Friday, September 30, 2016

"Pump faster!"

If these are the guys who stole the money, they must have dropped it into the canyon.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Blogger problems

Breaking news: Looks like all my lists of links - the link list gadgets - have disappeared, including my list for the E. L. Moore in the 21st Century series. Hopefully I'll have things back to normal soon, and the good people at Blogger can tell me what they did last night that caused this problem.

Afternoon update: I recreated the link list gadget for the E. L. Moore in the 21st Century series. It appears to work ok, but we'll see if it mysteriously disappears overnight as it did last night. If it survives tonight, I'll add back the other missing link lists. This incident has all the hallmarks of a maintenance update to Blogger gone astray, although I have no definitive proof. No one at Blogger has responded to my questions - I doubt anyone will, but I'll keep my fingers crossed that all will be well.

30 September update: The blog seemed to have survived the night ok and there were no surprises awaiting me this morning. I've started to add back the blog list on the right column and the two other blog and link lists should soon follow. Still no feedback - I'd be surprised to get any - from the Blogger crew on what might have happened.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Prospect & Upper Ridge Railroad, PURR...

... "The Cat's Meow"
In E. L. Moore's photo stash I came across a few pictures of the Prospect & Upper Ridge Railroad, or PURR for short, that was built, owned and operated by A. E. (Bud) Sima, Jr.. That Prairie Schooner looks like something E. L. Moore could appreciate :-) Many of the photos had notes on the back,
The PURR trackplan was featured in the June 1969 issue of Model Railroader. I have neither dates on these photos nor a date when the trackplan was submitted to Model Railroader, so I don't know if the two exactly correspond.
[PURR trackplan from the June '69 issue of Model Railroader.]

I've added red boxes to the plan to indicate two locations noted on the backs of the PURR photos. 
[Opposite view of the Prairie Schooner showing the 'locomotive' driven propeller that billows the sail.]
[My inner aerodynamicist can see some problems with this design :-) ]

[A close-up of the power source. The clear disk I suppose is the propeller in motion.]

[The back of the photo notes this was shot at Riverview; marked with a red box on the trackplan.]

[The name on the depot is Summit, so I assume it was located on the trackplan at Summit, in the red box.]

[To be honest I'm not exactly sure if this photo was taken on the PURR, but it was with the PURR photos.]

[I couldn't find a Crazy River noted on the trackplan. Maybe it was added after the plan was published.]

I guess '69 was something of a notable year for Mr. Sima. As well as having his trackplan published in Model Railroader, it seems some practical jokers were trying convince him that E. L. Moore didn't exist and was merely a nom de plume for a Mr. Don Burdock. Here's an initial hint contained in a letter snippet from E. L. Moore to Bill Rau, an editor at Model Railroader in the 1960s, dated 1 December 1969,

Another letter just received from Bud Sima. What kind of a deal you two (you and Don Burdock) try to put over Bud? After I got the drift of it I kinda went along with it and said I couldn't make the meeting because of the highway traffic and that cheapskate Burdock wouldn't pay my plane fare . . . he thinks some where some one is pulling his leg but isn't quite sure which one.

So, E. L. Moore himself went along with the joke, but Bill Rau tried to clarify in a reply dated 4 December 1969,

Bud got the idea that Don was writing the E. L. Moore stories under an alias; and the more I tried to assure him that "Yes, Bud, there is an E. L. Moore," the more he became convinced that Don and I were ganging up on the gag.

No doubt some similar practical-joke-that-got-out-of-control caused the whole "William Shakespeare didn't write those plays, it was Sir Francis Bacon, or maybe Christophe Marlowe, of maybe . . . " fiasco :-)

[30 January 2018 Update: Although the photos were found in E. L. Moore's photo collection, they weren't shot by him, but by Mr.Sima and mailed to Mr. Moore.]

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Chair

Sliding down to my neck in the Morris chair (every shop should have a priority on one of these), I propped my feet on a box, lit a cigarette, and fell into sort of a reverie.
George Allen gets to thinking in Mifflinburg Mill, Model Railroader, July 1952.

