In our High School, our class schedule was organized by what was called "A" and "B" days. For those of you not familiar with this kind of schedule, it is a method for having more classes than what may be allocated in one school day. One schedule of classes occur on A days, and a schedule of different classes occur on B days, and then the two schedules alternate.
On one morning (that, by the way, I am sure came way too early,) I walked into my 8:00 a.m., A-day class. But rather than being received by the sober gaze of fellow math enthusiasts, I was met by a different set of faces, and my first thought was "What the hell are you people doing in my class?"
Perhaps my first thoughts should have been 'it must actually be B-day, and I am probably confused."
The point is this: sometimes, notions that are preconceived influence our thought process. And, this is true for how we deal with color.
In 2009, ExactRail made the first release of the Penn Central Greenville 7100 Auto Parts Boxcar. For the color on this car, we missed the mark—no doubt about it. However, what I remember of the experience is that the person who chose the color also pointed to the ExactRail model and decried adamantly, “I remember these cars, and they looked like this!” In fact, his perception of color influenced his thought process to such an extent that, when the accurate color was shown to him, he felt the accurate color was no more right for the car either.
(The picture below compares the color of the original release with the color of our recent releases that have been certified by the Penn Central Historical Society.)
The lesson: You have to be careful.
When I started the bicentennial project with the CNWHS, I was surprised by the color. The red and blue colors of the CNW bicentennial hopper are not the typical shades of red and blue. The red color has hues of candy-apple/magenta, and the blue is quasi-powered in color. And, these particular shades of red and blue are good candidates for being altered by our subjective precepts. With a bicentennial car, maybe we would expect to see a blue more toward the navy spectrum and a red that is more crimson? As I was mixing paint to get the right color match, I was surprised by how far away the colors deviated from standard red and blue.The photograph below is the builder’s photograph as it was provided by the Chicago & North Western Historical Society (CNWHS). With the age of the photo, the colors had shifted, and so I am also sharing my attempt to restore the color to how it most likely looked.
As indicated above, our perceptions of color are not irrefutable, and, as also indicated above, images themselves are not irrefutable either. Identifying the correct color for equipment may be a complex process that requires the comparison of many different media so to tease out our subjective precepts and what may be lost to poor photo processing and age. Yet, color is such an important part of the model railroading experience. We are proud to work very hard to get it right.
Our Chicago & North Western Bicentennial Hoppers have been met with outstanding praise from the CNWHS. The Chicago & North Western Bicentennial Hopper is available only through the Chicago & North Western Historical Society by clicking here.
On October 6 1996, my Dad took me out on what I consider to be my first time chasing trains. It was a Sunday and I remember it being cool out. Armed with my sisters cheap purple camera that used #110 film cartridges, I was ready for anything.
We started the day by sitting at the former location of the Provo, UT depot. After about a half hour of waiting the first train of my first train chasing adventure blasted by. A Union Pacific manifest freight with a C40-8 trio pulling. This was the first train I ever photographed. I had no idea what I was doing but I was so excited and I didn't care.
The chase was on! We followed the train through the cities of Springville and Spanish Fork. We then got a little ahead of it in Spanish Fork where I took this next photo.
We continued up and over Soldier Summit, a drive I had done many times before but never with the intent of chasing trains. Somehow the area was different now, I was at full alert. For those of you that have made this drive, you know that highway 6 parallels the right-of-way for most of the time. My eyes were fixed on the track, looking for anything that looked like a headlight of a train. When I would see one, my Dad would pull over where he could and I would run out of the car and snap a few pictures.
We went as far as Martin & Helper where I got a few photos of the Utah Railway SD40s and then the Rio Grande SD40T-2 & SD50 helper units.
On the way back home I was able to catch a few more before the day was done. Below are photos of Southern Pacific helpers on a west bound manifest and then 3 SP AC4400CW locomotives descending at Thistle, UT.
Throughout the rest of the day I saw and photographed many trains. Traffic is unfortunately much lighter through there now but I will occasionally try to chase something when I have time. After I got the film developed I spent many hours looking at the lousy photos I had taken (at the time I was quite proud). I have been on many exciting chases but none of them will ever be as good as this Sunday in October 1996 was.
The manufacturing process requires that we communicate color to our manufacturing partner in a way that is both precise and unambiguous.
Color goes beyond just body color. In some cases, our models have over 15 different colors per car, and you may be surprised to know that the car with the most colors is the Trinity 64’ TRINCool Reefer. This model has 16 unique, painted colors! Although I haven’t done an actual survey, I would be very surprised if any model train manufacturer has given more attention to matching the number of subtle variations of color on a freight car as we have to the Trinity Reefer. (And you thought the Trinity reefer was just a big white car!)
There are different methods for how ExactRail creates and communicates color. However, my preferred method is to create actual paint swatches. In 8 out of 10 cases, I custom mix paint samples in-house to get precise matches. This process looks exactly as you would expect: me, standing in a paint room with an airbrush in hand, mixing and spraying paint until the match is exactly as we want. It is a time consuming process.
