Railway Preservation News

Best Station Area
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Author:  Preston J. McEvoy [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 12:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Best Station Area

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. 

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?

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.

Author:  Dave [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 1:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

Doesn't it have a lot to do with context? Grand Central Station would be out of place in Hooterville. A flagstop shelter wouldn't work in the downtown of a major urban area. I have no idea where Boyertown is or how large / small, urban or rural it might be, and I'm probably not alone in this ignorance.

Some ralroads has specific archetectural branding in their station design - Richardsonian Romanesque or Santa Fe Southwestern come to mind, or C.C. Hook in our area. Even the little Piedmont and Northern had a trademark buff brick and barrel tile roof design. Is there a historic visual identity appropriate for your line?


Author:  fkrock [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 2:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

SP had a whole book of different stock depot plans. I would suggest that one of these might be appropriate for you.

Author:  Preston J. McEvoy [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 2:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

Boyertown is very much the typical brick, Victorian, some Queen Anne style medium sized town in the foothills of southeastern PA. We would like to create an area that [i]feels[i] like you have stepped back in to a time period of about 1914 in an area that matches the charm of the town. We would like to know: visually what have been standout stations, especially ones in tourist service. What were your favorite elements of that experience?.

Author:  Dave [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 3:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

Thank you......opinions:

if the town is brick and Queen Anne, the station ought to reflect that. So, we're looking at high ceilings, beaded board, quoins, stone window sills and lintels, a sense of verticality and bay windows, gable ends, maybe a turret with a witches cap roof......or better yet a square tower with a clock in it. Long overhangs with decorative brackets and a mixture of things in decorative locations, such as trusses in the gable ends, maybe shingles with plain, fishscale, etc in the gable ends themselves over the brick. Paving brick rather than concrete walks and platforms. Cast iron as well as wood in the bracketing, fencing, ticket window cage, etc. Slate or tile roof, or perhaps standing seam metal if that's predominant in your town. Drop finials in exposed bracketing and trusswork. Tile or wood wainscot and base, tile in restrooms and other "wet" areas, wood in waiting rooms, corridors and offices. Windows higher than they are wide. Ornate lightning rods along the ridge. Gas lamps, belt driven ceiling fans, potbelly stoves in work rooms, parlor stove in public waiting rooms. Interior doors wood paneled with sash above the doors. Oak and hardwood accents in public rooms, pine in work rooms.

The restrooms must be clean and moderrn, but with nostalgic motif provided by such as floors made of small interlocking tile, pull chain toilets, marble stall dividers, etc. Brass hardware in public areas, iron in work areas. If going electric, knob and tube type exposed wiring in inaccessible locations, along ceilings,etc. A lunch counter using reproduction period furnishings and appliances, with an historically based menu (but today's prices).

The degree of fancy depends on the economic situation of the town itself in 1914 if that's the date you reference. If the town was wealthy, you need to reflect that - if the town was depressed, less oak and brass, more pine and iron.

The freight and baggage room can be used for meetings and banquets and special events, but can have wide pine floors and board wainscot about 6' high with 12 foot ceilings. In the northeast you probably don't have to deal with racially segregated public facilities. A challenge is going to be dealing with ADA without historic compromises done in sore thumb ways. Ramps must seem to occur naturally, and elevators probably aren't going to work unless they fit into the freight handling areas seamlessly, and then better to have open cage style. Fortunately, wide doors and corridors are good.

Parking should be invisible. The depot should exist in past time with as few modern intrusions as possible. Unfortunately, patina isn't easy to produce at will........


Author:  G. W. Laepple [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 5:49 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

Here's a link to the Pennsylvania stations web site, which includes several photos of the station at Boyertown, including one of its demolition. It was surrounded by tracks and was a very large, substantial frame structure. A number of other Reading stations were built in the same general style, including Hamburg.


Author:  Howard P. [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 6:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

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.

If you want something smaller, why not base it on a standard RDG design? No need to use something out of context from the SP.

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.

