Rescuing old blueprints to make them usable

kevsmith May 24, 2021

  1. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

    Over the years I've amassed a load of original old blueprints and diagrams dating back to the early twentieth century. Some of them are in a pretty rotten state especially those that have had a lot of handling or have been stored in the wrong conditions

    In 'The cattle car' section I'm running a thread on the huge iron ore mining industry in my local area in the early days of the industrial revolution. So I've been digging into the plans chest to see what I had got there

    Askam Ironworks signal box will be one chapter in the thread. Now long gone I have a set of the original Furness railway drawings in a pretty shocking state


    The box controlled the line into the now defunct Askam ironworks from the Cumbrian Coast line. it sat between the D and A in the word Dalton in the bottom right hand corner


    Here are a couple of examples of the rescue operation

    The front elevation scanned in on an Epson V500 photo scanner in 16 bit grey scale


    there is a rip, printing on the back of the drawing and a tint gradient from left to right.

    i have a very old version of Adobe photoshop (5.5) so I used the rotate tool, to get it upright and then tweaked the contrast and brightness first to eliminate as much of the grey as possible and make the lines bolder and the proceeded to 'block fill' big chunks of the background with white using the rectangular marquee button and the fill button


    It is quite time consuming as you fill in the areas but pays dividends at the next stage when I used the 'Magnetic lasso tool' to draw round the outline of the twiddly bits and fill the with white. I could zoom in quite a way ond work on a small section at the time

    I haven't gone overboard on this stage, it is not going to be hanging in 'The Louvre' just needs to useable


    end result


    rear elevation was even worse


    using the same process the missing corner can be overcome


    more soon where I will explain how I deal with actual 'Blue prints' i.e white lines on a blue background

    gmorider, Doug Gosha and BoxcabE50 like this.
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Great job! For we who like to research and have such documents in our files, this is quite an interesting presentation.
    Doug Gosha likes this.
  3. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member


  4. sidney

    sidney TrainBoard Member

    why not just redraw the blue prints ? (the way it was done back then ) break out that drafting table.
  5. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    It's interesting how the chimney and eaves cast shadows in the drawing. I don't recall having seen that in other elevation drawings before. I really appreciate your efforts to restore and digitize these drawings. So much railroad history and documentation has been lost or stored out of the public eye. It's nice to see efforts that preserve these rare photos and drawings.
  6. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

    Its a long time since I had my big old drawing board that used to take up half the office. And it weighed a ton as well!

    When I first started scratchbuilding a major source of English railway drawings was a firm called Skinley. There was a printed catalogue as they were mail order only and some of the drawings had mistakes but they were still really useable. However it was a toss-up whether it was a blue or white print when they arrived

    So in the collection in the plans chest in the workshop is this example


    scanned in Greyscale and showing all the creases. So I turned the contrast right up so the grey went black and the white went white


    In the software there is an 'invert' function which produced this


    Bit more cleaning up to get rid of some crease marks behind the cab roof


    I scratchbuilt-built this 0 scale example from a Skinley drawing when I was about 19 years old although it is the saturated, round topped boiler one not the Superheated, Belpaire one in this drawing. That bent handrail still bugs me to this day!


    gmorider and Doug Gosha like this.
  7. kevsmith

    kevsmith TrainBoard Member

    Actually, after I finished typing I remembered the last time I used the big drawing board.

    it was when I was building my gauge 3 layout 'Askam station' (1/22.5 running on 2 1/2" gauge track) Big stuff!


    Askam station building is about 1/4 mile from my house, still standing with a Grade 2 preservation listing on it so saved for the future


    I got a copy of the 1877 drawing produced by the architects Paley and Austin but it was rough to say the least


    So I did redraw it full size for the model, nearly six foot long!

    This was one of the few projects I could not complete and the size of the station drawing should have been a heads-up but I pressed on anyway. the layout would have been 40 foot long and five foot wide and would have needed a 7 1/2 ton truck to move it and a team of at least six to man it

    Anyway, when we moved up to the Lake District in Cumbria I had nowhere to keep it so the building models went to a G3 enthusiast in the Midlands and the baseboards scrapped


  8. Bruceg503

    Bruceg503 TrainBoard Member

    you can take old blue prints and drawing to a blue print shop and have them scanned and converted to digital.
  9. Pastor John

    Pastor John TrainBoard Member

    It's even easier than that. With decent software, anyone with a wide bed (large format) scanner should be able to automatically scan and convert "blue"prints to standard format.

    Sent from my moto g(7) play using Tapatalk
    BNSF FAN likes this.

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