Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Buildings and streets and water...

... Oh, my!

Latest plan with details starting to flesh out the scenery.

click for enlarged view
Of particular note is the center peninsula with 14th Street running almost the entire length terminating in the viaduct that climbs the hillside to West Hoboken. Instead of having a backdrop that divides the scene, I am opting for a scene that divides the scene. (Buildings are only placeholders at the moment, more specific prototype footprints to come.) This will provide some good urban density to the layout which will give context to the bustle of the industrial railroading. The goal is to capture how the railroad is sandwiched between the Hudson River and a dense urban fabric. The track has been pulled toward the aisles on both sides to accommodate a wider street (Faller car system?!).

Some minor evolution at the end of the peninsula with the domino at the Bethlehem piers shrinking to 18 inch depth. This has already been implemented and provides better reach to tracks as well as more room in the aisle. The minimum aisle width is now 4'-2". What isn't showing is a closet in the Erie pier area (bottom right) that leaves about an 18 inch clearance between it and the peninsula at the moment. I've tricked myself into thinking the closet is going away, but doubts are creeping into the picture...

At the moment there is some spatial distortion taking place with the street grid - we'll see if it remains. The streets above the HBS yard are the same streets that cross the peninsula at 14th Street as 14th actually runs above the yard in real life. The industries above the yard are in the alley in the block between 14th and 15th Streets. A modeling compromise that seems OK at the moment.

A couple of strong personal ties to the history of Hoboken will be a part of the layout. I've added a baseball field to represent Elysian Field and the birth of The Game, and Hamilton and Burr (an ancestor of mine) will be dueling somewhere around there as well.

I've also got some room for big ship models.

Next steps on the plan will be to tighten up the streets (it's a little hard to manipulate shapes in Rail Modeler), check buildings and track more closely against maps and images, and make out a shopping list for track.

Next bit of constructing will be on the 149th to complete its transformation to a lightweight layout so the room can become a guest room again. I've only got a couple of more weeks of concerted work time before I get crazy busy again for the next nine months.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

1955 HBS Track Plan

From the HBS Real Estate Report, 1955 in collection of author.
Enlarged view of HBS Yard
This track plan is kind of buried in the HBS Report, so I thought I would post here for Bruce, Mark and all the folks following their Hoboken Shore layout construction at Railroad Line Forums. The enlarged view shows the location of the double slip switches in the conversation. There is a nice post on page three of that thread which has images of a brochure probably from the 60s.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


I'm trying to clear out the layout room for upcoming guests and general well-being. To do this, the next step is getting the 149th in a more mobile and storable condition. 

The deconstruction of the Erie 149th Street Yard

Wires removed, track lifted mostly intact on black floor underlayment, outriggers for new fascia board installing, and the dense 15-ply Baltic Birch plywood being removed. The adhesive caulk used to secure the underlayment and track popped right up with only a modicum of effort. 

Had to quit for the evening before finishing since tomorrow is an early morning, but I made good progress. I'm thinking 3/16" Gatorfoam over 3/4" extruded foam insulation board on top of the existing pine framing. (See modelrailroaddesign.blogspot.com for discussion of options.) This is a combination of expediency, bricolage, and good ol' laziness. (It was expediency that led me to use the densest plywood in the world the first time around.) 

I think I'm going to explore the more space age semi-monocoque designs that Joe Brant introduced to the conversation over at my other blog for future construction of pocket terminals. For now, I want to get done and get back to the HBS construction. 

Pictures of process:

Bay Transportation, Suzy Q, and soldering iron
Last spots these cars will see for awhile
Cleared of everything 
Underlayment comes up easily
Just a few spots where the adhesive hung on tight
Completely cleared
Track still attached to the underlayment transferred easily in two pieces. WIth any luck, I can just transfer it back to the new base.
Outrigger spacer blocks for new fascia perimeter board.
Glued, not screwed.
One can never have enough clamps.
Plywood removed reveals lightweight (comparatively) framework.
Momma clamp and baby clamp - everyone got their pads on wood today.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Revised Plan

Track plan 24 July 2013
A revised track plan with the Bethlehem Steel tracks reversed and the Seatrain and Piers 14-16 tracks reconfigured. The HBS yard is also moved forward towards the operator to help with reach and will also allow room for buildings between the yard and the 14th Street industries.

