Monday, December 31, 2018

The R-100 airship in N scale?

We also paid a visit over the holidays to the Aviation and Space Museum out in the east end. I'm not going to give a trip report on all the interesting airplanes you'll see out there, but I will mention one particular curiosity: their model of the R-100 airship that flew to Canada from England and back again in 1930. In HO scale, the model would measure a whooping 8.3' - a little longer than the entire Alta Vista TC layout! - and in N-scale a more manageable 4.5'. The model seems closer to 4.5' than 8.3', so I'm putting my money on its scale being closer to N than HO. When we got home I hunted around for Nevil Shute's old autobiography called Slide Rule. The book has a few fascinating chapters about his time as chief 'calculator' on the R-100's construction team, and some insight into the disastrous crash of the R-100's sister ship, the R-101, where 48 of the 54 people onboard were killed.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Out-of-Service: Gone for coffee and a paper

I think that little roof over the side door needs a light. It's too dark there at night to make anyone feel safe.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Waiting for the evening bus


Toronto Street Railway horsecar #16

The renovated science and technology museum reopened in the later part of 2017. We've been meaning to go, but have always found an excuse not to. We made some time to visit over the Christmas holidays and were pleasantly surprised. I've known that they have a few massive steam locomotives on permanent display, but was surprised to find horsecar #16 from the old Toronto Street Railway* tucked away in a back corner as part of a special exhibit. Mike Filey, in his book Not A One-Horse Town: 125 Years of Toronto Streetcars that was published in 1986, notes that #16 was built in 1874 by the John Stephenson Company in New York City and was the only surviving horsecar of the 262 built for the TSR. He also mentions: In recent years, it was sent to the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa. Hopefully it will return home someday. The hope remains unfulfilled 32 years later.
*The Toronto Street Railway was a ancestor of the Toronto Transit Commission that operated a horse-drawn streetcar system from 1861 to 1891.

Friday, December 28, 2018

John, Earl, and Bert: An N-Scale Interpretation of Bert's Garage

Walls temporarily tilted up at Bert's Garage
I can’t say with any certainty what the attraction was that got me into making miniature buildings. I can only note that there were two small events that happened one summer that in retrospect may have marked the beginning of this lifelong interest.

My friend Rob and I were fanatically interested in slot cars. I think we were around twelve years old and he had a much older brother who worked at Eldon’s toy factory. They made 1/32 scale slot cars, and contrary to company policy his brother sneaked home slot cars that were rejected from the assembly line instead of tossing them in the trash. They came to Rob and we spent many happy hours restoring them to racing condition. Somehow Rob had also acquired a vast collection of Scalextric track, and one summer we decided to use it all and build the biggest layout we could. His house had a free-standing, wood frame three-car garage out back that was a relic from the time his parents used it to store the trucks used by their dry-cleaning business. The premature death of this father resulted in the business shutting down, and that left an old, empty wooden garage behind his house. Its floor was just the thing for hosting what we thought would be the world’s largest slot car race course. Naturally, it needed pit stops, garages, grandstands, timing towers and all the other buildings associated with the ‘60s and ‘70s racing scene. I jumped in with construction paper, glue, scissors and more ambition than talent and built everything I thought a race track needed. All of it crap, but great fun to build.

Sometime during that summer, when the race track was under construction, I stumbled across a copy of Model Railroader magazine while searching for the latest Detective comics at my favourite smoke shop. What grabbed my attention was Ben King's cover photo, but the article I found deep inside by some guy named E. L. Moore on how to build an HO scale model called Bunn's Feed and Seed was what set me up for a lifetime of building. I built a version of it in 1/32 scale, and even though it was cannibalized for parts before the fall was out, I eagerly awaited other issues and other model railroad magazines for more construction projects. I was hooked - hooked for life as it turned out.

But life being what it is, I more-or-less dropped out of making HO scale buildings once I started university and didn’t return until this century. If you're a regular reader you know I've written a lot about E. L. Moore, and to some extent about a few other model railroaders from his era whose speciality was building small buildings. I have to tell you that along the way I've developed a curiosity about the whole 20th century history of building little buildings. It looks like all the story's pieces are out there in plain sight, they just need to be stitched together, and once that's done, I'll bet the complete tale makes for some interesting reading.

