Monday, July 24, 2017

Did you bring the boxes?

Over the weekend Vince and I acquired a collection of Railroad Model Craftsman issues that date from the 1940s to 2010. That's them in the 6 cartons, and - as a special bonus - on top, in the bags, is a large collection of Railroad Modeler. All Debra and I had to do was go on a 1,300 km round-trip across the province to pick them up :-) Well, road trips are what we do, and there were thrills, spills, and chills, but in the end: Mission Accomplished! I have my suspicions that E. L. Moore sourced the track plan for his Elizabeth Valley Railroad from a '40s or '50s issue of RMC. No doubt there are lots of interesting discoveries ahead, but while I'm getting a car wash, I'll leave you with Glen and Willie.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A spin on the Neville Park Loop

It's just a little 7" radius loop, but boy it was tough to install.
It's made of 3 pieces of Atlas flex-track. The 3/4 loop - and it is a perfect circular arc not the semi-ellipse of that slightly distorted photo - is cut from one piece, the long exit straight is the second, and that entry transition is the third. 
The transition piece had a little special preparation before installation. First, Atlas flex has more-or-less all the ties interconnected on one side, and every other tie connected on the other. To make the piece more flexible I removed every other interconnection from the first side, so that it was as flexible as the other. Then the track was carefully wrapped edge-wise around the perimeter of that old tobacco can (I use it for stashing old screws and nuts, so it's heavy). This gives the track a slight built-in curvature. After curving, the track was trimmed a bit so that the rail ends that join the loop have been curved by the can - this helps get a little better joint between the transition and the loop. 
That's all the track installed on the new streetcar layout. I hear a soldering iron - and summer vacation - calling my name :-)

Friday, July 14, 2017

What would E. L. Moore do?


Now a railroad terminal building with tracks underneath and offices above, if I can latch onto a starting idea, I might develop something along that line.
E. L. Moore in a letter to Hal Carstens, dated April 2, 1969.

E. L. Moore didn't publish a project about such a railroad terminal and so I'm left to wonder what he might have done if he had pursued this line of thinking. There are certainly many large terminals with such an arrangement, but that one in the picture is my candidate. Ok, it isn't a terminal, but it was built between 1896 and 1898 - well within E. L. Moore's favourite era - and does have tracks underneath and offices above. And, given its straightforward shape, it would selectively compress without wrecking its character. A smaller version could use a variety of possible surfaces - brick, stone, concrete - so there's room to inject your own style. Not to mention, that when lit up, there would be some great night scenes with all those windows. This would be an interesting Neo-Moorian project. Two 1969 dollars and two weeks of work? :-)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

West end loop

The streetcar loops around quite well in what will be the west end suburbs. But, this is the second attempt at track installation - my first attempt had to be torn-up because streetcars derailed like crazy on every bend.
I didn't pay close enough attention to making sure the track made perfect circular arcs and that caused derailments. On the second try I used cardboard templates to help lay the track (that one up there has a 6 7/16 " radius to give pretty much a 7" radius arc on centre). I should mention that the track is held in place with transfer tape and pins inserted in the factory drilled tie holes.
I rotated the layout 180 degrees so the Neville Loop is on the free end for easy track installation. It shouldn't take too long to get its track installed, and then it will be on to soldering :-)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Flashback at the magazine rack

I dropped by the hobby store yesterday to buy some track to finish the new street car layout. Over at the magazine rack I experienced some deja vu. That's the July issue of RMC on the left, and Carsten's old Traction Handbook on the right. It's rare to see anything, anywhere about street car modelling, so I bought it. The trolley barn article covered how to build it of course and also had some discussion on trolley track. Hopefully we'll see more street car oriented articles in the future.

