Part 2 – Prototype Study: http://www.trainsanddioramas.com/understanding-a-model-railroad-prototype
Part 3 – Designing Layout: http://www.trainsanddioramas.com/layout-design-sacramento-southern
Part 4: Track Planning: http://www.trainsanddioramas.com/track-planning-using-anyrail
Now so far, I’ve talked about just the layout plan which is sufficient to complete the trackwork and even some scenery for the model builder, but sooner or later there will be a time to start making those custom buildings and structures. Now, a visit in person does help, but unless you specifically plan for a survey targeting the buildings and ready to spend hours in uncovering the details, it becomes difficult to cover all grounds. It also requires special photography equipment to do the job well. Here Google Earth/Google Map comes to rescue again since they have already done this and more, and even for someone who has visited the place and taken plenty of photos and videos, Google Earth/Google Map Street View compliments that information greatly and fills any gap that might still exist. So here I will show some of my photos, but more importantly mention how Google Earth/Google Map Street View can be used to do detail survey of the place. This is particularly helpful for me because during my visit heavy restoration work was going on and many parts were cordoned off and were out of reach, making the use of Google Street View even more important.
Let’s start from the turntable and from here we will head south all the way till the Tower Bridge, evaluating and revealing various details of this wonderful stretch. Picture 2 shows the turntable with the roundhouse in the background. On the left of the turntable you can spot the 2-aspect signal protecting the intersection with the UP track running underneath the I St. Bridge which is also visible in the photo. In Picture 3 you see a slightly different perspective showing the mainline on the left of the turntable more clearly – notice the MOW equipment in the far-left fork and the second spar leading to the turntable. You can also spot the Granite Rock number 10 in front of the turntable getting its fill of water. Picture 4 shows the steam crane and old cargo handling area, you can see the Sacramento History Museum entrance on the left-hand side of the frame. The old water column is also visible in the picture.
Google View 1 shows the background scene right beyond the steam crane and the loading area. This area is not something that will be shown in the layout, but this makes an effective background photo to bring an enhanced level of realism. For those who cannot visit the place and take a background photo themselves, Google Earth solves the problem pretty effectively. Yes, there are a few human figures in the photo that might look oversized in the perspective, but with a little bit of photo editing/photoshop skill, any unwanted or inappropriate elements can be eliminated easily. For those who do not have such skills, by simply placing an N scale object of right size in front of those figures can easily hide them while keeping the feel of the place intact.
Picture 5 and 6 show the Central Pacific Passenger Station from two sides, and previously in Picture 1, you see the same building behind the 3-way switch showing the entry to the station. Google View 2 shows the end of CP Passenger Station and the CP Freight Depot at the junction of J street and Front Street, showing some great details about both the buildings which will be helpful while making these structures. Note that during my visit, this entire area was cordoned off due to restoration work, and I never saw this view in person, but Google Earth compensates for that.
You might be wondering why I am showing the far side of the buildings which will never be visible from the front of the layout. I am showing this because a great model is always complete, whether you can see a particular part of it or not. Since the plan accounts for the whole buildings and not convert them into backdrop buildings (definitely a possibility that the builder can evaluate if reducing the depth of the layout is necessary), I am showing what the other side looks like – after all, the Eastside of these buildings are the front sides. Also, the option stays open for those who might want to build a both side open display layout showing all the features of these great structures.
Moving to the other side Google View 3 shows the J street from the side of the dock – you can see the details of the passenger station on the left. Also, this is another view that will make a fantastic backdrop between the Freight Depot and the Passenger Station for those who want to make use of it. Google View 4 shows the canopy right opposite J St. crossing. If you proceed to the canopy, you can see a great deal of details of the waterside structures as well as the Delta King Hotel in Google View 5. Moving towards the Delta King Hotel the dock and the waterfront structures are clearly visible in Google View 6. Notice how wood planks and discarded railroad ties are used to build the waterfront docks.
Picture 7 show the Central Pacific Freight Depot taken from the entrance of the Delta King Hotel, right opposite the K St. crossing. Looking on the other side you see the waterfront structures opposite the depot in Google View 7. Notice the Delta King Hotel and 2 old time wooden cranes on the wharf. Google View 8 shows the K St./Front St. junction and the Café complex that hosts multiple establishments. The building originally used to be the office and ticket counter of California Steam Navigation Co. as it says in the board. Also, notice the pure wooden railroad crossing and semi-circular Valet Parking of Delta King Hotel. Looking South, you see the wooden dock and dockside structures in Google View 9. Again, none of these areas were accessible for me during my visit, so even for me Google Street View is a more reliable source of information than my visit.
Getting down to the floating dock in Google Earth you get a good view of the stern of the steamer that is now the floating Delta King Hotel as seen is Google View 10. Looking South from the same spot more details of the waterside structures and docks are revealed in Google View 11, including the Hornblower Cruises and Events dock showing their yacht Capitol Hornblower. An important thing to note is that the water level of the Sacramento River is at least 25 feet below the surface in a normal day (and that’s how I saw it during my visit too), so while building the layout the surface of the water can be comfortably 2 inches below the land surface. Going further South along the floating dock you reach the Riverfront Dock, and from here you not only get a closer look at the details of the dock, but also a get a good view of the Rio City Café’s structure and ambiance as shown in Google View 12. Looking South, you also get a good view at Joe’s Crab Shack as it is seen from the dock in Google View 13.
Coming back up to the track level between Rio City Café and Joe’s Crab, looking south you reveal the intricate structure of the Rio City Café in Google View 14. You can also see the south side of the California Steam Navigation Co/Café block building in the frame. Going South a few tens of feet you reveal the beautiful Joe’s Crab Shack building in it’s bright red and white color scheme in Google View 15. Notice those inexpensive lamp shades that can be easily scratch-built. Moving further South you see the Tower Bridge Garage behind Front Street in Google View 16 – a sharp contrast of a classic masonry building amidst all the wooden structures. Looking left, you also see the beautiful Schoolhouse Museum which used to be a church back in the day. Also notice the simple wood-stump and rope barrier, and the wooden light poles – easy to make in model form that will bring superb character to the layout.
Finally arriving at the Tower Bridge crossing you reveal the Tower Bridge Garage entrance and the side of the Capitol Mall which will basically be a background low-relief building in the layout (Google View 18). Looking right it reveals the Embassy Suites building – the building itself will not be there in the layout, just the hint of the entrance, but one can definitely consider using this building in the backdrop. Finally, in Google View 20 you see the details of the Tower Bridge’s beautiful, golden truss details. Note that the lifting tower itself will not be modeled and in the model the cross section of the bridge will end right before the abutment, but these truss details will add a great deal of authenticity in the model. Getting down to the floating dock provides great views of the section of the bridge, including the underside of the bridge, the abutment and more details on the truss, as seen in Google View 21. Now to complete the street view section, here is a beautiful photo of the waterfront that I took from the Tower Bridge as seen in Picture 8. Notice that I was lucky to capture a small 2-masted schooner moored on the dock – another fantastic detail that can be added to the layout scene.
What we saw in this section is simply the overview of the buildings and structures. For someone who is keen to replicate the authenticity and feel of the region will definitely have to spend more time in Google Street View examining each element thoroughly to arrive at the final scale model design. The trick is simple enough, it is just time consuming; and depending on the ambition of the modeler can take weeks to complete the planning process. But for someone taking a more ‘impressionist’ approach the content of this article should suffice.
The planning of this layout is done, however, there is still a few lose strings to tie. So join me in the next post for some final words, plus… a bonus design for a possible extension if you have space.