Tuesday, December 31, 2019

End of the CLRV era

New Years eve is a time for looking back over the old year, and amongst all the other changes that happened this year the TTC retired the last of its CLRV streetcars on Sunday, 29 December 2019. They entered service in 1979. Interestingly, the TTC still had PCCs in use at that time - Wikipedia says 196 were in service in 1982 - and the last ones weren't retired until December 1995.

Monday, December 30, 2019

What would Art Curren do?

Vince sent me this link as part of discussion we've been having about Art Curren and the great kit-mingling projects he did for RMC and MR. It's an excellent post about the writer's meet-up with Mr. Curren. At the end is this unanswered rhetorical question:

Essay Question: In no less than 10,000 words please discuss the impact that Art Curren would have on today's hobby considering the advancements made in the past 15 years, including but not limited to, modular kits, scale windows, computer software, digital photography, laser cutting and 3D printing.

I can't say I'm up for 10,000 words, but I thought about it a bit - yes, I know the question's meant in jest, but I've had too much egg nog over the last few days so my humour interpretation circuits aren't working that well :-)

I think that might be the wrong question. I'd suggest that Mr. Curren practiced a type of found art. What he found were kits in hobby stores - ok, someone had to pay for them, so that's why I say it's a 'type' of found art - and mingled them to make other buildings. He didn't appear to have a tools-and-technology-first orientation, but a kit orientation. I'd also suggest that the kit parts themselves helped define what was possible to build. There wasn't an infinite range of possibilities, but there were many. The items listed in the question seem more for scratchbuilding, even the modular kits, although with those we're are entering a grey area, and the dynamics and limits of scratchbuilding are different than kitmingling.

I think an alternative question from the 21st century might be, what could Mr. Curren mingle from all the kits that are available today, both new and the huge stash for sale on ebay and elsewhere online? Also, his articles had a calm and good-natured vibe to them along with all the instructions. I'd hope he'd still have that, and wouldn't succumb to the just-the-facts-ma'am, technocratic vibe we have today. 

I think there might be other aspects to the question like freelancing and feeling versus prototypes and conformance, consumerism versus personal creativity, and other things, but right now, I'm feeling the coffee kick in, so maybe I'll leave it at that and go put a record on. 

Sunday, December 29, 2019

A ghost engraving?

I'm on a ghost sign kick and am looking through my photos to see if I have any.

This is the old Albert Britnell Book Store on Yonge as it appeared in early 2018. I mentioned it briefly awhile back as possibly making a good E. L. Moore-style building. But what struck me this time was the large Albert Britnell engraving on the facade - could it be called a ghost engraving, or is it simply something deemed too expensive to obliterate, which is maybe a working definition of ghost? Although I like a Starbucks Americano from time-to-time, I didn't drop in to buy one because I thought I might start crying once inside. I bought many books there, and remember their courteous and professional service.

Inside Albert Britnell's in 1984 (Image source)

Saturday, December 28, 2019

The Ghost of Frosted Foods

My ghost sign on the back wall of A&A's may not be much of a ghost sign, but this one is. 

I drove by this sign many times last summer, but it was only after 50 or so passes, that I twigged about its rarity and took a photo. It's still in relatively readable condition, but one determined coat of paint could change that forever.

Friday, December 27, 2019

A&A ghost sign

The A&A model has a ghost sign - ok, it's not that ghosty - on its back wall. It's non-prototypical; it's simply an homage to an earlier version of the A&A sign than the one I used on the facade.

The ghost sign is an online image, cropped and sized to fit the back wall, converted to black-and-white, and then printed on a piece of clear decal film with my inkjet printer. To set the image, I sprayed it with several thin layers of Testor's Dullcote.

I thought that such a large decal would be a problem to apply, but it went on rather easily. 

A day or so before decaling I primed the wall by brush painting it with acrylic floor polish so that I had a smooth surface to work with. Immediately before applying the decal, I brushed Microset on the wall while the decal was soaking, and after applying the decal, brushed more Microset on top of it. After a minute or two I carefully pushed the decal into the wall's blocks with a paper towel. The decal didn't tear, and conformed quite nicely to the wall's texture.

When viewed from a distance, the sign has an interesting 3-D effect which makes me glad it was added. I sometimes forget that my modelling isn't for a museum or mass market attraction, but has to be faithful to my memory or feeling for a place, not necessarily verifiably prototypical. Things like this help make a model an interesting object in its own right that puts me back on the right track.  

Thursday, December 26, 2019

A&A Boxing Day Blowout!

One day only! Deals, deals, deals! A&A's got 'em!
Since the time machine is set to 1982, let's head home with Toronto's legendary Spitfire Band.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

It has become something of a tradition here to recap the year just before taking a Christmas break. And with this year marking the 10th anniversary of 30 Squares, I thought I'd continue the tradition with a little post before taking my leave.

