Sunday, November 20, 2016

Build a 1900's Foundry the E. L. Moore way

[A Charlotte foundry established in 1900 and the subject E. L. Moore's third unpublished Model Railroader article, Build a 1900's Foundry. Photo published with permission of Model Railroader magazine / Model]

This is the third in the series of 'lost' E. L. Moore articles. The first two, the Crossroads Store and the Village School, were interesting, but they are relatively minor additions to Mr. Moore's legacy. Cole Mfg. Co. on the other hand is a major work. This project is similar in scope to the HOJPOJ Mfg. Co. , the Brick Enginehouse, and the short line terminal facility. And like the HOJPOJ building, the prototype was located in Charlotte, North Carolina, so we're getting a small history lesson in manufacturing companies that we still operating in Charlotte during E. L. Moore's lifetime. 
[The article was also accompanied by a number of prototype photos shot by E. L. Moore like this one  Most are in rough shape and hopefully will be the subject of a future post. But the sign in this one makes it clear: this company was Established 1900. Photo published with permission of Model Railroader magazine / Model]

The manuscript submitted in June 1967 was originally titled Established 1900, and since I had no photos of the model until I saw this article, I wondered why it was so named. Well, it's obvious now, that's what's lettered on the prototype's main sign underneath Cole Mfg. Co. 

Build a 1900's Foundry
Based on a factory in Charlotte, N. C.

By E. L. Moore

Published with permission of Model Railroader magazine /
As seen from the overhead bridge where the highway rises above the Seaboard tracks, two structures stand out strikingly from a group which comprises the Cole Manufacturing Company. They've been makers of agricultural implements since the early part of the century. To the right is the foundry with its curving track running form the siding up past ancient heaps of scrap and into central yawning doors and which-- in evenings past-- sometimes emitted an eerie glow when molten metal was being poured. To the left is the companion piece, the heating plant, with its fanlight windows and chunky brick stack. Here is a scene which I doubt has greatly changed in over half a century. My guided tour through the foundry coincided with the final pouring of iron in the old structure; the changing world has pressured the building of a new modern foundry close by to replace the old one.

It was these two fore-ground buildings that I, not long ago, decided to model. As seen in the resultant photographs, the foundry, along with its landscaped front, occupies an area 5 1/2" x 9 1/2" while the smaller heating plant requires only a 3" x 4" space. The cost totals a mere $3 for all materials and equipment used.

It is plain that these two structures cannot constitute an entire plant. A heating plant such as this calls for other buildings.  I first photographed the two foreground structures with such odds and ends of other buildings as I had on hand, but they could hardly have been called authentic. So I quickly modeled two new background structures, one of which passes for the combination administration and warehouse building and another which is an elongated version of the heating and might pass for a machine shop. I called a halt here and these four combined cover an area 11" x 13 1/2" including the siding which passes through the middle. At least, new, there is some valid excuse for my two foreground pieces and the total cost has risen not more than 75 cents as these were built of balsa and covered with brick paper.

We are mainly concerned with the foreground structures and it is on these that I shall go into considerable detail as to construction. The others, which were completed in a couple of evenings, will be dealt with briefly later.

Here then, are the materials required to build the foundry in HO. The front landscaping and the heating plant materials will be listed as we come to them.

11" Northeastern red brick (sheets are 3 1/2" x 12")
12" 1/16" x 4" balsa
11" 1/8" x 3" balsa (or 5 1/2" 1/8" x 6")
7"  NE corrugated siding .040 thick,  .040 spacing
7"  1/32" x 1/8" stripwood
14" 1/32" x 3/32" stripwood
48" 1/32" x 1/16" stripwood
10 sq. inches of frosted acetate

