Monday, December 26, 2016

2016 wasn't 1976 and 2017 won't be 1977

[My grandmother set up a snow village every year at Christmas. The photo has no date, but was likely taken sometime between the late '40s and late '50s - before my time, but it's the only photo I have. I recently found the picture stashed with some other old photos. If my memory is functioning properly, it looked much the same in the late '60s and '70s.]

First, some blog factoids before the navel gazing and crystal ball divining.

Most accessed 2016 E. L. Moore post.
Wales meets Colorado on the Eagleroost & Koontree RR

My favourite 2016 E. L. Moore post(s) - it was a tie :-)

My favourite 2016 project

My favourite E. L. Moore photo of 2016

Favourite binge watched tv series in 2016
Life on Mars (UK series)

Most ego expanding post of 2016,
The Cobol Building
This excellent build - I especially love the sign - has done more to convince me to upgrade to modern building methods than anything else I've read. And if you were wondering, The Fortran Building got some upgrades and repairs this year.
Repairs to the Fortran Building

2016 post that inspired me to get off my duff and finish a stalled project
Scenery and buildings for Mt. Adams
Suitably inspired, here is the finished Mt. Lowe observatory
At the Mt. Lowe Observatory

Least viewed 2016 post
Garner's Sin Sniper is not crummy

Three most commented 2016 posts
Fella from up Canada way

Some good novels read in 2016
The Sin Sniper and Murder Has Your Number by Hugh Garner
Brighton Rock, Stamboul Train, and A Burnt-Out Case by Graham Greene
The Was An Old Woman by Howard Engel
The Saratoga Barrier by Frank Herbert
Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

The 2016 build most likely to cause a nervous breakdown

Cutest build of 2016

Most eye-strain inducing build of 2016
Dilly Behind the Eight Ball

Favourite hobby related books read in 2016
Clear the Tracks! by Joseph Bromley
Welcome to Marwencol by Mark Hogancamp & Chris Shellen
Elgin Park: An Ideal American Town by Michael Paul Smith
Elgin Park: Visual Memories of Midcentury America at 1/24th Scale by Michael Paul Smith & Gail K. Ellison

Light Ray Blues, Series 2, got started in the spring of 2015 with 4 instalments. I wrote 16 more over a long, hot weekend in July 2016, and then posted the series throughout September and October. If you need some jaw dropping excitement to help work off all that turkey, you can begin binge reading all 20 pulse pounding chapters from here :-)

What's that you say, you can't take the excitement of Series 2 without first reading Light Ray Blues, Series 1. For all you Sheldon Cooper style completists out there, you can access the first of 39 mind-blowing instalments that set the model streetcar world on fire in 2012 and 2013  from here:-)
Light Ray Blues, part 1

Best movie seen in 2016
Miles Ahead

Strangest time travel short story of 2016 (and the only time travel story of 2016)

The 2016 build most deserving of a place in Las Vegas

Biggest HO-scale party of 2016
Most impressive E. L. Moore 'lost' article of 2016

This has been a year of change. In February, the new owner of the company I worked at for 20 years decided I was too old and expensive for them, so they laid me off. On the upside, in October I started work at a better job, at a better company. I was lucky. I was glad to have the E. L. Moore project to provide a pleasant diversion.

Speaking of the E. L. Moore project, I think it'll be coming to an end in the next few weeks. Likely by around the end of January or early February I'll have posted most of the outstanding material. No doubt there'll be a few more posts throughout 2017, but the majority of the mainline posts will be wrapping up. It's been an unbelievable little adventure. When I got started in August 2013 I figured I'd write a few posts about some things I liked about his work and it would end in 2014. I'm glad it took the turns it did and it has provided lots of fun. There are still many E. L. Moore mysteries, and if I'm lucky enough to help solve them, you'll get all the breaking news here :-) 

Ah 2017, there's an entire generation of people poised to enter, or who are entering, post-secondary education who are pure 21st century people. E. L. Moore was a pure 20th century man even though he was born in 1898. He passed on in 1979, well before the 21st century was much of a concern. My series about him is called 'E. L. Moore in the 21st Century' and as it comes to an end I'm often thinking about what message his work might have for this century. Even though he was prolific, and left a large legacy of projects, I think he has more than that to offer. He bridged the old American miniature building folk art tradition and mid-20th century model railroading. Those folk artists were all about manifesting their love of certain buildings that were important to them using whatever means were at hand, and Mr. Moore brought that to model railroading. For sources, he drew on photos, books, his own experiences, observations and travels, his memory, discussions, and his imagination. Sometimes he pilfered ideas from kits and made versions better than the 'originals'. He didn't like building kits and thought their only use was providing examples in how to, or not, write assembly instructions. Here's what I think his message is for us: look around; collect references; consult your memories; find what you love; build it;  build a lot; there's probably a story in there somewhere and it's good to communicate that too; remember that it doesn't take a lot of money to produce something good. You don't have to let the dominant culture lead you by the nose.
The American folk art miniature building tradition isn't completely dead. This year I stumbled across the work of Michael Paul Smith. Although he has professional experience, his work is deeply personal in that old folk art vein. Inspired by his project to recreate his childhood home in 1/24 scale, I spent some time drawing 1/24 scale plans and elevations of my childhood home. It's tougher than it seems. All I had were photos of the house and my memories. No dimensions. No drawings. No measurements of any kind. Sometimes my memories were at odds with the photos' objective facts. And sometimes unpleasant memories were dredged up along with the pleasant ones. Those plans took weeks of spare time to finish. Reality caught up with me and I didn't have time to move on to the next step of building a model. And I got a little stalled trying to decide whether to build an HO or 1/24 scale version. Maybe I'll give it try in 2017.

