We've all seen them, those uniformly square format, photo albums with the colour coded spines. Most second hand booksellers will have a few on their shelves. Over the years I've built up a small collection of the blue labelled diesel series. It's tempting to dismiss them as lightweight when compared to the scholarly output from publishers like Wild Swan. They make a very for a pleasant browse, a small size, railway themed, coffee table book; but is there more to them than that? Obviously I think that there is; here's one I picked up from my friend and book seller Nick Lowe.
It's a little way away from my usual interests, but it's helped me to see the value in these predominately pictorial publications. The photos are of use in sorting out the nuts and bolts of what we choose to model, though the coverage isn't as full as a detailed profile, but where they really score is the conveyance of atmosphere, that hard to quantify attribute that separates the truly great from the technically competent. Take a look at an image from Industrial Steam.
It would not be a particularly difficult scene to model, the austerity tank is available in a variety of scales, but the photo guides one beyond the infrastructure, there's the effect of the weather in the puddles and the pale grey silhouette of the head gear. I've also picked up on the human intervention in the new putty to the window of the lean to building and the tin of grease or paint left on the sill.