The Hoboken Manufacturers Railroad shares the same origins as a number of other layouts I've built: it started with a plan done for someone else. In this case, it was a plan designed to fit dimensions set by a modeling competition of sorts. I submitted perhaps a half-dozen designs, and while none of them were accepted, I developed an attachment to one variation.
The initial plan was pretty simple, with two levels: an oval on the lower level, and a switching puzzle on the upper. After several iterations, I arrived at a version that I started building.
I'd even started bashing structures for this version of the layout when I realized that the passing siding on the upper level created a dense, awkward-looking cluster of tracks on the left. I tore the layout half apart so I could move the passing siding. While I was at it, I also added a passing siding on the hidden portion of the loop to allow two trains to do the rounds. And, I raised part of the upper level (dark blue) a half-inch to add more visual interest; this allowed me to add one more classic industry: a coal trestle.
I soon began to realize the layout had a lot in common with the Jersey City Industrial, and so I named it for Jersey City's neighbor, Hoboken. I then added an elevated line (orange) and a trolley line (dark green). Thus I arrived at the layout as it is today.