I can't mention the E. L. Moore project without sending out a big thank-you to everyone who has provided information, access, content, clues, questions and great discussion along the way. Many people who have helped have wanted to remain anonymous in our internet infested world, so I'll stick with first names and aliases for now in my thanks. Many thanks and best wishes to Debra, Paul Z., Vince, Chris, Jim, Becky, JR, Melinda, Nick, John, Mr. X, John, M, Leigh, Neil, Mary, Penny, Paul, Melissa, and Valerie.

I'm terrible at making New Year's resolutions, not to mention keeping them. For 2016 I thought I'd give up how-to style blog posts. I couldn't see any future in them. I wasn't writing about any new techniques, so what was the point. As regular readers will note, I fell off the wagon hard and wrote plenty of them, but all that was comfort writing. Debra doesn't agree with my no more how-tos stance. Her view is that retro-scratchbuilding needs to be taught to a new generation, at the very least as a gateway to better, more modern scratchbuilding. I'm not so sure there's much interest. She's probably right, but we agree to disagree :-) We'll see how long my self-imposed how-to prohibition lasts.

I'm thinking 2017 will be a year of shifting gears, trying new things, tooling up with new practices and hopefully with new ideas. Over the last few weeks I've been taking my layout apart and storing things away in preparation for whatever's next. I started building it in the fall of 2011, and it was more-or-less complete by 2015. One of the things I've learned is that my interest is making buildings and photographing staged scenes. I'm not into operation. I only run streetcars and trains around Christmas, and for friends and guests throughout the year if they have an interest in seeing the layout, otherwise my layout is my personal movie set where all the movies are static photos :-)

Any new layout is going to combine a retro-Toronto urban setting integrated with a beachfront scene. I'm kicking around lots of ideas; for example, using proper street rail for streetcar track instead of embedded train track; long streets; planning by placing buildings and things first and adding track later; building some retro-future stuff into the layout;  building a scale model of Sam the Record Man or Honest Ed's; use an 'exploratium' style instead of a 'layout' style for the layout; and on and on. 
Hmm, the retro-Toronto aspect might be blended with a little Ottawa. Ottawa used to have a streetcar system. It closed down in 1959, but the streetcar city aspects are still here if you look close enough, and there's some favourite places I'd like to incorporate in a new layout. This year I was in contact with the owner of Our Home and Miniature Land, a Miniature Worderland style HO-scale layout and facility representing Canada that is being built in Toronto. So far, the core display is focused on Toronto and some outlying regions, but work is underway to include Ottawa. After some summertime exchanges, I sent the fellow a brief on some things to think about that would help create a display that goes beyond Ottawa's tourist attractions and stereotypes. I haven't heard anything since, but it got me thinking that those non-stereotyped things that help make Ottawa, Ottawa can be included in my own layout if I put my thinking cap on straight. 
But, there are a couple of R/C aircraft I'd like to take a crack at building, so model railroading might go on hiatus for awhile. And I'd like to try either laser cutting or computer controlled paper cutters. I'm also thinking about light and how to use it better to get the moods I'm looking for. And I want to listen to a lot more music and read a lot more novels in 2017. I'm thinking about lots of directions, but haven't decided which to take.

Sylvie suggests I start a local club. I'm a Groucho Marxist when it comes to clubs: I wouldn't join any club that would have me as a member, not to mention found one. Although, I'm never adverse to good conversation, drinks and food. 

I'd like to thank everyone who has dropped by and spent a few minutes here. I especially enjoy the discussions that take place. And to all those who control the spam-bots that constantly knock on my virtual door here at 30 Squares, and the spies who snoop on what's going on, why don't you read some of the posts and take-up retro-scratchbuilding :-) It's quite fun and more rewarding than what you're doing now.

Happy New Year and best wishes for health, happiness, peace and prosperity! I'll catch you on the flip flop.


Maybe I'm not the Groucho Marxist I think I am. While in Toronto, Debra and I visited George's Trains. We hadn't been there in almost a year, so we had a lot of catching up with Sherwin to do. While we were chatting, a gentleman who was listening in, who only identified himself as Richard, invited us upstairs for a private tour of the Railview Model Railway Club's layout-in-construction. And what a tour it was. It's a vast layout being constructed in what was some rather banal office space. I started taking pictures as Richard narrated the layout's story and walked us through the areas, but I quickly realized that the room-after-room of interconnected layout was never going to photograph in any conventional way that would do it justice, so I'll just give you the one picture and note that if you're looking for a club to join in Toronto, this is the one. 
The layout focuses on the rail scene in Hamilton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catherines, Aldershot and thereabouts areas of southwestern Ontario, and various areas will be set in the '60s, '70s and '80s. It's been under construction for three years, but it looks like there are still lots of great modelling opportunities ahead.
The other thing about George's is that it seems whenever I drop in there is always some sort of E. L. Moore related thing for sale. This time I stumbled across a constructed Molasses Mine kit on the resale shelf: $34.95 CDN if you're interested. And there always seems to a Ma's Place for sale. It was no different this time; there was one just a few feet away from the mine. Weird. 

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