Friday, January 30, 2015

E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century: Ma’s Place and a newly discovered collection of E. L. Moore built models

[Private Collection - Posted with permission of the owner]
The last 3 months, and especially the last couple of weeks, have been exciting. To make a long story short, after some inspired detective work by Debra, working with a vital clue from Vince, not to mention the generous assistance of many longtime friends and people who were previously strangers, I’ve been able to connect with a gentleman who has a large collection of models built by E. L. Moore. That is, original E. L. Moore models actually made by him; many of which were the prototypes for a few of his construction articles.

I’m respecting the collector’s request to remain anonymous, and he has generously allowed me to post some photos of his collection as part of the E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21st Century series [1]. I’m starting with Ma’s Place as it was the focus of the Age of Plastics posts which can be found here, here, and here.
[This is how Ma's Place appeared in the January '67 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman - after 48 years the model is looking as it did when first published]
E. L. Moore’s Ma’s Place build appeared in the January 1967 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman
[Private collection - Posted with permission of the owner {added to post on 1 Feb '15}]
As well as the Age of Plastics posts, I discussed the article’s use of storytelling to enhance the construction details in the Twenty-five Years at the Movies post.
[Private collection - Posted with permission of the owner]
The American Civil War era figures in the photos are repurposed Airfix models. They weren’t made by E. L. Moore. His article featured Ma Spumoni, her husband George, Uncle Charlie and Pistachio Jr from an early-20th century rural universe, and were represented in his article’s photos by figures from Weston.
[Private collection - Posted with permission of the owner]
It was obviously well cared for over the years given the good condition of the model today.
[Private collection - Posted with permission of the owner]
It appears that the model is still in original condition: Mr. Moore makes note in his article that the house "except for the front, is a bit shabby, faded green intermingling with plain weathered surfaces" and the bright red front was "bait" for the customers. It looks like he used his technique of drawing with a sharp pencil to scribe in the roof shingles.
[Private collection - Posted with permission of the owner]
[1 Feb '15 update: The model is signed on the bottom, as shown in the photo below, and dated 10-1-65. The article appeared in Jan '67, so there was a little lag between model completion and publication.]
[Private collection - Posted with permission of the owner {added to post on 1 Feb '15}]

[1] Added 31 Jan ’15: A little while after I had put this post online Debra gave it a read and told me it made her wonder if Ma’s Place is actually a thinly disguised version of E. L. Moore’s boyhood home. He was born to modest circumstances on a farm in southern Michigan, and she thought the model might be some sort of stylized embodiment of the most memorable aspects of his old home and family. Does any of this have a grain of truth? Did his mother sell food or home cooking from the house? Maybe a neighbour did? I don’t know any of this, but it’s an interesting thought and when she told me it reminded me of some things we saw on the episode of Anthony Bourdain’s tv show Parts Unknown where he visits Detroit. We watched it over the Christmas holidays. It was excellent.

Among other things in the show, Bourdain visits a few restaurants run from people’s houses. Maybe ‘restaurant’ isn’t the best term to describe them as they are simply people offering great food for sale out of their own homes to others in the area. It was this part that seemed very like what E. L. Moore was doing with Ma’s Place, and the plastic version takes the idea even further. CNN’s got some clips about a couple of those places. Take a look at the clips about Pupusa House, Greedy Greg’s, and after you’re done eating don’t forget to visit the Packard Plant: all here at this CNN link.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Ontario countryside in January from a seat in a VIA Rail passenger car

Last week Debra and I went down to Toronto. It'd been 15 years since we took the train there - I usually drive. I was sitting by a window, looking more-or-less south the entire way from Ottawa. The morning of the trip was gray, cold and grim. Not much snow on the ground this year, but plenty cold.
On the way out of the station the train circles by some condos. 
The train passes by many, many snow-covered fields...
... punctuated by forests waiting for spring.
These two diesels were parked at the Smiths Falls yard. Looks like they're waiting for photographer to drop by for a corporate publicity shot :-)
At this point the train was making its way through the Smiths Falls yard.
And there are plenty of barns along the route.
And lots of flags flying adding colour to a dreary day.
We were passed a few times by long freight trains going in the opposite direction.
When were taking on passengers at one station I looked down and saw that up there. The spikes don't quite seem to be too snug against the rails :-)
Once we got down to Lake Ontario the world was starting to look more spring-like. Unusual for January.
And as we went further and further west the snow cover got thinner and thinner.
By the time we got to the edges of Toronto it seemed more like mid-March than late January.
Once we arrived at Toronto's Union Station there were plenty of condos to greet us. It was around -2C when we got off - around 15 to 20 degrees warmer than when we left Ottawa hours earlier. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Excavation and power relocation

My layout is looking rather forlorn. I've started to make updates and do some maintenance to get the vibe back. Last week I relocated the main power feeds. 

