Wednesday, December 31, 2014


It's hard to believe this is the last day of 2014. It might already be 2015 when you read this. No year end reviews here, I'll just tip my hat to the old year, welcome the new year, wish everyone a good one, and leave you with some thoughts from Carl Sagan via Erik Wernquist's excellent video.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

E. L. Moore and The Great Selective Compression Controversy of ’74

[My rendition of E. L. Moore's RMC Paper Company located on a prominent corner of the Marmora, Havelock and Points Northern Railway taken in July '75] 
Back in April ’74, Railroad Model Craftsman published E. L. Moore’s RMC Paper Company project. I was model building crazy then, so I jumped in and had a go. That’s the result up there; not so good, but it was fun. 

Being young and impatient, I skipped over the article's prologue, tall tales and other ‘extraneous’ stuff and dove straight into the instructions. Some forty years later I learned that the extra stuff, and the build itself, raised a little controversy. 

In the August ’74 issue, a reader wrote in to say that even though Mr. Moore was the master of selective compression, his paper mill was too compressed to be believable. Paper mills are massive structures and his main building only had a 35’ x 50’ footprint.
The editor did respond that they put E. L. Moore up to converting what was originally a city incinerator to a paper mill to help them make a statement about the then current paper shortage. And the project article shows it was done with Moorian humour - it was the April issue after all :-)

Interestingly, in the part of the article the young me skipped over, Mr. Moore recognized that the facility was too small,

So, when finished, I had a main structure 35‘x50’, with a rear addition of a little over half that area, a total of maybe 50‘x60’. Even at that the main floor area is only about the size of the single room wherein three of us once did a stint of crate making (flat paper was shipped in wood crates) in a large northern paper mill shortly after World War I. My apprenticeship began with hammer and nails and ended similarly...whatever other knowledge I have arrived at concerning paper mills, aside from the smell, has had to come from encyclopedias. Which now brings us face to face with the problem of paper making machines. These babies are not small, some stretching for as long as 300 feet.
[This passage also includes another clue in the E. L. Moore biography that I need to re-read and and pay closer attention.]

And he goes on to discuss other size related problems.

The kerfuffle didn’t end in August, but popped up again in the letters pages in the January ’75 issue. This time E. L. Moore’s friends jumped in with words of support.
From what I can find out, Bart Crosby (1911-1995), for a time the assistant editor of Model Trains as well as a writer and photographer of several model railroading articles, was a longtime friend of E. L. Moore and inherited some of his model buildings. Mr. Moore had a loyal following. 
In retrospect the paper mill model wasn’t actually a model. It wasn’t quite a caricature of a paper mill. It was more of a stage and a statement. A very elaborate setup to get that closing shot of the Model Railroader transport truck - apparently being driven by college boys looking for the local brewery, - pulling up to the loading dock in the dead of night.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Launch pad layouts of the mind

[The caption beside this photo reads, The launching rocket for a Soyuz spacecraft, at Baykonur. The Soviet approach to more elaborate space operation and giving cosmonauts more room in orbit involves more than one spacecraft docking at a Salyut space station, while unmanned cargo ships ferry supplies from Earth. Pages 110 and 111 of Spaceships of the Mind; photo attributed to Novosti. This is where the train in the NASA photo was hauling that rocket.]

I’ve been thinning my library and came across this photo in Nigel Calder’s Spaceships of the Mind from 1978. If I ever get around to actually building the Launch Pad Layout, this could be the centre-piece. 

C. L. Moore

[The dust jacket of The Best of C. L. Moore, published in 1975 by Ballantine Books, has a rather lurid painting of the main characters from C. L. Moore's most popular short story, Shambleau. It was originally published in the November 1933 issue of the pulp, Weird Tales. That's Shambleau on the left, and leading man, Northwest Smith, on the right.]
No I didn’t do one of my usual typos in the post title, that does read C. L. Moore and not E. L. Moore. However, it turns out that I learned about C. L. Moore by mistyping a Google search :-) 

According to Wikipedia, Catherine Lucille Moore (1911 - 1987) was a science fiction and fantasy writer between 1933 and 1963. Although I’m not much interested in fantasy, weird tales or horror stories, I do enjoy some sci-fi. She sounded like an interesting writer, so I hunted online for an old copy of her collected works. I’ve read a couple of stories from The Best of C. L. Moore. They were good and I’m hoping the others will be just as enjoyable.

