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HO shelf and mid-sized layouts designed for operations

We were just wrapping up work on a mid-sized HO layout depicting New Jersey's interesting Hoboken Shore Railroad for a client's new home. While discussing the final details, he mentioned that his move had been further delayed and it would likely be more than a year before he could begin layout construction. Bummer! Then he said, "Of course, there is that wall in my current family room … what could we do with that in the meantime?"

Our first thought was to look for a segment of the larger plan which could be built as a standalone section. That way, he could start building part of his ultimate layout right away. But none of the various portions of the mid-size layout really lent themselves to operation independently. Segments with lots of industrial switching lacked the "interchange" connections and other sections offered interchange without anyplace for the cars to go. The mid-sized design just didn't seem to present any segments useful as independent "junior" Hoboken Shore with decent operating potential.
But he didn't want just a generic shelf switcher for the interim layout -- he wanted it to offer a preview of the coming Hoboken Shore! So the HO scale shelf layout we came up with had to represent some elements of the real railroad.
The Hoboken Shore Railroad (called the Hoboken Manufacturers Railroad until 1954) served docks and industries in its namesake city just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. One of the key characteristics were its two interchanges, to the Erie at one end and (via car float) to the Lackawanna in the middle. Some of its distinguishing industries were the Maxwell House plant, a shipyard, and many piers, docks, and wharves. My client hoped that we could capture most of these elements, even in a fraction of the square footage of the larger design.
The space available was a skoche over 12 feet along one wall, with a variable depth of 18" to 24" over some existing cabinets. The first pass of the design (see below) captures some of the features of the prototype while still offering all the basic elements of an operating layout: interchange, run-around, small yard, etc.
HO shelf switching layout track plan
click image for a larger labeled view in a new window
We were able to squeeze quite a bit of the HBS into that long shelf. Interchanges with the Lackawanna and Erie bookend the layout, with a number of industry and rail/marine locations provided for spotting cars. A small yardlet allows some sorting of cars and a run-around allows all of the spurs to be accessed. There is a one-car track scale that would be a bit tedious to use for a large number of cars, but might provide some interest for a few cars each "session". The characteristic Castle Point hillside is implied in the shelf layout and some small areas of water suggest the marine setting of the prototype.
Just as I finished this draft, my client called to happily tell me that he had negotiated an additional few feet along one wall in the family room, so we tweaked this design to fit the new "land grab". This additional space allowed the inclusion of a few more features and a better balance among the various elements.
If we had stayed with the dimensions shown above, I probably would have suggested that the car float be reduced in size a bit to bring the interchange tracks, yard tracks, and industry tracks into better balance in terms of car lengths. Still it was fun to design a "Junior" version of the larger layout.
... but this Junior version barely got to the track-on-plywood stage before there was another change ...
My client moved again, and the new "permanent" HBS layout is now being built in a new spare bedroom with different dimensions.
HO switching layout track plan rail-marine
click image for a larger labeled view in a new window
In the new mid-sized space we can more readily capture the key elements of the Hoboken Shore. A good-sized interchange yard with the Erie is in front of the storage/workbench space, with the car float interchange on the peninsula. Industries are larger and better suggest their real-life extent and configuration, and there should be room to work for two or three operators.
You may read much more about my HBS design for this space in Issue #1 of Model-Railroad-Hobbyist media-zine, free for download on the web!
If you are interested in learning more about the prototype Hoboken Shore, the excellent HBS web pages published by Paul R. Tupaczewski are a must-read. The HBS is also briefly mentioned in Tom Flagg's excellent book New York Harbor Railroads in Color, Vol. 1 (Morning Sun Books). Tom has also published a list of companion notes for the book on the web.
The Hoboken Shore is another of those rail/marine "pocket" prototypes I find so interesting. Modeling the line will be straightforward. Depending on the era, the HBS' motive power was varied: 040 and 060 steam switchers, steeplecab electrics (!), box cab diesels, an ALCO HH660, and finally (1949) two GE 44-tonners. Bachmann's 44T unit fits in nicely, although for now custom painting will be in order to get the as-delivered maroon-and-gray or the later (1953) snappy green-and-yellow livery.
Whether you can only spare a shelf or you have a whole spare room, contact me so that we can work together on a layout design that captures the atmosphere and operations you desire.
Copyright 2005-9 by Byron Henderson

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