|Just keep reading to see the whole project in chronological order. Or follow the link below to the Contents page below.|
|NEW LINK - To the table of contents for all model railroad project webpages.|
When we make a miniature version of something, what are we trying to accomplish? Is it just to create a technically exact copy, as in the days when photographs and images were at a premium? I think it is to create an alternate reality in which to engage our thoughts and imagination. We create the miniature objects for the same reason we read a novel - to escape into it and, for a moment, to leave the hard edges of the full-scale world we live in behind.
So after sixty years of recollection, I suddenly decided to recreate my memories as a functioning miniature landscape - a scale model railroad layout that would capture, as best I could, the reality behind those ghostly memories. After debating the relative virtues of N-scale versus HO-scale, I decided for going the 1:87 (HO) route, largely because of the wider range of products available and the greater ease of scratch-building (motivated by my decades of model-making in wood and plastic).
Being an archeologist and historian, doing research was familiar to me, and I had already accumulated an archive of materials, hard copy and web-based. But now, in order to build the "past", I had to confirm what was really out there in 1944. To make a year-long story shorter (slightly), I contacted the New Woodstock Historical Society, which has their museum in the old depot and holds their meetings in the hall of the church where my father preached in 1944, next to "my old house". Most of the historic pictures shown on this webpage came from them and it was through their extremely kind assistence that I was, in a matter of a few weeks, able to "see" every structure within my proposed layout as it would have been in that era.
Next I recognized (fortunately) that although I knew a lot about scratch-built modeling, I knew virtually nothing about creating an HO-scale model railroad. Oh, I had the typical Lionel under-the-Christmas-tree train set from 1955 (and do I wish I had that now), and my brother and I did create an HO layout in the 1960s on a 4x8 sheet of plywood, complete with balsawood ghost town and plaster canyons. But this was different.
So I went onto Ebay and purchased several lots of old model RR magazines and started regularly haunting the magazine racks at the local Borders. In between bouts of "I can't do any of this!" I had moments of "This is really cool." Fortunately the "really cool" bits won out, and I started serious work in the spring of 2004.
As I read through the stack of new and old model railroading magazines, I became desperate to build something. I had no styrene supplies and no detailed plans yet for any c.1944 New Woodstock structures, but I did have lots of wood modeling supplies. I pawed through the musty old magazines from Ebay and found a plan for an........outhouse. Now I did not know much yet then about what structures were or were not on the site, but I was pretty sure there was an outhouse... somehwere.
So following the instinct to "start with the essentials" I modeled up my first structure.
|This outhouse was not modeled on any at the site, but was made to plans published in Railroad Model Craftsman, May 1978 (one of my Ebay finds)|
|When I built the outhouse above, I had no evidence, but went on the idea that every yard had an outhouse, and made mine from a generic plan. Months later, when I obtained a detailed map of the yard area, I found this - right next to the depot! Mine is 4' x 9'.........lucky guess?...or Divine intervention?|
By sheer luck, in the 1970s someone flew over the core area that I was interested in re-creating and captured nearly the same view that I wanted to create when my HO-scale world was completed. Most of the buildings from the 1944 era were still standing, and some since have been lost. So this one picture is worth solid gold, from a modeler's perspective.
