Tuesday, October 20, 2020

On wiring and muffins

Installing the power buses for the street lighting is tedious but necessary work. I've been attaching copper strips for distributing power to the street lights. The lights are low current and voltage items at 30mA and 14VDC max, and no more than 12 lights are being connected in parallel across each bus. After all connections are made the strips will be taped over. To buoy our spirits through this onerous task Debra was busy in the 30Squares kitchen baking up Musical Assumptions Rainy Day Peach Muffins. They are indeed most excellent, and I would certainly recommend them as a necessary mid-step in any laborious wiring job :-)

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Steinberg Stylized

I've been thinking about Toronto's mid-century grocery stores, and the one that figures most predominately in my mind is the Steinberg at Cedarbrae Mall in Scarborough. It's where my parents did our grocery shopping on Friday evenings, and although long gone, its elegant shape lives on in my memory.

No, no streetcar ever stopped at this place. It was a purely automobile oriented suburban mall, but that facade could easily front a long street serviced by streetcars like Ocean Boulevard on my layout.


The only pictures I could find on the internet were these two. Fifty years ago I never thought one day I'd be contemplating an HO scale model, so I don't have any photos of my own :-) I don't recall the iconography on the leftmost black-and-white image, but I do recall that in the colour image.

I spent a long time studying those pictures, and then did some drawings of an approximation of the facade. Of the two in the top image, the lower one is a little too compressed, which makes the building a little too stubby. The top one seems to capture the overall shape a bit better. Although, it'll be a long model at 535mm. I want to see if I can build this thing fast, and not my usual weeks that stretch into months.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Under the hood

Now that there're a lot of streetlights installed I thought I'd see about hooking up a power bus to light them. 

The first thing was to flip up the layout boards and have a look under the streets. The prop bottoms are bolted to the frame cross-pieces, and the back edge of the layout boards push against the alignment stays I screwed into the frame back in the spring when I last worked on the boards. When tilted up it's quite sturdy and seems unlikely to slip. This arrangement is better than having to crawl under the frame and work over my head.

I think I have enough components around the workshop from the old layout to light up Ocean Boulevard, but the first item of business will be to do a little parts inventory. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Streetcar wire suspension poles installed

The five pairs of wire suspension poles were installed along Ocean Boulevard. 

These poles and wires don't carry power to the models. They're for scenic effect only. When I take pictures I don't want to see trolley poles not dragging along an overhead wire. Although the lights in each pole will be powered so that night scenes look right.

The wire will be some elastic thread, and installing that will be the next job.


Friday, October 9, 2020

The model railroad cartoons of Doug Wright

Snipped from July '64 MR Doug Wright cartoon - his drawing style is unmistakeable.

I wasn’t kidding when I noted that one thing leads to another on this journey through the pages of old model railroading magazines. Looking for Gil Mellé cartoons lead to finding Bill Baron cartoons, which has lead to finding Doug Wright cartoons. And it happened quite by accident. I was chatting with Vince on the phone while scrolling absentmindedly through some pages in the Model Railroader archive, and bingo, a cartoon with Doug Wright’s signature, and just as importantly, his signature style.


Why it was so surprising to me is that Wright is one of Canada's most famous cartoonists, and inspiration for many significant Canadian cartoonists. There’s even a cartooning award, The Doug Wright Awards for Canadian Cartooning, established in his honour. I remember reading his strip, Doug Wright’s Family, in the Toronto Star back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but I didn’t know he had this connection to model railroading.


Here’re the cartoons I’ve found so far. As always, I’ll keep the list fresh if new items are found. If you see anything wrong or missing, please contact me and I’ll make appropriate updates.


MR = Model Railroader


1962

Dec: 1 single panel cartoon (MR) [reprinted from the Montreal Star]


1963

Feb: 1 single panel cartoon (MR) [reprinted from the Montreal Star]

Dec: 1 single panel cartoon (MR)


1964

Feb: 1 single panel cartoon (MR)

Jul: 1 single panel cartoon (MR)


1969

Oct: 1 single panel cartoon (MR)


Model Railroader also ran a little note about Doug Wright in the Bull Session column of their Dec ’62 issue. In it our pseudonymed columnist, Ray L. Rhodes, mentions that the cartoon they were running that month first appeared in an August ’62 issue of the Montreal Star to coincide with the Montreal NMRA convention, and to celebrate Montreal resident Dr. Roy Dohn’s layout, which was featured in How we rebuilt the Victoria Northern in the Aug ’62 issue of MR. At the end of the note they quote Wright as saying he found Bill Livingston’s article, My railroad just growed in the Sept ’62 MR, inspirational, and he planned to build a 5’ x 1’ scenic module over the winter. 