The only apparent connection between C.L. Moore and E. L. Moore is a literary one: she was a master of weird tales and he was a master of tall tales. If there had been a pulp specializing in Weird Tall Tales, with a railroading bent, their paths might have crossed :-)
[Photo of C.L. Moore sourced from her Wikipedia profile]

Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Orleans Streetcars

A beautiful short video about post Katrina New Orleans streetcar operations and their role in the the city's recovery.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

E. L. Moore, Vagabond?

[I found this photo with some of my grandmother's papers. It was likely taken in the 1930s. The boys and location are unidentified.]
Debra stumbled across this Model Railroader forum posting by a user who identifies simply as CLTRRFAN, and states that in the mid-70s he lived in the apartment below E. L. Moore and was fortunate enough to see the setup for the famous blow-up of The Cannonball and Safety Powder Works that appeared in the April ’77 issue of Model Railroader. Given the ephemeral nature of the internet, here is CLTRRFAN’s post in its entirety,

Hello, new community member, I found this community from a search on E.L. Moore.  I lived downstairs from him in an apartment building in Charlotte, NC in 1975-1976.  I saw his setup for the powderhouse explosion article.  He was a vagabond in the '30's, and I think he worked at children't photograpy for his vocation. I deeply regret not getting to know him when I had the chance.

It’s curious that E. L. Moore may have referred to his life in the 1930’s as a ‘vagabond’. To me it puts a romantic spin on what might have also been the life of a hobo, an itinerant labourer, a drifter, or simply an out-of-work casualty of the great depression. It might have been a hard life. Maybe a homeless life. Maybe he did find it to be a good life and the vagabond label might be spin-free. And vagabond comes from the same root as omnivagant, so its choice as a description of his life has a little extra meaning for my writing.

Also, this forum post made me think that Mr. Moore’s setup story to his Molasses Mine build, which is seemingly a tall tale about how he came to learn about the legendary Smoky Mountains mine while doing some time in the Bryson City jail during the summer of 1930, might have a grain of truth to it. Not the mine part :-) but the time in jail part. Vagrancy laws were quite different then, and jailing a ‘vagabond’ as ‘encouragement’ to leave town wasn’t out of the question. I’m thinking of going back through those other ‘tall tales’ of his with a little less skeptical eye and see if there is some pattern I’ve overlooked  

I hope that CLTRRFAN reappears on the forum and can provide some further information.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Diesels dashing through the snow in Arthur's Pass, NZ

It's good to be back and I hope everyone had a good holiday. I haven't done much model building recently, but I've come across some interesting links and things that I thought I'd post over the next few days. This one was forwarded to me by John, who was forwarded it by his father-in-law. At first I thought it was shot somewhere in Colorado until I saw the KiwiRail logo, dug deeper, and was pleased to find out that Arthur's Pass is located on New Zealand's south island. Amazing footage.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Touching up the Grizzly Flats depot

I did some touch-up painting on the walls before proceeding with building the bay window and installing the windows. The inside is painted a medium grey. I also installed an interior wall cut from 0.040 inch styrene to separate the waiting area from the office.
This will likely be the last post of 2014. Thanks to all who have dropped by, and I wish you all Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Moore, Beebe and the Tuscaloosa Depot

This little post is about a little good luck. A couple of weeks ago I was browsing through a local used bookstore and came across a copy of When Beauty Rode the Rails by Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg. Although they were the most well known railroad documentarians of the mid 20th century I had only just heard about them via Carl Fallberg's Fiddletown and Copperopolis - Beebe wrote the introduction, and he and Clegg appear in a cartoon. The book was in fine condition so I bought it. Turns out E. L. Moore mentions in the opening to his Tuscaloosa depot article that appeared in the March 1969 issue of Model Railroader that he used the photo on page 64 of Beebe and Clegg's book as his reference for the project. That's Mr. Moore's lead photo from his article on the left, and photo from page 64 of Beebe and Clegg, attributed to the Owen Davis Collection, on the right. You can see that Mr. Moore staged the shot to be very similar to the reference photo.

