Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cal starts a nightshift

News of the latest 2016 health fad scrolled onto Cal’s screen a few weeks ago: sauerkraut juice is the all-natural elixir for everything that could ail a body. Worldwide demand is projected to soar.
That’s Ray and Bob taking a little break between juicer loads. The main vat is only half full and there’s still a carload of cabbage to go before dawn. Happy New Year and may your cabbage harvest be plentiful! 

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The 1900 era short line terminal project gets accepted

In the last letter, dated 11 February 1965, E. L. Moore pitched the 1900 era shortline terminal project to Bill Rau at Model Railroader. In that letter Mr. Moore thought the editors would provide suggestions during development he’d have to consider; however, I haven’t seen any correspondence on that. The next letter was Mr. Moore’s submission of the project on 4 May 1965

May 4th, 1965

Bill Rau, Associate Editor
Model Railroader,
1027 N. 7th St.,
Milwaukee 3, Wis.

Hi ya . . . . 

Mess of stuff here, but the yard inevitably follows the enginehouse, so here it all is. Take it up with Mr. ZIP and see what he thinks about it. He’ll probably say “takes too damned much space even cutting to half size HO.”

Anyway it’s kept me out of mischief these past few months and if you can’t use it, why I can still probably peddle it.

Cordially . . .

signed E. L. Moore

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

Along with that cover letter were the manuscripts for Brick Enginehouse (March ’67, Model Railroader) and Turn backward, O Time (January ’67, Model Railroader). It didn’t take long for them to be accepted. Model Railroader paid E. L. Moore $80 for both, but a handwritten note at the top of the acceptance letter says, “(I still think I ougtha got at at least a hundred bucks for these two articles signed ELM)”.

May 10, 1965

Mr. E. L. Moore
525 Oakland Ave., Apt 3
Charlotte 4
North Carolina

Hi, E. L. . . . 

Frankly, I don’t know anybody who can really capture the flavor of a leisurely and casual short line operation the way you do; and since I personally am a short line buff, it sort of makes me a sitting duck for articles like those last two you sent us. I can no more resist them than I could resist a beautiful fact, I could resist the beautiful gal much easier because -1: raunchy short lines are hard to find, while beautiful (blondes - what is it about those Swedes ?) are a dime a dozen, at least in Milwaukee; and -2: my wife would clobber me but good if I cast sheep’s eyes at a blonde, but she doesn’t seem to mind locomotives and such.

All of which leads up to the fact that here is a check for 80 bucks for the two stories.

We plan to add the dimensions to the plans in the “Yard” story. And for your information, that ash hoist is modeled after one used by old Buffalo & Susquehanna, now B&O, at Galeton, Pa. Fred Pearce of Buffalo described it with a rough sketch back in September ’53, if you’re wondering where you got the idea. And the building plan you can’t recall appeared on the old HO MONTHLY - MODEL TRAINS before Kalpubco took it over, so we’re safe on using it.

I also intend to try and get Linn to use the enginehouse story as is. He prefers a factual approach; I think the story type thing you did here, which is similar to George Allen’s Tuxedo Junction series approach, may appeal to readers. However, Linn’s is the final decision, so don’t be surprised if we edit the “story” line considerably.

But personally, I like the wood enginehouse you did for one of the last MODEL TRAINS better than this brick ‘un. I still have those plans and I’m gonna build that wooden job when I finally get a place I can build me a pike all mine own.

I had thought of asking the landlord for part of the apartment cellar, but it’s all open --  and one family is moving out and the one moving in has a 12-year old boy. Need I say more?

And incidentally, I just reversed this sheet because I’m a thrifty Dutchman and can’t see using a separate sheet to finish this letter.


signed Bill Rau

Bill Rau

In a follow-up letter E. L. Moore notes that Bill was mistaken about who wrote the wood enginehouse article.

And it turns out the story the Brick Enginehouse article was built around was kept; however, editing was done: a middle section was deleted, a lot of condensing was done, and 'rough edges' were smoothed out. 

