Monday, March 2, 2015

Streetcars, ferries and buses in 1935 Toronto

This video was posted to YouTube by Library and Archives Canada, and according to the accompanying description includes "Shots of Toronto Transit Commission traffic at Broadview and Danforth, Sunnyside, Danforth Division, Canadian National Exhibition entrances, the Bay Street terminal, ferry service, and North Toronto terminal." I stumbled across this fascinating video at a post at the equally fascinating Lost Toronto.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Gecko's back door

House renovations are going on and on and on, but I've made a little progress on Gecko Records. Above is a picture of the loading door on the back wall. It needs a little weathering and some more detail. Basically, it's a laminate of styrene along with some ancient Letraset for signage and a staple for a door handle.
The corners are filled in with styrene tubes cut for a snug fit and painted flat aluminum.
I use a small tube cutter for scoring styrene tubes. Although this cutter is meant for metal tubes, it works well for styrene as long as you don't cut too deep and distort the plastic. Usually, a decent enough score can be made that allows the tube to be snapped without compressing the plastic. A little clean up with a sanding stick is usually needed after breaking the piece free.
The tiles are not precision dimensioned, so the structure is a little off-square and there are a number of gaps here and there between the pieces. I don't want light to leak out when the lobby is lit up, so I filled all the inside gaps with a non-solvent based wood-filler I bought at Home Hardware - I had some left over from house reno-ing and I didn't want to use expensive hobbyist filler for this job. I haven't seen any cracking or the plastic parts being attacked by it; so far, so good. The plan is to paint the interior black.
This is the insert for the entrance lobby. It still needs a lot of work. The ceiling will be some sort of light panel.

Friday, February 27, 2015

E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21st Century: Bart Crosby and Fred Kelley

[The handwritten annotation on the back of this photo reads, Fred Kelley's layout - 600 feet of track -50 switches, etc. This is a photo of E. L. Moore's courthouse build whose photo appeared in the Feb '80 Model Railroader E. L. Moore tribute article; however, a full build article was never published. Photo courtesy of Paul Zimmerman.]

A little while ago I wrote two posts about the E. L. Moore collections of his longtime friends, Bart Crosby and Fred Kelley. After subsequent discussion and investigation with E. L. Moore researcher Paul Zimmerman, we concluded that some of the statements made in those posts were wrong. So, instead of updating the posts, they were deleted. Hopefully this post will set things straight :-)

In Jim Kelly’s tribute to E. L. Moore that appeared in the February 1980 issue of Model Railroader he mentioned that Bart Crosby and Fred Kelley had inherited many of Mr. Moore’s model buildings. A few weeks ago Paul Zimmerman contacted me to say that in the early 1990s he had exchanged letters with Mr. Crosby and Mr. Kelley, and they sent him a number of photos of E. L. Moore buildings that they had in their collections. The current thinking is that the colour photos in this post came from Bart Crosby, and the black-and-white ones shown later were from Fred Kelley.

Bart Crosby was for a time an assistant editor at Model Trains magazine, and published a number of articles in the model railroading press. He was a longtime friend and staunch advocate of E. L. Moore.

Mr. Crosby was associated with the The Black Diamond Society of Model Engineers in Pennsylvania. According to this Morning Call article from 16 May 1988, his was one of the model railroads on the layout tour associated with the Mid-Eastern Region National Model Railroad Association convention in Hanover, Pennsylvania in 1988. A gentleman who has been a member of the club for 50+ years informed me he recalled that Mr. Crosby's layout "... had a lot of Moore's models. Bart's layout was modest in size, with one side American and the other side German. It was divided by a mountain ridge." 

[New Castle and Frenchtown Railroad letterhead courtesy of Paul Zimmerman.]

Mr. Crosby described his layout, the New Castle and Frenchtown, in a newsletter he had typed up to give to visitors. Below are both pages of that document
[Page 1 of Bart Crosby's New Castle and Frenchtown newsletter describing his layout. He makes note that it includes 20 E. L. Moore built buildings. Scan courtesy of Paul Zimmerman.]
[Page 2 of Bart Crosby's New Castle and Frenchtown newsletter. Scan courtesy of Paul Zimmerman.]

