Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mysteries of the June 1941 issue of Model Railroader

[A snippet from an urban section of the June 1941 MR Layout of the Month]

{Put on your best Rod Serling impersonation before reading on} Presented for your consideration, a pleasant summer’s day in June of 1941, and the latest issue of Model Railroader magazine is arriving at mail boxes, drug stores and newsstands across America; its treasures calmly awaiting perusal by the stalwart model railroading fraternity. Fast forward to the snowy winter of February 2013: a user of Model Railroader’s 75-year collection enters that DVD time machine and stumbles upon the June 1941 issue. He searches on station, on layout, on trolley, but only finds his answers deep within The Twilight Zone. {You may resume your normal persona.}

As I mentioned back in my review of the Model Railroader 75-year collection, for me it’s an endless source of good entertainment and interesting ideas. Quite by accident I recently stumbled across a couple of mysteries in the June 1941 issue: one clearly a production glitch in the preparation of the collection, and the other a minor editorial oversight dating to the original publication.

There’s a good article on how to build a model of a modern train station - entitled A Modern Terminal Station - and the table-of-contents lists it as appearing on pages 289 to 294. It’s a rather graceful arch design that somewhat resembles a cathedral-style radio. The only problem is the scan of the issue is missing the introductory part of the article that appears on page 289. In fact it appears that all pages from the page after the opening editorial up to and including 289 are missing. Clearly, this is some sort of oversight in the preparation of the DVD. Hopefully it can be fixed up in a future release.

Although I like that station, the main thing that brought me to this issue was the Layout of the Month drawing and notes that appear on page 303. The layout itself hasn’t been named, but the author gives a succinct description that lets you figure out what the name should be, “The plan is that of a suburban and local transportation system running from Uniontown around Union Bay to Norfolk on the opposite side of the inlet. I’d say, The Union Bay Railway is as good a name as any.

This is an extraordinary layout from the perspective of the streetcar-oriented modeller.  It has lots of great features: extensive street running through several neighbourhoods, a substantial trolley barn, a harbour, countryside, farms, 'miles' of coastal terrain, hilly look-outs, light industry and a fairgrounds. It’s a good example of three strengths of a streetcar-oriented layout: omnivagant design (Mr. Westcott’s term for ‘goes everywhere’), some possible long twisty loops for uninterrupted running so you can sit back and watch things go, and it offers modelling opportunities for a wide variety of places and scenes. If I had a 16 foot by 24 foot room, and lots of time, this would be a strong candidate for my layout – maybe a little updated to bring it into a more modern era. 

Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be an author associated with this article anywhere to be found, but given the drawing style, and it’s similarity to the layout design that I discussed in my post about the May 1940 Layout of the Month, my guess is that it was also developed and drawn by Linn Westcott. Given the release date of the issue, this is a mystery that may remain unsolved.

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