Monday, August 31, 2015

John Ahern in Canada

[The Lighthouses and Harbour Lights chapter of John Ahern's Miniature Building Construction, 1956 reprint edition published by Percival Marshall and Co.]

The lighthouse is based on my recollection of one I saw on Lake Superior in Canada;... 
John Ahern noting where the prototype of his lighthouse was located.

After finding out that George Iliffe Stokes got his artistic education in Alberta, I couldn't let it pass that John Ahern may have also made a trip to Canada - at least to Lake Superior in Ontario. I've been up there a couple of times, but never thought to take any photos of lighthouses. The last trip a few years ago was on our way to see my cousin in Thunder Bay. The light and views there are always spectacular,

Sunday, August 30, 2015

George Iliffe Stokes in Canada

[The opening spread to Malcolm Mitchell's The Scenic Art of George Iliffe Stokes,1900-1982 that appeared in the Model Railway Journal, No. 13, 1987.]

He was born to a rich business family in Birmingham in 1900 and was always considered to be the outsider, tending towards the 'arty' life. He was summarily rejected by his father, who, after many family storms, suggested that Canada was a nice place for artists and that George's Bohemian lifestyle would be more socially acceptable there!
Malcolm Mitchell tells us what lead George Stokes to study art at Banff University in Alberta during the early 20th century 

I was rummaging through the back-40 of my magazine shelves and stumbled across this issue of the Model Railway Journal - the only one I own, but for some reason remember quite clearly the day I bought it at the World's Biggest Bookstore, but had completely forgotten about this article. I was delighted to find that it features a 17 page tribute to the work of George Iliffe Stokes. Everything about the article is pleasure: outstanding models and drawings, a well written and thoughtful story, and the page layout is of a high standard not seen today. I was also surprised to learn that he got his early education in Canada, studying art at Banff University in Alberta. Apparently as well as being a master at water colour painting and line drawing, he also learned how to fly, and worked for a time as a lumberjack during those years. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The stars were bright, deep in the heart of Pasadena

Where was I ... oh .... of all the tools which a model rail has access to, I don't think enough of us give our drawing boards a real workout. They're a highly valuable "tool" when they're used. Mine, a relic of the old Manhattan Beach days, doesn't happen to be one of those expensive, adjustable table-model jobs, but just a board about 24" x 30". I set the board up wherever it happens to be handiest and find myself constantly stepping up to it during construction to work out a tricky cross-section, analyze a bit of detail, or roughly sketch some scenic problem.
George Allen expounding on the usefulness of having a drawing board nearby in part 6, The case of the "Working Drawing Board", of his series Tuxedo Junction - Saga of an HO Empire. Part 6 appeared in the March 1953 issue of Model Railroader.

One of the most fascinating buildings on the Mount Lowe Railway was the Lowe Observatory. It was one of Thaddeus Lowe’s pet projects, and was meant to be a serious astronomical research facility as well as an entertainment venue for the railway’s guests. He had a plan that he’d establish a full-fledged scientific research facility in the mountains above Pasadena, and the observatory would be the first piece. Unfortunately, that dream was never realized.

Prof Lowe arranged to have the astronomer, Dr. Lewis Swift, head the facility. Dr. Swift came out to Pasadena in the spring of 1894, construction of the observatory took place in the summer, and it opened in September. It took just a few months in 1894 to go from nothing to a functioning observatory.
[Partially completed drawing of the observatory in HO scale. At this point I couldn't decide on the roof outlines. I eventually decided to make them as simple as possible.]

To design a model, I used observatory photos, and a cross section of the telescope dome, from Charles Seims' book Mount Lowe: The Railway in the Clouds. I studied the book’s images quite closely, but in the end, my design is an approximation, and in some areas, outright guesswork. If you’re interested, you can find the source material on these pages: 70 -71, 78-79, 115, 156, and 195.

The Mount Lowe Preservation Society website states the diameter of the dome was 32 feet. The Christmas decoration I’m using to model it has an outside diameter of 31.5 N-scale feet, so it’s not a bad match. As well, I’ve made some simplifications to the plan to make construction a little easier, and I’ve added some doors and windows to walls where I’m not sure there were any. The big loading door on one end is pure conjecture on my part since I thought such a building might need a freight door for moving oversize equipment in and out. Dimensions are all guesses based on comparisons with people in the photos and the size of the dome. I’ve compressed where I could to keep the overall size under control, but still capture a likeness in the model.
[I marked the cuts for the telescope opening on the dome with strips of masking tape.]

