Man, what an ugly building!

It's easy to understand why the civic-minded sachems of 1954 Salem wanted to tear the thing down and replace it with a parking lot. The great stone edifice was reviled as a drafty, smelly, smoky, pigeon-infested barn, open to the freezing winter air. The trains annoyingly blocked traffic in Riley Plaza and they continued up the middle of Washington Street, a major thoroughfare, on their way to New Hampshire.

The twin-towered transport hub had been built in 1846–47 for the Eastern Railway (later absorbed by the Boston & Maine), back in the days when railroads were new and no architect really knew what a train station should look like. The architect in this case had recently been to England and for some unfathomable reason had been attracted to and influenced by Norman medieval architecture. Read too many Arthurian romances and novels by Sir Walter Scott, I suppose.

At any rate, the monstrous pile of Massachusetts granite dominated the Salem skyline for 107 years. When it was finally hauled away as riprap for the eroding banks of the North River, Salem lost its most iconic and distinctive civic monument. Nothing is left that remotely compares. Kinda says something about Salem.

Click on any of the model pictures for enlargements.

Lucius Beebe, the railroad author and onetime Salem native, called the station the "bravest of all monuments to vanished railroad times." He also told the story of how his father so despised the drafty station that when Salem was nearly leveled by the great fire of 1915, he packed the family into the car and drove down to watch the hated building dynamited as a firebreak. He was, as it turned out, disappointed.

The station had been burnt to its stone walls back in the 1880s and subsequently rebuilt, which complicated my research into how it looked.

My own model inspired by the Salem station is planned to be the centerpiece of my HO layout— the station for the city of Arkham. In planning the model, I used a bit of selective compression (model railroadese for cheating) so that my model is about 75% the size of the prototype, best as I could figure from the old fire insurance maps. The model is a bit narrower and quite a bit shorter, but it's still a big building and dominates my model city like it's supposed to.
Since I plan on running trains in the dark, the model is extensively but still gloomily lit with a dozen strategically-placed GOW bulbs. Anyone looking through the arches, or windows, will see a ticket office, baggage room, second-floor waiting rooms, and offices.
Deconstructing Arkham Station
Problem #1: The old station's nothing but riprap under the North River bridge. Nothing to photograph or measure.

The Library of Congress has two good high-resolution digital pictures of the station on its internet archive. (One is at the top of the page.) There were also other period images available in books, on postcards, or over the internet. The only problem is that the front of the station was so damned impressive that nobody—NOBODY— bothered to photograph the sides and back. What in Nyarlathotep's name did it look like?

There was supposed to be a model of the old station somewhere on display in Salem, but I never found it before I moved back to California. After two years of internet searching, I finally found a blurry distance shot that showed the backside of the station. Good enough.

Problem #2: The station had been burnt in the 1880s and rebuilt. The fire insurance maps from the 1890s showed a confusing picture— part of the rebuilt station was still stone (the facade), but one side was now shown as brick, and the other, wood. Not only did I not know what the exterior of the station sides and back looked like, I wasn't even sure about what material they were built from.

The result was that I had to use a lot of artistic license determine out what the station looked like— it's the Arkham station, inspired by the Salem station, after all, not a replica.

I decided that in my little world, the Arkham station had been burnt and rebuilt like the Salem original, with the stone facade and side walls left intact, but with new interior walls and back walls made of brick from the second story up. The brick walls were covered with metal siding and the whole structure was given copper roofing.

The Library of Congress images allowed me to make drawings of the facade— sized a bit smaller than the prototype to fit on an HO scale layout.
Here's where it all starts: spray-gluing the drawings to crescent board and cutting out wall pieces and windows.

I repeated the process— spray-gluing the drawings onto sheets of Plastruct styrene 1:100 "random stone". These were cut out and glued to the crescent board. The paper was then peeled away.

I painted the rockwork with Tamiya medium grey acrylic. Dry-brushing with not much paint but lots of scrubbing produced the stones-in-mortar effect.

Windows were made with Adobe Illustrator. The file was printed on heavy cover stock to make frames and also printed on laser printer transparency film. The frames and heavy mullions were cut out, then glued over the transparencies with the printed muntins.

Now the fun really began— gluing on individual stone blocks. I cut them from sheets of Plastruct "coarse stucco". The building eventually used over 2000 of the fussy little things. (I quit counting.) There's a month of my life I'll never get back.

I glued on stones, then painted and applied windows as I went, wall by wall.

Pieces of basswood were used to make the crenelations and sills. After sanding them to shape, I drenched them in thick filler CA to hide the wood grain.
The facade wings were built up the same way— a sandwich of plastic sheeting, crescent board, and window material.
This was the end of the straight modelbuilding— no guesswork was necessary to build the well-documented facade. I had to use some imagination to decide what things looked like from this point on.
The project had outgrown my workspace. I had to move it to a drawing board set up on a TV tray. The 14" x 20" "city block" used as a base is crescent board (with cobblestone paper glued on) mounted atop a sheet of 3/16" foam-core. The "block" was detailed with granite curbs cut in and painted.

The new side walls were also 3/16" foam-core. In this picture, they're just propped up for fit.

The foam-core mimiced the thickness of stone and brick walls, allowing for neat recessed windows. Some window castings came from Grandt Line, some from Tichy, and some were hand-made. I used more Plastruct and Evergreen siding on the exterior walls. The interior walls got glued-on printed textures— I make my own brick paper and other wall coverings. They walls were painted, detailed, and weathered before assembly.
The walls were braced with basswood and held together with pins and Walther's Goo— easier to disassemble everything that way, if and when it becomes necessary. The walls are attached to the base with goo-covered brass brads stuck up from underneath. Since everything is crescent board and foam-core, the station is very light and easily movable for cleaning and dusting.
I dislike looking through lighted windows and seeing bare walls that break the illusion— so most interior walls, floors, and ceilings got printed textures. I hid the wiring for the lighting inside the floors and ceilings. This side of the station had the second-floor offices. A detailed waiting room is on the other side.
Almost there . . . I decided to use more printed paper, this time copper sheeting, to cover the crescent board roofs . . . just to get the job over with. It looks great, but eventually I'll go back and add plastic roofs with raised seams.

The roof and clerestory over the station's main bay is removable in case anybody wants to see inside from the top.

Done. It was time to declare victory and set up to take some pictures . . .
Commercial details are pretty scarce around the Arkham station. I soldered the signals together out of brass scraps and marker light jewels. (Someday I'll get ambitious and light them.) Besides the windows and doors from Grandt Line and Tichy, I used a few Preiser figures, benches from Selley, and a Jordan baggage cart . . . a few other odds came from the scrap box.
When the mood strikes, I'll add about a dozen more figures. For now, it's a slow day at the Arkham station.
Thanks for sticking with all this . . . Hope it inspires someone to go off and build their own favorite old station.

And— oh yes— there's one more detail to see when the lights are on in Arkham station. . .

Night-time travelers to Arkham station tell of strange apparitions— unearthly and eldritch shapes seen in the windows of the north tower when the moon is full— dark, bat-winged, tentacled, and wholly monstrous. People who brave the flights of stairs report that there is nothing up there but dust, pigeon-rooks, and bats. But then again, those who go up are seldom the same after they come back down . . .