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.


  1. That's it! That's what my residential section needs, a funeral parlor. I bought the hearse on eBay a few months back when looking for cheap alternatives to the inflated-price Jordan kits. It suits the late 20s era nicely though it is a bit earlier in pedigree.

    I built the same kit twenty years ago but the farmhouse version, so no hearse or canopy, but the bones are the same. Mine was light blue with dark blue trim. I'll have to see if I can drag up a picture and scan it or maybe I've got one digitized somewhere already.

    But for my funeral parlor, I may go the paper route. I have a few of Edmund Gillon's Cut & Assemble books with gorgeous Victorian houses in them. Of course I'd need a stable or some such outbuilding for the horses once used, even though the hearse is horseless. Could make a right nice scene.

    Your parlor turned out well. Thanks for sharing a bit of the back story to the discovery process in the Moore saga. Oh, and with some brown flecks that color might look like Dijonnaise. As is it's a bit more Mayo than Mustard. Bricks look spot on.

    1. Thanks for the kind words! I'd like to see your photos. I think this kit has been used for a number of variants by AHM and Tyco (who either bought AHM or their moulds). On this kit, on the front wall, above the windows, you'll see two tabs which I think are there for attaching a second storey porch roof. I should have ground them off, but by the time I'd noticed, I'd already sprayed and decide to live with them.