The plan is basically a central cylinder with a dome on top, flanked by two wings. Well, the central cylinder isn’t actually a typical cylinder with a circular cross-section. I guessed from the photos it was a cylinder with a 16-sided regular polygon as a cross-section. Wikipedia tells me it’s a hexadecagon. That sounds daunting, but Wikipedia also states ancient Greek geometers knew about it, and could easily draw it with just a compass and ruler. There’s a clever animation in the post that shows how to do just that, and it is indeed easy. Just make sure your compass has a sharp lead for accurate results.

I made a drawing to try and understand the building. It’s pretty rough and was done to help figure out the shapes, dimensions, and placement of windows and doors. This could easily be done with some sort of computerized drawing software, but I have to admit that even though I understand how to use those things, I don’t develop a full understanding of an object I’m drawing unless I do it by hand.  There’s some sort of primitive wiring in my brain that only ‘gets’ stuff if I work the details out by hand, be it by drawing, note taking, trying to fit parts together, writing equations or making a model. It’s a defect in this digital age that I can’t overcome, but I figure I’ll just go with it instead of punishing myself.
[This is a 2-piece, plastic sphere I bought at Michael's a few years ago. It's meant for making your own Christmas tree decorations. I took one half and used it for the observatory dome. The slot for the telescope is a little rough at this stage - I cut it out with a razor saw and did some final shaping with files - but doors will help to hide the edges a bit.]

Although the model will be N-scale, I made the drawings in HO so I wouldn’t futz around with the small size while I was still trying to get a grip on the basics of the design. As you can see, it’s a fairly large model: around 74 scale feet long. Big for a small HO layout, not too bad for N.

There’s a busy fall on the horizon. I hope I can find some time to start building now that I’ve got a drawing and a partially completed telescope dome.

Disclaimer: I’m 99.99% sure I’m not related to Thaddeus Lowe, but as I’m interested in trams, trollies and streetcars, as well as science and lighter-than-air flight, well, I have a lot of shared interests with the Prof as well as a shared last name :-)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Union Station

Another in the series of Valentine Black postcards. This one is of Toronto's Union Station. Date of publication unknown. I'm not sure if I should use the scanner's 'un-fade' function on these postcards. So far I haven't. The image at the top is scanned without any colour correction, and the one below is 'un-faded'. It looks a little garish, but maybe I'm just conditioned to associated old images with fading.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century: Raymond Frankenberger and the E. L. Moore Style

When I started this series on E. L. Moore I'd heard of the old magazine Model Trains, but had never read any issues. I'd never even seen any except in photos on the internet. Model Trains was one of Mr. Moore’s main outlets early in his career. As I hunted up issues where his work appeared, I got hooked. There was no looking back. I was enchanted with Model Trains’ layout, calm ‘50s style, and editorial tone. Surprisingly, for a magazine ostensibly aimed at beginners in its later years, it contains a lot of advanced content, and some projects are decidedly not beginner-level, or at least not beginner-level by today’s standards. I branched out a bit and bought some issues on trolleys and traction and other topics that caught my interest. I guess I own around a third of Model Trains' output, so there is the other two-thirds I’m looking forward to reading one day.
[Centre spread from Raymond Frankenberger's Drag, Man? that appeared in the January 1957 issue of Model Trains. It's all story. No how-to. No layout tour. No nothing of the usual. Just a story with integrated photos.]

In the January 1957 issue of Model Trains I came across an unusual article by Raymond Frankenberger called Drag, Man?. It’s unusual because it’s not a how-to, or a layout tour, or a prototype discussion, or any other sort of standard article type one expects to see in a model railroading magazine. What it is, is a 3-page piece of fiction about some teenage boys who decide to drag race two steam locomotives [1]. It's just a story. Nothing more, nothing less. Think American Graffiti with trains. The action takes place on Mr. Frankenberger’s Pen Arden ND layout – ND for ‘No Diesels’ – and includes photos of some key events staged with HO scale locos and figures. This kind of article is rare, and more-or-less extinct today [2]. 