When I did the main construction on the Lost Ocean Line in the fall of 2011 I used Atlas terminal tracks to put power to the rails. My philosophy at the time was to do everything related to electrical as simple as possible as it wasn't my thing. Much later when I expanded Ocean Boulevard I had to build up a hump over the sidewalk to disguise the protruding power terminals - you can see it in the picture to the left of the parked truck. I did a so-so job. Lately I've been wanting to get rid of it, make the sidewalk perfectly flat and normal, and relocate the main power attachment else where. No time like the present.
Here are the terminals after the plastic disguise was hacked out of the sidewalk.
At this point, after unscrewing the power leads, I put a cutting disk in the Dremel and sawed the terminal block off the track.
I moved the leads to a more discrete location. The sidewalk was cut open to either side of the rails and the leads were soldered on. My soldering work was rough, but they're firmly attached. That speeding loco was shot during testing. 
Once powered testing with the leads was done, I 'repaved' the sidewalk on Ocean Boulevard and then did some more styrene paving on the other spot.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Four eras, four streetcars

This short video shows four examples of the most iconic Toronto Transit Commission streetcars in relatively quick succession, and provides a good idea of their sizes relative to each other, people and city buildings. It’s very clear that the new Flexity is huge.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Sinatra at 100

[Frank Sinatra at the Monaco train station in 1958. The picture was sourced from the Honorary Consulate of the Principality of Monaco in Las Vegas' website]
12 December 2015 will mark Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday. It goes without saying that he was a legendary singer, but, maybe not quite as well known, he was also a big time train enthusiast and model railroader. I wasn’t much of a Sinatra fan in the past, but on a trip to Los Angeles I stumbled across the radio show Sundays with Sinatra on KJazz 88.1. I don’t recall the songs that were playing, but I guess I was in just the right frame of mind because they spoke to me. I was hooked. With a harsh January gripping the city, I’ve been listening to his 1958 album Come Fly with Me for some escape. Here’s the title song done up in classic Sinatra style.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Alternative track decomposition for the EVRR

Back in the Elizabeth Valley Railroad post I made a sketch showing how the trackplan could be unfolded into a dogbone. Since I installed the ground layer to the layout panel I've been trying to wrap my head around how this thing will be wired. I think there are other track decompositions than the one I drew in that post. That's one in the picture. The green line is the basic plan with two reversing loops at either end. The orange lines are segments that can be isolated and selectively powered to allow a train to run onto a green line without shorting the whole thing out. I need to think about this some more before laying the track.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Installed the ground layer to the Elizabeth Valley Railroad

I bought two, 1 x 3 foot pieces of cork to build the layout's ground layer. That photo up there shows the layout panel hanging on the wall after I installed a 30 lb. picture wire to the back.
I taped up a large piece of tracing paper from smaller pieces and then traced out the lake and its feeder stream from the full-size plan.
The lake and stream were then cutout and the outline was traced onto the cork. Once traced, the cork was cut out, and then glued to the panel with some carpenter's glue. It turns out the cork pieces weren't actually 1 x 3, but a little short on the 1 side, so I glued on a small strip of cork to make sure the panel was completely corked - so to speak :-) The cork is about 1/4 inch thick, so the water level will appear a little below the reference grade. Here's what the Grizzly Flats station looks like on the plan. Appears some adjustments to spacing are in order.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

E. L. Moore’s Legacy in the 21st Century: Grizzly Flats and The N-scale Affair

E.L. Moore published almost exclusively in HO scale, although a couple of his articles dealt with rolling stock projects in HOn2-1/2. But, there was one project, which appeared in the October to December 1968 issues of Railroad Model Craftsman, where he worked in a very different size: The Enskale and Hoentee. It was a small, 30 inch square, layout that cleverly integrated N, TT and HOn2-1/2 models. 

