31 March 2024

7th Street Shops - Rails Flanges & Gears Post 15


Tuesday, June 27, 2023

The influence of Contest Success - Part 9


Collection of On3 Colorado & Southern freight cars as of summer 1986

The above photo was among the first model photos taken with the Omega view camera. After selling the Mamya 645 (120 film) I purchased in 1981 I mail ordered the large format camera in the summer of 1986. 

My then wife and I use to go out several times each year on various trips around Colorado; camping, exploring and of course, shutter buggin'. When I had the Canon F-1 (35mm) I practiced bracketing (burning lots of film with varying exposures) in order to collect a few excellent shots. I upgraded to the Mamya and began taking the time to set up each frame for the results I wanted. This, of course, tried my dear wife's patience (she was still using 35mm) because she could shoot half a roll to my 1 frame. But my interest continued along this practice to the point I felt the "need" to converted to the 4"x5" format.

The 3 box cars in front of the collection above were entered in the popular vote contest at the 6th National Narrow Gauge Convention in Denver that September. Photos of the contest winners by the Gazette staff photographer (Bob Brown) appeared in the Nov. / Dec. issue, 1986 . The box cars were included because they were award 1st place in the freight car category. That win was my first success in any Model Railroading contest. That win also initiated another first; I was invited by the editor of the Gazette (Bob Brown) to write an article about the cars for the magazine. Naturally, photos were required.

All of the photos shown here were taken between September and November 1986. The Article was completed and sent to publication on 25 Nov. according to the note on the original manuscript. At that time we lived in Colorado Springs at the North Wasatch address.

I would eventually write 5 articles for the Gazette, 2 for Model Railroader, the freight car text in the R Robb Grandt book "Narrow Gauge Pictorial No. 8" and a host of articles in less known publications including, finally, a piece in the On30 Annual for 2014. This contest was indeed a game changers

Again, none of this is meant as boasting. It is simply the resume of the enormous foundation of experience upon which 7th Street Shops has been built. 

The models shown in the above collection represents a substantial investment in time. The San Juan Car Co. owned by John Parker would later use the drawings we produced under our brand, "the C&S Connection", to produce their O scale kits of the Type II box cars. That was perhaps 1990 but in 1986 the only way to obtain most of the cars, in any scale, was to scratch build them. In addition to accurate information, the point of "the C&S Connection" was to produce parts, such as the roofs, to reduce the time it took to make accurate models.

This brings up a particular point I've talked about for years; the idea of investing time in the "Doing"...

"doing: the act of performing or executing: action that will take a great deal of doing." - M. Webster

That is the clinical definition. The comprehensive definition of  "doing" model railroading, in particular scratch building, would take volumes. Or maybe a hyperactive blog. "Doing" scratch building would include information gathering, conversion of that information into practical presentation such as drawings, timeline charts (to register details to relative eras) and other text, designing and generating parts not readily available, planning out the best way to build the model and executing all of it to produce the actual scale model - yeah, and y'all thought this was just a hobby! 

The term scratch building came out of the early days of the hobby when you couldn't even buy rail let alone track. Early model railroaders were often professional machinists."Scratch building" today has a rather diluted definition of what it was in the old days. There was no computer aided drafting, virtual modeling and rapid prototype printing. You did it with physical capability and a mythological "power" which seems almost extinct these days called CRITICAL THINKING.!

In this day of instant everything, it seems "doing " turns out to be more pursuing than doing. We pursue instant.gratification as if we are practically, almost always, out of time. We've developed a mindset of the Time-Money continuum. We continue to spend more money just so we don't have to spend more time.

When we do build models we often build from kits where all of the parts and the thought-out convenience of how to put them together are provided for us. Of course, what's even better is when some 3rd world high school girl puts it together. Now it r RTR - ready to run; for you! The soul of this hobby has always been in building models; and even trees are models on a layout. Running trains is a reward of the "doing". Not the doing itself. If you want to play a game pull out your palm-god and have at it. But to experience model railroading; indulge in the actual craft of doing a model. The rewards of that are enormous and addictive.

Trophy awarded to the Box Car entry

After observing both local contests and the 4th N.N,G. Convention, I came to realize that popular vote contests were a matter of eye appeal as much as technically correct detail. Of course, the detail was intrinsic to convincing the viewer that this was an authentic representation (which most observers were clueless to prove anyway). Therefore it became clear that the appearance had to be striking, appealing and convey a sense that the viewer was about to learn something. 

Therefore I entered the cars as a group on a display that beckoned more attention; it was engaging. The use of a mirror under each car on an elevated track enabled the viewer to study the underside of the models without touching them. Each mirror was labeled so that the viewer would see that each car had a technical message that both related it to the others and yet set it apart. In spite of the gimmickry, knowledge was to be had for the taking. That made the display valuable to the observer. Apparently there was substance to my reasoning.

How the contest entry appeared on the display table

 The photo to the left shows how the cars were set up on the contest table and more or less how they appeared in the "Gazette" review. On the left 8074 represented a group of cars built by 1907 that used the same components / technology as the 1902 coal cars except with 9" side sills. A couple of box cars were built 1903 - '06 with 12" sills but these were probably considered "over built" since the enclosed box above the frame would have been structurally superior to the open top box of a coal car. That translated into a waste of material and therefore a waste of money, And money - making it - was the sole purpose of the railroad. How the contest entry appeared on the display table

A clearer view of each frame type

The Type I cars (coals, flats and boxes 1902 - 1906) used cast body bolsters provided by American Car & Foundry (ACF). They rolled on ACF 4'-0" archbar trucks.The 8074 showed how the bolster, meant for a 12" side sill, was fitted to a 9" side sill by sandwiching a 3" block between the bolster and bottom of the sill.

The photo to the right may help clarify the differences between each type of frame. Practically everything above the frame was the same regardless of the frame type. In fact the classification by "historians" as "Type x" was never prototypical. The railroad never used the terms type or phase. They distinguished wood frames from composite frames but that was a pretty broad definitive. To the railroad a box car was a box car regardless of the frame and the only thing unique about it was the road number.

The C&S built all of its own narrow gauge freight cars after 1900. By the end of 1907 they had completed the first run of the type II cars as box, coal and stock cars. In the display 8192 represented a Type II car. The changes were a cast bolster designed for a 9" sill and the new cars rolled on cast trucks with inside hung brake beams. Both the trucks and bolsters were supplied by Bettendorf Axle Corp and the trucks were distinguished as the Bettendorf type. 

The only other change to the Type II house cars was the metal Murphy roofs. In the photo below the additional car simple underscored that the type II cars were originally equipped with the narrow ribbed roof as on 8216. The roof on 8192 was a rebuilt style, less complex and easier to maintain.

The additional car showed a Type II car with the original roof


 Finally, 8216 represented the Type III cars. The railroad began using a steel underframe "kit". BAC supplied the "kits" with trucks. The C&S first used this hardware on their new refrigerators since 1898. Twenty composite frame reefers were built at 7th Street (Denver) in late 1908 into 1909. The cars had wooden frames but the sills and stringers were smaller in dimension. This was because the wooden frame rested on top of the steel underframe. 

Most of the photos shown here and more appear in the March / April 1987 "Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette".

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