Friday, November 30, 2018

An early good riddance to 2018

2018 has been a year of both little progress and major changes. The biggest change being the death of my father. One might think that even though he was old and ill, and that I'm no youngster myself, the impact wouldn't be that great. One would be wrong. We're working on making 2019 better.

Still, there were periods of normalcy, and some of the usual was done. And as has been my custom* for awhile, here are a few highlights.

The blog crossed the 1,000 posts line in April (this post you're reading is No. 1,037),

Personal blogs haven't been cool for a long time, but I don't care. I enjoy writing one, and greatly enjoy reading other people's. I wish I had started earlier.

Some progress was made on the N-scale Elizabeth Valley RR tribute layout (although it has been hanging on my wall for quite awhile awaiting further inspiration),

And some progress was made on the Alta Vista TC,

I didn't build much this year, just two plastic kits that were surprisingly pleasant to assemble,

I tried my hand at writing movie reviews (which turned out to be the most popular posts of those written in 2018),

I tried my hand at mockups, one being a movie theatre that I'm looking forward to turning into a model,

I did a lot of reading and armchair streetcar-ing that included,

The Los Angeles Railway Through the Years by Steven L. Easlon
The White Front Cars of San Francisco by Charles Smallwood
Surf, Sand and Streetcars: A Mobile History of Santa Cruz, California by Charles S. McCaleb
Montreal's Electric Streetcars: An Illustrated History of the Tramway Era: 1892 to 1959 by Richard M. Binns
The New York Elevated by Robert C. Reed
Tenements, Towers and Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City by Julia Wertz
selected issues of Voie Libre International
stacks of Railroad Model Craftsmans from the '70s and '80s
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne
Stone Cold Dead by James W. Ziskin
Dirigibles that made history by David C. Cooke
reread issues 404, 405, 406 and 407 of Batman comics
Perfect Wave: More Essays on Art and Democracy by Dave Hickey
reread Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy by Dave Hickey
Scenic Railway Modelling by P. R. Wickham
reread Paddington to Seagood: The Story of a Model Railway by Gilbert Thomas
currently reading The Infinite Blacktop by Sara Gran

My father was the person who kicked off my interest in model building and model railroading. Although he wasn't a model railroader himself, it was something he supported, and he took an interest in my latest purchases; in later years, especially those TTC PCCs. He had far more experience riding the TTC than I ever did.

One of my favourite model makers, Michael Paul Smith, also died this year. One of his projects was a 1/24 scale model of the house he grew-up in. The model was excellent, and looked easy to build - deceptively easy as it turned out. In 2017 I decided to try the same with the house I grew up in. It was more difficult than it seemed to draw up a 1/24 scale plan just using old photos and my memory as reference material, and once I finished I realized building that size of a model was a no go. Even the relatively modest suburban bungalow I spent my childhood in becomes a large object in 1/24. So, I decided to try and build an HO version and got as far as building the foundation and floor. I stopped there. Not because of build problems, but because it unlocked too many memories. Don't let anyone tell you model building is a totally banal and benign activity.

And while we're on the subject of death, 2019 marks the 40th anniversary of E. L. Moore’s. One thing I’ve never mentioned in my ELM writings is that his work, and other stories I read in the model building press way back when, were what opened my eyes to the idea that one could write about making things, and do so in an engaging manner. I know, it seems an obvious thing, but being young and thick, it never occurred to me until I encountered those magazines back in the early ‘70s. As well, my parents encouraged reading, which is probably why I could buy those magazines in the first place. My mum didn’t read that much herself beyond newspapers, but she read to me well before I could read, and took me to the library. My father was a big time reader. We swapped books back and forth, regularly visited the public libraries of Scarborough, and often went to some good bookstores – well, they seemed good to me at the time - in downtown Toronto. I read stuff that was at a much higher level than I probably should have been exposed to, but I didn’t know any better, and it was fun. His family was poor when he grew up, but he was driven and it didn’t stop him from getting a university degree in his early 40s. I read some of his required reading during his time in school**, and tagged along on some trips to the university bookstore and library. So, Mr. Moore, those writers in the ‘70s model building press, and especially my parents, were a huge influence on making reading and writing an integral part of life. And it has served me well all these years. Yeah, you’re right, I’m no genius writer, but I keep on keeping on :-)

On a more positive note, there's one other thing about 2019: it'll be this blog's 10th anniversary. 2018 marked my 10th year as a blogger, but 2019 is my 10th year writing here. In 2008 I started a blog called Separated Flow. I didn't like it and shut it down a few months later. After thinking about what I wanted a blog to be, I started 30 Squares of Ontario***  and retroDynamics**** in 2009. I shut down retroDynamics after a year or so because I didn't have enough good material to see the concept through, and realized I didn't have the time or energy to post to two blogs. Believe it or not, even after 10 years I haven't done all the things I'd like to see done here at 30 Squares.

I'm starting to see 2019 up ahead and 2018 getting smaller and smaller in the time machine's rear-view mirror. I've got a couple of stalled layouts waiting to be jump-started, a new story with Leslie and Ed about half written, a stack of kits cluttering the workbench, a dream to get something published in an actual paper magazine, a new retro model railroading series itching to start, notes and drawings scattered around the workshop, a turntable that needs an amplifier, and hopefully a new vibe waiting to be shifted into once 2018 drops below the event horizon.