|This was my first in-situ structure. I still had not invested in styrene modeling technology, and so did most of this in wood. The framing was all done with wood as in the original, and I used styrene for the siding at the end.|
|Although no-one will ever see, I created a small office at one end of the structure, complete with wall calendar, a tool bench, vise, etc. I am not sure why I bothered, but my brother said "You'll know its there," and I guess he's right. (Here is another view of the model more on the angle of the prototype.)|
|There was a string of sheds along one edge of the lumber yard, now all gone, but seen in the 1970s air photo (right)|
|This was a "snap" to make and I left the "back" open for possible installation of a sawmill sound module later on. But when I went to weather the paint, I used the wrong thing and the paint started to come away. At first I was ready to pitch the whole thing, but then had an idea. I re-weathered the exposed stytrene and then re-painted parts of the siding too appear that someone is repainting a set of sheds badly in need of it. When installed, I will put up a couple small ladders, some paint cans and perhaps a painter or two as an action focal point. As the saying goes: "When you are handed a lemon, make lemonade!|
|This was going to be my most challenging structure - the New Woodstock Depot. Not only would it be the centerpeice of my layout, the building still stands.|
|By a fantastic coincidence, I heard that this very depot had been featured in Model Railroader (September 2002), and by another bit of luck I found the issue on Ebay that very same night. At a time when I was still struggling with scale issues (later resolved by finding a detailed early 20th century plan of the complex), having an exact to-scale set of plans for the depot was a god-send. In addition, the article included a track plan (later found to be in error) that was the best I had seen to date.|
|Here are two other views of the completed depot. The structure has not been weathered yet.|
|A couple notes of caution in case anyone else gets the "hots" to build this depot from the Model Railroader article. First, the plans have an error in the placement of the door on the front, next to the bay window. It is supposed to be directly next to the window, not set apart from it. I fortunately used photos of the exiting building to check the placement before cutting up too much styrene. Second, the author (or editor) suggests that although the present building "...has a metal roof...I suspect the original building may have had wood shingles...." WRONG. After spending untold hours laying on hand-cut shingle roofing (which looks great, I might add), I took a look at the historic photos I had collected, going back to the dawn of time, and there saw that the building had the same type of metal roofing at least back to 1920! (Take a look!)Man was I steamed! But I just don't (yet) have the courage to strip off all that lovely wooden shingling and replace it with a styrene metal roof.|
|This riveted truss bridge stands on the abandoned LVRR ROW (sans tracks) just a few hundred feet north of the area I am modeling and its inclusion in my layout was a "must".|
|This was (so far) my biggest challenge. The bridge is in some ways typical, but in others unique. For example, the ends of the truss bend upward to meet the abutments at each end and the center of each girder is reenforced at the center like a leaf spring on a car. I spent some of my most treasured hours climbing around that structure in the field to capture its every detail on my digital camera. I wanted my scale bridge to capture the full "flavor" of the original, in many ways the most intact artifact of my 1940s recollections of the LVRR. But after reading a couple musty articles I salvaged from the pile of RR mags I got on Ebay, I was certain scratch-building this would be beyond me. After all, I had only just started cutting and gluing styrene a few weeks earlier, and this project required "making" infinitesimally tiny rivet strips by a process I could not understand, even after the 20th reading. I searched for an off-the-shelf bridge, and there were many that, in the words of someone famous, were "close but no cigar". So in the end I just followed the advice of Confucious: "The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step" (roughly translated), and so I began. And two weeks or so later I had suceeded in creating an exact minitaure of the orginal bridge, rust and all, complete with the asymterical abutments made in plaster. When I die, that bridge gets buried with me!! Want a closer look at it?|
|One of the musty Ebay-derived 1970s RR mags had a sheet of 1940s billboards in HO scale. This is just "tinkering".||No Prototype Image|
|Since my layout is 1944-45, these billboards were just perfect, but I had no place in the "known world" of my project to erect a billboard. I decided instead to plaster it on the side of a thin-slice barn, which I figured I could probably stick somewhere in the layout up against the backdrop.|
|This coal silo structure was a focal point in terms of visibility and function and a great piece of dynamic industrial history.|
