Wednesday, April 30, 2014

E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century: The article list

A pdf list of material published by E. L. Moore can be found here.

[last updated 18 June 2017]

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Life Cycle of a TTC Streetcar

A tribute to the excellent work of the men and women who overhaul and maintain the Toronto Transit Commission's streetcar fleet. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century: The Elizabeth Valley Railroad

[My guess at a track plan for E. L. Moore's Elizabeth Valley Railroad]

While I have had well over a hundred letters requesting track plans of my 4 x 6-foot railroad as the result of photographs published in MODEL TRAINS, nary a one has queried about anything electrical, but dozens have commented on the fact that scenery was their big bugaboo. [E. L. Moore outlining the reason behind writing his article Let’s build a mountain, in the January 1962 issue of Model Trains]

[This seems to be the best overall photo of the EVRR published. It's from the 2nd edition of HO Primer by Linn Westcott, published in 1964 by Kalmbach. The 1st edition appeared in 1962. This book seems to be staple of resale tables at model train shows, but even though a lot of its content is dated, it's still an interesting compilation of some MODEL TRAINS material. I've added the letters to this picture, and a few others in this post, to identify various buildings and articles they appeared in. The list mapping letters to articles is presented in [1]. ]

[9 October 2016 update: A photo of the EVRR was found that shows a clearer view of the trackplan and will cause some updates to the layout drawing shown in this post.]

[12 March 2017 update: A photo of one of E. L. Moore's postcards with the EVRR trackplan drawing on one side has been found.]

Even though E. L. Moore received all those requests for a track plan to his Elizabeth Valley Railroad, it doesn’t appear that one was ever published. However, there were enough photos released over the years to allow for a little archeological work to suss out what it might have been. That’s my attempt in the opening sketch. 
[This is another shot of the lakeside area, but here the main station is clearly visible and you can get a little better idea of the track along the front edge of the layout. This photo was included in the first appearance of the EVRR in the photo-spread called the Elizabeth Valley RR in the March 1955 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.]

First, some caveats. My track plan is based on pictures of Mr. Moore’s layout that were published between 1955 and 1962. Even in those photos the layout appears to have developed over the years, and it likely underwent more development after ’62. For example, in his article, 3 in 1 Engine House, in the February 1963 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, Mr. Moore states that, “I have long wanted an engine house but on my little 4’ x 6’ pike, the Elizabeth Valley Railroad, there simply wasn’t room for one. Recently I managed to acquire some additional acreage so, ...”, which hints that the EVRR underwent an expansion in ’62, or maybe ’61. 
[This appears to be the only published picture of the mountainous region of the EVRR. It was a part of E. L. Moore's Let's build a mountain article in the January 1962 issue of MODEL TRAINS.]

As well, I don’t think the published pictures form a complete record of the layout, so some parts I’ve inferred from the evidence available. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised if the stuff along the ‘front’ edge is inaccurate because that’s where I did the most guess-work. If you see places where I’m way off-base, please leave a comment so I can make the necessary corrections.
[The content of Let's build a mountain is dated, but the article does have this inside view of the mountains that shows what the track plan looks like.]

Over his long career Mr. Moore wrote many articles about how to build various types of industries for model railroads, but his own layout seems to have been purely a tourist and passenger line set in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s - it might have had some logging operations in the mountain region, but they weren’t extensive. It first appeared in print in a 2-page photo-spread called the Elizabeth Valley RR in the March 1955 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. There also were likely some photos in Model Trains from that period as Mr. Moore suggests in the opening quote, but I haven't yet found them

The track plan is loop-based and small – the layout is only 4 feet wide by 6 feet long - which is somewhat out-of-fashion today. Some might dismiss it as a beginner’s layout of ‘spaghetti-bowl’ design [2]; however, I’d suggest it’s more sophisticated in its execution than a cursory viewing might suggest.
[This overall shot of the lake area is the 'day' scene from The light fantastic in the Fall 1959 issue of MODEL TRAINS. In it Mr. Moore shows how to build a low cost light fixture that provides both day and night light (via a blue bulb). It also has a clear view of the 'Red Eye Saloon']

In fact, its loop structure strikes me as rather ingenious as it allows many different routes, as well as long continuous runs, through the terrain and helps establish several scenes: a railroad town, a cabin and swimming hole down by a lake, a remote depot, a mountain cabin with a trail up to it, as well as numerous bridges.
[This very grainy scan is the night scene from The light fantastic. The white box I've added at the bottom is one of best shots I've come across of the spur behind the main station. The blue night light prevents the scene from being too dark. Also you can see that as well as the buildings being illuminated, so are the passenger cars on the train at the back that is just starting across the bridge.] 

To get a better understanding of the track plan’s structure I made a couple of sketches where I backed the plan down to its spine. In this first one, shown below, I took the upper most level - which is basically a reversing loop - unfurled it, and stretched it out using some tracing paper over the plan.
[That lobe on the far left is the uppermost level unraveled and extended.]

I then removed a couple of pieces and discovered the basis of the track plan to be a strip of track with reversing loops at either end. The pieces taken out were a short-cut to the reversing loop, a passing track, and a siding.
[In this tracing the passing siding, spur and reversing loop shortcut have been removed to show the basic underlying tack plan.]

