Sunday, November 6, 2016

E. L. Moore's Crossroads Store article is found!

[Adam's General Store, the subject of E. L. Moore's unpublished Model Railroader article, Crossroads Store. Photo published with permission of Model Railroader magazine /

If you've been following the E. L. Moore in the 21st Century series you'll know that in Jim Kelly's E. L. Moore tribute article that appeared in the February 1980 issue of Model Railroader Mr. Kelly noted the magazine still had 6 E. L. Moore articles they were planning to publish in upcoming issues. It turns out none appeared, and I thought they had been lost to posterity.

I was dead wrong and glad to be.

The internet can be a wonderful thing. Paul Zimmerman, a long time E. L. Moore enthusiast and researcher, got in touch with me and said he had those 6 unpublished articles. He wrote to MR in the fall of 1993, and MR's senior editor Jim Kelly gave them to him with the condition that MR retain the publication rights. Paul has held on and taken good care of them since then. Fast forward 23 years. After some email exchanges with MR this past summer, Neil Besougloff, MR's Editor, graciously granted permission for me to post those 6 articles here at 30 Squares. I'm grateful for the opportunity to present these long missing pieces of E. L. Moore's legacy. I'd like to thank Paul Zimmerman for his foresight and efforts in preserving these manuscripts, and Neil Besougloff for allowing me to post them. Here's the first one, Crossroads Store
Spruce Creek is not exactly a thriving village but the boys make out somehow. It's really a "whistlestop" on the Eagleroost & Koontree R.R.

Crossroads Store
E. L. Moore

Published with permission of Model Railroader magazine /

This "down-at-the-heels" general store had its counterpart in almost every hamlet and city forty or fifty years ago. Similar structures may still be found in many a village today. It is present, largely due to the fact that if it were torn down, the space it occupies would be too limited for a parking lot.

The small comment this particular model arouses at first glance readily gives way to tongue clattering exclamations as the roof is lifted to permit a peek into the lighted interior. This is more or less true of any building. They may serve as mere background for your railroad or - this is particularly true of small villages - structures may be made to stand out in the foreground on equal terms with your railroad.

During the early days of my railroad, I bought a Wells Fargo kit. It was a very good kit but I did more than merely assemble it. I put in a floor and a partition, made the roof over into a detachable shingled one and added a loading door and a platform along one side. I filled the interior with crates, barrels, a stove, a counter with one end screen-enclosed and having pigeonholes for mail. Then I put up a small sign at one corner of the front: U. S. POST OFFICE. It is now something more than just an ordinary kit-built structure.

This little store is quite ordinary in design. In fact, it is so simple to build that I'm going to omit much of the usual detailed instructions and concentrate on the front and furnishing of the interior.

Here is what it takes to put it together:

  6" of 1/16" siding, 1/16" spacing,
  6" of 1/16" sheet balsa for partition and roof,
  4" of 1/8" sheet balsa for floor,
  3" of 1/32" sheet balsa for porch flooring and canopy,
  Some barrels, 3 windows, a stove, beads, facial tissue, mild cans, hand truck and some imagination.

Spit and chrome leaves me cold, but set me up to a dilapidated old structure and I'm plumb happy.
This building, like all of my old structures, calls for plenty of balsa, my favorite working wood. Although I have specified commercial siding in the list of materials, my model is made completely of balsa. I make my own siding, shingles, etc. with the aid of an electric burning pen. Many of you have seen or perhaps even owned one of these tools. I recall that for a long while the only use I put mine to was in burning my initials on my possessions. Then I found that the V point could be manipulated to produce siding, shingle or shake roofs, masonry, brickwork and plank floors, including realistic cracks and knotholes. Since then I have made mighty good use of it. However, I don't expect you to run right out and buy one, so better make ready with that commercial siding.

The floor is 18' x 30' and may be cut from 1/8" balsa. The plank flooring can be scribed with a No. 3 pencil. It rests on six piles (1/8" doweling or matchsticks), four to the main structure and two more at the corners of the porch. Cut your front as shown in the drawings and the rear wall according to the dotted lines, which also give you the pitch of the roof. The sides are 9 1/2' high, right up to the dotted line and only the side shown has a window and door.

I built an 8' x 10' shed-roofed lean-to onto the rear which is where the old storekeeper kept his kerosene barrel. This isn't shown and isn't necessary but can be added easily. After fitting the roof together (1/16" balsa, each side 12' x 25'), fit triangular pieces of balsa on the inside and it can be lifted off to show the interior. For that crooked stovepipe, use some hook-up wire or bellcord, painting it black and bracing it with a bit of fine black thread.

The front of the store is, of course, the most important feature and here you will do well to spend time and patience. The window openings are framed and the size ought to be determined by the size windows you have on hand. The door is a simple affair of 1/32" balsa with a single pane of glass in the upper part; leave the door open.

The porch should have an overlay of 1/32" balsa scribed into narrow flooring and with a very slight overhang. Notice that some of the flooring is broken off at the porch edge. The canopy or porch roof is made of a single strip of 1/32" balsa, 7 1/2' x 21', scribed narrowly, swaybacked and with rafters showing from beneath. A round post holds up each end and sometime in the distant past it may have had one in the center. Since it is adjacent to the railroad, it naturally has steps made of railroad ties.

