Real locations - multi-era photographs

How to add the atmosphere.
BrockleyAndrew
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Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby BrockleyAndrew » Mon Feb 19, 2018 7:21 pm

When I worked in art conservation in the 1990s I remember reading about two concepts which I think can apply to our (some of our) attempts to portray an historically accurate scale model of a place and time. The first was a Japanese idea of the object being intrinsically the same object no matter how many times it had been repaired or replaced - a railway line layed out in the 19th C but still in use could be seen in this way.

The second was the idea of making apparent what is known or authentic and what is restoration or recreation. I'm fairly sure I read (memory possibly unreliable) about a form of Italian painting restoration, perhaps in the 50s or 60s, where it was made obvious what was original paint and what was infill. The restorers did this by not recreating lost areas or infilling but by painting a multichromatic abstract area. Very visually distracting but an attempt to show what was authentic. I don't think it lasted for long but I did remember it when thinking about how, even with a good collection of photographs, you may have to ditch ones of an area you have from one era and invent what you think it must have looked like in another. I have some excellent photos of track relaying which it would be brilliant but difficult to model but then the layout would be forever portaying just one month of one year. So, given the Italian honesty model and recognising the Japanese idea of the thing (railway in this case) continuing through time, I was musing about a layout with the historic layout worked up from 3 different era photographs. It would probably look bizarre but you could avoid the having to invent or extrapolate from general knowledge/ignorance.

Just an odd idea.

BrockleyAndrew
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby BrockleyAndrew » Mon Feb 19, 2018 8:37 pm

Oops - had thought I was posting this in the members area. Certainly not Tools and techniques! Never post on a train!

Apologies

Andrew

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Flymo748
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby Flymo748 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 8:53 pm

BrockleyAndrew wrote:Oops - had thought I was posting this in the members area. Certainly not Tools and techniques! Never post on a train!

Apologies

Andrew


No apologies needed - this is one of the useful things we have moderators for ;-)

Hopefully the conversation can continue where you meant it to be!

Cheers
Paul Willis
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Beware of Trains - occasional modelling in progress!
www.5522models.co.uk

BrockleyAndrew
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby BrockleyAndrew » Mon Feb 19, 2018 8:59 pm

Thank you Paul! Much appreciated.

Andrew

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John McAleely
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby John McAleely » Mon Feb 19, 2018 9:39 pm

I deliberately moved it out of the members-only members lounge :-) it didn't seem to have any reason to be discussed in private...

I did struggle to choose an appropriate location.

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John McAleely
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby John McAleely » Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:02 pm

Maybe that's the next question - where does this thread belong? :-) Layouts and operations?

philip-griffiths
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby philip-griffiths » Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:46 pm

Ething, 3D Printing and Artwork files?

Or scenery and structures? :D

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LesGros
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby LesGros » Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:52 pm

Scenery and Structure would seem appropriate
LesG

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never made anything useful

BrockleyAndrew
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby BrockleyAndrew » Tue Feb 20, 2018 9:37 am

I don't mind really where it goes - it seems to be going slowly nowhere anyway, which is ok by me.

The thing that set my thinking off was Colin:s test track thread and weathering and so on. Why bother making sure a 3rd rail insulator pot is white if it ends up brown in use? Whereas if you model it freshly installed - but then it looks too perfect. A layout with tracklaying in progress but unfinished would be a static diorama, intetesting to look over, but no operating potential.

Anyway, just as an aside, many photographs of BR era show spare rail lengths sitting stored as it were between the running rails but I don't remember seeing examples of that practice in pre-WW2 photographs.....

Andrew

philip-griffiths
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby philip-griffiths » Tue Feb 20, 2018 7:21 pm

Picking up Andrew's theme seriously, with boiler swaps, new tyres, sometime new wheels, new bearings, replacement frames etc, how much of a locomotive actually survived from construction to scrapping (assuming it had a long life)? valances, footplate, cab, and name plate seem to be what is left?

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Rod Cameron
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby Rod Cameron » Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:30 pm

Ah, Trigger's broom again.
Rod

BrockleyAndrew
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby BrockleyAndrew » Wed Feb 21, 2018 11:54 am

Yes, it is the broom handle and head replacement - is it the same broom? question but I was surprised but also interested that in Japanese conservation thinking (at least as I remember it from a trade magazine from 20 years ago) a temple that is destroyed or rebuilt, even as a yearly ritual, is seen as being the exact same building and is still able to be thought of as ancient. The correlation for me was that a railway route is the same even though many of the physical elements of it have been replaced/changed.