By boxcar to the Painted Land


Later last night I watched Painted Land: In Search of the Group of Seven on TVO. As well as the beauty of northern Ontario, and the fascinating story of tracking down the painting sites of the Group of Seven, two other things caught my attention: the railway, the Algoma Central, was key to providing them access to the Ontario north country, and the landscapes and adventure reminded me of E. L. Moore's EVRR (look closely at the lakes, cabins, life in a boxcar with a group of friends - shades of Spumoni Club Coach - and access only by train). The movie is available at TVO's website.
A recreation of the boxcar - used in the Painted Land - the Group of Seven lived in during an extended painting expedition in Northern Ontario. Image sourced from the Painted Land website.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Solder-itis and street track installation

I'm starting to think avoidance of soldering is a recognized medical condition. Instead of soldering some leads on the EVRR blocks, I decided to install some track on the new street car layout. I started with the easiest part, the two strips along the main drag, and then went on to the loop around the housing block on the west end. I think once all the track is installed on this thing - and there isn't much - I'll pick up the soldering iron and hold a solder-palooza on both layouts. Hopefully Debra won't have to call an ambulance :-)

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Was The Novelty Factory based on St. Luke's Church?

Paul Zimmerman contacted me to tell me about a wedding at St. Luke's Church, in Smithfield, Virginia, where he was the organist. He noted that the church bears a striking resemblance to E. L. Moore's Novelty Factory that appeared in the July 1970 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. That model on the left is a plaster replica of St. Luke's sold in the church's gift store. It measures a little under N-scale.
The similarities are striking. Mr. Moore did have some family connections in Virginia, and he was well read, so maybe the basic shape of the church influenced his model. I can't say for sure, but it's interesting to ponder.

I read through E. L. Moore manuscript for the project and found this introductory passage that was deleted from the published story (if you're following along at home, it was meant to appear after the second paragraph in the article).

Have you ever been eaten with envy at the sight of some far out gimmick some other fellow flashes at a party, and which gets the center of attention? It's probably a drip from the fertile brain of Uncle Wilbur. Like, maybe: See-thru Keyholes with adjustable eye rests and a broad field of vision. Flea collars for cats are commonplace enough, but not until you've seen Uncle Wilbur's cat collar for fleas have you see the latest. Just slip one on your favorite flea and a cat will shun it as it would Saturday night's sin.

Then there's a finely detailed Crematory with a smoke stack, a perfect mantel ornament. Say you decide to stop smoking so you insert your last lighted cigaret, then present the thing to your loved one. In a space on one side is inscribed some of Uncle Wilbur's posey:

FINE ASHES SINCE 1899
Here lies my final ashes, darling,
But I pray thee not to weep,
Tomorrow there'll be, I'm sure
Your ashes for you to sweep.

It's a bit of a repetition of the theme in the second paragraph, and a bit on the weird side for a mainstream publication, so I can see why it was edited out. But, there it is for completeness :-)

From the Hanger

Vince and I took his time machine out for a spin. He just got an alternative universe module installed and was keen to show it off. It worked great! When we got back I found this page stuffed between the seat cushions.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Some draft wikipedia text on E. L. Moore

I'm procrastinating on soldering the power leads to the EVRR track. My soldering leaves a lot to be desired, and I'm not looking forward to the melted ties I'm likely to leave in my wake. Writing some of the wikipedia text for the E. L. Moore article seemed a good excuse not to solder.

So, here's some of the beginning. It's far from done and not all of it will appear at Wikipedia because not all of it meets their archival standard. I figured I'd write down what I've got in their style and strip out extraneous stuff later. 


Earl Lloyd Moore

Earl Lloyd Moore (March 14, 1898 - August 12, 1979) was an American model railroader who published 122 articles in the American model railroading press from 1955 to 1979 under the name E. L. Moore. His articles dealt primarily with scratch-building HO scale structures from low-cost, simple materials, primarily balsa wood. Moore prided himself on being able to construct complex models in little time for not much money. He often noted that his projects could be built for a couple of dollars worth of materials in a couple of weeks of evenings. All his work was produced from an easy chair and folding table in a couple of small apartments in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Moore concentrated on depicting the buildings and life of rural America in the 1890s and early 1900s - the period around his boyhood - as he experienced and understood it. Moore’s articles are notable both for their style as well as their subject matter. For each article, along with building the model under discussion, Moore would write the text, shoot the photographs, and draft the plans. The accompanying photographs would often include one or more detailed staged scenes depicting life with the building, and his text was famous for often weaving in a fictional story about the building and its inhabitants. His stories were reminiscent of the form established in serials such as Gasoline Alley, Li'l Abner and Our Boarding House.

