If you are all at like me you have several years of back issues of one, two, three or more model railroad magazines. Some of us I am sure have them neatly stored and catalogued while others use the archeological filing system; a pile of magazines stacked and waiting for the dig to begin. The magazines are an invaluable resource, but how often do we spend hours (days?) hunting for that one article that has just what you need for the project at hand if you could just remember which publication and which issue. I keep meaning to get everything really organized but there is so much to do and so little time.
If any of this rings a bell then you might want to consider adding this computer program to your library of resources. The program is titled “Data Train Index” software (DTI), put out by Data Train of Texas. This program provides an index of Model Railroader (Jan.’47-Jul’95), Railroad Model Craftsman (Jan’47-Jul’95), Narrow Gauge Gazette (Mar/Apr’75-May/Jun’95, Mainline Modeler (Jan’80-Jul’95), Railmodel Journal (Jun’89-Jul’95), Model Railroading (Fall’79-Jul’95), and Trains (Jan’83-Jul’95). The promotional material I received with my copy of the program shows that it indexes 33,219 articles. DTI has done for us what we all wish we had the time and energy to do. Everything you always wanted to remember for these publications is just waiting for you. Give the proper search commands and up pops the information you are searching for. One important note: this is a database and not the complete text of these articles. A DTI search will identify the publication and issue; it is still up to you to find the issue in your library, a friend’s, or the Kalmbach Library. Data Trains of Texas also has an extensive collection of back issues which they will be happy to sell for $1.50 to $3.00 per issue depending on the publication and date of issue.
First, the technical information — The program runs on any IBM compatible system with 640K of RAM and at least 10.5 megabytes of hard disk storage. It is a DOS program, but will run under Windows 3.1 (I cannot speak for Windows 95 since I have not upgraded as yet.) While the program will run on any DOS-based machine regardless of processor speed, faster machines result in much faster retrieval. The DTI manual states that a Pentium 90 processor takes about 30 seconds to complete a search while an 8088 will take 25 minutes. Searches can be displayed on the monitor, sent to a printer, or saved as a DOS file. A limited number of printer drivers are included with the program, but I had no trouble getting my HP Deskjet to print with this program. There is one driver simply called “Draft” which I suspect will accommodate just about any printer.
The program is very easy to install. It comes with a clear set of directions and all that you need to do is to follow them. Installation took me about five minutes and I was ready to begin searching for information.
Searching for information in the seven publications indexed is what DTI is all about. The procedure is as straight-forward as the installation. The main menu has three choices. Select number 2, “Select Database Search.” Select two words or phrases for search parameters and then type in the first word on the first line, hit enter, type the second word on the next line, enter again, type the desired output location (printer, screen, or DOS file) enter again, and the search begins. If you selected screen output and there are records in the database which match the search parameters, the screen fills. The screen will show only four records at a time, but moving from one screen to another is simply a matter of hitting “N” (for next) on the keyboard. You can also move to the last record retrieved with one keystroke or jump back to the beginning with one stroke. There are a number of other ways that data can be accessed, but the method just described is the simplest and so far, has served my purposes quite well. The manual contains all the information you need if you want to use other search criteria such as a specific publication with year and month of issue.
The more precise you are in choosing search words, the more limited the data retrieved. For example, I used “40’” and “boxcar” and quit counting after 90 screens of data. Then I tried “freight” and “cars” and there were 63 screens (249 entries) covering the period from 1995 through 1949. Trying to restrict the search still further I tried “boxcar” and “Santa Fe” which produced only two entries. Clearly, you have to give some thought to search words to access the information you really want.
Enough of the technical stuff. Let’s get to the real reason to invest your modeling dollars in something that won’t go on the layout. This program is really useful. For example, I know I read an article sometime in the last two years or so that explained very simply how to take drawings in any scale and use a photocopier to reproduce those drawings in the scale you want (HO in my case). I have the article — I just don’t remember where it was. This is where DT shines. Using the key words “scale” and “conversion,” the search brings up exactly what I needed. The article was by Keith Thompson in the September ‘94 issue of MR and appears on page 24. It took about 30 seconds for DT to scan the database and give me this information. I don’t want to think about how long it might take me to skim through the last two years of all the publications I subscribe to.
What would you like to find out? How about articles on Mikados. Type “Mikado” and wait thirty seconds and a whole list of articles on prototype, kitbash, paint schemes and super detailing appears on the screen.
If you want a copy of the information on the screen, all you need to do is press the Print Screen key and you can get a copy printed.
What about something on structures? Design Preservation Models has lots of kits and modular components and their products have been the subject of a lot of kitbash articles. Type “Design” and “Preservation” and find that there are 28 references in DT that include product reviews, kitbashing and painting technique.
The first search Venita and I did was at the train show in Atlanta this July. I recently purchased a set of the Rock Island Golden Rocket passenger cars made by Rivarossi. Knowing that some day this will be the crack passenger train on the eL & eL, Venita plans to detail the interior. Her first question after I bought the cars was, “What colors were used in the interiors?” When we were deciding to whether or not to buy DTIndex, we asked for a demonstration using “Rock Island” and “passenger” as the search terms. There were a number of references to Rock Island passenger cars and two specific to the Golden Rocket. Those two entries are reproduced here to show what information the program provides:
TRAIN/PASSENGER / CHICAGO ROCK ISLAND & PACIFIC’s GOLDEN ROCKET PROTOTYPE DATA & DRAWING STEVE HILE Railroad Model Craftsman Mar 1988 Page 66 Vol 56 Num 10
PASSENGER CAR/COACH/ROCK ISLAND RR. DAY-LIGHT #339-349 1947 PULLMAN STANDARD, 1947 “GOLDEN STATE” “GOLDEN ROCKET” GEORGE TRAGER PROTOTYPE DATA & DRAWING Railroad Model Craftsman Jan 1970 Page 46 Vol 38 Num 8
Great resources except that I don’t happen to have either of these issues in my personal collection. Data Train of Texas has back issues and so we bought the 1988 issue in Atlanta.
Buying back issues is one way to get the articles you find using DTIndex, but some issues may be impossible to find and even if the issue is available, maybe spending the money on it just seems a little much. There is another solution. As members of the NMRA we all have access to the Kalmbach Library. (Read the most recent issue of Caboose Kibitzer for a good write-up on the Library and its services.) With the DTIndex printout, you can call or write the Library and because you can specify exactly what articles in what issues you want, they should be able to have copies on the way to you in a matter of a few days.
The more I use this program the more convinced I become that it was a good modeling investment. It will improve my modeling because I will take the time to search for the articles that relate to the current project whatever it may be. It will give me more time to model, because I won’t spend hours hunting through back issues for that nebulous something that I remember reading sometime. And it will enable me to make use of articles in magazines that I don’t have using the resources of the Kalmbach Library. It is a valuable addition to my modeling library.
DataTrain Index DataTrain of Texas 1415 Golden Gate Carrollton, Texas, 75007
Cost: $49.95 Periodic updates available for $15.