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Digital cameras and road trips

ly letter your models. I photograph railroad equipment at places where I respect the volunteers enough to get things right.

If you are into standard gauge (three

foot, since 4′-8¹/₂″ is broad gauge, and 2′-0″ is narrow gauge) equipment like I am, the Colorado Railroad Museum is a great place for good information. Chama, Durango, and Georgetown are the same way, as well as a number of display sites. Do your homework (check with knowing friends) on some of these places before you believe everything you see. Some places are likely to paint their local artifact blue, then add a set of eyeballs. If you know of a place that has a specific piece of equipment that you have in your sights to model, go there. Arm yourself with that camera and shoot the heck out of it. I wanted to build a D&RGW rotary snowplow in 1″ scale for the National Narrow Gauge Convention in St. Louis a couple of years ago. Drawings are fine, and if that’s all that’s available you can do very well with that informa- tion. Photos, and actually being able to see it in person, will give you the added juice to get the job done. While in Chama one year I took about a hun- dred or so digital photos of OM while Donna sat on a tie and read one of her books. (Dang, I do love that girl!). C. Langdon Campbell’s superb drawings in the August, 1977, RMC were a must for this build, and the photos were the icing on the cake. Sometimes it’s fun to walk around

the layout with the camera and just do some experimental shooting. For in- stance, put a column of smoke-shaped bit of cardstock on a stick. Scrub it with charcoal to blacken it up, then place the tip in the stack of a locomo- tive. Stop the f-stops down as far as they will go for a good long exposure, and wiggle it around whilst the shutter is open. Some of the blurred smokey re- sults may surprise you. Use your photo retouching program to add some snow, print them out, and make your own Christmas cards. When interests change and the lay- out is gone or modified beyond recogni- tion, it is nice to have pictures of the old layout to remember it by. My good friend Mike Mitzelfeld once took a generic S scale standard gauge pike and turned it into an HOn3 Rio Grande Southern line. He re-used the bench- work and some of the trees, but the new railroad was unrecognizable from the previous one. He took a lot of photos of the S gauge line before it went to model railroad heaven. Mike always claimed it went in the other direction.

I recently tore down about a quarter of my On3 railroad to make room for


The colors and shapes of the hills of Colorado have made their way into backdrops of many model railroads. To get it right, photos of the region modeled are of great help.

an Sn3 depiction of the D&RGW from Chama to Durango in the 1950’s. At least I stayed with a three foot gauge prototype. The section I removed was the Rico to Dolores area, and I pho- tographed the heck out of it before I tore it up. Someday I will be glad I put in the extra effort to photograph it. Whenever I am on vacation or trav- eling for business, I always have the camera close at hand. Ideas for future projects are everywhere, and all it takes to preserve the inspiration is a few clicks of the shutter.

Model railroad affairs like the NMRA Nationals (and regionals), nar- row gauge meets of all kinds, and pro- totype modeler’s meets are great occa- sions to get all kinds of useful ideas. You don’t need a $2,000.00 digital won- der for this type of work. I use an $80.00 Kodak point-and-shoot for this, print the ones I need 3″×4″ (six pic- tures to a 8¹/₂″× 11″ sheet of photo pa- per), and store them in a file card box. It’s cheap and easy to amass a ton of info that will keep you busy for a cou- ple of lifetimes. When allowed, head into the contest room for a little more inspiration. I am by no means above being a copy cat there. If I see a really neat building someone else has done, I have no qualms whatsoever photo-

graphing it from all angles, then build- ing one for myself.

I am fortunate enough to have a bet- ter half who enjoys trout fishing (as did son Mark in his days of traveling with Mom and Dad). I would take them to Southwestern Colorado, set them up with a guide and a couple of horses (out of Dolores) and then travel the Rio Grande Southern right-of-way for the rest of the day. I would shoot “remains” and scenery (backdrop ideas), plus de- tail photos that were extremely helpful when I got back home. Donna and Mark have many a tale

to tell, as well. When we got to Chama I’d just plunk them by the Rio Chama and head for the yard. After a day or two of fishing, they were up for a train ride. Likewise, when we got to Duran- go, they suddenly balked at fishing and wanted to ride that train, as well. I have a great family. Now that we are empty-nesters, we still head for South- western Colorado every year (fall) and come back with way too many photos. (Donna has her own camera and shoots as much, or more, than I do) There are maybe two or three buildings we have yet to document, and we now have pho- tos of Lizardhead Pass (and peak) in every conceivable season and lighting condition except full dark.


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