26 November update: With a little internet searching I found out that a railroad station still exists at the site in Tuscaloosa. It turns out that the depot featured in Beebe and Clegg's book, and modelled by E. L. Moore, was demolished and replaced by a new brick structure in 1911. The original wooden depot was built in 1873, so it had a good long life. Beebe and Clegg note that the photo they featured was taken in 1910, so it wasn't long after that it was demolished. According to Google Street Views, the 'new' brick station was still there and in operation as of December 2013:

Monday, November 24, 2014

Memories amid chaos

As I place the lights and drill the holes in the train board, the layout is starting to look chaotic. While I was taking a breather from the mess and pulling together some old photos for the Kim Adams post, I stumbled across a few layout pictures I’d taken earlier in the year – well before I started pulling things apart - but hadn’t posted. I thought I’d post them now as sort of a ‘before’ snapshot. The ‘after’ shots will no doubt be much, much after :-)
Before the chaos began
Grabbing power from thin air
A passion for books
Night time book shopping
Books from the beach
They're in there somewhere
Bad deal
Security camera
Couch testing
Discussing bestsellers
A refreshing pop break
Yes, it's the car of the future

Sunday, November 23, 2014

After hours at Caleb's Cabbage Company

As part of the effort to add more lights to the layout, Caleb's Cabbage Company is now on the grid. This is what's got this pig's interest.

Kim Adams' "Travels Through the Belly of the Whale"

That conversation John and I had on the HO nickel gauge was a detour. He was telling me about the exhibit of Michelangelo drawings at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and being a discussion with me, the conversation detoured again to how the Dundas streetcar runs by the gallery :-) making the AGO very easy to get to. And I even had a picture conveniently posted at my blog from my visit last year to see the Kim Adams exhibit. This stroll down memory lane reminded me, among other things, that I didn't do justice to Kim Adams' piece Travels Through the Belly of the Whale - shown in the lead photo. I still had several photos that didn't get included in the post that helped to better show what was going on with this thing.

Here's how the AGO describes the work,

Measuring 16 feet by 13 feet, Travels through the Belly of the Whale, installed in the Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Sculpture Atrium, is a repurposed silver grain silo that contains a secret. Through various windows and funnels in the silo, visitors can catch a glimpse of a meticulously constructed farming community inside, featuring miniature boxcars, tiny figures and model parts. The presence of this fictional world is given away only by the moving electric train that continuously circles around and through it.

I've never been much for official interpretations. If I find something visually interesting I'd rather just spend sometime looking at it and not bother with what the gallery, critics or even the artist thinks it is. 
The more I look at it, the more it reminds me of the Apollo command and service module shown above.
It's got a large window where, if it actually were the Apollo command module, the lunar module would be docked as the ship travelled to the Moon. 
This is what you see when you look in that window. There's a flat model train board spanning the sides with, as the AGO description notes, a farm. The track is a rectangular loop where the curved arcs leave the module and circle back via track in the 'wings'.
There's also a smaller window in the end where the Apollo service module's rocket engines would be.
That window offers a closer view of the internal train board.
There's the train zooming thorough the countryside. I thought that the module housing - the Apollo command and service module part - was interesting and intriguing, but what the viewer is invited to see is not quite up to the promise (Mr. Adams other HO-based work at this show, Artist's Colony (Gardens), and his dioramas at the Diaz gallery in the summer of 2013, were more up his high standards). But, maybe that's the message: the prosaic everyday world wrapped in an enticing technological wrapper; pragmatic agricultural concerns at the centre of technological flash; simplicity at the core of the complex; excursions into the unknown always returning to roots. I don't know. Whatever the message was it was still worth seeing.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

