Sunday, May 1, 2016

Through house and garden via Lego Train

I’m glad to see old school model railroad enthusiasm like that showcased in Model Trains and H. G. Wells’ Floor Games is alive and well in our era. I stumbled on this video at MetaFilter. No doubt I’m the last to know Lego trains are a big, big thing.

Last week the old post The Museum and The Gallery? was getting a lot of hits. Two later posts that followed up on some of the ideas presented there, Notes on the characteristics of gallery and Museum and gallery and studio, got a few hits too, but not enough to register as ‘active’ posts. Looking back on them I think there is something to those ideas, but they need more development; they certainly need more examples at the very least. One thing I’d definitely add is a further sub-group connected up with Gallery and Studio called something like Trains Preserve for things like Lego Trains.

The general idea of the Trains Preserve is a riff on the Games Preserve idea Bernard DeKoven introduced in The Well-Played Game: A Player’s Philosophy back in ’78. This was the pre-video game era and a Games Preserve was meant to be a space for people to freely play games and was to be stocked with physical games of all sorts. His personal Games Preserve was primarily located in a barn on his farm and must have been an amazing place according to these descriptions from the book: big carpeted area for dancing and big games; rings if anybody wanted to fly a little; a puzzle wall: picture puzzles, puzzles that you have to take apart, puzzles that you try to put together, ancient puzzles, new puzzles; quite games area, it represents a veritable fortune in games, two hundred different games here; pool table; Ping-Pong table; there are a few hundred more games over there. He sums it up as: this is a toy store and an arcade and a gym and a chess club and a place to dance and whatever else you want it to be all under one roof

A Trains Preserve wouldn’t necessarily be a dedicated building stocked with copious amounts of all sorts of model trains - as terrific as that may be :-) - but any place or space where a model train free-for-all could be setup and run; temporary or permanent. That used to be a staple of Model Trains. Long live Lego trains!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

E. L. Moore and The Frank Ellison Style

Here’s the fertilizer plant, and when I’d finished photographing it I recalled what you had to say about Ellison and spirit of railroading. So I studied the situation and what he did was tie in his structures on the siding with a glimpse of main line traffic. So here is one a la Ellison and you’d damn well appreciate it as I don’t have a main line and had to spend a full day building it on top of existing lines and after photographing it spend another half a day tearing it down. So don’t go insinuating it’s part of my Elizabeth Valley 4x6 footer or I’ll be in trouble.

That paragraph was part of the cover letter, written 27 March 1966, that accompanied the manuscript that would be published as Fertilizer Plant in the July 1966 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman

I was fortunate to see the Fertilizer Plant at last year’s meet-up, but I haven’t seen the photo Mr. Moore is referring to, so I took a look at the article to see if I could figure out which one he meant. I believe it’s the one I’ve scanned and doctored for this post. It was used as the lead-in beauty shot for the article. It’s the only photo with a glimpse of main line traffic and structures on the siding - with the Fertilizer Plant, the building with the Planters sign, in the back left.

Friday, April 29, 2016

E. L. Moore and The Drugstore Eyeglasses

Have decided that maybe I should try my hand at an HO pike soon as the basement is done - on the premise that I don’t have room to do what I’d like to do in O gauge at present. Whaddaya say to that? HO and I are no strangers. Built my first Megow caboose back in ’39 or so. And me so youthful
From an 8 Apr ’65 letter from Hal Carstens to E. L. Moore.

So you’re stopping at HO instead of going to the E W S (eensy weensy stuff). Fact is, at your age you oughta be working the other way . . . you ougtha be gettin’ farsighted and need to work in O gauge instead of tring HO. Me, I have four, five pair glasses, none of which cost more than two bucks, graduated from normal newspaper reading distance, right down to where I can see a nit on the end of my nose and tell his ass from his snoot. Maybe I mean a mite and not a nit.
From E. L. Moore’s 14 Apr ’65 reply to Hal Carstens, which goes a long way to explaining how Mr. Moore was able to build his little N scale layout, The Enskale and Hoentee Railroad, 3 years later in ’68 when he was 70. Seems he didn’t take his own advice about building bigger as one gets older :-)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

E. L. Moore and The Schoolmarm

I recently came across an unpublished manuscript of E. L. Moore’s on how to build an old one-room school house titled, naturally enough, Village School, that he wrote in 1961. I saw this model at last year’s meet-up and posted pictures here.

