Monday, May 30, 2016

E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century: Shades of Buffalo Bill

There was a brief discussion in the comments section of the E. L. Moore on Brevity post about the type of building presented in the A Fort by E. L. Moore?  post. I mentioned an unpublished article by E. L. Moore, Shades of Buffalo Bill, I recently came across in his files that described a model much like the one in the Fort post. 

Shades of Buffalo Bill was submitted to Model Railroader on 15 July 1968. Unfortunately for Mr. Moore it was returned, and did not get submitted elsewhere or see publication. The manuscript contains no model railroading material, so rejection seems a foregone conclusion. It’s a relatively short and lightweight story about how he built what we might consider in this day-and-age a stereotypical cowboys and Indians table-top diorama based on classic Airfix figures and some scratchbuilt buildings and scenery. 
[At one time, the Fort resided on the layout of E. L. Moore's friend, Fred Kelly.
Photo courtesy of Paul Zimmerman]

Frankly, I think Mr. Moore was taking a bit of a breather with this piece. In April he submitted an epic-sized manuscript for the Enskale and Hoentee layout to Railroad Model Craftsman: 34 manuscript pages, 10,350 words, 30 photographs and 17 sheets of drawings along with an additional manuscript on how to kitbash some coaches for that layout in what would be published as Easy Narrow Gauge Coach which added another 1,100 words, 2 photographs and a sheet of drawings. Right after Buffalo Bill, in October ’68, he submitted the first of what he and Hal Carstens would refer to as his ‘fantasy’ builds: The Molasses Mine and Factory

The notes accompanying the Buffalo Bill manuscript indicate there were also 3 photos and a sheet of drawings. These are missing. Without the photos I can’t say with 100% accuracy that the blockhouse described in this manuscript is the Fort, but the description is quite similar to what’s seen in the Fort photos. So, without further adieu, here is the Shades of Buffalo Bill manuscript.

[30 December 2016 update: There was a photo found of the setup described in Shades of Buffalo Bill and you can see it here.]

E. L. Moore

Cowboys and Indians, anyone? With a wagon train and some cavalry thrown in for good measure? We can give it plausibility by stringing it to the occasion of a centennial or holiday celebration. It can really be fun too, although you probably wont’ be able to devote a card table top to your spectacle as I have, but then my set-up is only meant to give you ideas for your own smaller space.
As many of you are aware, Airfix is a source of quantity figures at a price -- from 35 to 45 well molded plastic figures for only 50¢, with a choice of cowboys, Indians, wagon trains, cavalry and many other subjects. All that’s needed is to paint them. According to instructions the figures should be first washed in a detergent, then rinsed and dried. That little item of information escaped my notice, and I painted mine just as they came from the box, with Floquil Railroad Colors, but with no ill results. I did try Floquil’s Barrier on some, this being necessary as an undercoat on Poly-styrene, but it flaked off when dry, so I just painted them as I came to them not wasting a great deal of time on any one figure. And, in some of these sets you get a variety of the finest horses available anywhere, standing, trotting and running, some with saddles and others in harness.
Additionally, Merten and Preiser have sets of more detailed and painted figures of cowboys and Indians, albeit naturally more expensive. A. B. Boyd Company was the source of my Preiser cowboy and Indian figures, the band, the set of four wigwams, and the stagecoach.
For years I’ve wanted an excuse to do the Tennessee blockhouse which I found pictured in THE KENTUCKY RIFLE by Dillon -- and so the opportunity came. This is built of balsa at a cost of only a few cents plus a couple of evening’s work. The pole fencing, as shown, was built of June grass stems with balsa posts.

So it’s hardly worth while to list a bill of materials.

We’ll begin with the blockhouse which has walls of 1/8” balsa, and whose lower section is 16’ x 16’ x 12’ high (in HO, of course). Logs are simulated and square cut, the divisions being deliniated with a sharp hard lead pencil in the absence of an electric burning pen. Corners are beveled and the butt log joints are faked as shown in the drawing. A floor of 1/8” scribed balsa is installed with a ladder leading to the upper section.

