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  • Passenger Servicing Facilities: Part 3

    by V.S. Roseman

    Photos by the author

    It might be called the YMCA, the crew quarters or even the railroad reading room, but buildings like this one would provide a clean safe place for railroad crews laying over in town to sleep. These buildings were usually either near the main terminal, engine house, along the tracks or close to them. The blank side of the Y was made from illustration board to represent a stucco wall. It could have been covered with brick to match the rest of the building, but I wanted to fence off an area for handball.
    Model Railroading - July 2002 - Page 44

    On Crew Quarters/Railroad YMCA arrival at a division point a crew might have to lay over for up to 24 hours to either work their way back to their home city, or just to get a ride back as deadheads (riding a train but not working). Crew quarters were usually provided in a crew bunkhouse built and operated by the railroad. In some cases, as the railroad acquired land adjacent to the right of way for construction of yards or stations a house might come into the railroads possession that was sometimes used as crew quarters. The simplest facilities would have been a couple of rooms with some cots, lockers, washing and toilet facilities in a plain but sturdy structure.

    Architectural texts describe more elaborate railroad crew quarters that had reading and game rooms along with bunkrooms. Some of these were real hotels, which were independently run, having special arrangements with the railroad to provide rooms for railroad personnel. At other locations, facilities were run by the railroads. Elaborate crew quarters, such as at East Buffalo, NY, had a nurse, two small hospital wards, game room and sitting room and an office occupying the main floor. The top floor had the dormitory and two classrooms, while the basement had a kitchen, restaurant and a barbershop. This particular installation was run as a branch of the YMCA.

    I built the office block of the Walthers Lakeside Freight Transfer Depot as a railroad YMCA. As large as it is, it could also be called a railroad hotel or even just crew quarters. In this nice compact structure, The basement might hold a game room for playing cards or indoor sports, and a lunch counter and small kitchen. The first floor might have the office and a meeting room, which could double as a reading room, plus some bunkrooms. Additional bunkrooms would be on the upper floor. I think that this structure would just about hold the facilities I have named, but you really have to budget your space unless you have a really huge layout serving a major city.

    Car Repair Plants

    There is generally a car repair plant at important coach yards, which may be as simple as an oversized corrugated metal sheathed garage or as elaborate as any locomotive repair shop (which it will usually resemble). The car repair shop at a coach yard, if separate from the main repair facility of the railroad will generally only do running repairs and wheel replacement. An inspection pit will usually be either inside the repair plant structure or will be right outside of it. In among the other buildings shown here, will be some warehousing space for parts to repair passenger car stock. At the Jersey City facility of the Central Railroad of New Jersey, there was a wheelstorage building next to a single-track car repair shed, which appears to have been able to house either one or two cars at a time. This facility was only about ten miles from Elizabethport, the main shops of the railroad, but Jersey City also played host to the Reading, Baltimore & Ohio, and at various times, to the Lehigh Valleys passenger services. For this reason, the car repair shed was often kept busy with running repairs.

    Railroad Power Plants

    Today, power is often bought from local sources, but railroads usually had their own power plant for the terminal and coach yard to supply air, steam and electricity. At Jersey City on the CNJ are two large structures about a mile apart the Johnston Ave. plant (located near the piers and across the road from the terminal building itself), which supplied the needs of the terminal and the express and post office buildings, while the Communipaw Ave. plant (next to the roundhouses) served the roundhouses, coal dock and engine servicing plant. For smaller yards, one can find many kits for suitable power generating structures, such as Kibris building that is used with their I.G. Farben Dye Works (but is sold separately). If it turns out not to be large enough, you can double it in either direction with some cutting and fitting.

    An essential structure in a coach yard is the car repair plant. Kibri's sawtooth factory (in this case, two spliced together) is ideal for a small car shop where running repairs would be done. There is room for one passenger car with offices at the ends and even some storage space for extra wheels and other essentials. The kit even comes with that huge door.
    Model Railroading - July 2002 - Page 45

    For the operations at Exchange Place, Jersey City (passenger yard) and the adjacent Harsimus Cove (freight yard), the Pennsylvania Railroad constructed one large power plant that still stands today. I have to estimate its size at about 150' x 150' and about five or six stories tall. This plant also generated power for the electrified operation of locomotives and MU car trains. Before the construction of Penn Station in Manhattan this was the terminal for Pennsylvania trains in this area. Until the 60s, local passenger services were still provided, and as late as the end of that decade I recall seeing forests of catenary and slow moving GG-1 electrics switching freight cars at that location.

