Monday, June 24, 2019

Wethersfield Lumber Co & Prototype Fidelity - Worth the Cost?

Long-time readers will recall that I'm willing to redo things on the layout to make things more prototypically accurate - including removing & reconstructing trackwork and even redoing a backdrop to better match the prototype topography. But I may have reached the limit of my willingness to toe the line of prototype fidelity with the Wethersfield Lumber Co.

As with all things having to do with "prototype modeling," we of course consult the prototype. The older your chosen era, the harder that is - and you're limited to photos and maps (and the memories & recollections of those who were there... but more on that later).

In the case of the Wethersfield Lumber Co., I've got one not-so-decent photo. . .

Click here for the story of how I got it
. . . and one relatively accurate map:

For the longest time, I just had the siding branching off the mainline, all loose and whatnot - waiting for the day I got some additional information. Well, once I saw the photo and saw that a Walthers kit would make a reasonable stand-in, I built the kit and started roughing in the scene.

Unfortunately, given my space constraints and the size of the lumber shed (already WAY shorter than the 21" long a true-scale model would be), this is the scene that resulted and how it looks today:

Eagle eyes (such as those possessed by my friend and structure builder DaveM) will notice right away that something is amiss. Namely, that the lumber company siding is not parallel to the mainline(!)

There are a few reasons for this, all having to do with the space constraints alluded to above. Primarily, I wanted to maintain some space/distance between Wethersfield Lumber and the Fernwood Street scene (a focal point, since John Wallace's house is there - more on that in an upcoming post). On the prototype, there's over half-a-mile between them, so I wanted them to be visually separate.

Also, there is the matter of the siding and surrounding area all being thoroughly gooped in...

Nevertheless, not being bashful about doing major changes for the sake of prototype accuracy, I decided to at least mock-up what a change would look like . . .

Changing things so that the siding & shed are parallel to the mainline (and, incidentally, perpendicular to Jordan Lane - seen between the shed and Ballantine's in the pic above) would require chiseling out all the ground goop, risking damage to the subroadbed (in this post you'll see that the area is built on a combination of plywood and foamboard) and, of course, prying up & moving the track. I'm up to the task, but I'm not convinced the work would really be worth it. Sure, the siding and shed would match the Sanborn map, but it starts to crowd into the Fernwood neighborhood a bit.

All prototype modeling is a compromise of accuracy within the space available. But the "best" examples of prototype modeling strike the balance in such an effective way that you hardly notice any compromises made. In the case of (finally) locating the Wethersfield Lumber Co., the "best" location may be what makes the scene look right overall, especially when there's nothing but one blurry photo and an insurance map to tip my hand.

Well, that and the razor-sharp memories of a certain couple fellas that grew up in the neighborhood during the era I'm modeling!

What would you do? How far are you willing to go in the pursuit of true prototype fidelity? How do you balance space constraints with prototype accuracy?

Weigh in in the comments below!


  1. Chris, I feel your pain! As you've probably read on my blog, I have redone a LOT of things that were "right" as far as the real thing goes, but it doesn't LOOK right in the space. I'm fact, I need to get back downstairs and fix just that, and maybe do an update on it! But yes, I agree, leave it the way it was. At leas in pictures, it looks fine.

    1. Hey Ralph - I know you know what I mean! Enjoying following your progress as well and thanks for weighing in and affirming my original decision (though, admittedly, I'm still mulling a bit...)

  2. Chris,
    I drafted a brilliantly crafted, lengthy, and insightful comment … that promptly vanished into the nether regions of the internet.
    In the interest of brevity I’ll summarize my lost thoughts and then tell you what to do.
    1. Basic issue – you want to include the lumber company and the Fernwood Street scene – but don’t have space to do both “full scale.”
    2. You don’t have a lot of detailed information on the lumber company so you’re using the Walton shed as a “close” approximation.
    3. The “problem” is that the track maps show the lumber company siding is parallel to the main – yours is at an angle.
    The answer is simple, of course, and you already know what it is – but I’ll tell you anyway.
    John Wallace has provided much inspiration for your modeling – I believe his Shoreliner article – or at least the photos in the article – are what inspired the entire layout in the first place. Make that scene the priority.
    Prototype modeling is about necessary compromises. Where the wheels always start to fall off the bus is when we try to cram too much into our too small spaces.
    I promised I’d tell you what to do – but you know the answer already. Keep the lumber company spur at an angle and screen it from the Fernwood St scene with some judiciously placed trees.
    To run the siding parallel to the tracks would visually compromise and “ruin” both the Fernwood Street and lumber company scene.
    If leaving the spur at an angle is so debilitating to your psyche then remove the spur and lumber shed altogether.
    See, easy answer.



    1. Heh - I know you're being ironic since no answer is "easy" - but you're right: Running the siding parallel to the tracks compromises both scenes. My initial placement seems to be the right way to go. Thanks for such a thoughtful response (especially after having lost your first one!)

  3. Actually, when I look more closely at the Sanborn map, while it does curve back toward the mainline, it is still at an angle in regards to both the mainline and the road. So I'd really be inclined to adjust the track rather than move the building too much. If anything.

    1. Can't really adjust the track without moving the building. And if I'm not going to move the building, may as well leave things as they are I think...

  4. Personally I like the look of the shed parallel to the main, the curves siding looks much better IMHO - but if it is encroaching on the next scene too much you might better leave it alone.

    1. Hey Craig and thanks for your comment! I know what you mean about the curved siding - on its own, it *does* look a bit better. But yeah, it does end up crowding the other scene. So, so far, no compelling reason to move things from where they are.