Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Rochester streetcar track and house fire?

I'm still sorting through batches of old photos. This one was likely shot in Rochester, New York early in the 20th century. It's an odd picture. When I zoomed into where the action is happening, it looks like two hoses are stretched across the road. On the centre track in the distance, I thought I made out what might be a horse drawn trolley, but it's not, it's a horse drawn carriage that is almost on the track. Just to the left, and a little above it, the top of a streetcar on the other track is peeking out. Is that large, horse drawn wagon in the right foreground a piece of fire-fighting equipment? I'm not sure what it happening, but the whole thing gives me the impression that some sort of fire emergency might be on the go.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sharbot Lake Station, 1950s

The sign on the station says 'Sharbot Lake'. This picture was scanned from a Kodachrome 35mm slide and was likely shot in '57 or '58 by my father. I didn't fiddle with the image since I'm rather partial to Kodachrome colour.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Interurban line by a lake

I was going through some old envelopes from my father's place and stumbled across these two photos pasted in a small album. I have no idea when or where they were shot. Maybe they were taken around Rochester, New York as my relatives lived there in the early 20th century. Maybe they're somehow related to these photos of an interurban crash or derailment I came across a few years ago. In the top photo you can see the car way down there in the distance. In the bottom photo you can see how close the track is to the lakeshore.

Streetcars at the Ottawa Train Expo

[The card attached to this beautiful little diorama noted: "Streetcars 695 and 854 on an Ottawa street in 1954 (Scale of models - 1:48)". Said street looks a lot like Bank Street.]

I went out to the Ottawa Train Expo on the weekend with John and Garret. It's a general interest, family-oriented model train show held annually in the spring in Ottawa. This year it was set up in a hockey arena out in Rockland. There were many good layouts on display, no streetcars though other than the one shown in the lead photo which was part of the OC Transpo Streetcar 696 restoration booth. It was set up in the overflow area way up at the top of the stands. The two 1:48 scale streetcars were well done and showed a high degree of craftsmanship.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Layout panels

Those two future N-scale layout panels have been hanging on the wall waiting for a lull in the action on other fronts. The one on the left is the foundation for a replica of E. L. Moore’s Elizabeth Valley Railroad. Other than adding a cork base layer with the lake and stream cut out, it’s on hold for a little while. The gentleman who has the E. L. Moore manuscripts and letters I’ve been posting excerpts from recently has some photos of the original layout, and I hope to see them when we visit to get a better sense of what this layout was about. The panel on the right is for a streetcar and city block test track tortuously called Tor-N-to. Both panels rest on some pegs I screwed into the wall. It’s easy to take the panels down for work or play, although I wouldn’t recommend this method of hanging in an earthquake prone region.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Outtakes from The Bookery

Some extra pictures I took while preparing the The Buddha, The Bookery and the Man Cave
I used The Red Apron model as a prop beside The Bookery and I was surprised that they went well together as neighbours. I'll have to remember that if I do some repositioning of buildings on the layout.
Speaking of locations, Gecko Records is temporarily located on a shelf with The Grizzly Flats Depot as its neighbour. I was really struck by how small the depot is in comparison to its looming HO scale companion.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The E. L. Moore Files: The Buddha, The Bookery and The Man Cave

[My attempt at building E. L. Moore’s Uncle Charley’s Bookery from the December 1965 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman]

While down by the railroad yard one day who should I come upon but Uncle Charley, standing in a weedy, vacant lot. “I own this lot,” he says, “and I want to build a little shack here so I can sit and mediate in peace. You’re a builder. Build me something.” Just like that. Uncle Charley has always lived with his brother George; but George’s wife, Ma, is sometimes short tempered about having two retired railroad men underfoot. I could understand his wanting a place of his own....
[And so E. L. Moore opens the story of Uncle Charley’s Bookery and its construction.]

I usually start these sort of posts by saying how back in the ‘70s I tried my hand at building such-and-such a project by E. L. Moore, and moaning about how it was too much for me then, but how decades later I tried again, and lo and behold, I could build it and had a good time doing so. Well, this time, the last part is true, but the part in the ‘70s isn’t. I didn’t even learn about this Bookery thing until a couple of years ago, but when I tried it, it turned out to be one of my favourite projects. Still is.

Here’s the letter of introduction E. L. Moore sent along with the Bookery manuscript to Railroad Model Craftsman. The transcript follows.
October 2, 1965

The Honorable Carstens,
R. M. C. Ramsey, N.J.

Ye Editor . . . 

