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Reviewing "Traction Planbook" by Carstens Publications

The author has been enjoying model trains for decades and enjoys helping others with his hobby and introducing newbies to it.

Cover of "Traction Planbook (New Second Edition)" by Carstens Publications

Cover of "Traction Planbook (New Second Edition)" by Carstens Publications

Scratchbuilding is the art of creating a model from sheets of material and adhesive. The skill is a useful one if you like traction, which refers to trolleys and streetcars, since commercially made traction vehicles can be scarce or expensive. The Traction Planbook caters to the needs of that type of hobbyist.

Book Format

In 98 8.5-by-11-inch pages, the book reveals top, side, and front/back views of about 75 different trolleys. Though the scale of the plans varies by car, each of the views uses the same scale within each car. This enables the scratch-builder to accurately model all sides of a vehicle to the same measurements. Many of the models also show interior views and describe the real-life measurements of different parts in feet and inches.

Each trolley plan typically takes up only one page, though a few spread out over two pages. However, I suspect some of the views will need enlarging through a scanner just so fine details can be gleaned. This can pose problems. If the scanner resolution is too low, any details vanish. If the resolution is too high, then dots and other printing artifacts will appear. I don’t have personal experience modeling a trolley car.

The book has 12 chapters, with a table of contents showing each trolley but no index. Some of the chapter titles include "Miscellaneous Early Equipment," "Single Truck City Cars," "PCC Cars," "Wooden Interurbans," "Rapid Transit Equipment," "Trolley Box Motors," and "Non-Revenue Equipment." The titles of each chapter, as well as the individual cars, are generally far larger and darker than the surrounding text, making it easy to spot a specific one simply by flipping pages.

Roster of equipment from the table of contents

Roster of equipment from the table of contents

Examples of specific cars include:

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  • the Pacific Electric 600 series with their Art Deco decals,
  • the ubiquitous single-truck Birney,
  • the 50-ton Union Pacific Baldwin Steeplecab for freight operations on many lines,
  • an IRT subway car from New York City, and
  • the streamlined North Shore Electroliner.

All the book’s examples date from earlier than 1964, which is the book’s first publication date. You can check out a complete list of cars in the Roster of Equipment picture.

Sample page

Sample page

The book is also profusely illustrated with black-and-white pictures of the vehicles, so you don’t have to imagine what they looked like in real life. The photos help the modeler plan the exterior and decals, and some cars have their colors explained. But without actual color pictures, scratchbuilders would have trouble interpreting the descriptions and completing their creations. Additional text describes how and where each car was used. The text is inconsistent in size and font, with a mix of serifs and sans serifs. It gives the tome the feel of a homemade hobby publication.

Though plan books about locomotives, passenger cars, and freight cars abound, those devoted exclusively to trolleys are non-existent. Therefore, I recommend this reference to anyone who models traction. Traction Planbook is fairly scarce, so buy it immediately when you see it.

© 2020 Aurelio Locsin


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on November 24, 2020:

Building a trolley car from scratch would be a daunting challenge. At least this book would help a person in that endeavor.

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