Ark Number 4


Updated 12/15/05

I'll write a more detailed article soon but I wanted to post this short description and some pictures to share what I've been working on.

The Tiburon Railroad-Ferry Depot Museum is building an HO scale model of the Tiburon railroad yard of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad as it was in 1909. After several meetings with the the permanent staff I was informally commissioned to build some of the structures starting with "Ark Number 4."

"Arks" are local (Marin county, California) slang for what were more commonly known around the country as "shanty boats." Around the 1880's and 90's it became very popular to vacation in home-made houseboats around the San Francisco Bay. Known locally as "arks," these houseboats, every one unique, once numbered in the hundreds. None survive afloat but many were hauled up on land to serve as housing for railroad and other local workers looking for low cost "funky" housing.

In 1909 several arks lined the Bay shore along the approach to the Tiburon yard. My sole source of data for this building were enlargements of this photo from an old post card:

After estimating dimensions from the photo and negotiating with the museum staff how the two sides you can't see might have looked, I proceeded to build my model. Museum requirements were to use materials compatible with at least a 50 year lifespan. Styrene is prohibited for any use but small details. White metal castings are also prohibited. In some ways this meant going back to techniques popular in the 1960's: Strathmore, acid-free paper, wood, white glue.


A drawing I made before construction.

I've been dabbling at model building (cars, trains, planes, ships) since my pre-teen years and while I have 30 years or so of experience this was my first stab at really scratchbuilding. Fortunately, I have been an avid reader of Model Railroader and the Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette and I drew heavily on all those articles and pictures to help me build this model.

The scale is 1:87 HO. Overall dimensions are 33' x 16' not counting the not-so-out-outhouse. Roof is Campbell shingles on a solid wood core. Walls are hand-scribed Strathmore on a basswood core. Windows are real (damn thin) glass. Floor is board-by-board scale 1x4s.

Any conmments or questions appreciated: dan@polyweb.com


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All images and text 2003 Dan Swearingen


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