In Thomaston, we just lost a large portion of our "context" and "atmosphere" with the demolition of 90% of the Plume & Atwood brass mill, right next to our main track and station.

Howard P.

Author:  Becky Morgan [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

A couple of thoughts, based on the actual station:

Wood frame seems to be historically accurate, brick means less maintenance and lower insurance and might fit better with the town. It does look like an interesting building that would make a good cnterpiece for the town if rebuilt more or less as it was. Of course, wood means maintenance. It also might stick out more than you want it to, while brick would blend in. If there's a bricklayers' apprentice program nearby, that might help lower the costs.

You know, if you could land a couple of suitable boxcars to park behind the new building, with the help of a little suitable greenery you could "vanish" the parking lot and still keep the look of the old station with the tracks out back. It wouldn't hurt to have the extra, securable storage space, either. Ramping up from the parking lot to the freight side should make handicap access compliant and also allow for actual freight loading and unloading if you ever have a Christmas tree train, etc. The area is fairly flat, isn't it? Is the lot also flat, or is there any natural grade you could work with to hide the ramps or make them shorter?

The gift shop needs to be big enough for people to move around in. If the person running the register will also be the ticket agent, some ability to watch the shop wll be crucial. If there's going to be a play area for children, the person running register should NOT be charged with monitoring it. I know that should be obvious, but at my last volunteer gig, it wasn't.

If you can manage a parking area for strollers and power chairs, perhaps in the freight room, that will cut down on visual clutter and keep the platform clear.

Are you planning a cafe, vending machines, or both? I rather like the PTM's vending machines set into the hallway wall. If you're going to have food service during some hours, you might consider folding doors or other screens for when the kitchen is closed and the machines take over.

Author:  J3a-614 [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

Becky Morgan wrote:
A couple of thoughts, based on the actual station:

Wood frame seems to be historically accurate, brick means less maintenance and lower insurance and might fit better with the town. It does look like an interesting building that would make a good cnterpiece for the town if rebuilt more or less as it was. Of course, wood means maintenance. It also might stick out more than you want it to, while brick would blend in. If there's a bricklayers' apprentice program nearby, that might help lower the costs.

A "fake" siding material that might be considered an alternative to wood is cement board, essentially what its name says it is. However, this station is largely board and batten construction; is concrete siding material available to simulate this?

Author:  Alan Maples [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 8:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

Many good points above in the posts above.

If designing a station complex from scratch I would put aesthetics last and start with function. What is the capacity of your train? How often will it cycle? Do you plan special events that will draw large crowds?

How much room is available for parking? Parking design is a science in and of itself. Parking, or lack of, can directly impact your overall capacity. Will there be sufficient time between trains to flush out the parking lot or will there be overlap? If parking is located in the middle of town, will people wander off for hours and leave their vehicle in your lot? Or is there plenty of public parking surrounding you?

Insufficient restroom capacity is a big issue at a lot of tourist railroads. Again, estimate your visitation and plan accordingly.

If you are going to host events, be sure there is enough open space for tents and activities. Are platforms and walkways wide enough to accommodate vehicles?

How will you handle handicap access to the train? Lifts? Or ramps and an elevated boarding platform? The latter can eat up a lot of square footage.

Retail space should be commensurate with the expected visitation and remember again there is a whole science dedicated to flowing people through retail areas to maximize sales. If you are starting from scratch and not confined to an existing structure, do it right.

Finally, what is your budget? This stuff doesn’t come cheap.

From a functional point of view, Strasburg is hard to beat. There is plenty of room, plenty of parking, multiple retail outlets. Strasburg is blessed that it is far enough out of town that nobody is going to park and wander off to spend money somewhere else (other than the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, which is a complementary attraction). If you want to cool off in the summer, warm up in the winter, or get out of the rain, you are probably going to step into a building that has a cash register. And Strasburg has spent a lot of money to dress up the plaza and make things look "right".