I dunno if Uncle Charley’s Bookery will interest you or not. The idea germinated years ago ... thinking of an ideal place where one could get away from whatever he wanted to get away from, thumbing one’s nose at customers and all such. Then I found, not being encumbered with a naggy wife, indeed, no wife at all which is still better, that I didn’t have to get away from anything. My two cats are not naggy except at meal time. So I turned over my idea of a hideaway to Uncle Charley and he liked it so I built it for him.

I found some dope on a sorghum mill, a slightly ancient brick one, powered by a steam threshing machine engine. I’ll get around to it one of these days.

I suppose the little heir is becoming quite a hellion these days -- makes life interesting on the home front. Yeah, I went through it once -- mine’s seventeen now. Then too, I go through it twice, three times a year with flocks of kittens.

Just me ...

E. L. Moore,
525 Oakland Ave., Apt 3
Charlotte 4, N. C.

The Bookery manuscript accompanying this letter appears to have been reproduced without changes in the published article. Given that the article was submitted in October ’65 and published in the December ’65 issue, maybe it was used to fill a hole in a production schedule and there was no time for the niceties of reflection and editing. 

Story-wise, it’s right up there with his classics. I read it again and one of the asides deals with how he based the structure on Benjamin Franklin’s Printing Shop in Philadelphia. Mr. Moore spins a bit of tall-tale and notes that he got the plan for the building when he bumped into Mr. Franklin himself at the post office, and during some grumbling about the price of stamps, got Franklin to draw it on postcard.
[from Explore PA History and the image is credited as being donated by Corbis-Bettmann]

I seemed to be plum out of postcards, so I tried asking Mr. Google instead, and in the process stumbled across this interesting image that is noted to be the facade of Franklin’s print shop. That section with the bay window and front door bears a striking resemblance to E. L. Moore’s model.

.... but I was thinking in terms of a tarpaper shack, so when he showed me a history book picture of a brick-fronted shop ... “But the cost?” I protested. “Hang the cost,” says Uncle Charley expansively.
[The full scope of Uncle Charley’s project is sinking into our narrator-builder.]

I also found the idea odd. A substantial brick building for what would today be called a Man Cave, maybe along the lines of the ones shown in this book about Australian men and their sheds I bought from a used bookstore years ago.
[Blokes and Sheds by Mark Thomson. Published by Angus and Robertson in 1995.]

They aren’t tarpaper. They’re built mostly from metal and wood. Not a brick one in there. No bookeries either. Mainly various types of workshops, with a rumpus room and a boxing ring thrown in for good measure. E. L. Moore, being located in the southern USA, might find that these sheds from Australia would likely fit the climate, although all that metal construction might get pretty hot in the summer.

And that sorghum mill he mentioned in the letter? My guess is that it’s the Moe Lass’ Old Sorghum Mill project that appeared in the April 1966 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. I built that one too - but, again, not in the ‘70s :-) - although I converted it to a Barbecue restaurant. Mr. Moore must have liked that building’s shape because he basically used it again, but with larger windows, as the basis of Uncle Peabody’s Machine Shop that was published in the June ’72 issue of Railroad Modeler.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Outtakes from a Night at Gecko's

Some odds-and-ends left over from yesterday's A Night at the Gecko.
A picture taken inside the Elgin next door. 
A shot with the roof popped off the Elgin so I could adjust the lights and right fallen details. The Elgin, even though it's not all that detailed or high quality, is one of my favourite projects. I think that's partly because of it's humble beginnings as a bunch of parts in a bag I bought at a train show for $4. This is the Elgin's Blue Table room, because....
... the centre tables were made from blue heat-sinks. They come in blue and weren't painted. All the stubs that act to dissipate heat were cut off except for four so they'd look more table-like.
There's a saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. Those are my modelling plans in a list I made back around New Year's. That 'Mexican Restaurant' in the upper right turned out to be Gecko Records. I guess I need to check it off :-) but I think I can hear the laughing given how many projects are still on the list.
Debra mentioned that in the Gecko post I misspelt the name of those things in the pan. I called them bisquets, but they are correctly called biscuits. However, they're spelt, straight from the own they can't be beat.
I forgot to post this picture of the pieces that make up the delivery door on the back wall of Gecko's. It's simply a laminate of embossed styrene brick on a piece of 0.020 in styrene for strength. The door is cut from 0.010 in styrene and scribed.
The door assembly needs a little weathering, but at least the loading area appears well lit :-)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Night at the Gecko