The upper overhanging section is 22’ x 22’ x 9’ high and is constructed in the manner just described. Gun ports are placed at intervals each side a heights indicated. The photograph shows the placing of the upper beams and method of joining the two sections.

The roof is square, of 1/16” balsa, coming to a central peak. Each section is 24 1/2’ wide by 15’ from eaves to peak, as shown in simulated shakes.

I weathered the structure with a gray oil and turpentine wash, and gave the door a contrasting wash of raw sienna and brown. It will probably be necessary to use brown ink to deliniate the log divisions and butt ends after supplying the gray wash. Short bits of wire will do for gun barrels protruding from the gun ports.

Should you want to make your own Indian tepees I am giving you a drawing of one similar in size and design to the Preiser ones, although it’s hardly worth while with the colorful set of four selling for only a buck. All tepees are patterned to a similar half circle design, but often with smoke flaps attached. I’ve never seen this bird wing smoke flap except in the Preiser tent, but it’s graceful and adds to the looks of the finished wigwam. A handful of what night be brown dyed broomstraw is included in Preiser’s kit for use as tent poles. Whisk broom fibers might be used should you make your own. And in any case here’s a few pointers in setting them up. Run a dry ball point pen or similar instrument down each line and bend until tepee will fold around and stand after flap is cemented. I cut the finest poles in two, each about an inch long and pasted them along the lines inside letting each protrude about half an inch. This done, I cut a circle of 1/16” balsa 13 1/2’ in diameter, shaped the edges to a slanting octagon shape and fitted this inside the bottom of the tepee, fastening it with cement. After cementing the smoke flaps in place at the top I attached two long poles to the top ears or tips and that was that. Water colors can be used to paint bands of colors with here and there an animal or head drawn in for good measure. They’ll get lots of attention.

As mentioned, I built my pole fence of June grass stems, selecting ones 1/16” in diameter or less. I usually got about two 50’ lengths from a stem. When dry these are quite strong. Make posts as shown in drawing, of 1/16” square balsa, add short pieces, then cement the other post on. Thread five such double posts onto five 50’ stems, space and cement, then add a top rail. A stiff half inch strip of paper to the bottom of every other post will make the fence stand up. Paint stems and posts with gray railroad paint. Such a fence may not be quite up to prototype with its 50’ poles, but if you prefer to do it the hard way that’s up to you.

For grass I used finely sifted green sawdust into which some green flock was mixed and all the actors in the drama, including the horses, have their bases well covered. Painting of figures need not be too carefully done, and in the case of the Indians a variety of gaudy colors seemed most desirable. Goo appeared to work out best in making riders stick to their saddles.

Kids of today really have it made. When I was a lad I had to use beans and kernels of corn for my characters -- plus a lively imagination. But it’s a lot more fun, I find, when one has realistic figures with which to work. And the fact that I could capture the results of my playing in a photograph afterwards added to the enjoyment. That I’ll get paid for playing does nothing to detract from the pleasure of it either.
 [The book War Games by David Levinthal presents a selection of his photos of war scenes staged with miniatures.]
Capture the results of my playing in a photograph is more-or-less what artist David Levinthal did in his series of photographs called Wild West. Ok, well, I suspect there was a little more to it than that as his playing was somewhat different than E. L. Moore’s. David Levinthal has created a series of photographic works of table-top scenes utilizing toy figures, such as the Airfix and Marx figures, to illustrate and comment on war, historical events and pop culture using pop cultural artifacts. Hitler Moves East, IED and Wild West are three of his most famous series. Mr. Levinthal has revisited the Wild West series 5 times over the course of his career making it one of his most deeply explored ideas. These little figures can be used for many purposes and likely have more waiting to be found by some future artist or modeller. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