Well, reminiscing is tiring and I need some coffee. Let's wrap things up.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to you and yours! 

Take us home Mr. Guaraldi....

I'll be back sometime after Boxing Day. 


*If you're interested in year-end rambles, here's where the custom started in 2016, and here's the sophomore run in 2017.

**A few weeks ago, ok maybe it was months ago, I read an article that said these days a lot of people think the soma-world presented in Brave New World is a good thing and the alternative - that is, real personal freedom - is the bad thing! Oh, and if you haven't read John Brunner's The Shockwave Rider, you should - it made my head spin.

***This blog got its name the way most model railroad blogs do: it was based on my layout at the time I set up the blog. The layout was 6' x 5', hence 30 square feet, and it was set in a fictional town in southern Ontario. After a while I found the concept boring and concocted the Lost Ocean Line, which was just an excuse to do whatever I pleased and incorporate whatever I wanted. I felt the working title of the blog should be changed, so I started calling it 30 Squares, even though the url still has the original name.

****retroDynamics was supposed to be about taking an old-school slant on a few topics: model building, blimps and airships, aerodynamics, some aspects of art, space flight, time travel, comics, retro pop culture and whatever else came to mind that wasn't model railroading related. It took me awhile to realize that a personal blog didn't have to be targeted to particular interests or people, contrary to what a marketing outlook on the world would tell us is good practice. I figured I'd just write about retroDynamics topics, if I had any, at 30 Squares and assume readers weren't so narrow minded. After all, we're human beings, who can be interested in and affected by lots of things, and whoever showed up to read the blog were the right people.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

In Praise of the Amateur Model Railroader

While reading this article on the surprising power of the placebo effect, my eye caught this other story on why so few people have hobbies these days. All I can say is, right on.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

ELM Epilogue: 2 outta 3 ain't bad

That's a photo of the Iron Age Mfg. Co., built by D. Russell Young, Jr., winner of the RMC / Dremel Kitbashing Award in the November 1976 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. Of the three plastic kits that form the basis of this project, two of them are AHM E. L. Moore kits: the Gruesome Casket Company and the Molasses Mine. The third is Revell's classic Superior Bakery. The project is an excellent example of '70s style kitbashing based on three of the era's most popular and commonly available kits - although the Superior Bakery kit originated much earlier. Also, I was surprised to see the Molasses Mine in a project where it seemed like a perfectly sensible component :-)

Friday, November 23, 2018

Michael Paul Smith, RIP

I was saddened today to learn of the passing of Michael Paul Smith, the creator of Elgin Park. I've greatly admired his work and consider his book Elgin Park: Visual Memories of Midcentury America at 1/24th Scale to be one of the best books written on model building. Our internet age is a strange one. I followed his Flickr stream with great interest and bought his books, and although I never had the pleasure of meeting the gentleman, I still feel a personal loss and that the world has lost a great human being. If you aren't familiar with his work, I suggest you look it up.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

ELM Epilogue: Did E. L. Moore get a D- in Structural Engineering?

This refers to E. L. Moore's Car Repair Shed described in the November 1969 RMC (page 34). I was quite intrigued with the model and decided to build one myself. However, I found that Moore's model had rafters spaced 12 feet apart which, in real life, would not be practical as the roof would become "wavy" in a very short time. Hence, my rafters have three foot centers, and the uprights are five feet apart.... From a letter by R. Vergeylen of Quebec and printed in the Safety Valve column of the March 1970 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. Turns out that back in the '70s I wasn't any better. My engine house would have collapsed under the first snowfall....

Saturday, November 10, 2018

ELM Epilogue: E. L. Moore, a frustrated Nader Raider?

We note that Ralph Nader has criticized the railroads for dumping toilet wastes over some quarter million miles of railroad right of way. Unlike airplanes and buses, which dump human excrement into chemical tanks for disposal at the destination, most railroad equipment just flushes the waste on the right of way. And, here, all these years, we've clamped down on our beloved E. L. Moore who has been hankering to do a bit on outdoor privies. Moore, an expert on the subject, has made them in many variations, including one made of bricks and another with wagon wheelsSo sayeth Harold H. Carstens in the Notes on an Old Timetable column in the March 1970 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Band Car

A couple of weeks ago Vince gave me a copy of a book called Montreal's Electric Streetcars: An Illustrated History of the Tramway Era: 1892 to 1959 by Richard M. Binns, published in 1973 by Railfare Enterprises. It's excellent and I was surprised by what seems like a lot of unique rolling stock. One item is this Band Car. The caption below the photo has this to say: A happy little Car! The MTC Employees' Band had their own travelling bandstand during the early 1900s. One of its final runs was to advertise the "Alexander's Ragtime Band" movie in the early 1930s. Elsewhere near the photo it's stated that: The Band Car was 26 feet long overall by seven feet wide and weighed 15,100 lbs. It was painted light yellow and carried no decoration or lettering. I can imagine an unpowered, narrow-gauge version being built by E. L. Moore for his E & K RR, in the spirit of the Spumoni Club Coach, a powered vehicle that was - inadvertently I admit - built as an unpowered coach. Or, building it as a powered trolley for an electric street railway, would open-up a lot of good stories. And speaking of stories, I leave you with Tyrone Power, Alice Faye, Don Ameche, Jack Haley, and Ethel Merman....take it away Irv....