Moore did not concentrate on modelling particular railroads [2] as is the norm for model railroad hobbyists, but focused on modelling buildings of both railroad and non-railroad subjects in almost equal numbers, as well as modelling scenery. Although he found an outlet for his creative energies, and some cash, in the model railroading press, his activities and approach were more in line with traditional folk artists who specialized in American Folk Art Buildings [6]

Early Life

Moore was born and raised on a farm in rural southern Michigan [2]. The farm was within a 9 mile radius of Bangor, Michigan, and about 2 miles from a two-room school he attended as a boy [5]. There was a windmill and water tank about 2 1/2 miles from the farm where one could board a Chicago bound ‘flyer’ while its locomotive stopped to take on water. [JDL: A note to all you future time-travelers: that’s all I know about the location of the ancestral farm, but with it you might be able to triangulate its location if your time machine touches down somewhere nearby :-) ]

His father was the school treasurer, and on the first of each month one of Moore’s chores was to deliver the teacher’s paycheck. Treasurers were known to handle money, and one night Moore’s father was held up at gunpoint and forced to open the safe in his parent’s bedroom. The robbers made their escape by breaking open a nearby railroad section house and stealing the handcar. The next day the handcar was found abandoned down the line about a dozen miles away.

Moore served in the U.S. Navy on the U.S.S. Georgia in 1917 and 1918 during World War I. He was a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and was an honorary chaplain.

Not a lot is known about Moore from the time he left the navy until he arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina and setup a photography studio specializing in baby and child portraits.

Moore worked for a time in a paper mill in the northeast.

Moore also found work as a furniture salesman.

During the 1930s, Moore was a self-described "vagabond".

Well, that's the start. I hear a soldering iron calling my name, so until next time....

Recently updated

I've been re-reading all the E. L. Moore material as preparation for writing a Wikipedia article on him. You may remember in the September '75 issue of Model Railroader, there was an interview with E. L. Moore by Gordon Odegard in the Bull session column. Looking back on it, I'd say there are some inaccuracies given what we know today, and some intriguing things Mr. Odegard mentioned that I've overlooked. 

In the overlooked category: E. L. Moore sold furniture for awhile; he was a member of the VFW and once held the position of honorary chaplain; his preferred type of non-fiction, and the only non-fiction he read now and then, was detective fiction; the Clarabelle Hotel was his favourite model; his very first layout - predating the Elizabeth Valley RR - was a 4x6 Lionel O27 setup that was suspended from the kitchen ceiling of one of his earlier apartments (!).

In the inaccuracies category: I don't think the Eagleroost & Koontree RR was part of the Elizabeth Valley RR, but the EVRR was often used as a stage to construct EKRR scenes for photographing; E. L. Moore's photo studio likely burned down sometime between the mid to late '50s, but likely no later than '61, the article suggested it burnt in '68; I'd say the high point in E. L. Moore's career was the period from the closure of Model Trains to 1971 when his first article appeared in Railroad Modeller, not the Model Trains period as stated in the article. 

All this is a very long way of saying I've updated E. L. Moore's Layouts & Dioramas :-)

Saturday, June 24, 2017

E. L. Moore reconnects with Bill Rau

Aqua Motel and Apartments - West Palm Beach, Florida. 197-. Black & white photonegative, 4 x 5 in. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory , accessed 24 June 2017.

I've been re-reading all the E. L. Moore material in preparation for working on a Wikipedia article about him. I want to see if I've forgotten or overlooked anything. One thing I did find was this letter from Bill Rau, an associate editor at Model Railroader, to E. L. Moore in response to Mr. Moore's submission of a manuscript called, Inter Changeable Coal or Wood Timber load. It gives a little insight into how Bill Rau and E. L. Moore got acquainted and became friends.

November 12, 1963

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

I'll wager you'll be surprised, E. L.,

when you read the signature at the bottom of this letter. The last time I wrote to you was from West Palm Beach when I was running the Aqua Motel there, remember?