Really, thinking it all over again, I suppose I was worried/annoyed that for one end of a proposed layout I might have a fantastic photograph perfectly dated to my chosen period and for the other end a perfectly good photo of how it looked 50 years later but to build it for one era I would have to resort to invention/extrapolation for half the layout. And I also thought it would look weird/great if you did build a layout which had a composite segmented era shift.

I know - just get on and start building something and stop wasting time typing!

Andrew

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jon price
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby jon price » Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:43 pm

Of course if applied strictly we would see lots of locos and rolling stock where one side is beautifully rendered, whilst the other side is just a featureless sheet of metal or plastic painted in neutral grey.

In layout terms I don't see why not. You can have stations separated by track with no scenery after all. You could even run out of the station and come to a halt in the "neutral zone" to represent the passage of time before proceeding to the next station. Or conversly you might have neutral grey impressionist stations, seperated by nicely depicted runs of "track in countryside".

Actually I think this kind of thing is what we do with fiddle yards. When it comes to accuracy I would say no-one has a 100% accurate layout in the sense that unless there is 100% documentation of every aspect of a site within a single day (extremely unlikely) what you see, and what you get are always collages of information from different times, with varying amounts of conjectural infill.

What it boils down too is the question of rationale. Is this a layout designed for maximum operating accuracy? Is this a layout aiming to show the whole scene from a particular location? Is this a layout which serves as a display case for various models of rolling stock loosely connected by the operator's interest (most people fall into this category I suspect).

I have a secondary project for which there is NO detailed photographic record, and very little documentation of any kind except a couple of diary entries, but which is very specifically tied to a time slot of a few days, in a location which is probably a 5-10 mile radius. The locomotives are pretty exactly the right ones. The rolling stock will be generically accurate, as will the cargoes and passengers and scenery. The layout will depict a specific known historical event. If I wanted detailed accuracy of any kind only the locomotives and crews could be represented, but this is certainly not a "whatever I like the look of" project". In my view this will be as "authentic" as any history of the place, time. or operator, but only because the histories are extremely scrappy about this.

I think in the end we are all dealing with interpretations, and for the interpretations to make sense to anyone but the most esoteric researcher they must include lots of interpolation.

John Palmer
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby John Palmer » Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:53 pm

BrockleyAndrew wrote:I suppose I was worried/annoyed that for one end of a proposed layout I might have a fantastic photograph perfectly dated to my chosen period and for the other end a perfectly good photo of how it looked 50 years later but to build it for one era I would have to resort to invention/extrapolation for half the layout

This rather begs the question “how long is your chosen period?” If you make it half a century then you can legitimately reproduce what you see in photographs taken at opposite ends of that period. And operating, say, a Black Five alongside a Sprinter will be irreproachable.

I get the impression that dimensionally accurate reproductions of prototype locations are uncommon, which potentially puts our group model of Burnham-on-Sea into a a category having severely limited membership. But even in the case of our layout, despite the absence of any compression in trackplan length or tightening of curvature, I have found it necessary to distort the topography of the townscape forming the backdrop in order to make the model operable whilst still capable of being taken to exhibitions. Immediately that means I have compromised the accuracy of the model as a historical record, but I am still left with the dubious advantage of not being required to exercise my imagination in deciding the form that townscape takes but rather of representing what was there.

Well, what was there, and when was it there? In many respects the answers to those questions have proved hard to discover, even though extended research has made it possible to put together quite an extensive photographic portfolio of the station area. Though all the railway buildings were demolished some forty to fifty years ago, I still have the advantage of being able to walk down the road and photograph, sketch and in some cases take measurements of the majority of buildings that have stood in the area from around 1900 onwards. This is a distinctly limited advantage because, in the period since the railway was taken up in 1964, enormous changes have been made to the appearance of many the buildings, e.g. the wholesale replacement of the wooden window frames with UPVC double glazing units. So, inevitably, I find myself obliged to extrapolate conclusions about what was there from photographs and making judgements about how far the shells of the buildings now present can be taken to represent accurately what was there nearly seventy years ago.

Furthermore, our photographic portfolio reveals major and minor changes in the townscape as the years roll by. As a trivial example, the telegraph pole adjacent to the signal box was re-sited at least three times during the period the railway was present. So, if we are conceited enough to claim that we are creating a historically accurate record of Burnham station and its environs, we have to be able to answer the question “historically accurate as at what date?” We aren't working from a comprehensive portfolio of photographs all taken on the same day, so it's not possible to offer the airy response “Oh, this is what Burnham looked like on the fifth of September 1950”, and I have yet to meet the 'historical' modeller having the temerity to attempt such precision. We need to recognise the limitations to which our research is subject, so instead we are obliged to answer the question along the lines “We believe our model is broadly representative of what Burnham looked like in the years between 1948 and 1954.” That's a six year period, chosen quite arbitrarily. If instead you choose to make the period of your 'historically accurate' model fifty years in duration, then who's to say you are wrong?

