Monday, July 23, 2012

Maps Monday

While trolling through my HBS folder this weekend, I found a couple of maps I hadn't looked at in awhile. The first one is from 1874 showing the Hoboken waterfront before the arrival of the Hoboken Railroad Warehouse and Steamship Company (later the Hoboken Manufacturers Railroad Company, and then finally the Hoboken Shore Railroad). Elyssian Fields is quite prominent overlooking the river after the first organized baseball game was played there. The New York Knickerbocker Club was using this as their home field when they hosted the New York Nine in 1846. Several clubs used the facilities in the area before the last professional game was played in 1873. Sybyl's Cave is the only thing on the future property of the Stevens Castle and later the Stevens Institute of Technology that was founded in 1870.

The next one is from 1891 showing more development along the Hoboken shore. More railroad tracks can be seen now in Jersey City and a little bit of Weehawken Yard and docks can be seen in the upper right corner. It is striking how much like islands these strips of land look like surrounded by marshland. Those marshes are only fit for the railroads.
Fast forward to 1956 in this hand drafted map in the collection of the Hoboken Historical Society. The Stevens Institute dominates the center of the HBS line with the yard and Erie interchange to the right and the Port Authority piers to the left.
And finally a map from the Historic American Engineering Record part of the HABS/HAER/HALS Collection of the Library of Congress. I've found many great images of the HBS and Erie among others gems in this collection - it is well worth a visit. This is a nicely accurate map from 1933 and will be useful when figuring out which buildings I can accommodate on the layout and how.

I easily get lost for hours looking at maps, so viewer beware!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Previous HBS Versions

A viewer wrote in this week about his own Hoboken Shore Railroad project, which thrilled me to no end. Always nice to have fellow travelers on a journey. I will be posting some maps and any other stuff I come across over the next few days that might help him in his track planning stages.

So, I thought I'd post probably the least helpful items first (sorry). These previous versions just happened to be the first things I ran across and are for a former house with an 11'-0 x 15'-0 office space that I was going to use for my railroad room. We moved before I could even start, but it was a good exercise.

They are iterations of the same ideas that eventually carried over into the current, larger version. Those ideas are about modeling as much of the entire railroad as possible while trying to follow the geographic twists and turns in general ways. Much of this is accomplished pretty well even in this smaller size, which is a good lesson (something about size not mattering that much?). Another interesting realization gleaned from re-examining these, is that the form factor doesn't matter that much in terms of being able to fit a track plan into this regular shape or my current room configuration.

The constraints are going to occur at the same places - the corners and turnback loops. Straight track on straight bench work is a no-brainer, but working out where the corners fall in a track arrangement is something to really consider. There is probably an article in there about strategies for using corners and turnback loops cleverly. Let me know if anyone writes it before I get around to it...

An interesting note is that the viewer will be using a vertical staging device to replace Weehawken Yard similar to my planning to use one to stand in for Croxton Yard before it gets built out. Great minds, I guess. I'll dig up my vertical staging article from the LDJ at some point as well.

Anyway, more useful items to follow under 'separate cover.'

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Opportunity strikes (and confuses things!)

It seems I will be acquiring some pre-built bench work modules and backdrops from the old Cat Mountain and Santa Fe via Mike Barrett of Black Bear Construction Co. that he won't be able to use for his own layout. I've got a bench work plan, and the modules I will receive account for about half of the modules needed. That is significant. There may even be some legs involved.

So, I scanned and pieced together a hand drawn (and latest) version of the Erie/Hoboken Shore portion of the PoNY from 2010. The HBS is the original impetus for being interested in the New York Harbor area, and it may be moved up a bit in the build schedule. I have been putting off because of possible moves and the largeness of the project, but the module jump start may change things.

The plan (click on for a larger view) does a couple of nice things that I enjoy very much. First, the track for the HBS is a very faithful representation of the prototype almost to scale. Every industry, spur, switch, spot, etc. appears. (I just noticed the Continental Baking label is out of place - it should be opposite of the Propeller Co.) This is the attraction to shortline railroads - the fact that you can model the whole thing. This is the same attraction the pocket terminals have to me as they are essentially the shortest of all shortlines in a sense. I'm a big picture, systems type of guy, so having the entirety of something allows me to see how all of the parts work together. 

The other nice bit of faithful reproduction this affords is that the twists and turns of the bench work follow the actual turns of the prototype track arrangements pretty well. The HBS Yard was positioned around a corner and there is a sweeping curve around Stevens Institute where the East Asiatic Co was located. Bethlehem Steel works out pretty slick, too, being that its track arrangement can be featured at the end of an aisle pretty close to how it was, too. The only sticky parts are the piers and how to accommodate them without cutting off the aisles.

