Larry Faulkner's HO scale model of New York Central's "CR" Tower, located along the Croton River at Croton, New York, captures the spirit and appearance of these venerable brick towers that were once located along the "Electric Division."
Scratchbuilding a brick interlocking tower in HO scale
by Larry Faulkner /photos as noted
I'm just one of many who model the New York Central's "Water Level Route" along the majestic Hudson River. My current modeling efforts focus on the Harmon yard complex located 32 miles north from Grand Central Terminal circa 1952-1953. Harmon had three interlocking towers ("Signal Stations" on the New York Central) that controlled all of the passenger and freight traffic into and out of the area. Harmon also marked the end of the "Electric Division" and the formal start of the "Hudson Division," even though public timetables referred to the entire stretch from New York's Grand Central Terminal to Albany Union Station as the Hudson Division.
The New York Central didn't have a "standard" design for their Signal Stations along the Hudson River. There were fourteen Signal Stations from outside the Park Avenue Tunnel in New York City up to the village of Croton-on-Hudson. CR Tower shared its dimensions with similar structures such as "BN" in the Bronx, "HS" in Hastings-on-Hudson, "OW" in Tarrytown, and "PF" ("Pill Factory") in Ossining.
CR Tower as it appeared just shortly before it was torn down 1975. Photo by Jim Gavin
The prototype CR Tower was constructed of brick in 1913 at the north end of the Croton River bridge on the Hudson River or west side of the main line. It was an electric interlocking machine with a 72 lever frame; 31 levers for signals, 29 levers for switches, 4 levers for traffic control, and 8 spare levers. In 1968, the New York Central merged with rival Pennsylvania Railroad to form Penn Central. Metropolitan Region Timetable No. 2, in effect June 1, 1971, took CR Tower out of service. Its functions were remoted to HM, and CR Tower was left vacant. The tower was torn down during the summer of 1975, with little evidence left behind.
CR Tower Diagram (click for larger image)
I drafted HO scale drawings until I was satisfied with the overall look of the model. I used Evergreen Styrene sheet and strip for most of the main construction along with Plastruct brick sheet for an overlay. I cut a strip one brick wide and overlaid it on every sixth course of brick from top to bottom. All the windows are Grandt Line number GL 5233 installed from the inside to replicate masonry windows. The doors are also Grandt Line, number GL 5139. The Hudson River (west side) of the structure did not have any windows.
Model plans by Larry Faulkner (click for larger image)
My bay window design was achieved by trial and error until the angle looked right to me. The concrete window sills and lintels are Evergreen styrene strip as indicated in the drawings as are the horizontal trim pieces near the top of the tower. I used Evergreen channel as overlay for the staircase covering Tichy Train Group staircase and landings part number 8208. I used some etched stainless steel I had in my scrap box for the platform section of the stairway. This has a nice see through effect.
I did add some interior detail to the second story, first by painting the interior walls a blue/green color. I made an interlocking machine from styrene sheet and a trimmed coat zipper for the machine levers color coded red and blue. I printed a scaled down track diagram and installed it behind the interlocking machine like the prototype. I used Miniatronics Corp 1.5 volt incandescent bulbs to light the second floor and the exterior lights. I printed up the tower call letters on my computer and printed them out to install behind the .005 " clear styrene sheet window glazing along with green paper for the window shades. I notice in old photos of most of New York Central's Electric Division towers that the white on black call letters are in the second story windows facing the tracks from both the north and south directions. For instance, "NK", "MO", and "CD" towers had the cast concrete call letters instead of the painted window letters.
I painted the model with Polly Scale Aged Concrete then used Prisma colored pencils to do the brick work color in various reds and browns. The doors, windows, and stairway are painted Polly Scale Roof Brown. The window and concrete trip pieces are painted Polly Scale Aged Concrete. The interior is braced with 1/4"' by 1/4" styrene strip. The roof is made from .040" styrene painted black and covered with strips of black painted masking tape cut to three feet in width to simulate a tar paper roof. I will weather with powered chalks and an overcoat of alcohol and India ink.
Looking south towards New York City, CR Tower can be seen on the right just beyond the signal bridge in this late 1950s view.
CR Tower had a few supporting structures nearby to fill out a modeling scene. A signal maintainers building was next to and just north of the tower. The Electric Division had thirty circuit breaker houses on the main line along the Hudson River. Circuit breaker house number 25 was just north of the Signal Maintainers building. There were the assorted electrical cabinet relay boxes on both sides of the tower along with the cement posts used to support the heavy wires coming and going from the tower to the signals and electric switch motors that CR Tower controlled. I have some Model Memories etched brass power poles to build and paint yet along with their excellent signal bridge kits that have been modified to span the needed tracks at Harmon.
Larry Faulkner's completed model an associated outbuildings. (Click for larger image)
I hope this article inspires those who model the New York Central's Electric Division or just the northern end of it and the Hudson Division. I'd like to thank Jack Shufelt for answering my many questions and allowing me to jog his extensive memory bank. Also Mary Lambruschi and the good folks at the Croton-on-Hudson Historical Society for their expertise and sharing their village history. I'd be lost if it weren't for my lovely wife Victoria. Her gentle encouragement stirs my creativity to model my beloved New York Central Railroad and always challenges me to do better.
Larry Faulkner is a member of the New York Central System Historical Society, and originally wrote this story for their NYCentral Modeler e-magazine.