The 10th anniversary was celebrated in a series of posts called From the Time Machine's Glovebox, and to get the year started there was a series of Hot Wheels diecast posts.

Essays, both one-shot and extended, had a hold on my mind in 2019:

There were many posts made to the Legendary Model Railroaders tag

as there were to the E L Moore tag

I made a start on a new layout, the Ocean Park Loop, which replaced the Alta Vista TC well before it neared completion. Although, reorganization and renovation of the workshop helped slow work on the OPL to a stop.

The OCTranspo's Confederation Line went into service in the fall, and your 30 Squares reporter was there at the inaugural ride. That lead to a number of posts about Ottawa's new LRT system. The LRT got off to a good start, but as the weeks 'rolled on', many operational problems arose that adversely impacted its on-time performance and reliability. 

Fewer than usual model building projects were undertaken in 2019, and most of them were in plastic. Included were,

(although posted a couple of days before the end of 2018, this was the most popular series published in 2019 by a long shot, and the associated videos were the most popular of any of the videos posted here -
the second most popular post, but far behind Bert's, was the miniature building construction reading list)

(this project had special significance for me as it connected the here-and-now of my life today with that of my boyhood and brought today's world into stark contrast with day-to-day life back then)

and, a start on A&A Records

Like in many years passed, I continue to think about ending the blog. Apparently it's a recurring affliction, like cold and flu season :-) This year the pull to stop was stronger than usual as I look at changing a number of aspects of my life in the coming year. Strangely though, giving serious thought to quitting prompted me to write far more posts than usual as I work this through. I think I'm looking for a new spin, or aspect to blogging as I feel I still haven't written the stories I need to write, or pursued all the ideas I still have. The E. L. Moore series over the last 5 (!) years - it's frightening how time flies - has been my magnum opus here at the blog. It's been fun and fulfilling, although a proper paper book hasn't materialized due to copyright and financial issues. There're other stories I'm looking to write, although I'm not sure what form they'll take. It looks like I'll be blogging for the foreseeable future as I work it out :-)

I can't wrap-up without wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thanks for dropping by throughout the year and spending some time here. I'll meet up with you again sometime after Christmas. 

Other inspirations for Moore & Company?

Paul suggested that Life-Like's Proto 2000 Series kit Moore & Company Warehouse might have been inspired by some E. L. Moore projects other than his Novelty FactoryThese other projects might have had elements that were referenced, possibly adjusted, and then stitched together into a composite building that was an homage to E. L. Moore's projects.

Let's look at the other sources he recommended having a look at.

The Cract and Dentit Manufacturing Co. that appeared in the December 1972 issue of Model Railroader in the story, The chair and desk factory.

H. Hoople & Sons that appeared in the September 1965 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman in the story, Major Hoople's Brick Warehouse.

This building is a favourite of mine, and I hope to build it in the future. And I think it would have made a great AHM kit.

The Schlegel Brewery that appeared in the October 1970 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman in the story, A Brewery in Stone. (Image sourced from RMC Oct '70)

And, for completeness, the initial contender, Novelty Creators Inc. that appeared in the July 1970 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman in the story, Novelty Factory.

I agree that Paul's suggestions give a better and more complete idea of what might have inspired and formed Moore & Company. But, as with my speculations on the Novelty Factory as a source, it might all be just coincidence. I guess it's another of those questions where we may never find out what actually went on, but it's fun to speculate :-)

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Moore Math: Ramsey Journal + Machine Shop = Grusom Casket

The Grusom Casket kit is two, two, two kits in one ! There's a one-storey building up front, which would later be marketed separately as the Machine Shop, and a two-storey building in the back, which is the Ramsey Journal Building with some windows bricked in.

So, even though the Grusom Casket kit is one of the Original 9, one might argue that it's actually the first of the derivative kits. 

Here's my case.

Take a look at this letter dated 17 January 1968 from Peter Van Dore, then AHM's kit development guy, to E. L. Moore.

At that time, AHM had already produced the Schaefer Brewing Company, and I guess sales were good, because now they're interested in adding Ma's Place, The Ramsey Journal Building, and the Gruesome [sic] Casket Company

I speculate that AHM decided to do Ramsey and Grusom at the same time because they realized Ramsey's size and shape was a close approximation to Grusom's two-storey building, thereby reducing tooling costs on Grusom.

Here's what E. L. Moore had to say in response:

19 January '68

Pete Van Dore,
Associated Hobby Manufacturers,
Philadelphia, Penn.

Dear Mr. Van Dore . . . 

