Monday, May 30, 2016

E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century: Shades of Buffalo Bill

There was a brief discussion in the comments section of the E. L. Moore on Brevity post about the type of building presented in the A Fort by E. L. Moore?  post. I mentioned an unpublished article by E. L. Moore, Shades of Buffalo Bill, I recently came across in his files that described a model much like the one in the Fort post. 

Shades of Buffalo Bill was submitted to Model Railroader on 15 July 1968. Unfortunately for Mr. Moore it was returned, and did not get submitted elsewhere or see publication. The manuscript contains no model railroading material, so rejection seems a foregone conclusion. It’s a relatively short and lightweight story about how he built what we might consider in this day-and-age a stereotypical cowboys and Indians table-top diorama based on classic Airfix figures and some scratchbuilt buildings and scenery. 
[At one time, the Fort resided on the layout of E. L. Moore's friend, Fred Kelly.
Photo courtesy of Paul Zimmerman]

Frankly, I think Mr. Moore was taking a bit of a breather with this piece. In April he submitted an epic-sized manuscript for the Enskale and Hoentee layout to Railroad Model Craftsman: 34 manuscript pages, 10,350 words, 30 photographs and 17 sheets of drawings along with an additional manuscript on how to kitbash some coaches for that layout in what would be published as Easy Narrow Gauge Coach which added another 1,100 words, 2 photographs and a sheet of drawings. Right after Buffalo Bill, in October ’68, he submitted the first of what he and Hal Carstens would refer to as his ‘fantasy’ builds: The Molasses Mine and Factory

The notes accompanying the Buffalo Bill manuscript indicate there were also 3 photos and a sheet of drawings. These are missing. Without the photos I can’t say with 100% accuracy that the blockhouse described in this manuscript is the Fort, but the description is quite similar to what’s seen in the Fort photos. So, without further adieu, here is the Shades of Buffalo Bill manuscript.

E. L. Moore

Cowboys and Indians, anyone? With a wagon train and some cavalry thrown in for good measure? We can give it plausibility by stringing it to the occasion of a centennial or holiday celebration. It can really be fun too, although you probably wont’ be able to devote a card table top to your spectacle as I have, but then my set-up is only meant to give you ideas for your own smaller space.
As many of you are aware, Airfix is a source of quantity figures at a price -- from 35 to 45 well molded plastic figures for only 50¢, with a choice of cowboys, Indians, wagon trains, cavalry and many other subjects. All that’s needed is to paint them. According to instructions the figures should be first washed in a detergent, then rinsed and dried. That little item of information escaped my notice, and I painted mine just as they came from the box, with Floquil Railroad Colors, but with no ill results. I did try Floquil’s Barrier on some, this being necessary as an undercoat on Poly-styrene, but it flaked off when dry, so I just painted them as I came to them not wasting a great deal of time on any one figure. And, in some of these sets you get a variety of the finest horses available anywhere, standing, trotting and running, some with saddles and others in harness.
Additionally, Merten and Preiser have sets of more detailed and painted figures of cowboys and Indians, albeit naturally more expensive. A. B. Boyd Company was the source of my Preiser cowboy and Indian figures, the band, the set of four wigwams, and the stagecoach.
For years I’ve wanted an excuse to do the Tennessee blockhouse which I found pictured in THE KENTUCKY RIFLE by Dillon -- and so the opportunity came. This is built of balsa at a cost of only a few cents plus a couple of evening’s work. The pole fencing, as shown, was built of June grass stems with balsa posts.

So it’s hardly worth while to list a bill of materials.

We’ll begin with the blockhouse which has walls of 1/8” balsa, and whose lower section is 16’ x 16’ x 12’ high (in HO, of course). Logs are simulated and square cut, the divisions being deliniated with a sharp hard lead pencil in the absence of an electric burning pen. Corners are beveled and the butt log joints are faked as shown in the drawing. A floor of 1/8” scribed balsa is installed with a ladder leading to the upper section.

The upper overhanging section is 22’ x 22’ x 9’ high and is constructed in the manner just described. Gun ports are placed at intervals each side a heights indicated. The photograph shows the placing of the upper beams and method of joining the two sections.

The roof is square, of 1/16” balsa, coming to a central peak. Each section is 24 1/2’ wide by 15’ from eaves to peak, as shown in simulated shakes.

I weathered the structure with a gray oil and turpentine wash, and gave the door a contrasting wash of raw sienna and brown. It will probably be necessary to use brown ink to deliniate the log divisions and butt ends after supplying the gray wash. Short bits of wire will do for gun barrels protruding from the gun ports.