Saturday, November 3, 2018

ELM Epilogue: The Case of the Photographer's Doppelganger - Solved!

[On the left, E. L. Moore's photographer figure, whose construction he described in Put Your Figures to Work published in the July '57 issue of Model Railroader and appeared in a number of his published photographs - photo from E. L. Moore's archives. On the right is an homage to E. L. Moore's photographer figure built by Bob Hayden from a Revell figure - photo courtesy of Dave Frary (the original was in colour; I created this trimmed black-and-white version for comparison purposes.)]

Last week I was reading through some issues of Railroad Model Craftsman from the '70s. In the February '77 issue I came across a photo by Bob Hayden that included the ELM-like photographer figure I chanced upon in his and Dave Frary's Elk River Line article in the May '70 issue of RMC. I figured I'd try and contact Mr. Hayden and see if he could shed some light on whether the figure was influenced in any way by E. L. Moore, or maybe was simply a commercial item, or maybe something else.

I contacted Mr. Hayden via his online bookstore, and he graciously answered my question. Below is a slightly edited version of his reply,

I do remember that the figure was based on the one in E.L. Moore’s photos. I think it started with a Revell figure, one of the few to-scale figures that we had back in the days before Preiser, Merten, and the others. Wire tripod legs, a little block of wood to hold them together, and a bit of cloth or tissue for the cover. Probably took more time to paint than to make. There may have been a tiny reflective jewel on the front to suggest a lens.

Mr. Frary provided confirmation, and kindly provided a colour photo, a black-and-white converted snippet of which I've included in the introductory photo to this post. He also mentioned that he too had built a photographer, but based on a Campbell figure.

A small mystery solved and another addition to the E. L. Moore story.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Flying Tiger PCC

Vince and I were chatting and I mentioned an interesting old book I bought over the summer: The Los Angeles Railway Through The Years by Steven L. Easklon, published in 1973. One of the things I particularly like about it is it's chock full of photos, and lots of them are L.A. street scenes of the 1930s and 1940s. Even so, this PCC photo attributed to William Bassler jumped out at me. Its caption reads: Above is P.C.C. #3010 at the east end of the "P" line sporting the famous Flying Tiger paint scheme during World War II advertising a need for streetcar motormen. That would make one impressive model, especially in TTC red.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Went to a train swap meet and all I got was this '69 Chevelle

Went to a model railroad swap meet this weekend. I'm very picky these days as I don't want to load up on stuff that I'm unlikely to use. One thing did catch my eye: this kit from the old AMT 1/43 scale Junior Collector Series. The note on the box says, Mar 31 /76 Woolworth, with 'Renfun' (?) underneath. I haven't seen one of these kits in a long time, so I snapped it up. It looks like all the parts are there along with the instructions, so, good times ahead.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Running the upper loop on the Moore & Moore Lines

Darrell Poole sent me a link to this first video of his HO scale Elizabeth Valley RR tribute layout of trains running on the upper loop. He's made excellent progress, and the layout and video are looking great! I'm looking forward to seeing how this railroad develops.

2018 is 1979!

I was thumbing through some Railroad Model Craftsmans from the late '70s, and in the January '79 issue found this calendar insert still where it should be in the centre of the magazine. The excellent painting is by Mr. Ted Xaras. I also noted the calendar is the same as this year's. And according to the Internet, next year is 1974 all over again - I can hardly wait :-)

Street repairs along the Alta Vista TC

We're thinking about resurrecting our annual Christmas Spike Party, but I'm not sure if the layout can be put into reasonable shape in time - we usually would hold the get together around mid-December, a week or two or so before Christmas. I've decided to try a few minor repairs to see if I can get in the groove for the work ahead. Some street track inserts I installed in the spring using transfer tape to hold them in place popped free over the summer. I reinstalled one using white glue this time, using a piece of board and a couple of hammers to weigh down the insert while the glue dried. Hopefully it'll stay in place this time.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Apartment construction on the Alta Vista TC

Not much happening in the streets of the Alta Vista TC these days other than some on-again-off-again construction of a Kibri 38222 apartment building. Assembly started in June a few weeks after the kit arrived from Germany. The walls were tilted up a couple of weeks ago, but there's still lots of work to go. It's a great kit and hopefully I'll do a full post when it's finished.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Time travelling to the '70s via TTC streetcars and trolley buses with an assist from Eastern Airlines

Some interesting TTC streetcar and trolley bus footage, and the video below, an ad by Eastern Airlines, touting the wonders of Toronto - opening with some aerial footage featuring the TD Bank Tower.

Two early neighbours of the TD Bank Tower

[Photo inside the back cover of Bruce West's 1979 book, Toronto. That black slab just to the left of the CN Tower is the TD Bank Tower. And, just to the left and behind the TD Bank Tower is the Commerce Court tower. To the right of the CN Tower is First Canadian Place.]

I was going through my father's books and came across one called Toronto by Bruce West. It is the 1979 second edition to the original published in 1967. It had this to say about the TD Bank Tower.

