The F.A.O. Schwarz
New York City Store Layout
In 1949, layout designer Billi Bowen designed a large layout to be placed in the F.A.O. Schwarz store in New York City. Based on research done by Emil Suda, Billi Bowen lived in New York City and also designed other layouts, at least one of which was featured in Model Railroader in the 1940's. He was apparently hired by Gilbert to design the layout for the F.A.O. Schwarz display in 1949.
|The following quote is
from a Model Railroading published in 1956 by Trend Books Incorporated.
It describes the layout provided by A.C.Gilbert to FAO Schwarz. (pages
Tin-plate can be made interesting and realistic as Billi Bowen proved with the demonstration layout he designed for the A. C. Gilbert Co. and which was set up in the F. A. O. Schwarz Toy Store in New York City (see diagram). It might properly be called "Hi-Rail," as no stock short-radius curves are used, and the switches were modified to get closer track spacing. The layout was designed to show as many trains in motion as possible, in as realistic a setting as could be achieved, eliminating many of the undesirable features of the usual toy store tin-plate layout.
The scenery was simple; no grandiose painted canyons with big (and out-of-scale) bridges connecting nothing to nowhere; just ordinary rolling country, high enough in the back corner to provide tunnels to break the round-and-round, and on the opposite corner a touch of waterfront to create interesting color and show the reflections of passing trains. Enough streets and buildings were used to give the illusion of a town for the railroad to serve. The roads, fences, etc., ran off the edge of the platform (rather than maintaining the usual deadly parallelism) in order to suggest the continuation of the landscape. There was quite a bit of track, more than would be needed by an individual railroader: loops were kept separate from each other to allow several trains to operate independently.
Now for the details of the track plan itself: the outer loop was a single track line with two passing sidings, one in the freight yard and the other at the opposite side of the platform. These were intended to be automatic so that two trains could be run in opposite directions, passing each other at each siding. The next loop toward the center was a single loop folded on itself so that in the center it was a double track (it might be called a "distorted dumbbell"): this was to be equipped with an automatic block so two trains could follow each other counterclockwise. The last loop was a figure eight, crossing over itself, and meant mainly for single train operation. Thus, adding the three separate routes together, five trains could be in operation at the same time, making automatic station stops, and obeying the signals, etc. In addition, the little four-track freight, or rather team-yard, opposite the main passenger station was laid out with a lead long enough to permit an operator to do a lot of switching there and still keep clear of the main line loops. This meant the possibility of six trains in motion.
There are several other items in the Bowen layout which don't often find their way into tin-plate layouts (and are rather difficult to do with the limitations of stock curves and switches); in addition to the elimination of parallelism already mentioned, reasonable appearing tunnels with the tracks close enough together to look as if they were not mad at each other: several small spurs leading off to industries (instead of loading directly on the main line); freight yards and engine terminals of adequate size, and yet compact: and the general feeling of integration of closely spaced tracks.
As the layout was actually built the area which hid the
return loops in the upper left hand corner of the sketch was larger than shown, and was in
the form of a plateau. This allowed the placing of a small loop of HO-gauge on the
top. Dressed up with trees and a few houses, this smaller train gave the illusion of
being far away from the larger trains on the level below, and in this way, avoided the
usual mistake of having trains of different sizes running side by side.
Comparing the information in the box above with the photo of the layout, it appears that the layout as built was a somewhat simplified version of the original Bowen design. The passing sidings on the outer loop appear to have been eliminated, as have the connections between the loops. In addition the inner sidings off of the over-under figure eight and the sidings from the outer loop at the lower left corner of the drawing have been simplified. The layout on the Bowen drawing appears to require more space than that occupied by the 1949 layout in the photo.
Additional photos of a 1953 F.A.O. Schwarz layout can be seen in the book Toy Train Memories at pages 89 and 93. 1 It is clear that while this layout is different from the 1949 version, it is built on the same framework and is located in the same room. The photos of that layout can be seen on Google Books at the following links.
1953 FAO Schwarz Layout Photo Links
- Toy Train Memories
Page 89 Page 93
(1) Toy Train Memories, by John Grams, pages 89 and 93