One of the article’s more humorous passages deals with how he found and ‘built’ a schoolmarm figure for the model.

I was in a first class quandry [sic] at the prospect of finding and hiring a schoolmarm. In fact, except for Mrs. Spumoni, I didn’t have a prospect. Even so, I gave Mrs. Spumoni the brushoff. Then I met up with this good looking red-headed dame who was either going to, or coming from a dip in the lake. When I broached the idea of teaching she exclaimed: “But really, I haven’t a stitch to wear!” I’ve heard that line handed out before, but she was really convincing. However I airily promised to remedy the inadequacy of her wardrobe. (I did, too, as you can see, with some tissue spotted with blue ink, and some blue thread for a belt).

“Now about the salary,” I began, bearing in mind that $30 a month, in view of rising costs, was not exactly generous. So I proposed $35. I was quite unprepared when she threw up her hands -- er, well not her hands, but she did throw up her voice. “What?” she screamed, “with the Governor of North Carolina slapping on a food tax to raise sixty million for education, you want I should teach eight grades of runny nosed brats for a lousy $35?”

“I apologize,” I said hastily. “Let’s bargain.” So we did, and she compromised for $350. And that’s how I got a teacher.

All this talk of schoolmarms pushed the old memories button. My grandmother was also a teacher in a one-room school house. She was born in 1902, and was more-or-less in the same generation as E. L. Moore: he was born in 1898. And like him, she was born and raised on a farm. 
[Part of her classes in zoology involved learning about and identifying local songbirds, and proficiency required at least being able to make rudimentary drawings of the various species. These are just a couple of pages from her copious science notes taken during teacher training.]

She was an excellent student and went to the Toronto Normal School in 1920 to take teacher training. She graduated in 1921, and soon returned to the country at the ripe old age of 19 to teach grades 1 through 8 in a one-room school. Some of her pupils were 16 year old farm boys, so it must have been interesting times. In E.L. Moore’s model he notes all the pupils are girls, so his schoolmarm had a very different demographic to deal with :-) My grandmother’s teaching career didn’t last long. Turns out the gentleman who eventually would become my grandfather had moved into the area and was working on a nearby farm. They were married in 1923 and she gave up teaching.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

E. L. Moore and Tomcat Troubles

Been layin' up to catch me a tomcat for some time now but haven't caught him yet. Damned smart one. Got in one night when two females had kittens some time ago -- bejabbers they chased him all over the place and he was so flustered he couldn't find his way out -- I shoulda killed the bastard then. Since then he's been sneaking in from time to time to get the leavin's from the feed dishes in the kitchen. I'd hear a dish move, my cats would perk up their ears and it'd be him, the sneaky sob . . . so I finally got mad and rigged up some ropes, a sort of Rube Goldbergian thing in which I could pull a cord and the door would go shut and I'd have him.
Just what to do then . . . But I had an idea. I had a mustard squeeze bottle full of turpentine and if I could ever get his south end pointed toward me his north end would sure howl in agony. But the sob is too smart . . . not once has he come around since I rigged up the ropes -- twice I caught my own cat and did she look surprised as the door slammed shut while she was eating. I think he's waiting for me to get careless -- which I already have. But anyway, there's nothing for him around here anymore except food -- I sure spoiled some of his good time by having my cats spayed.
From a long 1 Oct '67 letter E. L. Moore wrote to Bill Rau to help cheer him up while Mr. Rau was in hospital.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mt Lowe observatory telescope dome