But, bewildering as it became to many of its residents, Toronto was to continue sprouting outward, upward and even downward in many spectacular and rapid ways during the next ten years. Especially upward. For one thing, the dizzying height of 740 feet achieved by the main tower of the Toronto-Dominion Centre on King Street, which had made it the loftiest building in all of Canada, would soon be surpassed by that of the white and gleaming spire of the Commerce Court building, whose height of 784 feet would in turn soon be eclipsed by the 935 feet of nearby First Canadian Place.

In HO scale, First Canadian Place would stand about 10.75 feet tall, and although much taller than the TD Bank tower, it and Commerce Court never seemed to me to have the raw visual power that the black slab does. 
[Photo inside the front cover of Toronto. Scrunched in the fold the caption says, 'Toronto 1854']

Friday, September 14, 2018

Lies, Gosh Darn Lies, and Statistics

I was looking through the blog's stats this week. It turns out that since 1 January 2017, the #1 post is: Index to the E. L. Moore models posts. Well, all the ELM posts generally are all in the top 100 and beyond and mostly beat out everything else that's been posted here. The first non-ELM post in the popular category is the one in 21st position hits-wise: The omni-circulatory streetcar layout. I found that rather surprising. The next non-ELM post is at the 24th position hits-wise: The Anti-Pesto van is ready for action!. Ok, I'm happy about that one. What is there not to like about Wallace and Gromit. And finally, the 3rd most hit non-ELM post since New Years Day 2017, the relatively boring: A review of some Boswer, Con-Cor, and Bachmann HO-scale streetcars. What does this all mean beyond ELM's popularity? Not sure really.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Taking a peek into LabLitArch

While wandering around the internet looking for anything on mockups I stumbled across the Laboratory of Literary Architecture today. Here’s what their website says they’re all about,

The Laboratory of Literary Architecture is a cross-disciplinary exploration of narrative and space. It is for anyone interested in literature — from high school through graduate school and beyond — and, in particular, for writing, literature, and architecture students and professionals, as it explores how pure, spatial, wordless thought is an essential aspect of both literary and architectural structures.

I kind of like their alternative description better.

A Cross-Disciplinary Exploration Of Literature As Architecture

The Joy Of Cardboard, Glue And Storytelling

Italics are mine.

To me it looks like one of the things they do is explore using mockups to express stories and stories to express mockups. Stories and buildings / Buildings and stories: I hear an E. L. Moore resonance with a Mister X overtone in there somewhere.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Double Sixes

I made a second, and slightly smaller, Imperial Six mockup. On the first one, the people appearing in the plane of the facade looked a little too large, so on the second I tried to get those figures reduced closer to HO size.
The second mockup isn't a lot smaller, but I think it'll fit in a bit better with its surroundings.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

TD Bank Tower Mockup in N scale

No, I didn't build a second TD Bank Tower mockup in N-scale, just re-photographed it with a Bachmann N-scale PCC nearby (a reader mentioned that this PCC is closer to 1/150 than 1/160, so calibrate your eyes accordingly). 

A non-selectively compressed tower in N would stand about 4-1/2' tall, which is a bit more than twice the height of this 2' tall mockup. Also, the mockup's ground floor lobby is probably a bit too tall in N (26.5'), and a bit too short in HO (14.5'). 

I haven't tried mockups before, but playing with them is rather fun, and it's good to see the possibilities without having to commit to a complete model.

Catching the Vibe in Voie Libre

Stories about outhouse construction (shades of ELM's outhouses), building miniature affordable carriages (shades of ELM's Slim Gauge Carriage), scratch-built flatcars (shades of Easy-To-Build Model Railroad Freight Cars), kitbashing a gasoline driven railcar (shades of ELM's Rolliam aka Spumoni Club Coach), and on and on. What was going on over there in France? Was an ELM cult alive-and-well across the Atlantic? Here was a magazine with a vibe I feel only in those '60s and '70s MRs and RMCs, but with up-to-date methods and technology and photography (not to mention a plan sheet of excellent drawings for the covered projects stapled in the middle - a nice and practical touch) all presented in an attractive package. Who knows? All I can say is that Voie Libre seems like an excellent quarterly magazine, and after reading two issues I bought a subscription. Well, I bought a subscription to Voie Libre International, the English language edition.

I stumbled across it during my summer internet travels. Voie Libre means Free Way. Excellent title. And it's sub-title is 'Campaigning for a Different Kind of Railway Modelling'. Excellent sub-title. Based on the title and sub-title alone I couldn't resist buying a couple of issues to see what was up. It seems to be focused on narrow gauge in France, but appears to cover aspects of narrow gauge throughout Europe. Yes, I'm a North American streetcar guy, but I like to think I'll follow the vibe wherever and in whatever form it takes. Vibe Libre? Hopefully time - and my subscription - will tell.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

TD Bank Tower Mockup

I have a love-hate relationship with skyscrapers. On the one hand, they're pure expressions of power, but on the other, for some I have a grudging admiration for that expression. The Toronto-Dominion Centre is in that latter category.

The TD Bank Tower was the first skyscraper in what would be a complex of towers in Toronto's financial district. It was finished in 1967, and was the first skyscraper built in Canada. At the time it was the tallest in the world outside of New York City. 