With these two tracings it’s a little easier to see how the track plan might have been developed: it started with a length of track with reversing loops at either end; a siding, passing track, and reversing loop shortcut were added; it was finished by twisting and elevating sections to conform with the mountain and valley.

By today’s standards, the EVRR would be considered dated. It’s elements are almost stereotypical of what might be thought of as a small beginner’s layout: a mountain in a corner, a lake in the centre, quaint stations, lots of grades [3]. The difference between the EVRR and the stereotypes is in the level of integration between these elements which turns the entire layout into a coherent whole instead of a collection of unrelated areas: a stream starts in the mountains, crosses a plain, and empties into a lake; a mountain trail leads from the lake, passes a cabin, and climbs up the mountain via a number of switchbacks to a remote cabin; there’s a fancy central station, with a hotel / saloon across the way, for tourists planning to enjoy the lake for a day or two; the lake has boats, fishermen, swimmers, and a lake-side cabin; there’s a remote station up on the far plateau for those venturing into the mountains; there’s a full backdrop, carefully blended in style to the layout, giving the impression of even more distant mountains; there’s trees and vegetation in the lower lands where water collects and little to none in the mountains; and there’s a lighting system to simulate both day and night situations - with illuminated buildings and passenger cars too! And in classic E. L. Moore fashion there’s plenty of people and animals around doing appropriate things. That’s a lot of careful consideration of coherence packed into 24 square feet.

Of course, the scenery construction methods are more-or-less completely obsolete. Mr. Moore wrote an article called Let's build a mountain in the January 1962 issue of Model Trains describing how he made the mountains, but newer methods produce more credible results. Although, that article gives an excellent view into the track plan through the mountains and was a cornerstone in trying to figure out the EVRR track plan. The point is not to get too hung-up on superficial appearances.

One other thing I noticed while perusing the photos with a magnifying glass is that all the buildings have associated outhouses - 'backhouses' in some parts of the world. I’m surprised some magazine didn’t commission a one-pager on those one-holers*** :-)

I think what may have made the layout popular in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s was that it embodied a relatively high degree of completion and overall integration, all within a layout that was achievable for a wide range of readers. The call-out in the ’55 RMC article is the key to its popularity: “E. L. Moore has packed plenty of action and interest into his compact and well executed HO Elizabeth Valley Railroad”.  Lots of action and interest. Today, for a layout to land in the mainstream press, the call-out would need to say something like, “...plenty of operational possibilities and switching problems...”. On the EVRR, the focus wasn’t on the simulation of actual railroad operations, but on interesting scenes, train movement, lighting, and some rudimentary operations. That’s where the ‘action’ was, not in the simulation of railroad operations.

The obvious care that was lavished on this layout makes it clear it’s the embodiment of something Mr. Moore held dear; a nostalgic view of a personal utopia perhaps. Many model railroads are to some extent an expression of a personal utopia. They embody something their builders love. They want to create their dream, play with it [4], share it and communicate with it. That’s what can - can, but doesn’t have to - push these things into the zone of art. It’s a kind of outsider or folk art mainly [5]. That’s not meant to be a derogatory statement. It’s meant to convey that it’s an art undertaken outside the normal institutions and markets that constitute mainstream art. There is some insider art, but that's a relatively small branch in comparison to where the main action is taking place.

I’m ok with proposing that E. L. Moore’s work - layout, buildings and rolling stock - were a form of folk art. I’m basing this on how much was scratchbuilt, organized, photographed, repurposed, presented and storied in accordance with his personal vision. Now, this doesn't mean I'm pigeon-holing him and his work. No. Any individual can embody many things at the same time. Mr. Moore was certainly a type of folk artist, but he was also a straightforward hobbyist, a teller of tall-tales, an accomplished how-to writer, draftsman, photographer, and a master of a model railroading genre, among other things.

Unfortunately, these utopias - whether or not they are some sort of ‘art’ - rarely outlive their builders. Most are eventually destroyed. No doubt the Elizabeth Valley RR was. Preservation of any personal model railroad is unusual. Maybe it’s fitting. Nothing to get upset about. They’re personal. Why should they persist intact when the individuals or groups who were most interested in them no longer exist. On the other hand, the spirit in which they were created, their ideas, their concepts, can live a bit longer in publications, or the online universe.

One final note, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of E. L. Moore articles where he mentions another model railroad of his called the Eagleroost & Koontree. It was apparently an HOn3 layout. I looked and looked and couldn’t find pictures of it - although there were many photos of scenes allegedly shot along the E & K’s right-of-way. I’m not sure if it was a complete layout, a short-line on his EVRR, a dual-gauge portion of the EVRR, a diorama for photo shoots, or just something totally fictional. If any reader has thoughts on this, please leave a comment.

