Saturday, February 06, 2010

Plans of Steel

Over the years, I've had a few requests for layout designs that included some elements of the steel industry. While I have gleaned enough from back issues of the Railroad Industry SIG's publications and articles published in the commercial press to do a decent job, a couple of recent projects have demanded a more intense focus on the steel industry.

So I'm really grateful that the NMRA arranged for the reprinting of Dean Freytag's The History, Making and Modeling of Steel. It also helps that the book is very focused on the Walthers steel industry models in HO scale and N scale, since most of my clients want to at least start with these kits as a basis for their modeling.

(Between the time I started writing this blog entry and today, I discover that the book is sold out at the NMRA -- sorry about that. Perhaps interested readers will be able to find it from other sources or through inter-library loan.)

One of the nice things about Freytag's approach in the book is that he offers a lot of variations. Whether the modeler's preference is for detailed prototype replication or something more casual, lots of space dedicated to the steel industry or just a corner of the layout, Freytag offers useful advice for all. And he offers these suggestions in a positive and encouraging way that many modelers will find motivational.

Another very helpful part of the book is its focus on explaining in some (although not excruciating) detail the steel making process. Even this modest amount of background makes obvious the flaws in many steel-oriented published track plans.

I understand Bernie Kempinski has a book on the steel industry in the publication process and I'm sure that will be a good resource as well. But I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Dean Freytag's excellent scholarship and spot-on writing tone, perfect for the modeler. Hopefully the book will become more readily available again.

I've written before about Allman Brothers member and recent Eric Clapton sideman Derek Trucks. I've been enjoying the Derek Trucks Band's most recent album, Already Free. Although the jazz and world music elements are still evident in Trucks' fabulous slide guitar sound, this album seems to me to have more blues and rock influence. Whether it's the easy acoustic shuffle that phases into a driving electric rock riff in "Down in the Flood" or the greasy slide that powers "Get What you Deserve", many of the tunes show a bit more muscle this time out.

Also welcome to my ears are the vocal contributions of Clapton bandmate Doyle Bramhall II (who also wrote and produced some songs on the album) and Trucks' talented wife Susan Tedeschi. While I enjoy regular vocalist Mike Mattison, I find the variety of vocal styles really accents the wide range of Trucks' playing in this, my favorite Derek Trucks album to date.