HOJPOJ outside

This past weekend was the first truly gorgeous one this year. I like taking photos of models and stuff outside, so I spent a little time getting some shots of the HOJPOJ factory in the backyard. Mixed results, but there's lots of sun still to come, so I'll keep practicing :-)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Hugh Garner, 'Skinny' Moore and The Sin Sniper

One summer day in 1933 my friend Howard “Skinny” Moore and I set out for the United States with a package of makin’s, a dime in cash, and a bag of my mother’s cucumber sandwiches. We slept the first night on somebody’s lawn in Oakville, Ontario, and made it to Niagara Falls the following day, hitching rides. We split the dime between us to cross one of the bridges to Niagara Falls, New York; I made it past the US Immigration, Skinny didn’t. I went on to New York and Washington and ended up in California. And that’s how it was done.

And so begins a long and fascinating section of Hugh Garner’s One Damn Thing After Another!, his autobiography, describing his time from 1930 to 1939 hoboing all over the US and Canada - and naturally I was caught off-guard by the random coincidence of seeing the surname Moore mentioned in the opening sentence :-) Mr. Garner was one of Canada’s most famous writers, and one of my father’s favourites. Later in his career, Mr. Garner wrote a series of popular mystery novels set in Toronto featuring Detective Inspector Walter McDurmont. The first was The Sin Sniper, published in 1970. I have no idea if it’s a good read, but I’ve got a copy on the coffee table, and if it’s as taut and forthright as his recollections of life on the rails during the Depression, it should be fine. 

I lived one summer in New York on 60 cents a day, and stooked wheat along the Soo Line and Assiniboine Line in southern Saskatchewan for a buck a day and board, which was the going wage that year. When I’m asked why I rode the freights and beat my way through much of Canada and the United States instead of working at the terrible little jobs I had in Toronto between trips, my best answer is that when I was home I was poor, but when I was on the road I was merely broke. And there’s a lot of difference between the two.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Ottawa streetcar models at the 2015 Ottawa Train Expo

A reader commented at the post I did last year about seeing a couple of excellent 1/48 scale models of Ottawa streetcar models at the 2015 Ottawa Train Expo. I went through my photos to see if I had anymore pictures of the models.
I only found one other photo - the one shown below. These are outstanding models and I regret not meeting the person who built them and the diorama. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

E. L. Moore on Brevity

The top enginehouse is E. L. Moore’s Home for Small Locos that appeared in the Mar ’73 issue of Railroad Modeler (which I saw at last year’s meet-up), and the bottom one is by Eric Stevens that appeared in the two-part article Three-Stall Enginehouse from the Jan and Feb ’53 issues of Model Railroader - the image is the beauty shot from the Jan instalment.

In doing a little research on engine stalls and such I discovered one thing ... you can put an article out in less than 2500 words that used to take three or four times that. Eric Stevens in an old issue of MR used two issues to tell about his three stall engine house. Every minute detail was explained. Nowadays we’re inclined to skip a lot of that and give the reader credit for figuring out a few things for himself. But at the same time I did enjoy some of those lengthy dissertations by George Allen that went on issue after issue ... but they’ve had their day.
Extracted from E. L. Moore’s 16 Oct ’72 cover letter to Denis Dunning, editor of Railroad Modeler, that accompanied his manuscript for the Home for Small Locos article that appeared in the Mar ’73 issue of Railroad Modeler.

The Eric Stevens article E. L. Moore is referring to is Three-Stall Enginehouse that appeared in the January and February 1953 issues of Model Railroader. E. L. Moore’s model seems rather similar to Eric Stevens’. I like the extensive and detailed drawings in the Stevens article. They seem to be well integrated with the text and make the series  more graphic oriented than text oriented in its explanations. Interestingly, part 4 of George Allen’s long running Tuxedo Junction series appears right after the first instalment of Eric Stevens’ article. 

I agree with your thoughts on the shorter articles, some of these how to give much more than most people care about. And yes, I too loved the stories by George Allen, but it is a rare individual that had the writing gift like his.