[Update, 21 May 2014: I learn something new every day, especially since I haven’t yet read everything for this series. It turns out that the E&K was indeed a dual tracked portion of the EVRR. Gordon Odegard states it was in his interview with E. L. Moore that appeared under the title, A visit with E. L. Moore, in the Bull Session column of the September ’75 issue of Model Railroader. The missing bit is that it’s still not clear exactly which portions were dual tracked with HOn3. There are clues in the old magazines in which the E&K is mentioned. For example, I recently obtained the September ’61 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman that contains Mr. Moore’s article Slim Gauge Carriage. The introductory photo is quite charming, and also full of clues. It shows the dual track on the main trestle that divides the lake region from the mountains, and later in the article Mr. Moore speculates, “Right now I’m wondering what’s going to happen when that HO engine pushes its little caravan to the end of the double tracked portion of the trestle. The lead carriage is HOn3, the second one HO, the flatcar with canoe and equipment is HOn3 and the engine is HO. Some scramble”. Well, the hunt continues. I’m not sure if there are enough scattered clues to reconstruct the entire E&K route, but I’ll post updates if I find more.]

This is the 9th instalment in the E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21th Century series. An index to the series can be found here.


[1] I’ve made an attempt to identify some of the E. L. Moore articles that correspond to the buildings and rolling stock shown in a few of the layout photos. This is what I’ve found so far.

A,  Branch Line Station, Railroad Model Craftsman, April 1964.

B, Easy to Build Cottage or Cabin, Railroad Model Craftsman, December 1963. (This building appears to be the cottage, or a building very similar to the cottage)

C, Down by the depot, Model Railroader, December 1964.

D, Old-Time Log Buggies, Model Trains, March 1960 (I’m not sure if these are the same log buggies, but they look close).

E. The little red caboose, Model Trains, December 1961.

F. This building is very close to the log cabin in Easy to Build Cottage or Cabin in Railroad Model Craftsman, December 1963.

G. ‘The Red Eye Saloon’ presented in the article Civic center for Boomtown in the March 1963 issue of Model Railroader.

H. A close-up of the water tower is in the opening photo of Union Pacific windmill in the September 1962 issue of Model Railroader.

[2] Maybe from the point-of-view of a model railroad that is meant to be viewed instead of accurately simulating railroad business, a loop-based track plan where views are partially obscured is more realistic than one meant for operation where the entire setup is clearly visible. This type of unobscured view is rarely possible in ‘real-life’ other than from some high vantage point. 

The loop, and its variants, is a much maligned form. Maybe one reason is that it cuts too close to the humble roots of model railroading: the child’s train set and the guilty pleasure of simply watching those little trains run. I can’t imagine Gomez Addams having nearly as much fun with a non-loop layout :-)

Or it could be that many people like to see the trains run though complex patterns. Whatever the reason, there is some fundamental fascination with just watching trains run, and sometimes that fascination is taken to extremes with the loopiest of layouts: ‘spaghetti’ track plan.

It looks like the spaghetti track plan has been the butt of jokes for quite a long time. While reading some old Model Trains magazines I came across this example in the July 1956 issue.

[The classic spaghetti track plan joke via the July 1956 issue of MODEL TRAINS. The cartoonist is R.O. Gilbert]

The March 2013 issue of Model Railroader had an updated take on the joke, but in that example the cartoon track plan struck me as an almost viable candidate for an omnivagant streetcar layout. I guess that version of the joke was more elbow macaroni than spaghetti :-) The track follows a large number of densely packed paths, but looks like it was laid out with pieces of elbow macaroni rather than strands of spaghetti. 
[This is a track plan of the Toronto Transit Commission's streetcar network circa 1973. It's far more rectilinear than its cartoon spaghetti counterparts, but it's just as convoluted with its myriad of possible paths. This illustration is sourced from the excellent Toronto Transit].

For an urban North American streetcar setup, this is only natural because the tracks are in the streets of a city, and those streets are usually laid out in a grid. But, in this situation the derided path density of the macaronified spaghetti layout makes a bit of sense. The trick is preventing the track plan from jumping into the ‘Way-out Layout’ zone.
[This excellent slot-car layout - designed by Mr. David Vollrath - is the 1st place winner of the 3rd Wayout Layout contest presented in the November '72 issue of Car Model magazine.]

Back in 1972, Car Model magazine ran a contest whereby its readers were challenged to create ‘Way-out Layouts’ – layouts suitable for ultra exciting slot-car races  - from a collection of pieces of HO Tycopro slot-car track. Looking over some of the winners from the point-of-view of avoiding streetcar macaroni syndrome is quite interesting. All the twists and turns, relieved in places by high speed straight-aways, might make for thrilling racing, but urban streetcar operations are likely more sedate with long straight sections terminated with tight, street conforming turns with little stomach-churning twistiness along the route for the sake of the paying passengers.
[These are but 2 of the many examples of Peano curve generators (on the left) and generated iterations (on the right) shown in Benoit Mandelbrot's The Fractal Geometry of Nature.]