You may wonder why I built such a small pike in the first place, when the bigger they come the harder you fall for them. And frankly it was because suddenly smitten by this petite little N scale, and then too I wanted to see if my old love affair with HO might be rekindled to include N in a bigamous union.
[E.L. Moore on why he incorporated N and HOn2-1/2 in a single layout]

If one looks closely, the layout is basically an N-gauge layout where the landscape is sized to allow HOn2-1/2 rolling stock to run. N and HOn2-1/2 both run on N-gauge track, so no problem fulfilling H. G. Wells’ basic requirement for rolling stock that everything is ok as long as it all can run on the same gauge track!
[The unused station from Part 3 of the RMC article on the construction of The Enskale and Hoentee that appeared in the Dec '68 issue.]
The odd thing is why was TT included? Mr. Moore makes little mention of TT in the series other than stating that he had three TT scale buildings on hand - a rather large and ornate station, a freight station and a water tank - that he had scratchbuilt well before starting this project. TT rolling stock won’t run on N-gauge track, although narrow gauge TTn3 will. But, TT is roughly halfway between HO and N in size, so the terrain could be used with TT if the reader decided to build pure a TT layout back then. I don’t know if TTn3 was around in ’68, but if it was, The Enskale and Hoentee could accommodate.
[Elevations for the unused station from part 3 of the RMC article of the construction of The Enskale and Hoentee that appeared in the Dec '68 issue.]
The TT scale station seems to have been included on the layout quite by accident, so maybe the TT thing was just a way to use buildings that were on hand that looked ok in the N scale world. Mr. Moore stated he built an N scale depot for the layout, but it looked too small in comparison to the other N scale buildings he had made; however, the TT station looked just right, so the little N scale depot was abandoned.

The N scale depot is only 15’ x 25’, built of 1/32” scribed sheathing, .025” spacing, which was then cemented to 1/32” balsa for extra thickness. Actually it is so small it is dwarfed by other buildings and so was not used. A simple thing to build and requiring but a couple of days.
[E. L. Moore on how to build what is essentially a simplified Grizzly Flats like depot for the The Enskale and Hoentee]

Although, that discarded N scale depot looked very familiar. It has the same overall dimensions and shape as his HO scale version of the Grizzly Flats depot [1] that E. L. Moore built in the March ’62 issue of Model Trains, although the roof and trimming were highly simplified in his N scale iteration. This got me wondering if I could build an N-scale version of the Grizzly Flats depot from that old Model Trains article. And although the Grizzly Flats depot didn’t appear on E. L. Moore’s Elizabeth Valley Railroad, adding one to an N-scale version would seem to fit into the spirit of his layouts.

E.L. Moore used balsa as the basis of both the HO scale Grizzly Flats model and its N-scale little brother. Given the complexity of the Grizzly Flats build, I didn’t think I could build an N-scale version in balsa, and decided to use styrene instead as I thought that would allow me to cut the components with more precision. It’s not a Moorian choice [2], but one that I thought would make the project more viable for me. And, it turned out that as I proceeded, I had to make changes to accommodate my skills in order to allow me to make progress and see the project though to the end. It took much longer than Mr. Moore’s "couple of days" for the N scale version, and even longer than his "a week is about right" for the HO one. I haven’t scratchbuilt an N-scale building before, and it retrospect it seems a little too difficult for a starter project in either HO or N. But, with caveats in hand, here goes.
The project got started by cutting wall substrate from 0.020 in. styrene for all walls except the front, which was built up from two layers of 0.010 in. sheet. This was so a depression could be created for inserting the bay window.