According to Mr. Crosby’s description of his layout he had 20 E. L. Moore buildings on it. Take a look at the bandstand in the centre of this photo.

[The handwritten annotation on the back of this photo reads, Historical Park & Bldgs by E.L.M. on Fred Kelley's layout. E. L. Moore notes in his article, Crosby's Bandstand, that appeared in the Nov '72 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, that he had made 4 bandstand models, and Bart Crosby's was his first. The one in the centre of this photo apparently was made for Fred Kelley. Photo courtesy of Paul Zimmerman]

Mr. Crosby refers to the bandstand as E. L. Moore’s “masterpiece”, and notes that "the delicate spindles were turned on a dremel tool mounted in a bench vise!". The full story about the bandstand's construction can be found in E. L. Moore's Crosby's Bandstand that appeared in the Nov. '72 Railroad Model Craftsman. Just to the right of the bandstand in the above photo is what looks like the blacksmith's barn that appeared in the June '64 issue of Model Railroader and was later turned into a plastic kit.

[The handwritten annotation on the back of this photo reads, Full view of the N. Conway station by E.L.M. The North Conway Station is labeled 'E', and appears way at the back of the picture. This is also likely a scene n Fred Kelley's layout. Photo courtesy of Paul Zimmerman]

I was pleasantly surprised to see in the above photo three of my favourite E. L. Moore projects that I tried to build way back in the '70s were right there all lined up in a row. Given that the E. L. Moore tribute article in the Feb '80 Model Railroader noted that the North Conway Station, the Courthouse, Bunn's Feed and Seed, and Jones' Chemical Co. were owned by Fred Kelley, I infer the above photo is of Mr. Kelley's model railroad. I’ve added the letters to the photo, and made an attempt to identify some of the buildings with the considerable help of Paul Zimmerman,

A. Bunn's Feed and Seed Plant, Model Railroader, August 1973.
B. Novelty Factory, Railroad Model Craftsman, July 1970.
C. The RMC Paper Company, Railroad Model Craftsman, April 1974.
D. Jones' Chemical Co., Model Railroader, March 1974.
E. North Conway Station, Model Railroader, February 1980.
F. Courthouse, Model Railroader, February 1980.
G. E. L. Moore's Village Store, Model Railroader, January 1978.
H. Three Storefronts and a Shop, Railroad Model Craftsman, December 1969.
J. The Button Works, Model Railroader, September 1979.
K. Stuckem Glue Works, Model Railroader, October 1977.
L. Home for Small Locos, Railroad Modeler, March 1973.

[The handwritten annotation on the back of this photo reads, In this corner is a compressed model of the station N. Conway N.H. built in 1903.This is the opposite view of the photo annotated with letters. Photo courtesy of Paul Zimmerman]
The buildings in Mr. Kelley's layout appear to have been spread around the track a little haphazardly, but I suspect it was a temporary arrangement while the layout was under construction. One thing about these pictures that jumped out at me was that there doesn’t appear to be anything special about the buildings, their arrangement or that section of the layout if one wasn’t versed in E. L. Moore's projects. 
[This is a snippet of E. L. Moore's selectively compressed Conway Station. The Dec '88 issue of Model Railroader had a 'railroad you can model' feature on the Boston & Maine's Conway Branch, a detailed set of drawings of the Conway Station by Harold Russell, and a construction article on how to build the station in HO - and in styrene - by George Drury (no mention is made of E. L. Moore photo from back in the Feb. 1980 issue), and a photo of the station model is on the cover. It's one of those old 200+ page issues from long, long ago.]

I’m used to seeing these builds via their published glamour shots, or my own builds staged on my layout. A lot of the charm is lost when they’re clustered on a relatively barren section of a layout. This speaks to the power of E. L. Moore’s ability to build a narrative and stage photos of his projects. That skill was nearly as important as the projects themselves in terms of making them attractive.

