Saturday, September 30, 2017

Full first draft of E. L. Moore wikipedia entry

I decided it's time to put the pedal-to-the-metal and get the E. L. Moore wikipedia entry done. There are some wikipedia entries on a few famous model railroaders, but not that many. In particular, I studied the ones for John Allen and Frank Ellison. They are competent and hit the high points of their careers, but they struck me as not being too effective on pointing out what made those gentlemen great, what their innovations were and how they changed the hobby for the better. So, I wanted the E. L. Moore entry to give a good sense of the man and his accomplishments to the uninitiated, and be a useful reference for the experienced to dig deeper into his work. Ok, well, here's the first draft. It's drafty indeed, but it's a significant milestone for me on this journey.

E. L. Moore

Earl Lloyd Moore (March 14, 1898 - August 12, 1979) was an American model railroader who published 122 pieces in the American model railroading press between 1955 and 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 little 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 from a succession 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. Moore’s articles are notable both for their subject matter as well as their style. Along with the model under discussion, Moore would write the text, shoot and develop the photographs, and draft the plans. The accompanying photographs would often include one or more detailed staged scenes depicting everyday life with the building, and the text was famous for often weaving in a humorous fictional story about the building and its inhabitants. He did not concentrate on modeling particular real railroads [2] as is the norm for model railroad hobbyists, but focused on modeling buildings of both railroad and non-railroad subjects, as well as scenery. Although he found an outlet for his creative energies, and some cash, in the model railroading press, his work had much in common with traditional folk artists who specialized in miniature American Folk Art Buildings.

Pre-Model Railroading Biography    
Early Life

Moore was born and raised on a farm in rural southern Michigan [2]. The farm’s exact location is unknown, but it was within a 9 mile radius of Bangor, Michigan, and about 2 miles from a two-room school he attended as a boy [6]. There was a windmill and water tank about 2 1/2 miles away where one could board a Chicago bound ‘flyer’ while its locomotive stopped to take on water. 

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 [2].

Not a lot is known about Moore from the time he left the Navy until he arrived in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he setup a photography studio specializing in baby and child portraits. The few factoids that are known about Moore’s life prior to his emergence on the national scene as a model railroader include: working in a paper mill in the northeast; working as a furniture salesman; and, during the 1930s, living as a self-described vagabond.

Photography Studio

Moore was a photographer and starting sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s he ran a photography studio in Charlotte, North Carolina that specialized in baby and child portraiture. Over the years it operated from several locations. It burned down in the mid-1950s. Moore then retired from business and devoted himself full-time to model railroading.

Layouts & Dioramas

Traditionally, model railroaders are defined by their layouts. Moore built 5 layouts and dioramas. Strictly speaking there was a 6th layout: Gordon Odegard noted that Moore's very first layout was a 4'x6' Lionel O27 based setup [2], but no details are known.

The Rowland Emmett Tribute Diorama

A vertically oriented HO scale diorama featuring trains, trams, buildings and scenes made famous by a number of Roland Emmett cartoons. It was built sometime in the early to mid 1950s, and measured approximately 2’ x 3’, and was possibly as large as 2' x 4’. Its first appearance in print was in the photo essay with the Spumoni family in Merrie Old England in the January 1956 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.

The Eagleroost & Koontree Railroad

A collection of temporary scenes [1] built for photographing models featuring a fictitious narrow gauge mountain railroad - modeled in HOn2-1/2 - in an unspecified US location, situated sometime in the late 1890s or early 1900’s. Some of the scenes were staged on The Elizabeth Valley Railroad, but the EKRR wasn't a permanent part of the EVRR. It was an ongoing project undertaken between the mid 1950s to mid 1960s. Based on photographic evidence, the scenes were likely no bigger than 2’x2’ or 3’x3’ maximum. Its first print appearance was in the Fall 1957 of Model Trains as part of that issue’s Stop, look and listen photo section.

The Elizabeth Valley Railroad

A 4’ x 6’ HO scale layout based in a mountainous region surrounding a valley with a lake and stream.  Set in an unspecified US location sometime in the late 1890s or early 1900’s. No industries; survives mainly on tourism and maybe some logging. The layout was named for his daughter. It was built in the mid-1950s, and its first appearance in print was in a piece entitled Elizabeth Valley RR that appeared in the March 1955 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.

