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.


  1. Hello JD, I very much like this post; it's amazing how little difference there is between the two buildings. Personally I think the ELM version has more character (narrower stone foundation, false front etc..) which is all in the detail. I've been doodling myself with ELM buildings for my wargames in six mil scale (1/285). Some 3D prints have just arrived. You can check them out here :
    Check the ELM Series - Hope this link works.
    Keep up the good work

    1. I see a few buildings I recognize in the ELM folder :-) They look quite good! They must be tiny 1/285 scale - the detail is amazing.

      One thing that might interest you is this ELM 'fort':


      In my reading I've come across an unpublished ELM manuscript called 'Shades of Buffalo Bill' he wrote in 1968. It describes a building like the 'fort' and refers to it as a blockhouse. I'm hoping I can find some photos or drawings that can corroborate his description.

  2. The ELM buildings all have a base of 3 x 5 cm (1.1 x 1.9 inch) as they have to fit on a hexside grid except for the "Russian" 3 Tower Station (MR Nov 74) which has a 60° angle for the same reason. The minimum detail is 0.5 mm (0.01 inch) which is still 14 cm (5.5 inch) in scale 1/285.
    I remember the "Fort/Blockhouse" post and I commented on it. I'm still convinced that it is originally an agricultural building. Maybe the early settlers built them as agricultural buildings and then gave them a defensive function as the need arose. Maybe, as they proved to be effective, they may have been built as "Forts" later on. As far as I know there is nothing similar in European military architecture that resembles them, unless you go back to medieval times. Maybe the "Shades of Buffalo Bill" article will shed some light on this.

    1. Those are excellent pieces. Again, I’m very impressed by the detail on such small objects.

      ELM’s ‘Shades of Buffalo Bill’ manuscript tells of a diorama he built featuring cowboys and Indians and wagon trains and cavalry. It has no model railroad content. There are a few paragraphs where he describes the construction of a building that sounds like the one in the ‘Fort’ post photos. Here are those paragraphs,

      “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.”

      Unfortunately, there were no photos or drawings accompanying the manuscript, so I don’t have pictures to compare against the text. Also, I haven’t begun to look for the book he mentions, The Kentucky Rifle, but a quick search shows copies on eBay, so it’s readily available. Solving these little mysteries are one of things that make going down this ELM trail interesting.

  3. This solves it, it was actually intended as a defensive structure and the protruding rods are gun barrels. Great find, many thanks

    1. I only saw this manuscript in the last couple of weeks. I'm still hoping I can find the photos and drawings that go with it. With the dimensions from the text and the photos in the post, this might for an interesting miniature? Keep up the good work and I'll be interesting in seeing more.