|Being on the LVRR, the delivery of coal by railroad was a major focus of this yard, both in 1944-45, and today on my HO-scale layout. It had to be done "right". The building had long since vanished, but by extreme good luck, the New Woodstock Historical Society had a collection of 1970s views of the building, from every angle, plus from the air, backed up by a handful of vintage photos that confirmed what it looked like in the 1940s. So in 30-year leaps, these photos brought me from 1944 to 1974 to 2004. Without this collection and the care of the Historical Society, modeling this structure would have been impossible.|
|As I had not yet discovered the LVRR map and track plans that gave structure dimensions, I had to recreate scale from existing features in the photos, using the depot as a known entity. To confirm my "guess", I did a cardboard mock-up to match the air photo.|
|A small office was located on the south end of the building next to what I assume was the lift for the coal (tower-like section).|
|The 1940s view (right) and a 1970s view (left) provide a bit more detail for the south end of the building described above.|
|At the north end of the structure was a bay with a truck door at each side. An eyewitness indicates this was a transfer dock, elevated at boxcar door level. The purpose was storage of weather-sensitive products, such as bags of cement, and could be used to transfer goods brought by rail to trucks on the opposite side, or vice versa.|
|On the east face of the structure was a covered area where local trucks pulled in to pick up coal from five or six chutes (1970s left; 1940s right, upper left). Looking for that truck in HO scale!|
|Luckily the 1970s photographer got a close-in shot of the delivery chutes system, because it is atypical. There is sliding door access at waist level for each of the bays, apparently each containing a different grade of coal (local recollections). Above each door was a metal articulated coal chute (difficult to see in this image) that would fill trucks from above. These were NOT the typical early 20th century metal chutes, which were about 2-3 feet wide. These were only about a foot wide, had a "neck" or "wrist" that pivoted by an overhead rod system and were lowered and raised by a cable (see photo).|
|Even though it is on the backside of the operator's view in my layout, I modeled in the coal chutes (right). Again, my brother says "But YOU'LL know they are there!" I have partially weathered this area of the building for this picture (the rest not started) but have to scratch build the metal chutes, because the stock ones are the wrong type (which I found out by buying a set.)|
|In the Fall of 2004 I was able to obtain a copy of a map that provided iron-clad details on the track plan, location of industries and dimensions of structures. It tursn out I was only a few inches off on my "guestamated" dimensions for the coal elevator structure, which is good, because "I ain't making it over!"|
I usually work in the summer when I can set up on a picnic table out on the deck. But the past summer was a "no show". I had set up a 12 x 3 foot layout, and was well advanced with terrain and such, when I came to recognize two things. First, I really DID want continuous running after all (maybe recollections of my old Lionel loop from Christmas 1955). So 3 feet had to be stretched to 4 feet to accommodate 18" curves. And second, the buildings were bigger than I imagined them, and the layout was too crowded. At true HO-scale, I needed 18 feet. I had 12. This was intentional to save space. But now it was seen as unworkable.
So I went into a funk, and stopped everything. I got onto other things, like building a wooden model of a 1640s New England Trading Ship (don't ask...) and gearing up to teach a course on-line. I was letting this seemingly insurmountable blockade incubate for a while. And finally, in September, a soluton began to emerge. It will take some substantial re-building on the layout, but I can get enough room to allow continuous running and a reasonable separation of structures to preserve enough of the 1944 "feel" of the place to suit me.
So now (10/22/2005) I am going (pardon the pun) full steam (and the mixed metephor) ahead.
(11/01/05) My first structure, after the doldrums, is perhaps the most significant. It was the main office for the Thompson Coal and Lumber company, which was the primary industry at this LVRR stop. If you look at the 1970 aerial view near the top of this page, you can see a whole complex of red buildings with white trim, including several lumber yard structures, the coal elevator and this office.
I joke with people that color memories had not been invented yet, in 1945, so I can't recall the colors of the depot, the LVRR passeger cars, the coal delivery trucks, etc. In fact my memories are pretty much the same color as the 1940s photo at the beginning of this page! But I do have one color memory, and it is of looking off to the north from my house and seeing "red". I don't know what I was looking at exactly. Pretty much any building north of my house was painted red in 1945. But I am almost certain I remember seeing this office building. My Dad may even have taken me along some time when he went there to buy supplies.
So getting this structure "right" has been at the top of my list, and even though I have good field photos of the prototype from 2003, which still stands and still functions as a lumber yard office and store, I was worried whether I would be able to "retrograde" the structure back to 1945.
The 1970 air photo certainly helps, but in fact the configuration shown then is already somewhat modified (see below) from its original, primarily by the addition of a shed-like wing west (left) of the main office.