E. L. Moore wrote a quasi-historical fiction in this vein called The Centennial Celebration of the Golden Spike Laying at Promontory Point, Utah that appeared in the May 1969 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. It was about the exploits of Lucifer Penroddy Snooks, his 'great-grandfather', while he photographed the events at the transcontinental railroad’s golden spike ceremony in 1869. And as we know, Mr. Moore frequently wrapped his how-to articles in a fictional story to set the scene. Did E. L. Moore follow Raymond Frankenberger’s lead? Maybe it was vice versa? Maybe it was simply two independent writers following their own paths, or indulging in writing articles that weren’t too out-of-line for their times? I can’t say for sure, but I was curious and tried to track down more articles by Mr. Frankenberger [3].
[Introduction to New factory for the Pen Arden Road by Raymond Frankenberger, Model Trains, December 1958.]
New factory for the Pen Arden Road, in the December 1958 issue of Model Trains was one I found, and I was surprised to see how stylistically similar it was to what I think is a classic E. L. Moore article. There’s a woven-in fictional story to set the scene, the building is relatively straightforward to build from common hobby materials of the day – but, no balsa :-) - and the building is an attractive, selectively-compressed version of something one might see out in the world.
[The Diaz Contemporary Gallery in Toronto. I took the photo in July 2013]
However, unlike an E. L. Moore project, this one is modern – well, modern for the 1950’s. Mr. Frankenberger's factory reminded me of the Diaz Contemporary Gallery in Toronto where I saw some Kim Adams pieces a couple of years ago. The factory - with a twist - seemed like a good project for Tor-N-to: a side street gallery along the streetcar route housed in a repurposed light industrial building from an earlier era. So after my usual long period of waffling, one day I decided to jump in and build an N-scale version of the Mr. Frankenberger's Pen Arden factory, but using styrene instead of wood.
In the article, Mr. Frankenberger’s approach to construction reminded me of the small buildings game. In the game, the idea is to use odd parts – for example, out-of-scale windows and doors, kitchen tiles, parts from plastic car models or any other non-model structure stuff you find interesting – to make a small building that could possibly exist, but doesn’t. Mr. Frankenberger built his factory using standard Northeastern basswood pieces, not to scratch build with them, but to use as elements to glue up as is – cut to length of course – to construct a modern looking building. At the end of the article he encourages readers to take those materials and play with them to see what they can come up with [4]. I didn’t carry the small buildings game into my build. Mine’s more-or-less a standard scratch building project, but using older techniques closer to the Frankenberger and Moore era than to ours.
I started by drawing the walls in N-scale. There aren't any plans in the article, just what amount to some diagrams that show how to glue the basswood stock together combined with some rather detailed instructions in the text. The diagrams are 1/2 HO scale, which is quite close to N, so they make extrapolating N scale plans a little easier. I figured I'd lay out the wall pieces and windows directly on the plan.
Since the model in the article is made by gluing together pre-cut stock, I decided to cut standard size pieces of 0.020 inch styrene and glue them up in a similar approach as was used in the original. Some cut strips are lying on the magazine in the above photo.I used the same technique for building up the Fortran building. In retrospect, I could have just used sheet styrene and cut window openings out of the wall rectangles.
Here are the strips being laid on the plan and glued together. Liquid glue was used. Once the joints were dry some sanding was needed to clean up the joints and even out everything.
At this point all the strips had been glued up into complete walls. I started to test their fit. The floor was cut from a piece of 0.040 inch styrene sheet.
The walls were glued to the floor with styrene tube glue, which was also used to glue the walls together at the corners. Corner trim strips were cut from 0.010 in styrene, and the ledge strip that runs along the top of walls is 0.020 in x 0.020 in strip stock.
Along the upper inside edge of the walls I glued in some L-angle styrene strip for setting the roof on. The roof is also a piece of 0.020 inch sheet, but it's just set on the L-angle, not glued in place to allow for access to the interior.
This photo gives you a little better view of the roof ledge. 
The entrance was a little tricky to cut and fit. There's two walls, both with entrance doors, set at right-angles to each other. These walls are cut from 0.010 inch sheet styrene. 
Here's the front facade after the remaining trim pieces have been glued on. Strip stock of 0.020 x 0.020 inch was glued on the top and bottom of the window edges. All wall corners have been trimmed with 0.010 inch strips.
Here's the short side that abuts the entry. That's a large, unbroken window on the end.
And here's the other end. It has two separate windows. In this photo you can see a roof top thingie poking above the corner. It's half of an HO-scale roof-top blower from a set of Walther's roof details. 
Once the basic building was assembled, I used the plan to lay out the windows. I cut a piece of overhead transparency film, taped it over the plan, and traced the window frames onto the sheet with a fine-tipped Sharpie marker. In order to get the right amount of opaqueness, I lined both sides of the clear film. When done, these 'window walls' were cut free from the excess film.
Thin strips of gray construction paper were cut to frame the windows. These lay-ups form the inner walls and eventually they get glued to the inside of the building.
Here's one end wall where the paper strips have been trimmed. Now it's ready to glue to its styrene partner.
Before gluing the interior walls, the building was painted. In retrospect, the colour is a bit too intense, and will need some pastel powders to weather it a bit and take the edge off. In its current state, consider it a new coat of paint on an old building that wants to make a strong impression on passers-by :-)
The inside surface of the roof has an LED light strip cut from the reel I bought for Gecko Records. All I had to do was solder on a pair of leads and it was ready for installation.
The LED strip has an adhesive strip on the back, so just peel off the protective paper and press the lights to the roof interior to attach.I glued styrene U-section strips to either side to block a little of the light from coming out the front and back windows.
A hole was drilled in the floor for the light's wires to pass through.
A short section of styrene tube was glued over the hole so that the wires are hidden from view.
You can put 12v DC across the LEDs, but even with a 9v battery, the LEDs give off a good light.
Next was to fit out the interior. The paintings were cut from damaged old postage stamps. Two examples are shown above glued to a cardboard backing - the same gray card that was used to panel the inside walls.
That long painting is a cutting from a catalog photo. Those cylinders are fittings for making bolo ties - they have just the right size.
With the roof on and the lights lit, it doesn't look too bad. Well, I don't know if I'd want to stare down a cat that big :-)
One of the last things was to install the gallery initials over the entrance area. Mr. Frankenberger cut the sign letters for his model from HO-scale ladder stock, so I decided to do the same.
And that's about it construction-wise.
All that was left to do was print off some signs and glue them on near the entrance.
Some toning down on the colour is in order once it takes up residence on Tor-N-to, but there'll be no ignoring it once it's in place :-)