As Howard mentions, WK&S has a very nice station area, with depot, gift shop, food service, and restrooms - each a separate structure. I suspect they could be strained a bit if big crowds showed up all day long but it is hard to beat the atmosphere they create.

Valley Railroad at Essex, CT, has a nice balance between the aesthetics and the practical elements and is a fairly high volume operation.

Sometimes thing don’t work out as planned. The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum has a large depot at “Grand Junction”, a building patterned on a depot at Tuscumbia, Alabama. It is impressive from the outside, but inside it is badly cut up, flows people poorly, has insufficient gift shop and restroom space, and gives up a lot of floor space for a nice food service operation that is only needed an hour or two out of the day. Overall it is ill suited to handling peak crowds or efficient staffing. This is a risk with trying to do everything under one roof. TVRM management is aware that it has simply outgrown the station but it is a brick-and-mortar structure that cannot be altered easily or cheaply.

Western Maryland Scenic has a real city station and all the right elements are out on the platform - but again there is a lot less usable floor space inside than you would expect and the facility strains to handle big crowds during the fall season. Parking is sometimes a challenge. WMSR is only a tenant, one of several, so there isn't a whole lot they can do about it.

Look through standard plan books for little details that can dress up whatever design you implement – lamp posts, iron fencing, sign posts, etc.

Alan Maples

Author:  G. W. Laepple [ Sun Dec 01, 2013 9:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

Would the new station be constructed in the area where the former station once stood? It's my understanding that all the track except the main track and one runaround were removed a couple of years ago, and the former "station lot" was turned into a parking lot. Or will the new station be built elsewhere?

Author:  Alexander D. Mitchell IV [ Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

Practical advice:

Whether for-profit commercial or non-profit, the building has to become an asset. The wrong approach to this goal is simply grabbing the old blueprints and rebuilding the building. As many have found out the hard way, rail depots are often the worst buildings into which to retrofit a restaurant, library, police headquarters, or whatever; the only reason they do so is the building's availability combined with a sense of pride in history.

Any competent architectural firm will happily take the outlines of old plans, photos, and stylings and adapt them to the 21st Century, and if they're really good at it "you'd never guess this never actually was a train station!" Old railroad companies didn't have to worry about the ADA, fire codes, wiring codes, fire suppression systems, ambient noise and light levels, energy efficiency, phone wiring, wi-fi, and a hundred other modern details. Of course, "competent" architectural firms aren't cheap.

Times change things, too. I work with one operation/museum that uses as its base of operations a building built by the municipality for the operation several decades ago. If a private operator built that same building today, I have no doubt that the same municipality would heavily fine or sanction the operation for a variety of issues, from location to disabled-accessibility issues to various code problems.

Author:  Becky Morgan [ Mon Dec 02, 2013 11:43 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

Here's another thought: when you say "special events", how big are you thinking? Huge wedding receptions and corporate events may be beyond your scale. Ideally, there could be at least two rooms that can be used for events, one bigger and one smaller. Birthday parties, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, etc. attract smaller crowds.

Oh...and one other thing: you're going to deal with a lot of kids. While beautiful oil finishes on wood look nice, they won't be practical to clean when they've had gummy little hands all over them all day. Use a finish that looks good but is easy to clean.

Good point about the cement board. I've seen flat 8" width, but don't know if it's made smaller for board and batten.

Author:  S. Weaver [ Mon Dec 02, 2013 1:10 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

Howard and G.W., amen; there's just something evocative about P&R feng shui.

Also, don't forget tall switch stands with those big, honking Reading targets very similar to these MC ones:

michigan central targets.gif
michigan central targets.gif [ 3.51 KiB | Viewed 2993 times ]

Author:  Preston J. McEvoy [ Mon Dec 02, 2013 1:50 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Best Station Area

To answer a few questions: (in no order)

-RDG stations tend to be small inside and over all. We would like to recreate Reading themes but also create something uniquely ours.

-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.

-Location is not stuck on the historical. Same general area but most likely not between the tracks.

Thank you all for your input so far!

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