By good fortune the New Woodstock Historical Society had a late 1940s photo (of a man and his dog) showing this office in the background, and Jim Wright, of New Woodstock, who arrived just after I left in 1947, provided some priceless recollections of the building that I would not have gotten from the photographs alone. Others in the community have also added details, so I feel comfortable that what I have built is as close to what I saw in 1945 as I am going to get.
|The most historically intact face of the building is the east side.|
|Eyewitness accounts confirmed that originally there was a drive-through bay behind the office which contained a scale for the coal trucks loading at the elevator. The outline of that large door can still be seen in this wall, as well as the outline of a loading door in the rear wing. Much of the siding on the front of the building and the overhang are recent, but the upper story front is intact, including two trim returns at each corner. Two of the lower windows appear to be post-1945 and were not modeled.|
|The most modified face of the structure is the west side, where additions hide the original detail.|
|Here I had to "remove" anything post-dating 1945. This was not easy as the best view of this building is the 1970s air photo (see top of page) and the shed wing had already been erected by then. But using eyewitness recollections, and a single 1940s image (below) it was possible to restore this face of the building to about what it would have looked like in 1945.|
|The model matched to the archival photo.|
|The modeled roll roofing overlaps are exaggerated by the lighting but will tone down with weathering and appear more correct on the layout. If not, I may modify the roofing later.|
(November 28, 2005) I have pretty much finalized the track plan adjusted to my available space. So I feel comfortable I can build this and the compression (mostly linear, not front-to-back) will be acceptable. Remember, my prototype is a real place that I really lived in that I am trying to re-create, so scale of environment is as important to me as having an interesting and operational set of structures and track.
But to convince myself, I created a miniature version of that final layout, complete with track plan and major structures, all at a scale of one inch to one layout foot. Satiisfied that everything fits and it "looks right", I am moving forward.
My current Winter priority is to complete all the structures. The reason for this is that when I actually begin to lay down track, I want to make subtle adjustments in position based on what the structures would look like constrained to that track pattern.
I decided over Thanksgiving to start what to me is perhaps the most "sensitive" structure - my old house from 1945. I say sensitive because it is not only the building from which I, as a 3-year-old, watched these trains go by, but it is also the structure closest to the operator on the scale diorama. I have good field photos from last year and a number of historical images, plus recollections of my Dad and others.
The house is partially finished but is waiting on windows from California. So in the interim I decided to start parallel tracking (pardon the pun) and begin further research on the creamery and the feed store. And in order to remain "creative", I completed a small storage building that was in the Thompson Coal and Lumber complex (below).
|This shed on the property of the Coal and Lumber company apparently was used for general dry storage.|
|This shed was at one time used to store sheet rock and the pile of sand next to it in the 1970 photo (above, right) was masons sand for construction. I enjoyed this building because it was small and simple and could be finished in a couple hours, plus I got to use some of my stone foundation sheets and left-over standing-seam metal roofing. We know it had this roofing because the main section of the building survives; apparently relocated to the back of a new metal shed wing on the lumber company.|
(December 6th, 2005) The most anticipated structure to be recreated on my retrospective HO scale layout is my old house - the one where I peeked out the window at the LVRR steam trains just a few yards away at age three.
The house still stands, with a few minor changes. Some of the windows filled in and new siding. But the "footprint" remains the same and it was easy to get dimensions from the prototype. And with the help of a few vintage photos (including the one at the top of this webpage) I had a fairly clear idea of what the house looked like in the middle 1940s, when I lived in it. (My parents' recollections were helpful but inconclusive, so I used the exising structure and the photos to create my own "best guess" plans.)I was well into the building process when I realised the windows I had intended to use were simply the wrong size and too heavy. I cut out all the walls and let in the doors and windows I had that were correct. And while I was waiting for my new windows to arrive from California, I decided to tinker..... and built the 3x3 foot outhouse that is shown on the 1911 map of the complex.