Mr. Rau was right that the original storyline had overtones of a chapter from George Allen and Ernie Huebner’s Tuxedo Junction series that began in the October ’52 issue of Model Railroader. The edited version put it squarely in that vein. Linn Westcott himself made an appearance in part 5 of Tuxedo Junction, and John Page at one time noted the series was one of Model Railroader’s most successful, so maybe there was some nostalgia mixed with canny business sense that kept the Brick Enginehouse article more or less intact. 

Although smoothing the story maintained the family friendly readability of the magazine, and economized on the article’s page count, something of E. L. Moore’s style was left out. So, to get a better sense of E. L. Moore's writing and story-telling skills, here are the unedited story segments from the original manuscript, edges and all.

-- The Challenge --

My friend Andy Powers came busting in one evening and slapped down a couple of photographs he’d filched from some of his old railroad magazines.

“There!” he says, “There’s that enginehouse you’ve been sobbing about.”

At first glance all I could see was an 4-4-0 steamed up ready to gallivant. Then, in the background I noticed a conglomeration of architecture from which I pieced a partial view of an enginehouse roof. Andy shoved the other picture over. Here, half blocked by a mogul, was shown an ample view of the front of what was apparently the same enginehouse. The caption on one said the photograph was taken in 1901.

“What you think, E. L. ?” he asks, hovering over me like a broody hen.

“I think you’ve got something,” I says in a rare burst of enthusiasm, only wishing they’d parked those iron horses somewhere else so’s I could have had an unobstructed view of the buildings. As if in answer to my thought Andy whipped out a sheet on which he’d made a couple of sketches, a front and a side elevation. I whistled my surprise.

“What you need m’boy, is a good researcher. That and a bit of imagination for seasoning equals this. Take it or leave it.

I took it. It was almost too good to be true. For months I’d been searching for something different in an enginehouse, and although I hadn’t known exactly what I was looking for I was certain this was it. Andy, who is an old steam fan with stacks of old railroad magazines, has installed himself as a sort of armchair model railroader and critic. Once he gets his old pipe stoked up he is generous with advice and suggestions but I’ve never been able to get him to lend a hand in any way of my various projects. He’d rather tinker with his muzzle loading guns, which is fine with me because I like ‘em too. So we have many a bull session with no infringement from the female of the species.

--- Door hanging goes slow ---

During my door hanging festival Andy commented: “I could’ve hung all six on the prototype in the time it took you to hang two of these itty-bitty things.” But think of the fun I had. I piddled half a day, hung two doors, knocked off and put the coffee pot on, read part of two books, rested two days and was then ready to meet the challenge of the other four doors.

--- Wall trouble --

That pretty well reviews the interior and when you have it done to your satisfaction, you can cement the left wall in place, You might take a moment to see that you have it right side up. It was just at this point, while I was giving thought to making windows that Andy came in. He looked over the assembled structure and I figured he was lost in admiration as he turned it this way and that. Finally he grunted a bit and reached for my HO ruler and did some measuring.

“Mm-m-m-m,” he muses, an evil grin lighting his face. “Nice going.” He then spent a good five minutes filling his fat pipe with kindling, rubber bands and slag, then reached for the enginehouse plans.

“It says here,” he began, looking at some marginal notes I’d made, “ ‘all windows are to be four feet from bottom edge’ .” He looked up with an amused twinkle in his eye. A sense of impending disaster smote me. I looked. Right wing OK. I look at the other side and let out a groan. I’d done it again. Seldom do I get through a project without the gremlins causing at least one goof, but I’m usually able to cover up my mistakes. But here, lard my britches if I hadn’t put the left wall on upsidedown!

After the first staccato burst of brimstone I managed a wry grin and decided to be philosophical about the whole thing. What’s done is done, split milk over the dam and all that. But to think I’d even installed the workbench, window height, without noticing. And made another measurement.

