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Retail Buildings and Features



Description:  Deep-discount emporium. 

Location:  Della St. - St. Amour. W.Va.

Reference:  Matt Snell, Conrail Shared Asset Operations, NJ Div..  The company Matt works for often finds itself with overruns, seconds, mass quantity purchases, and personalization failures, of a whole host of products.  When it does, Matt passes those savings on to his friends.  As in, gives it all away.  So it's become standard that after an operating session somewhere, everyone gathers at Matt's car to see what new goodies are available.  At some point this "store" of his was named Matt Mart.  So naturally, that had to be immortalized on the SNR.

Popular past specials have included gardening gloves, hotrod-quality zip ties, electrical tape, ice cream scoops, grill cleaner, tripods, and a shop vac worthy of the Fenstrunk brothers.  Matt being from N.J., it's decidedly possible that this stuff just "fell off a truck" - but, ask no questions...  

Word among the accountants is that while the Matt Mart in St. Amour loses money on every transaction, they make it up in the volume.


Description:  Modern-as-tomorrow through-station, on the SNR main. 

When the SNR first hit town around the turn of the century, the railway constructed a passenger station uptown, in the heart of the city, to better serve citizens of St. Amour, whether their local transit be on foot, by carriage, or on a streetcar.  

As passenger train speeds increased, this stub-ended terminal - and the mile-long reverse move it took to get to it - were really becoming a detriment to transit times, especially on the long-distance trains.  So beginning in the late 1930s, as the country began to pull out of the Depression, the railway began acquiring land on the river flats for an expansion, that would allow the terminal to reach down to the SNR mainline via a new headhouse/staircase and a pedestrian walkway.  The reverse moves could be eliminated, cutting at least half an hour off of through schedules, while continuing to utilize the existing terminal building.  It would involve tiptoeing through a skinny plot of land between the Basin refinery property and the underground post office lead tunnels - but all the room that was really needed was for a nice staircase and set of escalators, in a pretty, modern package. 

Construction began in 1940 with the clearing of the site, relocation of the mainline and of Western Ave. because of it, addition of station tracks, and construction of the platforms.  However, nothing more than site prep and the artist's renderings of the zooty Art Moderne architecture was accomplished on the headhouse before the US was drawn into global hostilities.  Through-trains began using the new through platforms right away, via a temporary wooden footbridge, and local trains and streetcars would continue to call at the original station uptown.  However, completing the formal headhouse and walkway would have to wait until after the war, and the grand opening of the completed station wasn't finally held until early 1947.  

Location:  St. Amour, W.Va.

Reference:  Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980), French philosopher and playwright.  

So this joke went a bit awry - I had concocted "I think, therefore, I take the train" as a marketing slogan, and was terribly pleased with myself - dying to do a neon sign for it on the layout.  Around the same time, I was noodling with an acronym for a big St. Amour station, and landed on S.A.R.T..  What better than to bury a reference to the author of the original phrase on which my witticism was based, right under the witticism itself?  Oh, yes, I was terribly pleased with myself.

Problem was - it wasn't Jean-Paul Sartre who said, "I think, therefore, I am."  While that truth resonates with Sartre's existentialism, it was actually René Decartes who said it.  Jeez, these French philosophers - who can keep 'em straight.  That'll teach me to go from memory.

I tell this story because self-effacing humor is just as good as any other kind, and more purifying.  That plus, I was too far into it to change.  Someday I may re-do the sign, with "Suffolk Northern" instead of "S.A.R.T.", but for now, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.  

Here's the neon sign in action:


Description:  Jewelry store 

Location:  Della St. - St. Amour, W.Va..

Reference:  Breaking Bad, and/or, Better Caul Saul.  If you're a fan of either series, you'll scold me for ripping off the joke, but it's too good not to use.  

"Bus stop bench" lawyer Jimmy McGill, played by comedian Bob Odenkirk, found himself in need of a more "lawyerly" name when he set up his independent practice.  Seems the senior citizens had trusted a nice guy named Jimmy, but the street thugs he later specialized in negotiating plea deals for, didn't.  Too squeaky-clean sounding.  So he adopted an alias he had used in his own earlier street days, when asked his name by the cops.  He'd just say "S'all good, man," and at some point that morphed into a name, and one that happened to sound like a seasoned lawyer.  Makes the banner work for a jewel merchant, too.    