Sliced from a larger image in the Dec '94 issue of MRJ
I'm not exactly sure where that tale should begin, or end for that matter, but it seems like John Ahern is the guy to start with. Unlike E. L. Moore, Mr. Ahern's story and legacy are well known. His Madder Valley Railway from the 1940s and 1950s, now housed at the Pendon Museum in England, is legendary, and his life's work with scenic model railways is well documented throughout extensive publications in the model railway press of the time. The Madder Valley showed what a scenic model railway was and what it could strive to become. Was his truly the first scenic model railway? I'm not completely sure. But, even if it wasn't, its impact was certainly significant. While reading my way through E. L. Moore's archives I had hoped to find some reference to John Ahern, or maybe some correspondence with him. I didn't, but it wasn't inconceivable, especially since E. L. Moore had a large personal library in the 1950s and appeared to be a voracious reader. The work of those two men seemed simpatico even though one lived and worked in the southern U.S.A and the other in England. Consider this: both loved building little buildings, both built model railroads that leaned to the scenic, both built plausible locomotives and rolling stock to meet their needs, and both had a similar humanistic approach to modelling. Well, I'll likely never know if there was a connection. The mystery is part of the fun.

Slice of screen-rip from Pendon video
Mr. Ahern's Bert's Garage seems like something E. L. Moore could have built had E. L. Moore been interested in automobiles - although, there are one or two Ford Model-Ts on his Elizabeth Valley RR, which seem out-of-place in its early 1900s setting. I thought I'd try and build Bert's in N-scale, using old-school methods, for possible inclusion on the EVRR tribute layout. And this being the 21st century, I thought I'd try some video along with the usual pictures and text. So, apologizes for the production values, but if it seems like a good thing, I'll keep going with it and try for improvements. That being said, get some popcorn, turn down the lights, and let's watch.


Here is a snippet of the elevations Mr. Ahern provides for Bert's Garage in his book, Miniature Building Construction, along with his brief explanation about constructing the main building.

Bert's celebrated establishment at Much Madder is shown in Fig. 72. This is a timber erection with corrugated-iron roof. The walls are painted green; the lettering, barge-boards, and window frames are white. The doors are made to slide, the runners at the top being boxed over. When the doors are fully open, the windows in them come directly in front of those in the wall sections so that the light is not impeded. Diagram D shows how the front corner-posts project forward of the walls, so as to be flush with the doors. The lean-to at the side contains a tiny office, with stove-pipe, an even smaller store, and a lavatory. The lamp over the entrance is made of a glass bead and a pressed metal shirt-stud, the wires being secured in a block of wood glued inside the gable. The reader can let himself go to his heart's content in the matter of petrol and tyre advertisements.

The implication in not showing the back wall is that there're no doors or windows or any special whatnot on it. I decided to make the back wall the same as the front, with large doors for driving in cars. This allows for cars to enter one end and leave through the other. It'll add a little more work to the project, but I think it'll also add interest as it allows for scenes at either end. I'm also planning on having a removable roof a la E. L. Moore, along with an inside light and maybe a skylight, to show off the insides when the roof is on. Not too sure what'll do about gas pumps; maybe there won't be any. You know, maybe it would lend itself to 21st century updating: switch the name from Bert's to Elon's, slap some solar panels on the roof, install some charging stations out front, and you're ready for the electric car business :-)
Ok, enough with the jokes, let's get going. I drew all four walls in a continuous strip on a piece of the kleenex box card. The front and back walls are 22' wide, 10' at the eves, and 19' tall at the peak. The side walls are 25' long.
Then the window and door openings were cut out using a sharp blade and a steel edge.
Vertical boards were scribed on. I used a scribing tool that I forgot to show in the video :-( but one could use the back edge of the x-acto knife instead - I've done that many times. Board spacing isn't precise and I did whatever looked about right.
Next thing is to cut the wall strip free. 
I then chose to slice the strip into individual walls. On Dilly's I simply folded the walls into a box and continued on from there. On this project I'm going to detail the interior a little, and individual walls allow me to do that easier than if they were folded into a box. An alternative is to keep the strip and detail the walls before folding which is what I did on Cal's Cabbage, but that was in HO scale. There's no right or wrong way.
Here's what the inside surfaces look like. No worries, they'll be painted white once some framing detail's been added.
At this stage I sliced some thin strips from the sheet wood you saw in the video and used it, along with some larger stripwood, to build up some faux framing on the inside wall surfaces. Nothing is to scale or rigorously prototypical - the idea is to simply suggest framing so things seem to make sense if you were to glance inside when the lights are on.
While taking a break from framing, I cut the walls for the small office that's built onto one of the side walls. Those end pieces are just 4' wide, and the long wall measures 14.5'. I think there's supposed to be a toilet in there, so I'll have to figure out what to do detail-wise - if this were an E. L. Moore build, he'd have an outhouse strategically positioned nearby instead :-)
There it is, more-or-less all framed. The office is going to have a wood floor so there's a bit of space in its framing at floor-level to accommodate that. The ends on the main building need a little more truss work, but I'll tackle that when I work on the roof.
The walls were temporarily tilted up to see how things were looking. They'll need to painted, have window frames added, windows glazed and lettering applied before gluing them together.