That tower shook things up and the city would never be the same again. Look at that photo of Toronto's skyline sometime after the TD Bank Tower was built. There're no other towers there. It's presence dates and stodgifies every other building. It's as if that 2001 monolith plopped straight down into Toronto to move civilization forward from its neolithic beginnings. Transit-wise, the TTC was still running its streetcar fleet with those PCCs that were first designed and built in the 1930s. If the TD Bank Tower was where you worked, one could drop you off at your office. Talk about future shock.

There was nothing stopping that shock-wave from spreading to the sleepy Scarborough suburb where I grew-up. I was in primary school then, and we went on a class trip to ride the tower's elevator to the observation deck to cast our prepubescent, philistinic eyes over the city. We were going to see the future and the TD Bank Tower was the time-machine. Prior to the trip the elevator was a topic of much discussion and how strategic gum chewing would prevent ear-popping as the elevator sped to the top. I don't recall the elevator ride, or if gum chewing was effective, or what the view was like - and never will because the observation deck is closed, and a forest of johnny-come-lately towers now surround the monolith and its brethren. But the trip did leave a lasting impression on my tender psyche.

One problem with the Alta Vista TC layout is that its skyline is too even - it's too uniformly low-rise for my liking - and it's too easy to see from one end to another. I'm thinking a skyscraper or high-rise or two might solve this problem. I'm not going to use just any generic tower because the Alta Vista TC isn't just some 'traction' layout where the buildings are afterthoughts - no, that monolithic icon that's stuck in my mind has to make an appearance. 

Easier said than done. In HO, the real McCoy would be well over 8 feet tall - taller than my layout is long ! This is where I had to rummage around in my E. L. Moore inspired bag-of-tricks and pull out the one labelled Selective Compression. Warning to readers, open this one with care :-)
[No tower, looking toward the Neville Park Loop]

Yes, yes, go ahead and laugh, the absurdity of it isn't lost on me, but there is some method to my madness. I want to get the proportions right and later, when a model comes along, the important details. And, this is the really funny part, even though it needs to be small enough to fit on the layout, it still needs to be 'tall'. What I mean is, in relation to the other buildings on the layout it needs to stand-out tallness-wise, but not overly so, so that it doesn't seem wildly out-of-place. In other words, it needs to read as 'tall' in comparison to its neighbours, but doesn't actually need to be 'tall'.

After some fiddling with dimensions and proportions, I settled on a  mockup that measures 24" tall by 8" across by 4" wide. It's made from 3/16" foamboard: black sheets for the tower and white for the lower level. I haven't forgotten my E. L. Moore roots as the support columns at the four corners are balsa strips. 
[With tower, looking toward the Neville Park Loop]

Yes, it blocks the view. And it's 'tall' and towers above everything else like it's supposed to. Mission accomplished. 

More importantly though, when I placed it on the layout the scene seemed to pop. I had a satisfying feeling that things were heading in the right direction. There's a lot more pleasant playing ahead, but it's starting to feel right.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Imperial Six Mockup

Another one on my list of possible buildings for the Alta Vista TC is the old Imperial Six movie theatre. As with the A& A mockup, I was lucky with this one too, and was able to find a fairly good photo of the facade that doesn't have a lot of perspective distortion.
A City of Toronto Archives photo of the Imperial Six in its heyday.

It has a great look and is unlike most other movie houses. More importantly, it says 'Toronto' to me. 
These mockups are just boxes folded up from bristol board with an HO scale image printed from my computer taped to the front. When I look at the Six the people still seem a bit too large - they might be OO in the image - but the building itself doesn't look too bad. I'll have to ponder this one a bit more because I'm still a bit uneasy with the dimensions.

A&A mockup

I'm fiddling around with ideas for scenes and buildings on the Alta Vista TC. One of my bucket-list builds is A&A's Yonge Street store, which was demolished many years ago. I found quite a number of pictures online, and even one that seems to be suitable for use as a template for the facade.
I sliced the facade from the larger image, and fiddled with the size until some HO figures were just about the same size of the silhouetted figures on the sidewalk. I'll use the b&w image for creating the parts - although a number of the shapes will need to be straightened up - and I printed a colour version for a mockup to see how it might look on the layout and get an idea of its size. It's a little bigger than the prototype, but it looks about right, and the little extra height will increase its presence.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Baby Spumoni's Almost Big Adventure

Cal and I got the Spumoni Club Coach out of storage to go on an inspection tour of John's legendary 8 Paws RR.
However, Engine 38 had other ideas: try as we might it wouldn't go. No lights, no budging, no creeping, no movement of any kind. It wouldn't go.
We walked over to the stream to see if we could find someone to help out, but the only person we found was pursuing his own hobby.
We then headed down the road a piece, but the hotel gave me the creeps for some reason so we kept walking.
We were getting a little desperate and thought about contacting nearby interplanetary craft for a pickup.
Instead we decided to follow a pleasant aroma.
Followed up with some pepto, a diaper change, and a phone call home for a ride. Hopefully we'll get ol' 38 fixed up soon for a proper tour.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Dog Days of Summer