I am still working my way around the layout taking operator reach and position in mind while adding buildings and scenery elements. One of those elements might be a Faller car system as used at Miniatur Wunderland. The airport emergency vehicles are pretty amazing. This is a whole 'nuther set of design considerations...

In the meantime, I think I am close to ordering track to start laying the HBS yard.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Updated Locomotive Photos

I have updated the Erie Locomotive page with several 300 and 400 series locomotive photographs I currently have on hand. There are some weird formatting issues I am still wrestling with Blogger on, hence why a couple of images are out of sequence and caption spacing is off. I probably am asking too much posting so many photos in one entry.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Scale Test

I finished making a couple of triangular modules and setting them and the rest of the peninsula dominos in place and adjusting legs. Also spent some time relocating legs on some modules to provide a toe space (about 3-1/2") on the aisles. 

Photos show a quickie test on the completed peninsula bench work and how the Lipton Tea building will dwarf rolling stock. The cardboard model approximates true scale size of the multistory edifice. There won't be much sunshine in between the 12 story wings...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bethlehem Steel [Wooden] Bench Work

Progress today on the bench work. I was able to assemble the end piece of the peninsula from four existing modules and switch out legs on a module to shorten it for water, piers and ships at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard area of the layout. I also constructed a triangular module (hiding in lower-middle left of photo poking up behind a backdrop board) that will create the transition connection between the wall modules and the 45 degree peninsula. I realized after making the 3' right triangle module, that I should have made it in two pieces so I can lower one side. I think I can take a pass at with the circular saw to get that accomplished. A shame, because the angles were cut really well and it came together so easily.
Bethlehem Steel area. The lower sections will be water, piers and ships. Nice geometric arrangement of the modules. The unconnected module upper middle right doesn't belong there. It will be used as a pier module at Holland America.

Another view. The portion jutting out towards us will be the tail track for switching at Bethlehem. I just noticed that the latest track plan has a mistake here at Bethlehem regarding this track. The pier tracks should be trailing points from this tail track and not the runaround as shown.

The glass door and balcony will remain accessible, but I will devise a portable backdrop for modeling photography when that time comes...
Assembling the end modules provided a satisfying visceral appreciation for the domino type construction method. Being able to play with the configuration of the smaller pieces allowed me to think physically for a brief moment about the layout that I had not yet experienced. This actually led to a bit of a rush starting to think about how to position the buildings and having sections of big ships dwarfing the 44 tonners who will be scurrying around the shipyard. Interesting feeling that I haven't felt in a long time since I haven't been making things on a regular basis for quite awhile. Hopefully a portend of more good feelings to come.

I must say, also, that the geometry of the bench work itself is actually very satisfying visually. Good composition that reminds me of a [better] version of the Chase Manhattan Bank logo.

Logo for the Hoboken Shore Railroad

PoNY version (updated 07/20/2013)
Trying year marks with noise added for aging.
Noodling around on a new 'authentic-looking' logo for the HBS... I think this would look good on a hat or tee shirt.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Some More Locomotive Photos

Erie № 418 EMD NW-2 blt.10-49
Erie № 420 EMD NW-2 blt. 10-49
Erie № 520 Alco S-2 blt. 5-49 mu equipped
HBS № 701 GE 44-tonner

Harlem Transfer Company HTCO № 53 GE 44-tonner

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Track Plan Update

This is the second pass at the track plan using Rail Modeller that starts to clean up minimum radii, alignment and details at industries. I'm fairly happy with both the Erie and HBS yards, Maxwell House, and the float yard/carfloat areas. I'm still questioning the Seatrain pier area as I don't have enough room to separate the piers enough for ships at this point. 

At Bethlehem the piers work out pretty well so that I can get piers and ships in between them. I also still need to pay closer attention to the end of the line at Holland America and neighbors as this is not quite the prototype track arrangement. At this point there are approximately 100 switches - yowza...

