It is, in fact, the largest and most complicated structure I've ever built...
E. L. Moore, from the introduction to his unpublished The North Conway Depot.
The last article E. L. Moore published in Model Railroader was The Button Works in the September 1979 issue, and the last one in Railroad Model Craftsman was A firecracker foundry in July 1980. The manuscripts for those were written in Jan '76 and the second half of '76, respectively. But, as far as I can tell, an unpublished manuscript I found in E. L. Moore's files, called The North Conway Depot, a model I saw at the 2015 meet-up, was his last. It was written in late 1976, at age 78, and submitted to Model Railroader on 1 January 1977. This being the last instalment in the E. L. Moore in the 21st Century series, it seems like a fitting conclusion.
January 6, 1978
Mr. E. L. Moore
525 Oakland Ave. Apt. 3
Charlotte, NC 28204
Well E. L.,
I guess the old saying about one picture being worth a thousand words is correct. You articles normally are 2200-2800 words long with four photos, but for the North Conway station you've written an extra 1000 words and eliminated one photo. Even though it seems on the wordy side, send it along. We'll edit out 1000 words, add one photo, and publish it.
Please note that I'm answering your letter the same day I received it.
That's the last letter I've seen about the depot. In the files there was no follow-up or letter confirming purchase. The typed manuscript had some red pen marks that I think indicate suggestions Mr. Moore was going to make about lines to delete. Model Railroader published a photo of the station in their 1980 E. L. Moore tribute article, but this story never appeared, and was not amongst the small collection of unpublished E. L. Moore articles they had in their files.
Notes on the manuscript indicated it was 3850 words long, had 3 accompanying photos and 3 sheets of drawings. There weren't any photos or drawings included with the manuscript I saw. The photos I've included are ones I shot at the 2015 meet-up. I've used red text to indicate the lines E. L. Moore thought Russ Larson could delete.
The North Conway Depot
E. L. Moore
This is not -- and I repeat -- is not something an inexperienced modeler should tackle. It is, in fact, the largest and most complicated structure I've ever built, and except that it was done as a favor for a friend, one Fred Kelley, a no good Irishman, I would never have attempted it at all. Yet it turned out to be fun, and a challenge, and hard work all rolled into one.
I used, as a basis for the structure, photographs published in the June, 1971 Model Railroader, and at my friend's insistence scaled it down from what I thought was possibly the approximate prototype length of 95', to 85', and the towers down to 54' which makes them show up a little dumpier than in the prototype. About the only other structural changes consisted of centering the roof peak, added a 3' high brick base around the structure, and used my own imagination as to placement of windows and doors, but changed nothing particularly about the towers except height dimensions.
I'm not a mathematician -- the simplest problems floor me and I would probably have had a heck of a time working out the curves except for a little celluloid thing I bought for 10 cents way back when (before plastics), and which is said to be a protractor with French curves (whatever they may be?) and has angles with some curve variations. It's old because it's stamped "Made in U. S. A." instead of "Made in Japan".
But with all the patterns shown in the drawings I make no claim to perfect accuracy and the modeler will still have to do a bit of trying and fitting. Like the fella says, "If we made no mistakes there would be no need for adoption agencies." My clock is a little off center -- the bay to the station agent's office is a trifle cock-eyed -- but all in all the structure went together remarkably well although Murphy's Law of Perversity intruded now and then: "Anything you attempt will take longer than anticipated", and I'd have to say, not having the benefit of a time clock to punch in and out, that it took me a good month of evenings to build. Incidentally, the finished depot measures 25' x 85' exclusive of the shed roofs which are 12' in width, making the whole structure measure 6 1/2 x 15 1/2 inches, and the cost was just under $10 . . . or, if you could buy the kit it would cost perhaps $35 or more. I try to allow a little for inflation but I except to get some flak since there is sometimes an interval of a few years between the time I write an article and the time it is published. I can't control that sort of inflation.