Extracted from Denis Dunning’s 4 Dec ’72 follow-up letter to E. L. Moore.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Speculations on E. L. Moore, Folk Art and The Pulps

Didja know that the Abby Aldridge [sic] Rockefeller Folk Art Collection in Williamsburg Va., called on this damn Yankee to set up trains for a Christmas display this past Dec. Operates thru Jan 7. Flew down and back. 10 hour drive is too much. Didn't know I had culture, didja?
Extracted from a letter Hal Carstens wrote to E. L. Moore dated 2 January 1968.

This being the internet and not a scholarly journal, I don't need to feel guilty about indulging in wild speculation :-) When I saw that paragraph Hal Carstens wrote I flashed back to a post where I floated the idea that E. L. Moore's model building style might be thought of as a folk art style. Maybe someone way back then at that folk art museum was also thinking similar thoughts about model railroading in general? Or maybe calling the boss of the closest major model railroading magazine in the country was the first thing that came to mind for getting help with their Christmas layout and nothing more?

Turns out the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum is still in operation. 
While I've been on the E. L. Moore trail I've also indulged in many side trips. One day I found out about an old pulp magazine called Flying Aces. Turns out it was founded in 1928 and was the predecessor to Carstens' Flying Models magazine, which unfortunately went bust in 2014 when Carstens folded.

What caught my attention was the Fact - Model Building - Fiction blurb that appeared in the title. Yeap, that's what's inside. Railroad Magazine - the longstanding railroad pulp - also was a mixture of fact (the major component), fiction (two or three stories per issue), and model building (to a limited extent, but this seemed to vary over the years). There were even little bits of poetry from time to time! Fact - Model Building - Fiction, especially fiction, were components of a typical E. L. Moore article. Fiction, more specifically, stories were people talk, isn't a component of a typical model railroading article then or now. An E. L. Moore article - and maybe Raymond Frankenberger's too - was a small, self-contained flashback to the pulp era - well, that's my wild speculation for today :-) E. L. Moore noted a few times that he read Railroad Magazine. Did he have other favourite pulps? Did he consciously emulate a pulp style? These are all possible trails for future rambling.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Cover story

From July ’61 to September ’74 Model Railroader published a large number of issues where the cover was simply a page-spanning, borderless photograph with only the magazine logo, tag line and price as textual elements. They contained no text blurbs to tell buyers what was inside. Covers of this type appear not to have existed prior to ’61, and seemed to have disappeared by the end of ’74. I’m not saying there weren’t striking covers outside that period, or that there weren’t covers in that period that integrated text and picture in dramatic ways, only that the textless covers of that era are the most daring that have been published. 

Daring because they put all the heavy-lifting of attracting buyers to the magazine on the picture, so the photo has to perform a serious commercial function all by itself without any support. Was that a successful strategy? I have no idea, but I applaud them for their audacity. I think those covers are confident and held out the promise that a model railroading magazine could be something more than a how-to journal. They almost issue a visual challenge to drop whatever preconceptions you have about the hobby and take a look. 

From July ’61 to December ’61, all covers were textless except for one, and although the July issue got the trend started, the most dramatic was saved for December.
On this one the model work is from Paul Detlefsen’s layout and the photography is by John Allen; a powerful combination of artists who delivered the goods with style. Inside the reader is treated to several more striking photos in The ride of your life, and an insightful accompanying essay by Lin Westcott. Not all the textless covers were this dramatic, but they were all strong images.

Maybe Railroad Model Craftsman and other magazines have run these sorts of covers, I don’t know. I was able to see this trend in Model Railroader because they have digitized their entire run - from which these images were sourced - so it becomes easier to recognize patterns and trends when so much information is readily available. If you have access to their archive, I’d recommend having a look at the ’61 to ’74 covers.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lord Baltimore Hotel in N scale with a side of toast

This fascinating video on how to construct an N-scale model of Baltimore, Maryland's Lord Baltimore Hotel was kindly brought to my attention by Galen Gallimore. When you're watching it, stay on the look out for all the other buildings in his model of the city of Baltimore. And when it's over, take a look at this video - one of my all-time favourites - celebrating the missing ingredient to Solihull-style Beans-on-Toast.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Spumoni Club Coach: Done like Dinner

.... he ougtha be thankful I didn't stick a book review in the middle of it and maybe a recipe for rhubarb pie...
E. L. Moore in a 15 May 1965 letter to Bill Rau suggesting all the extra things he could have added to his article, Turn Backward O Time, that appeared in the January '67 issue of Model Railroader.