“Looks as though those workmen will have to stand on tippy-toe,” he chuckled, noting the five foot height. Well, after all what’s an upsidedown wall -- famous builders have probably topped that. Not likely to be noticed. And from here on out I could dismiss thoughts of gremlins, having made my one big goof.

--- Cupola(s) and Ivy and Beauty Queens --

Now for the cupola. Or rather, the two cupolas. You may find it disturbing to see one photograph with one cupola while the others have two. It disturbed me, too. I’d built the roof and had carefully placed one in the middle. I’d also finished the pen and ink drawings, the photographs on location, and was well into the construction details of the article when Andy ambled in. He examined the enginehouse with its upsidedown wall, all roofed and finished now . . . then he looked at the photographs. I sat there like a dog with his tail wagging, waiting for approval.

“Very nice,” he says, but with a trace of hesitance. “You wouldn’t mind a bit of belated suggestion, now would you?”

“Heck no, man, I thrive on that stuff,” says I, but not so friendly now.

“Well,” he says, stoking up that infernal pipe, “I really hate to mention it at this late date, and of course it’s just one man’s opinion, but . . . . “

“Can the chatter, man, and spill your grievance.”

“It’s just an idea, but I was thinking that a cupola at each end would maybe make it look -- er -- more substantial.”

I glared, speechless for a moment. “Well by golly that’s the way you suggested it in the first place -- one cupola -- and that’s the way I made the drawings, and that’s the way I photographed it -- and that’s the way it’s going to be,” I says with some heat and a lot of finality.

“Now don’t go busting your buttons,” Andy protested. “No need of changing everything. Just for your own use, maybe. And there’s one other little thing. That upsidedown wall looks sorta plain and newish, as though it hasn’t been lived in much, and I take it it’s supposed to have been there ten or fifteen years.”

“Cripes man, maybe it’s been well taken care of.”

“Now my thought was,” he went on, dragging at his pipe, “if that was an ivy covered wall it wouldn’t look so bad.”

I gave one look at his shinny pate and says, “Maybe the ivy has died from lack of nourishment. Anyway, you think I’ve nothing to do but make changes?”

“Well,” says Andy soothingly, “to rephrase that old one about the farmer feeding his hogs, ‘what’s time to a man of your leisure?’ “.

He let the matter drop there, but he’d planted a seed of discontent and it grew overnight like Jack’s beanstalk. I was thinking about it that night when I dropped off to sleep and then darned if I didn’t dream I was watching a beauty contest and all those shapely gals wearing bathing suits came prancing out, each with a cupola on her head. All but the winner. She had on two cupolas, and her walls were decked with ivy -- or maybe it was fig leaves.

I sometimes wonder if E. L. Moore had had a layout building partner who was as skilled in layout design and construction as Mr. Moore was in small buildings and writing, who also had access to a large basement or garage, along with some ready cash of course, if together they would have built a layout, and written a series, that would have been on par with George and Ernie, or John Allen. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Scarboro Square Beauty, Move-In Ready

Deoralow Mk II: 32 ft by 20 ft -- built ’67 -- 2 bdrm, 1 bath, kitchen/dining/parlour -- built-in Food-o-Mat -- 2-level finished basement with laundry, workshop & rumpus room -- new reactor ’72 -- parking for 2 -- snow auto-melt system -- jetpack docking with plug-in charger -- walk to schools, grocery, churches, streetcars, theatre -- amuse the kids with vintage ’54 robo-gardener -- priced to sell at $56,998 -- CDN Faux Realty # 416-HAHAHA-EH

Rowland Emett's Afternoon Tea-Train to Wisteria Halt

A a couple of weeks ago Debra and I visited the Ontario Science Centre while we were in Toronto to see their exhibit of Rowland Emett machines. The OSC puts their collection on display every year at Christmastime, and while we were in town I wanted to make sure I saw it. I hadn't been to the OCS since the late '70s, so it was something of a homecoming.
They have a large collection and it was on display in the Great Hall. We arrived early on a Saturday morning soon after opening, so crowds were still thin. That airplane in the first photo I seem to remember from the '70s, but the other machines were new to me...
... especially the train.
The sign accompanying The Afternoon Tea-Train to Wisteria Halt had this to say,

