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 Post subject: Re: Best Station Area
PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2013 3:36 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 5:10 pm
Posts: 1006
Take a ride over the hill and look at the station in Kutztown. It is of the same general design as Boyertown's former station. Note in the old photo that it had a track behind it as the Boyertown station did. It was used for a short time by a failed tourist train. It is outfitted with ramps for handicap access, and boarding took place from the same elevated platform. It includes a large open space inside, restrooms and ticket sales space and a number of vending machines. There was also some office space inside.

 Post subject: Re: Best Station Area
PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:25 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:42 pm
Posts: 2557
Howard P. wrote:
Why not base your station structure and area on "typical RDG Co." practice? Signage, station area "lawn furniture" (water facility, freight handling facilities such as freight platform/house, perhaps a pillar crane), etc.

The original Boyertown passenger station is architecturally very interesting and could be replicated without too much expense using modern materials.

I also think it would be nice to create something close to the original station if possible. Granted, you'll need to make compromises for ADA compliance and probably a lot of other factors like zoning, modern HVAC, etc. etc. However, if you could even have the general look be close, and incorporate some of the significant features, like the operator's bay, if it had one, that would be a nice touch.

Howard P. wrote:
One of the nicest and evocative station areas that I've seen in the northeast is Kempton, on the WK&S. It has the look and feel of "back in the day" more than many of the preserved/tourist railways here.

I'll second that, and in fact I was already planning to make that comment before I discovered HP beat me to it. The station is small, but the entire scene just works together. I don't know if it's original or not, but it sure looks like it is. The entire area struck me as a cross between a movie set and a historical museum, but in a good way. It was like stepping back in time.

 Post subject: Re: Best Station Area
PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 5:51 am 

Joined: Thu Oct 19, 2006 1:18 am
Posts: 416
Location: San Francisco
This sounds like a great project and I certainly wish you and your organization luck with pulling it off. All of this is doable, but it comes down to a variety of factors such as budget, schedule, zoning, and as I'd emphasize, design talent.

Preston J. McEvoy wrote:
We're trying to gather information to design a great station area.  We're starting with an open lot in the middle of Boyertown. We want it to be a community space--a place that holds the identity of the community, a hub for special events, and the stage for the "arrival" and "departure" ritual that defines the rail travel experience. 

What a lot of people have missed in responding to your question is that the design problem is foremost one of planning the site to accommodate a variety of uses. People (including my students) get hung up on the details of the architecture and ignore the larger site issues that are central to successfully planning for a project such as this. In aggregate, buildings of any place, be it a city, a railroad facility, or something else, create outdoor spaces that must be designed to be successful.

The built landscape of the railroad has generally been bad at creating good outdoor spaces for people. There are of course many great exceptions to this statement (most of which were designed by architects in urban settings), but typically railway structures use the track as their primary organizational system, with buildings lined up along the ROW at distances that match the scale of trains and not pedestrians. It is hard to overcome that approach in our facilities, but it makes a huge difference when the site is planned to accommodate pedestrian visitors, and to properly "plug into" the rest of the city it is a part of.

Successfully site designs use buildings and landscapes to create outdoor rooms and streets to channel people and contain spaces for events and gathering. These partially, or fully contained outdoor spaces also provide the opportunity to control views, and therefore, the experiences of the visitors.

Preston J. McEvoy wrote:
It also needs to be a place that facilitates the retail, food service, and informational needs of visitors.  It should have plenty of bathrooms, ticket space, office space, and some flex space.  It will need to accommodate mobility-impaired passengers, tour buses, and a reasonable amount of parking.

Lastly, it should have a period feel and tell a story.  What design elements and bits of "furniture" would you use to furnish the site to add to visual interest, educational possibilities, and period feel?

A number of the functions listed above go beyond what a railroad facility in a small town would have historically provided. This raises the question of what is truly appropriate and what does "period feel" mean when you need to provide retail, food, meeting rooms, and bus parking when these features would not have fit in a small town's depot?

Too often I have seen bad caricatures of historic railroad architecture used to create a "period feel." I hope my readers can appreciate that these buildings are the architectural equivalent of presenting Thomas the Tank Engine™ as a historic locomotive. When most of us care so very much about accurately restoring railroad equipment, why would we not want to also create a respectful and appropriate environment in which to display and operate that equipment?

There are a number reasons why well-intentioned people have built bad railway museum architecture:

    The architect and/or project sponsors can't get past their preconception that railroads are "cute."
    They fail to sufficiently appreciate the historic architecture they claim to be inspired by.
    Their budget does not allow them to accurately recreate the historic architecture they seek to emulate.
    The program for the new building is out of scale from what they are attempting to replicate and the required distortions prove aesthetically fatal.
    They lack design talent.

Back to the question at hand, what is an appropriate architectural expression? What would be truly "authentic?" There are a number of approaches:

    Collect, relocate, and adapt actual historic structures – This option would be expensive and would likely not serve your specific needs well, but the buildings would be museum pieces in themselves. Their relocation would compromise their authenticity.

    Accurately reconstruct historic structures – While not as desirable as saving actual buildings, this approach would provide an authentic environment, but it still may not fit your needs.

    Create a "freelance" design based on historic railroad designs – This approach could be tailored to fit your needs perfectly, but at the risk of creating a misleading impression of historic railroad facilities. Also, it may be surprisingly difficult to make this option "look right" if it is expected to accommodate the contemporary uses.

