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.