Designed and constructed by Rowland Emett, this well-loved train is hauled by Nellie, the senior engine of the line, which embodies all that is most pleasing in locomotive practice.
Light milking in this section is here seen taking place for the benefit of the afternoon tea First Service, and it should be made absolutely clear that the semi-permanent cow bears no malice towards First-Class passengers, but absent-mindedly chews their ostrich feathers through sheer boredom.

Some of E. L. Moore's earliest work was an homage to Rowland Emett's trains, so I was glad to see one 'up-close-and-personal' even though it wasn't one he modelled. 

Debra's excellent investigative skills eventually connected me with the OSC's Director of Science Content and Design, and she noted that although Mr. Emett made copies of a number of his machines - much like E. L. Moore often made duplicates of a number of his models - but the Tea-Train is the only one ever made. I should note that it's in excellent condition and runs flawlessly.

The OSC's website notes that the Emett machines are on display until 3 January, so if you're in Toronto, I highly recommend you go see them.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

E. L. Moore pitches the 1900 Shortline Engine Facility

I’m of the opinion that E. L. Moore’s 1900 shortline terminal yard, that appeared as Turn backward, O Time in the January 1967 issue of Model Railroader is his masterwork as far as the published articles are concerned. In this letter to Bill Rau, an editor at Model Railroader, Mr. Moore pitches the idea.

February 11, 1965

Dear Bill ...

It’s days like this that makes one want to go fishing ... or to sleep. Anything but work. Shirt sleeve weather and rolled sleeves at that. And walking works up a bit of a sweat. And since I’ve walked and napped and eaten and have no desire to read and work still is repulsive to think of ... why what better than to write you.

Fact is, I’ve just about finished an engine house ... brick construction, a little different, something like this:
Turn of century stuff, detailed inside, boiler room, machine shop, supply room and office. Probably 3000 words would cover, photograph of separate parts before assembly, and inside shot of joint and an outside shot of location. But that’s only the main hub. I have an idea something like Model Railroader visits a railroad yard. I have on hand a water tank, coal loader, sand house (brick) ash hoist and section shanty plus a few other items and I’m gonna build a (oh yes, turntable) a yard, not one of these modern efficient ones but a straggly one, line up to the turntable with the engine house just beyond, a line to the right and one to the left with these various facilities located. An over all shot and then close ups of the various facilities, short descriptions where needed as for instance brick sandhouse, refer back to Mar ’61 Model Trains on Coaling up, cinder pit like that shown sometime back in M R R and ash hoist similar to coal loader .... a yard that has seen better days but is still struggling. Probably take 5000 words in all and maybe a dozen photographs and some drawings most of which could be reduced to half HO as the engine shed would need be as it is 47 x 70 over all.

It’ll take me a couple of months, maybe three, but what’s time to a hog. Thought if you were interested you might want to take it up with Linn and then of course you’d have suggestions -- ugh!

Old Kalmbach finally hit again. News sent a reporter out .. this is at least the 4th feature article and what they hell good are they? Yeah, I get a fan letter from a widow ... I need a widow like I need a TV. Anyway I sent the old boy his clipping and he’s happy I suppose.

Happy Valentine to you-alls.

signed E. L. Moore
E. L. Moore
525 Oakland Ave.

The last paragraph hints that Al Kalmbach, publisher of Model Railroader, arranged for a newspaper in Charlotte to do a story on E. L. Moore. One that eventually got printed since Mr. Moore could mail back a clipping. Fourth feature article? Was he some sort of notable local character? 

