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Inner city road surface, 1940s-1950s

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Inner city road surface, 1940s-1950s
Posted by speedybee on Thursday, February 15, 2024 1:25 PM

My next layout is set in an industrial/dockside setting in a city somewhere in eastern Canada/US. I'm loosely basing it on some scenes from Hamilton and Toronto, because those are local, but it's mostly going to be generic city.

I've done some reading about roads. The consensus seems to be that these inner city roads would usually be concrete, asphalt, or tarmac. Maybe brick, but brick roads were getting paved over. Thoughts?

Also I've been looking at these photos of downtown Hamilton from 1953. Can anyone identify the road surface and what's between the rails? I wish the photos were in colour...

I'm having difficulty getting the second photo to show but it's at http://www.railpictures.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Button028_02-wtrmk.jpg

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Posted by azrail on Thursday, February 15, 2024 2:00 PM

Looks like worn asphalt with oil stains and/or new patches. And there is asphalt between the rails as well-the weight of the freight cars would cut a groove in the soft asphalt.

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Posted by BATMAN on Thursday, February 15, 2024 5:27 PM

Bricks on roads were various sizes for a reason. Horses needed traction to start off and also on hills, so next to loading docks and on hills you will find smaller bricks. Away from the loading dock, the bricks would get larger, and along reasonably flat roads they would as well. Most cities would use three to five different sizes of bricks in road construction. Of course, as time went by these bricks got cemented or paved over as horses disappeared from service. 

In Vancouver, there are still areas of exposed brick around the city, some look like granite and as new as the day it was put in. Also every once in a while they will uncover wooden blocks. Wooden blocks were used in hoity-toity residential areas to reduce the noise level of passing horses and buggies/wagons. The only issue they had with putting in wooden blocks was, that people would lift them up and use them to heat their homes by burning them.

I think a real patchwork of brick, paved over brick and blocks would look great for the period you a modeling.

Wooden blocks were recently uncovered during road work in Vancouver.

Brent

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Posted by speedybee on Friday, February 16, 2024 7:56 AM

Excellent information, thanks. I like the idea of patchwork, with bricks showing up underneath damaged pavement. I was worried a big wide plain paved road would look too much like a runway and dominate the scenery

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Posted by "JaBear" on Saturday, February 17, 2024 3:26 PM

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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Posted by BATMAN on Saturday, February 17, 2024 4:22 PM

This manhole cover was installed in a busy Vancouver street in the downtown core in 1892 and has survived many street resurfacings as the city has grown. The street was most likely dirt when it was first put in, then brick which was paved over at some point.

The CPR manhole cover outside 424 Homer St.

Brent

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, February 19, 2024 9:07 AM

My suspicion -- and it's only a suspicion -- is that those 1953 pictures show an asphalt street with the pavement broken out around and between the rails, and gravel added to bring the level up toward pavement height.  The suspicion is that this has to do with advent of water treatment and continuous blowdown in the locomotives, causing piddling of pH 11 water with beaucoup TDS.  Allowing this to drain rather than accumulate across the road might explain the pavement removal.  It is obviously not for tamping or tie replacement, as the gaps on the sides are too narrow.

When I was a boy, the streets around the Harkness Eye Institute, west 165th St in Manhattan, were still granite Belgian block.  (And the streetlights only had red and green aspects, and whenever there was road work there were plenty of those little yellow bomb lights with their baleful flickering oil flames...)

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Posted by AEP528 on Monday, February 19, 2024 12:21 PM

Overmod

My suspicion -- and it's only a suspicion -- is that those 1953 pictures show an asphalt street with the pavement broken out around and between the rails, and gravel added to bring the level up toward pavement height.  The suspicion is that this has to do with advent of water treatment and continuous blowdown in the locomotives, causing piddling of pH 11 water with beaucoup TDS.  Allowing this to drain rather than accumulate across the road might explain the pavement removal.  It is obviously not for tamping or tie replacement, as the gaps on the sides are too narrow.

When I was a boy, the streets around the Harkness Eye Institute, west 165th St in Manhattan, were still granite Belgian block.  (And the streetlights only had red and green aspects, and whenever there was road work there were plenty of those little yellow bomb lights with their baleful flickering oil flames...)

 

Or it could simply be due to trackage repairs. The rails in the second picture appear very straight and flat.

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, February 19, 2024 7:04 PM

AEP528
Or it could simply be due to trackage repairs. The rails in the second picture appear very straight and flat.