Those elbow macaroni streetcar lines and Way-out Layouts remind me of the mathematical oddity called the Peano Curve that I stumbled across a long time ago in Benoit Mandelbrot’s book The Fractal Geometry of Nature. Dr. Mandelbrot shows all sorts of Peano curve generating algorithms – whose math takes me awhile to work through, but at least there are lots of diagrams to illustrate the processes - for producing what seem like special forms of Way-out Layouts.  I suspect those Peano Curve generators could be enhanced with some sort of ‘streetcar line rules’, in addition to some randomization, to create streetcar track plans that could possibly enter the uncanny valley of actual systems, and might also incorporate some surprising variations. But, on the other hand, the end result might be in the same vein as those bland crossword puzzles that are cranked out by computer algorithms.

So, I think a streetcar layout would be somewhat more spaghetti or macaroni like than a realistically designed train-based layout, but it needs to avoid the Way-out Layout zone if it’s going for some sort of urban realism. On the other hand, if extreme streetcar operations is your thing, maybe the Way-out Layout is just the ticket :-)

[3] These 2 pre-fab layouts from Fleischmann are interesting illustrations of beginner layouts of about the same size as the EVRR.

[The ad for this 3 x 5 ft pre-fab HO scale layout appeared on the back of the January 1962 issue of MODEL TRAINS. That was the same issue that E. L. Moore's Let's build a mountain and Central Pacific snowplow appeared. The looping is simple and doesn't appear to present its owner will anything more difficult wiring-wise than attaching the output leads from a power-pack. No headache inducing reverse-loops.]

[This one is even simpler and appeared on the back cover of the Fall 1961 issue of MODEL TRAINS. E. L. Moore's Open-air excursion coach appeared in that issue. This layout is merely all elevated ridge surrounding a valley - very evocative of part of the EVRR.]

I only present them as illustrations of what was marketed as ready-to-run beginner style layouts of the era. Although E. L. Moore's EVRR has many similar features, its track-plan and structure was far more sophisticated even though it had only a slightly larger footprint.

[4] I’m not using the word ‘play’ as in the common put-down of “playing with trains”, as a regression to juvenile activity, but in its broader free-ranging and restorative sense as in Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephan Nachmanovich. An activity outside the normal imperatives of day-to-day survival and practical activity. I’m using ‘play’ in the sense of freely and fully engaging in an activity of one’s own interest without regard to rules or social strictures. Not the things promoted by the mainstream popular media. The other side. The deep exploration side. Pursuing the trail of one’s interests without a blessing from a tv show or what-not to guide the way. It’s a positive activity that, in bland prosaic terms, furthers the development of an individual in deep ways that are meaningful to them. 

[5] Is it great folk art? I can’t say for certain. I recall reading somewhere that there is no great art without great invention. Great invention in model railroading is whole other subject.

*** [6 May 2014 update] I stand corrected! I finally got a copy of the November 1975 issue of the NMRA Bulletin which contains E. L. Moore's A Mighty Relaxin' Job. It's a complete thesis on how to build a wide variety of outhouses :-)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Elgin gets updated

Signs, shrubs and some interior detailing were added - along with some no parking signs out back :-)
The interior details are only temporary so a variety of scenes can be staged. They're held in place with some slightly congealed rubber cement. 
Looks like someone should pressure-wash that side wall to clean it up a bit. 
The back wall needs some clean-up too.

Monday, April 21, 2014

2 am, corner of Sinatra and Ocean Blvd.

Last car, but the driver’s in no hurry….
… because you don’t hear a voice like that every day.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

After hours

I’ve been on the E. L. Moore journey for awhile – since last August actually. Well, I’ve had an interest in his work since I was a boy in the ‘70s, but I didn’t take a deep dive into it until rather recently. It’s turning out to be a little more than just a happy jaunt down memory lane and having a look at all the sights along the way. Some of it has challenged my notions of what I’m doing as a hobbyist. Although I’ve spent a lot of effort being –as a friend of mine put it – an “E. L. Moore completist” collecting and reading all the articles he wrote, the more I read, and study his photos, the more I’ve come to understand that wasn’t all there was to this. For one, I like making scale buildings, but looking at them, I realize they’re often merely shells. Mr. Moore understood what a building is: a place that people use, where things happen. Just about all his projects make that abundantly clear in the way people and things are used and positioned. Shells devoid of life are pretty rare in his world; pretty common in mine. I’ve been looking at a few of my layout’s building shells and thought I’d try and get the stories out of a few of them that I had imagined them telling but never did anything about. I figured I’d start with one of my favourites: I really like the corner window of the ‘building-in-a-bag’ so I began with it, adding ornaments and things over a period of several weeks when I had some time. Hopefully I can post some more pictures of it over the next few days, and get going on improving other buildings on my layout.

Saturday, April 12, 2014


I tore a page from the Jack Webb playbook and renamed this project to protect the innocent; meaning it's now called 'Le Tablier Rouge'. Names aside, with everyday life looming large, I've used my model building time mainly on Caleb's Cabbage Co., but I've tried to squeeze in a little progress on this store. The blanks for the other walls have been built-up from embossed brick sheet with a plain 0.030 inch styrene strip along the bottom for the concrete foundation. I've also added some brick and stone sheet pieces on the front facade. There's lots of work still to go on this one.

