Pros: Nearly one-thousand pages of everything a model railroader needs.
Cons: Some isolated organizational problems makes it hard to find certain items.
Walthers, the world's largest model railroading distributor, releases this 984-page tome annually to fuel the dreams of 1/87th scale enthusiasts. Conveniently divided into color-tabbed pages are miniature wonders like locomotives, train sets, passenger cars, freight cars, structures, figures, vehicles, track and accessories. Supporting materials include tools, electronics, paints, control systems, books and videos. Only a few manufacturers are missing.
Some pages of What's New items lead the catalog, with color photos and quick descriptions. Strangely, no prices or page numbers are listed, so you have to rifle through the pages if you want to find an object of interest.
Item descriptions range from a picture-less name, number and price on one line, to a full-color page of pictures from multiple angles, decal and road name variations, historical and descriptive information, and diagrams with measurements for layout planning. A few isolated examples inconveniently put the picture and item name on one page, and the price and description on an adjacent page, making it hard to connect the two.
An index makes it possible to find items by type or by manufacturer. However, looking for that specific set of seated maintenance personnel is a little problematic, since the index does not break down into individual items. Luckily, the Walther's website allows searches by name or keyword, and the results show the corresponding page number in the catalog.
My favorite section is the Magic of Model Railroading, which displays photos and descriptions of actual model pikes that both instruct and inspire. One pic shows a smoking blast furnace towering over SP Alco switchers while another has a Peter Witt trolley accompanies a marching band entering a small-town gazebo. Another scene has a pair of CFs pulls weather-beaten freight cars past some red cliffs near Gallup, New Mexico, while another page frames a tugboat chugging by a lighthouse that guards a USRA Heavy Mountain 4-8-2 steamer.
Supplementary chapters list model railroad resources such as historical societies and technical associations; show the history of Walthers and lists hobby shops. There's even an insert of advertisements you can cut up for your own scratch-built signs, or use with the company's billboard models.