I love a mystery so I tried an internet search to see what Charlotte newspaper archives were online. I wasn't successful, but I did find this ad in the 16 March 1939 issue of The Beaufort News at the North Carolina Newspapers digital collection.
Beaufort is a town in Carteret County, North Carolina. E. L. Moore would have been 41 at the time and I think was then living in North Carolina. Was he a tax collector in Beaufort? I have no idea, but that is a curious ad. I can see some more research on the horizon :-)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Andy replies; Hal inspires; E. L. proposes

This’ll be the last post until sometime after Christmas. I’d like to thank everyone who’s stopped by 30 Squares, and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. 2015 has been a big year at 30 Squares and there’ve been many exciting developments on the E. L. Moore legacy trail. At this time last year I was planning to wrap up the series, but with encouragement from Debra, and not to mention her excellent detective work, combined with clues and comments from readers, a lot of fascinating finds were made – and all the interesting discussions that resulted in the comments. None of this would have happened without the generosity and kindness of many individuals. I’m looking forward to what 2016 might have in store.

To the letters.

Here’s Mr. Anderson’s reply to E. L. Moore’s long letter of 3 December 1965.

December 7, 1965

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

Thanks for the interesting letter. It reads just like something out of an E. L. Moore construction story -- and you know how well I like them! How many was it I had on hand when MODEL TRAINS was abandoned? I really don’t know, but MODEL RAILROADER’s manuscript budget gained when I turned over the leftovers to Linn.

You make retirement sound so good, I’m going to hate to keep on working right up to when I die.  Well, maybe something will turn up so’s I can try when the time comes a few years hence.

I know Bill Rau will get a bang out of your letter, so I’m going to pass it around the corner.

Thanks for the Christmas wishes, and I hope you have a merry one yourself.


signed Andy

Willard V. Anderson,
Managing Editor

At the same time E. L. Moore was writing to Andy Anderson, he received an ‘inspirational’ letter from Hal Carsterns at Railroad Model Craftsman. It also kicks off a brief, but interesting, exchange on atmosphere and detail. I believe the ‘Ellison’ mentioned in the letter is model railroading pioneer, Frank Ellison.

Dec. 2, 1965

Mr. E. L. Moore
525 Oakland Street
Charlotte, North Carolina

Hi Colonel ...

Cleaning up the desk and found a Moore mss and I didn’t know I had so am shoving it into Feb. RMC. Its the Norfolk Southern something-or-other.

Thinking about new projects, seems to me as how you should broaden your spectrum. Like the old brick packing houses down by the depot in many larger cities, or the  wharf and pier, complete with railroad tracks, along the waterfront. And a Tugboat named Annie [Wharf an’ Annie!]. Or some kinda old mill or factory in which the car rolls under or into the building. Ellison captured the feel of many of these older buildings to perfection and while Ellison was good, I feel he could be muchly improved upon without becoming technical. After all, his stuff was banged out around 1940 and there have been many improvements since. His stuff, incidently, looked good in the overall but by the piece was pretty crude. Which may be a very profound observation. Have many models become too good, models too precise, modelers too critical.

Another idea would be for some kinda old time coaling tower of wood construction. Hard to beat Alexander though with their FM tower of wood. Its dandy....And I don’t think anybody has ever come up with a practical HO rotating type bridge or an HO lift bridge. I just picked up a 1914 vintage Marklin swivel bridge, clockwork no less, for No. 2 gauge.

Hope I have inspired you to greater things. Work hard. Model railroading is fun, more or less.


signed Hal

H H Carsterns

PS: Or maybe a “ZULU” car, if you remember your Railroad Magazine.

E. L. Moore took Hal Carsterns’ letter to heart, outlined what he was going to deliver in the weeks ahead, and added some thoughts on atmosphere and detail.

December 5, 1965

H. H. Carsterns, Editor
Ramsey, N. J.

Hi ya Major ....

Yup, guess I sort of got in a rut with small stuff.

