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History of Scale Drawings

Drawing Scale

Although the drawings all have a print resolution of 96 PPI by default, the scale is based on a resolution of 72 PPI, since that was (historically) a common printing resolution and was used to scale the drawings at the Railroad Paintshop. All scales leading up to the 1:55 series are approximate, and in fact the exact scale of the later 1:55 drawings is 1:53.33. The 1:36 and 1:18 series are drawn at 2 and 4 pixels per scale inch respectively, so at a given printing resolution PPI, they are exactly 1:(PPI/2) and 1:(PPI/4) respectively.

Modest beginnings - 1:880 Series

My very first train drawings were done by hand, beginning when I was about three years old.  I continued making these for almost ten years.  Most consisted of small side views of complete trains, with the locomotives and cars generally less than an inch long.  Later ones sometimes included over a hundred cars and basic scenery, drawn using several sheets of paper taped together.  I started (but never finished) a couple of larger hand-drawn attempts.  My drawings were almost always of CN mixed freights, because they were based entirely on watching trains on what was then one of CN's branch lines (now the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad).

Around 1998, I started a series of what I called "tiny trains" on the computer in MS Paint.  These were replicas of the drawings I had done years earlier by hand.  They were roughly 1.1 pixels per foot, or about 1:880.  Because they were so small, several entire trains could be done in a few hours.  Given their tiny size, "accuracy" was limited to representing very basic dimensions and shapes.

Above: The first and longest "Tiny train" as it appeared in 1999 (complete with math and nomenclature errors).  This is the only "Tiny train" drawing still in existence.  I had drawn several others, but they have not survived subsequent floppy disk transfers and computer upgrades.  The blue lines were for cutting it when printed.

The first detailed computer drawings - 1:220 Series

Shortly after starting the "tiny trains", a CN GP40-2W was doubled in size to 1:440, allowing for a little more detail (such as round wheels).  However, this scale did not become a series; instead, the unit was immediately enlarged to 1:220.  These drawings featured handrails, engine access doors and added detail on the trucks and pilots.  The first ones were scaled by holding up an HO model in front of the screen.  I could still complete them very quickly, and within a few months I had many dozen of them completed in both undecorated and painted form.  In May 1999, I began work on a web page incorporating these drawings, which gradually expanded on the hard disk but was never actually uploaded.

The first displayed drawings - 1:110 Series

By February 2000, I wanted to improve on the level of detail possible in the 1:220 drawings.  This coincided with my discovery of The Railroad Paintshop, with drawings far more detailed than mine that ranged in size from 1:87 to 1:25.  This time, I took a 1:220 undecorated GP40 (the quintessential generic locomotive) and enlarged it to 1:110.  The previous 1:220 undecorated drawings were shaded gray, with black trucks and no outline around the edges of the locomotives.  Starting with the 1:110 series, I made the drawings white with black outlines, which made them easier to paint and allowed for more detail.  A month after starting this series (March 2000) I uploaded the website for the first time, which for the first year or so was on Geocities.  By October 2000, the 1:110 series was almost as large as the 1:220 line had been.

Above: The first 1:110 drawing, an EMD GP40, as it appeared in early 2000.  Initially, 1:110 drawings featured oversized trucks and wheels, illustrated here.

Intermediate and large-scale drawings - 1:60 and 1:30 Series

Earlier in 2000, I had started a line of 1:60 drawings from scratch, in which I tried to observe major dimensions.   However, the trucks looked too small when I printed the drawings, so I very soon abandoned the series.  What I didn't know at the time was it was, in fact, the 1:110 series that had oversized trucks and wheels, stemming from the fact that they were essentially 1:880 drawings enlarged three times.

Around August or September 2000, I stopped the 1:60 series and deleted the drawings--this was unfortunately during the era before I started archiving older drawings.  However, just prior to doing so, I took a 1:60 GP40 and enlarged it to 1:30 (now referred to as 1:28 to reflect the actual scale).  Although it has received minor detail additions since then, this 1:28 GP40 is essentially still in its original form.  It is the oldest drawing currently on the site and is listed in the 1:28 EMD section under the "old series".  Similar units in the GP38 and GP40 series were added in 2000-2001, before work ceased on the series for several years.