No, my chair isn’t a Morris chair, it’s a 1960s Canadian knock-off of a 1960s Danish modern chair. And not a bad one at that. When I was a boy it sat in my father’s study and was my favourite place to sit when I went to chat with him. It came into my possession a couple of years ago and was looking quite forlorn in my basement, stashed away behind the snow tires. Last December I took it apart and Debra had the seat reupholstered as a Christmas present. 
When the good weather got here in the summer, I could finally take the frame parts outside and use a chemical stripper to remove the worn-out old finish. Those are some of the parts before they were refinished. I used a rubber mallet to carefully knock the frame apart.
I used Circa 1850 furniture stripper. Just follow the directions on the can. It does a fine job. One thing I'll mention is that it'll strip the varnish and lettering off that workmate as it did with mine when I accidentally slopped some around. 
The legs on the left are almost stripped and the unstripped seat frame is to the right.
Here's all the parts done and ready for re-assembly and refinishing. Once put back together the frame was treated to some oil that contained a light stain. 

I went to the window and took a worried look at the big flakes that were lowering over the winter’s afternoon gloom like a curtain. Shivering in disbelief, I returned to my Morris chair and settled back in solid comfort
George Allen seeks refuge from the winter in part 7 of the Tuxedo Junction saga, Model Railroader, April 1953.

I’m hoping the new old chair will work some magic on me this winter.

Monday, September 26, 2016

At the Mt. Lowe Observatory

I got my act together and finished the Mt. Lowe observatory - well, I finished the exterior, the interior still needs to be furnished.
There wasn't much left to do. I painted the interior, finished the roofs for the wings, added clear plastic to the window openings a la the E. L. Moore window construction method, installed exterior doors and steps, and added some trim along the bottom perimeter.
The real McCoy has that lower trim too. On the model it's just a scored 2 foot wide strip of 3x5 card that I painted with a mix of burnt umber and red paint. 
But once I got that trim glued on the whole look of the building popped. It seemed a lot less bland. More realistic too.
All the roofs come off so you can see what's going on inside. Right now nothing is and it's a big, blank canvas.
I need to put my thinking cap on and figure out how to build the telescope. That one above, the back of the El Camino Estrella, was built up from styrene tubes and some leftover 1/24 scale model car parts from my scrapbox.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

AeroLiner 3000

Andres sent me a link to this video of a new high-speed train his team and a group at the DLR German Aerospace Center have designed. His website states,

The primary objective of the AeroLiner3000 is to outline and define a new approach to a high-speed double decker train for the future British high-speed rail network, consisting of HS 2 and its planned connections into the existing network by so called „classic-compatible trains“. AeroLiner3000 shows the potential for future-proof capacity, low carbon emission through light weight construction, cost sensitive innovation and improved costumer comfort. These Four C’s are an underlying guideline for the project. To demonstrate the railway industry and its experts an impression of the interior of AeroLiner3000 a 9m long full-scale mockup will be presented at Innotrans 2016 in Berlin. The world largest international trade fair for railways takes place from 20 to 23 September. The AeroLiner3000 is shown at the stand of the German Aerospace Center (DLR) (Hall 2.2, Stand 405).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Keeping time with The Ceresota Method

I was chatting with Vince last week and he was telling me about E. L. Moore's dot method of recording how much time it took to build a project. I must admit I had completely forgotten about it, but with embarrassment as my motivation, I dug through my files to find it. I got lucky and found it rather quickly in Mr. Moore's Ceresota Flour Mill that appeared in the November 1977 issue of Model Railroader
[E. L. Moore noted on the Ceresota manuscript the cost of materials. Total cost in '75 = $2.85 US, which is about $11.15 US today*]

I was also fortunate in that there was a snapshot sized picture of the model in E. L. Moore's photo collection as well as a copy of the manuscript in the files. According to the manuscript, this is The Ceresota Method,

I guess I have a rather unorthodox way of keeping a record of time. I sit in my easy chair, pull up my TV work tray and play around a while. For an hour's work I put a dot on the calendar for that date (for half an hour, half a dot!), and for what seems like three hours, a blot. After that I hoist my feet up on a stool and pick up a book and call it a day. Union rules. When I've finished I count up the dots and blots, add a few for good measure and that's that.