Friday, April 11, 2014

LTA 20-1 poster

Of all the LTA-20-1 memorabilia I have, this is my favourite. It shows the vehicle in its most positive light, and makes something that is essentially a big spherical bag of helium look rather svelte and technically feasible as a flying machine. The signature in the lower-left corner says: R. C. Beaussard. He or she has done a good job on this picture.

R/C models and computer simulations of this vehicle clearly demonstrated that it was highly maneuverable. Turn on a dime? No problem. Those engines could be vectored and throttled, so lots of different types of motion was possible. The other cool thing was that it made use of the Magnus Effect – hence the company’s name, Magnus Aerospace – to create additional lift for carrying stuff. Its helium-filled spherical envelope was mounted on an axle, which in turn was slung across that huge curved wing-yoke structure. Spinning the sphere opposite to the vehicle’s direction of flight – that is, if some super villain dropped you on the top of the sphere while it was spinning, you’d find yourself clinging for dear life while the sphere’s rotation tried to fling you back into the blimp’s wake J - created aerodynamic lift. So, you got aerodynamic lift from spinning the sphere, and static lift because it was full of helium.

The problem was that maneuverability and the unusual way of creating aerodynamic lift came at a high price. If I remember correctly, its lift-to-drag ratio – L/D in aerodynamics-speak – was always somewhere between 0.9 and maybe 1.1 at best, but usually a little below 1. When a 747 is cruising around, it has an L/D of something like 17, and a sailplane has one of maybe around 50. Drag is the cost of creating lift, so if you can get 17 units of lift for 1 unit of cost, or 50 units of lift for 1 unit of cost, that’s pretty good, but 1 unit of lift for 1 unit of cost makes me scratch my head. For a small, scale model flying over a model railroad layout this wouldn’t be much of a problem since when the batteries died, the beast would just be left floating around in the house until rescued, but for the real-McCoy, this could be trouble.

But, lift cost aside, I still like the way it’s depicted in this poster.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"You can't park that here!"

I used a slice of this picture for the visual story in the 3rd instalment of the E. L. Moore legacy series. Over the weekend I was looking over some photos and thought the original colour version looked better.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

A location for Caleb’s Cabbage Co.

I fiddled around on the weekend with the placement of buildings on the LOL to find a location for Caleb’s Cabbage Co. I guess in the end it was a game of “which one of these things just doesn’t belong”, and it turned out to be Jones’ Chemical Co. Jones’ appeared to be the outsider in the organic-veggie-bean-sprout-tie-dye region that is becoming the new-normal in the rural region of the LOL – ignoring of course the presence of the seaside barbecue :-) Luckily, the rail-side portions of both Caleb’s and Bunn’s Feed and Seed line-up quite well with the existing track layout, and the truck-delivery doors of Bunn’s even orient properly with the road put in originally to service Jones’. So things are not looking too bad arrangement-wise. I now need to fix up the surrounding plantings, grassy areas, trees, out-buildings and other details to blend everything in and make it seem like a unified whole.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Cutting the lawn

A took the above picture back at Christmas when the layout was pulled out for showing off. That picture below is my backyard as of yesterday. Still significant snow back there and it'll be awhile until it needs cutting, but hopefully it'll all be melted by Easter.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Master Index for the “E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21st Century” series

The posts in this series are starting to pile up and I thought some sort of index was called for. I’ve marked each instalment with the E L Moore's 21th Century Legacy label, but that doesn’t seem like enough. So, here’s what’s been posted so far. I plan to update this index as I make additions to the series.


Balsa, cost, a handcar shed and organic veggies

Twenty-five years at the movies

The Railroad Modeler Years

Signature Styles, Signature Structures, and Selective Staging

Sticks and glue may build Cousin Cal's Cabbage Plant but sauerkraut juice will never hurt me

Modernizing Caleb's Cabbage Co.

The Lost Manuscripts

One photo summary?

Raymond Frankenberger and the E. L. Moore Style

The Combination Houses

Spumoni Club Coach

Shades of Buffalo Bill

Dilly behind the Eight Ball

As well as the series posts, over the years I’ve built-up a number of E. L. Moore’s projects. Many have made use of more modern materials than were originally specified in the articles, so in a way they form some sort of appendix to the series. Here’s a list of them.

Bunn's Feed & Seed Plant

Jones Chemical Co.

Uncle Charley's Bookery

Moe Lass'

Model-nomics 101: E. L. Moore's Branch Line Station in N-scale

There have also been some posts were E. L. Moore’s work was cited as an influence, or I pointed out that some prototype might make for an interesting E. L. Moore style building, or I was just wildly speculating on something that seemed Moorian :-)

E. L. Moore's Photography Studio on S. Tryon

Was E. L. Moore's Enaskale & Hoentee RR inspired by the Gleish Valley RR

He Builds Railroads, Then Scraps Them

Spumoni Clubs again, hold the Frim Fram Sauce

American Folk Art Buildings

E. L. Moore's reading list for Ye Olde Corner Drugstore

Paul's Rocky Ridge Station

The Specialist

The Model Railroad Right of Way

Streetcars in Charlotte, North Carolina

E. L. Moore's residence and The Clarabel Hotel

E. L. Moore's 1959 residence today

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

C. L. Moore

E.L. Moore, Vagabond?