Four years later, in 2005, the 1:28 series was revived in the form of two GP40M-3 drawings (an undecorated and painted version of SLR 3806).  This was an attempt to create the most detailed and accurate drawing possible, and was part of a plan to make the large-scale drawings into a series of specialized, highly detailed drawings of specific prototypes.  Due to the unique prototype, however, the drawing was still not perfectly dimensionally accurate, and no more 1:28 drawings were actually made.  The idea for a detailed, accurate series eventually took flight in the form of the 1:36 series introduced in 2008 (more on that later).

The 2000-2008 standard - 1:55 series

Click here for more details on the progression of the 1:55 series over the years.

It was just after completing the first 1:28 drawing in 2000 that I realized the innaccuracies in the size of the trucks with the older 1:110 drawings.  Wheels that were supposed to be 40 inches in diameter were a scale 48".  I managed to convert most Blomberg truck-equipped EMD diesels to have scale-sized trucks (as in the unit below) with appropriate modifications made to the height of the fuel tank and end steps, but these modifications made the engines look notably smaller.  Also, converting all the painted drawings would have been an immense task, since it meant changing the trucks, fuel tank and steps, plus matching the original truck colour.

Above: The same 1:110 GP40 with trucks and wheels reduced to prototypical size, as it appeared in fall 2000.

The difficulty in correcting the inaccuracies of the 1:110 series, combined with the experience I'd gained, led to the introduction of the 1:55 drawings.  The first 1:55 drawing was (again) an undecorated GP40, partly drawn from scratch and partly derived from components of the 1:110 version doubled in size.

Above: The first 1:55 drawing as it appeared in October 2000.

Following its debut in October 2000, the 1:55 line quickly gained momentum.  The last few months of 2000 consisted entirely of painted and undecorated EMD units, most ranging from the GP30 to the GP40-2(W).  By 2001 I dabbled in GE and ALCO units, and had progressed to rolling stock, containers and minor builders by 2004.

Detail progressed enormously in the 1:55 series between 2000 and 2008. I started the series in 2000 with generic models and little regard for dimensional accuracy, but I ended it in 2008 with railroad-specific variations that matched all the dimensions I could find.

Increasing Accuracy - 1:36 series

By early 2008, I was beginning to run into the limitations of the 1:55 series.  I had an enormous array of high-resolution photos and railroad diagrams at my disposal, but the resolution of the 1:55 drawings was simply not sufficient to include all the details visible in photos.  This led to an all-new, larger series of drawings drawn at 1:36.

Click here for more details on the 1:36 series' creation and development.

Large Scale Drawings - 1:18 series

Similarly to what happened with the 1:55 series in 2008, I ran into resolution limitations with the 1:36 series in early 2012. This led to the creation of the short-lived 1:24 series in February 2012, which was 50% larger than the 1:36 series. However, the scale of 3 pixels per scale inch was awkward to use (since measurements are usually rounded to the nearest quarter- or half-inch) so over the course of three weeks in November 2012, I created 1:18 versions of all the drawings and removed the 1:24 versions.

Click here for more details on the 1:24 and 1:18 series' creation and development.

Where are the old drawings?

As a result of imprudent deletions and corrupted floppy disks in the "early years", most of the drawings done prior to the 1:55 series have been lost.  However, from a few old disks and thanks to the Wayback Machine, I've been able to recover the first (and longest) of the 1:880 "Tiny Trains" and a number of 1:110 drawings.  Following a computer crash in 2006, many older 1:55 drawings were also lost, as only the revised versions were posted online, but some of these have been recovered as well.  Sometime I may post a gallery of older drawings.

In November 2012 I removed from the site all my 1:24 drawings, which I had first started in February 2012. In my view, these drawings were made redundant by the 1:18 series I had introduced, which by late November almost entirely duplicated the 1:24 series. I've kept the 1:24 series in an archive offline.


Why do I do these drawings?  For me, it's like a second set of models (I already model trains in HO) only, instead of kitbashing and spending hours detailing, I just type or click and end up with locomotives better-looking than what I can manage in models.  There are no restrictions to what railroads and what engines I can do, and it's all done at no cost and little effort.  I hope someday to have all the main types of locomotives drawn and to have more than one in all the major paint schemes, though that's many years to come.

 Copyright © Michael Eby - Page code last updated 2015-02-16