|This tiny "toilet" was a challenge only because of its size.|
|I knew it had to be built eventually, and I had plenty of styrene scraps left to build it. It was a nice little project. Now I am looking for a seated railroad worker to "use" it.|
When the new windows arrived, I got busy on finishing the house. Boy what a lot of window holes to cut! And in the end I forgot three of them and had to cut them in after the walls had already been assembled. But I am happy with the result.
|I had good historic images from the east side but none from the west side, which faces the HO operator. So I used recollections and the modern house as a guide.|
|It is never possible to get a 100% match in window dimensions except by luck, so I hedged a bit. But in the end, the 1:87 house evokes the "feel" and look of the house I once knew. Now if I can get a tiny videocam to look out the kitchen window......|
|This is the side facing the model train operator, when the layout is complete. Dad says we always went in and out the back door anyway. The 1938 Ford I got at the Albany train show last week. A rare find - the right vintage and very highly detailed. Cast in clear plastic, the window glass is already there once you finish painting it. Nice! (Too bad the company went out of business.)|
My next project was to be the feed store, and I had good historic images of it to work from. But I had to confirm some details and order parts, so I decided to shift gears. I had purchased a couple of those Russian Zis 5 trucks on Ebay because they were the "spittin' image" of the coal truck shown in one of my historic images of the New Woodstock coal building. They were 1:72 scale and I thought I could get away with it, but when they arrived I realised they would not work.
So I decided to put one to good use and crafted this mini-diorama for my brother for Christmas. It shows the coal chute side of the New Woodstock building and a loaded coal truck pulling away. It was a fun "filer" project, and I mounted it inside a clear plastic Rocher chocolates box, which is about 7x3x3 and makes a great display case (the cover is removed for this photo).
I was excited to get started on the old feed store, because it had so many interesting add-ons and features (see 1960s photo below). The structure burned in the 1970s, so I had to go on historic photos and a few eyewitnesses.
After consulting with a man who worked in the building in the 1950s, I was forced to accept the fact that all of these interesting features post-dated 1945! All that was there then was the core building, which housed the feed operations on the ground floor and served as living quarters for the family on the upper floor. So I relied on an old postcard view for my model (see below).
|I decided to model exactly the structure in this image, even though it was a bit early. To date no 1940s images have surfaced.|
|A mystery building?|
|By examining the roof line intersections and the shadow on the foundation (above, left), I saw that what at first looked like another shed behind the main building (see left rear corner) was really an unusual loading dock cut into the back corner of the shed wing attached to the main building. One can see how this loading structure, angled to match the alingment of the tracks, served to unload cars left on the siding (see 1913 map).|
After completing this building model, perhaps the most complex to date, but also the most satisfying, I got a burst of energy and tore out the old 3x12 foot benchwork and repositioned and rebuilt the entire layout to run along the other wall and give me roughly 4x14 feet of main line, with a reversing loop at the end wall in the corner. The entire structure is braced from the wall, so there are no legs to get in the way. I raised it about 4 inches for better line of sight, and have finished the foam topography and plotted out the track plan and building locations. It seems to work (from a train-running perspective) and also looks "right". I can position my finished buuildings on the benchwork and begin to imagine what it will look like when completed.
It is all a bit intimidating, to have so much painted surface to turn into realistic scenery, and I have to save up for my track and power system, but it is great to have the basic terrain of my 1945 "world" in 1:87 scale finally completed.
(1/24/06) Having completed the benchwork, having drawn the track plan on the benchwork and seeing that it works, and having finished 50% of the structures for the layout, the inevitable day of laying track is rapidly approaching.
This weekend's big model railroad show in Springfield, Massachusetts, will be a psychological watershed. To paraphrase a bit off-color saying: "Time to drive spikes or get off the track."
Most books tell you to lay your track on cork roadbed, which elevates the tracks over a quarter inch above the surrounding landscape. The design of my benchwork is better suited, by accident, not design, to accommodate track that comes off roadbed at the trestle and then runs on natural grade, fastened directly to the foam surface.
My guilt at this violation of standard practice was vanquished, however, when I went back to my archive of historic photos of my prototype location (see below and also this image from an earlier period).