John sent me a photo of a new street-car he saw cruising the TTC's rails in Toronto this summer.
Galen tipped me off to these two great videos of the Lisbon trams.
Vince sent me a link to this inspirational model building video.
And a great vendor on Abe sent me this awesome book published in 1944  - after suitable payment of course :-)

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The kit that launched a great adventure: Building AHM's version of E. L. Moore's W. E. Snatchem Funeral Parlor

There has come to be then what might be called the great modern paradox of model railroading: As the hobby has grown and kits have become more and more mass-produced there has taken place a simplification that has once attracted people into the hobby (lower costs, less work), and yet once they are in and have a varying number of models and gotten the feel of things, they in many cases become dissatisfied with what is available. It is this precise situation that in part brought about the present volume. The clock, of course, cannot and will not be put back, nor should the outlook of the fans who are critical of many present-day kits be looked upon as a form of retrogression or an expression of thoughtless selfishness. In an field there are always those who mourn any earn for the lost "good old days", usually viewed through a patina of nostalgia that comfortably erases the shortcomings of the bygone period. Model railroaders with their widespread historical sense, and attention to the past, whether it takes the form of wishing for kits and models no longer available, or collecting old scale or tinplate models and catalogs, are especially prone to this sort of thing. One recent and growing manifestation of this is found in scale model railroaders either privately or through advertising seeking out kits from the 1940's, or even the 1930's, that may still lie unassembled in private hands or dealer's stockrooms. Obviously, the available supply of such kits is quite limited, and is rapidly being depleted before the combined onslaughts of those who wish to assemble them for operation and those who wish to preserve them intact as historical relics of an earlier era of scale model railroading. Assembling obsolete kits is certainly no real answer to the problem under discussion, but at best merely a stop-gap measure and an indication of what is in the wind.
Philosophical insight from Louis H. Hertz starting on page 139 in his book Advanced Model Railroading, published in 1955.

A few weeks before Christmas 2014 I was wandering around the house muttering something about the plastic kit AHM made of E. L. Moore's W. E. Snatchem funeral parlor was probably the rarest of all the E.L. Moore kits. I have no idea why I thought that, probably because I hadn't had much luck finding one locally. 
All the E. L. Moore kits had that little red box proclaiming him as its creator - cashing in on his late '60s - early-70's star power [1].

Fast-forward to Christmas and lo-and-behold, Debra found one. I may not have immediately built it, but it was a gift that continued to give for almost the next three years.
[The kit came sealed, completely unassembled, and all parts were present. Last year I started to glue the walls and hearse together, but lost interest and set it aside.]

Being ungrateful and not satisfied with the fantastic present, I continued on moaning about how the E. L. Moore series was coming to an end and that my attempts to find and contact some people I thought might be still alive and had had some sort of relationship with E. L. Moore had proven fruitless. Woe was me.
It turned out Debra had bought the kit on eBay from a hobby shop in Raleigh, N.C.. E. L. Moore was known to frequent the Raleigh hobby shops. He claimed there were none in Charlotte in his time, so a friend would periodically drive him to Raleigh for a shopping trip. Debra decided to phone the shop where she bought the kit and start asking questions. A long shot indeed - as far as we knew E. L. Moore hadn't shopped in Raleigh for maybe 45 years! - but I guess the age of miracles hadn't passed because from that call one thing lead to another and eventually to meeting a large number of friendly, gracious and helpful people who allowed me to: photograph two large collections of E. L. Moore original models; scan his surviving files, letters and photos; and restore an original E. L. Moore model. Not too mention all the great conversations, messages, help and encouragement with a great group of people via the blog. 

So, finally building this kit is somewhat bittersweet as it marks the end of an exciting period for us, and maybe a funeral parlor model is where it should finish.

I think my eyes are leaking, excuse me for a moment.

Ok, I'm back /sniff/ let's get down to business.
Before I start a project I try and settle in my mind what I want to do with it. With this one I decided all I was going to do was focus on painting. No kitbashing or modifications or accurizing to E. L. Moore's original: just a box-stock build with a half decent paint-job close to that described in his article.
After cutting the openings (and don't forget the bay window opening of about 5' x 7'), it would be well to choose your color scheme and paint siding, window trim and corner posts. Mine is mustard with green trim - brown trim would also have been appropriate. To get mustard, I mixed a little extra yellow with rust.
E. L. Moore elaborates on his basic colour scheme in his article, W. E. Snatchem - Undertaker, that appeared in the November 1967 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.[2]

Before buying anything I like to see if I have any suitable leftovers to use up. I had a can of yellow Krylon spray paint I thought looked like a mustard I'd once eaten. A random comparison with some mustards in the fridge suggested otherwise. Cheapness ruled, so I went ahead and used that Krylon anyway - as they say in model railroading, there's a prototype for just about anything, so I suspect there's likely a tasty mustard out there with just that shade of Krylon :-)
The walls could be glued up and sprayed almost straight from the box, but the front porch support posts had some sinks in the moldings and had to be filled and sanded before spraying.
After washing all the parts with some mild dish soap, I taped them to some old cedar shims and sprayed. The roof panels were sprayed with a little yellow around the edges as there appeared to be some framing there and I wanted it to match the building.
The only problem with painting outside are invasions from our infamous black squirrels.
I used some plastic-friendly Rustoleum green for the green parts. I'm not a big fan of using Rustoleum for plastic model parts. I much prefer Krylon, but it turned out Krylon was no longer sold at all the places I previously bought it. I contacted the company to see what was up as their website contradicted what was actual availability. After a few days they got back to me, but would only say it was available at Sherwin-Williams stores. Too late as I'd already bought the other, but I'll check out a local S-W to see if they have any. Bummer if it turns out I can't buy it anymore.