Moore, Beebe and the Tuscaloosa Depot

To Let

The Fiddletown Depot

Get out of jail free

Thoughts on a N-scale Elizabeth Valley Railroad


EVRR on the cover of Jan '59 Model Trains

E. L. Moore builds a blimp...

... showing results for: El Moore...

Ideas for a 'New' E. L. Moore style building

An index to the articles written by E. L. Moore can be found here,

Index to E. L. Moore's publications

An index to E. L. Moore's lost articles can be found here,

Index to E. L. Moore's lost articles

An index to all the original E. L. Moore models that I saw in September 2015 can be found here,

Index to the E. L. Moore models posts

In March 2015 a number of E. L. Moore letters and manuscripts were brought to my attention. An index to excerpts from those files can be found here,

Index to the E. L. Moore Files Excerpts

An index to a collection of photograph's taken by E. L. Moore can be found here,

Index to the E. L. Moore photos

[The index was last updated on 25 June 2017]

Friday, April 4, 2014

E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21st Century: The Lost Manuscripts

In Jim Kelly’s E. L. Moore tribute article, E. L. Moore’s Legacy, published in the February 1980 issue of Model Railroader magazine, there’s an intriguing statement,

“... there are about half-dozen more still to be published."

hinting at six article manuscripts written by E. L. Moore lined up and waiting for Model Railroader to publish.

I reviewed my copy of the MR 75 year DVD collection to see if I’d overlooked them. I hadn’t. It appeared that those articles Mr. Kelly referred to were never published.

I contacted Model Railroader and asked about them. They very kindly looked into the question, but unfortunately reported that they had no unpublished E. L. Moore manuscripts in their manuscript files. It was a long shot, but the 34 years between that '80 issue of MR and today is a couple of generations, so the outcome was not totally unexpected.

Maybe there are copies out there somewhere in an attic, basement or garage. I’d like to think that they actually did exist at one time, and that they haven’t been landfilled. If you have a lead, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century: Modernizing Caleb’s Cabbage Co.

In the back of my mind I was thinking, what might this building look like if it were built today down in Prince Edward County - well, a fictional version of the County where old meets new, and Canadian, American and British railroad practices combine - and ‘opened up’ more in line with what John Allen did with his Engine House? Basically, my attempt at applying Selective Staging to E. L. Moore's Cousin Caleb’s Cabbage Plant build that appeared in the December ’71 issue of Railroad Modeler (the first three instalments in this part of the E. L. Moore in the 21th Century series can be found here and here and here).
I’ve been wondering if John Allen had mid-20th century [1] modernist leanings expressed in his buildings. Maybe not in all his projects, but his Engine House appears to have some. That building is a bit deceiving because its surface appearance is rustic and rural, not vast glass surfaces held together with spindly steel struts. But, what those two extremes have in common is they both go to great efforts to seamlessly join together the environments inside and outside the walls of the buildings. Those stereotypical glass boxes do it in a very blatant manner with broad expanses of glass [2], but Mr. Allen’s Engine House does it by tweaking the sizes and shapes of existing building elements - bigger windows, skylights, door-less openings, interior lights – in such a way that they all look at home in the building’s early 20th century skin. It sort of seems like something one might see in Lloyd Kahn's Shelter. Many of the buildings in that book are also rustic, but modern too.

E. L. Moore often made use of Selective Compression to make his models more amenable to the confines of a model railroad, but I can’t seem to find an example where he applied Selective Staging and visually ‘opened up’ a building like Mr. Allen did with the Engine House. Many of Mr. Moore’s buildings have full interiors, but usually one would need to do the usual thing of lifting off the roof, or maybe peaking in a scale-sized window, to see what was going on. So, he was probably more of a traditionalist with regard to Selective Staging. One thing I need to do is try and learn more about John Allen’s other structures to see if the Engine House was a onetime flirtation with mid 20th century modernism and Selective Staging, or if it was a common feature of his work.

As I progressed with this project I quickly realized there were a lot of little sub-assemblies and details to work on to open-up the building. 
There's a partial basement under the shed that, according to Mr. Moore, housed a boiler for powering the cabbage shredding equipment. In my version those machines are powered by electricity, so the basement is now used for storage. The basement 'tray' is built up from scraps of sheet styrene.
Here's basement after it has been sanded, painted with concrete coloured paint, and glued into the floor. You can see that the back door enters into the basement.
The three vats on the front porch are built up from 1/16 inch balsa for the ends, and 1/32 inch for the wrapper. The wrappers are scored to show individual boards on the outer face. Super glue was used to construct these things.
Here they are after they were glued up. Some strips of balsa were added to the lids as per Mr. Moore's drawings.
For a little contrast the vats were stained a dark brown. The silver strap around the top of vat is a strip of paper painted aluminum. Some old Letraset letters were rubbed on so it would be easy to identify each vat. Wouldn't want to make mistakes when filling them up!
The roof substrate is cut from 3/32 inch thick sheet balsa as specified in the article. The one modification I made was to cut three skylights into the enclosed shed portion, the idea being that a modern version of this building would try to make use of natural light wherever possible to save money on lighting.

