Thursday, May 29, 2014

E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21st Century: “..not a trolley fan...”

And while not a trolley fan, this, from the History of American Funeral Directors, might interest those who are: “The use of funeral trolley cars, most of which were of conventional size (although one exception, Atchison, Kansas, had one only 8’ long) spread through the 90’s and into the early years of the current century. Most of the major cities put them into use and many were operated on a regular schedule to the larger cemeteries.” {E. L. Moore attempts to convince the trolley modelers that his W. E. Snatchem - Undertaker build in the November 1967 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, might be good for their layouts} [1]


[1] The W. E. Snatchem – Undertaker article [2] is the only one of E. L. Moore’s writings where he mentions anything about trolleys, trams, streetcars, or electric street railways, and it’s only to say that he’s not a fan. Although he does take the opportunity to suggest to those who are fans that this project might make an interesting addition to their layout - in an Addams Family sort of way :-)

On the surface, I shouldn’t be interested in E. L. Moore’s work at all since I’m one of those tram fans, and I must admit that my interest in Mr. Moore’s work is due mainly to a happy accident. As a boy I stumbled across his Bunn’s feed and seed plant in the August 1973 issue of Model Railroader just when my interest in model trains, especially buildings, was developing, and that project was followed by the Jones Chemical Co. project in the March 1974 issue of Model Railroader, the Clarabel Hotel in the February 1974 issue of Railroad Modeler, and The RMC Paper Company in the April 1974 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman in relatively quick succession - 4 fascinating projects over a 9 month period that I eagerly tried to build as soon as they hit the newsstands. I didn’t know his focus was on the later 1800s and early 20th century [3]. I didn’t know about the EVRR and his interest in steam. I just got hooked on those building projects. They were low-cost, used things I could easily get my hands on, and were fully described in a single issue.
I didn’t realize at that time that those 4 projects were what I’d now call examples of Mr. Moore’s third period work. The first period ran from his first EVRR photo spread in the March1955 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman up until 1962, which was where the last of his Model Trains articles appeared, and Model Trains itself basically ceased to be [4]. The second period began somewhere in ’62 to ’63, and the third period began with his first Railroad Modeler article, Cousin Caleb’s Cabbage Plant that appeared in the December 1971 issue, and ended in 1980. The early part of the third period is where I came in. Without any ready access to old issues of model railroading magazines at the time – which I would have readily devoured ! – I had no idea about this bigger picture.

His first period articles in Model Trains had a little different style from his later work. Although you can see the beginnings of his signature style in those articles, it’s more muted than in what would become his classic works in the second period. His Model Trains articles are closer to standard how-to articles in style than what would become his norm.

The second period is where E. L. Moore was at his peak. I say this for several reasons: he produced more in this period than in the other two; he settled into his signature style during those years; 1967 saw his greatest output for a single year [5]; all of his builds that were kitted came from this period, and 5 of the 6 that were kitted came from his 1967 publications; his masterwork, Turn Backward, O Time, and the related Brick Enginehouse, were also published in 1967.

E. L. Moore had a signature style, but no signature project - that is, there was’t one particular project that changed the direction of model railroading like, say, John Allen’s Enginehouse project did. But, Mr. Moore did have a masterwork. In the nostalgically titled Turn Backward, O Time, that appeared in the January 1967 issue of Model Railroader, he showed, and described at a high level, how he scratchbuilt an entire late 1890s to early 1900s backwoods shortline terminal yard. He said it was an extension to his EVRR, although he doesn’t show how it integrates. But, that’s nit-picking. Mr. Moore shows-and-tells the entire facility via a pleasant walking tour: there’s a brick enginehouse (that was later detailed in its own construction article in the March 1967 issue of Model Railroader), a brick sandhouse, a coal loading derrick, an icehouse, a handcar shed (this is the one that he described how to build in Modeling with a Burning Tool in the July 1962 issue of Model Railroader, and it’s the one I had go at building in the second post in this series), a yard office, an ashpit hoist, as well as the premises of the Central Warehouse Co. (consisting of 2 warehouses - one in good repair, and one with a serious Leaning Tower of Pisa slant that looks like it foreshadows the future work of Malcolm Furlow), the Dilly Manufacturing Co., and the McGee Lumber Co. (which looks like a precursor to his Cal’s Lumberyard project that appeared in the April 1973 issue of Model Railroader). He doesn’t discuss how to build all the structures, but there are extensive photos and drawings if you’d like to try. If you were to read just one E. L. Moore article I’d recommend it to be this one as it is the most complete and concise view into him and his work that one is likely to get from his entire catalogue.