I'll contact the National Institute of Standards and Technology.


* According to the cover letter to Russ Larson that accompanied the manuscript, a trip to the hospital to fix his knee cost far more than the model,

Coincidence: just finished reading Emergency Room by a hospital intern . . . now I know what the inside of an emergency room is like. Book only cost a buck, but a peek at the room cost me sixty bucks the hospital says. Out walking, sans glasses, sidewalk veered but I didn't. Nothing serious; a few stitches on the knee and a few minor abrasions. Main discomfort is brace that keeps from bending knee and pulling out stitches. Just try putting on your pants or a sock over a straight peg leg.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Spumoni Family's Rural Idyll

1955 was the year E. L. Moore first appeared in print: 4 articles, all published in Railroad Model Craftsman. The scanned original photo shown above appeared in Spumoni Country Estate in the July issue. The article focused on the construction of the well, but like other E. L. Moore articles of that era, I suspect its actual purpose was to showcase his photos, which in this case were pictures of the Spumoni farm.

The Spumonis, Ma, Pa, Pistachio Jr, and Uncle Charley, appeared regularly in Mr. Moore's articles. Strictly speaking they were just HO-scale figures from Weston, but he transformed them into personalities with stories and photos over the course of a number of articles. July '55 was their world debut with a photo tour of their backwoods farm. 
Over the course of his career, E. L. Moore built a wide variety of models, but I think his early rural ones, made primarily from balsa and shaped with a wood burning tool, are ones that held a special significance for him. I think they are some sort of amalgamation of his memories of his boyhood growing up on a farm in Michigan in the early 20th century and of the times he spent tramping though The Great Smoky Mountains as a younger man. There's a certain love and affection in his rural models, but it's not a cloying sentimentality. The buildings are quite representative of hard scrabble rural life in the Smokies and aren't romanticized, even though the people are mostly shown at ease. Well, the men are usually seen loafing and Ma is doing work :-)
Now that I'm speculating, if you've been reading this series for awhile you'll know that I think E. L. Moore's approach to making model buildings came out of the world of folk art miniature building construction. His rural models are the closest to that approach. They're personal (based on his memories and interests), use simple materials and methods (balsa and a wood burning pen) and don't have a lot to do with classic model railroading subjects. I suspect he included trains because he liked them and they were part of the world he was recreating, not because he wanted to simulate railroad operations in miniature. Because of his apparent lack of interest in modelling railroads as the businesses they are, it was often noted that he wasn't a model railroader. That's a narrow definition of the hobby and I disagree with that assessment. But that's just me :-)
I don't think Mr. Moore had a permanent Spumoni farm diorama or layout section. I think he would pose his collection of rural models and figures in various scenes and stage photo shoots. And most included an outhouse.
This is a scan of a portrait he shot of the outhouse in the previous picture. I didn't slice this image from a bigger photo, it was simply a photo of the outhouse itself. 
I don't recall seeing this down-on-its-luck house before, but it's well done and highly evocative. The outhouse might be tough to get to, especially after dark. You have to climb up a hill via a very steep set of stairs. At least you'll have some privacy :-)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A streetcar system for Gatineau?

[A sleek new streetcar zooms by the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau. I hope those aren't vultures circling overhead.]

From just across the river in Quebec there's been news that the powers that be are floating the idea of a streetcar system to connect Aylmer to Gatineau. Some are going further and suggesting it also run across the Ottawa River via the Prince of Wales Bridge to connect with Ottawa. Sounds like a good idea. We'll see what the future holds.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Light Ray Blues, Series 2, Instalment #8: Northbound

In the last heart pounding episode we left Leslie and Ed staring at a thumb whose last known address may have been Dr. Ellesmere's hand. If you're getting up, would you get me a drink before the show starts.....

“We need to call the police.” I said as I peeled off the paper slip that was stuck to the back of the thumb-box.

“You’re right. At the very least, they need to get in the house and see if she’s there,” agreed Leslie. “Let’s go back to the station and find a phone.”

We immediately started back down the path to the sidewalk. I stared at the paper slip as if I was decoding an ancient language, “It says: K2M 57N tonight.”

“A postal code?” quizzed Leslie.