True, I might have built it a little faster had I a little more elbow room. I think I may have mentioned previously that many years ago I built a work desk, and when it became too cluttered, I built another. It, too, went the way of the first one, then with age creeping up on me I rigged a TV tray table with a top area about 18 x 24 inches -- this was fine for a while since I could pull it up to my easy chair and work in comfort. But, eventually clutter and litter took it over too, so now I do al my work on a 11 x 14 inch atlas that sits on my lap. This has one disadvantage . . . whenever either one of my cats wants up I have to dump my work onto the TV table since my biggest cat is about the size to cover the atlas. When I get hungry I place a folded newspaper on the atlas and so it serves as my dining table. Handy thing, that atlas . . . I'm wondering if it's patentable. Of necessity the atlas remains uncluttered because between times it has to rest on its edge.
And again there's the intrusion of Murphy's Law: "Anything that drops, no matter what its shape, will invariably seek obscurity under table or chair or whatever. Never out in the open where it can be seen."
There are certain requisites a modeller should have if he intends to build this depot. Patience and a good vocabulary and if he has a wife send her off to her mother for a month . . . send the children too. If she's a nagger, quit before you start.
Here's what it takes to build it (in HO):
2 3 1/2 x 22 sheets clapboard, 1/16" spacing
18" 3/32" x 4" balsa
2 1/16" x 4" sheets of balsa (72")
9" 1/32" x 4" balsa
32" 3/32" or 1/8" x 1/4" balsa strip
9' 1/32" x 1/16" stripwood
5' 1/16" x 1/16" stripwood
8' 1/16" x 3/32" stripwood
45 sq ins Campbells shingles
20 sq ins Walthers brick paper
24" sq ins Acetate
Beginning with a tower, the left one if you happen to be left handed, the right one if you're right handed, or vice versa, cut three pieces of 1/16" clapboard, each 14' wide, and the width of the board which is 25 1/4'. Next, two pieces 24' wide. Since the height of the lower shell, excluding top trim, is 31 1/2', we will have to do a bit of piecing along the dotted line near the bottom which is also the base of the three bottom windows in Fig.1. One of the first things to be done is to mark the top of the back of each piece TOP. So you think you couldn't possibly put a piece of siding on upside down? Well, it has been done -- by me. A Flair pen is handy here.
Next thing is to lay out the window and door openings as shown, on the inside surface, with a sharp pencil and ruler. It will pay, too, to cut some narrow strips of index card stock and glue between windows. Cutting out door and window openings is enough of an abomination without having a bit of siding between openings unexpectedly snap off. And of course you'll need a compass and pencil (not the kind that points north !), to lay out the tops of the window openings.
Maybe I've worked with balsa so much that I've frown soft -- anyway, as I grow older the siding seems to get tougher. There ought be an easier way but so far my best bet is to start a line with a single edge razor blade, then bear down with a razor type knife, kept sharp with a stone handy. It also helps, I find, to use a few words not learned in Sunday School. You know, some of the preacher's discards. You'll need a quarter inch rattail file to round out the tops of the window openings. A small power tool will prove handy if you have one. So, too, is a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a dowel. Well, let's say you've got the door and window openings shaped up. So now to the fourth side of the tower. Since only the top of this side shows, I used balsa cut 24' wide, adding only a piece of clapboard at the top 8' x 24' to make the required height of 31 1/2'.
Time to select your colors. Friend Kelley chose white with red trim. I made my red using about ten parts Caboose Red with three parts Tuscan Red, measuring by the brushful. Next, cut your corner posts of 1/16" square stripwood, or 5/64" if you have it, four of them, each 31 1/2' long. Attach these repainted red posts to the edges of your 24' sides. And while at it paint several strips of 1/32" x 1/16" stripwood (or 1/16" x 5/64") for use in casing windows. Glue in lower sills first. Naturally you can't bend the stripwood into a circle or U, so -- cut a length 6 1/4' - 6 1/2' long, stick one end in your mouth working up a good head of spit to soften it, then press the top into a curve using your rattail file as a tool. Glue into place in one side of window opening, wedging the side in and holding the top in position with your file until the glue sets. If you find the top centered, make the other side the same length. You may become slightly bug-eyed before finishing with all ten windows but that's the chance you take. Some hours later all will be done, including door and transom openings and such. But there are the window rests to be added. I used lightweight black construction paper cut into strips 1/8" wide. These were cut to proper lengths and glued around each window and transom opening, overlapping openings by about 1/32". For the rounded top I used a 1/4 inch paper punch, punching half sized holes then fitting these over the rounded tops of window openings. I merely glued scraps of balsa to the inside of the door openings, later fitting in doors of scribed sheathing.
