Not Quite Train GIFs

Train GIFs are small graphics of railroad rolling stock which can be tiled together to create trains or used individually to decorate Web pages. According to a Train Gif History, the first such images were created by Dan Klitzing. His images, and the many which followed, are not to an exact scale, though Brian Clough later calculated that they are approximately 1 pixel = 8.5 in.

I was unaware of all of this when, in August 2002, I started creating a travelogue page about a road-trip taken with my mother which included a visit to the Tehachapi Loop. For that page, I wanted a small, animated version of a train which was typical of those on the Loop. I chose the San Joaquin Daylight, c. 1957 because I had a good photograph of it to work from and it was both colorful, with Daylight-painted cars and locomotives in SP's Black Widow paint scheme, and interesting, with a dome and some heavyweight head-end cars. I picked a scale of 1 pixel = 1 ft (12 in) since it was about the right size and it made it simple to convert between drawings and pixels.

By the time I discovered Train GIFs, I had already created a large number of images in my own scale. While the ~41% larger size of Train GIFs has definite advantages, I didn't want to redo all of the work that I had done. The lack of a real definition of the scale bothered me a bit too. So, my creations are GIFs of trains, but they aren't quite Train GIFs.

Poking further with Google, I discovered Brian Clough's beautiful El Capitan images for Martin Meyer's Railroad Screensaver (MM for brevity). Images for MM use a scale of 1 pixel = 10 cm, 3.048 times the scale of my images. While MM is for Windoze, which I don't use, I may start creating railroad images in this scale as it is large enough for an impressive level of detail.


The following four images compare these three scales, using the short Hi-Level exhibition train used by the Santa Fe in early 1956 to show off the new El Capitan equipment around the system. The first train is in my scale. The next two are in the Train GIF size, the first by Alex Stroshane and the second by Brian Clough. The final version is also by Brian and is in the MM Screensaver size.

1px = 12 in
ATSF 307 ATSF 307A ATSF 3480 (should be 3479) ATSF 536 ATSF 577 ATSF 651 ATSF 709
1px = ~8½ in
ATSF 3480 (should be 3479)
1px = ~8½ in
ATSF 3480 (should be 3479)
1px = 10 cm
ATSF 3480 (should be 3479)

Using These Images

You are welcome to use any of the train images I have created on your own Web site or in other media so long as such use complies with the following terms:

  1. You must credit me (Karl L. Swartz) as the creator and copyright owner of the images and include a link to my home page ( The following HTML will suffice:
    Train images created by and copyright ©
    <a href="">Karl L. Swartz</a>.
  2. Neither you nor anyone else may profit from my images or their use, except to the degree that your ISP or Web hosting service profits from serving your Web pages.
  3. You must copy the images that you use to your own server. Please DO NOT LINK DIRECTLY TO IMAGES ON MY SERVER.
  4. You must cease and desist using my images if I request that you do so for any reason.
  5. Your use of my images signifies acceptance of these terms.

In addition, it would be appreciated if you e-mail me at and tell me where you are using my images.

For images created by other people, you'll need to contact them to determine their terms of usage.

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First Hi-Level Train GIF courtesy Alex Stroshane.
Second Hi-Level Train GIF and Hi-Level for MM courtesy Brian Clough.

Karl Swartz <>