Description:  Automotive service shop 

Location:  Della St. - St. Amour, W.Va.

Reference:  Because a day without a particle physics joke is like a day without sunshine.


Description:  Manufacturer of unspecified products. 

Location:  Della St. - St. Amour, W.Va.

Reference:  King of the Hill.  Hank Hill's old buddy Boomhauer is famous for being absolutely, completely unintelligible in his mumbled Texas twang, yet all the other characters in the show never seem to have any trouble understanding him.  About once per show, he gets to speak, and it goes something like this:

Boomhauer:  "ManI'matellyouwhat, daggone ol' aod jaji;q oiejfg;ofigoi;oiegkdsfn dnkf..n ekfn ldsfanv erwtosdfvsd sdfvmsdflk gwef  forty-two, man."

He is one of the funniest animated characters I've ever seen, and so he had to have a place on the layout.  And I'm sure he's mentioned what it is they make here in his factory, but I didn't catch it.  Here's a quick 2 1/2 minute Boomhauer sampler.

Influence:  The Hartford Courant.  I had the Courant (newspaper) as a client at one time, and their admin offices were in the same venerable downtown Hartford, Conn. building as their publishing plant.  My project occasionally took me down to the print shop, and through its giant old steel-sash windows, you could watch Conrail trains rumble past on the mainline directly adjacent to the paper's spur.  I always found that terrifically cool, and wanted to create some sort of a "Railfan-Thru Building™" just such as that.  


Description:  Dive bar. 

Location:  High St., Three Rocks, W.Va.

Reference:  Legos.  When my boys were young, super-high-quality boys/Dad time was spent in Legotown.  Each time we built a new town out of Legos, each of us would build his own house, as well as businesses, fire stations, etc..  Two businesses which universally showed up, every time, were bar/restaurants named Hotrod's and Jetski's.  I'm not sure how they came up with those names, but they had to be immortalized.  Hey, with the ceramic block facade, Hotrod's even looks like it's made out of Legos.

Lego Notes:  For the record, there was none of this modern build-one-way-only Lego "kit" stuff, with all kind of specialized parts.  Where's the creativity in that?  Legotown was built from scratch out of a cubic yard of plain ol' rectangular Lego blocks, clear pieces, window frames, roof pieces, wheels, gears, flats, etc..  The kind we had in the '70s.  Which is where these came from.  Stored in two giant potato chip tins since elementary school, I would liberate a gallon or so of them every Christmas, run them through the washing machine, and put them in front of the tree for adding to the boys' collection.  Always one of their favorite gifts, and some of the best times.  


Description:  Respectable bar. 

Location:  High St., Three Rocks, W.Va.

Reference:  Legos.  (See "Hotrod's", above).  So, Hotrod's could be taken directly from Legotown, but Jetski's needed a little bit of work, since we didn't have jet skis in the '50's.  Makes a perfectly good Polish name with some improved consonants.   


Description:  Movie house. 

Location:  High St., Three Rocks, W.Va.

Reference:  Among my love for old things is classic film.  There is nothing specific in the name, I just needed a place to reference cool old movies and generally help reinforce the era.  And let it be known, this is not a two-screen plex, no no.  In the days before TV (well, at least no one in Three Rocks, W.Va. would have had a TV in 1952) the two movies listed are the weekly double-feature.  

Personal Note:  My dad talked about how the going rate for allowance in his neighborhood was 25c a week, because that got you carfare (5c each way), the weekly double feature (10c), and popcorn (5c) at the movies on Sunday afternoon.  Just like how in 1974 you had to know what had happened the previous night on The Rockford Files, Movin' On, and The Six Million Dollar Man, in Cleveland in 1940 you had to have your two bits a week so you could go with the boys to the movies on Sunday afternoon.  God help you if you got grounded or lost your allowance - you would be left out. Persona non grata.