[1] I thought Mr. Frankenberger's locomotive drag racing story was completely fictional, but it turns out at one time drag racing model locomotives was a thing. Louis Hertz tells the tale in his book, The Complete Book of Model Raceways and Roadways,
[A 5 lane train drag racing setup from pg. 217 of The Complete Book of Model Raceways and Roadways.]

Model train racing was regarded solely as a historical curiosity, a forerunner of slot racing, when the first edition of this book was published [JDL: the first edition was published in 1964]. Today, however, to the surprise of some, model train racing has appeared as an active hobby once again, and the races run under the sponsorship of the Toy Train Operating Society, a national organization but founded and with its chief base of operation on the west coast, have attracted considerable interest. Somewhat curiously, present-day train racing has not followed its former pattern of racing two trains on identical continuous layout, but instead has developed in the form of racing on parallel straight tracks, much akin to automobile drag racing. However, whereas in automobile drag racing only two lanes are ever used, the model train racing usually makes use of from three to five parallel tracks. Train racing is customarily done only with locomotives, or, occasionally, with very short trains. In many cases obsolete locomotives, with the motors repaired, cleaned, and tuned up for the purpose are used; in some instances modern train equipment is raced.
Louis H. Hertz, pg. 217-218, The Complete Book of Model Raceways and Roadways, revised edition, Crown Publishers, 1967.

[2] Writing a fictional background history for a layout isn’t new or unusual, but a layout fiction that's more like a short story that includes characters with speaking parts is. I can’t say the past was rife with this sort of thing because I haven’t seen a lot of examples, but what little there was seems to be all but gone in our more pragmatic, just-the-facts-ma’am age. Maybe it was common in earlier ages; maybe what we see in earlier model railroading literature was inspired by stories in the old Railroad pulp magazine; maybe it was simply a quirk of a few eccentric writers and nothing more.
[That's a Raymond Frankenberger photo on the cover of the March 1959 issue of Model Trains]
E. L. Moore appears to be the one writer who’s used this device the most, but even with him, not all of his writings make use of novelization. Raymond Frankenberger appears to have dabbled in it, and his Drag, Man ? is one of the best examples of the genre. I was surprised that even the editor of Model Trains noted on Mr. Frankenberger’s March 1959 cover photo that he had a special talent in that area,