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Noel
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby Noel » Wed Feb 21, 2018 5:58 pm

John Palmer wrote: We need to recognise the limitations to which our research is subject, so instead we are obliged to answer the question along the lines “We believe our model is broadly representative of what Burnham looked like in the years between 1948 and 1954.” That's a six year period, chosen quite arbitrarily. If instead you choose to make the period of your 'historically accurate' model fifty years in duration, then who's to say you are wrong?


Over that six year period there were changes, but they were evolutionary [and slow], so any anachronisms which might creep in are unlikely to be particularly obvious. The period on railways in Britain with the least visible changes both on and off the railway was probably circa 1880 to 1920, but over some half centuries the changes were revolutionary, and almost nothing that was there at the end of the period was also there at the beginning, except, perhaps, some of the structures, and even they might well have been significantly altered. 'Historical accuracy' intended to apply to a layout showing the period from 1960 to 2010, for example, is, I suggest, a meaningless concept, both for the railway and its environment because both changed so fundamentally over that timescale.
Regards
Noel

John Palmer
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby John Palmer » Thu Feb 22, 2018 3:02 am

Simultaneous running of stock extant both in 1960 and 2010 wouldn't be my cup of tea either, but it depends on the nature of the historical record you are seeking to portray, as some things change more quickly than others, and you may wish to put the focus on things that haven't changed much over a fifty year period. What's more, your perception of the rate of change may influenced by your greater familiarity with more recent changes in the state of the world around you – how well able are you to contrast changes in the period 1968 to 2018 as against the preceding 50 year period between 1918 and 1968?

Taking the case of your forty-year period between 1880 and 1920, let's look at a short span within that period between 1st June and 31st August 1889. 12th June sees the crash at Armagh and on 30th August the resulting Regulation of Railways Act receives the royal assent. In a trice, the lackadaisical, happy-go-lucky days of railway operation are at an end and the Board of Trade is empowered to enforce introduction universally of block working, interlocking and use of the continuous brake on passenger trains. A transformative two month period, and I would argue that representations of the railway before June and after August 1889 ought, for historical authenticity, to reflect the transformation of the climate that had taken place during that short interval. But, 129 years after the event, the magnitude of that transformation is perhaps not so apparent to us as those that have taken place in the last ten, twenty or even fifty years, and maybe for that reason it is easy for us to treat the railway environment of 1880 as being much the same as that of 1920 when such was not, in fact, the case.

DougN
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby DougN » Thu Feb 22, 2018 5:24 am

I have a similar instance as I am currently interested in NER lake 6 wheel coachs. I have been told on line that there were no 6 wheel coachs left at grouping. Only to find that the last of them didnt get with drawn until 1930 and there were a reasonable number (well over 900 built) still running. I have since been discussing the Clerestories from the NER livery post grouping, there were some in Lake until the 1940's, some were in the muddy brown as an over all paint, and there were also some in Scummbled teak. So I think it might be prototypical to have all of the above liveries around the same time. This is not to suggest that this is in the same train, but say one lake liveried coach in a train with scummbled coachs is OK.
Doug
Still not doing enough modelling

andrewnummelin
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby andrewnummelin » Thu Feb 22, 2018 9:18 am

For those of you thinking about the artistic aspects of our hobby http://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-43119445/photographer-stephen-wilkes-shows-day-to-night-in-one-image is well worth a look.
It’s a “small” step to move from a day to a few decades, and from 2D to 3D.
Regards,

Andrew Nummelin

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jon price
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby jon price » Thu Feb 22, 2018 10:29 am

As far as scenery goes one of the biggest questions is what time of day it is. People play with fully light or fully dark to great effect, but direction of shadow can have a dramatic difference through the day, and if you have a seafront or open quay it is even worse. I know of only one layout exhibited that has a working tidal flow: Tollesbury Quay in O gauge, which is not a gimmick but a superbly modeled creek at the end of a line in Essex. The point about no tides is that your layout is fixed at a very specific time of day, on very specific days of the year. We accept this rigidity of temporal issues, even while our trains move backwards and forwards, presumably thanks to the Railway Bobby making judicious use of the magic boomerang. My own layout will be guilty in this respect, I just havn't decided whether it will be high, low or midway in the tidal range.

