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:

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 :-)


  1. I bought that plaster model for $10, in person. If anyone else wants one, they do offer it online or by phone. I measured it out to about 3/4 N scale. What should have been a 20' wide tower was near 15'. Still, it's an attractive model. I might place mine with forced perspective on a layout one day.

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