Given that we create a lot of actual paint samples in our product development process, I want to give a complimentary shout to a company that I believe makes a great product. I use a lot of Tru-Color paint when mixing color for our swatches. It is not the only paint I use, but it is definitely one of my favorite paints to spray. Tru-Color was formed in 2008 when the principles of Tru-Color acquired and reformulated the Accupaint line of paints. Tru-Color is contributing to a segment of our industry that doesn't see a lot of new innovation, and I think that this deserves praise. If you are not familiar with Tru-Color, I would encourage you check it out. Tru-Color can be found at trucolorpaint.com.
On the home page of ExactRail.com we have a section where large images of highlighted products change every few seconds, we call them the slider images. We like to use photos of our cars in their "natural habitat", usually photographed on a diorama in the outdoors or on a layout. This adds a warmer and more colorful image than the cars on a white background.
I use two different dioramas to photograph the HO scale cars on. One is three tracks going through a generic location & the other is a desert scene with our 72' Deck Plate Girder Bridge. To photograph N scale I will use my home layout or mock-up something (I really need to get an N scale diorama built). Both HO scale dioramas were built a few years ago for various reasons other than what we use them for today.
The triple track diorama is used the most often and it shows. I built it for some photography that was needed on the original release of our Trinity TRINCool Reefers about five years ago. Along the back left corner I had a few trees and a fence that was built from strip wood. In the foreground I scratch built an electronics box. I used sifted dirt from the nearby rail yard and some ground foam for the scenery. After being used for its original purpose it sat on a shelf and gathered dust.
Today the trees, fence & electronics box are gone. Little by little the trees would blow away in the wind and then I pulled the remaining ones out. The fence and electronics box were destroyed when the diorama decided to take an unplanned trip to the floor.
Overall the little 12x24" diorama has earned its keep but the day will come when it gets the boot.
Bridge to Nowhere
I built the bridge module for a blog post that never happened. I must have been pulled away to something more important because I never finished the diorama. As you can see in the photo, the dry riverbed was never put in and the fascia was never finished. Like its triple track brother, this diorama spent some quality time on top of a shelf collecting dust & dead bugs.
For this I wanted to make a desert scene and so I acquired some reddish dirt from the side of a highway in a nearby canyon. The diorama was built on the same 12x24" sized sheet of plywood as the triple track display. I scratch built the concrete abutments out of sheet styrene to go along with our 72' Deck Plate Girder Bridge. The little bit of vegetation is ground foam. As I always shoot below or level with the bridge, I have never needed to finish the dry river bed.
When I go out to get the needed photos I like to find locations that have little to no items that will be in the background such as power lines and buildings. On occasion I have used both with great results. I have also used the Wasatch Mountains or trees in the background but most often it is just sky.
When I have my location I put the diorama on the roof of my car, position the product, get some funny looks from people driving by and get a few shots from different angles. Next I upload the photos, do a little clean-up in Photoshop if needed and crop the photos for the slider.
I like to do the photography on partly cloudy days but occasionally I have no time and I have to shoot regardless of the weather. There has been times I have done the photography in snow or light rain. From past experiences, I have learned that if there is any wind, I need to prevent the cars from moving, I have had cars get blown off (sometimes I have caught them, other times I didn't). I use a very special rock to prevent disasters from happening anymore.
I would like to get a few new dioramas built at some point. When the time comes, I will post their construction here.
The 2016 National Train Show in Indianapolis is now in the books, and while there, ExactRail previewed a new release of the PC&F 6033 boxcar! It has been over five years since this car was last released. But you will not be waiting long now, these new cars are coming in August! They feature exceptional colors and fonts. These replicas will be available in 7 paint schemes--each with all new road numbers!!
The paint schemes are:
Please watch our website or join our newsletter (at the bottom of this page) to be notified when these and other announcements are made
In my last blog post I highlighted all of the products that ExactRail has produced in Rock Island paint. For this blog I decided to feature the Milwaukee Road. I was a little surprised by the amount of items we have produced when I was compiling the list. There are a few railroads that we seem to have produced more of such as the Union Pacific or the Southern Pacific. The Milwaukee Road wasn't one I would have put at the top of that list and now I know better.
Many of the items below are now sold out, but many are still in stock.
40' RIBSIDE BOXCAR HO SCALE
P-S 5344 BOXCAR HO SCALE
P-S 7315 WAFFLE BOXCAR HO SCALE
PS-2CD 4427 COVERED HOPPER HO & N SCALE
PS-2CD 4000 COVERED HOPPER N SCALE
MAGOR 4750 COVERED HOPPER HO SCALE
THRALL 63' CENTERBEAM FLAT CAR HO SCALE
VERT-A-PAC AUTORACK HO & N SCALE
72' BRIDGE HO SCALE
There are a few railroads that haven't been very interesting to me. I am sure that is the case with many modelers. Usually the reason for me is simply a disconnection. I don't dislike the railroad, it just doesn't excite me in anyway. Over the years my opinion sometimes changes and usually the cause is when I physically visit a location on that particular railroad. This happened to me a few years ago with the Rock Island.