They are, and if those outside pavement 'cuts' were further apart -- enough, say, to lift ties for replacement or tamping without center-binding -- that is exactly what I'd say the reason was.

But what we have is only a few inches out, and an irregularly-broken few inches at that, outside the line of the rails.  And the gravel laid in as fill is lower than the original pavement line, although carefully leveled and (I think) tamped.

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Posted by BATMAN on Monday, February 19, 2024 7:49 PM

That looks like a pretty tight turn. I wonder if the train was supposed to go straight through but the points were misaligned. Thus the wreck.

Brent

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Posted by Attuvian1 on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 9:34 AM

I grew up in Jackson, Michigan.  My mom's folks lived in Kalamazoo.  Up until at least 1950, there were a number of streets in residential areas that were still paved with brick.  That included both our street and those of my grandparents and aunts in Kazoo.  I also recall a couple of the back streets in our downtown area (city was about 50,000 at the time) that had not yet been covered with asphalt.  Depending on the year you're modeling, you could easily include a brick street or two as long as it wasn't the main drag through town.  I think it would really add some class and pizzazz.

John

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Posted by AEP528 on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 10:54 AM

Overmod

 

 
AEP528
Or it could simply be due to trackage repairs. The rails in the second picture appear very straight and flat.

 

They are, and if those outside pavement 'cuts' were further apart -- enough, say, to lift ties for replacement or tamping without center-binding -- that is exactly what I'd say the reason was.

 

But what we have is only a few inches out, and an irregularly-broken few inches at that, outside the line of the rails.  And the gravel laid in as fill is lower than the original pavement line, although carefully leveled and (I think) tamped.

 

Or, since the pavement appears to still be in place past the derailed locomotive, it's a trackage repair related to the turnout.

Or, the pavement of the era is simply failing under the stress of long, heavy freight trains.

Both seem much more likely than intentional removal due to blow-down water pH.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 11:10 AM

AEP528
Or, since the pavement appears to still be in place past the derailed locomotive, it's a trackage repair related to the turnout.

Yeah, I was getting ready to say the same thing when I reviewed the 'overhead' picture this morning.  The interesting thing there is to note the discoloration and lateral banding in the pavement between the rails -- not that I still think this would be blowdown-related.

I think the pavement removal outside the rails is intentional, but I also think you're right: the pavement was intentionally removed in the region of that turnout, probably with the intent that 'repaving' would be laid in over the gravel to bring it back to 'finish grade'.  What that in turn suggests is that something related to the turnout work caused the switch points to move ahead of or under the lead locomotive (the train had doubleheaded locomotives, with the second apparently remaining on the rails and upright if I'm 'reading' the photo correctly).

Something this adds to the original discussion: it suggests one appearance that street trackwork might produce: an irregular thin strip of new blacktop either side of the rails, and a section poured between the rails with some sort of strip or formwork to maintain the flange clearance...

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Posted by dti406 on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 11:51 AM

Water Street in Toledo, was still in its original Cobblestone condition up to and including Penn Central. Track work was so bad there that they knew when they derailed by how smooth they were running on the Cobblestones versus the trackwork.

Also I lived on a brick street and it was finally sealed and chipped in the mid 1950's.

 

Rick Jesionowski

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Posted by "JaBear" on Tuesday, February 20, 2024 1:04 PM

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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Posted by speedybee on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 10:45 AM

Good stuff, I've saved a bunch of these photos for reference. From an aesthetic point of view, I'd like to do streets at least partly paved in brick or granite block, especially because I don't intend to have cars driving in the streets... I'll have some parked on the side of the road, and some sitting or standing people, but I find it looks a bit weird to have trains moving but other things stationary that should be moving, like cars or walking pedestrians. 

Re: the derailment in the photo, as you surmised, the train was supposed to be going straight. The lead locomotive did so, but its tender split the switch and took the siding. Also yes it's a tight turn; on a map I measured it to be 18" in HO

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Posted by snjroy on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 12:13 PM

Probably cobbles. Bricks break easily in wear and tear and sub-zero conditions. I've seen cobbles in other cities in Eastern Canada (e.g., Montreal and Quebec city).

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Posted by "JaBear" on Wednesday, February 21, 2024 11:44 PM

snjroy
Probably cobbles...

Can’t beat local knowledge, thanks, Simon.
Cheers, the Bear.Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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