I'm not sure when I'll continue this project once Christmas vacation is over. With this model I was interested in giving video a go, writing my 'secret origins' story on how I got into making model buildings, and trying a little something by Mr. Ahern. If I can find the time, I'll continue and post another instalment. As Mister X would say, so little time, so much to do :-)

Thursday, December 27, 2018

MR's 85th seen through 50th coloured glasses

Vince asked me if I'd bought a copy of Model Railroader's 85th anniversary edition. I hadn't, but I went out to a local bookstore to get one. And one was all they had left. It was crammed at the very back of the shelf behind some Finescale Modeller special edition. 

The 85th strikes me as rather ordinary in comparison to the celebratory 50th anniversary edition. 

The 50th anniversary issue is etched in my memory. When it came out in 1984, it was a thick, fat issue loaded with goodness: 266 pages of dense type and photos compared to 98 of more loosely spaced text and photos in the 85th. I'd forgotten to buy a 50th when it first hit the news stands, but did eventually get one before they were gone. A few days later I had to go on a business trip with my boss to Dayton, Ohio. I took the 50th with me to read. On the trip back I flew on some regional carrier that went bankrupt long ago. It was two hops back home, and I had to change planes somewhere in Pennsylvania. It was winter, and from my seat in the terminal I watched the baggage vehicle race with the luggage from one plane to the other. It made a tight turn at speed and a stack of luggage fell off a trailer onto the snowy tarmac. I wasn't sure if all the luggage was recovered because my flight was called and I had to go. I got to Toronto, but my luggage didn't. I was upset because I had to put my 50th MR in my luggage. Aaargh! I didn't care about my clothes, only about losing the 50th :-) Well, there was a happy ending: late the next day the airline found my bag, and delivered it by courier to the house. Clothes and 50th were intact. Crisis adverted :-)

So, I've been walking down memory lane with the 50th. Some things are striking. Take this prediction by Russ Larson, one time editor of MR, on page 169,

Publishing 2008-2033: Electronic medium becomes dominant; Print medium becomes obsolete.

Great stories, great photos. I hope MR makes it to 90. But, I have a feeling that Mr. Larson's prediction is going to come to full fruition and video will displace the print edition by then, and MR is heavily promoting video subscriptions. Only time will tell. If I'm still here in the blog-o-sphere in 5 years, we'll touch base on this :-)

Street painting

For purposes of staging some photos of 47 Ocean Blvd, I decided to try painting a section of the roads and sidewalks at the corner of Ocean and Cedar Heights - which is near the Neville Park streetcar turn-around. The roads and sidewalks aren't looking too bad - the values seem correct - but they need some more work.  The layout's chaos right now, but I see that as a good sign since it means to me that construction has re-started :-)

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

47 Ocean Blvd: Kibri 38222 is finished!

Finally, after 7 months of on-and-off work, the apartment is done! I temporarily set it up at the corner of Ocean Blvd and Cedar Heights Ave to see how it looked. I see lots of opportunity for weathering, street furniture and other open air stuff, but it's not looking too bad. 

There's quite a number of parts in this kit, and it isn't a shake-the-box project like W. E. Snatchem. It could be built box-stock, but I've made a number of small changes to make it more at home in a Toronto-Ottawa setting.
The assembly instructions are good, so I won't go into a play-by-play of how I built it. But as you can see in the photo I still managed to install a wall component upside-down. It turns out that it didn't matter to the structure; although, if you're familiar with this kit you'll note something looks a little odd. I leave it as a test for you to identify the part :-)




As for changes I made to Toronto-Ottawa-ize it for the Alta Vista TC, here's a list,

1. Painted the walls a common bricky-red. Window and door frames were painted a contrasting green.

2. The store signs were changed to common ones I've seen here over the years and might make sense as the store-level on this sort of building. There's a dry cleaner, convenience store, five-and-dime, and cigar store. The kit's fru-fru window coverings were not used. Instead, pieces of white and off-white paper were cut and installed. They make the windows appear more like those you'll see in real life. Well, ok, a couple of the kit's paper curtains were used as well as some slices of gift wrap to provide a little contrast in the windows and account for human eccentricity :-)

3. The kit's base wasn't used because I wanted the building to sit flush with the sidwwalk. The base would have introduced a step that I feel would appear out of place. Some strip styrene had to be added to the foundation to fill holes left by the missing base.

