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History of Scale Drawings - 1:36 Series


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.

To simplify explanations and calculations, the 1:36 series broke away from the semi-random scales of previous series to be fixed at exactly 24 pixels per foot, or 2 pixels per inch. The scale when printed can therefore be obtained simply by taking the printing image resolution in PPI divided by 2, or a scale of 1:(PPI/2).

The drawings are precise, but the number in the scale is not particularly relevant, since the images can be scaled when printed. The scale is based on the commonly used 72 PPI resolution that was also apparently used to scale drawings at the Railroad Paintshop.

Origins of the 1:36 Series

Although I started the 1:36 series in February 2008, its origins go back much farther.

Back in 2005, when I first started revising (and later completely redrawing) parts of the 1:55 series, the idea crossed my mind of introducing a new drawing size, done at a more easy-to-use scale. At a scale of 16.2 pixels per foot, the 1:55 series was awkward to work with and hard to explain to other artists. I thought of introducing a larger size, such as 20 or 24 pixels per foot, which would allow me to incorporate a higher level of detail. However, with a collection of about 2000 1:55 drawings, the idea of starting from scratch was daunting.  Perhaps more importantly, I was not convinced that I could find adequate reference material to draw in a larger scale with sufficient accuracy. Although I did make a single larger-scale (1:28) GP40-3 drawing, the revised 1:55 drawings of 2005-2006 were positively received by site viewers, so I put the idea of a larger series on the back burner.

However, a series of events in late 2007 and early 2008 sowed the seeds for a larger scale. In November 2007, I bought a new camera (Canon Digital Rebel XTi), which started an incredibly frenzy of roster and detail photography.  There were also many high-resolution photos becoming available online.  With high-resolution reference photos now in abundance, I was running into resolution barriers in 1:55, having to fudge small details that were now clearly visible in photos.

In late February 2008, I received several requests within a period of only a few days that I couldn't provide: larger drawings, vector images or details that were too fine for 1:55. That spontaneously led to the beginning of a new series on February 21, and the uploading of the first 1:36 drawings on February 25, 2008.

First 1:36 drawing

A nearly-completed view of the first 1:36 drawing, an EMD RM-1, as it appeared on February 23, 2008. A number of corrections and additions were made before it was uploaded, and a few more changes were made in the following weeks. Click here for the final version.

Making the Drawings

There's nothing revolutionary about the making of the 1:36 drawings. I retained the method I had used for all drawings up to that point: editing the images directly as GIF files in MS Paint.  Although the added detail took a bit more time to decipher and draw, the scale (24 pixels per foot) was very easy to work with and ultimately more satisfying than previous scales.

In addition to including added detail, I made dimensional accuracy a key priority starting with the 1:36 series. With the 1:36 series, I began to measure everything—wheel bearings, door latches and hinges, hoses and cables, handrails, bolt spacing and so on. Common parts incorporated into many different drawings were given special attention. I drew couplers based on photos and patent diagrams, separate traction motors (with the truck frame layered on top), and snowplows traced from modified direct side view photos. The best part was that many of these details were identical between a large range of different models, so it really only took time to draw them in the first place.

Most often I calculated the smaller dimensions from photos, many of which I've taken myself specifically for that purpose. I also started looking for dimensions listed in railroad drawings or posted in discussion forums. The availability of these dimensions partly determined which models I drew first, as I could then derive other models from shared components.

Last 1:36 drawing

The last 1:36 drawing was a GE Dash 9-40C, completed on February 21, 2012 - exactly four years to the day after the series began.

With an increasing focus on finer details, I once again ran into resolution limitations, leading to the creation of the 1:24 and 1:18 series in 2012.

Next up: The 1:24 and 1:18 Series