Next, I will address those issues, and then I'll start adding more building footprints to ensure they work with the track. The key buildings are shown, but I will use this plan to place row houses, flats, ancillary structures, etc. For instance, the dead corner behind Litpon's at the left end of the HBS yard can hold a nice deep street scene that could extend all the way down the divider to Maxwell House and around the bend. 

I have also had a realization after working closely with the track plan and other original documents, that the HBS was no slouch of an operation in terms of amount of traffic. I have always had a sleepy little short line railroad in my head when working on the layout, but now I'm shifting to a vision of a scrappy little bulldog of a railroad. They had many run ins with bankruptcy, being sold, etc., which is probably due to the ups and downs of the industries it served. I'll need to do some more serious research on the business side of the operations, but a cursory look at their later earnings indicates that WWII was extremely busy followed by a slow tapering decline all the way to the demise in the 70s and 80s. 

Track laying will begin in the HBS yard, and then progress south (left) down the Hudson. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

U.S. Testing Company, Inc.

Rollers weighing 275 pounds test the durability of mattresses at US Testing Company in 1947. collection of author

I am starting to realize some critical mass when it comes to research material about the Hoboken Shore Railroad. For several topics, I am now able to cross reference and form a better picture of the facilities, customers and operations of the HBS through photos, real estate reports, financial statements, newspaper articles, books, web pages, maps, etc. This is where it states to get exciting, and I can turn my attention towards how to apply this data and turn it into information to enhance the layout and its operations as well as the overall experience of interacting with the layout. An example is the US Testing Company on Park Street.

I am really happy to find this photo of the inside of one of the industries on the HBS, which shows mattresses being tested at the United States Testing Company, Inc.. Not that I will ever model the interior of this customer (though maybe I could?), but having visual evidence of the activities certainly adds to the understanding of the business. Besides, it might be fun to have a pile of beat up mattresses sitting outside the loading dock ready for garbage collection. The tie between activity, objects shipped, location, building and character of the company will provide a rich experience for operators who other wise would just be dropping a car on the spur. This repositions the activity of the operator from abstract car movement to one with some sort of interest and meaning associated with the movement creating a deeper experience.

Rear of photo. Date stamp is 7/18/47. collection of author
An advertisement from the Lawrence Kansas Journal-World newspaper references the testing of mattresses done by US Testing October 27th 1960 Page Three. (Google News)
U.S.Testing was located at 1415 Park Avenue, Hoboken. It was served by its own spur track and spot just south of the main HBS yard and backed up to the alley tracks running through the middle of the 1400 block.
US Testing had it's own spur located off of the main HBS yard. Map from HBS Real Estate Report 1955 in collection of author.
 There is a nice little crossing of the spur from the second track in across the outside track. The image below from the Sanborn map shows a different track configuration, but I believe the real estate map would be more accurate with regard to track locations.
Sanborn Fire Insurance map from 1945, Hudson County Volume 8, Plate 49. collection of University of Delaware.
At this point, this is how US Testing is translated onto the layout.

A view up 14th Street showing the US Testing building just behind to the right of the Xzit Chemical Company Building with the XZIT-BRICKSEAL sign at parapet level. Photo from Hoboken Historical Museum.
The Hoboken Historical Museum has a handful of testing photos from the late 1970s.
Seal of US Testing Co. (From can of Saffron-A Certified Tint)

A cursory web search turned up some dirt on the company when it tested dirt in the 1980s. From the Hoboken 411 website:
Back in 1991, United States Testing Company pleaded guilty to falsifying tests for the Environmental Protection Agency in the late 80′s. They were tasked with the responsibility of determining whether various Superfund sites across the country contained toxic material. It was discovered that, for the purpose of submitting the tests faster, and with lest cost overhead, USTC took inappropriate “shortcuts” and used faked samples, non-calibrated equipment and other violations of their contract with the EPA. They were fined $100k and were ordered to pay back the nearly $900k they received for the contract.
Their faked tests impacted 171 sites across the country, and had to be eventually re-tested by the EPA.

This all gets me a really good picture of what was happening at US Testing. Now how do I turn all of the information into things that will enhance operator experience...?