Prototype Modeling Today

By Brian P. Kreimendahl

Prototype modeling is the physical manifestation of the compelling passion modelers feel for the motive power, rolling stock, equipment and structures that are all a part of real railroading. Prototype modeling is an expression of that passion because its goal is to closely recreate the prototype in miniature with a concentrated focus on realism. The fun and satisfaction derived from prototype modeling is not solely from the finished model, but is also generated from the exciting and challenging process necessary to replicate the targeted prototype in a credible way. The process of prototype modeling may require the modeler to assume the role of historian, industrial or transportation archaeologist, detective, draftsman, engineer, field researcher and photographer to obtain a desired modeling result.

Of course, a single prototype modeling project may not be complex enough to require all or even many of these skills. As with all modeling projects, the degree of complexity is entirely dependent on what satisfies each individual modeler. At is core however, prototype modeling requires an examination of a prototype to determine its make-up, components and features and the subsequent development and execution of a modeling strategy to capture the essence of that prototype in a realistic fashion. There is no preferred way to build a prototypical model as kit bashing with commercially available kits and detail parts, scratch building, or any combination of both modeling methods are viewed as equally valid. The focus of prototype modeling is on learning about and replicating the prototype and not on valuing one modeling construction technique over another.

Prototype modeling as a formalized movement began after the 1984 NMRA National Convention in Kansas City. A group of modelers (Pete Arnold, Joe D’Elia, the late Jim Hagen, and Richard Yaremko) attending that convention were unhappy with the lack of modern prototype models featured in contests, displays and modeling articles in the commercial model railroad press. These modelers decided they would attend the 1985 50th Anniversary NMRA Convention in Milwaukee and display models as a group in their own space. As a result the Modern Prototype Modelers group was born. The Milwaukee Convention was a huge success for the prototype modeling movement as one hundred and twenty-five models were display for public viewing and peer judging.

In 1987, the group changed its name to the Railroad Prototype Modelers (RPM) and expanded its scope to not only include contemporary models, but models of earlier eras as well. Meets are now organized all over the United States and Canada by local volunteers who want to promote the concept.

Thanks to Brian P. Kreimendahl for providing this history of RPM