    At Washington Union Station, five or six small boiler houses and generators were used when the station was first built in 1910. Arrangements had to be changed later on to accommodate the electrification of the Pennsylvania Railroad operations on the Baltimore-Philadelphia line. So your coach yard could have either one large power plant or substation, or could have several smaller ones at various locations.

    Modeling RR Power Plants

    A large power plant such as the Walthers model is a good one to represent a complete facility that would supply a passenger terminal, signals, steam lines and engine terminal facility. Even if you are planning to electrify your local services this plant should be adequate. No modification is needed for this kit. If you prefer smaller power facilities, you could use the Kibri structure as shown, or you could increase the capacity of this building by doubling it or even tripling it as I have done by placing the kits side by side. Likewise you could lengthen the building by trimming the decorative brick near the ends of the building. It is sometimes easiest to replace the roof material in order to make a single type of roof, or you could patch kit pieces with sheets of decorative roof panels from Faller, Kibri, Vollmer or Plastruct.

    Putting Them All Together

    Generally, the passenger facilities are arranged neatly in a row such as on the CNJ in Jersey City or on the Pennsylvania at Sunnyside yard. The New York Central station in Detroit (the former Michigan Central Station) has all the needed passenger facilities housed in a single structure to the west of the terminal building along 17th Street, at the head of all the coach yard tracks. Union terminals such as Dearborn St. Terminal in Chicago served more than one railroad. In this case the Wabash (later N&W), Erie (later Erie-Lackawanna), Santa Fe, Grand Trunk Western, Chicago & Eastern Illinois (later L&N) and Nickel Plate Road all entered on the terminal railroad, the Chicago & Western Indiana, which also provided switching service to most of the railroads. At St. Louis Union or Washington Union Terminal, only the Pullman building and the Express house would be located close in, near the main terminal facilities on the neutral trackage of the terminal railroad. Individual roads would usually have their own car repair plants and commissaries and other needed buildings on their own lines outside of the main terminal yards.

    Only a certain amount of time was available to clean and replenish supplies on a particular set of equipment before it had to go out on the road again. Some trains (as New YorkPhiladelphia runs would be in the yard for an hour or two, while others, such as the Chicago or the Florida trains would lay over for longer periods permitting all of the special cars, such as lounges, taverns and the best Pullmans, to get special attention. Railroads always tried to keep the time passenger equipment was idle to a minimum so as to get the greatest utilization from each equipment set. At Sunnyside, many trains would use equipment from the same pool and so would be scheduled to come north as one train, and leave southbound as a different train.

    At Sunnyside, or for that matter, Hoboken on the Lackawanna, or the Zephyr Pit in Chicago on the Burlington, there had to be crews to work on several trains at once. All day long there would be movement as commuter trains entered and left the servicing yards, long distance streamliners outbound for distant cities, engine moves or express car hops to other railroad yards, and even sleepers being hauled by a switcher on a transfer run to another railroad terminal across town for continuation of a trip on a long-distance train.

    The boiler house from the Walthers Canning Company kit is a good size for a coach yard that will have several smaller boiler houses.
    Model Railroading - July 2002 - Page 46

    Even if you are not using a passenger theme for your whole railroad, it is possible to have a smaller facility for such operations as on the Erie-Lackawanna where an evening train out of New York dropped the dining car in Elmira after the last serving of dinner. The crew would lay over and the car would be readied for pickup the next morning by the eastbound out of Chicago and bound for New York. The diner would be coupled up and would start serving breakfast on the way into New York. In this case only crew quarters would be necessary at Elmira, but on your railroad you could use the idle time overnight to clean and replenish the diner from a small commissary or dining department storehouse at Elmira.

    You should try to find buildings that suit your roads needs and will fit in the space you have. The simple construction modifications I have done should illustrate how easy it is to cut most of these buildings down to fit other spaces. Most of these buildings could even be cut down to a couple of inches deep to fit an around-the-wall layout as background structures. Then, the only decision you need to make will be the appearance of the various buildings for your passenger servicing facilities.

