Friday, March 6, 2020

Railroad Warehouse Frame c. 1850, Richmond, VT

I first wrote this post in March, 2014. I have now updated it.

This is the model of the post and beam warehouse frame that Mark Goyette wanted to use as the frame for his new house.

Mark's model is not as tall as the original warehouse. He decided to lower the structure so that the ceilings for his house would be 9 ft. high instead of the original 13.

The warehouse was built along side the railroad in Richmond, VT, in the 1850's. It is square rule framed.
By 1850 the need for consistent dimensions in industrial applications had become obvious. Many different individuals owned the various railroads. However, engines, carriages and box cars needed to transfer smoothly from one set of tracks to another - all the rails needed to be exactly the same width and profile to accommodate the wheels which also needed to be the same dimensions.

I was very interested to find out if this warehouse, built to service a railroad, was framed by geometry or the new idea of standard dimensions. Mark Goyette, who restored old cars professionally, was curious too; he had, after all, built the model in order to understand better what he planned to erect. So, I drew up the section of the warehouse to find out what was there.

Such a simple, elegant design!

The necessary width determines the square which determines the height.
The 3-4-5 triangles determine the roof pitch. 2  3-4-5 rectangles are the box. The location of the cross tie  is set by the intersection of the square's diagonal and the triangle's hypotenuse.
The roof pitch is - in modern terms - a 9/12 pitch.

March 6, 2020 update:
The frame is 5 H bents. The bent shape looks like an H because of the  'dropped' plate - see the arrow This is how many barns and houses in southwestern Vermont in the Hudson River watershed were framed, and is a hallmark of Anglo-Dutch framing, 2 framing systems joined.
A Dutch frame would have bents about every 4 feet. An Anglo frame spaced the bents between 15 and 20 ft.  These bays appear to be 12 ft. apart.
A Dutch frame has the bent's plate framed into the post on the side, below the plate that carries the rafters. An English bent has both plates joined to the post at the the top, at the same height. This requires a more complex mortise and tenon joint.

Finding this hybrid frame in an ordinary service building, built by a corporation - not an individual framer who has moved upstate and taken his framing traditions with him  - in northern Vermont in 1850, is surprising and interesting .

Thanks to David B. AdolphusTravers for the photograph.

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