The 1900s Shortline Terminal Yard

An extensive HO scale diorama of a US backwoods, shortline terminal yard situated sometime around 1900. It wasn't an extension of his Elizabeth Valley Railroad, but it was stylistically similar. It was built sometime during the winter of ’64 / ’65 and into the spring of 1965. Stories about it were submitted to Model Railroader in May 1965. Its print appearance was in Turn backward, O Time, January 1967, Model Railroader. The yard’s engine house was featured in Model Railroader’s March 1967 article Brick Enginehouse.

The Enskale & Hoentee Railroad

A 30” x 30” layout situated in a mountainous region surrounding a lake. Set in an unspecified US location sometime in the late 1890s or early 1900’s. It combined 3 scales: N, TT and HOn2-1/2. It was a model of a tourist line; there were no industries. It was built primarily as a project layout for Railroad Model Craftsman. When Model Railroader's editorial staff learned that Moore was building this layout, they offered him a deal to write a book, similar to their HO Primer, for beginners starting out in N-scale, which was a relatively new scale at the time. Moore declined the offer stating that he felt he wasn’t skilled enough in electrical matters to write about a typical layout’s complex electrical system and that he didn’t like working to deadlines. The E & K was built during the winter of 1967/68 and into the spring 1968. Its story was submitted to Railroad Model Craftsman on 28 April 1968, and appeared in print in a three part series in the October, November and December 1968 issues of Railroad Model Craftsman.

Model Railroading Writing
Moore’s model railroading activities were intertwined with his work as a freelance contributor to the model railroading press. His publications can be divided into three distinct periods.

Period 1: March 1955 to March 1962 

The first period ran from March 1955, when his first publication appeared in Railroad Model Craftsman, until March 1962, when his article on how to build an HO scale model of Disney’s Grizzly Flats depot was the cover story of Model Trains’ final regular issue. There were 23 articles published during this period, and in them he established himself as an author capable of writing on a broad range of model railroading construction projects.

[table of articles from March 1955 to March 1962 to be extracted from the master article list that can be found here.]

Period 2: June 1962 to October 1970

The second period ran from June 1962 to October 1970. This era saw Moore develop and solidify what would become his signature style: HO scale building construction projects that could be undertaken for about $2 or $3 in materials, require a couple of weeks of  spare time to complete and be suitable for a wide variety of layouts all woven into a how-to article complete with scenic photos of the finished project and a humorous fictional story. There were 70 articles published during this period and it ended with a 13 month stretch, starting in November 1970, where he had no articles published. It was the longest gap in his publication history since being shutout in 1958.

[table of articles from June 1962 to October 1970 to be extracted from the master article list that can be found here.]

Period 3: December 1971 to July 1979

The third period ran from his first publication in Railroad Modeler in December 1971 until his death in August 1979. His last article appeared in the July 1979 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. His most outrageous project, The Cannonball and Safety Powder Works, which concluded by blowing up the finished model and photographing the HO scale conflagration, was featured in the April 1977 issue of Model Railroader. Near the end of this period he published some of his boyhood reminisces in Good Old Days magazine. There were 31 articles published, 29 of them in the model railroad press, during this period.

[table of articles from December 1971 to July 1979 to be extracted from the master article list that can be found here.]

Unpublished Manuscripts

In 1980 Model Railroader’s editor, Jim Kelly, noted the magazine was in possession of 6 unpublished manuscripts by Moore [4] and had an intention of publishing them. They were never published, although they did resurface in 2016 along with a number of other heretofore unknown and unpublished manuscripts. 

Story characters

His construction articles and photo essays often wove in a humorous fictional story about the structure and its inhabitants. This set his work apart from the more common form of construction article presentation that focused mainly on materials and how-to instructions. Moore’s characters were often cast as members of his extended family; how much they were based on actual family members is unknown. 