Should you want to make your own Indian tepees I am giving you a drawing of one similar in size and design to the Preiser ones, although it’s hardly worth while with the colorful set of four selling for only a buck. All tepees are patterned to a similar half circle design, but often with smoke flaps attached. I’ve never seen this bird wing smoke flap except in the Preiser tent, but it’s graceful and adds to the looks of the finished wigwam. A handful of what night be brown dyed broomstraw is included in Preiser’s kit for use as tent poles. Whisk broom fibers might be used should you make your own. And in any case here’s a few pointers in setting them up. Run a dry ball point pen or similar instrument down each line and bend until tepee will fold around and stand after flap is cemented. I cut the finest poles in two, each about an inch long and pasted them along the lines inside letting each protrude about half an inch. This done, I cut a circle of 1/16” balsa 13 1/2’ in diameter, shaped the edges to a slanting octagon shape and fitted this inside the bottom of the tepee, fastening it with cement. After cementing the smoke flaps in place at the top I attached two long poles to the top ears or tips and that was that. Water colors can be used to paint bands of colors with here and there an animal or head drawn in for good measure. They’ll get lots of attention.

As mentioned, I built my pole fence of June grass stems, selecting ones 1/16” in diameter or less. I usually got about two 50’ lengths from a stem. When dry these are quite strong. Make posts as shown in drawing, of 1/16” square balsa, add short pieces, then cement the other post on. Thread five such double posts onto five 50’ stems, space and cement, then add a top rail. A stiff half inch strip of paper to the bottom of every other post will make the fence stand up. Paint stems and posts with gray railroad paint. Such a fence may not be quite up to prototype with its 50’ poles, but if you prefer to do it the hard way that’s up to you.

For grass I used finely sifted green sawdust into which some green flock was mixed and all the actors in the drama, including the horses, have their bases well covered. Painting of figures need not be too carefully done, and in the case of the Indians a variety of gaudy colors seemed most desirable. Goo appeared to work out best in making riders stick to their saddles.

Kids of today really have it made. When I was a lad I had to use beans and kernels of corn for my characters -- plus a lively imagination. But it’s a lot more fun, I find, when one has realistic figures with which to work. And the fact that I could capture the results of my playing in a photograph afterwards added to the enjoyment. That I’ll get paid for playing does nothing to detract from the pleasure of it either.
 [The book War Games by David Levinthal presents a selection of his photos of war scenes staged with miniatures.]
Capture the results of my playing in a photograph is more-or-less what artist David Levinthal did in his series of photographs called Wild West. Ok, well, I suspect there was a little more to it than that as his playing was somewhat different than E. L. Moore’s. David Levinthal has created a series of photographic works of table-top scenes utilizing toy figures, such as the Airfix and Marx figures, to illustrate and comment on war, historical events and pop culture using pop cultural artifacts. Hitler Moves East, IED and Wild West are three of his most famous series. Mr. Levinthal has revisited the Wild West series 5 times over the course of his career making it one of his most deeply explored ideas. These little figures can be used for many purposes and likely have more waiting to be found by some future artist or modeller. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

HOJPOJ outside

This past weekend was the first truly gorgeous one this year. I like taking photos of models and stuff outside, so I spent a little time getting some shots of the HOJPOJ factory in the backyard. Mixed results, but there's lots of sun still to come, so I'll keep practicing :-)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Hugh Garner, 'Skinny' Moore and The Sin Snipers

One summer day in 1933 my friend Howard “Skinny” Moore and I set out for the United States with a package of makin’s, a dime in cash, and a bag of my mother’s cucumber sandwiches. We slept the first night on somebody’s lawn in Oakville, Ontario, and made it to Niagara Falls the following day, hitching rides. We split the dime between us to cross one of the bridges to Niagara Falls, New York; I made it past the US Immigration, Skinny didn’t. I went on to New York and Washington and ended up in California. And that’s how it was done.

And so begins a long and fascinating section of Hugh Garner’s One Damn Thing After Another!, his autobiography, describing his time from 1930 to 1939 hoboing all over the US and Canada - and naturally I was caught off-guard by the random coincidence of seeing the surname Moore mentioned in the opening sentence :-) Mr. Garner was one of Canada’s most famous writers, and one of my father’s favourites. Later in his career, Mr. Garner wrote a series of popular mystery novels set in Toronto featuring Detective Inspector Walter McDurmont. The first was The Sin Sniper, published in 1970. I have no idea if it’s a good read, but I’ve got a copy on the coffee table, and if it’s as taut and forthright as his recollections of life on the rails during the Depression, it should be fine. 

I lived one summer in New York on 60 cents a day, and stooked wheat along the Soo Line and Assiniboine Line in southern Saskatchewan for a buck a day and board, which was the going wage that year. When I’m asked why I rode the freights and beat my way through much of Canada and the United States instead of working at the terrible little jobs I had in Toronto between trips, my best answer is that when I was home I was poor, but when I was on the road I was merely broke. And there’s a lot of difference between the two.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ottawa streetcar models at the 2015 Ottawa Train Expo

A reader commented at the post I did last year about seeing a couple of excellent 1/48 scale models of Ottawa streetcar models at the 2015 Ottawa Train Expo. I went through my photos to see if I had anymore pictures of the models.
I only found one other photo - the one shown below. These are outstanding models and I regret not meeting the person who built them and the diorama. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

E. L. Moore on Brevity

The top enginehouse is E. L. Moore’s Home for Small Locos that appeared in the Mar ’73 issue of Railroad Modeler (which I saw at last year’s meet-up), and the bottom one is by Eric Stevens that appeared in the two-part article Three-Stall Enginehouse from the Jan and Feb ’73 issues of Model Railroader - the image is the beauty shot from the Jan instalment.

