Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Your Local Library Has More Than You Think

4 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    September 2008
  • From: Seattle, Washington
  • 1,082 posts
Your Local Library Has More Than You Think
Posted by IVRW on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 9:55 PM
Tonight, I went to the Provo City Library. While looking up Model Railroad stuff on the catalog, I came across something for a photo archive. I asked the person at the front desk what it was and where was it, and she took me to a file cabinet. In there, under the transportation section, I came across the Promontory Summit Picture, as well as many other historic photos of Railroads that ran through town. Among the photos, I found several well known landmarks. Rather than listen to the Audio Book Reader person, or taking the advice of the post kids show thing about "Find out more, at your local Library" or "Read more at your local library," maybe, you should 'Look more at your local Library.' Try your local library for your next prototype information gathering session.


19 Years old, modeling the Cowlitz, Chehalis, and Cascade Railroad of Western Washington in 1927 in 6X6 feet.

  • Member since
    July 2007
  • 162 posts
Posted by oo-OO-OO-oo on Wednesday, November 4, 2009 10:46 PM

Sometimes your local historical society can be a help too, but they often charge for access to their files

Another source of historic information is a series of books called "Images of America"

Small towns (and big cities) submit photos of local landmarks, etc. that can offer all kinds of ideas for the way things were

And of course college libraries often have archives of old photos - Temple University in Philadelphia received a gift of the photo "morgue" from the old Philadelphia Daily Bulletin, which shut down in 1980.

The morgue is all the film and photos shot, both published and unpublished.


I wish I was a headlight

On a northbound train

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • From: Freelance, USA
  • 490 posts
Posted by nik .n on Thursday, November 5, 2009 7:13 AM

 My local library has some finds, too. In the form of very large books of photos and stuff about obscure railroads around Scranton and other places.

  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 11,398 posts
Posted by dknelson on Thursday, November 5, 2009 8:05 AM

A local library might have older maps that can be a very useful resource, even a street map from a bygone era.  Local newspapers on microfilm can be a tremendous resource for prototype research. 

Another resource that can be of considerable value to a modeler who is trying to replicate a particular prototype scene and era is the old fashioned city directory.  Unlike a phone book which is alphabetical, a city directory goes street by street number by number and gives the name of the person or business.  Some of the really old ones give the occupation of the breadwinner.  Best of all they tended to mention railroad tracks as landmarks, so if a track came between street numbers that would be mentioned.,  Sometimes one learns of track spurs that you never dreamed existed by seeing this.  They tended to come out every few years, not annually as a rule.  Many had maps in the back that are also useful. 

This can become almost an enjoyable and even poignant exercise in local archeology.  Get enough of these directories and you can trace a family living in a home for 40 years and then no longer; a business changing hands -- or even changing type of business -- rapidly or slowly.  A given street number that is currently a vacant lot might have been a house or store or machine shop back in the day.  Comparing a 1928 City Directory to one from 1935 and seeing the many businesses disappear can be almost heartbreaking.

Specific example: I model 1967-69.  I was excited to be given clear photos of a 1962 train wreck at a certain crossing that I will be modeling and the photos showed that the gas station (long since torn down but I remember it) was a Shell station.  I assumed not much would change in five or seven years.  Ah but the mid 1960s city directories show that shortly thereafter it became a Pure oil station.  And knowing that enabled me to finally make out the word "Pure" on a very blurred Brownie camera snap shot I had taken around 1966 of a C&NW passenger train.

So much for all the Shell signs I had carefully collected.  Fortunately a fellow Forum member here had some spare Pure signs he sent me.

Dave Nelson

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • From: Los Angeles
  • 1,619 posts
Posted by West Coast S on Thursday, November 5, 2009 9:18 AM

By accident an no small dose of sheer luck, I purchased a book containing complete McKeen Motor car erection and line drawings from my local library.



SP the way it was in S scale

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

There are no community member online

Search the Community

Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!