|Studio Model overview from above the front gates|
It turns out the majority of the diorama is housed off-site at the museum's annex on Hollywood Boulevard. The annex wasn't open when we visited, but there was a module on display at the museum, the Studio Model, and it was certainly worth dropping by.
To recap a bit, in the 1930s Joseph Pelkofer, a cabinet maker, and a team of around 25 built a diorama - maybe layout would be a better term - of central Hollywood as it was at the time. The layout measured around 11' x 12', and included 450 or so buildings. It's currently being restored by the museum.
|Section of wild west backlot scene|
It's not clear what the scale is, but I'd say it's definitely smaller than HO; maybe around TT (1:120); the figures seemed a little too tall for N (1:160).
There's a lot more film memorabilia in the museum than this module, and the museum building itself is a piece of Hollywood history. The staff were friendly and helpful, and didn't mind thoughtfully answering my odd questions. It's a fascinating place to visit.
I did a little searching to see if I could find anymore information about Joe Pelkofer and his Hollywood layout. Nothing turned up in the Model Railroader archive, but I wouldn't be surprised to find something in Model Craftsman, although I don't have many issues from the '30s.
One interesting detour showed up in Popular Mechanics. In the July 1938 issue they've highlighted on the cover a story about a huge layout built on a Hollywood sound stage for a movie then in production. They don't name the movie, but after a little digging it turns out to be something called Four's a Crowd that was released in 1938. This seems like an A-list feature as it stars Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Rosalind Russell, and Patrick Knowles. The giant layout isn't owned and operated by any of that four, no, it's the domain of actor Walter Connolly, who plays an eccentric millionaire.
Lucky for us the movie is available online. You get the first glimpse of the layout around the 17 minute mark, and it doesn't fail to impress.