Banality of Boxcars

Even I have to admit that it’s a bit curious that my enjoyment of this hobby is derived from the pursuit of reproducing in miniature the banality of 1970s railroading. Is that what a hobby is supposed to be? Military modellers are probably the closest cousins to our hobby, and they typically go for the most legendary pieces of warfare hardware from history. Many model railroaders will aim for the spectacular: the Rocky Mountains, Tehachapi, Horseshoe Curve. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t find anything in that kind of modelling offensive in any way, but you’ll find no turbines or articulated steam locomotives in my scale world. My layout is like an anti-spectacle.

I think there are a few reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that I’m reproducing what I saw as a small child. In the early 70s, I wasn’t old enough to understand any of what I was seeing, regardless of the state of the industry, the entirety of railroading was a spectacle to me. The oily smells, thunderous sounds, and vast array of curious railroad names on the sides of boxcars activated my imagination. According to anyone not captivated by railroading at the time, it was a dead and bloated industry that seemed forever looking for ways to save itself. Here I am getting hours of enjoyment from creating a reproduction of this less-than-glorious moment in American industrial history. To an outsider, it surely is a curious way to spend one’s spare time.

Here are some boring shots of a boxcar I weathered the other day. I hope you enjoy looking at the pics as much as I enjoyed putting the scene together.





  1. The boxcar is honestly my favourite type of rolling stock, particularly 40 footers. Besides locomotives, they’ve been the primary way for railroads to flaunt their style, or in some cases the lack thereof. I do thoroughly enjoy the eclectic and specialized nature of more modern railcars, but gimme a string of drab brown wet noodles or a rainbow of multimarks any day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Banality? You want current banality, look no further than the motion picture industry, nothing original their since 1970’s with Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark; nothing but banality ever since it seems.

    Modeling the trains we saw preserves things we did not get to photograph. I’m slightly older as my memories go back into the 1960’s, pre PC and I remember seeing all the constituent equipment that went into building PC and later Conrail. Making the trains I grew up bring me back to a simpler time, when happiness was not measured by success, it was something you just went and experienced, if none was around, on would make their own. That I miss in my senior years, the simpler forms of entertainment now lost on today’s crop of RR fans.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There were some spectacular films made in the ’70s, and some great music in the early part of the decade. My interest in film and music has shifted over to independent artists now.


  3. Hunter,

    Just got through this post, after going through all other posts…..nice body of work altogether. I love the style/theme you use here with WordPress.

    In regards to this post, I think what you are doing is the straight-forward goal of true RPMers. While I haven’t seen lots of RPMer’s layouts, and some are indeed spectacular, it is mostly not due to the specialness of the prototype, rather the high fidelity to the realism that makes them spectacular. Especially when you combine it with prototype operational moves and speed. This is what you seem to enjoy as well.

    well, talk with you later on the proto-layout list.

    Loren Casey
    who models another ‘unspectacular’ railroad, the ICG in 1979 St Louis District.


  4. Thanks Loren. I appreciate that you took the time to read through some posts and comment. There entire pursuit of prototype modelling can probably be summed up by saying that we’re attempting to recreate the banal, and when it’s successful, we create a thrilling reproduction.


  5. I totally understand where you are coming from. I feel the same way about the CN railway here in Moncton in my youth 70’s/80’s when the city itself almost went down as the railway contracted. I’ve also read extensively about the PRR and PC. There is an essence of tragedy about those times that I find compelling from a modelling point of view.


    1. It makes for great modelling. Plus, it’s not really a complete tragedy because they managed to sort things out. In the case of Conrail, they succeeded in creating a viable company out of the ruins.


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