And now, too, is a good time to paint the interior. I gave mine a coat of light green so that when lighted the effect would be pleasing.
E. L. Moore, in W. E. Snatchem - Undertaker, advises on interior decorating.[3]

I painted the inside light green for no other reason than Mr. Moore said that's what he did with his. If you must know, it's Tamyia X-15 Light Green.
I painted the edge trims green as well as the windows and doors. Brush painted that is, after a laborious session of masking and spraying some moulded-on trim. The brush green was close in tone to the spray green, but as you can see, still discernible on close inspection - not too bad though. There was still lots of masking even when I brush painted, but the task seemed to be quicker.
Yes, you're right, the opening for the top centre window is bigger than the window. Although, you'll note the hole eventually gets covered by the porch roof. This kit's parts get used in other kits, and that extra large opening is for a second storey door.

I give my shingles a wash of raw sienna in turps and when dry, another wash of gray in turps.
E. L. Moore, in W. E. Snatchem - Undertaker, tells us the roof's colour.[4]

I used some student grade acrylic raw sienna in a tube for the roof's shingles. I squeezed out some on the dirty pallet I use to mix weathering washes, squirted in a little acrylic thinner and mixed a wash for the roof.
Two coats were used on each roof panel, and after everything had dried, a thin wash of reefer grey was sloshed on.

Before painting the brick foundation, the lower perimeter of the walls was masked off using some wide Tamiya masking tape.
E. L. Moore noted that he used a trifling amount of brick paper for the foundation. I, on the other hand, mixed up some sorta brick coloured paint because I didn't have any brick coloured paint on hand in a convenient little bottle. For the mix I used 3 Tamiya paints: XF-10 Flat Brown, X-7 Red, and XF-58 Olive Green.
First a little red was mixed into the brown, resulting in a redder and shinier brown. Then a very small amount of green was mixed in to grey the mix a little and tone down the shine. That little dab of mix up there by the brush bristles is the usable red-brick mix. Not much is needed.
Put a little paint on the brush, dab most of it off on a tissue, then lightly drag the bristles over the raised brick embossings. Basically, it's the standard dry brushing technique. If you haven't done it before, it does take a little practice.
After the dry brushing was done and dry, a thin grey wash as applied to age the bricks a bit. Speaking of aging, I did very little on this model. Just used a little thinned reefer grey wash over the walls and roof, then sprayed the whole thing with Testor's Dullcote. A very light spray to stay on the safe side and not risk it attacking the paint. The brick chimneys were painted the same way.
E. L. Moore mentioned he used yellow tissue for curtains. I tried colouring some white tissue with a marker, but wasn't very successful. 
The kit has some paper cut-outs for curtains. I used some of those, some tissue and some scrap wrapping paper. A cardboard view-blocker was also inserted to prevent looking through the model.
The kit comes with a little hearse molded in black plastic. I gave it some red curtains and some silver highlights on the radiator, lights and hub caps.
Getting the wheels glued on and straight was a bit of a trick.
But, it stood-up straight and square in the end.

And speaking of ends, this is more-or-less the end of this project. How about some moody pictures before we pack it in?
Yeah, they printed the name wrong. No W. I didn't make a 'correct' sign and left it 'authentic'.
The chimney looks a little crooked. Ah, well, in my defence I'll say it was a bit of struggle to glue it to the wall.
The chimney didn't fit flush against the wall. There was a huge wow and some clamping was required while the glue dried. I thought I had the alignment right, but no.
In broad daylight the chimney doesn't look quite as crooked, but it's still a bit off-kilter. 
Mr. Moore noted in his article that this back kitchen could be left off. Same with the kit. The parts are made such that if left off no one would be the wiser.
The main roof panel has a bit of a warp that I tried to carefully ease out. It's better than it was, but I was hesitant to be too aggressive with it after my experience with breaking the main window on the Mercedes Dealership model. I'll see if I can glue the roof edge to the main wall without slopping glue down the wall. Frankly, on a layout and built into a scene, the warp won't be noticeable - the digital camera is a harsh mistress.
Actually, I rather like how the green reflected light glows from under the eaves. It'll lend a certain ambience to night scenes.

Ok, I'm outta here!

You’ve got your internet tuned to 30 Squares, blogging to you with 50,000 parts of plastic power from high atop beautiful mid-town Alta Vista. This brings to an end today’s post. Adios amigos and all the ships at sea! I leave you with The Bruce Dickinson.



[1] A box is more than its top.
The Grusom Casket Company was another E. L. Moore project converted to a plastic kit.
The kit was made in Germany.
Ma's Place was yet another E. L. Moore project converted to a kit.
Another reminder that the kit was manufactured in Germany.

[2] In a July '67 letter to Hal Carstens, E. L. Moore discusses a variety of projects he's got on-the-go or thinking about . One of them's W. E. Snatchem. Around that time Hal Carstens had kicked off his new magazine, Creative Crafts.