Did Wright build that module, or any sort of model railroad? Is it well known that he had an interest in model railroading, and maybe it’s just me who’s the last to know? The Off The Train Wire column in the Oct ’64 MR notes that Wright was selling colored prints of CN 4-8-2 No. 6065, one of the “bullet-nosed Betties”, available for decorating the railroad room or den, so it looks like his interest in railroading things continued, but did it continue in model form as well? Seth has written a book about Doug Wright. I need to get a copy and see what it has to say. Stay tuned.

Streetcar overhead wire posts ready for installation

 
My part time project for this week has been to get the poles, from which the overhead wire along Ocean Boulevard will be suspended, built, painted, and ready for installation. They're more-or-less ready. I've drilled out holes along the street for them, but the bigger job will be to make some jigs to use when installing the overhead wire.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Recently Updated: The cool and sophisticated mid-century model railroad stylings of Bill Baron

Vince contacted Bill Baron, and Bill has graciously provided information to help fill in my knowledge of his work and bibliography. I'll be updating the post, The cool and sophisticated mid-century model railroad stylings of Bill Baron, as I learn more. Depending on the extent of the updates, I may need to write a new article. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Trees and poles along Ocean Boulevard

I still have this hope that I can have the layout in some sort of reasonable shape by Christmas, so I thought I'd go ahead and make the streetcar power line poles for Ocean Boulevard. The test fit I did last week looked ok, so I cranked up the assembly line to make 4 more pairs of pole suspension units.

You can see 4 new poles here, and there are 4 more off camera. I also extended the length of the unit I had already made by bonding extra lengths of 1/8" styrene tube to the bottoms with liquid plastic welder - that's the unit over there in the jig. The poles are surprisingly strong with the little extensions welded to their bottoms.

I also did some test planting of the trees along the north side of Ocean Boulevard. The actual World's Biggest Bookstore did face such a tree-lined street, so that's more-or-less prototypical, but no streetcar ran along the street. That aspect is fictional, but it's all part of the selective compression my memories are being put to in this little layout :-)
 

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Fall colours at the Havelock yard

I dropped by the Havelock yard on the weekend to see if I could figure out if Havelock was where I saw the speeder shed back in the '70s. My conclusion: it wasn't. 

The search continues.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

The cool and sophisticated mid-century model railroad stylings of Bill Baron

Snipped & edited from Bill Baron's Railroad in a coffee table?, MR June '66

When it comes to investigating the world of model railroading magazines passed, it's always one thing connected to another. When I was looking for cartoons by Gil Mellé I was frequently seeing cartoons by another artist, Bill Baron, in the same issues. I couldn't miss them. Mr. Baron's artistry was refined and definitely on a higher level than most other cartoons in RMC. Many reminded me of illustrations from MAD magazine. Clearly, Bill Baron was no amateur.

No, no amateur at all, but a renowned artist who continues to work, and lives in New Mexico. The Taos News has an interview with him, and in it they hint at his early connection with the model railroading press: He also did sketches and graphic art for a series of hobby and “gentlemen’s” magazines for extra cash during his lean years when he was a teacher at North Carolina University. (“I should have my hand slapped for some of the sexist things I cartooned about, really,” he confesses regarding those gigs.)

From what I can find in Railroad Model Craftsman and Model Railroader, it looks like he also did a small number of traditional model railroad related articles - many were trackplan proposals for small layouts - that were also heavy on the illustrations. These started to come later, sometime in 1964, and appeared in both RMC and MR. 

The layout article that impressed me the most was his Railroad in a coffee table? that appeared in the June '66 issue of MR. It didn't actually describe a particular layout, but showed how to build a small circular coffee table that could house one, but wear a disguise of conventional furniture when not in use. It seemed to me to fit quite well into the mid-century modern conversation pit aesthetic.*

It also appears that the only article to include models built by Bill Baron is his Pump house at Smuteye, which was published in the August '65 issue of RMC. The modelling is quite good, as are the accompanying photos.

In the beginning many of Bill Baron's cartoons note 'Malpass' as a co-creater.
Malpass is Wendall A. Malpass, who was Bill Baron's neighbour in Raleigh when he lived in North Carolina. Wendall Malpass was his cartooning partner who worked with Bill to brainstorm and come up with ideas. Baron & Malpass are attributed with creating a series of cartoons in RMC about the misadventures of the members of the fictional Mud Hole & Southern Model Railroad Club. In 1963 Malpass disappears from the cartoons, and Baron is noted as the sole creator.

Without further adieu, here's my bibliography of Bill Baron's model railroad related publications. If you see errors or oversights, please let me know and I'll make appropriate corrections. If I find more works, I'll keep this list updated.