The lettering on the front should look as though time and weather had half obliterated it. My building has never known paint but has been weathered to a dusty gray by using two washes of railroad colors, one brown and one gray, much diluted with thinner, applied indiscriminately but with the gray predominating.
With Mr. Adams showing a customer his latest shipment of yardgoods . . . and brother Jobe asleep in a chair.

I applied oak stain to the floor of the interior and brightened up the walls somewhat with varnish. Using the ideas found in my photograph, go ahead and make yours even more elaborately cluttered.
Put a clock high up on the wall at the back. You can buy them but you can make one as good from balsa or cardboard, 1/16" thick, the depot variety and stain it a dark finish. Cut the face with a punch such as is used in making holes in sheets for school binders, then ink in a jumble of numbers and a couple of hands.

A stove, a spittoon, a couple of benches with a loafer or two and plenty of shelves are added. Visit the bead counter of your local dime store and you will find all varieties that work out nicely as china, glassware, etc. For packaged goods, use bits of balsa in red, green and yellow. Facial tissue, rolled and flattened, with tiny colored ink spots gives you patterned yard goods. Naturally, a counter is needed and a molasses barrel resting on a couple of sawhorses with a tiny wire faucet and bucket below. Hang some stuff from the wall pegs and pile more on the floor, then fill the back room with barrels and boxes.

You will want the store lit up but not too bright. An amber bulb is best. It could be one of a series of three lamps, the other two in nearby buildings.

You might put a gasoline pump out front, but for heaven's sake, move that eyesore of a privy back somewhere under a tree where it will have some privacy.

I had a lot of fun building and furnishing this store. The clucking of tongues and resulting comments have further added to my enjoyment. It is, as they say, a sort of museum piece.


E. L. Moore submitted Crossroads Store in April 1961 to Model Trains magazine, which by that time was owned by Kalmbach Publishing, the same company that owns Model Railroader. 1961 was getting close to the end of Model Train's run. Its last regular issue was March '62, there was an annual published in 1963, and that was it. The March '62 issue was a big one for E. L. Moore: his Grizzly Flats project was the cover story, complete with cover photo, and it also contained his article on modifying the Mantua General.

Although March '62, was a big month for Mr. Moore, 1961 was an even bigger year. He submitted and sold 14 articles, Crossroads Store being one of them. I hadn't seen it before Paul sent it to me. The manuscripts I've seen so far date from no earlier than June '61, so this was a treat.

April 9, 1961

W. V. Anderson, Editor,
Model Trains,
1027 N. Seventh St.,
Milwaukee 3, Wis.

Dear Mr. Anderson,

Here's a short article, CROSSROADS STORE, for your consideration. While the store is admittedly no different from dozens of others, the front and interior treatment might win acceptance from those modelers who take pride in any little detail that adds to the realism of their structures.

Actually I'm amazed at the number of youngsters, reared in this diesel age, who are more interested in steam and the railroading of a past era. Of course the ones I hear from are those who have space for a pike no larger than 4x6, which may account for their interest in smaller locos and cars of bygone years.

New paper, new drawing ink, new pens, and the results are a littler better. Return label and postage enclosed.

signed E. L. Moore

E. L. Moore,
525 Oakland Ave.,
Apt 3
Charlotte 4, N. C.

Speaking of interiors, seeing this article helped me figure out which project these two photos I found in E. L. Moore's files came from.
[This appears to be a photo of the interior of the Wells Fargo kit mentioned in the article. You can see the corner posts are not part of the Crossroads Store build, and there appears to be a post office wicket at the counter.]

[But this one is the Crossroads Store and  you get an idea how the roof was built - it used Mr. Moore's standard technique of triangular gussets to hold the roof panels together]

The Crossroads Store was a feature of the Elizabeth Valley RR, and I hope to one day build an N-scale version of this commercial establishment - all those interior details will be a good challenge :-)


  1. Scans of the drawings can produce out-of-scale results, depending on your computer screen size. We all know how to enlarge/shrink, so use this: Front view: post to post L-R, 18'. Side view, front to back is 24'; entire base is 30' on the side. You might glean this out of the text, but to properly size your plans, use this to check them.

  2. Pleasantly surprised that Kalmbach agreed to allow you to share this article. About 10 years ago I emailed Mr. Besougloff about sharing a Westcott steam detailing article from Model Trains with the Yardbird Trains Yahoo group. His response was a very polite 'No'. I wonder what changed?

    1. I don't know, but this ELM article and the other 5 that I'll be posting, are unpublished. I'm just glad that MR is giving me this opportunity to fill in another piece of the ELM story.

  3. And to think that in 1993 when I sought the unpublished articles, this one was already 31 years old! What is it total, 54 years unused until today? Wow. Glad MR held onto it before me!

    1. 54, 55 years, yeah, that's about right. I'm amazed that so much material has survived to the present day. And from what I've seen and read, there could be an equal amount still out there somewhere.