July 3, 1967

Most Honorable Editor,
Ramsey, New Jersey

. . . . So you don't have enough to do without starting something else, eh? You must like work. But as the Fisherman sez, "I shall go to work the day the brook changes direction and the water flows up hill." That's me.

All that palaver but it's too much trouble to research waterfronts right now and easiest things first: so, I got out that two page center spread of the Wallworth painting -- no research, no nothin' but build it. And it ain't so big as seen in the picture which is in HO scale -- say, 25' x 40' and 30' high excluding tower. Would put clocks in those vacancies up there, OK? The upper front would take a little doing. Of course there's a difference in doing it and doing it so another average modeller can follow without rupturing his sleen (spleen). Made a little trial on it yesterday and have it just about ready to put in place when I build the rest of it. Sunbursts of chalk. Tower doesn't present any particular difficulties. JOURNAL at top I suppose, but what of the lower lettering -- RAILROAD MODEL CRAFTSMAN, maybe? Where the Vanderbeck Drug Store or whatever is. Sides no problem, just windows -- rear maybe a large door and platform out to siding, and usual windows. I'll put queries on separate card. Then lay siding and only show one main track blocking rest out with train if necessary in photograph from left.

How about that depot top of page 64 WHEN BEAUTY RODE THE RAILS -- (Tuscaloosa, Ala. 1886)?

Right now just converted coupla things into hearses, one horse drawn, one early motor propelled -- found skinny building and will have awning to sidewalk and the usual clock -- old one man undertaking parlour. For trolley fans, I find they used to use trolleys to the cemeteries. Well -- had have an outlet for those Grusom caskets didn't I?

Trouble with brewery model is I'm not in habit of buying kits -- fact is I hate like hell to put a kit together. Friend Crosby sent me four -- I finally put the Haunted House together for him but sent him back the others -- to hell with them -- too much like work to suit me. But does you good in that you try to make your own directions more logical and plain.

What's the deadline on that Creative Crafts thing? Along about August 1st. I detest deadlines so I won't pay no attention anyway -- just curious.

Alleyoop  . . . . . 

E. L. Moore
525 Oakland Ave., Apt 3
Charlotte, N. C.

[3] Later in July Hal Carstens got back to E. L. Moore with a friendly missive updating him on information about the Dater Building - aka the Ramsey Journal Building - which Mr. Moore was building into the project that would be featured in December's RMC.

July 22, 1967

Hullo Dere, Corporull . . . 

What freight elevator? You'll find some more photo of the "Dater Building" in the July 1963 RMC. Not too good for the side tho. Tsk.

The CREATIVE CRAFTS MAGAZINE will feature stuff on making flowers out of feathers, making dragons out of paper mache, using the new liquid plastics to make fish, etc., etc. If you are adept at your wood burning to create "objets de Art", you might give it a whirl some time.

Must dig you up some photos and data on early trolley terminals at ferry terminals. Fascinating old beasties in infinite variation, but all with certain common traits: such as sheds over the loading and unloading tracks, return loops, wooden construction, oft a store or two selling railroad workmen's clothing, or a newsstand. In fact, I know just the photo for you to follow. Must copy same and send you. Right loverly.

OK, no Austrian on the Journal Bldg. There goes my bottle of slivovitz. Heh, if you'd drink one of his bottles of slivovitz, you'd make him a whole dang town. Boy, does he bring good slivovitz (Yugoslavian) when he comes to these shores, Slivovitz, for the information on unenlightened corn likker drinkers is sort of a clear (or light yaller) schnapps made out of prunes. Some is kinda raw as it goes down and others is sorta mellow, until the fuse ignites usually about 38 seconds after it goes down. Then POW!

So - where are the photos?

At the time E. L. Moore was finishing off the model and preparing the W. E. Snatchem manuscript, he was also working on the model for the Ramsey Journal Bldg - RMC's headquarters - that appeared in the Dec '67 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman
Hal Carstens, RMC's editor, was feeding E. L. Moore information for the project, and up there is the photo being referred to in the July '63 issue of RMC. It appeared in an article called Station Stop on the Erie Past & Present - Ramsey. The building in question is the one with the tower on top.
The article was also one that came out as a plastic kit, and back in the '70s I bought one. Shamefully, it's stashed away on a shelf in my workshop awaiting a restoration.

[4] Finally, on July 25 E. L. Moore submitted the W. E. Snatchem manuscript along with this cover letter.

25 July 67

Hon H H Carstens, Editor,
Arts and Crafts and RMC
Ramsey, N. J.

Most Honorable Si. . . 

Getting morbid as hell in our old age, ain't us? Casket plant and now an undertaking parlour -- we could go on and find a tombstone maker maybe, but I think this is far enough.

Old Journal Building is completed except for lettering other than JOURNAL which is in place. If with drug store below, furnishings are ready to install with colourful window display. Second floor office fully furnished, lights installed. Then four clocks up in the tower really set it off . . . I'll run up a flag on the flag staff before I photograph it.

all pardon me while I go out and lie in my hammock a while . . . . . 

E. L. Moore
525 Oakland Ave., Apt 3

Charlotte, N. C.