I began by preparing the bricksheet. Using Carters tempera colors (available at variety stores), I daubed yellow and red on a glass and mixed in some green. Then with a small piece of sponge compressed between forefingers and thumb, I touched the colors lightly, then patted the brick surface, breaking up the mortar lines and generally dirtying up the virginal look of the pattern. A nice thing about this is that if you don't like the result or get it on too heavy, you can wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth. As a final touch, I added some black to the mixture and, using a stiff round bristle brush, stippled this on lightly wherever I found places missed by the sponge. 
Since the building is 40' x 40', I cut out four sides, each 11' x 40' and beveled the ends. Beveling, if you haven't had much practice, can be tedious. Beveling, laying out and cutting window openings, etc., is of course, done on the back of the brick sheet. To get a 45 degree angle, I make a light cut with my razor blade about 1/16" (which is the thickness of the sheet) from and parallel with the end of the piece, then holding my blade at an angle, I cut through-- in two or three slices. Finish with a fine sanding board. The slower method is to use a file or coarse sanding board. Sure, now and then I have to doctor up a bad cut. Now with a pencil and ruler, lay out the window and door opening locations. The bottoms of all window openings, by the way, are  uniformly 3' from the lower edge of the wall. All window openings are 3' x 5' including the 1 1/2' rounded top, which is best routed out with a round rat tail file. Some, it will be noted, are bricked up; these need merely be outlined on the brick surface with an awl or scribe, then cleaned with wet cotton on a stick and will look bright and new. The placement of windows other than these shown in the drawing may be seen in the Kit Photo. These are not too critical other than that they appear in pairs, generally.  The partially bricked up pair of windows mark the location of the sand bin. Good quality clean sand is a necessary item in foundry mold making. I built a trough back of these and shoveled in some sand (balsa sawdust) which shows in the openings. In one photograph, you'll see my man shoveling sand out of a gondola into a chute leading to one of these windows. Actually, the only sand I've seen unloaded at the plant came in a boxcar and was unloaded with a scoop lift truck.
Kit photo showing foundry before assembly -- providing a view of three sides not shown in drawing.

The front central door opening is 4' up, 6 1/2' wide and 8' high, the top of which extends above the brick and into the pieced on siding. Which means you'll need to cement a triangular piece of 1/16" clapboard siding (painted green) 21' wide and 3' high at the apex, onto the brick wall at the front. Note that the doors, of 1/32" scribed sheathing, are only 7' tall, the front. Note that the doors, of 1/32" scribed sheathing, are only 7' tall, thus allowing the track to be later shoved up through this intervening space. The other front door opening is 4' x 6 1/2', as is the back door. The fanlight adds another 2' to this. The large door opening out onto the siding is 5' x 7' and may be used with or without a platform.

Two brick ledges extend all the way around the building, the lower one with its top at 3', in an almost unbroken line at the bottoms of the windows, and the other with its top at 7', joining the arches that surmount each window and door.  For this, I took a sheet of light cardboard, about .020 thick, and painted it with the following mixture, matching as closely as possible the brick color: 1 part Floquil yellow, 1 part tuscan red, 5 parts caboose red, 1 part white, measuring these by the brushful. When thoroughly dry, I ruled across with pen and white ink at 1/16" wide for the ledges. The brick arches, as shown in Figure 1 (A), were laid out on the same stock with compass and pencil, lines ruled with white ink, then cut out, using a razor blade for the inner curves and scissors for the outer. After installing, I went over the inked lines with a fine pointed brush and yellow ochre water color to tone down the whites. The I ran along the tops of the ledges and arches with pen and brown ink to give the appearance which of an accumulation of dirt over the years.  
HOn3 railcar loaded on a standard gauge car and being pushed along siding.

The window openings are not cased but are painted red and as for the window stops (against which the windows rest), I cemented file card stock to the inner surface of the walls, lapping the window openings about 1/32". As for the windows themselves, I used frosted acetate, which transmits light but not details, which pretty much compares with the dirt encrusted prototype windows. I laid these out in detail with pencil on white cardstock, taped the acetate to this, dull side up and inked it as shown in (B) Figure 1. You'll need a total of 15 windows, 9 for the foundry and 6 for the heating plant, with some extra fanlights to go above the doors. Then there are the clerestory windows which we will come to presently.