In the early part of the third period his articles were generally in the same tone and spirit as those second period ones, but his output was tapering off. Gordon Odegard mentions in A visit with E. L. Moore that appeared in the Bull Session column of the September 1975 issue of Model Railroader that E. L. Moore’s baby portrait photography business, that he ran with a friend of his, burned down in 1968. He retired after that, and he was likely in his early 70s at the time, which may account for the subsequent drop-off in output - although, for the most part, the article quality is still there, and the infamous, Burning Man-esqe Cannonball and Safety Powder Works project was produced in this period

It looked for awhile that there might have been a fourth period on the horizon. Jim Kelly, in his E. L. Moore’s legacy tribute article, which appeared in the February 1980 issue of Model Railroader, wrote that the magazine had half-a-dozen of Mr. Moore’s manuscripts on file in their office and had plans to publish them. I suspect that if Model Railroader had a small backlog of unpublished articles, Railroad Model Craftsman might have had some as well - a question that needs investigating. Well, that fourth era never came to pass. 1980 was the last year anything written by E. L. Moore was published. My guess is that if any of the mainstream American model railroading magazines had any E. L. Moore manuscripts in their files, they likely didn’t publish them because the times had radically changed by 1980. Mr. Moore’s methods, subjects, and approach were of another era. Things had moved on. A commercial magazine has to attract lots of readers and advertisers, and it’s likely this could no longer be done with E. L. Moore articles.

[2] W. E. Snatchem – Undertaker build that E. L. Moore wrote about in the November 1967 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman was also kitted in plastic by AHM. And it looks like a few other kits have appeared over the years - for example, Farmhouse, Model Power #433 and Aunt Millie’s House, TycoKit #7776 - that were based on this kit.
[3] That late 1800’s to early 1900’s period was also the height of electric street railways and interurbans in the US and Canada, but according to Peter Norton in Fighting Traffic the years from around 1915 to 1930 laid the necessary ground work – legal, social, commercial, political, physical and psychological – for the eventual demise of electric trolley, tram, streetcar and interurban systems as the dominate form of urban passenger transportation. The mainstream model railroading press refers to the period from the late 1940s to the late 1950s as the ‘Transition Era’ where diesel locomotives replaced steam. Although many urban electric passenger railways continued to operate past 1930, their fate was sealed by then. One could think of the 1915 to 1930 period as an earlier, and largely forgotten, transition era in its own right: it was the wholesale transition from electrified passenger rail transport to automobiles.

[4] The set of excerpted Model Trains articles that appear in the Model Railroader Magazine: Special Issue and Archive Collection DVD are quite interesting, but there is one rather annoying thing about the scanned pages: a significant number of pages have red pencil annotations on them. They look like they have something to do with pricing and payment due to the submitters and authors who have provided those pages their content. The magazine pages are readable, but this is annoying in archival material. If there is a second addition I’d encourage the team at Kalmbach Publishing to try and acquire clean copies of those pages and re-scan them.

[5] 1967 is also a significant year in my mind for a different reason: Expo ’67 in Montreal. It was the height of the dream of mid 20th century architectural optimism. Forty years later in 2007, the Toronto Star’s architectural critic Christopher Hume listed it as one of the seven most important constructions in Canadian history. The tone and outlook of the structures of that event were a stark contrast to every single project topic  E. L. Moore published that year. Take for example the United States pavilion: a 20 story geodesic dome designed by R. Buckminister Fuller. No wood. No square corners. No flat panels. Nothing rural. Nothing conventional. No trains other than a stop for the park’s minirail system, but a lunar lander and Apollo command module were displayed in prime locations. Apparently Americans visiting it didn’t like it much even though ‘foreigners’ did.
Interestingly R. Buckminister Fuller and E. L. Moore were roughly of the same generation. Mr. Fuller was born in 1895 and died in 1983, while Mr. Moore was born somewhere between 1896 and 1899 and died in 1979. Both served in the U.S. Navy during World War I: Mr. Fuller as a rescue boat commander at the Navy Flying School at Newport News, Virginia, and Mr. Moore was on convoy duty on the U.S.S. Georgia. But that appears to be where the similarity ends. Mr. Fuller was born into an upper class family in Massachusetts whereas it appears Mr. Moore was born into far more modest circumstances on a farm in south eastern Michigan. No doubt this difference helped put them on far different life trajectories.

