Train Taggers

There is nothing that will set off a flame war on the model railroad boards faster than a discussion about graffiti. These guys will obsess over the diameter of a rivet on a boiler plate, and how a handrail height on a model isn't prototypical, but they won't consider having tagging on their trains because somehow that endorses or promotes tagging.

One of my primary reasons for liking trains is the raw power of them, the primitive nature of smelling exhaust and feeling the rumble. I think of the tagging like the primeval cave paintings. It is the base of mankind to express themselves. It is an expression, no matter how crude, that sets us apart from other animals. Perhaps it is that anthropological side of me that let me relish the several years I spent as part of a graffiti task force catching these bad guys.

Recently, Ken Szok posted this image on the SoCal Railfan board, and I thought I would share my professional analysis of the tagging. Click on the photo for a much larger view (Hold down the shift key when you click for a new window, or if you're using Foxfire, the Ctrl key for a new tab).

It was a female tagger (yes, they are out there). The two sets of three lines around the "27" are often indicative of eyelashes (and vanity). The stars around the 27 and date likely represent the "star" personality of the tagger. 27 is the tagger's initials , or more likely, the initials of their moniker (or nickname) . It is probably "BG" for the second and seventh letters of the alphabet, but it could also correspond with the letters on a phone keypad. You might be able to catch a fingerprint off the four horizontal drags on the left panel. The tagger's eye-level is most likely equal to the top of the date as suggested by the alignment with the strong horizontal segment of the scrolling in the right panel and the start of the better penmanship of the looping e's on the left panel (the spacing increases as it goes up, indicating the perspective change). This also places the four horizontal finger drags at mouth level, which is a natural position (go ahead - try it)...

This is the critical eye that haunts me when I look at tagging on walls, bridges and trains. It is not all gangsters marking their territory like dogs. It is an expression of emotion in a primitive form. It is a necessary element in modeling a railroad, and an unnecessary element in modeling a train. I am a model railroader, so I will be tagging the crap out of my trains and scenes.


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