I installed the windows, dull side out, after messing them up a bit on the inner surface with splotches of water color. I punctured a couple for good measure. Needless to say, my windows are in much better shape than the prototype where many of the fanlights have been covered with sheet metal. After installation I slipped a prepainted red .020 x 1/32" bit of stripwood in horizontally as a separator where the lower window and fanlight join. .020 x 1/16" stripwood was used above the doors for the same purpose.

You can now assemble the four walls around a floor of 1/8" balsa, 39' x 39'. While the prototype has a dirt floor, the balsa is here to give rigidity and promote squareness in the model.
I'll admit I wouldn't know the formula for figuring out the dimensions of the hip roofed slopes, but I give you in (C) Figure 1. I found my dimensions by trial and error. For the roof I used 1/16" balsa, beginning here with four pieces, each 13 1/2' x 43', then cutting triangles from the ends, ending up with a 20' top edge, 43' at the bottom. Bevel the underside of the ends very slightly by sanding and then cement the four pieces together with their bottoms resting on a flat surface. When dry, it's a good idea to strengthen the roof by running a line of cement down the joints on the underside.  The front portion of the roof, as in Figure 1, will require a bit of altering. First, cut out the section at the bottom outline in dotted lines. Then from a piece of 1/32" balsa 7 1/2' x 13 1/2', make a cut diagonally across. This will provide the two halves of the gable roof, beveling the rear edges and placing them along lines shown by dashes and cementing in place. When the roof is complete (I left mine removable), I added the roof covering. I cut facial tissue a little larger than each side section and with enough to lap under at the eaves, then ran a line of white glue around the edges and under the eaves. When dry, I painted with dark gray railroad colors, then ruled in lines 2' apart with pen and brown ink to simulate seams.

Next, sand the top so that the edges of the balsa are flat. The clerestory windows which will sit here are four pieces of frosted acetate, ruled and inked, each 4' x 20', sandwiched between green prepainted stripwood. 1/32" x 1/16" at the top and bottom, with 1/32" x 1/8" at ends and 1/32" x 3/32" for window divisions. Two sides have 5 windows each while the front and rear each contain 4 windows and an exhaust fan. Actually, the one fan in the front would be sufficient. The circular opening for this may be roughed out with a paper punch, then smoothed with a small file. The fans I cut from acetate with a razor blade, smoothed the edges with a file and fastened in place with cement, then given a coat of aluminum paint followed by a wash of rust. You can use diluted Floquil rust if you like. I used a wash of brown and raw sienna oils in turpentine for this purpose.  But don't - for a single moment - take your eyes off them while cutting these out or they'll disappear as if by magic. When the four sides are finished, bevel the ends and cement together, then cement to the top of the roof to form a 20' x 20' clerestory.
HOn3 rail car being loaded on standard gauge rail car for trip down siding.  Gondola of sand in position for unloading.

For the roof, check with (D) in the roof drawings which shows the dimensions of sides and ends.  This calls for corrugated siding. Again, bevel the under edges very slightly and cement together. Then run a line of glue down the joists on the inside. When dry, put in position and cement down. Paint with aluminum and stain with a wash of rust. You'll notice a certain amount of gook has fallen both here and on the roof below, which can be simulated with a darker gray paint. 

Now for the protruding cupola, which in my ignorance I would have called a stack, and which is, in the prototype, an extension of the cupola below which I would have termed the furnace. Since this is at variance with a railroader's idea of a cupola, maybe I'd better use the two words in conjunction. I made this from a length of balsa, 2' square, rounding the edges until I could twist it through a 1/2" hole drilled in my workbench. I cemented a wrap of paper around it and sliced one end to conform with the roof slope, leaving it 5' long. At the top I gave a few extra wraps of 1/16" wide paper and at the bottom, wrapped a paper apron around it. The peaked cap at the top is made from a 3' diameter circle of paper as shown at the right of the clerestory, like a pie with a small piece cut out. Lap this over and cement it and there you are. While this is actually supported on a little tip of a round toothpick pushed into the top of the balsa, I cemented tiny strips about 1/64" x 3/32" of acetate around the outside and these appear to be supporting it. I stuck a bit of turned toothpick in the top and gave the whole a coat of aluminum and a wash of rust. Cement this in place so that its lower edge is 7' from the eaves. And down below let's not forget the wooden canopy of 1/32" scribed sheathing, 3 1/2' x 6', to be put up over the door with a couple of braces to hold it.