I suppose you know just what you want but damned if you didn't pick three that are scattered. I have the Grusom Casket Company model here but #1 Ma's Place is on display in a hobby shop up in Raleigh and #2 (didn't Carstens tell you) I gave him that model and he has it. So you'd have to get that one from him.

I can have Mr. Collier of North Hills Hobby Shop in Raleigh send you Ma's Place and can ship the one I have which can do soon as I hear from you.

Only thing I'd like would be a kit of each one you produce -- including the one you've already produced -- the Schaefer Brewery. I never like to build a second model but built three of Schaefer's and still don't have one for myself.

Here's two, three photos from countless ones I have lying around.

alleyoop . . . . 

signed E. L. Moore

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

I don't have copies of the photos he's referring to, but I did at one time see his Ma's Place model.

So, maybe Grusom's is the first in a long line of derivatives to follow, but it's clearly more than a simple re-boxing with some minor details changed.

Friday, December 6, 2019

A novel coincidence?

Moore & Co. image sourced from internet | Novelty Factory image scanned from July '70 RMC
I've had my suspicions about Life-Like's Moore & Company kit in their Proto 2000 Series for some time. The tower on one end with the pointy roof, the layout of the complex in a single line, and of course the name, remind me of E. L. Moore's Novelty Factory that appeared in the July 1970 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. While searching online I came across a build-up of the kit by Mr. Richard Wegner where he turned the tower sideways so the entry was along the building's long side, which puts the entrance in the same orientation as the Novelty Factory's. These likely are all coincidences, but ones that make me scratch my head and wonder about the source of inspiration* :-)
* The Novelty Factory itself might have been inspired by St. Luke's church in Smithfield, Virginia.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Holy exploding molasses!

Image sourced from here.
While I was searching for Machine Shop box variations I came across this version of the Molasses Mine kit. The so-called Kaboom Powder Factory version by AHM doesn't look like it has had any modifications done to it other than a name change and re-boxing.

What made this box particularly interesting to me was this P.S. I found in a letter dated July 13, 1971 from E. L. Moore to Denis Dunning, the managing editor of Railroad Modeler magazine: 

Peter Van Dore of AHM sayn [sic] they're working on another model of mine -- they have three now listed -- and asked me to make one specifically for them. A dynamite plant with one side blown off.

That's the only reference E. L. Moore made to creating an exclusive model for AHM. And there are no other references to him making an AHM Dynamite Plant. But, maybe the idea of a kabooming dynamite plant stuck with Mr. van Dore, or someone else at AHM, and simply renaming the already weird Molasses Mine was the way to produce such a plant on the cheap and easy.

E. L. Moore didn't let the idea of a dynamite plant sink. His article, The Cannonball & Safety Powder Works, where he infamously blew up the finished model at the end of the story, was submitted to Model Railroader on 10 April 1974, and was published there in the April 1977 issue.

When was AHM's Kaboom Powder Factory first released? I have no idea, but I can see many happy hours of investigation ahead :-)

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Moore's Balsa Products

Cal had come over for breakfast before we headed off to a train show in Scarboro. I was making some coffee. He had settled into the breakfast nook with his paper and had his nose stuck in the classified ads section looking for bargains.

"Well look at this!" Cal folded the newspaper into a rectangle he could hold with one hand while pointing to a little classified with the other.

"Look at what?" I set coffee making aside on the counter and leaned into the nook to take a look at whatever had caught Cal's eye.

"It says here that the machine shop over on Mortimer you designed is for sale. Not a bad price either."

Cal handed me the folded paper with the ad dead centre. Yeap, it was for sale. That was an easy one to design. I just reused half of Grusom Casket that I did a couple years ago. The buyer was happy enough and so was I. I didn't have to do a lot of work on that one. 

I read the fine print. "It says there's an open house this afternoon. We could take the ocean park car down to the loop at Mortimer, and drop in after the show for a look."

"You're thinking of buying it?"

"The business is getting a little too big for the spare room and basement. And Ma's been hinting that balsa dust in the rhubarb pie might not be the healthiest thing."

"I wasn't going to say anything, but now that you mention it, your last one was a bit dry."

Everyone's a critic. "That didn't seem to stop you from eating half of it."
When I wrote about E. L. Moore's cheap and cheerful plastic kits I had forgotten I had an assembled Machine Shop kit stashed away in my spare-parts box. It was only while looking for parts for Variation No. 3 that I stumbled across it. 

The Machine Shop is half of the Grusom Casket company kit - this little shop is one of the derivative kits, not one of the Original 9. On mine, the base's bottom is stamped with 'POLA-HO' and 'Made in Western Germany'. It looks like this kit had a long history as it was distributed by AHM, Atlas, and Tyco as well as Pola*.

