10.8.04

TODAY'S MODEL RAILROAD READING. In the Shadow of Mount Hollywood discovers the downside of operating your model railroad according to the prototype.
I came away from my discovery with a good deal of admiration and respect for Jacques, and increased frustration at my fellow hobbyists, who by and large don't share this admiration and respect -- I was, in fact, attending a meeting of fellow hobbyists, and one of the centerpiece presentations covered how a fellow was, in pedantic detail, duplicating the bureaucratic paperwork attendant to moving iron ore that was used by the real railroads in the pre-computer age on his model railroad layout. I much prefer the Lee Jacques approach. In fact, one of Jacques Barzun's most telling critiques of Western bourgeois culture is its glorification of pedantry (James Bond, after all, wanted his martinis shaken, not stirred).
The "pedantic detail" clearly refers to the modeller of an iron ore hauling railroad, who wants the switch crew working the ore dock to provide the proper mix of ores into the hold of the boat -- did you think smelting iron simply involved dumping some rocks into a furnace, applying some heat, and crossing your fingers? -- and perhaps going so far as to pull the tracks in the order the cars were emptied, so as to avoid breaking the boat's back.

But the hobby has many individuals for whom the height of excitement is shuffling hopper cars at a mine, or shuffling boxcars in Peoria. The discipline of clearing the main line for a first-class train while keeping the other trains active escapes them.

The Jacques he refers to is Francis Lee Jacques, wildlife illustrator and early kitbasher (a Depression era model railroad, improvised out of American Flyer mechanisms, in preservation in Chisholm, Minnesota) who apparently did a fine job of improvising with the materials he had.

Scratchbuilding and kit-bashing are becoming lost arts. There is so much good stuff available ready-to-run (gains from trade with China and Korea at work) that modellers have more time to think about the paperwork, and preprinted forms for the paperwork are available now from Micro Mark.

The scratch builders still have the circus to turn to: ready-built circus models are still not as easily available, but the standard of work the best craftsmen have set is pretty good.

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