4. The interior scenes are photos sourced from the internet and seem like ones I might see here. The interior pictures included in the kit are a little too sketch-like for my tastes.

5. A large air conditioner was added to the roof as were quite a number of items from Walthers roof details accessory kit, #933-3733. The items I chose to add had nothing to do with reality, and were stuck on to give the somewhat barren roof what I felt was an air of complexity and an interesting pattern.

6. The kit's exterior light fixture mouldings seemed a little too ornate and were left off.
Some extra work was done to add interior LED lighting so the stores don't look abandoned and the apartments seem lively at night. 
There are 4 light strips: 3 are inside styrene boxes, and the 4th was glued on top of the stores' light box, pointed upward to give some general interior light to the front windows. Window curtains and pieces of black card have been used to diffuse and block light to provide a pattern. 
The stairwell light boxes have blue filters on front - made by inking some clear plastic with a blue Sharpie pen - to add colour. 
The roof is removable so I can add more lights or service those already installed.
In the end, like all kits I build, there were a few parts leftover that I have no idea where they are supposed to go :-)

Friday, December 21, 2018

What's the Intent?

I know, Boxing Day isn't until mid next week, but I was reading Galen's blog and he posed an interesting question about laying out the intent of a layout. Well, more precisely, he read this insightful post at Mike Cougill's blog about intent and model railroading, gave some serious thought to the intent of his own work, and kindly asked if I had any thoughts on the subject. I had to think about it a bit because I did, but haven't attempted to write them down. Fractured sleep has been my companion for the last little while, so I decided to put the demon to work and write down some thoughts on the intent of the Alta Vista TC. What follows doesn't apply to my E. L. Moore related activities, or the Elizabeth Valley tribute layout, or my interests in model railroading in earlier times.

Before we dive into the who, what, when, where and why, here’s my short answer: 

The Alta Vista TC is a slice of the Toronto-Ottawa-Los Angeles that lives in my mind.

The long answer isn’t so easy to state, but I’ll give it a try.

In this blog I don’t usually discuss things I’m not that interested in, but thought I should make an exception in this case. My guidance before going further is that if you read something below that you like but I don't, I'm not trying to insult you, I'm just trying to clarify what I'm not into so my intent is a little clearer. So, what follows are my interests – the building blocks of my intent – mixed up in a stew and seasoned a little with the chili peppers of discontent.

I’m not much of a model railroader. I like trains. I like travelling on them. I’m not interested operating models of them. I have no interest in simulating the railroad business. Timetables and rules and schedules leave me cold. Those things spell day-job to me, and I’m not interested in pursuing them as leisure. Yeah, business and profit, with all their rules and schedules and rigour, are the reasons railroads exist. I like model railroads. It's just that I don't care if they properly simulate something real. I just live with the contradiction.

I like streetcars much better than trains. I find the conventional advice about taking up streetcar modelling – the models are actually powered by electricity like the real thing, the track work is tight and constrained like the real thing, the models actually pickup power from an overhead wire like the real thing – irrelevant. If you like those things, I’m not dissing you; everyone should understand and pursue their own interests; I'm much impressed by people who pursue those aspects; I’m just saying those modelling interests aren't mine, that’s all. I like streetcars because I liked riding them when I was growing up and living in Toronto. I like the subways and buses there too. I like the light rail system here in Ottawa and the one in Los Angeles. I was primed to like them because of Toronto.

My favourite aspect of model railroading is making buildings, staging scenes and  taking pictures. As I said, I’m not much of a model railroader, and strictly speaking, I guess I’m not a model railroader at all. I like model railroads, but I’m not into modelling actual railroads. Model railroading is the gateway that lead me to what I do. Neither am I a model tractioneer - or whatever it’s called. Building complex street track and installing overhead has no intrinsic interest to me – well, maybe just enough to get the scenes I want to see; it’s just that it’s not my focus. Believe me, I find the work of others on those things fascinating, but I couldn't do it. Hopefully I've repeated myself enough on the subject of the traditional reasons to get into 'traction modelling' to get it out of my system :-)

I’m interested in the lost urban world. Lost to money and gentrification and the alternate universe we call the internet. There’s a lot that I’m glad is gone; however, much is gone that I lament. No internet browsing technology can replace the physical pleasure of riding a railed machine along a street to a remote place, getting off and walking the walk to wherever, scouring the books and records and movies and stuff on offer, finding unexpected things, meeting, looking, exploring, eating and talking, and taking home the bounty. And doing it again and again, year after year, with some new variation on the theme each time. But that’s all gone. Ok, just more-or-less all gone - I'm certainly not going to write about the remaining places where I can still find a little of it. The sterile seductive glow of the display screen can’t come close to replacing it. Maybe the new world is so drunk with efficiency that staring at a glowing slab in one’s hand is the only proper response to its banality.

