Saturday, April 12, 2014


I tore a page from the Jack Webb playbook and renamed this project to protect the innocent; meaning it's now called 'Le Tablier Rouge'. Names aside, with everyday life looming large, I've used my model building time mainly on Caleb's Cabbage Co., but I've tried to squeeze in a little progress on this store. The blanks for the other walls have been built-up from embossed brick sheet with a plain 0.030 inch styrene strip along the bottom for the concrete foundation. I've also added some brick and stone sheet pieces on the front facade. There's lots of work still to go on this one.

Friday, April 11, 2014

LTA 20-1 poster

Of all the LTA-20-1 memorabilia I have, this is my favourite. It shows the vehicle in its most positive light, and makes something that is essentially a big spherical bag of helium look rather svelte and technically feasible as a flying machine. The signature in the lower-left corner says: R. C. Beaussard. He or she has done a good job on this picture.

R/C models and computer simulations of this vehicle clearly demonstrated that it was highly maneuverable. Turn on a dime? No problem. Those engines could be vectored and throttled, so lots of different types of motion was possible. The other cool thing was that it made use of the Magnus Effect – hence the company’s name, Magnus Aerospace – to create additional lift for carrying stuff. Its helium-filled spherical envelope was mounted on an axle, which in turn was slung across that huge curved wing-yoke structure. Spinning the sphere opposite to the vehicle’s direction of flight – that is, if some super villain dropped you on the top of the sphere while it was spinning, you’d find yourself clinging for dear life while the sphere’s rotation tried to fling you back into the blimp’s wake J - created aerodynamic lift. So, you got aerodynamic lift from spinning the sphere, and static lift because it was full of helium.

The problem was that maneuverability and the unusual way of creating aerodynamic lift came at a high price. If I remember correctly, its lift-to-drag ratio – L/D in aerodynamics-speak – was always somewhere between 0.9 and maybe 1.1 at best, but usually a little below 1. When a 747 is cruising around, it has an L/D of something like 17, and a sailplane has one of maybe around 50. Drag is the cost of creating lift, so if you can get 17 units of lift for 1 unit of cost, or 50 units of lift for 1 unit of cost, that’s pretty good, but 1 unit of lift for 1 unit of cost makes me scratch my head. For a small, scale model flying over a model railroad layout this wouldn’t be much of a problem since when the batteries died, the beast would just be left floating around in the house until rescued, but for the real-McCoy, this could be trouble.

But, lift cost aside, I still like the way it’s depicted in this poster.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"You can't park that here!"

I used a slice of this picture for the visual story in the 3rd instalment of the E. L. Moore legacy series. Over the weekend I was looking over some photos and thought the original colour version looked better.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A location for Caleb’s Cabbage Co.

I fiddled around on the weekend with the placement of buildings on the LOL to find a location for Caleb’s Cabbage Co. I guess in the end it was a game of “which one of these things just doesn’t belong”, and it turned out to be Jones’ Chemical Co. Jones’ appeared to be the outsider in the organic-veggie-bean-sprout-tie-dye region that is becoming the new-normal in the rural region of the LOL – ignoring of course the presence of the seaside barbecue :-) Luckily, the rail-side portions of both Caleb’s and Bunn’s Feed and Seed line-up quite well with the existing track layout, and the truck-delivery doors of Bunn’s even orient properly with the road put in originally to service Jones’. So things are not looking too bad arrangement-wise. I now need to fix up the surrounding plantings, grassy areas, trees, out-buildings and other details to blend everything in and make it seem like a unified whole.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cutting the lawn

A took the above picture back at Christmas when the layout was pulled out for showing off. That picture below is my backyard as of yesterday. Still significant snow back there and it'll be awhile until it needs cutting, but hopefully it'll all be melted by Easter.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Index for the “E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21th Century” series

The posts in this series are starting to pile up and I thought some sort of index was called for. I’ve marked each instalment with the E L Moore's 21th Century Legacy label, but that doesn’t seem like enough. So, here’s what’s been posted so far. I plan to update this index as I make additions to the series.


