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 Post subject: Model & Toy Trains as interpretive tools.
PostPosted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 12:33 pm 
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Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2010 12:02 am
Posts: 273
Hello all,

I wantto start a discussion on the various uses of both model and toy trains used as interpretive tools in the museum setting.

Model Trains:

Now, I'm sure many railroad museums have model (more-or-less scale accuracy) railroads. Sometimes they accurately model the railroad or segment of track that the museum interprets and preserves, used as a teaching tool. Other times, it's just a generic 4x8 loop meant to entertain the kids. Which one do you see more often, and which one do you think works best in a museum setting? Do you have the local model train club maintain the layout? Does the local hobbyshop sponsor the exhibit? Does your membership/volunteer base include model railroaders who maintain the layout?

Antique Toy Trains:

Though most rail museums focus on preserving this or that full size artifact, how many of you think antique/historic toy trains (Lionel, Marx, American Flyer, etc.) ought to, or at least could be, preserved in a standard rail museum? Does the fact that major companies thrived off of producing toys whose entire concept was to mimic the rail transportation network around them say anything about the importance of rail to people of that day and age? Does the classic image of the boy playing with Lionel trains while dreaming of becoming an engineer actually have some interpretive weight to it? Could an exhibit consisting of these toys help put more power behind your mission statement?

Modern Toy Trains:

Finally, one of today's popular train toys is the wooden railway system. Of course, Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends are usually to be found plying the tracks of those little train tables. However, has anyone attempted to make a real-world inspired track plan with wooden railway systems? Could a simplified track plan of the lines that once reached through your interpretive area be used as an interactive interpretive tool for the kids? There are companies such as "Whittle Shortline" that make wooden railway trains modeled after American prototypes, using American roadnames. They cost about the same as the Thomas toys.

What do y'all think? Examples from experience are great.

-Thanks. :)

--Drew Black
"The guy with the green hat"

 Post subject: Re: Model & Toy Trains as interpretive tools.
PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 9:57 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:25 pm
Posts: 1886
At National Capital Trolley Museum we have an O scale model of the Chevy Chase line. Visitors activate the operating scale model car by turning a K-controller handle. The model was built and is maintained by Museum volunteers. The K-controller starter and a companion hand-cranked generator that powers lights in the scenery were professional built by an outside firm. The exhibit is a highlight for our younger visitors.

The photo below shows the controller and one of several large glass viewing windows.

The flickr photo shows details of the streetscape.

We also have a display case of scale models.


STREET CAR COMMUNITIES RYPN.jpg [ 86.14 KiB | Viewed 2504 times ]
 Post subject: Re: Model & Toy Trains as interpretive tools.
PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 10:56 am 

Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2005 1:25 pm
Posts: 5569
Drew -

At HVRM, we have a N gauge display layout of North Judson as it appeared about 1952 showing the 4 railroads (ERIE; NYC; PRR and C&O) that ran through town at that time. Most of the buildings were scratch built by the layouts builder, and museum member, Jon Oram. Although the layout is non-operating, the signals are lit. The layout occupies one end of our Pullman Troop Sleeper with the other end showing a replication of three bunk setup of the car when it was in sleeping car service for Pullman. The trackage of the layout is slightly compressed but still does a good job of explaining things "the way they were" to our visitors.

Les Beckman (Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum/North Judson, Indiana)

 Post subject: Re: Model & Toy Trains as interpretive tools.
PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 11:46 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:22 pm
Posts: 348
I haven't been up to Dennison for awhile, but they used to have a layout of the yards as they looked at the height of traffic. It was always one of our son's favorite parts of the museum. We only ran into one docent who wouldn't let us look at it.

The wooden train idea is excellent, especially if you have someone who can make replacements. One of the Altoona staffers told me the kids' Brio/Thomas layout engines and cars tend to vanish. I'd be tempted to acquire as many as possible from garage sales so the usual evaporation would be inexpensive.


 Post subject: Re: Model & Toy Trains as interpretive tools.
PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:18 pm 
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Joined: Sat Jul 02, 2005 7:16 am
Posts: 1485
The locomotive builders provided many precedents for the use of models. EMD, Alco, Baldwin and Budd all handed out many metal desk models of their best known products to railroad executives. They also build many large scale engineering and display models, one of the finest being the EMD E8A now at the B&O Museum in Baltimore.