He  also delights in writing fantasies such as this: "It wasn't until after he took the pic that our enterprising photog got the shakes. He slipped as he jumped from the path of the onrushing monsters, and aged considerably as he lay in the ditch while hundreds of wheels ground ominously on the rails within arm's reach."
Willard Anderson notes the tale that Raymond Frankenberger wrote to explain his cover photo on the March 1959 issue of Model Trains
The April 1980 issue of Railroad Modeler had an article in this genre called Big Tujunga's Secret Project. A humourous piece clearly targeted for the traditional April Fool’s serving often seen in various forms in old model railroad magazines.

Joseph Wilhelm used novelization in his Buffalo River and Empire layout tour series that appeared in Model Trains. The March 1954 instalment is a good example.

I haven’t seen other examples, but I still have a lot of good reading ahead of me, so I’m hoping there are further surprises to be found.

[3] Here's a list of Raymond Frankenberger publications I've found so far.

This Could be Verse
A letter to the editor instructing the readership in how to build a custom locomotive using a 6 line poem (!) and a photo in Model Railroader, August 1956.

Trixie the Trollop from the Thames (Custom-build a kit locomotive)
Model Trains, December 1956

Drag, Man?
Model Trains, January 1957

How to make a diner out of a combine
Model Trains, February 1957

Freelanced Pacifics on the Pen Arden Railroad
Railroad Model Craftsman, February 1957

Photo of an area of Raymond Frankenberger's layout
Stop, look and listen section of Model Trains, Fall 1957
(note, there's also an E. L. Moore photo in this section of the village of Eagleroost on his Eagleroost and Koontree RR)

New Factory for the Pen Arden Road
Model Trains, December 1958

Photo of an area of Raymond Frankenberger's layout
Stop, look and listen section of Model Trains, January 1958
(note, there's also an E. L. Moore photo in this section of his Eagleroost and Koontree RR)

Cover photo
Model Trains, March 1959

Become a Knight of the Train Table
Model Trains, September 1959.
(note, E. L. Moore's The light fantastic article - about building a low cost light fixture for your layout that can simulate both day and night - also appears in this issue)

[4] I stumbled across this photo of a light industrial area on Mr. Frankenberger's layout in Model Trains.

[This picture of a section of Raymond Frankenberger's layout appeared in the Stop, look and listen section of Model Trains {JDL: I've misplaced the issue this photo appeared in, so I'll update the post with date information when I find it}. I've added the arrow in the upper right to indicate what looks like the factory from the New Factory for the Pen Arden Road article. The other factories are in a similar style, and the photo suggests Mr.Frankenberger did a lot of scratchbuilding to produce this light industrial area. Like E. L. Moore photos, this one is carefully staged, lit, and includes a background mural that seamlessly integrates into the foreground scene.]

The editor points out the large number of automobiles in the parking lots. And it's true, the lots are full, as they would be on a typical workday. That's a notable slice of realism in this scene, but the thing that struck me is that he got the spacing of the buildings, parking lots, rail sidings and roads right. Although the buildings have a selective compression feel, the elements in the scene aren't all squished together. The balance and proportions of the overall scene is right. There's even more open field in the centre for further expansion.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Streetcars on Bay Street

[View of Bay Street Looking North Showing City Hall; Toronto, Ontario]

Vince sent me this link and pointed out that old postcards published by the Valentine family of companies in the early 20th century, like the two in the Streetcar to Sunnyside post, could be rare, and posting images of those I have might be of some historical interest. In this one you can see the roofs of a couple TTC streetcars, but they are dwarfed by the buildings along Bay street. Date of publication is unknown.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Streetcar to Sunnyside

"Sunnyside", Toronto, Canada

Sunnyside was an amusement park in Toronto that operated from 1922 to 1955. You can read about its history at this Wikipedia post. I don't know the date of these two postcards, but Wikipedia states that the Bathing Pavilion - that red-roofed building to the left of centre - opened in June 1922, so I assume these cards were published sometime after that date.

[Both postcards were published by Valentine-Black, Co. Ltd of Toronto]

The second postcard shows that the Bathing Pavilion was an impressive structure, and would make for an excellent destination on a model streetcar layout.

Bathing Pavilion at Sunnyside Beach, Toronto, Ont.