Balsa, cost, a handcar shed and organic veggies

Twenty-five years at the movies

The Railroad Modeler Years

Signature Styles, Signature Structures, and Selective Staging

Sticks and glue may build Cousin Cal's Cabbage Plant but sauerkraut juice will never hurt me

Modernizing Caleb's Cabbage Co.

The Lost Manuscripts

I’m thinking that with the posts I still have in mind, but haven’t yet written, it’ll wrap-up maybe around the end of the year if I can scrape up the writing time. The journey so far has been fun, although a little more idiosyncratic than I thought it would be, but I guess that’s inevitable.

As well as the series posts, over the years I’ve built-up a number of E. L. Moore’s projects. Many have made use of more modern materials than were originally specified in the articles, so in a way they form some sort of appendix to the series. Here’s a list of them.

Bunn's Feed & Seed Plant

Jones Chemical Co.

Uncle Charley's Bookery

Moe Lass'

There have also been some posts were E. L. Moore’s work was cited as an influence, or I pointed out that some prototype might make for an interesting E. L. Moore style building, or I was just wildly speculating on something that seemed Moorian :-)

Friday, April 4, 2014

E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21th Century: The Lost Manuscripts

In Jim Kelly’s E. L. Moore tribute article, E. L. Moore’s Legacy, published in the February 1980 issue of Model Railroader magazine, there’s an intriguing statement,

“... there are about half-dozen more still to be published."

hinting at six article manuscripts written by E. L. Moore lined up and waiting for Model Railroader to publish.

I reviewed my copy of the MR 75 year DVD collection to see if I’d overlooked them. I hadn’t. It appeared that those articles Mr. Kelly referred to were never published.

I contacted Model Railroader and asked about them. They very kindly looked into the question, but unfortunately reported that they had no unpublished E. L. Moore manuscripts in their manuscript files. It was a long shot, but the 34 years between that '80 issue of MR and today is a couple of generations, so the outcome was not totally unexpected.

Maybe there are copies out there somewhere in an attic, basement or garage. I’d like to think that they actually did exist at one time, and that they haven’t been landfilled. If you have a lead, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21th Century: Modernizing Caleb’s Cabbage Co.

In the back of my mind I was thinking, what might this building look like if it were built today down in Prince Edward County - well, a fictional version of the County where old meets new, and Canadian, American and British railroad practices combine - and ‘opened up’ more in line with what John Allen did with his Engine House? Basically, my attempt at applying Selective Staging to E. L. Moore's Cousin Caleb’s Cabbage Plant build that appeared in the December ’71 issue of Railroad Modeler (the first three instalments in this part of the E. L. Moore in the 21th Century series can be found here and here and here).
I’ve been wondering if John Allen had mid-20th century [1] modernist leanings expressed in his buildings. Maybe not in all his projects, but his Engine House appears to have some. That building is a bit deceiving because its surface appearance is rustic and rural, not vast glass surfaces held together with spindly steel struts. But, what those two extremes have in common is they both go to great efforts to seamlessly join together the environments inside and outside the walls of the buildings. Those stereotypical glass boxes do it in a very blatant manner with broad expanses of glass [2], but Mr. Allen’s Engine House does it by tweaking the sizes and shapes of existing building elements - bigger windows, skylights, door-less openings, interior lights – in such a way that they all look at home in the building’s early 20th century skin. It sort of seems like something one might see in Lloyd Kahn's Shelter. Many of the buildings in that book are also rustic, but modern too.

E. L. Moore often made use of Selective Compression to make his models more amenable to the confines of a model railroad, but I can’t seem to find an example where he applied Selective Staging and visually ‘opened up’ a building like Mr. Allen did with the Engine House. Many of Mr. Moore’s buildings have full interiors, but usually one would need to do the usual thing of lifting off the roof, or maybe peaking in a scale-sized window, to see what was going on. So, he was probably more of a traditionalist with regard to Selective Staging. One thing I need to do is try and learn more about John Allen’s other structures to see if the Engine House was a onetime flirtation with mid 20th century modernism and Selective Staging, or if it was a common feature of his work.

