Thursday, January 27, 2011

First Piece of HO Scale Hardware has arrived.

The first piece of hardware for the South Station project has arrived. What is it you ask ?

It is this:

#8 Fast Tracks Turnout Jig

The South Station Yard Tracks are very complex. You have 10 approach tracks that need to be able to get to 28 station platforms. In order to do this, you need an incredible amount of switches, crossovers, etc. to get train A to platform B. For South Station,  there are 5 14 degree crossovers, 34 #8 Double-Slip switches, 22 #8 Turnouts, and numerous Turnout Switches that will need be custom-made in order to fit in the yard. See for yourself in this image:

Complex dontcha think ?

I could have gone with commercially-made switches (shinohara, etc) which would have made building this project incredibly expensive. Think of it, If I purchased 34 #8 Double-slip switches from Walthers @ $85.00 per switch, that would cost me $2890.00 just for the slip switches! We won't even get into the costs of the other switches; I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation one night and the amount was staggering. Mind you, this cost is for switches alone. (Need we add-in other stuff like tortoise switch machines, DCC controls , etc. ? )

So, in my usual wreckless manner of thinking, I decided that in order to keep costs down, I would use the Fast Tracks Switch jigs.  I would buy the jigs and build them myself. Simple Right ?

Well, sort of.

John, Have I ever build a hand-laid switch before ? Well, not really. I have hand-spiked track before which was not too difficult to do once you got the hang of it. How hard could it be to advance to making hand-laid switches ?

You can stop laughing now.

If there is one thing I am pretty good at is learning something completely new. Even though my real job is computer network engineering, I managed to teach myself how to design structures, ships, etc using 3D CAD software just because I found it interesting. I have learned if something really interests me, I tend to pick it up pretty quick.

The folks at Fast Tracks took most of the hard work out of making hand-laid switches but creating jigs that you lay the rail and ties into. Then you solder the parts toegther to complete the switch. The end result is a nice-looking piece of track that you built at a very low cost. So, instead of paying $85.00 for the Double-slip switch, The cost is reduced down to about $15.00 plus your sweat equity. The incentive of reducing the cost of making all 34 switches from $2890.00 down to $510.00 is a huge incentive for me to learn how to build switches using the Fast Tracks Jigs.

O.K. John, then why did you buy the #8 Turnout before you buy the #8 Double Slip?

Well, building a #8 Turnout is considerably easier than building a #8 Double Slip switch. I need to learn technique on how these things go together and, most importantly, if I have the skill required to build these switches. Might as well start out easy, gain experience, then tackle the more difficult switches. By the time I build the stock switches, turnouts,etc, I should have enough experince in making hand-laid turnouts to be able to build a genuine custom-made switch.

Well soon find out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

South Station Mechanical Facilities

When the South Station Terminal was designed, consideration was given to having the entire facility, including station, midway, & facilities would be a self-contained Terminal. This means that the terminal could operate without depending on the City of Boston for power, Ice, & Gas for lighting.

The buildings & passenger cars required heat during the winter months. Ice would be required for cars equipped with Ice Air-Conditioning, Power for Electric Light, and finally the Passenger Cars required Pinch Gas for providing Lighting as most cars in 1898 still used gaslights for interior lighting.

The South Station Terminal Company would have to build these structures on-site & close to the  trainshed & station they serviced.  These buildings were constructed at the far end of the trainshed along the edge of track 28.  A switchyard & coal tipple were built in order to bring coal in for the boilers.  Tracks were added inside the Boiler plant to remove the fly ash. The Gas works were build at the far-end of the plant to create & store Pinch Gas. At the opposite end of the building, nearest to the trainshed, the Ice Plant was built to provide Ice for the Station & Passenger Cars that used Ice Air-Conditioning. The Generators for Electrical services were located in the Boiler Plant. Service Tunnels were constructed underneath the station to move Ice for the cars and run the piping & electrical services. 
Mechanical Facilities for South Station Terminal

One of the main uses of the Boiler Plant besides providing steam heat, was to generate electrical power for the entire Terminal Facility. The plant needed to provide power for Lighting, the massive exhaust fans for the underground loops, and most importantly,  power for the the massive compressors that provided air to operate all 137 of the electro-pneumatic switches in the terminal zone. The power room also needed to provide power to the sump pumps for all of the underground portions of the Terminal. Since the terminal was built on a  tidal flat, water was a problem for all the underground facilities in the terminal. Large pumps were constructed throughout the terminal to keep everything dry.

For a detailed description of all these facilities, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers published a journal on the facilities. The South Station mechanical facilities are extensively covered in Volume XXI of the Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.  Starting on page 451, the Journal provides an extensive coverage of these buildings. A copy of this Journal can be found here:  Volume XXI of the Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

South Station Post-New Haven

The gullible John Sheridan has carelessly given me the keys to the castle here at The South Station Project. For my first blog post, I'd thought I'd dredge the internet for some South Station photos, showing some of the changes over the years. For this post, all images are from the NERAIL Photo Archive, in chronological order.

South Station was slowly nibbled away after the station was sold to the Boston Redevelopment Authority in 1965. In fact, it was due to be razed entirely before the preservationist movement saved the day and the station. Instead, it was transferred to the MBTA in August, 1979. South Station was the subject of a massive reconstruction project in the mid-1980's where they rationalized the track plan for modern trains and fixed up the rest of the headhouse. They actually built a new Atlantic Ave. wing to take place of the old one that was knocked down, even going so far as to re-open the granite quarries from the original contstruction so as to match it perfectly.

South Station, September 1973 photo by Bruce S. Nelson

As we can see above, the USPS brick building is in place, eating up almost half the yard tracks. Also, the Atlantic Ave. wing of the station (on the left) has been cut back already. The high track weeds are a common Penn Central affliction.

South Station, May 1977 photo by Robert B. Clere

From Summer St. across Dewey Square, one can see how much of the headhouse is missing. Behind the headhouse on the left is the Stone & Webster building looming over the area. This glass & steel building supplanted around half of the headhouse's square footage. On the right behind the tree, one can see white "columns" of the original USPS South Postal Annex, which was built over the high-numbered tracks.

South Station, 1980 photo by Bill McCaffrey

One can see just how big the Stone & Webster building is on the right, and the new Boston Federal building (the washboard) is in the background. Pretty amazing how much the city skyline changed from the above 1973 picture.

South Station, 1985 photo by Peter Kingman

A rare shot of the 1984-1988 reconstruction project. This is the underground commuter station that was never used. The roof monitors are for the Midway, and one can see the old butterfly shed supports at the roof edge. The entire area above the underground tunnel was covered with a corrigated metal deck, some of which is visible here as a pattern on the beam between the levels.

South Station, 1986 photo by Peter B. Kingman

More during the reconstruction project, showing that the lower numbered tracks are out of service and the butterfly sheds & Midway are gone. All the windows are boarded up, and from personal memory, the inside wasn't much better. A fire at the Club Car bar didn't help, either. I just remember as a kid lots of pigeons, plywood, and grime.

South Station, 1988 photo by Peter B. Kingman

Almost done, with only a small pile of rubble visible on the right. The new highlevel platforms are in place, along with the new waiting room taking the place of the old Midway.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy Birthday South Station

It was 112 years ago (December 28th 1898) that The South Station Terminal was dedicated.