    Design a "modern" building that respectfully references historic structures – This building would be tailored to fit your programs and would not "pretend" to be something it is not. It is also more likely to be more affordable due to the expense of replicating historic details.

    Build a blended approach – You could house the contemporary functions in a "modern" building influenced by historic architecture and place the more traditional uses in accurate historic re-creations. The modern architecture could serve as the gateway into the site, beyond which, visitors "travel" to an authentic recreation of period railroading.

Preston J. McEvoy wrote:
What is your favorite station "set up" either from a tourist RR or from history?  What would you do to design the perfect station area if you could start from scratch and had about one half a city block to work with?  Photos welcome. 

I feel I'd really need to know more about the specifics of the site and your requirements to answer this question. Is there any active street life nearby...Shopping, restaurants? Existing buildings? Un/Desirable views? From where would most autos approach the site? Pedestrians? etc...

There is a sequence to these things. Where do people enter the site? Most will come by auto? If so, it should go like this:

Auto entry –> Parking –> Pedestrian path –> Pedestrian entry –> Retail/Food service –> Plaza/Depot gardens –> Depot (info, tickets, waiting) –> Boarding platform –> Train ride

Tangential to this sequence could be gallery, meeting room, office, and other non-historic uses.

Ideally, you would hide the parking and tour buses from the "historic" scene that begins after the Pedestrian Entry. Retail and Food and other modern uses could be located in a modern building that helps to screen the historic scene from the rest of the site, or they could be housed in "period" buildings that contribute to the scene. Depending upon the layout of the site, the historic scene could plug into the city in such a way that it opens to the street and allows pedestrians to connect with the rest of the city. Buses could drop people off here and park out of sight.

These are just a few random thoughts, and it does not fully reflect how I like to go about designing something like this. It is best to iteratively explore a wide variety of options to make sure everyone involved understands the pros and cons of each approach.

Good luck

Randolph Ruiz

 Post subject: Re: Best Station Area
PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 12:41 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 24, 2004 5:01 pm
Posts: 16
Location: Lancaster, PA
You may want to try and find someone from Lititz, PA who was involved with the re-construction of their Reading and Columbia station replica. It has the look and feel of the original station, but was purpose built as the town's visitors center. They may be able to give some ideas on where to compromise and where to push for the historic look. They may also be able to suggest an architect and builder from the area.

 Post subject: Re: Best Station Area
PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:37 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 8999
Location: Somewhere north of Prescott, AZ on the Santa Fe "Peavine"
One book that, even though it's 1978 vintage and somewhat out of date on many other matters, I have pulled out several times to guide folks in this kind of mission: ... B000KVFG80

See also:

These books are less about nuts and bolts or "rivet-counting" and more about navigating the bureaucracy involved. Again, they should be updated, but it will help guide your thought processes.

 Post subject: Re: Best Station Area
PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:06 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:19 am
Posts: 5566
Location: southeastern USA
If you are a museum, there's an imperative to do more than nod and wink to historic accuracy. If you are a tourist railroad, then you can do things in a less constrained way and make the building itself a bit of a destination and an integral part of the experience.

I'm going to mention the "D" word here....Disney. Nobody has proven to do a better job of using design (not only for practical purposes) to involve their guests imaginations, please them, and make them happy they came in and spent some money. We generally do a lot worse when we build from a blank sheet, but we don't need to.

My supposition based on the open-endedness of the inquiry was this was a tourist railroad. If that is the case, I'd think of the building as a movie set or a stage set on which your visitors are the extras in the scene......while including all the form follows functions Alan mentions.

For a museum, probably your logical conclusion is to adapt the design of the historic railroad's buildings into a practical design that provides the services your customers need.


Santayana: "He who does not remember the past is condemned to repeat it."
Corollary: "He who does is doomed to watch those who don't repeat it anyway."

 Post subject: Re: Best Station Area
PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:24 am 

Joined: Sat Aug 12, 2006 1:02 am
Posts: 112
Location: Northern California
I have found architects to have a vision that I simply do not have. Are there any local architects who have an appreciation of the area's history, experience with the local planning and building code agencies, and experience designing public-use buildings?

Joe Magruder

 Post subject: Re: Best Station Area
PostPosted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 11:11 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:46 am
Posts: 2531
Location: S.F. Bay Area
Local code inspectors can be a little fidgety about knob-and-tube wiring in new buildings.

Preston J. McEvoy wrote:
-ADA compliance would need to be met with ramps. The parking area is level so nothing too extreme.

-There are much bigger halls in the area for weddings but birthday and office parties would be ideal.

There may be bigger halls in the area, but bigger halls are more expensive, and also imply a larger and much more expensive wedding. Do your market research but you might find you are right-sized for many.

ADA requires that you do what is easy. In new construction, everything is presumed to be easy, since it is just a matter of building in style X instead of Y.

Further, ADA has been revised so that, in new construction, the MAIN path intended for most customers must be accessible in full measure. You can't have a stylish but non-accessible main path while you ghettoize the disabled onto some alternate path. That used to be allowed in new construction, and now it's not.* So you could only use ramps as the main path. And even then, you'd need some reason not to simply make the building accessible by design. The inspector is going to say "Why on earth would you put a step here?" and you better have a good answer.

* unless that is the only thing that is feasible, e.g. subway stations could not handle the traffic if everyone had to use the elevator.

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