Los Angeles modelling inspiration

This is one inspiring photograph for urban detail.  It comes from John L. Mathis’ site, and he kindly allows one to reproduce his work with acknowledgment.

The Los Angeles PCC cars were narrow (3 ‘ 6″ I think) gauge and complemented the Pacific Electric in central LA.  In some locations there was dual gauge track in the roadway.  The PCC car was a lovely piece of engineering, although the Pacific Electric had the ultimate development of the design, and the Los Angeles Railway had a great livery, but the real inspiration of this photograph is the urban detail.

Although this is west coast America, there may be ideas for everyone here:

  • 1957 – only one car in sight, and just a few people.  No gridlock – so don’t overpopulate your layout.
  • The new, white-painted shop on the right contrasts with the older brick faced building on the left.
  • Shop windows and signs are nicely cluttered.
  • Rooftop details and advertising.
  • Interesting street lights.  The double light on the right is probably doubling as a support for the trolley wires.
  • Road markings and the inevitable yellow fire hydrant.

It all makes for a perfect scene, and cries out for a little modelling!


Los Angeles Railway PCC car 3024 is on the “R” line heading east on 7th Street and Garland Ave in early 1957. This work is copyright 1957 – 2009 by John L. Mathis , but licensed under a Creative Commons License.

About snitchthebudgie

Secretary of the East Surrey N Gauge railway club
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3 Responses to Los Angeles modelling inspiration

  1. chrismears says:

    That’s a terrific scene. As you’ve noted, there is so much detail to find as you stare deeper into the photo. I just love those shop windows. Another great element from the photo is the amount of space. Those streets are wide as are the sidewalks – sometimes on layouts we make the streets too narrow and same for sidewalks. I also like that the different elemnts (the streetcar, the stores, etc.) are all about the same height and similar shapes. WIth so many elements of a predictable size, it allows to explore around and discover the smaller details.

    Great balance. Great scene. Man, what I’d give for a time machine to check this out in person!


    • It would make a great micro-layout / working diorama for west-coast trolleys. I have a couple of Bachmann DeWitts in LA livery – OK standard gauge, but so be it – and this could be modelled pretty well, And please sign me up a co-pilot on that time machine!


      • chrismears says:

        I was thinking it would work well as the subject for a T-Trak traction module. Centre the intersection on the module and wrap the balance around accordingly.   Those Witts are such fine running models, I don’t think the difference of gauge could even matter. But, that’s me.



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