After that stage I posted a few instalments of the build as I made progress. I won't repeat them, but if you're interested you can find them here,
and here.
Once the build got to this point with the walls all glued up and standing, I moved on to making the windows.
The window material came from a box of Christmas chocolates.
I used E. L. Moore's method of drawing the window frames on paper, taping the clear plastic sheeting over them, and then drawing the frames on the sheets with a paint filled ruling pen. I used the same technique when I built the handcar shed and Vicki's Veggies.
I used the Poly Scale blue trim paint to line the window frames. I must admit that I had to go back and do some extra lining because I messed up the dimensions of the windows a bit. In the end, it worked out, but was a bit of a pain to redo the job after the windows were cut out.
Here they are cut from the sheet and ready to be trimmed for fitting into the window openings.
The bay window -with its 3 walls - was drawn out as a single piece of clear plastic that was scored so it could be folded into the bay shape.
Three individual bay walls were cut from 0.010 inch styrene and painted with the light blue mix. The idea is to glue these over the three folded clear windows to build up the bay.
After lining the window frames with the ruling pen, the bay walls were glued to the window unit with Krystal Klear.
The bay window was bent into shape and used to size the floor.
Before gluing the bay window unit into the building a shelf and ceiling were cut from 0.010 inch styrene and glued into position.
Here's the bay after it was glued in place and the trim strips were added. One thing I should note is that Mr. Moore makes no mention of doors, although the actual station appeared to have them. I also left them off. A small transom window was added at the top of each door opening. These windows were made using the same methods as the other windows.
Once the bay window was done I started on the roof. The basic panels that make up the primary roof structure were measured from the article's plans and cut from 0.020 inch styrene.
Three triangular gussets are used to strengthen the roof. Mr. Moore designed the roof to be removable, hence the gussets. At this point in the project, I thought I'd do the same, but later I abandoned that idea and glued the roof in place for strength.
A piece was then glued into the triangular cut-out. Some sanding and filing was needed to smooth out the fit.
Next was to cut a hole in the roof for the dormer over the bay window.
I didn't use the dormer templates provided in the article to make these as my roof opening was a little larger because I erroneously made the bay window unit taller than the article showed. I had to dust off my high school trig to layout these pieces. I won't subject that to anyone now, but I'm thinking about a future post on how to layout dormers of any size.
It fit well once it was glued in place and a triangular piece was added.
Here's the almost finished roof. During test fitting it was easy to see that the bay window didn't mesh into the roof structure properly, so I added a fascia to the front of the dormer as a view blocker.
You can see the blue fascia in this view. I painted the outer surface of the roof flat black before gluing on shingles to make the structure a little opaque.
But, the inner surface was painted flat white and some pencil lines were drawn on to represent boards.
In the May 1954 issue of Model Trains, Bill McClanahan wrote an article called How to Raise the Roof which summarized the then typical techniques for modelling shingles. In E. L. Moore's article he used the old method of scribing balsa with a sharp, hard pencil, and he appears to have used it on the N-scale version slotted for the The Enskale and Hoentee. I wasn't keen on it, so I decided to use the John Allen technique outlined in Mr. McClanahan's article. Basically, I started by getting a piece of brown wrapping  paper (note that Mr. Allen used brown construction paper for his HO shingles), taping it to a cutting mat and painting it with loose washes of blue and brown paint. I didn't use white paper because when it's cut to represent shingles, there would be unsightly white edges.
I cut out a collection of 4mm strips and proceeded to slice into them shingles in roughly 1 to 2mm sections. Rather large for N-scale, but they looked ok in the end. I'll need do better on the next project.
The strips were then glued on the roof - using white glue - in staggered pattern.
Here's what it looks like with all the shingles glued on. I should have added individual shingles where the dormer joins the main roof as I did with the roof corners, but I didn't think I could do a good job, and the intersection of the two roofs looked sharp, so I left it as is. Although, I was happy with the colour variation in the roof.
The decorative roof ridge trim was cut from 0.010 inch styrene. The short piece shown above goes on the dormer. Mr. Moore's model also has decorative posts at the ends of the trim carved from round toothpicks. I thought these would be a little too difficult for me to make in N-scale, so I left them off.
There are a number of exterior roof supports mounted under the eaves that run along the front and back walls. I made each from two pieces of 0.020 inch styrene. The first piece is a V-shape - shown above - were the long arm attaches to the wall, and the short arm attaches to the eaves. The actual Grizzly Flats station has rather ornate roof supports, and Mr. Moore noted they were too elaborate for him to make in HO, so he built some simplified curved ones instead. I simplified even further and made the supports with straight struts. Photo-etch or laser cutting methods would certainly allow for more precise modelling of the prototype's supports - the roof ridge trim too.
A diagonal strut is then glued across the opening of each V. The untrimmed supports are shown above.
The end walls also have roof supports, but they have a different shape. The 'V-portion' isn't really a V, but an L since the arms are perpendicular to each other. However, they're made in the same way as the main wall roof supports. The picture above shows them after they have been glued together, trimmed and sanded to the final shape, and are ready for painting. The triangle near the upper left is the far end wall decorative insert. It was cut from 0.010 inch styrene.
Here are some painted roof supports along with the decorative end-wall inserts, which are both made from 0.010 inch styrene. The white triangular insert goes under the eaves in the roof end that doesn't have the drooped, triangular cut-out. Reading Mr. Moore's article closely I wonder if he detailed this wall or left it plain as he said he did with the back wall. No photos or plans are shown, and the text is skimpy, so I wonder if for expediency of article production, it was left more-or-less unfinished. I had to go to the Train time at Grizzly Flats article in the October 1950 issue of Trains to see what it looked like.
Believe it or not, other than adding signs, some touch-up painting, and gluing those pieces on, it's done!
Here's the station side-by-side with the E. L. Moore HO-scale handcar shed that I built way back in the second instalment in this series. The shed seems huge.
And, yes I did finish the 'back' of the station,
as well as the 'front'.

