A Passenger Train Primer: Part 2 . Part 2 applies model railroading concepts to L gauge trains. .
The most important decision in passenger train operations, like all model railroading, is picking a era and locale to model. This gives one's efforts focus and provides consistency. As seen in the photograph above, it looks anachronistic when modern motive power confronts something from the distant past, or if a French TGV is speeding alongside an Amtrak Acela trainset, for example. The above photograph depicts the "Eureka," an American wood-burning 4-4-0 (built in 1875), although the prototype (still operational today) has a dark brown four axle tender instead of the black 2 axle one seen above. The locomotive on the right is an Amtrak Genesis locomotive; the roofline taper on this diesel is an idea borrowed from James Mathis.
Terminology: Terms borrowed from model railroaders to describe modelling efforts...
Ready-To-Run: This term refers to models that are ready to run striaght out of the box. Fortunately, they don't exist in the L-gauge world.
Kits: This term refers to mass-produced kits which a hobbyist can assemble with a basic skill set. In the L-gauge world this would apply to the sets produced by TLC. The photograph above depicts one such set (7987). These sets only cover a limited number of prototypes limiting modelling possibilities.
Custom (or Craftsman or Cottage) Kits: This term refers to kits produced by individuals or small groups in small numbers. They are of typically higher quality than kits produced by companies, and often require more advanced skills to construct. Such kits are few and far between in the L-gauge world, due to the time and effort involved in assembling their components and instructions. Noteworthy examples include Steven Chuck's Galloping Goose (See part 1 for a photograph), James Mathis' New Mexico Rail Runner (Picture to follow at a later date), and Daniel Siskind's American 4-4-0.
Kitbashing: This term refers to taking the components of kit, possibly adding a few parts, and creating something new, although to the observant the heritage of the newly created item is apparent. This is an easy way to build a wider variety of prototypes, recently aided by the release of the Hobby Train set (10183). The photograph above depicts an Amtrak F59PHI in fantasy Phase III livery; its Metroliner (sets 4558/10001) ancestry is readily apparent.
Scratchbuilding: This term refers to building something from the ground up, and obviously allows for the greatest variety of prototypes to be depicted. Reasonably realistic prototype building does require some research, either by directly seeing the prototype in action or in a museum, or scouring books, magazines, and the internet for photographs of it, or finally by looking on the internet for other builders' renditions and/or builds of it. The two photographs above depict a former DRG&W K-37 Mikado (2-8-2) built by Baldwin in 1925. I was fortunate enough to see it in operation on the Durango and Silverton tourist railroad prior to building the brick version, which took approximately 6 months.
Good Enough: This is a term reminding model railroaders that things do not always have to be modelled accurately to the last rivet, but a model merely needs to convey to an observer what it is. This is a concept that brick builders are intuitively aware of, given the level of resolution of detail on L-gauge models. The above photograph depicts a streamlined steam locomotive, which is intended to convey the image of the "Mallard" (LNER 4468), holder of the world speed record for steam engines. However, due to parts availability and reliability concerns, this model has one fewer set of driving wheels than does the prototype, but still manages to convey the general idea.
Signature Cars: Every railroad has signature cars, which are essentially cars or locomotives unique to that railroad and recognized by many. Examples of signature locomotives might include the Pennsylvania Railroad's GG1s or the Union Pacific's Big Boys. Spending the extra time and effort in building detailed models of signature cars makes a difference. The top photograph depicts two versions of Sante Fe dome cars, the one on the left was built using prototype photographs and and a modified James Mathis design. Compare that to the kitbashed dome car (Club Car set: 10002) on the right, which clearly does not convey the prototype as well. On the other hand, detailed modeling is not always necessary, particularly for non-signature cars. The bottom photograph depicts two Amtrak baggage cars, both kitbashed from Santa Fe car sets (10025). The one on the left was built using prototype photographs as a reference, while the one on the right was not; here the difference in conveying the essentials of the prototype is less apparent.
Saving Space: This isn't so much a part of terminology as a concept, which many builders are intuitively aware of. Essentially, L-gauge trains are of a larger scale and one that cannot be operated outside. Although, the disproportionately short cars allow more cars to be run than if the cars were appropriately scaled, there are still difficulties in finding space for a layout. Three widely used methods to cope with this issue are discussed below:
1) The simplest means of saving space is to cut cars and locomotives out of long consists. For example, the Santa Fe Superchief back in the day was frequently a 12 car consist pulled by 4 EMD F-units (A-B-B-A). The photograph above depicts a 2 locomotive/4 car consist using "signature cars" such as the warbonnet A-unit, a B-unit, and a dome car conveys the essentials of the prototype.
2) Model Railroader magazine has published at least two articles on "pike-sized" consists. These are prototypicaly short trains. An example of this might be Amtrak's Empire Builder, which might consist of an F40PH or Genesis road diesel, 3-4 Superliner cars, and an MHC (boxcar).
3) Lastly, model railroaders often capitalize on the fact that passenger trains and cars look very similar to one another, so that the same train can represent two different trains in an single operating session. All three of the above methods, in addition to saving space, should also save time and fiscal resources.
Powering Trains: The Nuts and Bolts
Finally, some useful tricks that have been discovered along the way for powering trains. The first and most important one is replacing the trucks of passenger cars with motors. Motorizing baggage cars or other head-end cars provides power for trains where a motor cannot be concealed in the locomotive, usually steam engines as seen in the above photograph. Tail or observation cars can be motorized to provide power for very long trains to prevent trains from losing the last half the train as they go up grades or around curves. Additionally, consider adding weight inside locomotives and motorized cars to improve traction; rolls of pennies can be substituted for TLC's brick weights as they are much less expensive.