I have been happily ensconced at Kalpubco as associate editor of Model Railroader since the middle of last month, and am particularly happy to greet as a contributor one of my favorite writers on old-time model railroad subjects.

We just received your little filler about interchangeable tender loads . . . we all got a big kick out of it; and I hope you will get a bit of a kick from the enclosed check for $15 in payment.

Linn and Andy said to say "Hello!" to you.

Personally, I hope you will remember Model Railroader first with any more articles you have about the buildin' and doin's on the Elizabeth Valley.

Sincerely,
signed Bill Rau
Associate Editor

P.S. I went through Charlotte on my way up (stopping at Pittsburgh to see mine and my wife's family) but was in a hurry to get up and get started here. Otherwise I would have stopped in to say "Hello" in person. I sincerely hope to meet you some day. I have always enjoyed your writings because I'm an old time buff too.

The article was eventually published in the January 1968 issue of Model Railroader.

E. L. Moore's Photography Studio on S. Tryon

What's located at 114 S. Tryon today according to Google Street View.

I'm slogging my way through Charlotte business directories from the 1940s and 1950s to figure out when and where E. L. Moore ran his baby and child photography business. It looks like it moved around a bit over the years, and one location was 114 1/2 S. Tryon in Charlotte, North Carolina according to some directory listings from the late 1940s. That one below is from 1945.
I looked up and down S. Tryon on Google Street View, but could only find a 114; 114 1/2 was nowhere to be found. It was likely bulldozed years ago, or maybe it was was in the basement of 114. Regardless, look at the beautiful building at 114. It would make an excellent model, and those tall windows would allow for some interior details, and when lit up, a spectacular night scene.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Recently updated

I've updated the post E. L. Moore's Legacy in the 21st Century: The Article List with a revised article list in pdf form. It's part of the preparation for submitting a Wikipedia article on E. L. Moore - hopefully sometime before the fall.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Filling in missing ties

During track installation a few ties had to be cut back to expose enough rail to make good joints. But, to make things look right, individual ties needed to be slipped under the tie-free parts once all the rail was down. It looks a little less cobbled together once ties fill those spaces.
I drew a picture of the lower level electrical loops. One colour for each segment, blue, green and orange, as well as two black stubs for the sidings. The initial section of the upper loop is shown in purple over on the left. I'm toying with the idea of using some sort of linear arrangement for the control panel instead of a more classic blocky trackplan look so the panel can be slim and compact. I'll post a picture when I've made up my mind.
I then went ahead and drilled some holes for the wire. Next stop: soldering.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Train 406



Debra watched this short film on tv, produced by the National Film Board of Canada in 1958, while I cut the back lawn this evening. She tells me it's good :-)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

DP's Moore & Moore Lines

During my pre-retirement I had the opportunity to exchange emails with Darrell Poole who kindly sent me some photos of his HO-scale Moore & Moore Lines that's under construction in his basement. As you can see, it's shaping up to be a fantastic layout based on E. L. Moore's Elizabeth Valley Railroad.
It's 4.5' x 7' in size and, with a few minor exceptions, is almost entirely built from plywood for the great dimensional stability plywood offers. It's composed of three sections that can be easily taken apart if the day comes that it needs to be removed from the basement. A very smart design. Scenery will be Styrofoam and designed to break apart along the lines of the sections.
That loco is a brass model of a Wabash F-4 Mogul. It's an IMP import built by Takara in 1960. Overall, the layout is shaping up to be a great project, and I hope I can see more as it develops.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Layout Nostalgia

I've been starting to feel nostalgic for the old layout. It's barely been gone 6 months.
Around a year and a half ago I dropped by the car show.
There were the memories amid chaos.
And late night trips for cabbage juice.
Not too mention late night book shopping.
In 2013 Ocean Boulevard got widened.
There was rambling and more rambling.
Amidst somber end of year reflections.
We'll see where the future goes.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Project Moon Ship

Over the last few weeks I've been working on Lindberg's 1/96 scale U.S. Moon Ship when the EVRR track work wasn't appealing. It's been sitting on my shelf for awhile so I thought I'd finally work on it now-and-then over the summer. Last weekend I took the fuselage part out to the backyard to spray it flat white. It was a little tricky to assemble the centre section with those stacked spheres, but when the filler and dust settled, it wasn't too bad.
Here it is on the bench just before painting. I painted the sphere's insides with flat black to make the thing more opaque. Over on the left are the parts for Gromit's airplane by Airfix. I've also wanted to built that for a long time - now's the time!