The effect is particularly striking if the foundry is lighted so I mounted a pea lamp socket in a piece of balsa and set it in the middle of the floor, the leads running out beneath. I set up a shield of bright yellow paper about 8í high in a half circle in front of it and to this, fastened a bit of cedar cigar wrapper. When lighted, this gives a realistic flame-streaked appearance as viewed through the open front doors. A similar socket with screw base bulb is to be installed in the heating plant and the two are hooked up in a series.
The front landscaping area unadorned, with the two railcars converted from Selley handcar kits.


For this, you'll need:

4" x 6" piece of 1/8' plywood or balsa
12" of code 70 rail or smaller
2 Selley handcar kits

For the base of this I used a piece of 1/8" plywood, 28' x 40'. Had this not been handy, I would have settled for 1/8" balsa which would have done as well. As may be seen in the photograph, I built up the ascending gradient of the trackbed using hard balsa or various thicknesses and sizes, to a final elevation where it enters the foundry, of about 6'. I used code 70 rail (although an even smaller rail would have ben better), sinking this in 1/32î grooves  worked out, cementing with Pliobond. I made my track HOn3 instead of the standard gauge of the plant as it carries out the effect better. I roughed up the surface of the plywood, smoothed out a path, then went over it with texture paint, laying it on thick where required but generally giving it only a couple of coats. After this came a wash of brownish earth stain, brown and raw sienna oils in turps, planted a few weeds around, added some spots of grass and accumulated enough junk to distribute in strategic spots. Bits of wire, chain, oil drums, broken up plastic couplers, broken up truck side frames, bits of twisted foil and some rhinestone settings, provided much of it. A certain percentage of scrap is mixed with the pig iron ingots. A pile of the latter is usually lying beside the track where they have been unloaded from a gondola. These are wheeled up and dumped into the cupola furnace, then a certain amount of what I took to be crushed stone (limestone) goes in as a flux.

Practically the only expense here is for the two Selley handcar kits which cost me a dollar. I dismantled both, narrowed one frame with a file to HOn3, a quite simple procedure, then built a box to go on it, 5' x 8' x 3' high and cemented a load of scrap in it. This car is used to carry scrap, pig iron and limestone up the grade and into the foundry and perhaps to carry the slag out later. One afternoon I spent an amusing 15 minutes watching two colored lads maneuvering a heavily loaded car up the grade. Muscle and sweat prevailed to a certain point, then one of them blocked the rear wheels and hooked a cable to the front while the other went up through the doors to set the winch in motion. It had to be pulled very slowly and the cable persisted in hanging up on one of the doors. To keep the car from being derailed, one of the lads had to jab his crowbar into the trackbed and try to hold the cable over to the inside of the track, just as my lads are doing in one of the photographs.

The other car was stripped down, a wooden frame built on and two short rails cemented crosswise to the top. To bridge the gap from the end of the track to the car, I soldered two 8í rails to the proper gauge and when in position, these butt against the end of the track and lap inside those on the railcar. So now the HOn3 car is rolled onto the other and away we go down the siding to another part of the plant. But it has survived -- until now. Perhaps that is why a new foundry is replacing the old.

Here's the list for this:

9 1/2" of brick sheet
8" of 1/16" x 4" balsa
3" of 1/8" x 4" balsa
6 windows from acetate listed under foundry

Prepare the brick sheet as previously instructed. This unit is 20' x 30' so cut two sides each 11' x 30' and two ends 11' x 20', beveling and proceeding with window opening, doors, ledges and arches as with the foundry. A Kit Photo shows the other three sides while another plan shows the front. At one end the two windows are bricked up except for the arched tops which are open for ventilation. In the rear is a 4' x 6' door similar to the one in front, also an opening in the wall with sliding doors, through which coal may be shoveled. The floor, of 1/8" balsa, is 19' x 29', sanded down to door sill level at the front as this door is fastened in an open position. A wood canopy needs to be installed over the front door.
Kit photo showing heating plant before assembly.