This is the 13th instalment in an ongoing series. An index of all posts can be found here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Chapleau station, Feb. 1944

At Chapleau, Ontario, On Feb 20, 1944. The Canadian Pacific No 3. Photo and caption, William Henry Wood.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Le Tablier Rouge is now a box

Progress is hideously slow on this project, but at least with the facade glued on, it’s starting to look like a store - albeit an abandoned one at this point. I need to speed up and make it look inhabited before squatters take up residence.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Back from the dead

[Here it is being tested with DC power. Those strips of electrical tape I stuck on are just to keep the wires from dragging on the track.]

A few weeks ago I returned what was left of the Stanton Drive to its manufacturer, NWSL. I was very pleased to get it back in the mail last week with a new motor installed - fixed under warranty, no questions asked. I tried it and it runs. That is excellent customer service. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

No. 3 at Chapleau, Ontario, 1944

[At Chapleau, Ontario, looking down from an overhead bridge at the C.P.R. No.3 at 12.15 noon on February 20, 1944 - annotation beside photo written by Bill Wood.]

I’ve recently come into possession of a number of family photo albums I never knew existed. A few belonged to my late Uncle Bill: William Henry Wood who died in 1972. I didn’t know him, or much about him, so his small collection of rather well taken photos of railroad-related subjects came as quite a surprise. I’m not a big steam-era fan, but I thought I’d go ahead and post a few photos now-and-then as they are a fascinating record of a time long past.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ma Spumoni and Pistachio

I ordered a few Weston figures that often appeared in E. L. Moore articles for the 25 years at the movies post in the legacy series. The Ma Spumoni and baby Pistachio figures never made it into any of the pictures in that post, but here they are in the tomato patch behind Vickie’s. Hopefully they’ll make a guest appearance at some point in the Age of Plastic posts.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21st Century: The Age of Plastic, II

When I was at George’s Trains last weekend I was surprised to see these two variants – loosely speaking – on Ma’s Place. This first one – where admittedly the only nod to Ma’s Place is that it uses the sign – was on the shelf reserved for or not-so-high-quality re-sale items.
And this second one – a full-up box-stock build of Speedy Andrews – was in the glass case in the back for better quality re-sale items.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised to see artifacts like these around since the kits have been in production for around 45 years.

Back in the ‘70s I also had a thing for the Speedy Andrews kit, but I didn’t have the cash to buy one, so I had a go at building a cardboard and balsa one straight from a Tyco magazine ad. And being a self-centred egotist, I named it after myself :-)
The actual plastic Ma’s Place and its variants are simple projects. I’m building them up more-or-less box-stock regarding looks, but with some minor refinements to their structures.
I’m not planning on using the ‘dirt’ bases for mounting them - they’ll be discarded - so I’ll need to substitute some styrene pieces for the block foundations pieces that are moulded into each base. Also, the floor of each building has a large L-shaped hole that I’ve filled in with a piece of styrene.
This was done so that I could add lighting and not have light shooting out from the floor alien-abduction-style ! The Speedy Andrews and Billy’s auto shop versions come with a floor insert that can be glued into the hole in the garage floor, but since it sits on top of the moulded in surrounding  floor instead of fitting in the hole, I didn’t make use of it. As well, there's an opening for an interior door that connects the two portions of each building. I’ve glued a piece of styrene over it to better control how the building will be lit. 
Also, for the Billy’s kit I used the Ma’s Place façade for the garage portion instead of the large false front that incorporates the garage doors. So, I’ll have 2 buildings in the Ma’s Place style, and one in the Speedy Andrew’s garage style. To wrap up, here's all three buildings base coated with white Krylon spray paint.
This is the 12th instalment in an ongoing series. An index to all posts in the series can be found here.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Kibri 9922

I paid too much for this re-sale kit, but for some reason it grabbed my attention and I couldn’t just walk on by. It did turn out to be fun to build, and after a light spray of Krylon Fusion nickel-silver paint, it doesn’t look too bad. I think it’ll become some sort of public art work along Ocean Boulevard.
Kibri is one of those names that resonates in my brain every time I see it. Way back when I was probably around 5 or 6, I recall I had a small, modern apartment building kit that I built with my father. The memory is cloudy: all I remember is the box was labeled Kibri, the kit was a modern building and I liked it. Any time I stumble across old Kibri kits of modern buildings I look them over closely to see if any sort of memory will be triggered. No luck so far.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Building out Ocean Blvd.

