Wednesday, July 2, 2014


It is with great sadness that I read the notices posted by his good friend Tony Thompson that Richard Hendrickson passed away following a fall a couple of days ago.  Richard was a giant of the prototype railroad modeling movement.  His many articles in model railroad publications and his presentations at modeling events helped define, uplift, and encourage what we know today as the prototype modeling movement. 

Richard informed us of prototype railroad practices, guided us to more accurate modeling, and influenced and supported manufacturers as they began producing far more accurate models.  We have come a very long way from Athearn “Blue Box” kits to today’s accurate-to-the-rivets freight cars. 

Richard and his wife Sandra created the Westrail line of freight car kits.  In some cases, these provided detail parts and instructions for improving an Athearn freight car kit, thereby creating a more accurate rendition of an actual freight car.  Other Westrail kits, such as the AAR War Emergency flat car, comprised resin, styrene, and brass parts.  Though most of those kits have been superseded by current production models from several manufacturers, they blazed an important trail toward accurate freight car modeling.  I assembled several kits and have more in my stockpile.

Richard was a fountain of information.  His research and photo study provided the basis for rapid response to inquiries from prototype modelers far and wide.  He was generous with that knowledge.  The steam era freight car movement will be particularly depressed by his passing. 

Richard was a Santa Fe modeler.  He figured prominently in the creation and development of the current Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society and its predecessor organizations.  Through his interest in recreating a scene from his youth, all of us were enriched.  His efforts even caused me, a congenital Southern Pacific fan, to model a bit of Santa Fe.  I’m sure Richard’s good friend and our own Southern Pacific freight car guru, Dr. Tony Thompson, understands the sentiment and motivation.  Richard’s enthusiasm was that contagious.

I enjoyed meeting with Richard on a number of occasions.  Our conversations might involve freight cars and prototype modeling or flying—a passion we shared.  Whenever I saw him in recent years, I had to ask what altitude he was flying (fast on the ground or in the air).  His Citabria was a perfect complement to his passion. 

Our railroad hobby has lost a great good friend.  Rest in Peace Richard.

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