Mr. Moore specifies that the roof be covered with glued on tissue and then ruled with a pen, which would simulate a tar-paper roof. A typical building in Prince Edward County these days would either use asphalt shingles or metal panels. Tar-paper would be out-of-the-question. I toyed with Mr. Moore’s method of using scribed paper to represent metal siding – which is not too bad – but I was lazy and didn’t want to do the work. On the other hand, I had a piece of self-adhesive ‘shingle paper’ from Micro-Mark left-over from another project that looks pretty close to new asphalt shingles, so I decided to use it. It’s good to use up what you’ve got on hand. 

In a small way this sort of decision is representative of many that a contemporary model building hobbyist faces: be self-reliant and make a part using what’s on hand to the degree that your skills allow, or buy something from the vast world of consumer products that may have far better fidelity than you could produce with your own skills. In this situation, I chose the latter, but Mr. Moore chose the former in his article. At the time his article was written and published, he did have the choice as various textured surfacing papers existed, although not to the same extent and fidelity as today, so it’s not a false comparison. Make versus buy. Self-reliance versus consumption. Over the years I’ve indulged in both, from completely home-made stuff to plastic kits to mixtures of commercial and scratch-built parts to pre-completed resin cast buildings. I’m ok with anyone being on any end of this scale. The only thing that bothers me are claims that one end is superior to the other and using that as a  basis to judge the other parts of the continuum. It depends on what one wants out of the hobby. I like making things and trying to get better as I go along. I figure I’m closer to the build-it-yourself end of the hobby, but I still use lots of purchased components. E. L. Moore was much closer than me to the fully self-reliant end. Well, when he was in his prime in the later 1950s and into the 1960s, the hobby in general was closer to the self-reliant end, and even more so the further back in the 20th century one goes. So, choices for them were more limited than for us. The thing to keep in mind is that we have a wide range of choices, and we’re free to choose up-and-down the continuum, and can also sift through the information of previous generations to pull out the good stuff [3].
Being modern and all, solar panels were called for since Ontario has a big solar program on the go. The panel pictures were downloaded from the internet and printed out in long strips. A piece of styrene sheet was glued to the back of each strip, and a Sharpie pen was used to draw on the black frames between the panels. Later on, ground-up gray pastel was lightly dusted on the panels to knock back the sheen.
I've had a fascination with solar panels for a long time. That freelanced model house was one I built as a boy for my first model railroad. Those silver squares were a youthful attempt at solar panels. It could use a reno considering all those weird finishes, but the building seems basically ok.
There's lots of windows out back, but it's salvageable.
Jumping ahead a bit, here is the finished roof. A styrene strip was glued on back of each set of panels near the top so the whole panel is tilted off the roof a little at the top to made things a little more 3D. The skylights were framed with 0.010 inch styrene strips. Clear plastic was used for the glass.
The shed service doors and their frames were built up from scraps of balsa. The shed's back door was built up from a sandwich of cardboard and clear plastic. Mr. Moore's was a solid door, but I wanted a window in the door to let light into the shed to complement the skylights - again, continuing to apply the idea of opening up the building to viewing and light. A pin head was used for the doorknob in old-school style.
These freelanced cabbage shredders were one of most enjoyable details to build. They're made from scraps of styrene and left-over parts from some old 1/25 scale plastic car kits. Mr. Moore hinted that he put some sort of shedders inside his building, but they weren't shown in the article. Mine would be dangerous to use: ladders and big chutes for tossing in the cabbages are a deadly combination. 
It doesn't appear that Mr. Moore's building had lights in the shed, but I thought I needed them to push on with the whole 'opening up the interior' concept. I built a tree from styrene tube and channel stock to hold 3 small incandescent bulbs. I had some in my spares box and figured I'd use them. They have a warm light too. I didn't think the clear, cold light from an LED fit with this project. The light tree starts with the T shown above...
... and ends with the three-pronged structure shown above. The lights are held in place by a sandwich of styrene channels. 
And here's the tree installed. A hole was drilled in the floor to hold it in place. It's not a prototypical light fixture, but it's not too bad. In the picture I hooked up a battery just to make sure all the bulbs lit up.
You see that wall in the previous picture where the long arm of the light tree extends over vat a, I had to add an upper section to the half wall to close up the shed. I decided to make a simple balsa frame with a 'chain link' panel glued over it - it's actually a piece of 'chain link' cloth from a Walther's chain link fence kit. I figured it would keep out birds and 'varmints when the building was closed up for the off-season. It would also continue to allow views and light into the shed.
There is the half wall installed. Below it is the central sauerkraut juice tank. The tank body is cut from a pill bottle and is around 9 scale feet in diameter. Balsa wood ends were glued on and 0.010 inch styrene straps were used to cover the joint between the ends and the body. Lots of scrap styrene was used to build the upper platform and cap. A bent pin was used for the tap. I also poured in some Woodland Scenics 'water' to simulate the sauerkraut juice, but that didn't work too well. Capillary action drew the 'water' up the sides and made for a weird sight. It was overkill and there wasn't any point in doing that, but it seemed like a good idea at the time :-) Mr. Moore used an all wood tank, but again, I wanted to keep the view into the shed as open as possible.
Here's the other side of the building and the back end of the tank. Climbing that ladder is a safety hazard, but there's a nice yellow railing to hang onto :-)
One last look before the roof was glued on. That green stuff on the floor is flocking to simulate cabbage scraps that didn't make it into the shredders. Gluing on the roof was a little nerve racking, so no pictures during the big event. But, once the dust had settled, and the glue was dry, here's what the sides looked like,