Yeap, it was probably a postal code. I looked up from the paper and down the street to clear my view and my mind. The trees were beautiful. Chirping birds. Scampering squirrels. They couldn’t work any mood alerting magic on me. Damn nerds. Why’s everything a quiz with them? Severed finger tips. Post office puzzles. Jez. Adams was right about one thing: these guys were likely amateurs who thought quite highly of themselves.

I was fuming, but Leslie was logical, “There’s a Jack’s at the station. Those stores usually have a post office inside. We can use their postal code book to figure out where that code is.”

"Damn it!” I hissed under my breath hoping I could expel some frustration the old fashioned way: stress relief through cursing. 

I pulled myself together and we started for the station.

A trash tram was slowly moving along the narrow service rails by the curb. A couple of youngish men in coveralls were emptying garbage cans the homeowners had left out for pickup. It pulled up in front of Prof Ellesmere’s place as we stepped on the sidewalk.

“Stop!” Leslie shouted at a trashman as he made a grab for the garbage can. “Don’t empty that,” she commanded as she hurried to grab Dr. Ellesmere’s garbage can from them.

“Ok, lady.” Responded the trashman in a cool, even voice as he released the can to her and followed the tram to the next house. They probably have lots of experience dealing with crazy people who have last minute attachments to some treasured piece of trash.

“There might be something important in here,” Leslie informed me as she dragged the can back up the path to the front door. Once placed under the mailbox, she returned to the sidewalk and we hurried on to the station.

There was a Jack’s convenience store with a bank of phones outside at the train station. Leslie used one to call the police and I went inside to find a postal code book. After a couple of minutes thumbing through its worn pages, I found it: the code mapped to three addresses on Bank Street in Ottawa. I tossed the book back on its shelf and went outside to speak with Leslie.

She was hanging up the phone. As I approached she turned to me and said, “The police will meet us at Leslie’s house in a few minutes.”

“Good. The postal code’s in Ottawa. Corresponds to a few addresses on Bank Street. Any link with Dr. Ellesmere and Ottawa?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you meet with the cops since you’re her friend and I’ll go up to Ottawa and see what’s there.”

“Ok. I could go up later when I’m done with the police.”

“Sure, but that note doesn’t mention anything about a time or date, so I’m likely to find nothing. It might all be a wild goose chase.”

“Yes, but the police might find something at her house that’ll help us,” was Leslie being coolly logical again.

“Yeah,” was my absent minded reply as I fished for a pencil and scrap of paper from my jacket to write down the Bank Street addresses for Leslie. “Look, the only place I know in Ottawa to stay is the Lord Elaine. I’ll check in once I get there.” I wrote Lord Elaine on the paper. “I’ll meet you in the lobby at 6.” 

I handed the slip of paper to her. She put it in her coat pocket. I stared at her. She stared at me. 



She headed back to Dr. Ellesmere’s with the thumb for company. 

I headed for the train.

Part 9 can be found here.

Bunn's, Jones, & Cal's: Three sentimental favourites

[E. L. Moore's Bunn's Feed and Seed plant published in the August 1973 issue of Model Railroader. You can see Cal's Lumberyard in the background.]

I was quite pleased to find these three snapshot sized photos in E. L. Moore's collection. These are the projects that got me hooked on model railroading. Bunn's was the first, and I've written about it at length. I built it back in 2009. Styrene was used extensively on that project, so it wasn't a pure Moorian build. 
[E. L. Moore's Jones Chemical Co. published in the March 1974 issue of Model Railroader]

Next was Jones Chemical Co. I recall I was so excited to see a new E. L. Moore project I started building it almost as soon as I got home with the magazine. 
[On the left is what remains of Jones Chemical Co. that I built way back in '74, and on the right is the version I built in 2009. Back in '74 I had a fixation on a technique I read about in the Nov. '73 issue of Model Railway Constructor about how to model brick and stone walls with scribing and crayons. I figured Jones was as good a place as any to to use it on.]