Before continuing on with the interior, I added windows cut from a sheet of overhead transparency film and a door cut from a piece of 1/16" balsa with stripwood trim glued on. But once those two tasks were completed, it was on with the show.

The inside of the Spumoni coach is even more colorful than the outside. Light green walls, a velvety green carpet and upholstered coach seats in bright red. Full width seats were installed at each end, then four 3' wide seats were arranged in the middle. Uncle Charley, who provided that jug of mountain dew, is snoozing in his own special chair. The coach seats are easily built of balsa, shaped and joined as shown in the drawing, bent pins used for arm rests, then upholstered with tissue and painted. Lastly, a card table is done in green, was set in place.

I don't have any photos or drawings of the interior, only the above description. I made a few changes along the way - left out the card table, mountain dew jug, and Uncle Charley's special chair - but the interior worked out ok in the end.
And I swapped out the carpeting for astroturf. I used a piece of Woodland Scenics grass mat instead. 
The seats were built up from scraps of balsa. I used a couple of seated figures to help get the dimensions right. Those are the full width end benches above before they have been sanded into their final shape.
The individual 3' wide seats were made the same way. Once the seats were done, it seemed like a good time for a sit-down lunch of one of my favourite midday meals, Solihull-style Beans on Toast, and to continue the tradition in this series what E. L. Moore never was able to do in print :-)

This tasty little meal is courtesy of my English cousin who, when we naively asked him what were all the ingredients of beans-on-toast other than the obvious, proceeded into a detailed conversation with my Texan wife to come up with an Anglo-Texan version of an English classic. 

First off, you need some potatoes and cheese.
We used some organic potatoes, which are a bit on the small side, so you'll need 4 or 5 for two people. You'll also need to shred some cheddar cheese. Again, organic was used in this recipe.
Next, you need to heat up the pot of fixings. It consists of a can of Amy's Organic Chili (medium heat), a 114ml can of Casa Fiesta green chilies (mild heat), 1/3 cup of your choice of medium heat salsa (I can't recall the brand we used, but it was likely organic :-) ), and a little cumin. You can change the heat levels to suit your tastes. 
While the fixings are heating, cook the potatoes. We put them in the microwave then wrapped them in paper towel and transferred them to this 'potato pillow' to sit for a few minutes. However, any way you want to cook the potatoes - baking, boiling, etc - is fine.
Those are the cooked potatoes in their paper wrappers. Unwrap them, place two on each plate and mash flat. Pour on the fixings and sprinkle with the shredded cheese.
Lunch is served.
Suitably fortified, I went back to work and finished the seats. They were sanded to shape, painted with Model Master Acryl British Crimson, and thin wires were cut and installed for arm rests. I didn't wrap the seats in tissue to simulate upholstery because I didn't quite like that technique when I used it on the roof.
Getting to the bench seat on the left end of the coach might require breathing in or maybe stepping over the seats in the way. Things are a little tight, but it could make for a nice private setting for a card game :-)
And that is the Spumoni Club Special . . . OBG. The OBG? I'm not certain, but I think it means ON BURNT GRAVY.

One day in July of 1967

521...523...525...that’s the one. I stopped the car in front of the house to confirm the address. Good thing too. This was the end of the street, and all that was left was a cul-de-sac. I used it to turn around, roll back to 525, and park out front. It was a fourplex just as I was told. Two stories with two up and two down connected by a central main entrance. I could see the balcony door on the upper left unit was open to let in some air. He was home.