Operating would entail from 1-8ish people when fully built. Croxton would keep 2 Erie yard goats and a yard master busy, 1 Erie yard master at Weehawken, 1 Erie transfer and main line engineer, then up to 3 HBS employees: 1 in the yard and two engineers.That is about as large a crew that is easily manageable anyway, and is another positive aspect of the plan.

I would also like to make the two aisles moveable for work or guest purposes. Casters may be enough, or maybe some of the modules will come apart for storage under the rest of the layout. Things get complicated quickly when they have to move.

I need to render the plan in a computer track planning application to assure it will actually work, but I am fairly confident that it is just a matter of nudging things one way or the other at this point to get it to work as I envision it at this point.

So what does this bit of fortune do for the PoNY build schedule? It may, indeed push up the HBS on the list. I would start with the Weehawken Yard and then do the HBS before getting to Croxton Yard maybe much later. There are some details to be worked out all over with the track placements, but it is for the most part ready to start. At the very least, I should install the acquired modules instead of just stacking them in a corner. (I could always use the extra work surface.)

Outside factors will probably determine if this or another pocket terminal sees the most attention in the near future. I've got some real world projects that may or may not allow me some good working time the rest of the summer.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Table Top Terminal

Author's collection

I found this at a local used book store several years ago pre-dating (and maybe piquing?) my interest in the railroad action around New York Harbor. Interesting notes include explanation of the cut in the middle to keep the car floats from sticking out into the river too far and that its motive power, Harlem Transfer Alco-GE-IR boxcab #2, operated there in 1959.

The plan appears to be the same one in the December 22, 1898 issue of Engineering News found on Phil M Golden's Harlem Transfer page on his excellent web site with the same North arrow mistake (it is pointing South).

So why do I post this now? Well, it might be the next pocket terminal I construct. I'm leaning towards doing it rather than the Erie 28th mainly because other people have already done the 28th St yard (David Ramos and Vince Lee). The 28th is still in the running, though. It may come down to a coin flip, or there may be a dark horse that sneaks in at the last minute surprising me and everyone.

Author's collection

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

PoNY Marine Shops propose working car float operation

Some doodles came in from the PoNY Marine Shops just before bed last night.

Something I hinted at a few posts ago was the desire to have an operating car float service for the PoNY, and late last night I received some initial sketches from the PoNY Marine Shops.

Much of the "staging" is going to happen via car float service since most of the layout will be comprised of isolated pocket yards. To get traffic to and from the different parts of the layout, it will be necessary to move car floats around just like the prototype situation in the harbor.

This may be a wild hare, but wouldn't it be fun to pilot those car floats to and from the different destinations?

The idea is pretty simple, but the execution may be a bit tricky. Calling on some experience in radio control cars, I bet I could get a pilotable car float and tug boat service working for about $600. Using the chassis from an R/C truck with modified suspension (a lot stiffer for the increased load) as the basis for a lightweight aluminum cart with a tug boat mounted on top of one and car floats mounted on others. The idea is to be able to steer the tug boat cart to the car floats, have it lock in place and push/pull the car float carts around to the different pocket terminals of the PoNY.

The tricks will be in the wheels of the car float carts that should function as omni-directional as possible to simulate being on the water. The tug boat cart will steer like a truck, which I think is fine. Docking will also be interesting, and some sort of mechanical capture system like a hitch assembly with an adjustable connection at the float bridge/car float possibly using magnets to hold things tightly while working the float. These could have power feeds attached in order to allow locomotives onto the floats (which did happen). Install a Dallee or similar tug boat sound system that is tied into the R/C, and viola! an operating car float service.

Lateral stability will be an issue when the tug and car float carts are separated, but when they are together, they will have a wide stance. Weight may be an issue for the R/C power system, but that should just be a matter of finding a hefty large scale motor and chassis assembly. I'm not too worried about this aspect, as the aluminum construction will make for a stiff, yet very light load for the drive system. Another potential sticking point is the car float wheels. It would be ideal to have large casters or wheels that are independent and easy to change directions with.Conceptually, large ball bearings that have totally free 360 degree movement would be best. This may take some searching for anything with these qualities.

So that seems easy enough, eh? I'll keep doodling and get some input from you all and my go-to engineering buddies here in town. I'm thinking I should build at least one other pocket terminal before tackling this so that it has someplace to go. I just have to decide which one as I am ready to try a Gatorboard and aluminum baseboard structure for easy deployment/removal and possible transport of the next yard around the house and to shows. Stay tuned for updates as this project develops.