As I progressed with this project I quickly realized there were a lot of little sub-assemblies and details to work on to open-up the building. 
There's a partial basement under the shed that, according to Mr. Moore, housed a boiler for powering the cabbage shredding equipment. In my version those machines are powered by electricity, so the basement is now used for storage. The basement 'tray' is built up from scraps of sheet styrene.
Here's basement after it has been sanded, painted with concrete coloured paint, and glued into the floor. You can see that the back door enters into the basement.
The three vats on the front porch are built up from 1/16 inch balsa for the ends, and 1/32 inch for the wrapper. The wrappers are scored to show individual boards on the outer face. Super glue was used to construct these things.
Here they are after they were glued up. Some strips of balsa were added to the lids as per Mr. Moore's drawings.
For a little contrast the vats were stained a dark brown. The silver strap around the top of vat is a strip of paper painted aluminum. Some old Letraset letters were rubbed on so it would be easy to identify each vat. Wouldn't want to make mistakes when filling them up!
The roof substrate is cut from 3/32 inch thick sheet balsa as specified in the article. The one modification I made was to cut three skylights into the enclosed shed portion, the idea being that a modern version of this building would try to make use of natural light wherever possible to save money on lighting.

Mr. Moore specifies that the roof be covered with glued on tissue and then ruled with a pen, which would simulate a tar-paper roof. A typical building in Prince Edward County these days would either use asphalt shingles or metal panels. Tar-paper would be out-of-the-question. I toyed with Mr. Moore’s method of using scribed paper to represent metal siding – which is not too bad – but I was lazy and didn’t want to do the work. On the other hand, I had a piece of self-adhesive ‘shingle paper’ from Micro-Mark left-over from another project that looks pretty close to new asphalt shingles, so I decided to use it. It’s good to use up what you’ve got on hand. 