[1] The real Grizzly Flats station wasn’t real at all – it was a movie prop. The station was built for the 1949 Walt Disney movie, So Dear to My Heart

Some internet searching suggests that the Grizzly Flats station prop might have been inspired by an actual depot on the Lehigh Valley Railroad. That station’s story can be found at Scot Lawrence's excellent post on the subject.

Instead of being scrapped when filming was over, Walt Disney, a serious train fan himself, gave it to his equally railroad obsessed chief animator, Ward Kimball. Mr. Kimball moved it the backyard of his San Gabriel estate where he had a small, full-sized layout with a steam loco, water tower, windmill, engine house and 925 feet of track. It was profiled in an October 1950 Trains article called Train Time at Grizzly Flats. From the article it looks like Trains publisher, Al Kalmbach, was invited to tour the layout to get a first-hand impression. Interestingly, some internet searching suggests that the Grizzly Flats station still exists today on the grounds of the Lasseter Family Winery in California's Sonoma Valley.

While I was searching online for information about the Grizzly Flats station I came across this publicity photo of Rowland Emett ‘getting ready for a good night’s sleep’ in the depot. An interesting coincidence of two signposts in the early E. L. Moore canon: Rowland Emett and Grizzly Flats. 
[I can't find the url for this photo, but I'll insert it here when I find it again]
[2] While browsing in a local used bookstore in the summer I came across The Model-Building Handbook: Techniques Professionals Use by Brick Price. It was published in 1981 and to me it’s still interesting. 
One thing I particularly like about this book, and others of its vintage, is the extensive use of line drawings. Although, Mr. Price makes it very clear on where he stands about using balsa in the  Materials chapter, "Forget you ever heard about balsa. The woods I use are bass, clear pine, Jelutung, walnut and oak." 

Mr. Price’s extensive comments about balsa as a modelling material are correct, but it should be remembered what the book’s sub-title makes clear, he’s a professional model maker whose firm made models for many high profile Hollywood movies. Although they undoubtedly worked within a budget, that budget was likely far greater than a typical amateur hobbyist has available. What makes balsa attractive is that it’s inexpensive, easy to work with and readily available. It has its limitations, but many can be minimized through various finishing techniques. This is why it has hung on as a model building material even for those who don’t need to make use of its light weight as people who build flying models do.

Since E. L. Moore was an individual of modest means, with apparently a patient attitude and some modelling time on hand, I can see why he stuck with balsa. However, a modeller with a bit more cash available can make use of other materials that can yield more refined results with less time and effort. I’d hate to recommend that people completely abandon balsa and card and other simple, common materials as they’d be needlessly turning their backs on the potential for creating interesting and charming works. Although mid-20th century modelers like E. L. Moore, John Allen, George Stokes, Jack Work, John Ahern and others may have initially used simple materials more out of necessity than choice, they produced excellent pieces and developed simple practices that I think still have the potential for producing good models.