[The Elizabethton station on the Elizabeth Valley Railroad; photo by E. L. Moore; posted courtesy of Paul Zimmerman]

Of the black-and-white photos, the one shown above is similar to the one that appeared in the photo spread called the Elizabeth Valley RR that appeared in the March 1955 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman and introduced E. L. Moore's model railroad to the public. The back of the photo didn't have annotation, but it did have this stamp,
This next photo is also of E. L. Moore's Elizabeth Valley Railroad, but with a couple of its buildings in different locations. This photo may not have seen publication before.
[A photo from across the lake, looking toward the main bridge on the Elizabeth Valley Railroad. This photo was also stamped on the back with the EVRR logophoto by E. L. Moore; posted courtesy of Paul Zimmerman]

I should note that from other research it's clear that the Elizabeth Valley Railroad is named after Mr. Moore's daughter. And lastly, this third photo shown above may have been staged on the Elizabeth Valley Railroad
[A photo of the Village Grist Mill that appeared in the April 1967 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman; There was a handwritten annotation on the back of this one: R.M.C. 4/67 Grist Mill ELM; photo by E. L. Moore; posted courtesy of Paul Zimmerman.]

Paul Zimmerman contacted me several weeks ago and generously forwarded many scans of E. L. Moore related materials. I hope to feature more in future posts of the Legacy series
[Paul used half of E. L. Moore's Bunn's Feed and Seed Plant to built his N-scale Messina's Mill. Photo shot by Jack Roe and posted courtesy of Paul Zimmerman.]

As well, Paul has built many high-quality models of E. L. Moore's published projects in N-scale, and a 2 by 3 foot rendition of Mr. Moore's Elizabeth Valley Railroad. A Facebook video of some scenes from the layout can be found here.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Red Rocket

The trailer to a fascinating IMAX movie being made about the Toronto Transit Commission's streetcars. Two-and-a-half minutes of streetcar goodness.

E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21st Century: The Tao of E. L. Moore, Take 2

Some more notes on trying to make sense of the E. L. Moore legacy that I started with the post, The Tao of E. L. Moore

I’ve gotten to the point in this series where it seems clear that E. L. Moore was not only a major figure in mid 20th century model railroading, but is also an unrecognized master of a traditional American folk art that might be on the rise in the world of folk and outsider art. The puzzle pieces have only clicked into place for me rather recently after reading this New York Times article back in November about a collector of folk art buildings; and with the resurfacing of some E. L. Moore models, photos from Bart Crosby and Fred Kelley, and the recognition that the ‘lost’ E. L. Moore construction articles weren’t lost after all suggested that this series might be part of a bigger story.

‘Folk art’ seems to me like a loaded phrase in the popular media. It conjures up stereotypical images of earnest people playing music on unplugged instruments about the dust bowl days, or un-reconstructed hippies making pottery or weaving ponchos. The reality is often quite different and more subtle. Folk art is simply a term to describe things made by people who haven’t been to art school, or haven’t received formal arts-and-crafts training, who use common, everyday materials to make art. They work outside the institutions and markets that constitute the officially sanctioned art world.  Whether they themselves perceive that what they’re making is art isn’t the point. These people are driven – for whatever reason – to produce things that have meaning and beauty. Their drive is the important part. They’re driven. Their work is often highly personal. The art, the making, the craft, comes naturally. It turns out that making small buildings, much like E. L. Moore and others did, might be a type of folk art if that New York Times article can be believed.

Making small buildings, small vehicles, small figures, small whatever, has been always been a part of the broader culture. I won’t go into any long winded historical analysis, but I’ll note that even when my grandmother took her training to be a grade-school teacher in the 1910’s right there in her textbook were lessons on how to instruct pupils in the finer points of making small cardboard houses and villages as a way to develop manual skills and geometric reasoning. The teachers-in-training were also encouraged to provide children with large sandboxes so they could setup their paper built towns – which were layouts of a sort. H.G. Well’s 1911 book Floor Games, and Edith Nesbit’s Wings and the Child or The Building of Magic Cities from 1913, further attest to the enduring popularity of building small worlds both with and without a railroad component.

It’s no surprise that in the formative years of scenic model railroading, or simply model railroading as it eventually became known, the craft of making accessory buildings from simple, on-hand materials like cardboard, tempra paint, wood sticks or model airplane builder’s balsa wood was dominate. There wasn’t a vast array of special materials and kits available like there is today, so that the folk art found new expression in model railroading.

