Sunday, July 6, 2014

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

Other than these three, I haven’t built any Model Power brand kits since I returned to the hobby. In part, I think I was turned off by the box art. Compared to say a Walther’s box, or something like the Mels box art from Moebius, Model Power box art is – or I guess, was, since the company is now out of business – rather substandard.
The box art for Billy’s Auto Body is particularly bad. It looks like a photo of a slapped together pre-production model. The Billy’s sign appears to be a glued up paper cut-out, the pop-machine fronts are glued onto the wall of the building as if the builder didn’t know what they were for, the accessories are all unpainted, and once one looks at the kit it becomes clear that the chimney over the garage portion doesn’t actually connect to anything inside the garage. Billy’s seems to be one of the worst examples of box art seen amongst their kit offerings. Box art is the equivalent  of the opening glamour photo that accompanies a typical magazine construction article. And in the case of any E. L. Moore article, that photo is always a very carefully staged scene comprising a well constructed building and a thought out scenario. The Model Power box art doesn’t come close to matching the style of what Mr. Moore published.

It’s a shame the production team didn’t spend more effort on their boxes, because the kit parts – well, those associated with the basic structure – aren’t all that bad. Unfortunately, given that the shelf price of these things isn’t any cheaper than those of their better marketed competitors, I suspect not many people opened those boxes to find that out.
{A heavily kitbashed version of Ma's Place that appeared as part of the setting in Mr. Cody Grivno's How to model a grade crossing in the July 2014 issue of Model Railroader}

Although some people do get to that stage. I was surprised to see what is clearly a kit-bashed variant of Ma’s Place, unmentioned and silently performing prop duties, in How to model  grade crossing by Cody Grivno that appeared in the July 2014 issue of Model Railroader.

If some company does buy the tooling for these kits my two-cents would be to sell them in clear bags with a visible card insert showing a photo of a well constructed version of the kit in a charming setting, redone instructions that read more like a magazine construction article, and get rid of extraneous accessories to reduce the cost of parts. Would these re-imagined versions of the kit sell? I have no idea.
Speaking of parts, the bases included with these buildings need considerable improvement. Basically, it’s a plastic moulding of dirt, with some added concrete block pillars and rather odd steps. 
The bases were discarded and some new concrete block pillars were cut from a strip of 4.8mm by 9.5mm styrene.
Here are the foundation blocks glued to the bottom of the building. I've also added a block to the base of the chimney. Once the glue had dried, the sharp edges were smoothed a bit with a sanding stick.
Here are all the parts out on the back deck ready for painting. Cedar shims were used as bases to hold the parts while they were being sprayed. No, I didn't spray them on the deck! I went out to the back of the yard for that.
Here are the buildings after they've been base coated with white primer.
After the white primer coat had dried for a few days, the buildings are sprayed with colour. I wanted to use up some partial cans I had on hand, so I chose some from the shelf that might be appropriate for a small beachfront community served by a streetcar.
Window 'glass' was cut from small sheets of clear plastic that were included with the kits. Micro Kristal Klear was used to glue them into the frames.
The insides were painted with flat black to help prevent light leaks once bulbs are installed. Also, by making the walls a little less translucent, it helps them appear more 'solid' even when interior lights are off. Cardboard pieces were inserted in the buildings to prevent viewers from seeing right through the windows. The open showroom at Speedy Andrew's has been painted white to help reflect light as I want viewers to have a peek inside. The floor is a mixture of various browns and grays. Once painted, it was time for roofs.
The Billy's / Speedy Andrew's version of Ma's Place has a chimney going into the open auto repair area (which is the surfboard showroom in my version). Since that chimney doesn't connect to a furnace or any such thing, I decided to cut open the chimney area of the roof to make a skylight and further improve interior viewing by letting in more light.
I used a grinding tool in my Dremel to cut out the area. Files and sanding boards were used to clean up the opening once most of the material was removed.
The surfboards for Speedy Andrew's showroom are cut from 0.010 in. styrene. I used an ellipse template to draw the board's shape. They aren't very prototypical, but they're just meant to give an impression of surfboards since viewers won't be able to see them in their entirety. There's around 30 surfboards in the showroom.
Here are some finished boards. Sharpie pens were used to draw on the lines. I also downloaded and printed some images from the internet that might make for some good showroom posters. 
To provide support for the surfboards, I cut some HO-scale ladder stock to resemble a comb and glued it to the inside of the showroom walls. The back of the boards are glued to the combs and the showroom floor.
Jumping ahead a little, here's the finished surf shop. The kit-supplied sign was scanned, modified, and then printed out to fit the new surfboard business. 
Along with the foundation, the kit supplied stairs - which are rather strange structures moulded into the dirt base - were most in need of modification. I used stair mouldings I bought a few years ago - I think they are from a company called Caboose Hobbies . To make the wider stairs on the porches, I glued several of the basic stair mouldings together, side-by-side.
Once the stairs were trimmed to size, painted, weathered a bit with thin washes of brown and gray, and glued into place, I was rather happy with the results.
The beachfront, streetcar serviced, community I have in mind will feature Ma's Place and Ma's Place 2 where vacationers can get a room or a meal. 
I tried to enhance the brick work on the chimneys a bit by base coating them with white, and then dry brushing on some brick coloured paint.
This is a photo of an actual brick fireplace resting on a concrete foundation. The concrete is much whiter than my version. Next time I'll try a different paint mixture instead of relying on a pre-mixed bottle labeled as 'aged concrete'.
The only place where I used a single width stair piece is at the back door.
That gravity defying stove pipe is going to need a wire or two to stay it! A mistake, or just Moorian character? I like to think it's the later, but it's no doubt the former.
The shingles were base coated with a mixture of gray paints and then washed with some thinned black and brown paint. The porch roofs were painted with Tamyia aluminum paint and then washed with thin rust mixture: a loosely mixed, thin wash of a reddish brown and green.
And to wrap-up, this is the side the viewer doesn't usually see. 

I'll be sad to see these kits disappear from the model railroading scene if some company doesn't buy the tooling from Model Power. But, at least you'll know that E. L. Moore was the designer of these things, and that they can be built up into something not too bad even if the impression from the box isn't too positive.

This is the 14th instalment in an ongoing series. An index of all posts in there series can be found here.


  1. Any idea who made the kitbash from the MR article?

    Also, nice work on the surf shop (and the others, but a surf shop isn't something I've ever seen on a layout.)


    1. Thanks. Unfortunately I don't know. I don't have a complete set of recent issues to check, although it might be in there 75th anniversary DVD set - ok, I'm curious now and need to see if it's there :-) For awhile I thought it might be a reworking of Art Curren's Ma's Place based kitbash, but his is very different than the version in the picture.

  2. Well, mystery solved. The Petty's Garage and Grocery kitbash is described in Jim Kelly's August 1980 Model Railroader article, Kitbashing Structures. That one is on page 70, and on page 71 is Art Curren's article Star Printer's: an introductory kitbash is the Art Curren article that I was thinking about - I should have turned back one page :-)

  3. It also appears on page 71 of the June1980 issue of Model Railroader in the article called, 'Modeling the Ground' - it's part of the overall scene.