Perth Amboy Industrial District
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 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.)
The layout went together quickly enough, and I'd even started gathering up the structure kits I'd need. Incidentally, the railroad's name was not chosen to create a cute acronym; that emerged by accident, although it does happen to reflect the "spend no money" rule I employed when building the layout.
For a time I was working on four layouts simultaneously. Then quite suddenly, I burned out on all of them, placed them into storage, and pulled out a layout I'd started years before and gave it a new purpose in life.