Before assembly I glued strips of balsa at each of the four corners in order to make assembly easier and more accurate. Glue ends and side together, slip in a 3/32" or 1/8" balsa floor and add the 1/16" square stripwood trim around the top.
Cut from your left over pieces of clapboard siding two strips 3' x 14' and two strips 3' x 24'. Miter corners and slip inside outer lower shell with only 1 1/2' protruding and glue in position. Next, cut a platform for the dome of 1/16" balsa, 17' x 27' and paint edges red. This can be glued in position but in my case I still had to install grain of wheat bulbs which hadn't yet arrived so I made the dome removable by gluing a piece of 3/32" balsa 13' x 23' to the bottom of the platform so as to fit snugly into the opening below, enabling me to lift off the tower at the dome.
The dome is an exacting piece of work. It might help if you're a mathematician but I'm not sure. So I had to figure out my angles and curves by the time honored method of "by guess and by golly". I'm not a perfectionist but here was one spot where I tried to be as near one as possible. Trouble is you can't laugh at perfection and I like to laugh. Maybe that's why I can't appreciate ballet -- I like to see a pratfall now and then for a laugh. But I drew up some patterns with dimensions which you'll find scattered about which may help considerably but even they aren't infallible. The perspective drawings, which are beyond my ability but which the magazine artist may be able to improve upon shows the supports on the inside and give the dome its shape, and are of 1/16" balsa spaced 12' apart. 1/16" balsa, cur across grain, will bend to shape and if care is sued and the ends beveled should, with some slight alterations, fit perfectly. Side first, then ends. Sand top smooth to height of 8 1/2' and glue to the top a piece of 3/32" balsa, 7' x 17', painting edges red. I gilded the dome with silver.
I now cut three pieces of 1/16" balsa, glued them one atop the other and sanded edges smooth to size 6' x 16' and painted edges white. This went on top of the 7' x 17' piece. Next comes the base of the roof, 1/16" balsa, 9' x 19', edges painted red. And here we go through the support business again, two supports of 1/16" balsa space 9' apart. Cut the roof sides and ends of 1/32" balsa and fit over forms or supports. The fitting need not be letter perfect here as we are using Campbell's shingles whose stickum will not hold to balsa and so will need to add an outer covering of ruled index card stock. Plain card, ruled, that is. Sand top smooth to height of 8'. Cut a piece of 1/32" balsa 4' x 13 1/2' and glue to top. then a piece of 1/16" balsa 3' x 12 1/2' and top it off with a final 4' x 13 1/2' piece of 1/32" balsa. Paint assembly red. After adding shingles I stained them a light greenish hue.
Now to go back and add the red vertical trim below. Under the dome I used 1/16" x 1/8" stripwood (balsa will do), cutting to correct length then making a diagonal cut so trim flares at top. I glued bottom and ends of trim only so dome could still be removed. Also add the 1/16" square vertical trim to white space just below roof base.
And now, after a bit of a rest and a "pick-me-up", go tackle the other tower and the best of luck!
Assuming both towers are now completed ("assuming" covers a lot of building quickly!), let's go for the middle. Cut two lengths of clapboard siding, each 55' long. Cut the width of each piece down to 23' except for 15' of the central portion. Lay out window and door openings and have a go at it. Since these are all rectangular openings the went remarkably fast and easy for me.
For the bay, cut an opening 8' or 9' x 13 1/2' at a height of 3 1/2'. And since this is partially hidden by the overhanging roof and it would be extremely difficult to use clapboard, I turned to 1/16" balsa, grain horizontal, cutting a piece 17 1/2' x 20 ' - at the top make allowance for the roof slope. With razor blade make light vertical cuts dividing the piece into two ends, each 5' wide, and a central portion 10' wide. Cement strips of scratch paper to the inside surface at line of razor cuts so balsa will not break apart when bent to shape. Cut four window openings, each 3' x 7 1/2'. Paint siding including bay white, then add window casings of repainted red stripwood. Also add window rests of black paper strips to inside surface overlapping openings about 1/32" all around.