In a small way this sort of decision is representative of many that a contemporary model building hobbyist faces: be self-reliant and make a part using what’s on hand to the degree that your skills allow, or buy something from the vast world of consumer products that may have far better fidelity than you could produce with your own skills. In this situation, I chose the latter, but Mr. Moore chose the former in his article. At the time his article was written and published, he did have the choice as various textured surfacing papers existed, although not to the same extent and fidelity as today, so it’s not a false comparison. Make versus buy. Self-reliance versus consumption. Over the years I’ve indulged in both, from completely home-made stuff to plastic kits to mixtures of commercial and scratch-built parts to pre-completed resin cast buildings. I’m ok with anyone being on any end of this scale. The only thing that bothers me are claims that one end is superior to the other and using that as a  basis to judge the other parts of the continuum. It depends on what one wants out of the hobby. I like making things and trying to get better as I go along. I figure I’m closer to the build-it-yourself end of the hobby, but I still use lots of purchased components. E. L. Moore was much closer than me to the fully self-reliant end. Well, when he was in his prime in the later 1950s and into the 1960s, the hobby in general was closer to the self-reliant end, and even more so the further back in the 20th century one goes. So, choices for them were more limited than for us. The thing to keep in mind is that we have a wide range of choices, and we’re free to choose up-and-down the continuum, and can also sift through the information of previous generations to pull out the good stuff [3].
Being modern and all, solar panels were called for since Ontario has a big solar program on the go. The panel pictures were downloaded from the internet and printed out in long strips. A piece of styrene sheet was glued to the back of each strip, and a Sharpie pen was used to draw on the black frames between the panels. Later on, ground-up gray pastel was lightly dusted on the panels to knock back the sheen.
I've had a fascination with solar panels for a long time. That freelanced model house was one I built as a boy for my first model railroad. Those silver squares were a youthful attempt at solar panels. It could use a reno considering all those weird finishes, but the building seems basically ok.
There's lots of windows out back, but it's salvageable.
Jumping ahead a bit, here is the finished roof. A styrene strip was glued on back of each set of panels near the top so the whole panel is tilted off the roof a little at the top to made things a little more 3D. The skylights were framed with 0.010 inch styrene strips. Clear plastic was used for the glass.
The shed service doors and their frames were built up from scraps of balsa. The shed's back door was built up from a sandwich of cardboard and clear plastic. Mr. Moore's was a solid door, but I wanted a window in the door to let light into the shed to complement the skylights - again, continuing to apply the idea of opening up the building to viewing and light. A pin head was used for the doorknob in old-school style.
These freelanced cabbage shredders were one of most enjoyable details to build. They're made from scraps of styrene and left-over parts from some old 1/25 scale plastic car kits. Mr. Moore hinted that he put some sort of shedders inside his building, but they weren't shown in the article. Mine would be dangerous to use: ladders and big chutes for tossing in the cabbages are a deadly combination. 
It doesn't appear that Mr. Moore's building had lights in the shed, but I thought I needed them to push on with the whole 'opening up the interior' concept. I built a tree from styrene tube and channel stock to hold 3 small incandescent bulbs. I had some in my spares box and figured I'd use them. They have a warm light too. I didn't think the clear, cold light from an LED fit with this project. The light tree starts with the T shown above...
... and ends with the three-pronged structure shown above. The lights are held in place by a sandwich of styrene channels. 
And here's the tree installed. A hole was drilled in the floor to hold it in place. It's not a prototypical light fixture, but it's not too bad. In the picture I hooked up a battery just to make sure all the bulbs lit up.
You see that wall in the previous picture where the long arm of the light tree extends over vat a, I had to add an upper section to the half wall to close up the shed. I decided to make a simple balsa frame with a 'chain link' panel glued over it - it's actually a piece of 'chain link' cloth from a Walther's chain link fence kit. I figured it would keep out birds and 'varmints when the building was closed up for the off-season. It would also continue to allow views and light into the shed.
There is the half wall installed. Below it is the central sauerkraut juice tank. The tank body is cut from a pill bottle and is around 9 scale feet in diameter. Balsa wood ends were glued on and 0.010 inch styrene straps were used to cover the joint between the ends and the body. Lots of scrap styrene was used to build the upper platform and cap. A bent pin was used for the tap. I also poured in some Woodland Scenics 'water' to simulate the sauerkraut juice, but that didn't work too well. Capillary action drew the 'water' up the sides and made for a weird sight. It was overkill and there wasn't any point in doing that, but it seemed like a good idea at the time :-) Mr. Moore used an all wood tank, but again, I wanted to keep the view into the shed as open as possible.
Here's the other side of the building and the back end of the tank. Climbing that ladder is a safety hazard, but there's a nice yellow railing to hang onto :-)
One last look before the roof was glued on. That green stuff on the floor is flocking to simulate cabbage scraps that didn't make it into the shredders. Gluing on the roof was a little nerve racking, so no pictures during the big event. But, once the dust had settled, and the glue was dry, here's what the sides looked like,

Now that all was said and done I wondered if 'Selective Staging' was a success. 
It is possible to easily see all the way inside and through the building. That picture above was shot with natural sunlight streaming in the skylights and no retouching was done on the photo. It's not too bad.
Likewise, at night with the lights on, there's good views into the building, and the inside of the shed is fairly well lit up.

So, again, was this effort to modernize an E. L. Moore project and apply Selective Staging a success? I think the results are mixed. Overall, I’m happy with the way the project turned out even though the construction methods are relatively unsophisticated. The shed, and to a certain extent the vat deck, is well lit and offers many sight-lines, although some are a little blocked. However, even though the pictures of the insides don’t look too bad, they’re a bit deceiving; as are a lot of Mr. Allen’s Engine House and Mr. Moore’s building photos. My photos, and theirs, are more or less all shot at or near ‘eye level’ in those miniature worlds. This makes it relatively easy for the viewer to make the cognitive leap into the photo’s world. On the other hand, a typical model railroad, when viewed ‘in the flesh’ presents the observer with a bird’s eye view of a world – a fairly unusual position. Roofs dominate from that vantage point. Even if one can take the roofs off, as was possible with the Engine House, and with many of Mr. Moore’s builds - although not with Caleb’s - the view inside is from high in the sky. And Caleb’s has got one big roof; it’s slope is fairly flat and blocks a lot of the view into what’s going on. So I’m thinking that Selective Staging is about both the way a building is organized, and how the viewer’s eye is positioned with respect to the building. There’s probably a whole line of investigation into how to design a model railroad completely optimized for eye-level viewing – that is, more than just taking a layout ‘as is’ and hoisting it up higher :-) I might even go as far as stating that maybe optimized eye-level viewing, along with view staging – full blown Selective Staging that is - is as important as detailing and weathering, maybe more so. But, that’s just conjecture, so for now, release the pigs! :-)
[The Naughty Pigs from Shaun the Sheep]
It wouldn't be Caleb's Cabbage Company without the pigs rooting around on the 'leavings' [4].