    So a passenger service theme on a layout could easily create as much movement and operating interest as the freight-oriented model railroads we have been seeing for so many years.

    Capable of serving a larger coach yard by itself, this boiler house was made by splicing three Kibri boiler house kits together.
    Model Railroading - July 2002 - Page 47

    Cleaning Passenger Cars

    For car interiors, car cleaners were employed to walk through cars and pick up newspapers or large scraps of papers, paper cups and other refuse left by passengers. This was generally done after every run. At the same time, coach seats would be flipped over in walk-over seating if necessary, and even reclining seats could be unlocked with a lever and rotated if the train was not to be turned. During weekends, evenings or other slack times, trains would receive more thorough cleaning. On higher classes of coaches and first-class cars such as lounges, diners and sleepers the cleaning might be after every trip.

    All sorts of methods have been tried to clean and sanitize trains, and several sources mention the use of formaldehyde to fumigate trains and then airing out the cars. Many coach yards were equipped with vacuum pipes that could be hooked up with long hoses that were used to clean the interiors of passenger cars. Once portable reversible vacuum cleaners came into use (turned into a blower with a switch) these became the favorite method of cleaning by virtually all railroads and the Pullman Company. Previously, the problem had been that vacuum cleaners were not effective on dust and dirt that would accumulate behind heaters and some fixed installations. By using a blower, the dirt could be loosened and blown out into aisles where it could be vacuumed up.

    In the 40s and 50s, generally, large fans (40"-60" diameter) were sometimes placed at an open car end (vestibule end) with the side vestibule doors shut and the interior bulkhead doors locked open. The fan would be turned on to blow loose interior dirt and send it on its way down the aisle and out the car at the other end. After this the car cleaners would vacuum up whatever remained.

    Upholstery and rugs were also cleaned frequently. All interior surfaces were washed and cleaned thoroughly. For this service, all that was needed was a water supply (such as from standpipes or hydrants between the tracks) and workers with vacuum cleaners, buckets, sponges and soap. Quarters would be provided, again in either the main passenger servicing building or in independent car-cleaner quarters of brick or wood, and generally resembling the yard office or bunkhouse. The car-cleaners building at Washington Union Station was four stories tall and measured 50' x 200' with 10' platforms on three sides of the structure.

    Car Washing

    At the start of the steel-car era (around 1910 and varying with every railroad), cars were washed and wiped down by hand by crews standing on slats supported by the rungs of ladders stretched along the sides of a train. Once mechanical car washers were perfected, they were installed (at Sunnyside) and incoming trains were usually washed mechanically while passing through the loop tracks prior to entry to the yard proper. Wherever possible railroads seem to have tried to emulate this practice. Since the mechanical car washer was a fairly recent development that was not generally provided for in the design of passenger yards, they sometimes ended up in an unlikely location. Rakes of cars would then have to be pulled from coach tracks and run through the washer, wherever the railroad could find a place to install it. I was somewhat surprised to see crews of car cleaners actively wipe down the windows of streamliners as late as the end of railroad operation. The result was that some of the top trains such as Union Pacific/Chicago & North Westerns City of Everywhere entered Chicago looking clean enough to eat off the outside of the train after a 2,000 mile trip.

    Passenger Car Sheds

    Along with car cleaning tracks many railroads had passenger car sheds and enclosed buildings for the storage of passenger cars while not in service. These were intended mostly for use by business cars and other special railroad equipment that was not used in constant service. Pullman and railroad-owned sleeping cars and other expensive wooden cars needed to be protected from the elements and structures resembling locomotive houses were used for this purpose. In the book Buildings and Structures of American Railroads, Walter E. Burg 1893, reprinted by Newton Gregg 1973) the Lehigh Valleys car shed at Mauch Chunk, PA, was illustrated. It was 34' 2" W, 85' L, with a height of 17' 8" to the bottom of the tie beams. Funnels were provided at some car sheds over the stacks leading from car stoves to provide ventilation while being readied for service. Again, with the coming of steel cars, these car sheds were either torn down or were adapted for other purposes. Steel passenger cars could stay outdoors, only needing to go indoors for heavy repair or wheel changes. An old Revell engine house or other similar structure could be adapted for use as a passenger car shed.

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