Six Foot Long Diorama of the Cedar Key Dock as it Appeared in 1884
The "Bird's Eye View" of Cedar Key shown below was published in 1884, when the port and the city were near the peak of their prosperity. I saw an enlarged reproduction of this image at the Florida State Museum in Cedar Key in the early 1970s, and knew that I wanted to model it. I finally started to work on a model a couple of years ago. At first I wanted to represent the scene in a working model railroad layout, but soon realized that anything close to being faithful to the Bird's Eye View would require more space than I had available, even in N scale. I finally settled on building a diorama of just the dock. I had found some photos of the dock on the Internet, and started building the dock. I started a blog about the first version of the model, Modeling the Cedar Key Terminal. After I had built a model of what I though the freight depot on the dock had looked like, a fellow modeler, Christian Javier, reminded me of the Sanford insurance maps. A quick search revealed that Sanford had published maps of Cedar Key in 1884, 1890, 1909 and 1920. (Sanford may have published maps of Cedar Key after 1920, but they would still be under copyright, and therefore not available on the Internet.) These maps showed how the dock had changed over the years. I now realized that the photos I had found of the Cedar Key Dock were almost certainly taken long after 1884, and were of little use to me for modeling the dock as it appeared in 1884. I have explored the possible age of those photos on another page.
An enlarged portion of the Bird's Eye view presented below more clearly shows the railroad dock.
Below is Page 1 of the Sanborn map for Cedar Key in 1884.
While I wanted to have the diorama to accurately represent the Cedar Key Dock, I had to make some compromises. The dock in 1884 was just over 1,000 feet long. I had made the base of the diorama six feet long (divided into two sections to ease transportation). I wanted to use N scale track on the diorama. N scale is 3.5 mm to the foot, or 1/87.1 ratio. One thousand feet works out to more than six feet in N scale, so I resorted to the modeling concept of "selective compression", shortening the model in some dimensions while giving the appearance of accurate size. In truth, I built some parts of the diorama without bothering to take measurements off of the Sanborn map.