Now that all was said and done I wondered if 'Selective Staging' was a success. 
It is possible to easily see all the way inside and through the building. That picture above was shot with natural sunlight streaming in the skylights and no retouching was done on the photo. It's not too bad.
Likewise, at night with the lights on, there's good views into the building, and the inside of the shed is fairly well lit up.

So, again, was this effort to modernize an E. L. Moore project and apply Selective Staging a success? I think the results are mixed. Overall, I’m happy with the way the project turned out even though the construction methods are relatively unsophisticated. The shed, and to a certain extent the vat deck, is well lit and offers many sight-lines, although some are a little blocked. However, even though the pictures of the insides don’t look too bad, they’re a bit deceiving; as are a lot of Mr. Allen’s Engine House and Mr. Moore’s building photos. My photos, and theirs, are more or less all shot at or near ‘eye level’ in those miniature worlds. This makes it relatively easy for the viewer to make the cognitive leap into the photo’s world. On the other hand, a typical model railroad, when viewed ‘in the flesh’ presents the observer with a bird’s eye view of a world – a fairly unusual position. Roofs dominate from that vantage point. Even if one can take the roofs off, as was possible with the Engine House, and with many of Mr. Moore’s builds - although not with Caleb’s - the view inside is from high in the sky. And Caleb’s has got one big roof; it’s slope is fairly flat and blocks a lot of the view into what’s going on. So I’m thinking that Selective Staging is about both the way a building is organized, and how the viewer’s eye is positioned with respect to the building. There’s probably a whole line of investigation into how to design a model railroad completely optimized for eye-level viewing – that is, more than just taking a layout ‘as is’ and hoisting it up higher :-) I might even go as far as stating that maybe optimized eye-level viewing, along with view staging – full blown Selective Staging that is - is as important as detailing and weathering, maybe more so. But, that’s just conjecture, so for now, release the pigs! :-)
[The Naughty Pigs from Shaun the Sheep]
It wouldn't be Caleb's Cabbage Company without the pigs rooting around on the 'leavings' [4].

[1] In the United States, the so-called mid 20th century period extended from the end of World War II to the swearing in of President Ronald Reagan in 1981. Architecturally, I guess the period ‘officially’ ended well before the Reagan era, and possibly the later ‘70s was merely the hang-over of the mid-century period. Regardless of date haggling, by sometime in the late ‘70s or early ‘80’s, mid-century modernism was over.
[2] I get the impression from some of my cursory reading of old model railroading magazines, that Railroad Model Craftsman flirted a bit with publishing some clearly modernist model building projects in the late 1940s, which coincides with the years when mid 20th century modernism was hitting its stride. Today, the mainstream model railroading press has a strong emphasis on the steam-to-diesel transition period that started in the late 1940s and lasted  into the 1950s, but consideration of modernist leanings in that period seems to be largely missing from today’s view into that era.

[3] Mike Bidlo is an artist who creates replicas of certain pieces of 20th century modern art. One of his most well-known series was a re-creation of a number of Jackson Pollack drip paintings.  Mr. Bidlo tried as much as possible to replicate how they were produced using the same materials – as could be found at the time – and same processes as the originals . His goal wasn’t to create counterfeits, but to try and experience what the artists experienced as they created the originals. When I stumbled across Mr. Bidlo’s work I sort of felt this E. L. Moore series was somewhat in the same vein. To just read the articles is one thing; to try and act on them is another. 

Artists that do what Mr. Bidlo does are called ‘appropriationists’, as they make use of, or appropriate, things that others have produced in order to make something new. Mr. Bidlo was trying to produce the experience that artists like Jackson Pollack had to see for himself what it might have been like to produce those art works and maybe learn from the experience. In effect, producing art from art. Sometimes I read in the model railroading media that it isn’t worth the time to produce a model from a model; that is, say, reproduce model from a John Allen article, or a model from a Jack Work article, or a model from an Art Curren article, or even an E. L. Moore model from an E. L. Moore article. I think there are a few reasons to give these a try, some are: the project is interesting and will fit on your layout, so you give it a try; there’s interesting techniques – and maybe low-cost ones – that seem useful; experience what it was like to build something from another time in some else’s style – an admittedly rare occurrence, but after a few builds, I’ve noticed an appreciation of what doing these builds back then might have been like that I didn’t get just from reading about them. I think that last one might be the basis of another model railroading genre I’d call ‘Retro’: building a model railroad as was done ‘back-in-the-day’ –maybe with some concessions on the control technology side so that many of the old time frustrations are eliminated, but the visual style remains.

[4] The cabbages used in the photos are coriander seeds - organic ones at that! - painted green.