HO nickel gauge

John and I were chatting about phone apps for determining if an object in a store – like a Hot Wheels car or some other small toy – might have the right size and proportions for use on an HO-scale layout. He pointed out a great low-tech solution: the diameter of a nickel is the same as the ‘average’ height of a typical HO-scale figure. And it only costs a nickel !
[Both photos and idea by John Steele; and some inspired channeling of Leonardo da Vinci :-) ]

Friday, November 21, 2014

Switches for EVRR arrive

The switches I ordered for the EVRR arrived in the mail this week. It looks like they are more or less the correct size. Next I need to buy some wiring supplies and cork. I plan to panel the surface of the board in cork to help deaden the sound of the train.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Walls go up at the Grizzly Flats depot

[I had a fresh bottle of Floquil's diesel light blue and a bottle of white to work with. While they call it light blue, I found by using it straight it worked nicely for trim, and by mixing in a good deal of white I finally evolved a small bottle of really light blue that suited me fine. E. L. Moore in his Grizzly Flats build article on how he  chose his colours.]
I was checking colours for the real Grizzly Flats depot online and it appears to have been - approximately - yellow with brown trim. Not blue. On my N-scale version I used Polly Scale GWT Blue for the trim and mixed it with white to get the light blue panel colour.
I drew the diagonals on with this Micron 0.005 pen. They're a little dark for my liking, but I think they'll be ok once the roof is on and some other components are installed.
[You can panel the outside wall if you want to. I left mine plain. E. L. Moore states that he didn't do any detailing on the rear wall - and it's never on view in any of the article's photos.]
I went ahead and trimmed and panelled the back wall because when the depot is placed on the EVRR all sides will be visible. It's all guess work, but it fits in with the general patterning on the other walls.
There's lots of touch-up painting to be done, and I'm looking forward to building the bay window and, especially, the roof. The building itself seems rather plain. I think it's the roof that makes this thing pop.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Street light installation continues

I'm installing street lights at the far end of Ocean Boulevard. So far I've placed the lights and drilled the holes in the layout board for the wires. A few of the new lights are visible in the above photo: the parking lot beside the brick town houses gets one, Ma's Place 2 on the left gets a double light (to match the other double at the other end of Ocean Boulevard where it intersects with Sinatra Avenue), and the yet unnamed cross street at this end is getting a few (that battery in the lower left corner is propping up one beside the streetcar stop). The Oceanview Hotel is getting two gigantic lights of its own outside its main entrance (hopefully some signage will soon follow).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Bryce's Home Made Bread

[Bryce Bakeries LTD, Winnipeg, Man. Photo and caption by William Henry Wood.]
This is the end of William Henry Wood photo series for now. There are more stacks of old family photo albums in the crawlspace. I have no idea what else they might contain, but this is it for the two I've been looking through. 
[Plant of Bryce Bakeries LTD, Wpg, at 320 Burnell St. Wpg. on Sept 15, 1943. Photo and caption by William Henry Wood.]
My uncle may have shot other railway related photos during his relatively brief career at Purity Flour. If I find any, I’ll post them.
[When I typed '320 Burnell St. Winnipeg' into Google Streetviews this is what I got. The modestly elegant Bryce Bakeries building is long gone. Over on the left is a building of the Grey Goose Bus Line, which according to various internet references, is a subsidiary of Greyhound Canada that operates in Manitoba.]
[Office staff of Bryce Bakeries LTD, Winnipeg, Man., on Sept 16, 1943. Photo and caption by William Henry Wood.]
[Mr. W. B. Foster, outside the office of Bryce Bakeries LTD Winnipeg, on Sept 16/43. Photo and caption by William Henry Wood.]
[I couldn't end this series without a photo of the photographer, William Henry Wood. According to various captions, this picture was taken on Mar 5, 1944 (within the time period the various photos I've posted so far were taken) on or near Sawback Mountain in Alberta]
The photos I've posted this year were taken during WWII, and at that time grain production in Canada was a strategic industry in the allied war effort; as Napoleon Bonaparte said, “An army marches on its stomach.” And for a partially disabled man, auditing grain production was a good job.