It is clear from this view, which encompasses all the tracks on the prototype, that tracks ran at natural landscape grade in the vicinty of the depot and associated industries. So I feel comfortable that my test track (below), fastened directly to the foam base and ballasted with material I sifted out of my ditch last year, is a perfect match for the prototype. The elevation above the landscape is like the prototype, and the ballasting material, being a bit finer than standard commercial HO ballast is right for size and color.
This next building was almost an afterthought - a small cement block garage next to the Lumber Yard office. In fact, I only shot the corner of it in the field last year. (Thanks to Jim Wright of New Woodstock, I got a couple good field shots without having to drive 3 hours to correct my oversight.) But since it would sit at the rear edge of my layout, I wanted to have it in hand before finalizing some of the terrain features and structure positions.
|This early 20th century cement block garage ended up being a nice project.|
|The building was constructed from 3-D sculptural cement block, often seen in modest commercial structures of the era. I had never seen that block style in any styrene catalogs, so had (reluctantly) already obtained a sheet of standard block for this project. But at the huge model railroad show in Springfield last month (at which I spent 5 hours and $150 well-spent dollars) I found a resin cast sheet of exactly this block. It was small, but big enough.|
The windows (from Grandtline in California) had to be custom fitted. The masonry windows they stock are the wrong dimensions, so I had to cut the overhanging trim from a set of standard windows in order to recess them into the block wall. A ton of extra work, but being able to copy the prototype exactly is worth it.
Rather than just being a "filler" building, this has now become a "point of interest" for my prototype layout. More than just a garage (note that bank of windows), this apparently served as a de facto automotive repair shop, and the area above the door, which I mistook for a filled in truck entrance, was the sign for the shop (thanks to Jim Wright, again, for that info).
So I have plans to interpret this as a repair shop in operation, which brings a bright point of interest to an otherwise bland corner of my layout. As soon as I can confirm the text of the sign, we will open for business.
Shifting gears from replicating structures and working on terrain, I had to confront the mini-engineering phase of the project that had been intimidating me. Track had to be laid. And during March I completed laying all the prototypical trackage (leaving the service yard with its turntable and staging sidings for later as they go on a dog-leg drop-in section that needed to stay out), soldering joints, painting ties and rail, ballasting track (with sifted sand from my ditch) and dropping feeder wires from every segment (paranoid of bad electrical connections I did both soldered joints AND feeder wires).
The end result is an exact replica, with only slight compression, of the LVRR trackage in New Woodstock as it was in 1945. With that backbone in place, I began to finish topography, plant background trees, pave streets and look to start final work on the layout. I was in no rush to wire up the track and run my locomotive. My priority is to create an historical diorama, in which there happens to be a train, not to create a train that happens to run through a landscape.
Already blessed with tremendous good luck in finding old photos of the prototype locale, I was thrilled to have someone present me with several previously unseen postcard views that not only revealed trackside structures I had not seen before, but added a whole new dimension to the layout. One early early postcard showed a cluster of barns and a small freight shed, which I replicated (below).
A Note: For the most part, from here on, I will show structures in context as they exist on the finished layout. You can click on any image for an larger version. Remember - The layout is in process, so areas shown are in various stages of completion.
|I reproduced the three barns from the existing structures still standing, but retrograded them using the early 20th century postcard. The old Town dump truck is not likely to see service again.|
|North of the tracks on Main Street there was (is) a combination gas station (front), market (middle) and car repair garage (rear). An additional house has yet to be installed in the right foreground.|
|On the opposite side of the street were residences. The foreground house no longer survives. Recreating the Greek Revival columns from wood and paper was a challenge.|
|Two views of the feed store described above in place on the layout.|
|The Hunt building described above in place and interpretated as a part time auto repair shop. Not much else finished in this area except building placement.|
|Lots to do here, but just showing the placement of features revealed by the postcard view, including the snow fence (far left) and section house left distance).|
Ok, not much happened on this project over the summer. It was time for other pursuits, like mowing the lawn, sitting on the deck with the dog and kayaking. I thought I might have been losing the spark, again. But sure enough, as soon as the hot weather began to wane, I got inspired to work on it again.
