Wednesday, April 19, 2017

He Builds Railroads - Then Scraps Them

He Builds Railroads - Then Scraps Them is an interview with E. L. Moore that appeared in the Sunday, January 19, 1958 edition of the The Charlotte Observer. The story was written by David Hayhow. The article was found and generously sent to me by Maria David, Newsroom Researcher and Photo Archivist at The Charlotte Observer. She's also the writer behind The Charlotte Observer's Retro Charlotte blog. I'd like to thank her for taking the time to answer my inquiry and providing the link to this most interesting article.

I've no wife, automobile or television so I can live as I please in complete peace. 

This love of leisure leads Moore to write for magazines, illustrate his articles with photos, collect and catalog some 1,000 books, and dabble in guns and art.

Some 1,000 books. Wow! There's a lot in that article, especially non-model railroad stuff that helps me get a little better understanding of E. L. Moore. But, I must admit, he seems a little ill-at-ease. He also seems to have a diabolical look about him in the photo. Maybe he hadn't dealt with the media much at that point in his career. He was barely 3 years into his 24 year long publishing career, so he might have been still learning the ropes.

The photos at the top of the article are of his Water Wheel Mill model, so they help to put a date on that project. The paper even created a side-by-side photo with the prototype as I did when I came across the surviving photos. The photo at the bottom of the article looks like another one of his tunnel shots along Goat Pass, but with a flat car I haven't seen before.

Like I've said many times before, there's lots of material still out there waiting to be found.

[20 April Update: At first I had a link to the article so you could read it; however, it turns out to be a password protected link to a private db which I can't post - I respect that. I may take another crack at writing a post about the article to summarize a few key points.]


  1. I'd be interested in what the article says. One thing that catches my eye is the title; He builds railroads then scraps them. I've gotten the impression that the Elizabeth Valley didn't really last very long. The title suggests the writer thought that Moore built layouts and then tore them down. Perhaps EVRR was just one of a few such small pikes Moore built prior to becoming "famous"? Perhaps the EVRR was actually being torn down at the time of the writing and something else - the yard / engine terminal layout? - was being built.

    I've also gotten the impression Moore did a number of dioramas because there are views that clearly were not on the EVRR layout proper. Personally, I think Moore used Model Railroading nominally as an excuse (initially) to both build his wonderful structures and tell his great stories. I remember as a kid there was a certain stigma about men "playing with toy trains" and an ambient air of defensiveness among model railroaders about that "issue". Several articles and other explanations justifying the hobby of Model Railroading made such mention over the years. I don't see that today. It seems to have faded away. But it might be an overlay in our effort to understand E.L. Moore...

    1. The newspaper articles stated that he set up 'narrow gauge' scenes, then photographed them, and later took them apart when another idea struck him for a scene. Narrow gauge was the hint for me: I've long thought his Eagleroost & Koontreet HOn3 'layout' was merely photos of dioramas. The article, I think, also suggests that, and one of the accompanying photos was of a tunnel on the E&K.

      I think he owned the EVRR for quite awhile. It was likely built at his Pine St. apartment in the early to mid '50s and was moved to his new apartment on Oakland Ave. I don't think it got used much - his writings suggest it was kept under a sheet and run just once or twice a year. Although, it was also used at times as a staging area for photo shoots for a few articles. I think it might have survived until he remarried in the late '60s, but I don't know for certain its fate - like just about all model RRs it was likely junked.

      His 30x30 Enskale Hoentee RR, was loaned to Collier's Hobby Shop in Raleigh almost just as soon as ELM finished it and ELM's writings suggest it was something of an attraction. I had heard it's whereabouts was known until about 1980 when it was sold to a collector.

      And I think you're right, he did a lot of stand alone dioramas, his work with boats is an example, but they were all temporary works.

      I'm thinking I need to come out of retirement for an hour or so to write ELM's layout history :-)

    2. Well that might be a nice finale to the great work you've done already. But I can understand wanting to get away from all of this for a while. Or permanently. I know when I'm typing with 2.5 fingers at about 90 letters a minute I don't get much modeling done. And then there is the "rest" of life to deal with - that is sometimes inconveniently
      "real".. Thanks for a great Blog.

    3. This got me thinking yesterday that there is summary things to be written - a summary on his layouts is one - that pull together the various pieces of information I've posted. It made me realize that although in my mind I've put the pieces together, I should write it all down. Thanks for your kind words!