Bend balsa at cuts and shape to fit the 15' space on the wall. Cut and shape three pieces of 1/16" balsa, one to go at the bottom, one at the top and one at window height as a table, these holding bay in proper shape. Glue assembly to clapboard siding over openings with red 1/32" x 1/16" trim at each side and 1/32" x 3/32" at corners where they open up when bent.
I glued strips of balsa at each inside corner of towers so as to make assembly easier. After assembly I slipped in a floor of 3/32" balsa. To the inside of each door opening I glued a scrap of 1/16" balsa. Then I carefully cut and fitted doors of card stock after pairing them a somewhat brighter hue of red than the trim, and panelled them by using a dry ball point pen as a tool to impress outlines of panels. Quarter inch brass nails served as doorknobs.
While it was a departure from the depot photographs I did something I think added class to the structure. I cut strips of 1/32" balsa 3' wide, then cut strips of Walther's brick 3 1/4' wide and glued these together, lapping the 1/4" over the top edge. I glued these strips on all around the base, cutting out for the doors. And at one corner on the track side there's a 5' x 15' platform 3 1/2' high, with steps.
The next thing was to cut from my clapboard, the curving central portions, 15' wide at base and 7 1/2' high and 6 1/2' across at the top, one side to hold clock and the other a window opening. The dotted line shows where the piecing was done. Clock faces can be gotten from a variety of sources, toy watches, jeweller's flyers, catalogs, etc. But cutting that round hole won't be too easy unless you're some sort of magician. A rattail and half round file comes in handy - so does a motor tool.
You'll need a strip of 1/16" balsa, 16' x 24' to fit across on the inside at a level with the sidewalls. This will be fitted with two inner supports as shown in depot under construction. Cut two sides of 1/16" balsa, each 12' x 28', bend and glue over supports and let ends extend out on each side 1 1/2'. You could now, if so inclined, install a light behind the clock face to illuminate it. I was not so inclined until it was too late. At the top after sanding to a height of 10', add an 8' x 28' piece of 3/32" balsa, edges red.
Now to the roofs, Glue roof supports, strips of balsa, to tower, and thin ones to the rounding surface of the center, the surface that shows outside the roof to be gilded a silver. Anyone out there having a formulae to tell the exact curve of a sloping roof side requires that comes down catty-wise off a bulging end, has my permission to tab himself a genius. Me, I used some card index stock and on the third try got a curve near enough to use as a pattern with which to cut a roof side of 1/16" balsa. Still may require a bit of sanding. And you'll still have to use index card stuck over the balsa covering up any blunder you've made, so as to attach your shingles. I don't really advise things more difficult by making removable roofs, but my 15 volt lamps still hadn't arrived and I wanted to get on with the job so I added a couple of triangular balsa braces to the under side of each roof so I could still lift them off.
The little shack in the center . . . looks somewhat like an elongated privy except no door or windows . . . it's like a sort of pilot house where the ghost walks . . . is 6' x 25', of clapboard with corner posts, 6 1/2' high and with rounded off ends. The white space is 2' wide, filled with white card stock painted white, while all the rest is red - except top of roof which is silvered. Slip in a floor of 3/32" balsa. Vertical red trim is 1/16" square, spaced along the white surface. The roof is 8' x 27', slightly rounded.
Now we have a problem . . . 35 windows plus 8 transoms. Openings should measure 2 1/2' x 7' for 14, 2 1/2' x 5 1/2' for the 20 with rounded tops, one 2 1/2' x 4' attic window, 4 1 3/4' x 4 1/2' transoms, and 4 1 1/2' x 3 3/4' transoms. But don't rely on my figures - do your own measuring. I make it a point usually, to make and install windows before putting on roofs. Then, should one inadvertently fall through to the inside it can be retrieve - which with the roof on is well nigh impossible unless one has real skinny arms.
