Sunday, March 8, 2015

The E. L. Moore Files: Ma’s Place and the files of E. L. Moore

[A plastic kit version of Ma's Place built in The Age of Plastics III and now residing on my layout, the Lost Ocean Line]
I’ve recently been in contact with a gentleman who has a number of E. L. Moore original manuscripts, letters and photographs. He has generously given me permission to post some of the material here. I thought that Ma’s Place might be a good ‘place’ to start since The Age of Plastics posts (part I, part II, part III) focused on the plastic kit version of that build, and the original model re-surfaced recently after nearly 35 years in storage.

Each of his articles were sent to various magazine editors with an accompanying personal letter. The image below is the letter to Harold H. Carstens, editor of Railroad Model Craftsman in 1966, that accompanied the Ma’s Place manuscript submission,

[The letter that E. L. Moore sent to the editor of Railroad Model Craftsman to sell his article that was eventually published as build Ma's Place in the January '67 issue.]

Here's a transcript of the letter,

October 19, 1966

Major H H Carstens, Editor
Railroad Model Craftsman,
Ramsey, N. J. 

Greetings! .. .. Just finished wiring the brewery for lights . .. and these pix will give you some idea as to how it stacks up. Still gotta make up drawings and some checking up . . . I'll send it along as an early Christmas gift, before the big rush -- maybe in a couple of weeks or so, after I get the first draft of the article on paper. Already got one box for it to fit into -- all I need is two more. I don't trust them postoffice guys even they only use a five ton elephant for testing packages at the local branch.

Sending along this thing I've had on the closet shelf ever since you jolted me into taking up industry hunting -- maybe you can use it sometime even though it's kinda trivial -- if not, shoot it back.

Thass a Rhode Island Red up the weather vane -- at least that's what I think it is. I've got to pedigree papers to prove it. Couldn't let a mere damned chicken stump me at the end of it all.

Merry Christmas to you-all . . . 

E. L. Moore
525 Oakland Ave., Apt 3
Charlotte, N.C.

The brewery he’s referring to is the F & M Schaefer Brewery that appeared in the March '67 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman Ma’s Place appeared in the January '67 issue – and it did indeed have a rather large rooster as a wind vane; a detail that doesn’t appear on the plastic kit version.
[Plastic kit version of Schaefer Brewery project]

It also sounds like Mr. Moore didn’t think Ma’s Place was much of a challenge to build. In his words, “…it's kinda trivial …” Maybe just something to fill magazine pages and make some quick cash. Maybe so in comparison to the large and complex Schaefer brewery. It also sounds like he was given the assignment of finding industries – of which the brewery was one – to model and write about. Hopefully there’ll be more about that in letters to come.

[First page of the original manuscript to build Ma's Place, which was originally called Ma's Neighborhood Store.]

The typewritten manuscript more-or-less follows what eventually appeared in the pages of Railroad Model Craftsman, although some of the interspersed fictional story that appeared in later pages was tweaked here and there. One big change though was the title, which originally was the descriptive and straightforward, Ma’s Neighborhood Store, which in the print version was changed to build Ma’s Place. It is indeed written up as a house converted to a convenience store, but the plastic kit is always marketed as some sort of rural eatery, even though the model looks like a small house and not a commercial establishment at all. My interpretations of the plastic versions were of a bed-and-breakfast and a surf shop. Well, maybe the lack of clarity on this point helps to account for its longevity as a salable kit. Debra speculates that it’s a model of some specific place in E. L. Moore’s personal history, and that’s why it doesn’t fit well with general expectations about what a generic store or restaurant is supposed to look like.


  1. Can you give info on the color pix from this entry?

    1. These are just photos of one of the Ma's Place models on my layout that were built in the Age of Plastics posts in the E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century series. I should add some captions.