unfortunately, none of this is as easy or fun as carping about how nothing
good ever happens anymore . . ..

KL

Kurt Laughlin <fleeta@...>
 

While people here may have raised the standard of models they haven't
done much of anything with issuing Standards (large S), at least
lately.

Judging by the responses on the topic, the lack of Standards is a
problem. I'm saying that the if the people on this list think new
Standards are necessary - and viable - they should stop waiting for
someone else to write them and do it themselves. Just off the top of
my head I can think of a half-dozen companies whose owners or
principals read and write to this list. I know that folks like
Richard and Tony frequently consult with others. If new Standards
came from this group they could have an effective foothold in the
industry from the outset. So what if the NMRA didn't issue it? If
all the companies that cater to the "serious scale modeler" follow
it, wouldn't the desired effect be achieved?

As to me, I'm not going to do a damn thing. I don't have any problem
with coupler pocket size or wheel tread width interoperability.
Having new Standards won't affect my modeling or hobby enjoyment in
any discernable or forseeable way, so I have no motivation to act.
The only area of improvement that I'd like to see is in the detail
quality and accuracy of the models themselves, but these things are
for The Market to solve, and no Standard is ever going change them
anyway.

KL

--- In STMFC@..., Larry Grubb <larry450sl@...> wrote:

Kurt,
It is wrong to belittle the significant contributions of those on
this list who have been instrumental in raising the quality standards
of prototypical freight car models and pretend they are simply having
fun and taking the easy way out. Expressing their frustration with
the
existing standards & the difficulty of updating those standards is
not
carping.
Rather than suggest that those who are already making a large
contribution must do even more, you should ask yourself what you will
do to contribute to the effort to improve freight car models.

Jim Betz
 

I propose the following standards/RPs - which are not currently part of
the specification/designation.

For Each Scale

1) A standard height from the rail to the top of the bolster on the truck.
Yes, this varied on the real cars we are modeling - no that difference
doesn't matter - all trucks can 'conform' to this and not be enough
different from the prototype to matter.

2) At that standard height a specification for the minimum size of a
flat space with a thru hole of a specific dimension (ie. the mounting
face of the truck).

3) A matching flat space with a similar hole (thru or not) on the car (ie.
where the truck mounts on the car). This does not have to be exactly
the same size and shape as the one on the truck - but it ought to be
close to the same.

4) A standard height from the rail to the bottom of the coupler mounting
face (ie. where the coupler box mounts on the car).

5) At that standard height a specification for the minimum size for the
flat space on the bottom of the car - with a specification of the
size of the thru hole used to mount the coupler pocket.

6) A standard wheel axle length specification. This may need to be a
set of specifications of 2 or 3 different lenghts ... but there is
no need for the current rnage of axle lengths.

7) A specification of what the diameter of a 33" wheel is (etc.)

8) I leave it to someone more knowledgeable than I to specify the 'profile'
and size of the wheel tread. The existing RP for this is a long ways
from being prototypical in shape or size - but it does provide for
reliable operations. It is possible that we need more than one spec/RP
for this but we certainly don't need 3 or 4 times the number of actual
manufacturers of wheels of variations!

An example is in order - for an HO car there would be a 2/56 clearance hole
in the truck and a specific height of the face that it will use to mount
to the car ... on the car there would be a matching 2/56 hole that is
either already threaded or is ready to be threaded - and there would be a
similar 2/56 hole ready to be threaded to accept the coupler pocket.
The size of the screw intended to be used may (or may not) be different
depending upon the scale - certainly you would need a smaller screw for N-
scale or Z-scale, I'm not so sure about S-scale, for O-scale you probably
want a #4 screw, etc.
I'll even concede that the screws should be similar sizes in metric - as
long as they are specified it doesn't matter that much. For my money the
screws should also include the recommendation of using Phillips heads! It
is even possible that a self-tapping screw can be supplied by the mfgr.

The point? Simple ... every truck or coupler box and coupler or wheelset
can be substituted for any other on any car - as long as it is the correct
scale. The manufacturers have free rein on design of coupler, coupler box,
wheels, trucks, car underframes, etc.

Yes, as I hinted at before - this means that some aspects of the car and
trucks will not be able to be built "perfectly to scale" and still conform to
my proposed standard/RP. Most of the time that is totally unimportant because
the design points I'm talking about are underneath the car and are unseen
when the car is built and sitting on the rails - and, for that matter,
difficult to near impossible to determine even if you pick the car up and
look at it. Certainly someone who has a prototype drawing and looks at it
and measures the model will find "errors" ... but they are -very- small and
of no consequence.

