Bridging the Gaps in Historical Research

The Pacific Coast Steamship Company's office building at Moss Landing. Scratch built in styrene, with Grandt Line doors and windows, and Builders In Scale shingles.

The above scratch built office is the second purpose built structure for the PVCRR, the first being the public toilets for the Spreckels Depot, which you can read about here. The construction of this building follows many of the same techniques as the previous build, so I won’t go into those today. I believe this was the general office of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company’s operations at Moss Landing at the turn of the 20th century. The building, clearly labeled “Office” in one of the pictures I have, was located alongside the various warehouses the company used at Moss Landing. 
This building did present a challenge, one that I will come up against as I tackle more and more projects for the railroad, and that is the large gaps of information out there on a prototype railroad that ceased operations nearly 100 years ago. I won’t be able to find blue prints, paint swatches, and detailed images of everything I want to recreate. Even if that information exists, my primary interest in this hobby is building and operating a miniature railroad, and I do not want to give up that to focus solely on the research side of things. 
To date, I have three pictures that clearly show this little building, and they were all taken in 1906, in the aftermath of the San Francisco earthquake.

Moss Landing after the 1906 earthquake (note the bent rail in the foreground). Photo courtesy Pacific Coast Narrow Gauge 

Photograph found in Steinbeck Country Narrow Gauge, courtesy US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA

I used a generic window width of 3' to approximate the dimensions at 13' x 25'.

Photograph found in Steinbeck Country Narrow Gauge, courtesy US Geological Survey, Menlo Park, CA

I made sure to include the small details on the side wall that indicate where a door had been covered over. The prototype picture shows something covering the lower panel of the side window, so I attached some wood planking on the inside of the window. The wooden foundation will be added when the model is installed on the layout.  

I added a very simple interior made of bits from the scrap pile. The building will be lighted through the hole in the side room. It wasn't until after the roof was glued on, that I realized I forgot to include a stove to go with the chimney... 

Mine isn’t a unique problem, I’m certain that most people who set out to recreate a given prototype run into the same issue. What I struggle with is accepting that I am missing some information, and diving into the project regardless of that fact.
Taking the jump, and making this compromise allows me to continue down the path of progress in the basement, rather than becoming stuck forever researching for the perfect bit of information that may not exist. 
I think I can safely assume no one out there will see my tiny model and point out that I didn’t get the dimensions right, or forgot to include a window somewhere. But I know me, and I know that if I ever found a picture that included the missing wall from my little office building, I would immediately notice, and compare it to my version of the structure. 
To prevent this, I could stop looking for pictures of a given subject once I complete the model or the scene, thus preventing myself from ever finding more information that could compete with what I’ve built. 
That sounds boring though. I enjoy the hunt. I enjoy putting the pieces together. I get excited when I find pictures from different sources and can piece together a more complete story of what actually existed. 
To me, that’s part of the fun. I know I got some of this building wrong. I set out to create the look and feel of a certain building that existed in a certain time, and I think I accomplished that, and more importantly, had fun in the process. When I find the Holy Grail that shows me what I’m missing, I can sit down and spend some time doing it again. By then, my skills will have improved, and my model will be better for it. 

For now, I will continue to practice the hobby, and fill in the gaps as they arise.

Products Used:
Builders In Scale - Part No. 400 - N Scale Shake Shingles
Evergreen Scale Models - Part No. 4542 - Board & Batten .075" Spacing
Evergreen Scale Models - Part No. 100 - .010" x .020" Strips / Part No. 101 - .010" x .030" Strips
Grandt Line Products - Part No. 8001 - 36" x 56" Window 12 Pane, 36" Doors


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