Saturday, March 11, 2017

Bill Rau and MR's 1,000th issue

Last week Paul contacted me to say my letter was published in Model Railroader's 1,000th issue. In August, MR put out a call for 250 word submissions asking readers to tell them about their favourite issue for their 1,000th. On a lark I sent them one: about an E. L. Moore issue of course :-) It seems to take magazines longer to appear in stores up here and only today was I able to pick one up.

It's quite a feat to publish an unbroken string of 1,000 issues. It takes generations of capable editors and staff. Bill Rau was an associate editor at MR during E. L. Moore's prime years, and those two were good friends. I don't know where or when they met, but from E. L. Moore's files, it seems they knew each other well before Mr. Rau joined MR. They exchanged a number of letters, and many went beyond the usual business of buying and editing articles. In this one from Bill Rau to E. L. Moore, Mr. Rau touches on some aspects of what he felt made MR standout as the premier model railroading magazine.
December 28, 1966

Glad you liked the way the boys did up your 1900 yard story, E. L.

It was quite a challenge to the layout boys but they came through in noble style. Personally, I thought the "Out of the thundering past" story was a terrific piece, too: I not only did the captions on that but gave the boys the layout idea. (Notice there ain't no modesty in my makeup!)

The fact that you did the yard purely as a modeling piece is interesting, yet the fact remains that it is a darned good prototype setup. Incidentally the enginehouse is set for the March 67 MR.

You wouldn't laugh at that not going into minute detail bit in the article circular if you saw some of the stuff that I have to wade through. Most modelers are NOT writers and spend too much space in non-essentials: a typical example is on my desk now for return to the writer. In the opening lead the author takes 23 lines to say what can be compressed, without losing the thread of his story, in about 16 lines. However, every so often we get a writer whose article and construction techniques are so good (and also timely) that we feel they should be done piece by piece. Findley's article [JDL: A small brick station, James E. Findley, Nov and Dec '66 MR] will be a basic technique for many modelers for years.

I can add in all honesty that many of your articles do the same for the older type of structures. I think your enginehouse piece will be one of them. Do you see how the two can work together? You describe the basic structure; those building it can either use your construction or use Findley's brick-by-brick method if they want all the finicky little details; that is, showing the smallest detail of the brickwork. Incidentally, when I set up your enginehouse story for the composing room, I took it to Linn for reading and he commented "Oh boy, E. L. will be on my tail for that editing job." So, to keep the reckoning straight, I did the editing. I did cut out or recast quite a bit of the conversation pieces, but I think -- at least I hope -- that I maintained the general thread and feeling of your original. I will be interested in hearing your comment on this job after you read it.

Re the fertilizer plant: okay, send it along and I'll get it through for you. Incidentally, I was a bit sorry to see that cut stone plant in RMC [JDL: Morton's Stone Cutting Plant, Nov '66 RMC]. I'd like to have had that one for MR. My Dad was a stonecutter and that plant was almost a dead ringer for the one he use to work in at Pittsburgh some 40 years ago; and I can't recall ever seeing a cut stone plant modeled before. In the one my Dad worked, the leanto off the gantry crane was higher and housed a gang saw and a planer. One thing missing, or perhaps not visible because they would normally be inside the shed are a batch of little benches on which the stone cutters rested the stone while cutting.

Yes, I am convinced that you did a beautiful job on the brewery [JDL: F&M Schaefer Brewery, Mar '67 RMC] for Ol' Man Crosby. He has been raving  about it in several letters so I told him "1 picture is worth 1000 words" so send me a picture of it which he promised to do after New Years when the mail service gets back to its normally disrupted state instead of the present abnormal situation. One guy here mailed a check to a downtown department store; the check ended up in Monaco at the residence in exile of King Peter of Yugoslavia. Another family got a Christmas card mailed to them 2 years ago . . . . Maybe we should go back to the Pony Express!

I've been on the go these past few weeks. My wife and I got a nice Christmas present: word on December 11 that my mother had fallen again and broken her hip this time, so we were off on another trip to Pittsburgh to make arrangements. Then back to Sudsville to get caught up on March MR so I didn't hold up the pressroom. Then on December 21 we got a call that my mother-in-law, who was coming up to spend the holidays with us, has fallen and twisted her knee and would be in bed for 2 weeks.

That did it: we hibernated over the holiday.

That snow came on up this away. We had 6" of it yesterday morning with 25 m.p.h. winds picking up drifts. I took one look at that marshmallow where I had left the car in the apartment lot, said "Nuts!" and came in by bus. Andy and Linn, who live respectively 30 and 18 miles out, never did make it. By 3 o'clock it had come down to about 8" - 8 1/2" so the boss sent us all home. Not too bad right now but unless the weatherman is off key again, we're due for about 4" more tonight. Maybe I'll hibernate over New Year's too.

Let's see a photo of that new background when you get it completed. Did you ever think of trying some color transparencies for possible MR covers? We are pretty well stocked right now but are always on the look for outstanding photos. I don't know for sure, but I think Linn might go for a model railroad winter shot along the Currier & Ives idea . . . 

Re RMC: You've heard the standard gag among model railroad writers, haven't you? "Send it to RMC, it appears right away and God knows when you get paid; send it to MR,you get paid right away but God knows when it will appear." A friend of mine is still waiting to be paid for a piece he did for Charlie Penn in 1942. Carstens has done a good job with RMC, there is no denying that, but from a printing standpoint and a proofreading standpoint, the mag leaves much to be desired. The difference is, of course, that we have three professionals at the helm: Linn has been with Al since 1935; Andy just got his 30-year pin at Christmas, and while I have only been here a little over 3 years, there's 30 years of service with Hearst papers in Pittsburgh and Detroit under my belt. On top of that we print in our own plant and can control the quality of the printing. An example, every bit of copy that we handle (this excludes advertising copy) is proofread at least 10 times before it gets into print.

And being on top, there's only one way to go -- down, so we work like the devil just to be sure we do stay on top!

So much for that, and since it's getting toward that time, I'll chop this off and start getting' ready to gang hame. I got some new flexible rubber boots that are pure hell to get on my no. 13 feets, so I start early. Putting them on, I know what trouble these gals must have getting into a girdle . . . .

This probably won't get to you until after New Year's -- I won't say WHAT year -- but here's the best for 1967 . . . .  and keep the good (and old time) stories coming. Carstens can have the modern ones . . . 


signed Bill Rau.