I got out and did my parking ritual. Opened each car door, cranked up its window, pushed down its lock and slammed it shut. Once the doors were all locked I checked to make sure I was parked close to the curb. You wouldn’t believe the number of tickets I’ve gotten for being too far away. I didn’t want anything weighing on my mind during this visit. 

I paused for a moment and stared at the fourplex’s main door. Someone had left it open. It was now or never. I walked up the path, went inside, climbed the stairs and knocked on his door.

“I’m comin’,” came a call from somewhere deep inside the apartment. 

After what seemed like an eternity, the door opened and there he was.

He was probably in his late 60s or early 70s. Not tall. Grey hair. Slightly bent, but spry. An unassuming presence.

I started into my well rehearsed introduction, “Hello Mr. Moore, I’m Ed Bryce. My wife called you about visiting?”

A grimace briefly flashed over his face, but was soon replaced by a broad smile.

“Son, the only fella who calls me Mister is Uncle Sam, and when he does, it’s never good news. Call me E.L.”

We both laughed.

“E.L., I’m glad to meet you!”

We shook hands. He looked me over.

“I’m glad to make your acquaintance too, but you’re lookin’ a bit parched son. Why don’t you come through to the kitchen and I’ll pour us some iced tea. I made a fresh batch this mornin’. Looks like it’s going to be another hot one today.”

He was right. It was barely ten o’clock and it already felt around ninety. 

He started to amble off toward the kitchen at the back of the apartment. 

“Can I leave my car parked out front?” I asked as I followed. 

Without glancing out a window to see where my blue Plymouth was parked he replied, “Sure, it’s not botherin’ anyone.”

We passed through the living room to get to the kitchen. There were stacks of books and models and magazines and miscellanea on all available horizontal surfaces and shelves. There was an overstuffed chair with a tv tray in front of it topped with a new model in progress, but I didn’t see a tv anywhere. Off in a corner was a large diorama of what looked like his 1900 engine servicing facility that was in January’s MR. In an opposing corner was clearly a layout of similar size cloaked by a plastic sheet. The place wasn’t messy in a hoarder kind of way, but it was missing a woman’s touch. There was a strong bachelor-pad vibe.

“Is that your engine facility diorama over there?” I asked as I stood at the kitchen entrance and looked back into the living room while he went to the fridge for the iced tea.

“Yeap, and you got here just in time. Next week a fella from up in Raleigh is coming to pick it up for display at his hobby shop. Maybe he might use only the buildings. Damned if I know. I don’t care too much what happens after they’re done. Leisurely workin’ on new models is where the fun is for me. Right now I’m leisurely workin’ on the RMC building for Carstens.

E.L. laughed and continued while I heard some clinking from the kitchen, “You’re new so you get the full philosophical musin’s. Why don’t you take a load off and I’ll get some glasses,” he said as he motioned to a chair by a small table in the equally small kitchen. I plopped down in it like a sack of potatoes. I didn’t realize how tired I was.

“Your wife said on the phone you were passin’ through,” he said as a conversation starter as he placed the pitcher of iced tea on the counter and got some tall glasses from a cupboard. 

“Well, yeah. It’s a bit of a long story.”

“Go ahead. I’ve got nothin’ but time. You’re stayin’ awhile aren’t you?”

“Yes, if that’s ok?”

“Sure is, and don’t let me forget, I’ve got fixins for Spumoni clubs for lunch. Got some rhubarb pie too.”

“Sounds great.”

“Well, go on. ‘It’s a bit of a long story’....?”

“Ok. Last week - it seems like a year ago now - my grandfather died. My boss gave me a couple of days compassionate leave. I bundled that with some vacation time that needed using up and drove from Houston up to New Toronto for the funeral. Cathy couldn’t get away from work so I went by myself. I got there in two long days and a bit of a third. Funeral was the next day.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather.” 