Not long ago I was in the Oklahoma City area with a friend. We drove out to El Reno because I enjoy visiting smaller cities when the opportunity rises. My friend knew that the Rock Island had shops there and so we went looking to see what remained. The shops, now long derelict, were a shell of the their former glory but still impressive. This visit sparked an interest in me for something that was just some railroad that had failed in 1980, to something that was real and had an interesting past. I have no plans to model the Rock Island but I now have an interest and respect for the railroad.
ExactRail has proudly recreated a fraction of that past with a handful of HO & N scale freight cars. Below are the examples we have produced so far.
BERWICK 7327 BOXCAR HO SCALE
P-S 5344 BOXCAR HO SCALE
PS-2CD 4427 COVERED HOPPER HO SCALE
THRALL 2244 15-PANEL GONDOLA - HEAVY TOP CHORD HO SCALE
VERT-A-PAC AUTORACK HO SCALE
The Bicentennial era of railroading is cool. Period.
It is a curious fact that so many railroads adopted the practice of refashioning equipment in elaborate--dare I say, garish (?)--paint schemes. I wasn't alive in 1976. But from the distant place of today, it is hard not to feel railroads laying claim to being "American."
And, railroads have a unique reason to celebrate America's bicentennial. Railroads are an industry that stands apart from others in the annals of American history. They connected resources, places and people.
And so, of course we were more than enthusiastic when the Chicago & North Western Historical Society (CNWHS) approached us about developing the bicentennial car! The CNWHS was looking for an exceptionally accurate replica for their 2016 annual convention, and we are pleased that they chose us to execute!
The CNW bicentennial will only available through the Chicago & North Western Historical Society company store and is coming soon! Please support the CNWHS as it works to preserve the history of one of America's great railroads.
The bicentennial period of railroading is cool, and I will gladly fight anyone who dares say differently. :)
There are some brands that are not themselves railroad-owned, but they are as relevant to the modeling community as the most popular railroads. For example, as a manufacturer, we can expect demand for Cargill and ADM paint schemes to be as strong as Santa Fe and Conrail.
One brand that would have been a household name from the 1920 through 1970s is Reddy Kilowatt. Into the1930s, the overwhelming majority of rural areas were without electrical power. This new "electrical" technology represented a paradigm shift of significant proportions, and utility companies recognized that electricity was a tough sell for rural dwellers. Many of these individuals had never seen the benefits of electric power, and at the time, it couldn’t be taken for granted that one would know what electric power could do. Ashton Collins, the commercial manager for Alabama Power Company, sought a likeable character to give a face to electrical utilities industry. By the 1960s, Reddy Kilowatt was licensed for use by over 300 utilities. These companies used the jovial image to relate to the public, and that includes, putting Reddy Kilowatt on freight cars!
Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) produced this fun commercial using Reddy Kilowatt sometime between 1945 and 1960.
We hope you enjoyed a look into the past with Reddy Kilowatt.
ExactRail is located just a stone's throw from the local yard in Provo, Utah. As you may have guessed, visits to the yard happen at a minimum of once per day. The visits to the yard have been very beneficial to many items that we have produced. Some paint schemes would simply not have happened without them.
I have visited many yards across the country and still to this day it is one of my favorites. I wouldn’t call it a large or a very busy yard, but it has always remained interesting.
Blaine and I both grew up in the area and both visited the yard as often as we could in our youth. We often reminisce about the days that are now gone. One of my first memories of the yard was when I was about 5 years old. I was waiting for my uncle to arrive on the Amtrak California Zephyr at the now gone Provo Station. While waiting for the train to arrive, one Rio Grande freight after the other would fly by at track speed. The sight and sound of them terrified me, but at the same time fascinated me. The memories of that night will never be forgotten.
The Provo yard is actually made up of three yards running more or less parallel to each other. The easternmost is the former Denver & Rio Grande Western yard that Union Pacific now primarily uses for freight car storage and the occasional coal train to briefly tie up in. Tucked in the middle you will find the Utah Railway. Although it is a Utah Railway yard, it looks more like a BNSF one. This is because the Utah Railway handles all BNSF trackage rights trains that now come through thanks to the UP-SP merger. Last of all you have the Union Pacific yard to the west.
I will always look back fondly on the yard of my past, but I look forward to the (hopefully) good changes to come.
I am sure that like me, many of you have a railroad location or a moment that has had an impact on you. I would love to hear about them in the comments section.
One last thing. I want to thank the Union Pacific and Utah Railway crews for tolerating our frequent trips through the yard.