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Book Review
Guide to Narrow Gauge Modeling
Guide to Narrow Gauge Modeling
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

Originally published on:
RailRoad Modeling

Guide to Narrow Gauge Modeling by model railroad guru Tony Koester is a captivating book about narrow gauge railroading, and the modeling thereof. Narrow gaugers are renowned for intricate and superbly detailed and sceniced layouts, their hobby often bordering on a religion.

In the format of a softcover, with dimensions of 8 1/4 x 10 3/4, this 96 page title includes 210 color photos and many black-and-white shots; you can order it by ISBN: 9781627001502, or by Kalmbach's book number 12490.
    This book provides an entry point for any modeler interested in building a narrow gauge layout. Narrow gauge railroads remain popular among railfans and modelers due to the spectacular mountain scenery in which many operated. Although narrow gauge layouts have a passionate niche following, there are very few books on this subject.
    • The book is an overview of prototype narrow gauge railroading as well as available models.
    • This is a one-stop book for introducing modelers to the subject of narrow gauge railroading.
    • It explains why and where narrow gauge railroads were built, how they operated, what their equipment was like, and why they were abandoned.
    - Kalmback Pub.

the expansive appeal of narrow gauge ("NG")
Many Master Model Railroaders earned their MMRR creating narrow gauge layouts pretty much from scratch or limited craftsman kits. That after investing years in researching and documenting an actual narrow gauge (NG) line. They scrutinize and replicate fauna and foliage unique to the prototype. Some even use topographical maps to recreate precise right-of-ways!

Why is NG so popular? Perhaps because some of the best known NG railroads were out west in the incredible scenery of the American Rockies. Perhaps because so many of them operated late into - and beyond - the steam era, past the time the fires were dropped on standard gauge steam. As many NG trains were short, modelers could create prototypical length trains. NG often served rustic industries which, in and of themselves, provide extraordinary visual aesthetics in modeling!

Modelers like to model what they can see, and touch...and ride. Some of the most famous tourist railroads are NG: the extraordinary Durango and Silverton; the authentic Cumbres & Toltec; the accessible East Broad Top Railroad and Coal Company; the beloved East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad. That last one not only operates an original loco at an amusement park in the eastern U.S., a restored portion through the spectacular Doe River Gorge is operated by Doe River Gorge Ministries, which operates train and speeder excursions along three miles of 3-foot narrow gauge track. NG trains can be found, and ridden, all over the world.

Narrow gauge is gaining popularity because major manufacturers are producing more high-quality RTR (ready-to-run) products. As modelers age, HO becomes too small for many. O scale is much bigger yet narrow gauge O allows big models in prototypic small spaces. And even braille-scale model railroaders are finding commercial NG in N and Z ("Xn30")!

between the covers
Guide to Narrow Gauge Modeling is brought to us through 10 chapters and an introduction in 96 pages;
    1 An "economical" approach
    2 Keys to narrow-gauge modeling
    3 Narrow Gauge Circles - west and east
    4 Under a big umbrella
    5 The Maine lines
    6 Modeling in "Xn30"
    7 Commercial support
    8 Car and train movements
    9 Remnants of the narrow-gauge era
    10 Narrow-gauge gallery

Mr. Koester has been writing for decades and that is obvious in his ability to impart ideas and concepts and enthusiasm. This book is very easy to read and well organized. If there are any typos, they did not stick in my consciousness.

In An "economical" approach, history and background of the fortes and foibles of NG is explored and explained. Keys to narrow-gauge modeling explains and contrasts scale, appearance, and other factors.

I recall reading that by the 1880s in America, that one could ride from the Great Lakes to Colorado on an disjointed narrow gauge network. Narrow Gauge Circles - west and east, Under a big umbrella and The Maine lines do not chronicle them but they do relate where NG lines and some networks were found. Great NG trunk lines were envisioned. Many NG lines were converted to standard gauge was railroad networks were forged. This affords the modeler many "what if" and "fallen flag" options to model.

While western lines allow modelers to dispense with temperate scenery and the splendor of the solitary, Maine's unique 2-footers allow modelers to model civilization matured through generations since the Mayflower. Great docks and piers, combined with ships and boats, presents the modeler with boundless opportunities for the eclectic.

Modeling in "Xn30" treats the reader to the expanding options of narrow gauge in new scales. Commercial support exposes modelers to modern narrow gauge RTR products. Blackstone Models offers amazingly detailed models that can be obtained with sound and DCC, and narrow gauge track mounted on ballasted modular track. Blackstone's knowledge of the subject is fortified by employees who actually work on the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad!

One portion that is new to me is Doug Tagsold who has tapped into the vast opportunities of other model subjects by modeling the Colorado & Southern in 1/72! Brilliant!

Many prototype NG structures have been iconic injection molded plastic models for generations, too.

Car and train movements touts the joy of the social aspect of model railroading, plus the satisfaction of keeping the hobby fresh with a "model purpose". Operations become a significant social activity in which deep and long-lasting friendships are formed. Bring your friends over to run trains, to work on your railroad, to visit - it is a grand time! Mr. Koester fills an entire book with this aspect of the hobby in his book Realistic Model Railroad Operation - Second Edition - .

Remnants of the narrow-gauge era explains where to find operating NG railways. Finally, in Narrow-gauge gallery, can best be summed up in the words of Mr. Koester himself;
    The following prototype and model photographs make it easy to understand why legions of railfans and modellers have been and will continue to be attracted to railroads that may be narrow in gauge but ever so broad in appeal.
There are truly some magnificent images in this section.

Photographs, graphics, artwork
I did not count them yet there are scores of color and black-and-white photographs in this book. Some are blurry because they were exposed 100 years ago, yet I found none I consider ambiguous “fillers”. Photographs of many layouts dominate to demonstrate topic and concepts. I appreciate these for another reason: they show modelers the dichotomy between the “big name” modelers’ layout aesthetic priorities. Not neglected are prototype scenes, which provide excellent source material that supports the authenticity of the models. Ultimately, the photographs are worth the book for inspirational reasons!

Graphics and artwork greatly enhance each presented topic. They include scenes from NG model layouts, products, track plan designs, and maps. All top-notch.

I know why narrow gauge is so appealing. This book makes it easier to explain and demonstrate why. It is full of exceptional knowledge and detail. It is written in a way that inspires. The spread of photographs and graphics is superb! I'd buy the book just for them!

I found nothing meaningful to ding this book over and highly recommend it!

This book was kindly provided by Kalmbach Publishing for review here at KitMaker. Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on RailRoadModeling.
Highs: Superb selection of model and prototype photos.
Lows: Nothing meaningful.
Verdict: This book makes it easy to explain and demonstrate why narrow gauge is so appealing!
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9781627001502
  Suggested Retail: $21.99
  Related Link: Realistic Model Railroad Operation - 2nd Edition
  PUBLISHED: Dec 07, 2014

Our Thanks to Kalmbach Publishing Co.!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Frederick Boucher (JPTRR)

I'm a professional pilot with a degree in art. My first model was an AMT semi dump truck. Then Monogram's Lunar Lander right after the lunar landing. Next, Revell's 1/32 Bf-109G...cried havoc and released the dogs of modeling! My interests--if built before 1900, or after 1955, then I proba...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. All rights reserved.


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