The hip roof is of 1/16" balsa, the dimensions of which you will gather from (A) in the drawings. Add tissue, paint and rule it.

The chimney, or brick stack, takes a little more doing. I made this 25 1/2' high merely because that is the width of the brick sheet, but allowed only 21' to protrude above the roof. Here you will need to cut four strips of brick, each 4 1/2' wide at the bottom and 3 1/2' at the top, these to be beveled, then assembled.  Good clean corners are essential here. It helps a bit to cement balsa strips to the inside as guides. Around the top I added 2 strips of cardboard used for ledges, the first one 3/32" wide, then one 1/16" wide. Dirty up the chimney and the higher you go, the dirtier.

Ventilators may be bought commercially from Suydam, but by making them myself I get the type I want and they cost nothing, so. . . . I shaped this one from balsa, beginning with a 1/2" square strip, tapering for 18" of the bottom, then rounding the remaining 30", finishing this to a blunt point.  Around the upper part I wrapped 1/16" wide paper until I had a diameter of 2 1/2'. Cut the bottom to straddle the roof, paint with aluminum and add wash of rust and there you are.
By connecting the lights of the two buildings in a series you get this effect -- pouring metal in the evening hours.

You'll need a big pile of coal in the rear, then a socket base in the middle of the floor with a circle of yellow paper around it to mellow the light. Connect it up in series with the foundry light, then ask your friends to sit down in front and look through the doors.  My daughter would sometimes sit her date down and turn on the lights --- and occasionally had a difficult time getting her date up and away again.


For the two of these you will require:

18" 1/16" x 3" balsa
9"  1/16î x 4" balsa
17" 1/8" x 4" balsa
10 sq inches acetate
80 sq inches brick paper

As mentioned previously, the only reason for building these was to give some appearance of authenticity to the photographic scene and in most instances any buildings you may have might serve. However, since I'd drawn the plans of the combination warehouse and administration building, I shall give a brief resume of the construction processes involved and also of the other building which serves as a machine shop. These are "quickie" buildings and it took but two evenings to complete the two; in contrast to the week and a half for the foreground structures just described. The cost of these would be approximately 75 cents.
Our first building, as shown on this page is 25' x 40'. I used 1/16" x 3" balsa merely because this width could be used with no waste. I cut out the front as shown while the rear is 20' high at the sides, coming to a peak at 22'. The sides are 20' x 39', these fitting inside the ends. After covering with brick paper, I cut the window openings, all of which are 4' x 4 1/2', the one side with 3 and the other with 5 openings. The two in the rear are completely bricked up, leaving 10 windows, all of which have their upper portions bricked in. These bricked-in portions are made with a deeper shade of brick paper, trimmed to size with rounded tops. Two ledges encircle the building, the lower one with its top at 3 Ωí and the upper one at 14'. Arches are cut and mounted and the front door section is installed -- this is a 7' x 9' piece of clear acetate with 1/32" square stripwood prepainted green, cemented to it and with file cards doors attached.
The walls are assembled around 1/8" balsa floor, 24' x 39' and a balsa platform 7' x 17' x 3 1/2' high as in the plans and covered with brick paper. Above it is a corrugated canopy 8' x 18'.

The roof has only 1 1/2' pitch, the two sides of 1/8" balsa being each 11 1/2' x 38 1/2' and may be lifted off by the cooling unit which is 4 1/2' x 8' x 3 1/2' high, with vents in the ends and straddling the peak.

The other building which really needs no plans since it is merely an elongated version of the heating plant, is 20' x 40' and with a similar roof and two ventilators. The sidewalls are 11' x 39' of 1/16" balsa, fitting between the two 11' x 20' ends. These are covered with brick paper, ledges and arches over the windows added as in the heating plant.  There are two windows at each end and three pairs along one side, none on the other. The walls are assembled around a 1/8" balsa floor 19' x 39'. The roof sides, of 1/16" balsa, are 13' wide with a bottom length of 43' and a top edge of 23' and with the ends the same dimensions as shown for the heating plant.