Model Note:  The marquee is removable and the movie showings change with each switchlist.  Keeps the crews paying attention.  


Description:  Hair shop. 

Location:  High St., Three Rocks W.Va.

Reference:  The Blues Brothers, 1980.  Carrie Fisher plays Mystery Woman, a very angry lady who keeps appearing out of nowhere attempting to blow up or gun down Jake, for reasons which are not made clear for quite some time.  She can be seen early on in the movie in her Calumet City salon on a rainy night, studying the user manual for a grenade launcher.

Model Note:  Hall's Shoes is not a reference to anything - it was a part of the building photo image I downloaded.  Too authentic not to keep. 


Description:  Diner. 

Location:  Main St. at Beckley Rd., Three Rocks, W.Va.

Reference:  Edward Hopper (1882-1967), American artist.  Ostensibly, Hopper's Diner is named after the ubiquitous rail traffic across the street, hence the hanging sign.  However, all the images in the windows are Edward Hopper paintings, from the obvious Nighthawks on the lower right, to all of the customers as well as the tenants upstairs.


Description:  Grocery store.  Formerly a general store, now a chain supermarket.  Williamson Foods Grocers' Association is the retail arm of the Williamson enterprise, whose main warehouse is in St. Amour. 

Location:  Main St., Three Rocks, W.Va.

Reference:  Legos (see "Hotrod's" above).  Basketful is the creation of my son Kees, who would often build us a grocery store in Legotown, and would typically name it Basketful, complete with Scotch-taped sign.  A Basketful store also appeared in a number of landscape drawings done by him during that period.  


Description:  Discount retailer of home appliances, furniture, and outdoor equipment. 

Location:  Main St., Three Rocks, W.Va.

Reference:  Kash's Bargain Barn, S. Lebanon, O. 

Kash D. Amburgy, "The Ol' Country Boy", was a charismatic Baptist minister turned huckster, who appeared regularly on local TV to hawk products from his discount store outside Cincinnati.  He was a jovial, rotund man who always greeted the camera with a hearty "Hello, Neighbor!" and spoke with a Baptist preacher's force and cadence.  He almost always appeared "...with my Mary Lou," his wife, who would be seen silently by his side with the various appliances, including the Maytag washers and dryers, and even atop the Jacobsen riding mowers.  

He also usually had some snippets of wisdom thrown in the spiel, the most classic of which was, 
"If you don't buy, ol' Kash don't eat.  
"If you buy too much, you don't eat!"

There's no actual joke here, just a smile from the past, and a nod to the bygone era of quirky local TV characters and ads.  New Yorkers had Crazy Eddie; we had Kash Amburgy.

If you grew up anywhere in the area, and were born before about 1970, say it with me, 'cuz I know you know the litany:

You take!
I-71 North!
Exit Highway 48!
Follow the arrows!
Follow the cars!
To Kash's 
Big Bargain Barn,
In South Lebanon, Ohio,
Where you truly!
Save cash,
With Kash."


Description:  Affordable rooming house.

Location:  Main St., Three Rocks, W.Va.

Reference:  Led Zeppelin, Physical Graffiti, 1975.  If you remember this album cover, it actually had a sliding sleeve that would change the letters that appeared in the windows.  Only when correctly configured would it reveal the album name.


Description:  A small-town reseller of everything. 

Location:  Main St., Three Rocks, W.Va.

Reference:  Anthony Hardy, CSX Eastern Ky. Sub.  Anthony is a friend from Georgetown, Ky. who, guess what, models Appalachian coal country - and also happens to be as Ate-Up about classic trucks as I am about classic cars.  Growing up, Anthony's dad owned, actually... Hardy's Department Store, in Irvine, Ky..  It had a different look, but the tribute is paid here to the idea.  Hardy's Iron, Auto & Metal was an actual business as well, separate from the department store, and outside of town.  I confess that the latter would have been awesome to model, but as has been said... the SNR is out of real estate. 


Description:  Restaurant. 

LocationMain St., Three Rocks, W.Va.

Reference:  Grant Wood (1891-1942), American artist.  If I was going to do Hopper's, I couldn't leave out Grant Wood.

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