It's not a model, but I'm happy with the way it turned out. It gave me a low stress way to fiddle around with micro-LED strip lights. I've used a couple of small strips on some other projects, but nothing in a big way.
I bought a 5m reel of LED strip lighting from LEDMontreal. It runs on 12v dc, and as soon as it arrived in the mail I plugged in a 12 v dc transformer to see if it lit. It did. Turns out it will also light up with a 9v battery, and the lead photo uses one to light up the strips.
To use it, you just cut off a piece from the reel to the length you need - the only proviso is that you can only cut it where it's marked - and solder on some power leads. I used some shop scissors for the cutting. The strip is coated with a rubbery, clear plastic - the strip is meant for use in under cabinet lighting in kitchens, so the coating makes it water proof - and you need to cut it away from the terminals so some power leads can be soldered on the little + and - dots that get exposed. A little careful slicing with an X-acto knife worked for me.
That clear rubbery coating might come in handy one day. I tried a little test where I used a Sharpie pen to colour the coating. It goes on smoothy and doesn't attack the plastic.
The ink doesn't make it opaque and when lit, there's a nice coloured glow. It suggests there's no need to buy coloured strips for special effects, just use a Sharpie to colour whatever strips are needed. I didn't make use of coloured strips on this project, but it's nice to know.
Here are all the strips cut and with leads soldered on. The four long ones are for the under eaves perimeter lighting, and the short one in the middle is for the lobby.
This is the underside of the roof. I used a piece of corrugated styrene to give the outer surface some texture. I built up a groove for the light strips under the eaves from plastic pieces. The strips are self-adhesive so I didn't have to worry about figuring out what sort of glue to use to hold them in place. I'm not sure if this is the best way to wire them with 4 separate leads that were eventually soldered together in parallel. I could have soldered them into one long series strip, but I thought, well, if one of my solder joints isn't so good, I could lose light in most of the strip. Time will tell.
The lobby insert is just a little box built up from pieces of sheet styrene.
The side walls were covered with brick paper, the back was painted blue to match the logo on the back wall, and carpeting is piece of grey paper. I cut an interior door into the right wall.
A record company wouldn't be complete without some gold records for the wall. These ones are built up from thin plastic. They're crude, but they'll likely only be glanced at once installed so there is no need for superdetailing. The records were made by using a paper punch on 0.010 in styrene.
And there they are glued to the left wall in the lobby. At this point the lobby is done except for lighting. 
The lobby light strip was attached to a thin piece of styrene, which was glued to those black plastic pillars that were attached to the lobby sidewalls. They hold the light panel suspended above the clear plastic ceiling.
This picture gives a better idea of how the light panel was installed in the lobby. The ceiling has an embossed block pattern to help obscure the light strip.

At this point the lobby insert was glued into place behind the front doors. The inside of the building and the outer lobby walls were painted black to help block any stray light from leaking out.
Before embarking on final assembly, Debra prepared a dinner of omelets and bisquets; cheddar cheese and chive bisquets to fortify me :-)
Turns out, the job wasn't that hard. I reinforced the roof a bit with hefty styrene strips to help keep it flat. The inside of the roof was then painted black, and a terminal strip was glued to the inside floor. The roof light leads were soldered together and to a power lead that was then connected to the terminal strip. Leads for external power were cut and then connected to the terminals.
The roof panel was attached to the walls with double-sided tape. For some reason I was paranoid about getting it stuck down properly and stacked some heavy books on the whole thing and left it to set up over night. It worked and and that is that. I'm now looking for a location for Gecko Records on my layout.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The E. L. Moore Files: Characters or People or Both?

[Flexible Freddie from my figure collection]

Along with the E. L. Moore manuscripts was this hand written list of characters that have appeared in Mr. Moore’s articles.
[A list of characters written by E. L. Moore]

Here’s the transcription,

Cousin Caleb √     Clarabel Hotel

Uncle Wilber

Mr. P. Pottle

Great grandfather, Lucifer Penroddy Snooks (photographer) √

Waldo Hoople

Cousin Rube √

Grandfather Pudzi

Uncle Peabody

Uncle Dinwoody √

Cousin Elmer (Dinwoody)

Pistachio Jr. 

Ma Spumoni √*

Cousin Leroy √

Uncle Sim

Grandpa Bunn

Len Putt

Uncle Charley Spumoni

Flexible Freddies

The Flexible Freddies likely refer to the Weston brand figure of the same name that Mr. Moore used in many of this photos. But, for the rest of the names, I’m left wondering if they are merely fictional characters, or real people from E. L. Moore’s past, maybe slightly disguised with made-up names. As well, I don’t know the significance - if any - of the checkmarks beside some of the names. Hopefully some or all of this will get cleared up as I read more papers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Package Deal

At this time of year, in the late afternoon when the sun is low on the horizon, there’s a few minutes when it beams straight through the office window and bathes everything in a warm orange glow. It was that time of day.

The scale model on my assembly board was basking in the orange. It seemed otherworldly even though it was a model of a early 20th century feed and grain mill. Albeit a complex one with a spidery roof-top network of pipes and cyclones. I leaned back in my chair and watched the light move over the model.