Friday, June 2, 2017

PZ's EVRR

These are some photos of Paul Zimmerman's beautiful N-scale take on E. L. Moore's Elizabeth Valley Railroad. I understand it's about 2.5' x 3' in size, and was built in the 1990s over a 4 week period.
This is a view looking down the main incoming road towards the Elizabethton depot.
I like this view through the bridges. Nice track work too.
Looks like Ma's got her wash out on the line. Love the Jack-o-Lantern on the porch.
Maybe she's feeding the horses. Excellent work on this layout and I'm glad Paul generously shared these photos with me.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Track in the Valley

If you're hoping to learn a few things about laying track, wiring or some other model railroading construction technique, you've come to the wrong place. This isn't about model railroading. There's no discussion about prototypes, operation, signalling or anything model railroading. There are others who are more experienced and knowledgeable in all the model railroading skills than me. It's best to learn from them and bypass this place.
Don't listen to him. Of course this is a model train layout that's being built, just don't take everything you see being done here as gospel. A couple of years ago I made a start on the EVRR by gluing a cork base to the panel with the lake and river cut out. I had a rare blast of foresight at the time and kept the cut-outs. Well, I dug them out of the storage and glued them back in.

Why, because E. L. Moore's Elizabeth Valley Railroad isn't a model railroad. Ok, well, it was in the 1950s, but it isn't today. Loops and loops and loops. Short tunnels through mountains. Bridges over this, bridges over that. No industries to service. Little possibility for realistic operations. That's not a model railroad. 
I had to get rid of those old, wrong layout lines, so I painted the cork with Zinsser white primer. I painted a little corner of the cork first to see if the paint attacked it, then after sitting a few days, all seemed stable, so I painted the entire panel. 

What it is is the physical embodiment of Mr. Moore's ideal world: the rural world of 1890s and 1900s America, complete with his love of trains and railroad stuff. It's his world. A small portion of his mind and soul made real. That's the prototype. Is that worth replicating today?
I used a sheet of graphite paper to transfer the track plan to the primed cork. It's the grey sheet and it cost $1.79 at a local art supply store.