I did a few little bits from time to time. I would go down and look (I spend a lot of time just staring at it), and then I would pick up some ground foam or a tree or two, and do a little here and a little there. I put chickens in behind the barn and picked up a couple more vinatge vehicles. I put the Grim Reaper in the cemetery, at my daughter's urging. A bit of whimsy never ruined a prototype project.
Here are a few more layout shots. Remember, this is far from finished, so even areas that look "done" are in process.
|This is an overview of the layout looking east. Recall that the entire prototype area is just 4 by 14 feet.|
|This view looks into one of the most completed areas showing the feed store beyond the depot and east of Railroad Street. There is a small fuel facility that goes in to the right and in front of the old barn (eventually).|
|Looking south east from behind "my old house". A shed and old one-room school stood in this area. The chickens are conjectural. The snow fence is not.|
|This view approxmates the one I had as a child in 1945. Our house is in the foreground. Is that my Dad on the front porch? I need his 1940 Chevrolet, to scale, to complete the scene.|
|Looking east down Main Street and the LVRR double track crossing. I need some crossing signals to make this "pop". And the Russian olive drab vehicles need to be painted black to convert them into (I think) 1940s Dodge trucks. I have a photo of such a truck on the site in the 1940s.|
|This area, north on the line and encompassing the various structures of Thompson Coal & Lumber, is still pretty raw. It will probably be the last area I work on. And I am in no hurry to be finished.|
|This view looks southeast past the bridge, which still stands. Since this photo was taken a couple of local fisherman have settled themselves on the wooden footbridge and are casting for trout. There is a nice fat trout in the pool under the bridge. But to scale, that fish would be 6 feet long! (Whimsy, again, and something for my soon-to-be grandchild (estimated arrival on October 26th) to search for when he/she visits old Grandpa.|
The largest and most complex structure on my layout is the New Woodstock Creamery. It was built on a spur around 1930 to replace one on the mainline that had burned. I had looked forward to tackling this building for a long time, not only because of its interest, but becuase the spot on which it stands will be inaccessible once I drop in the 4x4 foot benchwork for the service yard that allows trains to be turned and made up, replicating the service yards at both ends of the prototype branch line.
I was also inspired to get started on this project by the 2006 ARHS Convention at the end of the month in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I wanted an interesting model to display, and all the others were either irretrievably fastened to the layout or had been displayed the previous year. This was an obvious candidate. I originally intended to model just the sides seen in the landside historical photo below, as the trackside of the structure cannot be seen (ironically) from the operator's vantage point. But since I was building this for display, I had to do all four sides.
Basic measurements could be taken off the surviving structure (above), now converted to apartments, and the Historical Society had four old photos that all were labeled "New Woodstock Creamery". But no-one was certain which, if any, of the old photos were of the post-1930 building - the one that stood at the time I was replicating - 1945. Some suggested none of the photos were of "my" creamery, and recollections of older residents were vague as to details.
After studying the photos and comparing them to the detailed map I had showing the earlier creamery as it stood in 1913, I was able to eliminate two of the photos as being of the earlier building, based largely on the degree of set-back from the mainline tracks. I then used the two remaining photos to create my model (below).
|This spectacular view (left), taken probably just after the new creamery was built, and shows in great detail all the land-side features of the building.|
|The trackside of the building had to be left largely conjectural, except for these loading dock details, but was based on a photo of the earlier New Woodstock creamery (below).|
|The creamery as installed on the layout. Some scenery details remain to be completed. This is the view from the operator's perspective.|
The last structure to be built east of Railroad Street (furthest from the front of the layout) was a small fuel facility, the only survivor of which is the pump house (below).
