• Modeling on a Grand Scale - 1939 World's Fair Diorama

  • Discussion related to everything about model railroading, from layout design and planning, to reviews of related model tools and equipment. Discussion includes O, S, HO, N and Z, as well as narrow gauge topics. Also includes discussion of traditional "toy train" and "collector" topics such as Lionel, American Flyer, Marx, and others. Also includes discussion of outdoor garden railways and live steamers.
Discussion related to everything about model railroading, from layout design and planning, to reviews of related model tools and equipment. Discussion includes O, S, HO, N and Z, as well as narrow gauge topics. Also includes discussion of traditional "toy train" and "collector" topics such as Lionel, American Flyer, Marx, and others. Also includes discussion of outdoor garden railways and live steamers.

Moderators: 3rdrail, Otto Vondrak, stilson4283

  by CNJ999
 
We all wish that we had more space to expand our layouts in and many of us lean toward some form of urban modeling. But imagine tackling a subject like Midtown Manhattan in approximately O-scale! While perhaps not exactly model railroading, just such a project was undertaken by a professional team of modelers for the Consolidated Edison diorama exhibited at the 1939 World's Fair in NYC. I recently came across a vintage photo of this amazing piece of modeling work while it was in the final stages of construction, appearing below, and thought it perhaps of interest to others here.

Image

While the depth of the scene is severely foreshortened and only the foreground structures are rendered with significant accuracy (note the Empire State Bldg, the Chrysler Bldg and Saint Patricks, plus several other highly recognizable Manhattan skyscrapers). I don't believe that any urban diorama on this scale has been created since the Fair. The Empire State Building alone towers more the 28' above the floor and note the diridgible mooring facility at its top (remember that this was years before the TV tower was errected)!

Carrying this modeling venture even further, its multitude of buildings were wired for illumination. When viewed by the fair-going public it initially presented the city at mid day. As viewers watched, I'm told, darkness began spreading over the diorama and lightning flashed and thunder rolled with the approach of a summer thunderstorm! As the gloom deepened and the storm swept over the city countless thousands of windows became illuminated...thanks to Con Ed!

CNJ999
  by CNJ999
 
I've come across another imagine of this enormous urban diorama that I thought worth sharing.

Image

CNJ999
  by Otto Vondrak
 
CNJ999 wrote:We all wish that we had more space to expand our layouts in and many of us lean toward some form of urban modeling. But imagine tackling a subject like Midtown Manhattan in approximately O-scale! While perhaps not exactly model railroading, just such a project was undertaken by a professional team of modelers for the Consolidated Edison diorama exhibited at the 1939 World's Fair in NYC. I recently came across a vintage photo of this amazing piece of modeling work while it was in the final stages of construction, appearing below, and thought it perhaps of interest to others here.
This is really cool, thanks for sharing! Wonder what happened to it all when the fair closed? Probably ended up in a dumpster :-(

-otto-
  by Sir Ray
 
The PANORAMA of the City of NY still exists (this is a smaller scale diorama of the entire city of NY), at the Queens Museum of Art.
Constructed for the 1964 Worlds Fair, this of course is not the Midtown Diorama in the OP, but is still seriously cool (although apparently it's two decades out of date now).

My dad knew some people in the NYC Parks Dept, and so many decades ago managed to get me two brownstone buildings that I guess were replacements. They were 3 story representations - rectangular blocks, about the size of my (then pre-teen) thumb, with small black rectangles as the windows, painted brown with a silver roof. Not exactly superdetailed. Sadly I believe they are long gone...
  by CNJ999
 
Otto Vondrak wrote:
CNJ999 wrote:We all wish that we had more space to expand our layouts in and many of us lean toward some form of urban modeling. But imagine tackling a subject like Midtown Manhattan in approximately O-scale! While perhaps not exactly model railroading, just such a project was undertaken by a professional team of modelers for the Consolidated Edison diorama exhibited at the 1939 World's Fair in NYC. I recently came across a vintage photo of this amazing piece of modeling work while it was in the final stages of construction, appearing below, and thought it perhaps of interest to others here.
This is really cool, thanks for sharing! Wonder what happened to it all when the fair closed? Probably ended up in a dumpster :-(

-otto-

I'm afraid that just like GM's amazing "The World of Tomorrow" and the great futuristic diorama contained within the huge Perisphere, these all were demolished when the Fair closed. The only surviving relics of this nature that I've personally seen in recent years have been a couple of O-scale boxcars from the American Railroads exhibit. I believe that these were the work of Minton Cronkhite, one of the hobby's great early pioneers. The cars were painted with different road names/color schemes on each of their two sides. This was so that, since the huge display layout was a loop but portrayed long distance railroad traffic, the same train would be seen going both east and west during the show. The dual-sided cars allowed for the impression that two different trains were being seen!

CNJ999