I laid out my windows, in detail, with a sharp pencil, on a 4 x 6 inch index card, in 8 rows with 1/8" between rows and between each window in a row, with the transoms at the bottom. This gave me a few extras but they were more than welcome. I taped my acetate over the card, using frosted acetate, one side dull, apt, since depot windows are traditionally dirty, rubbed pumice powder over the surface lightly (kitchen cleaner or talc will do). I used a pen, ruler and black drawing ink to follow the pencilled lines, then when dry cut apart with scissors and fitted and glued them into position. You'll need a compass with attached pen for the rounded tops. I then made four additional windows of clear acetate to fit in the bay windows.
Comes now the shed roof, 12' wide, which extends all around the structure. First, the sides: cut a length from your 1/16" x 4" balsa, say 109 1/2' long, and from this two 12' side roofs cutting corners diagonally from the length of the building which is 85'. That extra 1/2 scale foot on the outside edge allows for 1/4' at each end, the roof pitch. Never mind the ends for the time being.
You'll need a 3/32" or 1/8" x 1/4" strip of balsa - cut to proper lengths and fit around entire building, the top edge at 17 1/2' and beveled very slightly as this will support the shed roof next to the structure. Attach with care, sanding out any inequalities where it fits against building. The roof will be 18' sloping to 16' at outer edge.
Before attaching my roof sides I covered each with spaced simulated metal roofing. I make mine from 20 lb bond paper, a little heavier than ordinary drugstore typing paper. I cut this into 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inch sheets and it required six sheets for the job. I clip a sheet over a length of marked Northeastern's 0.040 spaced corrugated wood, then using a fine dry ball point pen as a tool, run it down every third groove, giving ridges about one scale foot apart. For corrugated, I run the tool down every groove. When completed, turn over and paint aluminum, or in this case I gave mine two coats of red. Easy to apply, using white glue. I allowed mine to overlap both edges by about 1/64" . . . next to the building this helped cover any inequalities in the way the roof fitted against the building. Of course you can be extravagant and buy corrugated aluminum. That's O. K. by me.
Nope, don't touch those ends yet. There are braces to make, braces that hold up the roof . . . fact is, you'll want to skip them no doubt, when you find out how long it takes to make them, and just use plain sing 1/16" x 3/32" roof braces. At bottom right, Fig. 1 you see the assembled brace, made of 1/16" x 3/32" stripwood - and if you can put together more than eight in an hour from pre-cut lengths, I'll personally create a medal you can hook into your nose. Patience, lad, patience is all you need, and from time to time when you've found you've put in a couple of pieces together backwards and have to rip them apart, it may put a strain on your Sunday School training.My goal was thirty but I halted at 28, having for the moment run out of materials and happily 28 was just enough. And you still have the painting of them to do, but if you made them square and true - I backed mine into a celluloid square - they'll be a pleasure to install, nudging each right up against the bottom of the 1/4" strip, and your roofs will have a perfectly uniform pitch.
Amidst some of the less joyous tasks such as the above there sometimes comes an interlude of merriment. One such was when my big white cat, aided and abetted no doubt by gremlins, got a 5 x 7 inch black wood photo frame around her belly and wore it like a belt. Who says a round body won't fit into a rectangular hole - or is it the other way around? My only regret was that there was only an audience of one to rear back and laugh.
When both sides have been braced to an equal height, then you can cut and fit on your ends. And brace them. And if the corners aren't a perfect fit they can be helped by strips of plain red painted paper strips about 1 1/2' wide, laid diagonally to cover the corner cracks.
Cheer up - the end is insight - the chimney is made by gliding balsa strips together to form a cube 3 1/4' x 3 1/2' x 7'. I used my half round file as an aid in fitting the bottom to the rounded roof. A 3/16" drill makes a nice hole in the top. I cemented some 1/32" square stripwood to some 1/32" x 1/16", and this to some 1/16" x 3/32". Mitering the corners I attached this assembly around near the top, then added brick paper over most of the chimney except a portion I reddened with a red Flair pen. I glued the chimney in portion with a sigh of relief, spelled R-E-L-I-E-F. After the equivalent, more or less, of a month of evenings. The depot was completed.
Well, almost. I did add (with Goo a few pieces of Alexander's trim, stuck in some glass beaded pins . . . and if you need advice as how to place your lamps, then you shouldn't have started the depot in the first place. Some one there days before friend Kelley calls I'll get busy and install have a dozen lights, but for now I'm resting.