No photos could be found but the original owner was able to provide details on the facility that allowed me to create a reasonable facsimile. Due to the need to apply some lateral compression here, a few things had to be changed, but it provides a nice detail along this street. I kitbashed a Walthers kit for the tanks and some of the piping but scratchbuilt the pumphouse to match the prototype.
|The most challenging aspect of this industry was getting the chain link fence right from a bag of plastic posts, wire rails and nylon mesh for fencing.|
The Holidays and Winter Break at the college gave me time to re-group and start putting some final touches on parts of the layout. I made a forest of trees (pines using rounds of artificial sandpaper and oaks using dried Astilbe flower heads) and then planted my forest in the stream valley (below).
|This planting and associated "scenicing" transformed an uninteresting area into a pleasant natural environment, that extends (through a mirror) beyond the layout.|
The environmental effect of this area of the "diorama" is enhanced by the installation of a sound module with sounds of a stream and birds in the trees.
Moving laterally across the layout, I worked scenic components into the lumber yard area to bring that to completion. The structures were some of the earliest ones I built but they were left sitting on unfinished terrain as priorities were elsewhere. Since this complex of buildings is a focal point for the whole "north" end of the layout, it was nice to see it become more "real". I had to grapple with another microscopic chain link fence and do some fancy cutting to get a sawmill sound module installed inside the long box shop building, but it looks and sounds great!
|I created a nice little activity area inside the lumber yard, with a man loading his truck, two guys painting the box shop sheds and a guy trying to re-capture the boss's cat.|
Continuing to move south on the layout, I dropped in the sub-grade concrete ramp that allowed trucks to slip under the coal chutes at the elevator building, finished up some landscapeing and ground cover around the office of the Thompson Coal & Lumber Company, and finished up ground cover around the depot.
At this point everything within the early 1970's low level air photo of the prototype area, that was my guide for this part of the layout, is complete (if anything is ever really complete....always little bits to add in). It is now possible to match a view on the layout to this prototype photo. Doing so confirmed that the small shed inside the lumber yard is out of scale, so as soon as I can, I am going to re-do that building, repaint the existing one and move it to Main Street behind one of the houses I am working on.
|Except for the one shed, to be rebuilt, my layout captures pretty well the prototype shown in this early air photo.|
Motivated by the possibility that a model railroading magazine might be interested in featuring my layout, I decided to push forward with the completion of the structural elements still missing, so I could take pictures to append to my proprosal.
|Since both houses are still standing today, basic modeling was simple enough, once the antique postcard was brought to my attention by a local collector.|
Only the two houses on the southwesterly end of Main Street, roughly opposite my old house, needed to be built. Both are standing, so modeling the basic structures was not difficult. The larger, ornate Victorian home looks like it has never been changed since the 1940s. However the smaller house is heavily modified and modernized.
Retrograding that structure to its 1945 appearance was facilitated by an early 20th century postcard view (above) showing both structures, confirming the unchanged nature of the larger one and showing the orignal porch configuration on the smaller one.
|In place on Main Street, the new houses just need tenants to move in and the residential area of the layout is completed.|
At this point the prototype area of the layout (which represents New Woodstock in 1945) is finished. The drop-in service yard and staging area will be completed next, which will permit final wiring and the running of trains. There is still a lot of small detailing and fine tuning to be done, but I can say that on this day, just under three years from when I first got the idea to actually do this project, and began the first tentative steps to build it, it IS done.
|The New Woodstock Historical Society is a micro-cosm of all that is best in a local historical organization. This has been especially valuable to me as I attempt to recapture my two years in that village 60 years ago. I cannot imagine attempting this without them.|
|In a tiny community, and run largely by the tireless efforts of a few dedicated people, as is often the case, this Society has performed outstanding service in the cause of local history. First of all, they have saved and use as a museum the cornerstone building in the community - the L.V.R.R. Depot. Historic building preservation, restoration and re-use is the highest of purposes for any local historical association. But beyond this, they have sought to collect and preserve the early photographs of the village that all to frequently end up in tag sales or the scrap heap. This photography collection, and the kindess with which the Society'e members have made it available to me, have made what I am attempting here possible, where otherwise it would have been unthinkable. I offer my sincerest thanks.|
|Dedicated to my brother, Chris. Previously a steam railroad engineer in Arkansas, now a diesel engineer in New York State. No, he's not dead.... just an inspiration.|