This is a rant, and you may agree or disagree, but you are welcome to comment.
The other night I was in a discussion with some very talented model railroaders, the top people in z scale.
The subject came up about lighted bumper posts. I asked the question, is it prototypical?
The answers I got were the normal responses when that question gets ask. I will throw those out there as well as other comments I have read and heard, when the same question gets asked.
It looks cool. I am sure there is a prototype for it somewhere. You are a rivet counter. But the OTHER scale do it. It´s MY railroad, I can do what I want.
Ok I get it. The main thin is number 5. It IS your railroad. You can do what you want. you can run Easter Bunny cars in a tiny loop around Smurfs. You can run German steam engines from the 1920s pulling American freight cars mixed with Japanese passenger cars. Some folks will be fascinated, some impressed. Some will go, hmmm.
It looks cool. I have heard this a million times in my other hobby, reenacting. Strapping a WW2 messkit onto a East German bread-bag, and pretending you are in WW1 because it looks cool, does not mean it is accurate. When you dress like a soup sandwich and you stand next to me and the photo is taken, its THOSE guys look like a soup sandwich, not THAT guy. Some people want Z scale to progress beyond the briefcase, a little bit of research goes a long way, and Google is our friend. This leads us into number 2.
I am sure there is a prototype for it somewhere. Again with reenacting. Some guy sticks a feather in his Civil War hat, mainly because it looks cool, and he found a picture of a dude with a feather in same hat. Next thing you know. everyone is walking around with feathers in their hats. Was this one dude from one unit that did this? Did everyone do this? Of the hundreds of pictures of dudes wearing the same hat, what percent had feathers.? One word, research. Railroad books and again Google can be our friends. The CB&Q had a steam engine that they took the pilot wheels off and made into a switch engine. It is in a book. there are several pictures of same engine. Is it cool to make that engine? Sure. Is it cool to pry off the pilot wheels of every steam engine you have for every railroad and say it is prototype? Maybe not so much.
Rivet counter. I think that is a cop out. In the reenacting world we call them stitch counters. Can I accurately portray My Great Grandfathers uniform? Nope , not even close. There is compromises in all scales and perhaps more in our scale. This had been written about ad nauseum. I try for a happy medium. My MTL track looks cheesy. It is what I have and what I am using, but I am doing things to try and take away some of the cheesiness, not add to it. Ballasting, painting, blending, trying to make it look more like a model railroad than a toy railroad. Adding unneeded accessories that did not exist, will not give me a better railroad. Using hays bumpers when the the real railroad I model used ties and dirt, can be accepted, because they existed, and was possible, but putting blinky lights on them is beyond me.
Point 4 is a real thorn in my side. We are trying so hard to be LIKE the other scales, when we have an opportunity to be BETTER than the other scales. Model railroading came from toy trains. Toy trains were meant to play with and a train chasing it´s tail round and round can soon become boring. It needed play value.
So accessories were added to the old Lionel 3 railed trains and their brothers. Over-sized crossing gates, milk cams popping in and out of reefers, cows going down chutes, literally blinky lights and bells and whistles. Kids dreams spun out in the Monkey Wards Christmas catalogs. Post war, these things were transfused into the HO and later N scales. The Cold War and Space Race added radar and rockets and planes and even satellites on the model trains. Just because thy are found in others scales, does it HAVE to be made in Z?
Do we need these things in Z? Maybe. If people want to play with toy trains then why not? Why they would do this in Z when there is a whole bunch of toy trains and goodies to play with in other scales is strange to me but, whatever. What I wonder about is all this talent, time, money and effort, being expended on kitsch, when it could be used to produce accurate models of real railroad stuff. Oh it is all about marketing and what would sell I am told. I guess if you build anything in Z scale, weather it existed or not, put the right paint and decals on it, it would sell. I think we are better than this .
It is all about fun. But is it model railroading, or is it very, very small toy trains? How can we get upset with someone who does not take our modeling seriously, when we don´t take is serious ourselves.