The results of that '74 build attempt were mixed, but I tackled it again here in the 21st century.
[E. L. Moore's Cal's Lumberyard published in the April 1973 issue of Model Railroader]

When I had finished the Jones build back in '74 I was keen to immediately do another E. L. Moore project, so I went to the public library near our house to see what I could find. I stumbled across Cal's Lumberyard in the April '73 issue of Model Railroader. Magazines weren't lent out, so I photocopied the plans, noted a few things from the article on the copies, and went home to build it. I did a better job than my previous projects, but nothing great. I haven't yet tackled this one in the 21st century, but the century is still young.
[The remains of my 1974 build of Cal's Lumberyard.]

I don't have a surviving youthful attempt at Bunn's because my initial build was in 1/32 scale and made from some very flimsy materials. In the summer of '73 I was building a large, temporary 1/32 scale slot car setup with a friend in his mother's garage. He had what seemed like a vast collection of Scalextric track which allowed him to build layouts that took up his entire basement rec-room floor along with some square footage in an adjacent hall and bedroom. The ultimate layout had to be built in the garage as it was summer and our mothers had kicked us out of our houses to get some sunshine. 
My friend's much older brother worked on the assembly line at Eldon toys, and instead of tossing any mis-manufactured slot cars in the trash, he snuck them out and brought them home. My friend gave me a couple of the really damaged ones and I set about fixing them. Alas, none survive, but I recall there was a Mustang and Corvette that I raised from the dead that made my friend a little jealous :-)

That summer I was building 1/32 scale grandstands and pitstops and timing buildings from bristol board and balsa, and when I stumbled across E. L. Moore's Bunn's article I tried building it too. I had never seen a publication that featured instructions and plans for building model structures, so this was a revelation. I dove right into the project and I figured I'd use it as a garage for cars. I left a lot off the build, but I did have a go at making an interior complete with car repair facilities and a removable roof. In the end, it was too large to keep around and I salvaged it for parts. That experience was sort of a prod to work in HO as I could spend the effort and didn't have a space problem with the finished models.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Dominion Observatory

Recently Michael Adams mentioned that he added an observatory to his excellent N-scale Mt. Adams module. I blush to mention the observatory was partially inspired by my Mt. Lowe observatory. I need to get the lead out and finish that project, but in the meantime I thought I'd post some photos of an observatory that is located here in Ottawa.
In the summer I was riding my bicycle here, there and everywhere in the city and visited the Dominion Observatory a few times. It's on the border of the Central Experimental Farm and is a short ride from my house. 
You can read all about it at Wikipedia, but the short story is it was built in 1902, was used as an observatory until 1970, had its telescope transferred to the Science and Technology Museum in 1974, and is today used as office space for a branch of the federal government's Natural Resources Canada department. Construction of the wooden Mt. Lowe observatory was finished in 1894. It was destroyed in a wind storm in 1928.
One thing both observatories have in common is that they were accessible by an electric railway. 
[This fascinating series of photos showing the observatory in various stages of construction was sourced from The Canadian Astronomical Society's page dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Dominion Observatory.]

In 1908 the Ottawa streetcar system extended a double track line from Holland and Carling into the Central Experimental Farm. It ran parallel to Carling from Holland until it got to somewhere near the observatory where it then made a right turn and continued down to the main farm buildings. From there it looped around and came back. In 1924 a loop was installed at the observatory turn. The Ottawa streetcar system was finally closed down in 1959, and all traces of track at the observatory and farm have long disappeared, but I wouldn't be surprised if sections of the network of roads and paths on the grounds were originally streetcar roadbed.
A model of the Dominion Observatory would be quite challenging for me to build. This little building - building #9 on the site map, the Photo Equatorial - across the driveway from the observatory might be something more manageable. It's distinctive, small and captures the feeling of the stone construction and green dome of its big brother.
Not all the buildings on the site are early 20th century. Nearby is this abandoned 1960s modernist structure. I need to do a little research into what it was and why it's now derelict. It was probably very striking in its heyday.

Monday, September 19, 2016

A goat at Goat Pass

Goat Pass on the Eagleroost & Koontree seems to be prone to obstructions. First it was snow, now a goat. With a name like Goat Pass, I guess this happens a lot :-)
Luckily, our intrepid photographer was there to capture the goat removal procedure.
But, at night in the summer, it makes for a perfect hobo camp.