I’d been working on this for a week now and it was looking pretty good if I did say so myself.

The model was being made for a client and his name was Cal. Just Cal. No last name given. I didn’t care. He paid in cash so he could go by whatever name he wanted. He came into the office last week with a chewed up, hole laced, thoroughly stained manuscript and a demand for me to restore it and build what was written on its pages. He told me it was written by his cousin Earl, and if cousin Earl got back from his trip and found out what had happened to that document, well, life wouldn’t be too pleasant for Cal. Turns out Cal was lazily reading the manuscript and absentmindedly used it in an attempt to shoo away a nosey porcupine who had taken a liking to the exposed plumbing beneath Cal’s house and was gnawing away on the plastic pipes with wanton abandon.

Well porcupines don’t take kindly to shooing, and after the persuading was done, and Cal realized what he’d used for said persuading, the full horror of the situation shook him to his core. Once a semblance of calmness descended, he looked me up in the phone book and hustled over as quickly as he could. Luckily, I was in; as always.

At first I suggested that maybe Cal should look up an acupuncturist given the number and density of spiky holes in the papers. Cal didn’t get the point, so to speak, of my humour, but he was highly motivated, and agreed to my usual fee after only a little grumbling. I got to work immediately.

How I made progress is a company secret. It keeps a roof over my head and allows me a few moments like this to just sit. Unfortunately, my revere was broken by a sound from the waiting room. It was that rare music of someone coming in from the hallway and taking a seat. I brought myself back to reality and walked over to the door that connected to the waiting room. 

The waiting room was its usual self in all its beige and dusty glory, waiting for the cleaning lady who never arrived. There were three threadbare chairs lined up in a row hopefully standing at attention, a coffee table marked by clients’ cigarettes who couldn’t find the ashtray, and ten-year old travel magazines. It was like a doctor’s waiting room, but without the airborne sense of dread. Same as usual. But there was something new this time: a woman seated in the middle chair and a bread-box sized box placed in front of her on the coffee table.

She was blonde, tanned and gorgeous. A Grace Kelly type wearing a summer dress in blueprint blue with eyes to match. One glance from them could stop traffic all the way to Pismo. She sat primly with her purse in her lap and turned sharply to face me when I opened the waiting room door.

No doubt she had made a mistake and came in the wrong office. Happens all the time. Luckily I’m ready with guidance, “The modelling agency is down the hall. Last door on the left.”

She didn’t budge, but replied, “Are you Mr. Madwood?”

“My friends just call me mad.”

“Is this the office of Model Investigations?”

I checked the backwards lettering on the glass panel on the door that connects the waiting room to the hall, “Yes, it is.”

“Then I’m in the right place.”

“What can I do for you Miss…?”

She didn’t follow my lead and simply replied, “It’s about my husband.”

A beautiful woman who mentions a husband in my office usually means only one thing and can be answered just as simply, “I don’t do aircraft work. Leads to divorce.”

“It’s about this package.” She pointed to the box on the table. “A few weeks ago I gave my husband a model kit for his birthday. An expensive one that he’s wanted for some time. He started to build it on Saturday afternoon. After a few hours I heard some crashing and cursing from the garage, so I went out and saw him throwing the kit in the garbage. He stomped out and went to the bar. He didn’t explain. Just said he was sorry and wasn’t interested in it. When he was gone I took what I could find out of the trash and put it back in the box. What’s left is in there”.

“And you want me to salvage it and put it together?”


“He won’t like that.”

“I want it done,” she said firmly.

I hoped to dissuade her with my fee, “It’ll cost $100 per day plus expenses and a $500 deposit.”

She leaned forward, put her purse on the coffee table, snapped open its clasp, reached in and pulled out a thick wad of cash.

It was tough to stop from gawking as she peeled hundred dollar bills off the roll, so I glanced in the still open purse to see if the wad had a brother in there. No dice, but it wasn’t lonely, she was carrying a heater to keep it warm. Nestled in the bottom was a brand new, snub-nosed, miniature soldering gun.

I couldn’t let that pass, “That’s some serious equipment to be carrying around in that nice purse.”

“I do jewelry repairs for friends. It comes in handy in emergencies,” she said in an offhand manner as she carefully stashed the roll of bills back in her purse.

She was skilled enough for impromptu jewelry repairs, but couldn’t fix that kit. And curiously, she wasn’t wearing any jewelry of her own. No earrings. No necklace. No broach. No bracelets. And no wedding ring. Things didn’t add up. And when that’s the case, there’s only one thing left to do.

“Let’s talk in my office.”
Maybe I need to say it, April Fools :-)

Part 2 of this pulse-pounding series can be found here.