I think I know just about what you’d like, atmosphere and all. What do you think of these?

        Meat Packing Plant
        Fertilizer Plant
        Livestock Auction Building

And I’ll look up a zulu car --  have a remembrance of seeing some illustrated.

I figured there had been a surfeit of coaling towers. Always wondered how some of these fellas, John Allen for instance, workssup so much detail and still operate a big layout. Never saw anything but pics of Ellison’s but they had a feeling and atmosphere that belonged. But today’s modelers are a breed apart. I wouldn’t even think of building that damed caboose -- some gazook is going to come along and spend six months just striving for perfection down to the last gnat’s eyebrows.

Guess I have to send in my sorghum mill, though. And sometime, my old cider mill, for a change of pace.

Thanks for the ideas. Keeps me from (whoa!) chasing wimmen, and at my age they set too fast a pace.

your eye

signed E. L. Moore

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

Sunday, December 6, 2015

E. L. Moore's "Great Handcar Get Away"

From the old handcar or section shed evolved the garage that housed the jalopy of later days. The garage has given way to the carport, but the old section house continues in much the same form as it was fifty years ago. The handcar of those days served a multitude of purposes aside from its regular workaday routine. I've always vividly remembered the story told in our family about the time the handcar was used as the getaway vehicle by masked robbers who held up my father in the middle of the night at gunpoint and forced him to open the nearby section shed and the following day the abandoned handcar was found a dozen miles down the line.

That story was the opening paragraph to E. L. Moore's manuscript called, Housing Your Handcar, that was submitted to Model Railroader on 22 August 1963. A somewhat edited version appeared in Handcar and its shed without the above story in the February 1964 issue. I built the handcar shed a couple of years ago in one of the first posts in the E. L. Moore in the 21st century series.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

HOJPOJ Reno: Paintin', Documentin' and Fencin'

No theme to the work going on in this post. Just a few odds-and-ends I felt like doin'.
The back of the modules unit is raw balsa, and Mr. Moore only painted a little bit in the upper left corner. If you view the HOJPOJ from the brick factory side, you can see a lot of that raw, unpainted stuff peaking above the roof line. He was tricky and staged his article photos so none of that was visible. In this reno you'll be able to see all sides, so I decided to paint the visible part.
I used a slightly darker shade of grey to make mine distinguishable from E. L. Moore's, and I didn't paint over his work.
As well as decorating the top side of the diorama, I thought I'd detail the other side with scans of the HOJPOJ's article pages.
They're printed on good quality photo paper and glued on along with a couple of labels noting the build's name, that it's an E. L. Moore model, and when it appeared in Railroad Model Craftsman
The article's instructions for making the fence are pretty basic,

The fence is made of ordinary galvanized screening 6' high, with 7' posts set 13' apart.

but, along with the photos it was fairly straightforward to figure out how to put it together. Luckily I had a leftover piece of screen mesh in the garden shed that still had a couple of factory finished edges. Mr. Moore used mesh strips pieces where the finished edge formed the upper edge of the fence.
I drew a 6 foot strip across a paper sheet, taped a yardstick to the outer side of one line, and then taped a piece of mesh - finished edge against the yardstick - to the yardstick. I then used a Sharpie pen to the trace the lower edge of the fence on the mesh using the 6 foot line on the paper as a guide.
Utility shears were used to cut the mesh, giving me a 6 foot wide strip of fencing. 
I cut another strip from a second piece of mesh so I'd have enough for the entire fence and gates.
The 7 foot posts are cut from balsa strip using a Chopper to make the job go faster. Before chopping, I stained with balsa strip stock with some thinned Tamiya acrylic paint XF-84 Dark Iron. When the fencing was completely installed on the base, the fence post tops were stained a bit more. I also did a little general touch-up. 
The fencing was cut to the desired lengths, taped to the paper guide and the fence posts were glued on at 12 foot intervals - a little closer than Mr. Moore's specification, but 12 foot fit my diorama base better.
Here's all the fence ready to be glued to the diorama.
I installed the long fence first - it's 120 HO scale feet long - and propped up the two other pieces to check alignment. Some thick super-glue was dabbed on the fence post bottoms and an old T-square was used to keep the fence straight while I stretched the mesh a bit and held the posts to the ground. This operation was a bit tricky, but it worked in the end.
Once all the fence was super-glued in place, I did a little scenic touch-up around the fence post bottoms to help make it appear the posts went into the ground instead of resting on top. Some white glue was dabbed next to the posts and some extra ground was sprinkled on. In the end, it didn't look too bad. Some grass is going to be added in the next step to make things look a little more summery. I don't completely know what the original looked like, but I thought I'd wing it, as if it rained in this model world, all the exposed dirt would turn to mud :-)