I think so.
I taped the plan to the panel and slipped the graphite sheet between them - graphite side facing the cork of course. Use a pen - I used a capped Sharpie - and trace the plan. Use firm pressure, but don't press too hard or the papers will tear.
When you're done you'll see some faint lines. At this stage I only drew in the valley's track.
I used the Sharpie to darken all the lines.
Then the outline of the water features were drawn in using the same process.
I cut out the lake and rivers with a chisel and X-acto knife.
It sort of looks like the digestive tract of some strange animal who I think needs to see a gastroenterologist pretty soon.
Ok, let's get down to the business of track laying. All the pieces were laid with more-or-less the same procedure, so this example is typical. I started in the centre, positioned two neighbouring switches with pins, and then bent and cut a piece of flex track to join the switches. I used a Xuron track cutter and it works great.
Before final installation some of the flex track ties were drilled out to accept pins. The switches come with two holes already drilled and I just added one more in the tie at the switch's entrance. Then transfer tape was rolled out on the cork where the track goes. Ok. It's now time for the part where I didn't have a third hand to take pictures. Press the switches and flex track onto the panel into the tape and then insert pins into the tie holes. Maybe the pins are overkill. I don't know for sure if they're needed because the tape seems to hold things quite well, but I wanted that extra assurance a mechanical connection provides.
The pins have a little ball on the end, so you need to cut that off with a pair of side-cutters. Don't use your Xuron track cutters! The blade will be damaged and you'll no longer get good, clean track cuts. A couple of years ago I ruined a pair when I was lazy and used them to make a 'quick snip' on some wire. It was an expensive snip.
There'll be 2 or 3 mm of pin stub sticking above the tie. Use a nail set to press the pin into the panel. 
I wasn't always able to get the track to lie exactly on the lines because I tried to make sure the rail joints from one piece to the next - especially at a joint with a switch - were as smooth and kink-free as possible. So there was a bit of fiddling and fitting and adjusting needed to make that happen. I didn't always succeed 100%, but the joints are fairly smooth and trains seem to run ok.
I used Peco code 80 flex track. I found it wasn't as flexible as Atlas, and I suspect the way I'm using it in this project amounts to contorting it way beyond what's considered normal by the manufacturer. For awhile I thought I'd use Peco ST-5 and ST-6 Set Track switches with Atlas flex. Problem was, the ties are thinner on the Atlas flex, and I'd have to shim them to have an nice even surface when connected to the Peco switches. That cinched it: those Peco switches and Peco flex.
While I was pushing a rail end on that long piece in the previous photo, trying to get a nice tight joint between two rails, I punctured my thumb with the rail. I have a desk job and my fingers don't have the calluses of honest work, so twisting and pushing rail constitutes hard labour. While I get some Bactine and bandaids, I'll leave you with one of my favourite singers.
Ok, well, now that I'm back, let's keep on trackin'.
I twisted the piece too much and the rails popped out from the molded-in spikes. I couldn't re-seat the rails and had to start over with a new piece. This happened a couple of times during this project. I had to learn the hard way to be more gentle with the flex.
On the second try, everything worked out ok. Well, only ok, not perfect. I had to make some off-plan adjustments to get smooth transitions from one switch to the other. That's a tight curve over on the right, but trains roll over it without issue, so I'm ok with it.
Over on the other end of the layout, the return loops are at a slightly higher level than the track looping the lake. The terrain elevations were cut from foam sheet. That one up there in the photo is 4mm thick. I bought some foam sheets from the hobby store for these, but I think meat tray foam would work ok too since it has the same density as the store-bought stuff. 
It's hammer time! White glue was used to attach the foam to the cork base. While drying I broke out the hammers and used them to weigh down the foam.
After the glue dried, grades were sanded into the foam to get nice smooth elevation changes. I used a sanding block.
Installing the other foam pieces followed the same procedure. The inner loop foam is 2mm thick. On E. L. Moore's layout I think both the inner and outer loops were the same height, but I can't tell for certain from the photos. I think it looks a little better with the loops at slightly different levels.
Almost done. You can more-or-less see all the tools used. If you want to make a shopping list: Xuron rail cutters, side-cutting pliers, regular pliers, X-acto knife, nailset, small chisel, pin-vise and small drill same diameter as pins, file for cleaning up cut rail ends, sanding block, transfer tape, pins, white glue and a Sharpie pen. I think that covers it.
Tada! 
I had a bit of luck and found some old-style, 35' wooden boxcar models on sale at the local hobby shop's resale table. I don't have the coaches finished yet, so they were unavailable for track testing. I shot a little video during testing of some blocks.
One thing I found was that cars need to be older prototypes - 35 footers or so - and their couplers need to be truck mounted. 40 foot boxcars seemed to handle the curves ok as long as couplers were truck mounted, but I haven't done much testing with longer cars. The problem with body-mounted couplers was that the wheels jammed into the coupler box on the tighter curves.
One last thing. As I built my way through the valley I got a sense that this layout is more sophisticated than I had realized. It’s electrically blocked so you can run a couple of trains, maybe three. There’re places for them to go. Not a lot, but some.  There’re many places to build small scenes to detail to your heart’s content. There aren’t too many places for buildings, but it’s easy to change the scenes with alternatives you might have around to try out different looks. That all seems important.  I want this little layout to be close to E. L. Moore’s original, but I also want to be able to have enough flexibility to support some other scenes and configurations. It shouldn’t be a dead, static thing, but something that can still be the stage for new ideas. That’s my recommendation if you decide to build some sort of tribute layout based on an old plan: don’t think of it as dead and sealed in amber, but as something to riff on as well as honouring a great, past idea