Thursday, July 4, 2019

Mugged by the Prototype: A Few Words about Wordless Wednesday #271

You may have noticed lately an ever-so-slight relaxing of my otherwise-rigid following of the prototype in my modeling the Valley Line. The case of how to model & position the Wethersfield Lumber Co. is one case-in-point, and illustrates an all-too-common dilemma of Prototype Modeling: how do you model the prototype convincingly in the limited space you have? My friend MartyM offered an excellent perspective:
"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."
Where to make these inevitable compromises has a lot to do with your priorities - your "givens & druthers" - and what you want to accomplish with your modeling. In my case, I have a strong interest in replicating what John Wallace saw during his time with the Valley Line in the late 1940s. And what he saw has been beautifully conveyed in his articles and photographs. Those have been the primary - and often exclusive - basis for my efforts.

And where - as in the case of Wethersfield Lumber - there's little information and no photos, it's easy to make a "best guess" and leverage the resulting flexibility to make the best use of the space I have available.

But what about East Berlin? John has little, if any, direct experience with that part of the Valley Line and no photos. So, as I've related earlier, when I got some cool structures I wanted to use I decided to put them in East Berlin. They look great in the space and function enough like the prototype for my tastes - at least based on my limited information.

The problem started when DaveM offered to build another structure for me and I suggested, perhaps, the East Berlin station would be a good next project. In keeping with my "proto-freelancing" of East Berlin, all I was going to do was use a kit I had on-hand. But the prototype structure actually still exists - in a form - and I have a little space for it on the layout. So, I thought, why not use a more accurate model?

Of course, to model the station accurately, Dave needed photos. Other than the one above that I took a while back, all I had was this one taken around WWI (and phone photoed from a calendar):

There's a LOT going on there - maybe folks waiting for the doughboys to come home? Look at all those tracks - even going behind the station(!) No worries - this photo is from WAY before my time and even the Berlin Iron Bridge Co. (located across the tracks from the station) is going great guns at this point in history. By the late 1940s though, passenger service had been gone for over 15 years and the Bridge Co. had moved away as well. I figured I was still pretty safe in how I was going to model East Berlin.

Then Dave asked me what should have been an obvious question: "Does the NHRHTA Photo Library have any photos of the East Berlin station?" Heh - as the NHRHTA Photo Librarian I figured "Nope - I of course would have known if it did" - but I checked anyway. Turned out I was wrong. Out of over 14,000 images, there's one of the station at East Berlin:

What a great shot! But - as with many new discoveries of one's prototype - it presents good news and bad news: It's always wonderful to discover something new, but it's usually a problem figuring out how to handle the new information. In the photo above, there are two background buildings I knew nothing about and I think they're still there (though heavily modified). But if you stand in the photographer's spot today, all you'd see behind the station is a dense row of trees.

This photo was taken on Armistice Day, 1931 (that's what Veteran's Day was called back then) and you can see that it's still an active passenger station (barely - passenger service would cease within a couple of years) but all those tracks we saw in the previous photo are long gone. Only the passing siding remains and that would disappear by World War 2. And the station building itself is much longer than the space I have available for it.

So, having been thoroughly mugged by this new information, what should I do?

A prototype-modeler-purist (a group to which I aspire) would do what they could to include and accommodate the new information. If there's room, build the station full scale length and add the background buildings. If there's not enough room for that, include the buildings as flats - or at least on the backdrop. "Selectively compress" the station if absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately, none of that's going to work here - not without a very significant amount of work, and perhaps the sacrifice of at least one of the two great structures I've already included. And all for what is - to me - very little benefit. The buildings in the background are not rail-served and serve no operating function on my layout, and by my era the station is probably only used for LCL/express/package service and that's most likely truck-hauled (there's no team track).

So the background buildings aren't critical, and the model of the station can be compressed to fit the space I have for it. It's not a perfect - or prototypically pure - solution and in a perfect world, with ample space, I'd much prefer to have East Berlin be historically accurate. After all, one of my "givens" is that I want to convey the Valley Line as accurately as possible.

But in this case, these are compromises I'm willing to live with. And I'll be sure and include a dense stand of trees behind the station to hide the evidence.

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