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Place Award in the Scratchbuilt rail- road structures category. Wow! But, you know, I never expected to take 30 years to build this model.


Some of the material presented here has been previously made available through the publications of the Balti- more & Ohio Historical Society. This article expands on that material and includes drawings not seen before in print. I wish to thank the Society’s offi- cers and publication staff who took the time to help me and offer their advice. I could not have finished this project without the help of the following peo- ple: first and foremost, the late Joe Maraldo, retired B&O R.R. Arlington yardmaster, who took the time on a hot summer Sunday to escort us around the St. George yard; the unknown St. George yardmaster, who allowed me to measure “his” bridge a few weeks later; John Teichmoeller, coordinator of the Rail Marine Information Group, who has patience beyond reason, was an in- valuable

source of information and

photos; Harry Meem, of the B&O R.R. Historical Society; historian and au- thor Tom Flagg, who also helped with information and photos; and the “go-to guy” for anything related to Staten Is- land’s railroad or industry, Ed Bom- mer. There are many others, too nu- merous to mention, and to all my heartfelt thanks.

Research material Transfer, the magazine put out by The Rail Marine Information Group (,

Thoughts on adding car float operations to a layout


aving a “working” car float on your layout will add an interesting and different in- dustry which will be more than enough to keep a crew tied up for an entire operat- ing session. Using a six-car capacity float, which is small by prototype standards, I

was able to add a complete rail marine operation to my layout in a space of about two by five feet. (See the photos.) As mentioned in the article, contacting the Rail Marine Interest Group and ordering copies of all available back issues of their magazine is recommended. You cannot do bet- ter than to start there for car float operations! I suggest you provide the following for a reasonably accurate operation. Start with a car float, obviously. I make do with one semi-permanently moored to the bridge. You could always have several and provide a real interchange service to another railroad off the layout. You need a means to get the cars onto dry land. I used a wood Howe Truss bridge. You can also use a steel bridge, or an adjustable apron, such as the Walthers kit. Finally, a lead track that connects to a small yard (a couple of tracks for car storage) and a scale track will round out the facilities. Ideally, the lead will be separate from the rest of the trackage in the area, allowing other switching crews to go about their business with- out interfering with the float crew. Try to have a bit more storage space available than you need. I can store eight cars on

the two “float yard” tracks and the float only carries six cars. This will make life a bit easier for your crews. A scale is needed to weigh incoming cars from other railroads or loca- tions that do not have scales. The B&O’s West 26th St. Yard in Manhattan did not have a scale and cars moving from there through Staten Island were weighed when they came off the float, before moving on to their destination. I will be installing a “working” scale, which will generate a random weight for each car

when it’s pushed onto the scale. It was purchased from Boulder Creek Engineering ( This number will then be entered on the car paper- work by the switch crew. Following the B&O at St. George, I installed a single track scale on a siding. The Walthers track scale kit has enough parts to build two complete models, not just parts to do one version or the other. The one with a single set of rails, which means you cannot run a locomotive over the scale or past its location, is perfect for my needs. It also has parts to build a standard scale which utilizes switch points to divert cars to be weighed from the through running rails to the weighing rails. Not having a need for the second, larg- er, scale, I decided to utilize the scale house itself on the float bridge apron as a place for crews to rest and for the bridge tender to do his paperwork. As this will have its back to the viewing side of the layout, its obvious origins will not be evident. “Pulling” a car float (unloading) was a balancing act. One or two cars would be re-

cannot be

recommended too highly. Contact them through the website for current avail- ability of back issues. It is by far the largest collection of rail/marine infor- mation available in one spot. Several back issues of The Sentinel, the magazine put out by the Baltimore & Ohio RR Historical Society (www., have articles that are marine oriented. They also have an on-line mag- azine, B&O Modeler, which is of much in- terest for those who love all things blue and gray. This includes a couple of arti- cles on marine subjects. Please check their website for availability.

There are two books of special inter- est from Morning Sun Books, (www. They are New York Harbor Railroads, Volume I and Volume II, by Tom Flagg. Check with the publisher for availability. I think the first is out of print, but these are well worth searching out if you have any in- terest at all in rail marine subjects. If you model another of the many railroads that had rail marine opera- tions, check with their related histori-


moved from one side, then a few from the other side, and so on, until the car was empty. If a float had three tracks, as many did, the center track generally could be pulled at one shot. Loading was in reverse, with the crew having to be aware of empty cars or very heavy loads. This was to prevent the chance of a float capsizing (rare), or twisting the bridge so severely as to cause damage to the bridge (a real possibility). Contrary to popular belief among modelers, engines were run onto float bridges and onto the floats themselves. There were several yards in New York City that were totally isolated from the rail network and their locomotives were moved by float to the railroad’s mainland connection when they needed service or repair. Also, it was common practice to run an engine partway onto a bridge to force the float downwards so the locking pin could be driven home into the staple on the float deck, if needed. It would then be switched to the other side so that side could be connected. So as you can see, the “float job” could definitely keep a crew busy for an evening’s

session, especially if you have a full complement of outgoing cars waiting to swap with the cars on a newly arrived float when they report on duty. If you have the luxury of using a 600-foot long, three-track float, the possibilities are endless. Finally, for those short of space and long on operating interest, a car float and its yard could be the basis of a small home layout. It is worth exploring.–TOM GRIFFITHS

cal societies. Many have run articles related to car float operations in their magazines. Lastly, if you would like a full set of plans for the float bridge (consisting of 25 11″×17″ sheets) please contact me by e-mail. I have had the plans digitized and the resulting prints from the PDF files are as good as the originals. The cost for the CD is $5.00. Use the follow-

ing address: American Model Builders, Inc., while

not a source of information, per se, has done several applicable models in HO scale. The laser-cut kits are well de- tailed, easy to assemble, and highly recommended if you want something a little different and totally authentic for your harbor scene. Contact them at


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