Saturday, November 12, 2011

More than just a drawing!

Recently I was contacted to pass along a copy of a scale drawing I had posted in "Reader Service Request - Part VIII." Specifically, the Fairbanks-Morse P12-42 "Speed Merchant."

Having failed the drafting section of high school shop, I have some appreciation for the finer details of precision drawing. Lettering was my downfall, as I recall.

So when Will contacted me the other day - I instinctively realized I had a story for the Blog. So I asked Will to write a story about creating scale drawings of locomotives.

I’ve been into trains as long as I can remember.

The first Christmas I can remember (1960?) had as a center piece a Disneyland park set (white plastic figurines and buildings placed on a printed sheet of vinyl) with an HO train running around the outside.

Later through High School, I’d be chasing trains with an old Argus C-3 at remote (at least they used to be remote) locations along the Trenton Cutoff through eastern Pennsylvania.

My original intent with any drawing was to create a CTR (Connecticut Transfer Railway, my empire) Roster for the paint scheme design. I started with copying, cutting and assembling my design sheets from whatever published diagrams I could find. The results worked, but weren’t really clean.

The first C-420 was actually drawn on a MacIntosh using some ancient drafting program (Micro-CADD, maybe) and printed on an original Apple Laser Printer to be colored with felt-tip pens. The pixels were very noticeable, but it allowed me to reproduce the blanks more quickly and cleanly. Through this experience I learned vector-based drafting and how to use a mouse.

As CADD technology became more advanced, I tried to advance with it. Well, I had to for work purposes. I redrew the C-420 in AutoSketch 1.0, then Acad Rel 9 to "learn the program." Eventually, the colored pens made way for the hatches in CADD using the pen plotters, then illustration programs allowed me to color with shading.

Each time a new version of AutoCAD appeared in the office, I had to become familiar with the changes, so I drew a new locomotive. After the CTR scheme was decided upon, and the roster of engines complete, I decided to create a rendered roster for the Reading, with dimensions based on a Reading Company Technical & Historical Society publication.

Other engines and rosters have been added whenever the whim strikes. All of these drawings were collected on a couple of hard drives and a whole mess of disks. I had a printed set for myself to show anyone interested (there weren’t many), but had no intention of starting my own website.

I found Michael Eby’s site and noted his list of engines he was working on. I had a few of those listed, so I offered to have him post them on his site. He did, but after seeing the list I had amassed by then, suggested I produce my own site. My son eventually persuaded me to follow through and helped me learn Dream Weaver, and now the site is.

I’m glad to be able to share what I’ve accumulated. It’s a lot cheaper than accumulating HO models of the same engines. The time required to create a file/drawing varies based on a number of factors. If a locomotive uses standard parts (cab, trucks, etc.), “assembly” can go rather quickly. I’ve created files of trucks and other standard parts that can be placed as block in a new drawing. If it happens to be a one-off or custom, it can take a great deal longer. If there are many iterations (phases, rebuilds, etc.), that can take even longer.

If all my research is done and I have all the dimensional data I need and a handful of photos of details and views, I can put out a “simple” drawing in about a week of spare time (maybe 5 hours.) More complex locomotives will take two or three weeks, though that is more often due to gaps in my research than to the complexity of the engine.

A diesel locomotive will take less time than a steam engine. I generally do not trace, but will measure published scale drawings. I have traced on occasion to get the right curvature or a surface (the ALP-46 is an example of that).

I have different sources for material. My copy of Kalmbach’s Diesel Cyclopedia is hammered from use, and I have a fairly large collection of old MR and RMC in binders. I’ve scrounged data from on line, and I’ve had many good people supply drawings out of the kindness of their hearts. I am using Macromedia Freehand (an old program made obsolete after corporate purchase by Adobe) to render the paint schemes. I export a .wmf file from AutoCAD and go from there.

My technique has improved with time and with a lot of instructional consultation from my Entertainment Designer son. Each new color design can take about five hours or more, while repeats over a series of models can sometimes be done in less than a half hour. I have the empire in the basement, but I can concentrate on amassing an appropriate roster, rather than collecting a polyglot of locomotives that look cool. I can do that electronically.

- Will (Anderson)

Here is the link to Will's site. It is full of neat information, reflecting a serious Student of the Iron Horse!

So, the next time you see these magnificent scale drawings, perhaps Will's shared experience will give you a greater sense of respect for this branch of railroading.

Thank you, Will for sharing your wonderful accomplishment!

What's this? Well, Ron Hawkins found the real IC 1100 in dire straights, having run out of track in Paducah, Kentucky, in 1976.

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