Railroad Stop in Adams, MA

I was in Adams, MA, with my wife the other day, just having a look-see, and came across the town’s former train station and baggage house – the former Pittsfield & North Adams Passenger Station and Baggage & Express House:

These Victorian style structures were built in 1889, along the north Adams branch of the Boston and Albany Railroad, which had bought out Pittsfield and North Adams Railroad in 1846 or so. In the photo, the line of the hip rafter is kinked and slightly irregular, but the eave and ridge lines are nice and straight. Both of these structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The P and NA was a single track railroad with all of 9 stops on the line, connecting between two other rail lines – you can see it as a vertical branch on the left of the following illustration:

The Adams station is now serving as a local bar/eatery. The train tracks are long since removed – now this right of way is the paved Ashuwilliticook Rail Trail .

I was able to come across a picture of the station when tracks were still in place (pre-1990, I’m guessing 1960’s):

It’s been moved from its original location according to a historical document I perused. It looks a bit sad somehow in the photo, no longer in use as a passenger station at that point (already it was being used as some sort of snack bar), and the tracks were used for freight rail which was only passing right through.

Another picture shows the station in its heyday:

Ah, before the paint…I liked it better I must say. The baggage house has some sort of stack or cupola on top. The current station structure no longer has the chimney stack.

I like American wood-framed train station buildings as they have deep eaves, as do Japanese traditional timber frame buildings. While the purposes and methods for making the eaves deep are different between the two cultures, and deep eaves otherwise a rarity in the Eastern US otherwise, I find it intriguing to look at western timber frame solutions to producing deep eaves and compare them to Japanese ideas. Virtually all the American station buildings with deep eaves I have seen employ some form of bracing to carry the eave, most often curved bracing.

The baggage house:

The curved braces of course provide better headroom. This building has a very slightly sagged hip line, and is positioned extremely close to the blue house – so close in fact that the back couple of feet of the eave, not in view above, have been hacked off altogether. I’m guessing there was some sort of past kerfuffle with the properly line there when the blue house was built and the baggage house was found to be inadequately set back from the lot line.

The eave framing system here, common to both structures, sandwiches an outboard purlin between the brace and a thick rafter:

The brace is let into the rafter with a squinted abutment, and fixed in place with a square section iron spike. I would presume some form of stub tenon is found on the end of the brace as well. It’s worked well. The blocking between the rafters is set outward and a piece of molding is applied along the junction of blocking and eave purlin – possibly so as to deter birds from nesting. I didn’t look on the backside to check that out more.  I still think it looks better if the blocking is recessed, and it would eliminate any need for additional molding. The joinery is holding together nice and tight at the main connections for the most part, which I found impressive.

This is a (rare) example, in what American wood framed architecture I’ve come across, of a hipped roof with exposed rafter tips in which the spacing of the rafter tips is done evenly in relation to the tip of the hip rafter:

The visually exposed elements have a pleasing rhythm. Either this is an accident, or the framer worked out the eave depth carefully with the rafter spacing. Nice to see! The outboard purlins are not centered to the depth of the eave but are maybe at the 2/5ths mark. Hip rafter and common rafters are the same section size, 2x, as one another, and the hip is also 2x. The rafters which receive the brace ends are 4x section and on a somewhat uneven spacing spacing to fit around the various wall openings on the building.

I tend to think the framing would be structurally improved by having a brace off the corner of the building and in line with and directly supporting the hip rafter, but this is not something I come across in hip corner framing very often, regardless of how deep the eave is of whether it is meant to shelter people underneath. The unsupported meeting of the two eve purlins in a miter below the hip, not a particularly robust  looking cantilever, but it seems to have held things up for a good while so far. The roof kink was framed in from the start, and settling over the years has made the kink more irregular. The baggage building has only a very slight sag to its hip rafter line, and I’m guessing by the overall condition of the structure, which is decidedly ‘unrestored’, that the roof on it was originally framed with flat surfaces. It’s hard to confirm from the postcard picture. It seems the baggage house was framed with a flat roof and the station with a kinked roof.

The eave support framing has been keeping its end of the bargain up over the years. And this is a major challenge with buildings with deep eaves – supporting the eave line. If the roofs were originally framed with kinks or curve in the roof planes, much as we see them today, then these roofs have held their overall shape well, and I didn’t detect any major repairs in the timber work. I would have liked to have gotten a look inside those buildings, but such was not on the cards.

As I come across other wooden train stations and bridges of note I’ll post up about them here. Hope the above was of interest.

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