[1] In the United States, the so-called mid 20th century period extended from the end of World War II to the swearing in of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Architecturally, I guess the period ‘officially’ ended well before the Reagan era, and possibly the later ‘70s was merely the hang-over of the mid-century period. Regardless of date haggling, by sometime in the late ‘70s or early ‘80’s, mid-century modernism was over.
[2] I get the impression from some of my cursory reading of old model railroading magazines, that Railroad Model Craftsman flirted a bit with publishing some clearly modernist model building projects in the late 1940s, which coincides with the years when mid 20th century modernism was hitting its stride. Today, the mainstream model railroading press has a strong emphasis on the steam-to-diesel transition period that started in the late 1940s and lasted  into the 1950s, but consideration of modernist leanings in that period seems to be largely missing from today’s view into that era.

[3] Mike Bidlo is an artist who creates replicas of certain pieces of 20th century modern art. One of his most well-known series was a re-creation of a number of Jackson Pollack drip paintings.  Mr. Bidlo tried as much as possible to replicate how they were produced using the same materials – as could be found at the time – and same processes as the originals . His goal wasn’t to create counterfeits, but to try and experience what the artists experienced as they created the originals. When I stumbled across Mr. Bidlo’s work I sort of felt this E. L. Moore series was somewhat in the same vein. To just read the articles is one thing; to try and act on them is another. 

Artists that do what Mr. Bidlo does are called ‘appropriationists’, as they make use of, or appropriate, things that others have produced in order to make something new. Mr. Bidlo was trying to produce the experience that artists like Jackson Pollack had to see for himself what it might have been like to produce those art works and maybe learn from the experience. In effect, producing art from art. Sometimes I read in the model railroading media that it isn’t worth the time to produce a model from a model; that is, say, reproduce model from a John Allen article, or a model from a Jack Work article, or a model from an Art Curren article, or even an E. L. Moore model from an E. L. Moore article. I think there are a few reasons to give these a try, some are: the project is interesting and will fit on your layout, so you give it a try; there’s interesting techniques – and maybe low-cost ones – that seem useful; experience what it was like to build something from another time in some else’s style – an admittedly rare occurrence, but after a few builds, I’ve noticed an appreciation of what doing these builds back then might have been like that I didn’t get just from reading about them. I think that last one might be the basis of another model railroading genre I’d call ‘Retro’: building a model railroad as was done ‘back-in-the-day’ –maybe with some concessions on the control technology side so that many of the old time frustrations are eliminated, but the visual style remains.

[4] The cabbages used in the photos are coriander seeds - organic ones at that! - painted green. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

World's Biggest Bookstore 1980 - 2014

On Sunday, 30 March 2014, Toronto’s landmark World’s Biggest Bookstore closed its doors for the last time. The end of a 34 year era and the passing of one of the last bastions of mid 20th century unabashed business exuberance that dotted the downtown. Thanks for the memories! But despair not all ye 1/87 scale seekers of a good read. The lights are still on, the magazines are all new, and book pages are all deckle edged down at the HO location conveniently situated on Ocean Boulevard near car stop #3 of the Lost Ocean Line. See you at the bargain tables by the escalators!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A new model railroad?

A secret tunnel through a mine shaft needs a railroad...
... with a long, long section of track to efficiently move all those X files*...
... for who knows what at the end of line.
* it should go without saying, "April Fools", as seen on 'Paper Clip', episode 2, season 3, of The X-Files
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