Friday, March 21, 2014

A book, a magazine and a Mt. Lowe trackplan

What time I’ve had for hobby pursuits I’ve been continuing on the Thaddeus Lowe trail. Last week I stumbled across Stephen Poleskie’s book, The Balloonist: The Story of T.S.C. Lowe - Inventor, Scientist, Magician, and Father of the U.S. Air Force, published in 2007. It looked interesting, and I ordered a copy from an online used bookseller.  Chapter 4 is entitled, “A New Balloon, an Ascension in Canada, and a Boast of Flying the Atlantic”, and it did indeed have a discussion explaining what brought Thaddeus Lowe to Ottawa in 1858. It turns out some Ottawa ballooning enthusiasts heard about an ascension Prof. Lowe made in Ogdensburg, New York, and they invited him to come to Ottawa to fly one of his balloons at the 1858 festival celebrating Queen Victoria’s decision to make Ottawa the capital of the Province of Canada – Canada didn’t become a country until 1867 – and the laying of the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable. Apparently his Ottawa flights went very well, and the event was instrumental in establishing his place as a leading balloonist of the time.

As well, I’ve been reading lots of old issues of Model Trains magazine since I’m also still on the E. L. Moore trail. I came across an article called The great Pacific Electric, by William D. Middleton in the December ’58 issue. It’s a 5-page overview of the Pacific Electric Railway that contains an excellent drawing of a well thought-out, although greatly distilled, HO-scale trackplan of the system suitable for a 20.5 x 34.5 foot room. And much to my surprise, the Mt. Lowe Railway is represented in one corner of the plan. Here’s a snippet of the Mt. Lowe section above the incline railway, from Echo Mountain to the Alpine Tavern.
My measurements of that segment suggest it’s around 16 x 5.5 feet.  It’s a somewhat larger footprint than what I had in mind, but it would make for an interesting setup. Also, the whole 20.5 x 34.5 foot plan is one of the few streetcar layouts I’ve seen that embraces Linn Westcott’s omnivagant concept, which I guess shouldn’t be too surprising since the real Pacific Electric was very omnivagant from what I can tell. It’s good that Mr. Middleton seemed to have captured that in his plan.

And one last point. The Thaddeus Lowe trail has been full of random coincidences. Here’s another: his balloon ascension in Ottawa was in 1858, and the trackplan for the Mt. Lowe model railway was published in 1958, close to exactly 100 years later. Yes, my careful picking and choosing of the ‘coincidences’ make them seem more significant than they are :-)

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