Fictional characters that have appeared in Moore’s stories include: Cousin Caleb, 
Uncle Wilber, Mr. P. Pottle, Great grandfather Lucifer Penroddy Snooks, Waldo Hoople, Cousin Rube, Grandfather Pudzi, Uncle Peabody, Uncle Dinwoody, Cousin Elmer (Dinwoody), Pistachio Jr., Ma Spumoni, Cousin Leroy, Uncle Sim, Grandpa Bunn, and Uncle Charley Spumoni. 

Moore had a large personal library [1] and was a voracious reader. The influences of written material on Moore’s projects and stories include the works of: Charles ‘Chic’ Sale, Rowland Emett, Dorothy Parker, Carl Fallberg, Bill Schopp, H. Allen Smith, Lucius Beebe & Charles Clegg, Charles E. Carryl, Richard Armour, George Allen and Robert B. Nixon, Jr.

Moore would sometimes appear in his stories as himself, the project’s builder. In his photos of HO scale scenes he would sometimes appear in the guise of his avatar: an HO scale old time photographer hunched behind his tripod mounted view camera cloaked in a horse blanket style focusing hood.


Inspired by Charles ‘Chic’ Sale’s fictional character Lem Putt, a carpenter specializing in outhouse construction, Moore built a number of HO scale outhouses of various designs that he mounted on small squares of card, signed on the bottom and gave to friends as gifts. They were highly sought after and Moore considered himself a master of outhouse modeling. Eighteen of his creations were presented in his article A Mighty Relaxin’ Job that appeared in the November 1975 issue of the NMRA Bulletin.

Television appearance

In early July 1971, a camera crew from the television show Carolina Camera, a show about interesting local people produced by WBTV in Charlotte, North Carolina, shot a segment on Moore and his model railroad work at his apartment. It is not known if it aired. Interestingly, Moore did not own a television.

Model construction techniques
Although over the years Moore used a variety of techniques and materials to build HO scale structures, he was known for using certain construction methods again-and-again. They formed a suite of techniques for keeping his projects easy and low-cost. Moore was invited to give a clinic on his construction methods at the May 1968 convention of the Mid-Eastern Region of the National Model Railroad Association. He declined stating he did his best work at a typewriter and detested crowds and traveling.

Balsa Wood

Balsa was Moore’s preferred material for all aspects of construction from wall and roof substrates to the load bearing members of bridges and trestles. It was soft and easy to work, but also strong, lightweight, inexpensive and readily available as it was also a primary airframe building material for model airplane hobbyists.

Shingles & Siding with a Wood Burning Tool

His second article, Burn those models, that appeared in the May 1955 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, and Modeling with a burning tool, that appeared in the July 1962 issue of Model Railroader, outlined his technique for using a woodburning tool to score shingle, brick, stone and siding patterns into balsa instead of purchasing equivalent commercial materials. He used this technique on a large number of projects.

Paper Metal

If a building called for corrugated metal siding, Moore would make his own by taping a piece of 20-pound bond paper over a piece of Northeastern brand .040” spaced corrugated board and then scribing the corrugations into the paper with a spent ball point pen. To make metal roofing, he’d score only along every third groove. When finished, the paper was cut into suitably sized scale panels. 

Paper Pipes

His buildings often needed overhead and rooftop piping which he’d make by first rounding off some balsa strips whose cross-section was close to that required, and then  finishing the circular profile by forcing the strips through holes of the desired diameter. He’d complete the job by wrapping the now cylindrical balsa strips in paper.

Inked Window Sashes & Mullions

Moore rarely used commercial window castings, but would make his own windows by rubbing a piece of clear acetate with an abrasive like pumice, talc or kitchen cleanser and then drawing in the mullions and sashes with a ruling pen and straightedge.

The Dot & Blot Method of Time Recording

Moore often bragged that many of his projects only took about 2 weeks of spare time to build. He developed a unique method of keeping track of time. On a calendar he’d mark a dot for each hour worked, half a dot for a half hour, and  a blot for anything thing that seemed like 3 hours. To get the time it took to build a project, he’d add up the dots and blots, and add a few extras in for good measure.