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Noel
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby Noel » Thu Feb 22, 2018 12:54 pm

John Palmer wrote:Taking the case of your forty-year period between 1880 and 1920, let's look at a short span within that period between 1st June and 31st August 1889. 12th June sees the crash at Armagh and on 30th August the resulting Regulation of Railways Act receives the royal assent. In a trice, the lackadaisical, happy-go-lucky days of railway operation are at an end and the Board of Trade is empowered to enforce introduction universally of block working, interlocking and use of the continuous brake on passenger trains. A transformative two month period, and I would argue that representations of the railway before June and after August 1889 ought, for historical authenticity, to reflect the transformation of the climate that had taken place during that short interval. But, 129 years after the event, the magnitude of that transformation is perhaps not so apparent to us as those that have taken place in the last ten, twenty or even fifty years, and maybe for that reason it is easy for us to treat the railway environment of 1880 as being much the same as that of 1920 when such was not, in fact, the case


I did think about the 1889 Act when I picked the period I quoted. I agree that technology made a considerable impact on the railways in the period 1875 to 1895, but, in reality, the UK railways were well aware of which way the wind was blowing, and the big ones were already compliant before the 1889 Act was passed, and virtually all of the others had at least made a start. The Act did not require an overnight change in any event; apart from questions for some of the poorer railways of financing the cost, the UK infrastructure suppliers were not in a position to supply that amount of equipment that quickly. OIS or staff/token working on single lines had long been a BoT requirement. The most visible change, that of liveries following the grouping, had not yet happened.

I picked the 1960-2010 period because of the Beeching cuts, the impact of road competition, the abolition of steam locos apart from preserved examples, the death of wagonload traffic in the late 1960s and the concomitant redundancy of shunting yards, the switch to air brakes from the late 1960s onwards, the introduction of signalling centres and redundancy of most manual boxes, and the wholesale removal of unwanted track in that period. The railway of 2010 had very little in common with that of 1960. I take the point about the more recent changes being more familiar, but feel that the combination of changes in this period amounted to a revolution, in comparison with the earlier changes, which were largely evolutionary.
Regards
Noel

martin goodall
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby martin goodall » Thu Feb 22, 2018 4:56 pm

Taking up the original point, it has long been a principle of architectural and similar conservation that new material that has been built in to replace rotted or worn out or lost structural elements or decoration should be clearly distinguishable from original work, although this principle has not been universally observed. In the case of murals and similar, areas of lost paint are either left uncoloured or are painted in in light neutral tones to distinguish them from the original colour. I have not heard of an abstract pattern having been used. However, when it comes to ‘old master’ paintings, conservationists have never hesitated to restore damaged paintwork without any attempt to distinguish the new from the old.

Andrew’s original comment prompted me to think very much along the same lines as other contributors. I like to run rolling stock on the Burford Branch that spans a period of more than 40 years (from 1921 to 1962), but I confine the stock in use on the layout at any one time to a period of no more than five years or so. However, this does not altogether eliminate some anachronisms. I can change road vehicles to suit the period, and even the milk churns, and one can get away with a few human figures of indeterminate date (provided you avoid any obvious period-limiting fashions). But having originally chosen to model the fixed parts of the layout in the early to mid inter-war period, my roads are a very light coloured rolled stone, whereas these would later have been re-surfaced with tarmac. I just have to accept that for the post-war era, this is anachronistic.

No doubt other anachronisms could be identified. For example, I have finished the posts and rails of the cattle dock in unpainted condition, but up to the mid-1920s at least they would have been painted white and/or regularly white-washed (having previously been treated with slaked lime before its use was banned early in the 1920s).

When it comes to the point, each of us can please himself on his own layout. I am happy to accept that there are some anachronisms on my layout, so long as I am aware of what they are.

BrockleyAndrew
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Re: Real locations - multi-era photographs

Postby BrockleyAndrew » Thu Feb 22, 2018 9:23 pm

Many thanks for the interesting replies. The pleasure I find in this hobby is research and design. I do enjoy analysing what I like and why I like it. I especially enjoy the diversity of our approaches. I do enjoy the design challenge and seeing how designers have solved their (self-set) challenges. And setting out one's reasons for doing something in a particular way can help one clarify them. I had seen an excellent set of photos of a junction replacement which showed all the track elements we try to model in such brilliant clear close up detail (ballast, fishplates, cast items, sleepers looking massive in half level ballast) , but realised that the "before" photo in the magazine article, where all the detail was buried in dirt and dust and covered with grime, was the less interesting but more prosaic view. And more easily modelled!

Andrew


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