Hoffman Avenue Software

June 15, 2010 by cynick | Posted in rail , software

I just returned from filing the paperwork to start my own software company: Hoffman Avenue Software, LLC.

I must say, it was an exceedingly painless interaction with government. There are places on the Internet, eg., bizfilings.com, that try to make you think that that starting a company is a big, complicated task that should be left in the hands of professionals. And for $250, they will take care of all of that for you.

I suppose some people have a hard time filling out forms, but in this case, it is a single form, with only eight fields to fill out! Three of those fields are optional. Two of the mandatory fields are your name/street address, another is your phone/email. Another is a check box that indicates whether or not the new business will have any interest in any lands used for agriculture. And the final mandatory field? The company name!

I took about a minute to fill it out, biked over to the Secretary of State office, waited another two minutes for my number to be called, wrote them a check for $160 (sigh, it’s 2010 and they still don’t take credit cards), got a stamped copy of the form I was filing, and within five minutes I was back out the door.

Wow, and people will pay $250 to bizfilings.com to do that for them? I’m in the wrong business!

A couple words about the name of my company. Hoffman Avenue is another in a long line of lost Saint Paul streets. I’m not entirely sure when it vanished, and I have found some conflicting information as to its existence. According to Don Empson’s wonderful book, “The Street Where You Live”, Hoffman Ave. was originally called Dayton Avenue, presumably in honor of Lyman Dayton, the man for whom Dayton’s Bluff is named, but was renamed in 1872.  This was the year of the first major street renaming in St. Paul, and since there had also been a Dayton Ave. running parallel to Grand Avenue since 1854, the Dayton Ave. on Dayton’s Bluff was renamed to Hoffman Avenue to honor James K. Hoffman, who, in addition to being the owner of several sawmills in the area of Dayton’s Bluff, was also on the City Council at the time that the street was renamed.

The conflicting part is that Empson says that the street vanished into the construction of I-94 in 1960. However, the only reference I can see of Hoffman Ave. on the old plat maps is a tiny piece that seems to jut off Mounds Blvd. near the intersection of Mounds, Bates Ave. and Clermont St., and head toward the bluff edge, picking up again at the bottom of the bluff along the property line of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, now BNSF.

This may now give a hint as to my interest in this name. At the point where the road started at the bottom of the bluff is a railroad interlocking plant that is identified as Hoffman Ave. by the railroad. Five tracks go through the plant, and turnouts are available to cross from any of the outer four tracks to any other, in any direction. Due to space considerations, the tower housing the interlocking equipment was situated over the track nearest to the bluff, as seen here. The tower was demolished in 1986; only the retaining wall above it remains. Hoffman Ave. is now remotely controlled from Fort Worth, Texas.

The image on the top of this page is of the signal bridge that controls eastbound movement through the interlocking.

One of my long term project ideas (ie., I had the idea back in 2001, and I still haven’t gotten around to implementing it) is to develop a reliable webcam live video delivery architecture, and as a proving ground, point a camera out my window over to Hoffman Avenue, package it up into a iPhone app, and see if I can’t get enough train nerds to pay, say, a few dollars a year to watch the video. If I could generate enough interest to pay for the bandwidth, why, I’d be pleased as punch.