Plastic model kits
Beginning in 1967, AHM (Associated Hobby Manufacturers) of Philadelphia produced the first of 9 HO scale plastic model kits based on a selection of Moore’ s published articles in Railroad Model Craftsman.
The Schaefer Brewery kit was the first produced, and the first production runs of the kits were stamped on the box tops with: "Designed by E. L. Moore. Reproduced by permission from plans as shown in Railroad Model Craftsman Magazine." It is alleged that E. L. Moore received no payment or royalty for these kits, but was given a few unassembled kits as a token gesture of appreciation.

Although the molds changed ownership over the years, some of the kits, like Ma’s Place, have remained in production since their first release and remain in production as of 2017. As well, components of some of the kits have been used for other commercially available plastic model kits.

Death and Retrospective

Moore died on August 12, 1979 in Spotsylvania, Virginia of a heart attack caused by arteriosclerosis. His remains were cremated.

In November 1979, Railroad Model Craftsman’s editor Anthony Koester published a brief tribute to Moore in the Editor’s Notebook column [3]. In February 1980, Jim Kelly, editor of Model Railroader, wrote a 5 page tribute to Moore in E. L. Moore’s Legacy [4]. As well as providing a tribute to Moore’s life and work, it showed for the first time a number of then never published before color photographs of several of Moore’s projects.


1. He Build Railroads - Then Scraps Them, The Charlotte Observer, 19 January 1958, David Hayhow.

2. Bull session: “A visit with E. L. Moore”, Model Railroader, September 1975, Gordon Odegard.

3. Editor’s Notebook: “E. L. Moore”, Railroad Model Craftsman, November 1979, J. Anthony Koester

4. E. L. Moore’s Legacy, Model Railroader, February 1980, Jim Kelly

5. Along the Line Looks Back: E. L. Moore, Model Railroader, November 1999, Model Railroader editorial staff.

6. Early Century Field Day, Good Old Days, May 1979, Earl Moore.

External Links

Index to excerpts from E. L. Moore’s files

Index to surviving unpublished photos from E. L. Moore’s files

Index to E. L. Moore’s unpublished manuscripts

Index to color photos of some of E. L. Moore’s surviving models (as of 2015)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

E. L. Moore gets the cover of Aug '63 RMC

Title tells all. That's E. L. Moore's Octagonal Water Tower that appeared in the issue along with the 3rd part of Gil Melle's Oak Hill Pithead project and Whit Tower's Single Stall Engine House, so it was a gold mine for structure builders. As well as being an E. L. Moore cover, it's also in that style of splashing the image over the entire page, something that Model Railroader was also doing during that period, but often with a little more daring in that they sometimes left off just about all text and let the image do the talking. Although, I wouldn't be surprised to find an RMC cover in that league.

Gil Mellé: Jazz Legend, Model Railroader Extraordinaire

I’m reading though a stack of early ‘60s Railroad Model Craftsmans, and I’m here to say they strike me as having just the right balance of irreverent fun, quality projects, excellent photography, news flashes, skilled drawings and interesting prototype information. But as my magazine mould induced hallucinatory reading trip through 1960, ’61, ’62, and ’63 continued, one name seemed to appear in each and every table of contents with some sort of fascinating construction project: Gil Mellé. Those years seemed to be a Gil Mellé catered smorgasbord of model structure building goodness. For the most part, he had an article in every issue, and sometimes two. His name doesn’t appear on RMC’s masthead, so I don’t think he was a staffer, but he clearly had some solid business arrangement with them. I really need to create a Gil Mellé master index.

RMC author Gil Mellé dropped into these hallowed walls recently with his latest creation. Gil is a one time model railroad manufacturer, artist, jazz musician, composer and has even written singing commercials. His latest creation will be shown in the March issue: an old brick foundry complete with sound. Gil describes the construction of both the foundry and the sound unit, which can be installed into any industrial structure.
From Hal Carsten's Notes on an Old Timetable in the February '62 issue of RMC

The Feb '62 and Jan '64 issues spilled the beans on Mr. Mellé. It turns out he’s Gil Mellé the famous jazz saxophonist, painter, sculptor and composer. Marc Myers has two excellent posts on him at JazzWax: Gil Mellé: Blue Note and Prestige  and Denny Mellé on Husband Gil. There's also a biography at the Blue Note records site. Gil Mellé was no slouch of a model builder either, although you’d never know that from his skimpy entry on wikipedia’s celebrity model railroaders page.

