Friday, September 5, 2008

Branding a shortline

I've really started something with this whole coupler thing over on the S scale Yahoo group. Little did I know what kind of nerve I'd strike by saying something about a scale 1:64 coupler. Ooops!!

Turning my attention away from that whole conundrum for a minute, I wanted to share with y'all some work I've done on making a logo for my freelanced shortline railroad: the Ouachita & Mississippi Valley. This is a shortline railroad in southeast Arkansas that connects the Cotton Belt to the Columbus & Greenville. For a more complete "revisionist history" of the line, check out my webpage. The "Delta Route" slogan is one that the C&G used over the years, but the real C&G was never able to obtain a western connection to turn this into a profitable through freight route. Since the Ouachita & Mississippi Valley provides the "western connection that never was," I'm going to use the "Delta Route" slogan for the O&MV as well. Kind of like the way the Mississippi Central and Louisiana Midland shared the slogan "The Natchez Route."

I came up with 10 different variations of the C&G triangle logo. Some of these are very close to the original, while others were modified with the O&MV railroad name. Misssissippi Central used the same herald shape with "Mississippi Central" in one type of herald and "Natchez Route" in the other, so why can't I? Here are the triangle logos that I came up with:

I've run these past a few friends and several of them commented that the logo looks a little too much like the C&G logo. Some also felt that a logo with just the slogan in it could really pass for an official company logo, so I decided to revamp things a bit. Here's an intermediate version that I came up with:

While this logo is different enough, I still thought it was too close to the Columbus & Greenville logo. So for the next revision, I borrowed from the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway's logo design. I figured that "the Louie" had a similar flavor to my freelanced line (albeit, the M&StL was much larger) and that it was sufficiently far-removed from Arkansas to prevent any confusion over the logos. So here's my effort at creating a bit fancier logo for the O&MV:

I really like that last one (the difference is the sans-serif fonts) and will likely use this as the "new" logo for diesels and newer boxcars. The older wooden boxcars and wooden cabeese will likely carry one of the triangle heralds just to give the railroad a bit more flavor.

I've used two programs to make these logos: Inkscape and Gimp. Both are open-source programs and are available for FREE. Just the right price for a college student! While neither one are as slick as their for-pay counterparts, they're extremely useful and there's a whole bunch of online support in the form of discussion boards. For the model railroader on a budget, though, this is the cheapest way to start making your own decal artwork. Inkscape can be found here, while Gimp can be found here.

Happy railroading!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mulling over Couplers

So I picked up a couple-or-three S scale boxcar kits on my trip to Chicago this summer, just to try my hand at a larger scale you see. The only problem is that the kits came without trucks or couplers. I managed to pick up some S scale trucks while I was there, but the shop was fresh out of couplers. This has given me time to mull (agonize?) over the decision of what coupler to put on this car. S scale, like many other modeling scales, has a variety of couplers to choose from: American Flyer, Kadee #802, Kadee #5, S-Helper Service #1295, and Sergent Engineering couplers come to mind. The AF couplers, while robust and reliable, are WAY oversize for true 1:64 proportions. That leaves me with four choices. Decisions, decisions!!

For further discussion/debate, here are the particulars of my layout design:

Minimum radius: 30"
Car fleet: 3 currently, 30-40 anticipated
Locomotive fleet: 0 currently, 5-10 anticipated

The layout will be a walk-around design and I plan on using hand-held uncoupling tools.

From a coupler standpoint, I would favor reliability over appearance, but not by much if I had to put it on a spectrum. I was a Kadee #58 guy when I modeled in HO. I tried to use Micro-Trains Z scale couplers on my N scale stuff, but reliability suffered and my operators couldn't deal with the tiny couplers. From my HO days, I learned that I like metal couplers better than plastic. From my N scale days, I learned that I like couplers that don't rest on springs when tension is applied. While I like Sergent couplers in photographs, I doubt I'd like them in an operating session.

That said, here's the advantages/disadvantages of each S scale offering as I see them:

Thankfully, someone has already put together some information regarding these choices so you can begin to see what I'm deliberating over: Click here. Since it's impossible to say what the best choice is without trying them all, I think that's exactly what I'm going to do (though I may have already eliminated the Sergent Engineering option). I'll keep you posted...