Model Railroading Philosophy of Jack Work

While doing some lazy browsing on the internet, I came across this blogpost: http://www.saintfrancisrailroad.com/secondpages/yardoffice.html

Now, while the post itself is self explanatory and the website showcases some excellent modeling in large scale (1:24), what drew my attention was the author of the article in that 1958 publication. Though I could never get my hands on a printed copy of even one of his articles in those vintage Model Railroader magazines, his model building philosophy has been my ‘north star’ for model making, even before I knew about him! So without further ado, let’s hear from the man himself… Jack Work, everyone:

“So, if it’s not a fabulous selection of quality tools and a well designed workbench that are necessities for turning out good models, then just what is needed? If I may, I’d like to analyze the subject from my own viewpoint, and to discuss some of the things I feel a person must have to turn out nice models and model railroads…”

All of us take part in the hobby primarily for the pure pleasure it brings us. It doesn’t really matter if an individual does excellent or sloppy work by the other fellow’s standards, as long as each is deriving the pleasure he expects from the hobby. Still, I know there are many like myself who are happiest when their efforts are rewarded by continually improved results.

The newcomer to the hobby must realize that building a realistic and efficient railroad is an art and the sooner he begins to respect it as such, the sooner he will see improvement in his work. We strive to create in the same manner that other creative people compose music or apply paint to canvas. Personally, I’ve always considered our hobby to be more self-satisfying, for we actually build each component and paint it, and the end result is three-dimensional, rather than a flat painting.

Too, we have greater freedom than other artists who constantly struggle to be original; we are allowed the other extreme of copying as closely as possible what has been done before. The closer we are able to reproduce what we have seen, the more realistic our railroads or models will be. One should learn to appreciate this freedom to the fullest extent.

But, it is unlikely that the creative ability will come to the fore, in any field, unless there is a desire within the person to put it to use. The desire to create is the prime mover, and the stronger the desire, the more time and effort a modeler will put into his work. Experience, naturally comes with time and effort expended, and quality workmanship is the usual reward.

A strong desire to create, then is one of the “mysterious” tools of the trade. It cannot be wrought by prayer or bought as a commodity; one either has it or he does not. Hence, there is a great market for shake-together kits and ready-to-run railroads.”

“Supposing a person has the strength of desire to keep him at his workbench for long hours to build up a model. Is this all that’s needed? Well he has one of the main requisites, but he must supply one other ingredient if he is to build models that are indistinguishable from the master patterns.

I feel sure that the majority of modelers have their eyesight, but how many actually make use of this facility to the utmost? If we don’t actually see and study every detail in a particular object, or if we do, but fail to record it indelibly in our memories, how can we possibly expect to duplicate these things at the workbench?

Probably a person will never go so far as to include every single feature of the prototype in his scale replica, even if it were possible, but each modeler must decide for himself just where he will draw the line. Keep in mind, however, that each time some particular detail is omitted, it detracts from the realism of the model by just that much.

Next time you see an authentic and neatly-built model, don’t simply pass it off as a result of some God-given ability bestowed upon the builder, but stop and ask yourself a few questions: “Why does appear to be so much better than average?”

If you are truthful to yourself, you will probably decide it’s because the modeler used his powers of observation to the fullest in studying the prototype. He no doubt included a good many of the seemingly unimportant details so often overlooked and above all, he likely put a lot of thought, time and patience into the project. These are the things that create a great model or model railroad – not the waving of a wand!

One should strive to develop a photographic mind to record all he observes, not just basic shapes and prominent features. When outdoors, study closely all that you see. Learn to fix in your mind various shapes, textures and colors, as well as their relationship to each other, for these you must transfer in miniature to your layout. This then is the second important “tool” that is so necessary. Other instruments and aids can be acquired without much effort, but without these first two things one can never successfully turn out realistic, close-to-scale models.”

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