If all the mfgrs had this set of specs - it is my opinion that all new
freight cars/trucks/wheelsets/coupler boxes/couplers would suddenly start
to be interchangeable ... and then if you found a pic of a car you are
interested in that had some offbeat set of trucks under it ... you can
swap out what the mfgr put on it and swap in what was there ... and you
are good to go with no stupid problems such as having to shim for coupler
height, etc.
- Jim in San Jose

Larry Grubb <larry450sl@...>
 

Kurt,
If you look at the typical freight car kit from 20 years ago and the ones being produced today, you will see significant improvement in the detail quality and accuracy of the models. The market reacted to demand created by and made possible by many modelers on this list who did something. Why you think you cannot or should not contribute to that is puzzling to me. If you want improved detail quality and accuracy, why not support those people who have worked very hard (And continue to work very hard) to get that for you?
Larry Grubb

Kurt Laughlin <fleeta@...> wrote:
As to me, I'm not going to do a damn thing. I have no motivation to act.
The only area of improvement that I'd like to see is in the detail
quality and accuracy of the models themselves, but these things are
for The Market to solve, and no Standard is ever going change them
anyway.





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Mike Brock <brockm@...>
 

Jim Betz lists 6 suggestions regarding various truck/bolster dimensions that might be very useful toward operational compatibility between models of different manufacturers. Investigation of the 6 would, I think, be very positive.

He comments further:

"7) A specification of what the diameter of a 33" wheel is (etc.)"

I'm not certain about this. One thing to consider is that the face of such a wheel should be 32.5" in diameter [ or so I'm told by a ACL mechanical dept. guru.

"8) I leave it to someone more knowledgeable than I to specify the 'profile'
and size of the wheel tread. The existing RP for this is a long ways
from being prototypical in shape or size - but it does provide for
reliable operations. It is possible that we need more than one spec/RP
for this but we certainly don't need 3 or 4 times the number of actual
manufacturers of wheels of variations!"

I don't quite understand what you mean. Just for HO scale we currently have NMRA RP-25 which contains profiles for Code 110 and true Code 88 wheels. We also have S-4.1 which contains wheel dimensions for Proto 87 and Fine Scale. In addition, technical note TN-1.1.2 [ 28 pages worth ] contains everything most would ever want to know about wheel profiles for Proto 87 and Fine Scale. We also have a pseudo Code 88 produced by various manufacturers but, which [ at least in some cases is a Code 110 wheel reduced to Code 88 in wheel thickness ]. So, it seems to me that we already have a rather significant number of wheel profiles...not just RP-25. Most HO scale locomotives in the past have been built to RP-25 Code 110 wheel dimensions and profiles and track has most commonly been constructed and/or manufacturered to accomodate them. If someone wants to develop another Proto 87 [ or the same for Proto 64 ot Proto 48 ] profile with compatible track turnout frogs, I say more power to them but I'd have to wonder why. If someone wanted to develop a wheel profile somewhat similar to NMRA Fine Scale [ i.e., not as close to scale as Proto 87, 64 and 48 with compatibile track/frog dimensions ], more power to them and then we could have at least 5 different configurations although, again, I'd have wonder why the current Fine Scale wouldn't be satisfactory. Personally, I'd much rather such industrious folks spend their time studying color [ gasp ] because I'm going to use RP-25 Code 110 wheels because my 55 hand built turnouts are built to match such wheel profiles on the locos used to pull frt cars. Pseudo Code 88 wheels? Well, they look better when viewed from their ends but all the King's Men could not pick out the Pseudo Code 88 wheeled car from 2 feet away during a test conducted during a past Prototype Rails and such wheels tend to wobble a bit when negotiating frogs built to Code 110 associated standards.

Mike Brock

Anthony Thompson <thompson@...>
 

Kurt Laughlin wrote:
I'm saying that the if the people on this list think new Standards are necessary - and viable - they should stop waiting for someone else to write them and do it themselves.
Kurt, how little you know of the background of this issue. Some of us, including Richard Hendrickson particularly, as well as me, have actually volunteered to the NMRA standards people to help. You can judge from the tone of our remarks how far that's gotten.
With an organization, one cannot simply "do standards yourself," particularly if the organization is bureaucratic, quite political, and tending toward hardening of the arteries.

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

Larry Grubb <larry450sl@...>
 

Mike,
If by "very positive" you mean "a can of worms", I agree.
The problem is reverse compatibility. The number of new trucks that come on the market every year is quite small, and if today manufacturers adopted a standard going forward, it would be decades before a majority of trucks on the market met the standard. Retooling existing trucks to meet this standard would be expensive and result in no measurable increase in sales. And if the standard matches manufacurer A's current practice, the rest of the manufacturers will have an unfair financial burden placed on them. Retooling every freight car chassis to conform to the standard - well, I'm not even gonna go there. I understand the desire for these kinds of standards, and how much they would simplify both designing products and the modeler's ability to kit-bash easily. What prevents them from becoming reality is not coming up with a good standard, it is the complexity of implementing the standard. If someone has an idea for how such a standard can be implemented fairly and at a
low cost, then by all means spend the time & effort to set the standards. If not, then even the best of standards won't stand a chance.
Larry Grubb


Mike Brock <brockm@...> wrote:
Jim Betz lists 6 suggestions regarding various truck/bolster dimensions that
might be very useful toward operational compatibility between models of
different manufacturers. Investigation of the 6 would, I think, be very
positive.