I want to fill out Ocean Boulevard with a few more buildings and details to give it a denser and livelier feel. I bought this Walther’s modern convenience store kit as I thought it would be an easy build and fit in with the modern street scene along the boulevard. I don’t plan to modify the kit other than to replace the generic sign with something more reminiscent of Toronto in the ‘70s.
The kit is very simple: just a plastic box with an interesting glass and steel-framed front typical of these types of stores. It glues up easily, and when the wind dies down I’ll take it outside for painting.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The brick walls are standing

By this time I was hoping to have started building a model of one of Thaddeus Lowe’s electric railcars based on the Stanton drive. It turns out I had a problem with the drive when I was testing it. It comes wired from the factory for DC use so that you can place it on the rails of a DC system and it’ll go. When I placed it on my DC test track it ran haltingly and required frequent coaxing from ‘the-hand-of-god’ to help it along. Cleaning the track again didn’t improve things. On what would turn out to be its last run, a thin plume of smoke came from the housing as it sat and refused to move. I immediately shut off the power and that was that. I sent the remains back to the manufacturer. I don’t know if it was defective, or if I did something very wrong, but I’ll post an update when I know more.
So, I’ve decided to try and finish up some projects that are languishing on my table. I started the Le Tablier Rouge back in the winter and it’s been side-tracked a few times. But, recently I glued a piece of clear plastic behind the front façade to give it some ‘glass’; the side walls were painted a mixture of white and gray; some service doors were cut into the back wall. After that I glued a few 2mm x 2mm styrene strips to the back wall and floor, and then proceeded to glue the brick walls to the floor to get the shell to stand-up. I should have added more bracing to the walls before raising them, but I wanted to get things upright in order to see progress. I figured if I could see the walls standing, I’d be motivated to continue with the build in a more speedy fashion :-) I can always add more bracing later.

Friday, May 9, 2014

E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21st Century: The Age of Plastic, I

The next post or two in the series was going to talk about the E. L. Moore projects that were turned into mass-market plastic kits, their production history over the years, and kitbashing, among other things. The posts were likely going to be mega-posts. But, with Model Power - the company still producing a few E. L. Moore based plastic kits these days - announcing last month that it was going out-of-business, and considering a general urge I have to finish off a number of plastic based projects I either have on the go, or on the shelf suggesting I build them, I thought I’d make a start and chunk the series up into smaller posts instead of delaying until things were done. Also, it seemed fitting to try and write this part of the series while some Model Power kits were still on hobby retailer shelves and haven’t all disappeared to online re-sellers hawking them as ‘ vintage rarities’. 

According to Jim Kelly in his article E. L. Moore’s legacy in the February 1980 issue of Model Railroader,

Six of E. L.’s structures have been offered as plastic kits by AHM: Schaefer Brewery, Ma’s Place, a molasses mine, W. E. Snatchem - Undertaker, Grusom Casket Co., and the Ramsey Journal Building. Thumbing through all those stacks of E. L.’s articles leaves you with the distinct impression that his influence is felt in the design of many another structure that has been offered commercially.

The completist in me had to go and match those names with the articles they were based on [2],

Schaefer Brewery: ‘F&M Schaefer Brewery’, RMC, Mar. ‘67
Ma’s Place: ‘build Ma’s Place, RMC, Jan. ‘67
Molasses Mine: ‘Molasses Mine & Factory’, RMC, Feb. ‘69
W E Snatchem - Undertaker: ‘W.E. Snatchem - Undertaker’, RMC, Nov. ‘67
Grusom Casket Co.: ‘Grusom Casket Company’, RMC, July ’67
Ramsey Journal Building: ‘Ramsey Journal Bldg.’, RMC, Dec. ‘67

[I think this relic of the '70s is the Ramsey Journal Building which my young self converted to a Home Hardware.]

And like Mr. Kelly suspected there were probably others that may have been based somewhat on E. L. Moore projects. For example, back in the ‘70s I bought and assembled this barn / blacksmith kit.

It’s a dead-ringer for the E. L. Moore smithy that appeared in the September 1967 issue of RMC [2].