For me, however, there's no pleasure in building a structure of this sort; no sense of satisfaction and accomplishment once it is done. Merely, shall we say, a sort of necessity.


I noticed a few familiar models in that diorama. The first building described in The Background Buildings section is this one that I saw at the 2015 meet-up. That model also appeared as a background building in the HOJPOJ Mfg. Co, diorama. And the second building in The Background Buildings is this one. I'm glad to finally see where it originated.


  1. I'm particularly intrigued (aside from the model itself) about the continuing pronounced ethic of inexpensive modeling for E.L. I figure $3 dollars is about $21.75 in today's dollars, which is pretty cheap for a scene like the Cole Mfg. Do you think this is achievable today at $22?

    1. I'd say yes and no. Yes, if like ELM, the builder had been scratchbuilding for awhile and had leftovers, scraps, and stock on hand. Since we can't buy only the exact quantities that we need for any particular project, leftovers accumulate, so after a number of projects the per project cost starts to go down a bit and even out. No for a beginner since they can't buy just what they need - they need materials, glue, paints, etc. But even as I say this, I think it would be hard for me to go down to the basement right now and scavenge enough material to get the cost to work out to $21.75 (which is about $29.30 CDN) because I don't have enough brick paper on hand, and I don't have any spare handcars. I'd also probably make some substitutions to make due with what I had on hand instead of spending some cash - I often do that. Also, I think the cost thing doesn't scale well. It would likely be easier to bring the Crossroads store in at his cost than this more complex project.

      And then there is the unexpected. I recall ruining a pair of pants while building ELM's branch line station when an exacto knife rolled off the table and the blade plunged into my leg :-)

  2. My last scratchbuilds were built from cereal box cardboard, paper and scrap acetate. They cost nearly nothing. It still can be done!

    My brickpaper follows my MR article: a colored pencil rubbing over a Holgate & Reynolds textured brick sheet. Today, you can download as well. But mine was up to MR's standards and is costs next to nothing. I use cream colored paper and hobby store colored pencils.

    I scribe my own siding or build it with hand-cut battens. My windows are similar to ELM's but painted with a fine brush guided by a ruler on edge.

    Shingles can be shaped by pushing a steel rule into scribed lines against the grain on balsa. Shingles then are ruled with a sharp pencil, then painted or stained.

    Clapboard siding also can be shaped by pushing the steel rule into the scribed balsa with the grain.

    Lighter colored bricks, cement block or asphalt shingles can all be created by xeroxing that Holgate & Reynolds textured brick sheet, scaling it to size and allowing it to be shades of grey. Streaking is a plus.

    Stairways can be cut piece by piece from cardstock and cardboard or illustration board.

    This will all produce incredible results that you'll be proud of. And the cheaper it is and the less you rely on commercial parts, the more satisfying it is.

    E. L. Moore inspired me early on and continues even after his death. Try his techniques and you'll never rely on store-bought again! :) --Paul

  3. I don't agree with his kit photos, though. Nice as it is to see it laid out like that, I believe brick paper should be put on as a wrap with one hidden (if possible) overlap. ELM mitered his corners but that's tough to do properly. My eyes always go to corners (if I'm finding model giveaways or flaws). I've never like how most plastic brick buildings have poorly matched corners. Take away these kind of flaws and models look so much better.

    1. It's true the corners can detract from an otherwise good model. From the photos in this article it is hard to see how the finished model appears to the viewer. If his Hoople warehouse is indicative of one of his brick paper application techniques, it doesn't look too bad,

      but his little yard office has some corner issues,

    2. I wish I had gotten my brick paper article out years before. I would have loved to see what he'd have thought of it. He did nice work with a burning pen but it looked complicated when he stained Walthers brick paper in an effort to improve it.

    3. It's impossible to speculate on what anyone would have to say about anything. I speculate on many things ELM might have said or done, but it's all just speculation on my part. All we can do is appreciate his work and continue on knowing aspects of our work were inspired by his. Although he did seem to appreciate low-cost techniques that produced credible effects.