MEET GIL MELLE' - Jazz musician, band leader, composer, Gil has had original works played at the United Nations and has had his group featured on lp recordings. Some years ago Gil also had a fling at kit manufacturing under the name "Industrial Model Works" but gave it up to return to music and oil painting, at which he has also received a number of awards and one man shows in New York and other cities. Gil enjoys turning out super construction features for RMC and thinks model railroading is more fun than ever for the creative model railroader. Gil is married to another musician, known under her stage name of Jackie Parker. The couple have a little girl, Lisa.
Biographical note accompanying Gil Mellé's Mountain Flotation Plant that appeared in the January '64 issue of RMC. The lead photo to this post - a slightly larger version actually - accompanied the bio.

Now, you may be asking yourself: JD, I hate to ask a heretical question such as this, but do you think Gil Mellé was better than E. L. Moore? Well, thanks for asking – and it’s not the least bit heretical  :-) - but I don’t think such a ranking is applicable. They both offered their own unique perspectives and a broad range of building projects for beginners and advanced modellers alike. GM had great drawings beyond plan views; ELM had great stories; GM was doing excellent kitbashes as well as scratch builds; ELM was showing how to do the most with the least; no doubt there’s more once I dive deeper into the Gil Mellé legacy. They were both equally part of the fun early ‘60s vibe that comes across in those musty RMCs.

Friday, September 15, 2017

E. L. Moore's Autobiography

It’s one thing to get familiar with E. L. Moore’s work through scans of his articles, and it’s completely another to see them in the wild, in their natural environment, nestled within the pages of the magazines and jostling with all the other cool stuff. So, I’m casually strolling through the June 1962 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, the one with E. L. Moore’s Vermont Covered Bridge article, and what do I see on page 9: that up there! Yeah, his ‘autobiography’ and selfie that I wrote about back in January 2016. I’m glad to see it got published.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Coincidence houses

[The Moore house, drawn by Julian Cavalier, Railroad Model Craftsman, July 1996; The Lowe house, drawn by Julian Cavalier, Railroad Model Craftsman, December 1994]

As I read through Railroad Model Craftsman, one month after another, one year after another, I sometimes see unusual coincidences. I don't think there is any connection to the Moore and Lowe that show up here, but who knows what other coincidences are ahead :-)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Box of Telegrams

I asked Vince if he knew of a 3D printing company that made HO scale newspaper boxes like the ones that were common on the streets of Toronto in the '60s and '70s. He didn't know of any, but it got us talking about how to make some. It seemed that folding one up from card or thin brass might be the way to go. I tried making one from 3x5 card. Mine's a simplification: it doesn't have the characteristic splayed base or feet of the real ones, and it's a bit on the blocky side. Also, I think it needs to be a little smaller and its proportions tweaked a bit, but overall it's heading in the right direction. 
[The original Telegram building that was once located, I believe, at Bay & Melinda (image sourced from the City of Toronto Archive). Given my chronic E. L. Moore fixation, it instantly reminded me of his RMC Paper Co., and like the Paper Co, it would need considerable selective compression to produce a useable model. And yes, there appears to streetcar tracks running by :-)]

My newspaper box is based on one of the many styles used by the old Toronto Telegram. For a convincing street scene I'll also need boxes from the other papers. This is all part of trying to figure out what the elements are that encapsulate a Toronto feeling that the new streetcar layout needs to incorporate.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

End of Summer Edition

Astronomically speaking, the fall doesn't begin until 22 September, but for me it has always ended on the Labour Day weekend. This summer's been much colder and wetter than usual - today, it was +6C when I woke up! But, given what's going on in my old stomping grounds down in Houston, I've got nothing to complain about. If you can spare some cash for the Red Cross' Harvey relief, I'm sure it would be most appreciated. 
Earlier in the month I cut up the old layout - the Lost Ocean Line that I started work on in 2011 - that's been stashed out behind the garden shed since February and put it out for garbage pickup. It's surprising how little material actually makes up the layout once all the buildings and scenery and such are removed. Hopefully there'll be much new and exciting layout building taking place throughout the fall. I want to have something running by Christmas, so at my usual glacial pace, I need to get going :-)