In doing a little research on engine stalls and such I discovered one thing ... you can put an article out in less than 2500 words that used to take three or four times that. Eric Stevens in an old issue of MR used two issues to tell about his three stall engine house. Every minute detail was explained. Nowadays we’re inclined to skip a lot of that and give the reader credit for figuring out a few things for himself. But at the same time I did enjoy some of those lengthy dissertations by George Allen that went on issue after issue ... but they’ve had their day.
Extracted from E. L. Moore’s 16 Oct ’72 cover letter to Denis Dunning, editor of Railroad Modeler, that accompanied his manuscript for the Home for Small Locos article that appeared in the Mar ’73 issue of Railroad Modeler.

The Eric Stevens article E. L. Moore is referring to is Three-Stall Enginehouse that appeared in the January and February 1953 issues of Model Railroader. E. L. Moore’s model seems rather similar to Eric Stevens’. I like the extensive and detailed drawings in the Stevens article. They seem to be well integrated with the text and make the series  more graphic oriented than text oriented in its explanations. Interestingly, part 4 of George Allen’s long running Tuxedo Junction series appears right after the first instalment of Eric Stevens’ article. 

I agree with your thoughts on the shorter articles, some of these how to give much more than most people care about. And yes, I too loved the stories by George Allen, but it is a rare individual that had the writing gift like his.

Extracted from Denis Dunning’s 4 Dec ’72 follow-up letter to E. L. Moore.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Speculations on E. L. Moore, Folk Art and The Pulps

Didja know that the Abby Aldridge [sic] Rockefeller Folk Art Collection in Williamsburg Va., called on this damn Yankee to set up trains for a Christmas display this past Dec. Operates thru Jan 7. Flew down and back. 10 hour drive is too much. Didn't know I had culture, didja?
Extracted from a letter Hal Carstens wrote to E. L. Moore dated 2 January 1968.

This being the internet and not a scholarly journal, I don't need to feel guilty about indulging in wild speculation :-) When I saw that paragraph Hal Carstens wrote I flashed back to a post where I floated the idea that E. L. Moore's model building style might be thought of as a folk art style. Maybe someone way back then at that folk art museum was also thinking similar thoughts about model railroading in general? Or maybe calling the boss of the closest major model railroading magazine in the country was the first thing that came to mind for getting help with their Christmas layout and nothing more?

Turns out the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is still in operation. 
While I've been on the E. L. Moore trail I've also indulged in many side trips. One day I found out about an old pulp magazine called Flying Aces. Turns out it was founded in 1928 and was the predecessor to Carstens' Flying Models magazine, which unfortunately went bust in 2014 when Carstens folded.

What caught my attention was the Fact - Model Building - Fiction blurb that appeared in the title. Yeap, that's what's inside. Railroad Magazine - the longstanding railroad pulp - also was a mixture of fact (the major component), fiction (two or three stories per issue), and model building (to a limited extent, but this seemed to vary over the years). There were even little bits of poetry from time to time! Fact - Model Building - Fiction, especially fiction, were components of a typical E. L. Moore article. Fiction, more specifically, stories were people talk, isn't a component of a typical model railroading article then or now. An E. L. Moore article - and maybe Raymond Frankenberger's too - was a small, self-contained flashback to the pulp era - well, that's my wild speculation for today :-) E. L. Moore noted a few times that he read Railroad Magazine. Did he have other favourite pulps? Did he consciously emulate a pulp style? These are all possible trails for future rambling.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cover story

From July ’61 to September ’74 Model Railroader published a large number of issues where the cover was simply a page-spanning, borderless photograph with only the magazine logo, tag line and price as textual elements. They contained no text blurbs to tell buyers what was inside. Covers of this type appear not to have existed prior to ’61, and seemed to have disappeared by the end of ’74. I’m not saying there weren’t striking covers outside that period, or that there weren’t covers in that period that integrated text and picture in dramatic ways, only that the textless covers of that era are the most daring that have been published. 

Daring because they put all the heavy-lifting of attracting buyers to the magazine on the picture, so the photo has to perform a serious commercial function all by itself without any support. Was that a successful strategy? I have no idea, but I applaud them for their audacity. I think those covers are confident and held out the promise that a model railroading magazine could be something more than a how-to journal. They almost issue a visual challenge to drop whatever preconceptions you have about the hobby and take a look. 

From July ’61 to December ’61, all covers were textless except for one, and although the July issue got the trend started, the most dramatic was saved for December.
On this one the model work is from Paul Detlefsen’s layout and the photography is by John Allen; a powerful combination of artists who delivered the goods with style. Inside the reader is treated to several more striking photos in The ride of your life, and an insightful accompanying essay by Lin Westcott. Not all the textless covers were this dramatic, but they were all strong images.

Maybe Railroad Model Craftsman and other magazines have run these sorts of covers, I don’t know. I was able to see this trend in Model Railroader because they have digitized their entire run - from which these images were sourced - so it becomes easier to recognize patterns and trends when so much information is readily available. If you have access to their archive, I’d recommend having a look at the ’61 to ’74 covers.
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