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Old Book: Advanced Model Railroading (1955)

Brian Austin

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This book is a fascinating look at the hobby as it was in the middle of the 20th century.

While it details the construction of models using a variety of materials, the book also mentions that plastic kits were becoming popular.  Apparently some oldtimers used to wood and metal didn't think much of the newer kits.

A small point worth mentioning for you 0 Scalers is that the scale standard used in this book for 0 was 17/64" to the foot rather than 1/4".


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I have an extensive collection of railroad model mags, mostly Model Railroader, going back to the mid-1930s.

Much of the info on scratch-building and other modeling techniques is still relevant to skilled modelers today, at least those who elect to reject total app-dependency.

One of the most valuable articles, to me, is a very early treatise on scratch-building structures and rolling stock from styrene strip, extruded shapes, and sheet.

And yes, the introduction of plastic kits was viewed with much derision by old-school (at the time) modelers who built their models from wood, cardstock, and routinely tooled and cast and machined their own metal parts.

As an aside, my Unimat lathe/mill is something I lusted after as a young teen, and finally acquired a few years back. It is still an absolute joy to use such a small yet precise machine tool, and I kinda feel sorry for folks who will never know the pleasure of making something without a computer interface.

I also have a sizable collection of railroad "craftsman kits" dating back 60 years or more, many requiring hand-carving and shaping of wood parts, sealing of wood grain so parts simulate non-porous materials, making jigs and fixtures for assembly, etc., and I enjoy working on those old dinosaurs immensely.

With careful work and minor upgrades, these ancient kits can be built into stunning models that present very well alongside the latest-greatest "digitally-modeled" offerings.

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The views seem similar to what we are currently discussing in the General section. Is 3D designing and printing models or model parts considered scratchbuilding? 

Old techniques get supplemented with new techniques, and the new techniques take a while to be accepted.

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50 minutes ago, peteski said:

...Old techniques get supplemented with new techniques, and the new techniques take a while to be accepted.

I think what I have a problem with as far as "digital modeling" goes, is that, though it does indeed take a definite learned skill-set to do it well, it's a shortcut, and sidesteps the development of the fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination required to physically make something.

You can correct endlessly within a CAD environment, so mistakes don't really count. Nor do you run the risk of impaling or skinning your fingers if your attention lapses.

An interesting related aside...recently, several studies of younger surgical students have indicated a tendency to be ham-handed hackers, never having developed the fine muscle control and spatial awareness most children used to develop over time by doing things in the physical world.

And there are, of course, those who argue that video-game play and other button-clicking/mouse-moving/joystick-jerking activities enhance eye-hand coordination and reaction times.

The problem, and apparent contradictions, are being intensely investigated. The benefits of having a surgeon who has very precise control of his hand muscles, and an excellent sense of spatial awareness, are kinda obvious.

Here's a couple such investigations: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7906001/


Ultimately, AI/robotics will probably replace entire classes of skilled humans whose physical abilities have been allowed to atrophy.

Edited by Ace-Garageguy
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4 hours ago, Ace-Garageguy said:

Ultimately, AI/robotics will probably replace entire classes of skilled humans whose physical abilities have been allowed to atrophy.

And I'm not sure if we will like the results of that.  Augmenting is ok, but replacing?  I don't think I like that. Hopefully it will not come to that until past my existence on this planet.

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Here's a relevant chapter.  While it does discuss building materials and processes, it starts off describing the state of the art of the hobby at the time vs "the good old days", along with the attitudes mentioned earlier.


FWIW, you can still buy 0 Scale craftsman kits and parts.



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