Model Railroading is certainly an art, and not just in the traditional sense that we're using paint and plaster, and wood to depict something in three-dimensions, like sculpture. In many ways it is the art of compromise. And the best artists/modelers are able to convey a prototype scene effectively within the constraints of time, money, and especially space.
Of course, such compromises can’t possibly hold up under the scrutiny of those who know what the prototype actually looks/looked like, or what was actually there, or how far apart those locations were, etc. And the more you research your prototype, the more you know, and the more you realize that you can't really model it. At least not accurately.
That’s the rub - and the challenge. My “Wethersfield” section of the layout is about 18 feet long. That’s only 1,567 feet in HO scale - and yet it's being asked to represent a little over 3 miles in the real world. That’s admittedly a huge compromise.
Say hello to "selective compression" - the necessary evil of most model railroading, and especially of prototype modeling. The key to using this tool effectively is in making "good" decisions about what to select to compress. And "good" is primarily defined by what you're trying to accomplish.
My goal with this layout wasn’t to model the prototype to scale (likely impossible - who has 180 linear feet available for that?), or to create a museum diorama (though I do aspire to that as far as practicable), but to replicate each rail move described by John Wallace in his “Typical Day on the Valley Local” in the NHRHTA's Shoreliner magazine - while (hopefully) capturing the “look & feel” of the locale. That goal drove the trackplan (which is perfectly prototypical, if severely compressed in length), the choice of industries (which are also modeled as accurately as practicable, thanks to my friend DaveM, especially given the dearth of photographs), as well as what non-railroad-related stuff I decided to include (enough to convey the overall scene, without crowding out the stuff necessary to achieving my goal). One of the exceptions to this will be my including a model of John's house, since he inspired this project (and even then, it's only close to accurately located, given the space constraints).
At best, this layout can only be an impressionist painting, not a photograph. It's not - nor can it ever be - a perfect depiction of the prototype. And, given my goal with the layout, I think I’m ok with that.
Prototype modeling - at least when it comes to the layout itself (we'll leave a discussion of modeling locomotives & rolling stock for another time) - is an exercise in frustration, if not futility. So maybe I'll just admit, if only to myself, that I’m not able to model the Valley Line of the New Haven Railroad, at least not prototypically. I can only ever hope - or claim - to build a model railroad that at best captures the “feel” of the Valley Line. At least that way I can actually hope to accomplish SOMEthing rather than focus - as I did for far too many years - on what I can’t do, or include, or model.
Building a model railroad based on a New Haven branchline in the late 1940s.