Once the wings were done I moved on to finishing the dome that forms the roof of the telescope room. Prototype pictures appear to indicate that at various times the dome had different types of doors: at one time there were external sliding doors, and later there was one that slid up and down over the opening. I chose to incorporate the latter because that's the open I figured I could make into a working model without too much trouble.
This isn't an exact model of the dome door, just an approximation that I could make work and didn't look too bad. The first job was to install an internal track. I took a length of U-section styrene and cut off one arm to convert it to an L-section. I then cut a thin piece of card to the width I wanted the two tracks to be separated and taped the L-section rails to the card. This assembly was gently pushed into place and liquid plastic glue was used to bond the rails to the inside of the dome. This was a rather tricky bit of installation and I had to think it through and practice holding the various pieces through several mock installations before I actually worked up the nerve to finally glue it in place.
I let this set for a few hours then peeled back the tape and carefully slid out the card spacer. The rails held in place and looked good. All that was needed was to trim the ends.
The door is a strip of 0.010 in. styrene cut to the track width and a little longer than the opening. Friction holds it in whatever position you want.
Here it is slid into the fully closed position....
... and likewise here it is fully open. It slides back and forth quite easily in the track.
The next job was to make a base ring for the dome. This is built up from 4 layers of 0.020 in styrene. The top ring matches the diameter of the dome bottom, the two middle rings match the outside diameter of the telescope room, and the bottom layer matches the inside diameter of the telescope room. 
Here it is all glued together and ready for attaching to the dome.
Before painting some trim strips of 0.010 in styrene were glued to the dome's bottom edge and around the opening. Some 0.020 in styrene was used as filter sections at the top and bottom of the opening. A piece of decorative trim was glued inside the dome at right angles to the opening. That's it! It's ready for painting.
The dome was first sprayed with Tamiya's white fine surface primer and sanded a little when dry. A coat of Krylon flat white was then sprayed on to make the dome more opaque. Finally, a mist coat of the white primer was applied to finish things off.

That's it for basic construction. I'm moving on to building the roofs for the wings - they'll be removable - detailing the interior, and applying the remaining trim to the exterior. Until then, keeping with my random-walk state-of-mind these days, I leave you with another Lowe that I have absolutely no relation to,

Thursday, April 21, 2016

E. L. Moore and his Union Pacific Windmill

At his Model Railroad Miscellany blog, John Bruce posted that he was going to dive into building E. L. Moore’s Union Pacific Windmill project that was published in the Sept ’62 issue of Model Railroader. I thought I’d go through the E. L. Moore files I had on hand to see if I had anything on that build. The project turned out to have a rather bittersweet significance to Mr. Moore. 

The article was originally submitted to Model Trains on 1 December 1961, which was by that time owned by Kalmbach Publishing, who also own Model Railroader. Here's the cover letter that E. L. Moore submitted along with the manuscript.

December 1, 1961

W.V. Anderson, Editor,
Model Trains,
1027 N. 7th St.,
Milwaukee 3, Wis.

Dear Mr. Anderson,

Like the buffalo, you just don’t hardly find any of these no more. Haven’t ever seen one of these modeled before, mainly I presume, because of the apparent complexity of the wheel. As I made it, it’s a simple job, taking but little time, and makes a rather spectacular display.

Darned if I don’t have a time trying to get a surface like that Strathmore sample. This is closest to it that I could get at one of the office supply houses. Better, but not quite it. I’ll try some more.

Enclosing return postage and label, should you find this unacceptable.

I thank you . . . 

E. L. Moore
525 Oakland Ave.,
Apt 3
Charlotte 4, N. C.

The paragraph about Strathmore is part of a long running discussion between E. L. Moore and Andy Anderson about using Single Ply High Surface Strathmore for the drawings he was submitting to Model Trains. Turns out it was tricky for Mr. Moore to find some, but when he did he bought a lifetime supply.
Mr. Anderson bought the article right away. Here’s the acceptance letter he sent. However, as E. L. Moore’s handwritten note on the letter implies, it was the last article Model Trains bought from him before it was closed down sometime in Dec ’61 or Jan ’62 - although, last issues continued to appear into the spring of ’62 and there was an annual.

December 15, 1961

Mr. E. L. Moore
525 Oakland Ave. Apt. 3
Charlotte 4, N. C.

So it’s another sale E. L. ....

Here’s our check for $60.00 to pay for exclusive rights to “Union Pacific Windmill,” complete with art and pix.

I like it!

Best wishes for the holiday season.

signed Andy
Willard V. Anderson

E. L. Moore penned this note on the bottom of the letter,

The end of a perfect season - 14 articles submitted - 14 accepted - $650.00

Jan 15 1962 PS Also the end of Model Trains!

1961 was one of his most prolific years with 14 articles written and all sold. That $60 US in 1961 would be roughly equivalent to $450 US today, and $650 US in 1961 would be about $4,875 US today - nothing to sneeze at. The Union Pacific Windmill was the last article he wrote and submitted to Model Trains. It marked the end of the first phase in E. L. Moore’s model building career, and the beginning of the ten or so years that would be his most productive.
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