As I shared in the last post, the current build reached an important stage. With the underframe all but completed, it was time to evaluate the work. Having done so, I’m both pleased and disappointed.

I’m pleased that most of the critical dimensions are on either target or within a few scale inches. There are several isolated cases where a dimension is off by an excessive margin such as the center-to-center measurement of the trucks. At only 45 ft. it’s nine inches short of the 45′-9″ specification of the actual car.

Another anomaly is the 57 ft. length of the center sill from end to end is also short of its 57′-4″ dimension. I further discovered that center to center dimension of one of the hopper bays is off spec by three scale inches, which no doubt contributed to numerous errors throughout the build.

Individually, these errors aren’t that egregious, even though they are beyond my personal standards for accuracy in a model. If this were a commercial model, I wouldn’t be that surprised by such discrepancies, due to the inevitable compromises such products often have to adopt to keep production costs in line. For a personal model though, I have some decisions to make.

In truth, the errors would would be hard to detect by sight alone. I have often stated publicly that I will remake a part that doesn’t live up to the standards I want to see. If that’s so, then there is no debate around these dimensional mistakes. They need to be corrected or I should acknowledge that I’m compromising my standards in such cases.

What is The Purpose of This Build?
My approach to the craft has shifted dramatically. It is no longer about accumulating a bunch of stuff, having a layout, or the other traditional reasons that people offer. I’m using model building as an artist uses any medium: as a means of discovering how they see the world and who they are as a creator.

I enjoy building things far more than the abstract mental exercises involved in operations. Instead of having a bunch of rolling stock to replicate the business and bureaucracy of railroad transportation, I use these builds as a way to understand and develop a set of skills for creating with various materials. I approach a freight car as an object that is interesting and worthy of exploration in its own right. I respond to the forms and construction I see and replicating those aspects is what brings me the most enjoyment these days. 

Moving Forward
I’m looking closely at the next steps to see the impact on the rest of the build from leaving the errors in place and I freely admit to struggling with this. Fixing the discrepancies I’ve outlined above, entails dismantling many hours of work for what will be marginal gains in accuracy. On the surface, many would argue, perhaps rightly so, that it isn’t worth the time and effort involved for a single car. If just getting something done were my only criteria, I would agree with that reasoning. However, simple accuracy or doing stuff fast isn’t the only objective in play. To develop as a modeler, one needs to grow and change as a person. What I’m doing at this point is laying down a foundation of skills and processes for building, along with developing a mental map of what producing quality work involves. I know that the results will eventually come if I stay focused on that.

We’ll see what happens next time I sit down at the bench.