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CJ Riley
 

Mike Brock wrote:

industrious folks spend their time studying color [ gasp ]
because I'm going
to use RP-25 Code 110 wheels because my 55 hand built
turnouts are built to
match such wheel profiles on the locos used to pull frt

You are fortunate that tou hand laid your track. Di Voss, the standards chair, has been testing all the manufactured turnouts and NONE meet the standards. He has realized that the system in general often specifies minimum and maximum dimensions where the manufacturer chooses that number as his target and manufacturing tolerances cause variations. He is currently working on revisions stating a firm dimension with +- tolerances to make compliance more likely.

But, like axle lengths etc., the dies are in place and not likely to change soon.

CJ Riley

Kurt Laughlin <fleeta@...>
 

You are missing my point altogether: If the existing organization
won't do what you think is necessary come up with your
own "Standards". Why bother with an organization at all? I would
think there are enough people here with enough influence and
credibility to get the manufacturers _that matter_ to make things
that are interoperable. What difference does the letterhead on the
spec sheet make so long as the things that the Serious Scale Modelers
want are getting done?

KL

--- In STMFC@..., Anthony Thompson <thompson@...> wrote:

Kurt, how little you know of the background of this issue.
Some
of us, including Richard Hendrickson particularly, as well as me,
have
actually volunteered to the NMRA standards people to help. You can
judge from the tone of our remarks how far that's gotten.
With an organization, one cannot simply "do standards
yourself," particularly if the organization is bureaucratic, quite
political, and tending toward hardening of the arteries.

Tim O'Connor
 

Kit? Someone still makes kits?

-------------- Original message ----------------------
From: Larry Grubb <larry450sl@...>
Kurt,
If you look at the typical freight car kit from 20 years ago and the ones
being produced today, you will see significant improvement in the detail quality
and accuracy of the models. The market reacted to demand created by and made
possible by many modelers on this list who did something. Why you think you
cannot or should not contribute to that is puzzling to me. If you want improved
detail quality and accuracy, why not support those people who have worked very
hard (And continue to work very hard) to get that for you?
Larry Grubb

Kurt Laughlin <fleeta@...>
 

Larry, I don't know what support Tony needs from me to publish his
next book or Richard his next RMJ article. More to the point, I
can't see how any sort of standardization document (note the message
subject) would have any effect on improving detail quality and
accuracy. Can you elaborate on this?

My point of reference is armor models, which have improved by an
order of magnitude in detail quality and accuracy the last 20 years.
There are no standards whatsoever in that hobby, so you can see my
skepticism that new standards will make any difference in my areas of
interest.

KL

--- In STMFC@..., Larry Grubb <larry450sl@...> wrote:

Kurt,
If you look at the typical freight car kit from 20 years ago and
the ones being produced today, you will see significant improvement
in
the detail quality and accuracy of the models. The market reacted to
demand created by and made possible by many modelers on this list who
did something. Why you think you cannot or should not contribute to
that is puzzling to me. If you want improved detail quality and
accuracy, why not support those people who have worked very hard (And
continue to work very hard) to get that for you?

rfederle@...
 

I dont mean to butt in here however as I see it we pretty much do that now. The thing is my standards may not suit the next guy and vise versa. We already choose what is suitable to our needs and either purchase the item and make refinements to reach our standad or we leave it on the shelf and go back home (so to speak).

Setting our own standards to print and trying to get a manufacturer to comply would be a large task. Then you have one manufacturer with this standard and onother with something different. I dont see what this would accomplish except go backwards.

I think we can influence change by supplying the manufacturer with hard data and information. Standards are not obligatory. The B&O have some really nice F7s coming and that was due to supplying good information and much discussion on members parts that wanted something more accurate. This would be meet better than issuing and trying to enforce additional standards.

Just my 2 cents and sorry for intruding.

Robert Federle
---- Kurt Laughlin <fleeta@...> wrote:

You are missing my point altogether: If the existing organization
won't do what you think is necessary come up with your
own "Standards". Why bother with an organization at all? I would
think there are enough people here with enough influence and
credibility to get the manufacturers _that matter_ to make things
that are interoperable. What difference does the letterhead on the
spec sheet make so long as the things that the Serious Scale Modelers
want are getting done?