“Thanks. Heart attack. He had a history of heart problems. But, he lived nearly a decade longer than the doctors said he would, and even out lived one of them. So, they don’t know everything. Anyway, after the funeral I had to get away and decided that since I had the time, and I’d already driven that far, I’d go a bit further to Montreal for a day to see Expo.”

“The world’s fair you’re havin’ up there?” he said while placing a tall, cool glass of tea on the table in front of me. “Sugar’s there,” he said pointing to the sugar bowl. I added a few teaspoons. He pulled up the other chair and we sat and drank tea.

“Yeah, 100th anniversary of the country. Let me back up. For some reason while I was in New Toronto, I called Cathy and asked her to call RMC to see if they could tell me where you lived so I could visit on my way back. I thought you were in Texarkana.”

“Texarkana? How’d you get that idea?”

“I don’t know,” I said staring at my glass, slightly exasperated at my dumbness, “Anyway, she sweet-talked Hal Carstens into giving me your address. Imagine my surprise when I found out you lived in Charlotte.”

“It’s a ways east of Texarkana,” he said with a grin.

“I’ll say: it’s a thousand miles east of Houston! I won’t be going through Texarkana on my way home that’s for sure. I’ll head south-west and follow the Gulf. Anyway, that’s for tomorrow,” I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed by the thought of the long drive still to come. I pushed on, “So, being crazy, two days ago I left Montreal and now I’m here.”

Two days of hard driving later that is. When I pulled into the motel I flopped on the bed dead asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night thinking I was in New Toronto in January and the furnace had broken down. When I came to my senses I realized it was just that the air conditioning was set to extra frigid. I reset it to cool and went back to sleep. 

“Well, that’s some drivin’. I don’t do any myself, but that’s a long trip you’ve been on and I’m glad you came. I like havin’ visitors drop by to chat awhile.”

I took a couple long pulls from my glass. I couldn’t believe I was here, but the tea was working its magic and I felt the life force return.

I guess my demeanor was perking up because his next question was one I came to this place to hear, “Wanna see my layout? Bring your glass.”

Glasses in hand, we headed back into the living room. He walked over to the table draped in a dust cover and asked, “Can you help me lift it off?”

“Sure,” I replied as I put my glass on a side table. I grabbed the far end of the sheet and together we carefully lifted it off the mountains and hills and buildings. It looked in pretty good shape for what was likely a 15 year old layout. He folded up the sheet, set it on the floor and proceeded to plug some ancient looking power packs into wall sockets. 

“I gave it a good cleaning yesterday so it would run ok today,” he reported as he placed a loco from a nearby shelf on the track and hooked up some cars. “These days I only run it about once a year or so. Every so often I think I should sell it, but once I get it going, nostalgia rushes that idea outta my head.”

And it ran as well as he said. We spent sometime running trains through mountain passes, around lakes, and into Elizabethton. We picked up logs in the hills, dropped off day trippers at the lake, and shuttled thirsty workers to the saloon. We ran every loco and car he had.

After the last passenger had been safely delivered to their destination E.L. asked, “I think it’s time for sandwiches. Whaddaya say?”

“Sounds good!”

We carefully gathered up the locos and cars and returned pieces to their resting places. Each of us took an end of the dust cover and carefully placed it back over the layout. A billowing section caught some trees and twisted them out of position. E. L. reached in and straightened them. 

Fiddling with the trees seemed to trigger a memory in him, which he narrated as he reattached the scenery, “My Uncle Martin, whose full name was Martin Maybeck Mohrslavoski by the way, was a logging man from way back. Claimed even to have run a balsa tree operation in Ecuador. I wish he had as I’d have an unlimited supply. 

“Well, as a young ‘un he prided himself on being the fastest tree feller in the county. Could chop ‘em down lickety-split and land ‘em wherever he wanted. As the years went on he tried to get into the business end of things and run his own show. One day he’s out chopping down trees at some old fella’s place and the two brothers who live on the property next door saunter on over to see what Uncle Martin is doin’. 

