Friday, August 7, 2015

"Modeling using selective representation..."

I don't know the details for the origin of the term selective compression... the who, when, how, etc. And maybe I just don't fully get it, but it always seemed rather limited to me as a descriptive element for what we do as modelers. After all, just about everything about a layout, regardless of scale, is compressed. There isn't a lot of selection going on here sometimes, unless it's selective elimination or selective omission. It may be an acceptable catch-all or a generally agreed upon bon mot, but I need more. It's just too darn tidy. 

I initially bought into that convenient sounding term in approaching the planning of the Old Main Line, but quickly realized that there was going to be a bit more required to pull this off. Obviously the main line run is compressed, but in assessing the Layout Design Elements I discovered that more decisions would be required. And that is especially evident for a relatively narrow shelf-type layout.

In analyzing Ellicott City, the layout's signature area, I concluded that outside of the key ROW buildings, the downtown lacked any real significant identifiers or any one specific structure that defined the town. Shrinking, or compressing a series of structures was not going to accomplish too much. That, combined with limited space, required a compilation of signature elements into a few structures to ultimately convey the downtown. I would humbly suggest that perhaps selective representation might be a good term for this objective.

Ellicott City's 19th century buildings were largely built from nearby quarried granite and limestone and tended to be located on the lower part of Main Street adjacent to the railroad.
Elements such as metal roofs, doghouse dormers, shutters and the number of divided lights in window sashes tell a story about a building's time and place. Note the off-center storefront which contrasts with the overall symmetry of the structure. More on that below.
Photo overviews help to define an area's color palate and distinctive architectural details.

Immediately adjacent to the river and railroad is one of the oldest structures in town. The post-Revolutionary War building is significant by it's twin chimney's, cedar shake roof, 9x9 divided lights and off-center front door. The jarring interruption to pure symmetry was how colonists rejected Georgian architecture that was viewed as too aristocratic.

Early 20th century buildings lined the upper part of Main Street and tended to be of brick construction. Any number could have come out right of the Design Preservation Models' catalog. Note especially the cream colored storefront at the rear of this photo. It is very comparable to DPM's Carr's Parts.
DPM kits serve as a good starting point  for any downtown as complimentary background buildings. Adding stone foundations and replacing chunky windows with those from Tichy can improve the look of basic kits like Jim's Repair Shop from Walthers. The large stone structure is a serious kitbash. Its dual dormers, metal roof  and asymmetrical storefronts will combine some of Ellicott City's most distinctive architectural elements.
The well-known DPM kits will be customized starting with a change to their rooflines and/or roof materials. Some brick sheeting and enhanced coping was added to the parapet of Carol's Corner Cafe while Carr's Parts will take advantage of its false front to conceal a pitched tar-paper roof. Skip's Chicken & Ribs had its rear wall trimmed and roof lengthened to provide a more realistic method of drainage for a clapboard-type structure. All window sashes are thinned down through careful filing.

The Freeman Manufacturing Company kit from Railway Design Associates served as the basis for one of the downtown buildings. The ends were trimmed from their original clerestory profile to a traditional gable one, while the  front was carefully routed out to accept two storefront facades from the 1970's Heljan Con-Cor Courthouse Square Series.

Ultimately, final customization and selective representation will be achieved through color, signage and applied details like awnings, porches and balconies. The siting of the storefronts on the inclined main street will add additional interest and distinction. Everything is certainly compressed, but the analysis and decision making in depicting Ellicott City goes far beyond that.
Geez, and we haven't even talked about selective orientation yet. More on that sometime in the future.
Did you know? These days the author defines the term 'selective compression' as the process of deciding upon which Tommy Copper item to wear for his cranky knees and back.


  1. Nice work - it captures the EC atmosphere.

    1. Hi Dave... welcome back... I think you are being too generous... there's quite a way to go... I could say, "You ain't seen nothing yet!" ... and that would be pretty literal... but I'll take your comments as a vote of confidence in the potential of things... BTW, are you the DC area Dave O from Proto Layouts or my Jersey buddy of the same name?

  2. I grew up in EC post Agnes but having exlplored the OML quite a bit as a bored teen, I am eager to see your interpretation of Washington Flour and the old coal tower and other trackside structures between it and the station. BTW, Caplan's should definitely be a part of your Main Street.

    Bryan B.

    1. Wow, an EC source!... welcome Bryan... the mill is a focal point, but I am curious what it was best known as - Washington Flour, Doughnut Corp of America or Wilkins Rogers?... B&O literature reference each, although DCA seems the most prevalent...are you referring to the coal tower near Lee's that was toppled over?... that is daunting to try and model that without it appearing as a model that happened to fall over!... about Caplan's, if you notice in photo #5, I refer to a cream colored building which is a close match to the DPM Carr's Parts... I believe that is Capan's, right? ... again welcome and thanks... hope you'll supply more info along the way - JF