Thursday, December 3, 2015

An E. L. Moore letter from 50 years ago today

During the course of the year I’ve had the great pleasure of communicating with a gentleman who has a number of E.L. Moore's letters and manuscripts. He is generously allowing me to read and scan them. That’s going to keep me occupied well into 2016, but as I was reading through some of the material recently I was struck by this letter from 50 years ago to the day. It’s to Willard (Andy) Anderson who was a longtime editor of Model Trains and was then on staff at Model Railroader. It’s the best statement I’ve seen so far from E. L. Moore himself about his life and philosophy while he was in what, in retrospect, was one of the most prolific and creative periods of his model railroading career - and he was 67 at the time. If you can handle some rather tame ribald humour, politically incorrect asides, and ancient office politics on the side, I highly recommend reading this enlightening letter.

The 3rd day December
Year of 1965

Willard V. Anderson
Managing Editor
Model Railroader

Well sir . . . . . .

It’s happy I am to have an excuse to write my favorite editor. Ex-editor, that is. When Model Trains died, something very needful passed out. But there’s no need to flog an ailing horse -- if it doesn’t pull the load it should, shoot it.

That little book, Bridges and Buildings, is well gotten up, nice to look at, and a handy reference manual to have. Thanks a lot for sending me a copy. Nice to be selected to aospot [sic] in it.

Since retiring a couple of years ago I’ve been living the life you dream about -- if you dream my dreams. No travel, but what the hell, I’ve been to most of the places I’ve wanted to see, and how much nicer to sit in bed with a book and travel with the author and yet suffer none of the discomforts -- no insect bites, no rushing about, no tipping problems, no hunger -- should the author tempt me with ravishing dishes I merely get up, travel to the kitchen, and concoct something maybe less delectable but as thoroughly satisfying. No idiot box to annoy me -- nor its counterpart, a wife. No car to worry me, nor again no licenses, no taxes, no repairs. I wouldn’t have the damned telephone (which I consider nuisance number one) except for my teen aged daughter who likes to call me occasionally, and who needs a phone like all teenagers, when she visits me. I’m like the Englishman -- I’d a heap ruther write a letter than to telephone, even locally. I think, sometimes if I only had a little place in the country where I wouldn’t be jammed up against neighbors -- but then again I’ve grown soft and this pushbutton heat and all the other comforts have rotted my core.

I take a great delight in putting off things until tomorrow or a couple of days after that ... but I find they all eventually get done. I pity the poor damned writer who says he can’t wait for “inspiration” but has to dog it regular hours every day. Me, I just write what I damned please and when I damned please and that’s the way I like it. Occasionally I even get up as early as seven o’clock. This morning it was nearly ten. I like to read until one or two and maybe later. And ... occasionally I start building something and the time slips by and it’s midnight. Between reading, modeling, and walking, I manage somehow to find a livable life.

But you just hang on -- one day you’ll reach that good old ripe age, where if you don’t have dropsy, hay-fever, fallen arches or a nagging old wife, you too can be happy. Some folks just can’t slow down enough to enjoy retirement. I read somewhere, years ago, that every man should, at some time in his life, have ten years in which he lives as he would like to live. I’ve had something over that quota and it’s still going smoothly.