I’m interested in places. I didn’t just ride the streetcars, buses and subways of the TTC for the fun of it. I had places to go. The TTC exists to take people to places. I focus on places. And they don't necessarily have to be real places, they can be speculative as long as they seem to fit the feeling I'm after. Real or imagined, places must dominate. And they must have the right vibe.

I'm interested in the feeling of a place. Or at least the feeling that comes to me when I'm there. With Toronto it's mainly nostalgia. The Toronto in my mind isn't exactly the one you'll find today when you roam its streets. With Los Angeles it's unrequited love. With Ottawa it's refuge and time travel to pockets of places that seem like things I recognize, but don't properly appreciate - I don't really understand Ottawa in it's own right and therefore have mixed impressions about the vibe it projects. Getting the feeling right on the Alta Vista TC is more important than the traditional desire for high detail and weathering. Those are parts of achieving the right vibe, but they are subservient and not primary. Paul Michael Smith's Elgin Park is the exemplar in my mind for modelling brilliance in the service of vibe. 

I'm interested in Noir fiction. Mainly classic crime Noir: Philip Marlowe, Lew Archer, Claire DeWitt, Mister X and their fictional brethren. Noir strikes a chord with me. Noir is the flip side of the good vibe of places and exploration the city has to offer. Noir seems to me an urban thing. There might be rural Noir and country Noir - I haven't studied Noir that closely to know. Raymond Chandler made Los Angeles the birthplace of what I think of as classic Noir. Toronto is Noir even though its residents might deny it. Ottawa isn't Noir just yet, but with the sharp increase in gun crime it's on its way. At present it's more Bureaucratic Gothic combined with doses of Techno Thriller. The Pale King meets Cryptonomicon. Some aspect of Noir should be present in the Alta Vista TC. I'm not sure how to accomplish it.

I’m interested in light. Have been for a long time. Light was just about the only subject in high school physics that I actually enjoyed. As a boy, one of my earliest memories is of walking to a local convenience store to buy a jug of milk for my mum, and along the way wondering why how the same light comes into everyone’s eyes, but everyone seemed to react differently to things. Crazy, I know, and I don’t think I summarized it quite like that as a boy, but that’s the modern gist of it. I knew light came into my eye, somehow did something in my brain and the world appeared. And that world didn't appear the same to everyone. Light was the key, but I didn’t know what to. All I can say today is that buildings and places must provide light and be shaped by it or they'll appear dead.

I’m interested in watercolour painting’s infinite ability to represent the effects of light. I don’t use light enough in my work and I need to. It’s something I want to work on. One thing that strikes me is how flat and uniform a lot of model railroad photos are. That’s good for studying details and such, but things aren’t illuminated like that in the world, or at least in the world I see.

I'm interested in being able to look into and through buildings and see things along the path from outside to inside to outside again. I once thought of this as Selective Staging. I don't want model buildings to always be opaque structures that you must look around. A bit of that is good, but not every building is a fortress.

I'm interested in walking. Streetcars are an aid to walking. There needs to be a network of interconnected sidewalks to reflect that reality. On the Lost Ocean Line I deliberately made sure that sidewalks connected all the places, and the same will hold for the Alta Vista TC.

I'm interested in spacing. That is, making sure the roads and sidewalks are wide enough, the gaps between buildings and objects make sense, the arrangements of people seem natural, and so on. And all that needs to be balanced against the confines of a small layout. 

I'm interested in water. Ottawa is defined by two rivers; Toronto by a great lake; Los Angeles by an ocean. Strangely, I'm an air sign. Although I'm trained in aeronautics, I'm attracted to water. So much for astrology. To me a layout needs a water feature, no matter how small. It could be just a fountain or even a puddle.

All of the above is a lot of intent for one little model world to carry. There's enough for several projects. The thing to note is that they aren't a list of deliverables, just a list of guiding principles.

Well, that's the stew. If I could lay it all out precisely in text - properly describe the vibe - maybe I wouldn't find modelling so compelling.

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. 

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*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....