Perth Amboy Industrial District




18 x 30 inches


Urban industrial


Northeast New Jersey


70s to 90s



Minimum radius: 

7.5 inches

Maximum grade: 



Foam insulation board

Power and Control: 

Analog DC, battery-powered


In storage (base completed and track laid)

As was the case for a few layouts I’ve built, the Perth Amboy Industrial District got its
start as a plan I’d done for another modeler. It was originally designed for handlaid track,
allowing it to be a compact 16 x 26 inches. A bunch of used vintage Minitrix switches I
had on hand inspired me to adapt the plan, which forced it to be slightly larger.

The original plan (above) featured a laundry list of classic urban industrial features:
tightly-packed factory buildings, a coal trestle, a fuel oil dealer, and so on. However, the
style didn’t mesh with the area I’d chosen to model. For starters, Perth Amboy is currently
dominated by chemical refineries, so I replaced the principal industry on the original plan
with one small refinery, turned one siding into a runaround, and another into an interchange
track. Perth Amboy is also essentially bisected by the North Jersey Coast Line, an electrified
double-track transit railroad that slices through much of the town in a below-street-grade
cut. So I replaced the lowered street of the original plan with a snippet of the transit line.

To create a vague sense of authenticity, the two intersecting streets on the plan were
named after two major thoroughfares in Perth Amboy that also happen to intersect: State
Street and Smith Street (the latter a happy coincidence). The design of the sole industry,
the Stephen A. Greene Chemical Company, is based on elements derived from a few small
chemical refineries in the area, one of which (below) is located on State Street.

The layout base was made from two layers of 3/16-inch thick foamcore laminated to the
top and bottom of a slab of 1.5-inch thick foam insulation board. The transit line is laid
directly on the bottom layer of foamcore. To add a bit of visual interest to the otherwise
dead-flat plan, I dropped the refinery sidings down to the surface of the insulation board
(which is also more in keeping with real railroad practice.)

Incidentally, the railroad’s name was not chosen to create a cute acronym; that emerged
by accident. However, it does happen to reflect the “spend no money” rule I employed
when building the layout. Everything used on it (save for some glue) was already on hand.
Notice, for instance, that I used foamcore in the base construction. Ordinarily I’d prefer
Gatorfoam, but I had none left; I applied some old self-adhesive vinyl shelf liner to the
foamcore to help make it more waterproof.

The layout went together quickly enough, and I’d even started gathering up the structure
kits I’d need. But, as has happened thrice before, all of the wind suddenly left my sails;
I felt as though I’d pursued the project out of sheer desperation. It joins three others in


Copyright © 2017 by David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.