Now I imagine if Mr. Zip ever retires he’s going to be a miserable lost soul. Or isn’t that what you call Linn? Now my friend Bill Rau will make it OK . . .  almost looks as though his grind there is putting some gray hairs in his head. Give him a dig for me.

Again this fall I decided maybe I’d get rid of that 4x6 Elizabeth Valley. I turn on the lights, pull back the dusty plastic cover, then for no good reason at all clean up the tracks and give her a try. Once a year, I do this. Nostalgia gets me, and I decide not to bother to sell it. But out in another room I’ve got a railroad yard about the same size which served as a basis for an article and photographs Linn accepted last spring -- and I don’t need two railroads, neither of them operating in the strict sense, because I’m not much interested in operations. I merely like to build and photograph the results, then I’m through, except maybe to write an article about it. I have a little cat trouble now and then but I’ve pretty well taught ‘em (my two black ones) that there are two places out of bounds. My eating table and the railroads. I thought my closet was out of bounds too, but I find I have four jet black little babes there -- going to be just the right age when my daughter comes at Christmas, about six weeks, and she’ll be thrilled.

Cold up thar? Just nicey-nice here, no cold yet. Reading, the other day about Vermonters. Fella said they didn’t have no regular bath nights like on a Saturday night. Said a lot of them never bathed at all in the winter. Told of one old fella who lived alone -- cold weather come he’d let his chickens come in and roost in the living room. But he had a certain sense of neatness. Bedtime come he would always turn around those who roost on the back of the sofa in which he bedded down, so they faced front, tails to the wall.

Just one more and we’ll be at the bottom of the page. “Farmer reported to his village pastor that he had lost a heifer, and would he make a note of it at sunday’s meeting. After Sunday’s sermon the minister first announced that Sister Smith was soon to be married and it would be nice to arrange a party in her honor. The old farmer was somewhat deaf and thought the parson was talking about his lost cow. So he rose and said, ‘And you might tell ‘em she has three teats and a black spot on her belly, too’ “

That about cleans up everything .... And so,

A MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU and all your illegitimates.

signed E. L. Moore

Frankly, based on other rather thoughtful letters between Mr. Moore and Mr. Westcott, I don’t think it was Mr. Westcott himself that Mr. Moore was poking fun at, but with the personality traits and work habits needed to successfully run a national magazine. Yeah, it’s a magazine about model railroads, but it’s still a business. It has to increase readership, woo advertisers and make a profit. Those things aren’t too compatible with an easy going attitude and a life outside the mainstream. Although, E. L. Moore’s lifestyle and approach produced a fascinating body of work. I speculate that Mr. Moore might have liked to have seen some sort of Model Trains variant out there that spanned skill levels, had a focus on straight ahead modelling, writing, stories, and photographs instead of technology, reaching for fine-scale standards, product promotion and simulating real-life train operations. I’m not a technophobe, but I wouldn’t mind seeing such a magazine myself; however, I’m not holding my breath. And for the sake of full disclosure, I must admit my own personality traits are more Mr. Zip on steroids than Moorian mellow even though I’d like a mind like still water backed up with Zen-like calm :-)

Here, exactly 50 years later in the 21st century, life, and this hobby too, are even more driven. A relaxed and easy-going approach, even for retirees and hobbyists, are neither consensus reality nor mainstream norm. 

From the few letters I’ve seen so far there’s interesting discussions on materials, the influence of George Allen and Frank Ellison, the rise of technology driven model railroading, the demise of story telling, the writing life, promotion of products, friendship, the problems of beginners, how the 1900 era short line engine terminal came to be, anecdotes about his early life, and books read, among other things. They’re sort of an alternative history of mid-20th century model railroading, or, maybe, a running commentary on the zeitgeist of that far-off time that laid the foundation of our own. Hopefully I can get a handle on them in 2016.