KL

--- In STMFC@..., Anthony Thompson <thompson@...> wrote:

Kurt, how little you know of the background of this issue.
Some
of us, including Richard Hendrickson particularly, as well as me,
have
actually volunteered to the NMRA standards people to help. You can
judge from the tone of our remarks how far that's gotten.
With an organization, one cannot simply "do standards
yourself," particularly if the organization is bureaucratic, quite
political, and tending toward hardening of the arteries.

Tim O'Connor
 

One must not forget the purpose of standards from a manufacturer's
point of view -- to increase their own sales & profits. I fail to see how any
of your proposals (whatever merit they may have) would benefit any of
the major manufacturers. Just look how long it took for vendors to
adopt Kadee-compatible couplers -- they only did it AFTER the Kadee
patents finally expired and they were able to find far less expensive
sources for compatible parts.

As I pointed out the other day, we only have DCC "standards" (such as
they are) because there was a strong economic case behind them that
benefited the manufacturers. And the features that were not standardized
or even imagined at the time, have become the subject of endless patent
litigation squabbles... We'll be lucky if, in 10-15 years, DCC still exists as
a single standard. (Think Betamax. Think Analog cell phone. Think floppy
disks.)

We on the other hand, can build our own models to our own standards.
Some people detail underframes. Some don't. Some convert everything
to scale size Kadees. Some don't. Some use .088 wheels, and most
don't. From my point of view, we all can CHOSE our own level and what
is wrong with that?

Tim O'Connor

-------------- Original message ----------------------
From: Jim Betz <jimbetz@...>
I propose the following standards/RPs - which are not currently part of
the specification/designation.

Tim O'Connor
 

-------------- Original message ----------------------
From: "Kurt Laughlin" <fleeta@...>
Why bother with an organization at all?
I ask myself that after every visit to my train club... but then
I'm reminded of the old joke about the relative who thought
he was a chicken. And people asked his family why they
wouldn't have him put away? And his family said "Because
we need the eggs."

Tim "sunny side up" O'Connor

CJ Riley
 

--- On Thu, 5/22/08, rfederle@... <rfederle@...> wrote:

From: rfederle@... <rfederle@...>
I don't mean to butt in here however as I see it we pretty
much do that now. The thing is my standards may not suit
the next guy and vise versa. We already choose what is
suitable to our needs and either purchase the item and make
refinements to reach our standad or we leave it on the shelf
and go back home (so to speak).
The NMRA standards revolve around dimensions that are required for different manufacturers' products to operate compatibly. "Standards" are critical to compatibility and Recommended Practices (RPs) are more like alternatives or suggestions. I confess to not being an expert here.

Each modeler is free to adopt "quality standards" that suit themselves, and that appears to be what you are referencing.

CJ Riley

Mike Brock <brockm@...>
 

Larry Grubb writes:

"If by "very positive" you mean "a can of worms", I agree.
The problem is reverse compatibility. The number of new trucks that come on the market every year is quite small, and if today manufacturers adopted a standard going forward, it would be decades before a majority of trucks on the market met the standard."

Larry makes a very good point...one that I allude to when I point out that I must and intend to continue to stay with the Code 110 wheel as defined in RP-25 because I have about 700 locomotive axles with Code 110 wheels on them...the majority on brass steam engines. As I've noted in the past, I'd be glad to promote...even insist that everyone on the STMFC use P87 wheels as soon as someone comes down and installs P87 wheels in all my engines and redoes all 55 of my turnouts during a weekend.

"Retooling existing trucks to meet this standard would be expensive and result in no measurable increase in sales."

Not gonna happen, of course. The only practical option is for new tooling to reflect newly developed dimensions for truck sideframes, etc so that modelers can have more accurate dimensions for such new cars.

"And if the standard matches manufacurer A's current practice, the rest of the manufacturers will have an unfair financial burden placed on them. Retooling every freight car chassis to conform to the standard - well, I'm not even gonna go there."

Aint gonna happen.

"I understand the desire for these kinds of standards, and how much they would simplify both designing products and the modeler's ability to kit-bash easily. What prevents them from becoming reality is not coming up with a good standard, it is the complexity of implementing the standard."

I'm not so sure. Who decides what the standard is? Implementing it? You're kidding...right?

Mike Brock

Mike Brock <brockm@...>
 

Kurt Laughlin says:

"You are missing my point altogether: If the existing organization
won't do what you think is necessary come up with your
own "Standards". Why bother with an organization at all? I would
think there are enough people here with enough influence and
credibility to get the manufacturers _that matter_ to make things
that are interoperable. What difference does the letterhead on the
spec sheet make so long as the things that the Serious Scale Modelers
want are getting done?"

As I mentioned to Larry Grubb...Who decides what the standards are? Who publishes them, who maintains them, who do manufacturers go to to make sure they have the right standard? And, if a manufacturer takes a loss for some reason due to the standard being rejected by buyers or is in error...who does he sue?

Mike Brock