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Book Review
Grain Industry Modeling
The Model Railroader's Guide to Grain
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by: Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]

The Model Railroader's Guide to Grain by Jeff Wilson continues Kalmbach Publishing's extensive series about iconic industries served by railroads, the “Guide to Industry” series.

From the beginning grain was - and is - a staple of the railroad industry. It is difficult to plausibly model a railroad that does not have some agricultural connection and this book shows us how to model that connection.

Mr Wilson has authored at least 25 books and is well known for his research and modeling. This book is available in softcover, measures a standard 8 1/4 x 10 3/4 inches, with a length of 96 pages and an ISBN of 9780890249444. In Kalmbach's catalogue it is item 12481. Contains over 90 color and black-and-white photos.

The Model Railroader's Guide to Grain is brought to us through 96 pages divided into 9 chapters and sections:
    Chapter 1: History of the grain industry
    Chapter 2: Classic grain elevators
    Chapter 3: Terminal and modern collection elevators
    Chapter 4: Mills and processing plants
    Chapter 5: Boxcars and grain doors
    Chapter 6: Covered hoppers
    Chapter 7: Grain train operations

    About the author

First of all, this book is a bonanza for modelers and historians looking for source material about grain production in the America. No doubt it parallels that type of farming elsewhere in the world, too.

Mr Wilson writes in an easily followed and informative style. History of the grain industry starts out with the background, including the methods of harvesting grain ranging from steam powered threshers to gigantic modern combines. It also has good images of manual horse-drawn dump carts, plats of Midwest farm land, maps of grain in the USA, and shots of elevator scenes.

Classic grain elevators revels the mechanical, social, and business aspects of these iconic structures. Photos revel scenes from the 19th century through today. How an elevator works is one subsection and quite interesting. It also touches upon the design and construction methods of elevators, and why some were built of masonry, and the rise of steel silos. This subject continues with Terminal and modern collection elevators.

Collecting the grain is explained step by step. Spotting the freight cars is shown, too, including a fascinating manual method. Massive modern facilities are shown and explained, including trans-loading to other modals of transport. Loading and unloading various types of cars is shown, both 'armstrong' and mechanical methods.

Mills and processing plants demonstrates common subjects for model railroad facilities. Most are much too big without generous 'selective compression' yet they make eye-catching scenes. The author even takes us inside to see the inner workings of milling. Super-detailers take note!

Railroad cars are one of the favorite parts of a model railroader's hobby. Chapters Boxcars and grain doors and Covered hoppers really caught my attention. Whether loaded with sacked grain or loose produce the history and role of the boxcar in grain transport is often forgotten in this age of covered hoppers. Many types of doors kept grain in boxcars. Some commercially developed, some ersatz. Some were just paper!

Diagrams of grain doors and how to build them are included in the graphics. One interesting shot inside of a box car shows stenciling inside to limit the depth of different types of grain.

Covered hoppers are one of the most prominent rail cars today and can be seen in huge unit trains. They are also a driving force in greater car weights and sizes. To load and expel that grain ingenious apparatuses have been invented. Big Johns, Pullman Standard types and Center Flow cars are explored, as are other manufacturers. Canadian cars have unique aspects touched upon. Covered hoppers are frequently leased and this is explained, as are roof hatches and other aspects unique to covered hoppers.

Grain train operations shows one how to prototypical model the grain business on one's railroad. Boxcar usage, car loading regulations, stenciling and car markings are examined. So is the yearly rush of moving too much grain without thew resources and the affect on the railroad as a whole. The Soo Line is profiled as an example.

Modelers learn that they just can't model the filling of model grain into model cars and get away with it - oh no! How to clean and sanitize the car for our protection is discussed!

Consists are explained. Grain was shipped in everything from single cars to today's long unit trains. Even 'mini-unit trains' were experimented with; that's good to know because few of us have the resources to model a prototypical modern grain train, especially in larger scales than Z. Again the role of the boxcar is noted, along with covered hoppers eclipsing the boxcar.

The book concludes in this chapter with Grain traffic today.

This is a very interesting book that should be essential for 98% of model railroaders in particular, and rail historians in general.

photographs, art and graphics
Kalmbach does a exceptional job of using excellent proprietary and archival images in their books. Excellent photographic and graphics support the text. My one complaint is that most Kalmbach books I am familiar with feature some model railroad scenes as examples. This book does not.

Many of the images are inspirational modeling sources in their own right:
    An interesting photo shows excess grain being piled along four blocks of a Texas city street because not enough silo capacity was available.

    Steam and belt threshers piling grain and chaff.

    A man dangling precariously from a boxcar grain door.

    Gigantic seaside grain port with ship.

    Grain-filled semi-dump truck on a ramp unloading.

    Fascinating boxcar rockers to vibrate out the grain.

    Belt-powered sheller spewing grain into a car.

    Stately silo complexes crisscrossed with vents and pipes and chutes.

    Farmers and railroaders loading and unloading.

Far too many more to keep listing!

Graphics and explanation sidebars include:

    U.S. wheat production, 2002

    U.S. corn production, 2002

    U.S. soybean production, 2002

    U.S. sorghum (milo) production, 2002

    U.S. rye, barley, and oats production, 2002

    What's a bushel

    U.S. farms and farm size, 1920 to 2012.

    1950 Minnesota plat map around Cedar Mills.

    Grain elevator cross section

    Elevator film available by the National Film Board of Canada.

    McGuire Door of 1895 schematic from a Car Builder's Dictionary.

    Standard Grain Door Assembly drawing, Northern Pacific railroad.

    Paper Door crosstie diagram.

    Airslide Hopper longitudinal interior.

    Covered hopper leasing.

    Roof hatches.

    Gravity vs. pneumatic outlets.

    1918 Guidance of Agents in Distribution of Cars to grain Shippers from the Milwaukee Road.

    Order Bill of Lading, Omaha Ry, 1913.

    Corn Expedite placard, CB&Q.

    Rail grain tonnage by movement type: single car, multiple cars, unit train.

    Grain door operations.

I did not count how many photos fill this book yet there is not a page without at least one.

Model railroaders interested in prototypical appearance and those into operations should find this an essential monograph. It features erudite text written in an easily read manner. The author explains a great deal of railroading and grain dating back 150 years. It is very informative for those interesting in the grain industry, too. Model railroaders seeking detail about grain cars will appreciate the chapters about boxcars and covered hoppers.

Excellent photographic and graphics support the text. Many of the images are inspirational modeling sources in their own right.

Most Kalmbach books I am familiar with feature some model railroad scenes as examples. This book does not.

Other than that, I readily recommend The Model Railroader's Guide to Grain as a excellent concise monograph about modeling grain and railroads. It is useful for modelers and historians.

We thank Kalmbach Publishing for providing this book for review. Please tell them and vendors that you saw it here - on RailroadModeling.
Highs: Excellent photographic and graphic support.
Lows: No model layout examples included.
Verdict: Grain was and is a staple of the railroad industry. This is a very interesting monograph that should be essential for 98% of model railroaders in particular, and rail historians in general.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: 9780890249444
  Suggested Retail: $19.99
  PUBLISHED: Jan 31, 2015

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 ©2021 text by Frederick Boucher [ JPTRR ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of ModelGeek. All rights reserved.


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