“They start to chattin’ a bit and one brother says to Uncle Martin, ‘How much would you charge to chop down that one?’ pointing to a big maple precariously tilted over a shed on the brothers’ property. 

‘That’ll be twenty-five bucks’, answers Uncle Martin. 

‘Twenty-five bucks! You gotta be kidding,’ gagged a brother.

‘You’d probably drop it on the shed to boot,’ chimed in the other brother.

Uncle Martin’s pride was hurt by that and shot back, ‘They drop where I want them to drop.’

The brothers gave each other a little glance, and then one said to Uncle Martin, ‘I’ll bet you 10 bucks you can’t drop it right here,’ while walking over to a spot opposite the shed and placing a ten dollar bill on the ground.

‘Stand back,’ Uncle Martin commanded, as he picked up his axe and proceeded to chop down that leaning tower of Pisa maple in record time and drop it right on top of the sawbuck without even a breeze disturbing the shed.”

We both laughed and then made sure the dust cover was secured over the layout. We then wandered back to the kitchen.

“Can I help with anything?” I asked.

“No. Help yourself to some more tea if you want. Do you want mustard or mayo?”

“Mustard sounds good,” I replied as I got a refill of iced tea from the pitcher in the fridge. E. L. rustled up some bread from a cupboard. I sat at the table, but try as I might, I couldn’t keep my eyes open.


“Ed. Ed. Wake up sweetheart.”

Cathy was shaking my shoulder. I’d fallen asleep sitting upright on the couch in our living room. 

“We’ll be late.”

I slowly came-to bathed in the light of the big screen LED tv bolted to the far wall. An old black-and-white show was ending and a well dressed man with a cigarette and a gravelly voice came on screen to speak to the viewers, “If you ever find yourself behind the wheel of a blue Plymouth near the outskirts Montreal on a hot summer day in July of 1967, don’t hesitate to follow the signs heading south. You never know who you might meet in, The Twilight Zone.”


The very first episode of Ed Bryce and Leslie Warden's exciting adventures can be found here. Missed it the first time around? Don't worry, all 40 episodes soon to be Kindlized, with more on the way. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Bowling with Trams

I'm not making this up......

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Through house and garden via Lego Train

I’m glad to see old school model railroad enthusiasm like that showcased in Model Trains and H. G. Wells’ Floor Games is alive and well in our era. I stumbled on this video at MetaFilter. No doubt I’m the last to know Lego trains are a big, big thing.

Last week the old post The Museum and The Gallery? was getting a lot of hits. Two later posts that followed up on some of the ideas presented there, Notes on the characteristics of gallery and Museum and gallery and studio, got a few hits too, but not enough to register as ‘active’ posts. Looking back on them I think there is something to those ideas, but they need more development; they certainly need more examples at the very least. One thing I’d definitely add is a further sub-group connected up with Gallery and Studio called something like Trains Preserve for things like Lego Trains.

The general idea of the Trains Preserve is a riff on the Games Preserve idea Bernard DeKoven introduced in The Well-Played Game: A Player’s Philosophy back in ’78. This was the pre-video game era and a Games Preserve was meant to be a space for people to freely play games and was to be stocked with physical games of all sorts. His personal Games Preserve was primarily located in a barn on his farm and must have been an amazing place according to these descriptions from the book: big carpeted area for dancing and big games; rings if anybody wanted to fly a little; a puzzle wall: picture puzzles, puzzles that you have to take apart, puzzles that you try to put together, ancient puzzles, new puzzles; quite games area, it represents a veritable fortune in games, two hundred different games here; pool table; Ping-Pong table; there are a few hundred more games over there. He sums it up as: this is a toy store and an arcade and a gym and a chess club and a place to dance and whatever else you want it to be all under one roof

A Trains Preserve wouldn’t necessarily be a dedicated building stocked with copious amounts of all sorts of model trains - as terrific as that may be :-) - but any place or space where a model train free-for-all could be setup and run; temporary or permanent. That used to be a staple of Model Trains. Long live Lego trains!