After WWII many of the highest caliber model railroaders with the skills to make small buildings found their way into the model railroading press and wrote articles about using those folk methods to make quality buildings. Now, these people probably didn’t explicitly think, “how can I apply these old methods that I learned in school or from grand-dad to model railroads?” They merely took what was in the culture – methods, materials, practices and so forth –and applied it. And they often did more than just apply them, they extended them and developed new methods, which in turn eventually became the basis of advanced kits, techniques and practices that put us on the path to where we are today.

I won’t go into all the practitioners here, but of the classical small building folk builders in model railroading in the post WWII, mid 20th century period, E. L. Moore was the most eminent in the U.S. (there were many in the U.S. and U.K - and no doubt in other countries – and includes people like John Allen, John Ahern, Jack Work, George Stokes, Eugene Le Doux and many others). This folk period of small building construction in model railroading started well before E. L. Moore appeared on the scene, but it more-or-less was well over by the time of his death in 1979. By that time, advances in the hobby industry had long surpassed what was possible with the old methods. And today with laser cutting, die-casting, photo-etch and 3-D printing, that long gone folk era seems quaint and irrelevant.

What might be called the ‘folk art’ style of building construction is a small niche in today’s model railroading world. What with pre-printed card kits, pre-assembled items, simple plastic builds, and entry-level laser cut wood kits, ‘folk’ methods aren’t even recommended for beginners. So the interest in older, ‘folk’ based builds are with select groups other than mainstream modelers or beginners. There’s some interest from individuals who recognize or recall E. L. Moore and that era, those who have some knowledge about the history of model railroading, and those who have an interest in unique, low cost projects.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this idea of a folk art influenced period in model railroading – and an associated folk art style – only became clear to me quite recently. In November I read an article in the New York Times about a gentleman in North Carolina who collected what he referred to as folk art buildings. These are model buildings ranging in size from say HO to several feet tall, built by various craftsmen, often unknown, mainly prior to WWII. The models are built from commonly available materials. There are no dollhouses, birdhouses or architect’s models in the collection, just various sorts of buildings made by independent craftsmen. After reading the article, the various aspects of E. L. Moore’s work that I had been writing about gelled: he was working in the same tradition as these folk artists, but working within the model railroading world.

The collector in the article mentioned that the main reason why folk art buildings aren’t yet a major branch of ‘Recognized’ American folk art is that it is very difficult to establish the provenance of the models. The director of the American Folk Art Museum in New York seemed to confirm that knowing who built the pieces and their stories is crucial for recognition of the works by collectors, scholars, and curators alike. I realized that what maybe was is going on with this series is that the provenance of E. L. Moore’s work is being established: reviewing his publication record, pulling together the remaining pieces of his work, trying out how he did things, tracking down his reference materials, interpreting what he did, and assembling it into some sort of whole to get the big picture. I’m not yet sure where - if anywhere - this is all going, but the journey has been interesting so far and fun.

Well, none of this may be true, but it’s interesting food for thought. E. L. Moore and his cohort were a type of artists, saying something about America through model railroading, but whose significance wasn’t limited to model railroading.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21st Century: Outhouses, backhouses and privies, oh my!

[Private Collection - posted with permission of the owner]
One thing that E. L. Moore liked to build were outhouses, and not just replicas of the usual run-of-the-mill one-holers. No siree. He had a genius for them: two-story jobs, hexagonal plans, ones with wheels, skull shaped (!), and more. 
[Private Collection - posted with permission of the owner]
17 of them were documented in all their glory in A Mighty Relaxin’ Job that appeared in the November 1975 issue of the NMRA Bulletin. I’ll leave it to the Sigmund Freud department to speculate on what it all means, but I’m glad to see that at least one has managed to survive the years: this one dates from 1964.
[Private Collection - posted with permission of the owner]
This example isn't one of his wildest designs, but it's very similar to the one shown in figure #13 in the article. And has a similar caption on the ventilation theme :-)
[Private Collection - posted with permission of the owner]

Monday, February 16, 2015

Streetcars in Charlotte, North Carolina

E. L. Moore was a resident of Charlotte, North Caroline, but he was "... not a trolley fan...". I'm not a resident of Charlotte, but I am a trolley fan. Whenever a city is new to me, one thing I'm curious about is whether they have, or had, a streetcar system. Charlotte did until 1938, and then had a small historic system from the early 1990's until quite recently. This short PBS video gives a brief history.
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