RMC = Railroad Model Craftsman
MR  = Model Railroader
MHS = Mud Hole & Southern Model Railroad Club

1961
Nov: 1 single panel cartoon (MR)
Dec: 1 single panel cartoon with Malpass (MR)

1962
Jan: 1 single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
Mar: 1 single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
Apr: 1 single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
     1 single panel cartoon (MR)
May: 1 single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
     + 1 single panel cartoon (RMC) (no Malpass on this one)
Jun: 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)
Jul: 1 single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
     1 single panel cartoon (MR)
Aug: 1 single panel with Malpass (RMC)
Sep: 1 single panel (RMC)
Oct: MHS single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC) (first MHS cartoon to carry that title, previous ones embedded in cartoon)
Nov: MHS single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
Dec: MHS single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)

1963
Jan: MHS single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
     1 single panel cartoon (MR)
Feb: MHS single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
     + 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)
Mar: MHS single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
Apr: MHS single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
May: MHS single panel cartoon with Malpass (RMC)
Jun: MHS strip cartoon (RMC)
Jul: MHS strip cartoon (RMC)
Aug: MHS strip cartoon (RMC)
Sep: MHS strip cartoon (RMC)
Oct: MHS strip cartoon (RMC) (Bill Schopp makes an appearance in this one)
Nov: 1 single panel cartoon (MR)
Dec: 1 single panel Christmas themed cartoon (RMC)

1964
Jan: The Old Apple Tree (RMC)
     MHS strip cartoon (RMC)
Feb: 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)
Mar: MHS strip cartoon (RMC)
Apr: MHS strip cartoon (RMC)
May: 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)
Jul: 1 strip cartoon (RMC)
Aug: 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)
Nov: 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)
Dec: Telephone Shack (RMC)
     Mildew Hollow RR (RMC)

1965
Jan: Veedersburg & Tolono RR (RMC)
Apr: Visit to a Small Pike, a full page cartoon story (RMC)
Jul: 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)
Aug: Pump house at Smuteye (RMC)

1966
Jun: Railroad in a coffee table? (MR)
Dec: The Buckley & Onarca RR (MR)

1967,
May: 1 single panel cartoon (MR)
Oct: 1 single panel cartoon (MR)
Dec: The Philo, Clinton & Pesotum RR (RMC)
     Trackplan for first layout (MR)
     Structures for Pidgeon Creek (MR)

1968
Jan: A compact track plan (MR)
Jun: 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)
Jul: 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)
Aug: 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)
Sep: 1 single panel cartoon (RMC)

1969
Jun: 1 single panel cartoon as part of "Will the real Bill Baron…" by Tony Koester (RMC)

1970
Nov: 1 single panel cartoon (MR)

While I've been on this Mellé and Baron journey I continue to be impressed with the quality of their contributions to 1960's model railroading. There were many high caliber, unsung stars back then. No doubt there's more waiting for me. 

 

Conversation pit in The Miller House

*The photo is of the conversation pit in The Miller House, a famous example of mid-century modern residential architecture. It was commissioned in 1952 by J. Irwin and Xenia Miller. The house was designed by Eero Saarinen, landscaping was by Daniel Urban Kelly, and interior was by Alexander Girard. It was finished in 1957. I can easily imagine that circular table off in the corner of the pit being replaced by Bill Baron's coffee table layout. It's styling would fit right in. I don't know which "gentlemen's" magazines Mr. Baron had cartoons in, but one wonders if Hef had one of these layout-coffee-tables stashed away in the grotto, if the grotto had a conversation pit :-) 

 

[7 October 2020 Update: Vince contacted Bill Baron, and Bill has graciously provided information to help fill in my knowledge of his work and bibliography. I'll be updating this post as I learn more. Depending on the extent of the updates, I may need to write a new post; however, in this update I've add some information about Wendall Malpass's contribution.]

[7 October 2020 Update #2: Added 2 single panel cartoons that appeared in MR in 1967.] 

[8 October 2020 Update: Added 2 single panel cartoons that appeared in MR in 1963.] 

[8 October 2020 Update #2: Added 2 single panel cartoons that appeared in MR in 1962.] 

[8 October 2020 Update #3: Added 2 single panel cartoons that appeared in MR in 1961.]

[9 October 2020 Update: Added 1 single panel cartoon that appeared in MR in 1970. Also, I need to create a 'Six Degrees of E. L. Moore' index :-) to document the connections - even tenuous ones - people have had with E. L. Moore. In an email exchange Bill Baron mentioned that he once had a telephone conversation with E. L. Moore.]