Well, if this were a super-hero comic book from the ‘60s or ‘70s this would be the ‘secret origins’ issue: where did those plastic kits come from, and what disguises are they wearing today? Read on for the mind shattering tale :-)

As Mr. Kelly states, AHM was the original manufacturer of those six kits, but ownership of them changed hands over the years. I don’t have all the specifics nailed down as to the hows and whys the kits changed corporate owners, and maybe it really doesn’t much matter, but it looks like the kits went from AHM to Tyco to Model Power, who markets some of them today - or did until they closed down in April (who knows what’ll happen to the kits now). I think the most important fact is that some of those kits have been in production for more-or-less 40 or 50 odd years and are still available after all that time. Although, the casual hobby-shop purchaser is probably not aware of their origins.

When it comes to secret origins, Ma’s Place is an interesting example. From the box art of Model Power’s current offering, it’s marketed as some sort of independently owned, backwoods eatery. If it were a set in a Hollywood movie, ‘Ma’ might be some 300 lb., burley ex-con gone straight, trying to make an honest living slingin’ hash and homespun homilies. There might be Harleys and F-150s of various vintages parked outside. Or, a remake of that movie might see ‘Ma’ as a hardworking single mom trying to make it in a man’s world by slingin’ hash and homespun homilies as she single-handedly keeps the bank from repossessin’ the family homestead. But, as we scholars of the Moore filmography know, Ma’s Place, as the legend goes in E. L. Moore’s article from the January 1967 issue of RMC, is actually Ma Spumoni’s house partially converted into a small grocery store whose intent – which was ultimately successful – was  to put out of business the recently moved-in-next-door outpost of the fictional corporate grocery giant, Porter & Ahlstedt [1]. It was a classic David-and-Goliath tale also not unfamiliar to Hollywood screenwriters :-)

The kit manufacturers were crafty and used Ma’s Place - and a few of the others - as the basis of other offerings. For example, Ma’s Place also formed the core of what Tyco marketed as Speedy Andrew’s Repair Shop, and Model Power marketed it as Billy’s Auto Body. These derivative kits are some sort of early 20th century country automobile service station. It turns out that Model Power was extra crafty with Billy’s Auto Body as it contains parts to either build the auto repair shop shown on the box, or Ma’s Place even though no mention is made about Ma’s.

Plastic means malleable, so even though the box art of these kits imply one meaning for these buildings, you can make them mean - and build them - any way you want. The box art is merely a suggestion about how the parts can be put together. So, an old gas station can be a surf shop, bed-and-breakfast, sushi-shop, or whatever you have in mind. What I have in mind is an ocean-side diorama based on a slightly modified Ma’s Place, along with some of its derivatives, and maybe some other kitbashes, serviced by an ocean-side streetcar line. I’ll get things going in the next post.

{This is the 11th post in the E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21th Century series. A complete index can be found here.}


[1] E. L. Moore’s take on industrial and commercial concerns worth modelling is one of independently owned and operated businesses. There’s no globalized, multi-national corporatized, mega-businesses with banal cookie-cutter buildings. There’s none. Not even the railroads in the era he modelled – which were the Googles and Apples and Facebooks of their time – were big operations.  It seems that every one of his industries or businesses has someone’s family name on it. He modelled some big operations at times, but there was not a monster corporation in sight.

[2] {Added this note on 3 June 2014} It turns out that my old blacksmith barn kit is indeed another E. L. Moore project that was kitted by AHM. I stumbled across it at the excellent Tony Cook’s HO-Scale Trains Resource in the AHM section.  As well as the blacksmith, there are a couple of other additions to the E. L. Moore branded kits that were released by AHM, so my current take on the list of E. L. Moore projects that were turned into plastic kits is this,

Ma’s Place: ‘build Ma’s Place, RMC, Jan. ‘67
Schaefer Brewery: ‘F&M Schaefer Brewery’, RMC, Mar. ‘67
Grusom Casket Co.: ‘Grusom Casket Company’, RMC, July ’67
Village Blacksmith: ‘The Village Smithy Stands’, RMC, Sept ’67 
W E Snatchem - Undertaker: ‘W.E. Snatchem - Undertaker’, RMC, Nov. ‘67
Ramsey Journal Building: ‘Ramsey Journal Bldg.’, RMC, Dec. ‘67
Molasses Mine: ‘Molasses Mine & Factory’, RMC, Feb. ’69
Emporium Department Store: the kit consists of 2 stores: Pool Parlor & Emporium from the article ‘Three Store Fronts and a Shop’, RMC, Dec. ’69

Busy Bee Department Store: the kit consists of 2 stores: Busy Bee & Bon Ton Dept. Store from the article ‘Three Store Fronts and a Shop’, RMC, Dec. ’69

There might be other projects that were kitted, and if I find any I'll update this note.