Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Night on the Elizabeth Valley RR

I first saw this photo in Kalmbach's HO Primer, published in 1964. You may notice some familiar buildings. The silhouette in the lower left with the lit up windows is the Elizabethton Depot. Over on the right, the building with 'ROOMS' painted on it, is Ma Spumoni's Red Eye Saloon that was featured in E. L. Moore's article, Civic center for Boomtown, that appeared in the March 1963 issue of Model Railroader. Longtime readers will recall that one of Ma's specials was the Spumoni Club Special Sandwich.
This blacksmith was featured in the March 1955 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman in the Elizabeth Valley RR, which was E. L. Moore's first published article. Given Railroad Model Craftsman's practice of publishing material fairly soon after buying it, I suspect this photo maybe have been shot in '53 or '54. 

Three years ago when I started the E. L. Moore in the 21st Century series I didn't know if his work had any role in our era. But, I had a nostalgic connection so I went ahead with the series anyway, and speculated on its possible significance to us along the way. These two photos got me thinking again about that question.

Photographing staged scenes was a big part of E. L. Moore's work. It was what got him into print. In an era where the scenic model railroad still wasn't a commonplace, even though his layout was a modest 4x6, it was detailed enough to allow him to stage and photograph quite striking scenes. This was a consistent practice all throughout his work, from these early night scenes on the EVRR, through separately staged pastorals and on into the '70s with things such as The Cannonball and Safety Powder Works

Staging and photographing scenes with models and miniatures is a very 21st century thing both inside and outside the world of model railroading. Mr. Moore's work is a personal homage to the world of his boyhood and youth in the early 20th century. He had no interest in the operational side of model railroading, so he isn't one of the top luminaries in the hobby. But, with his emphasis on communicating something personal, putting the human situation in the foreground, working with scale models and photography to tell stories through images - although he had a whole other sideline of communicating via written stories - he seems an early pioneer of our era. 


  1. Some people consider Model Railroading to be an art form. Perhaps it is on a folky level. Scale Model Building is not art because it is the attempt to reproduce at a miniature scale something that exists in the "real" world. What model railroaders do today - and for the most part at any time of the hobby is NOT art. It is craft.

    What's the difference? Art - fine art, especially - is an expression of a abstract language. Craft is the invention of something tangible. I'm not saying there isn't a degree art in craft anymore than there isn't craft in fine art. The key difference is that abstract value craft often lacks. Model Railroading is the attempt to reproduce models of a real thing; the closer the better, so it would seem.

    To me the art that may occur in model railroading IS the Story. You can "play" trains on a well done, operation oriented layout and perhaps that is art unto itself but to me that is about on par with playing any game. Operations in model railroading is, at its core, game playing.

    Telling the story like Moore did is ART. And Moore was an artist.

    1. I agree. Also, I think he was trying to tell the story of how he perceived life in an era that was special to him.