EMD used many commercial models as handouts and display items. They gave out non-powered Varney HO scale F3 diesels on wooden display bases to railroad executives and retirees, and used "O" Scale General Models and All Nation NW2's, F3's and F7's in their trade show displays. They also had plaster and metal non-powered "O" scale models that were used to illustrate paint and styling proposals.

EMD also made extensive use of cutaway models, including "O" Scale cutaways of their standard Diesel shop designs that were displayed at industry trade shows with General Models Co. locomotives inside.


Advice from the multitude costs nothing and is often worth just that. (EMD-1945)

 Post subject: Re: Model & Toy Trains as interpretive tools.
PostPosted: Sat Nov 09, 2013 8:38 pm 

Joined: Tue May 08, 2007 4:59 pm
Posts: 138
The Deer Isle Granite Museum has a wonderful Model railroad to help visitors visualize the early Granite industry on neighboring islands. Crotch Island being the most notable - featured an extensive railroad.

 Post subject: Re: Model & Toy Trains as interpretive tools.
PostPosted: Sun Nov 10, 2013 11:26 pm 

Joined: Wed Oct 22, 2008 8:18 pm
Posts: 2226
there are many models of locomotives/trains that no longer exists today, they give a fair example of historical equipment in model form. IRM is planning a model layout in its own building.

 Post subject: Re: Model & Toy Trains as interpretive tools.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 8:33 am 

Joined: Mon Dec 13, 2010 10:50 am
Posts: 16
How about the future? Someday I want to build a layout of a future city ,the funny thing will be it's uses 80 to 100 year old standard gauge electric train's. Oh my God, how this country went wrong with it's automobile mania,Oops I mean world.Another idea I have Is making a model of a diesel electric that uses it's dynamic braking energy to make hydrogen. An stores it in a tank car.

 Post subject: Re: Model & Toy Trains as interpretive tools.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 10:40 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9212
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
There is always a classic divide between model trains (scale models) and toy trains.

The models are useful if they can fill some interpretive role, perhaps as a diorama or "push-to-operate" operating layout. Never, but never, underestimate the magnetic draw of moving things as "eye candy" to kids and disinterested adults alike.

Toy trains are less useful in that regard, but by all means use them to show off the cultural impact of railroading in general. In a grand sense, toy trains gave way to toy/model cars, which gave way to toy aircraft and spacecraft, which gave way to robots and now "modern robots"--video games, Furbys, and Tickle Me Elmo.

Many areas still have traditions of Christmas-time train layouts (or "train gardens" in the Baltimore vernacular) in fire stations, churches, malls, and other public places. The Baltimore Streetcar Museum uses both a year-round O-scale operating model diorama (currently under reconstruction) and a November-December Lionel-style "holiday train garden".

 Post subject: Re: Model & Toy Trains as interpretive tools.
PostPosted: Mon Nov 11, 2013 5:25 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:42 pm
Posts: 2597
Jeff Lisowski wrote:
james37920 wrote:
dynamic braking energy to make hydrogen. An stores it in a tank car.

I don't think that's possible.

Well, sure, it's possible. You generate the electricity with the dynamic braking, and then you use electrolysis to convert the water in your "tender" into hydrogen. If you want to get really cute, you find a way to use the hydrogen as fuel. Also, it may be possible to re-capture the water created by burning the hydrogen. (At this point your "locomotive" is 200 feet long and needs 3 mechanical engineers and a software technician to keep it running.)

So the question isn't "is it possible". The question is "Is it practical?" Does the added weight, complexity, engineering challenges and design issues justify the end product? How much energy is lost in the process? What do you end up with?

That is where things would rapidly fall apart. Yes, Mythbusters could probably make it work on an experimental basis. But the end result would very likely be a net loss, and a big one at that.

Looking for efficient locomotives? Looking for a way to re-capture almost all of the energy now wasted with dynamic braking? Don't look to hydrogen, look to overhead catenary.

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