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)


  1. May I make a few suggestions.

    I think the lead-in photo should be model photo, something full of his best work. His models are far more recognized than his face. And even then, Gordon Odegard's "Visit with E. L. Moore" in MR had a "less frightening" photo of him at home near this models.

    When you list his project RRs, you might list them in order of importance. I'd start with the Elizabeth Valley RR (which was featured in an early how-to book on model railroading), followed by the shortline terminal (very memorable), then the Ensake & Hoentee (a legit project layout in RMC), followed by the Eagleroost (barely hinted at through the years) and finally the Rowland Emmett models (which I hardly heard of).

    I'd also list his model construction techniques before his characters, outhouses or TV. Maybe even retitle it "Innovative building techniques" or, "How he changed the hobby".

    And don't forget "His Lasting Influence on the Hobby". Kits based on his articles populate thousands of home layouts to this day. He helped introduce "selective compression"; capturing the essence of a larger building in something that took less space. And maybe even how his work resembled early versions of today's Christmas Villages?

    1. Thanks for reading it and providing comments! Much appreciated. One thing to keep in mind with wikipedia is that the desire is for the articles to be as objective as possible (with statements whose facts can be verified by commonly available references and less to marketing speak). I've included quite a number of speculations in the article that a strict editor would delete, and I may need to put on my 'Strict Editor Hat' and delete the worst ones myself. It's just something I try to keep in mind while I'm putting this thing together.

  2. I still say the Odegard photo of him is far preferable than that whimsical, crazy goatee'd photo. His articles allowed us to see what a wit he had, but that farmer photo makes him look just plain nuts.

    1. You're right that the farmer photo is, how shall I put this, unusual :-) I think I'm doing to delete the that sidebar summary bio. That photo is an original from ELM's files, but once I saw a version of it published in that '60s RMC, it likely can't be used in a wikipedia article. The Odegard photo is good, but owned by MR. The only thing I'll say in defence of the farmer photo is that it's what ELM responded with when Hal Carstens asked him for a photo and a brief bio. It was an early form of cosplay I guess :-)

  3. My wife and I make a game out with Family Feud episodes: We'll pause and answer all the "Fast Money" questions with the "Worst Possible Answers"... it's hilarious. I think ELM was going for the "worst possible author bio" when he sent in the farmer photo and comic biography. It's funny, but I don't think he meant to forever be associated with it as his true identity.

    1. You're probably right. But, he was something of a man of mystery :-)