I bought this fully constructed model many years ago at a local swap meet. It wasn't in bad condition, and only cost a toonie. I've learned the hard way to be selective about buying old kits that others have already put together. Some are horrible glue-bombs that can't be disassembled for restoration. Those I take a pass on. Others that have only been lightly stuck together with tube glues are better candidates. If they appear more-or-less complete, and aren't expensive, then I'll buy. It's those that I'm likely to have a better chance of successfully restoring, but there are no guarantees. It's only once I have had a chance to clean and examine the model closely, and try some disassembly, that I get a better sense if it can be easily restored. Luckily, my Machine Shop was in good condition; it was just a little ratty looking.

After thinking about this model for awhile I thought it might fit in rather well in the older part of the Ocean Park Loop along Mortimer Street. But, it needed a little modernization because Mortimer Street isn't a slum in the making, but simply a living street where the buildings are a bit older. And of course, since this a Moore design, so there had to be some Moore in the presentation :-)
We got off the car at the Mortimer loop around 4. The machine shop was a short walk away, on the other side of Ocean boulevard. Things were changing in the city, but this part still had lots of traditional buildings, new ones as well as old. Down here, people could still escape.

Cal brought his camera so we'd have a record about whether we'd have to do any reno work. It turns out the shop wasn't in bad shape, and maybe needed only a little sprucing up. A general cleanup, corner squaring, replacing missing roof stacks, window cleaning, and some work to make the facade a little more attractive to the customers and I'd be in business in no time.

Cal took some pictures. I did some haggling. 
The first thing was to cut off the old base because this building isn't standing out in some deserted lot with junk strewn all over the place; it's facing a busy street. It might have been a machine shop, or maybe a small appliance repair shop, in an earlier era, but today it has to deal with customers who don't want to be scared away by neglected surroundings and a dreary facade, so some general city-fication was called for.

To remove the base, I cut the corners off with a cutting disk in the Dremel, and then used the cutting disk to slice into the exposed foundation corners as close as I could get to the brick walls without touching them. This weakened the base and allowed for some careful flexing to get it unstuck from the wall bottom. You can see that little glue was used to attach the walls, so that was good. But, you can also see I tore the wall and foundation over in the lower right corner. The tear was small, and since that part was going to be hidden with a planter, I didn't spend time to fix it.

I think the biggest job on this project was adding the new foundation.

The base is a piece of 0.080" styrene cut to the edge of the main perimeter. The foundation pieces on which the pilasters - is that what they're called ? - rest are little pieces of 0.080" that were glued on later, and then ground with the Dremel and files to be flush with the pilaster surfaces.

The planters and entry were built up from styrene pieces and putty.

While working on the base, all the clear plastic pieces that had been glued in as window panes were pried off as they were scratched and dirty. I figured I'd break the window frames if I tried prying them, so they remained. The frames were given a loose wash of flat grey to tone down their plasticky brightness. 

The windows were replaced near the end of project with some 0.010" clear styrene.

The roof had a couple of issues that needed fixing. First, the piece itself had a dozen or so ejector pin marks that had to be ground out and smoothed. Then the missing ventilation stacks were replaced with items from Walther's roof top details kit. I used whatever seemed to look interesting and fit the roof.

After that little bit of reno work, it was on to painting. The shingles were hit with several washes of black, grey, and smoke. Once all basic painting was done, thin grey and smoke washes were sloshed on the entire roof structure to weather it a bit and even out the tones.

I didn't glue the roof in place so that lights could be added later.

Building up the facade was the fun part of this project.

First, as you can see, all that was done on the brick was to float on some, loose, thin grey washes. You could do more detailed brick treatments to the walls, but I just wanted to keep things simple.

The sign is just a balsa sheet with old-school Letraset lettering. I wanted it to look fairly new in keeping with the just-opened-for-business vibe. A street number, porch light, and entryway roof helped with the city-fication. A Moore Green door helped reinforce who designed this little building :-)
The new place has got a fancy coffee station, and Cal dropped by to help me christen it. I fiddled with the coffee machine while he settled back in a chair with his newspaper and read the classifieds.

"It says here some guy's got a box of oom-pah** records for sale."

I stopped making coffee and looked over Cal's shoulder at the ad. "Not a bad price. Can you circle that one? I'll give him a call later."

"You got a record player here?"

Darn, I knew I forgot something.

* E. L. Moore's Machine Shop has been sold in a number of different boxes over the years, without buyers knowing Mr. Moore was the designer. Here are a few box-top scans pulled from the internet and my stash.

This is the Grusom Casket company from which the Machine Shop was extracted for its own kit.

And there it is, AHM kit #5839.

At sometime later AHM re-issued the kit in a 'Masterpiece Series' box. The box-top painting has been replaced by a build-up of the model.

At some point in the '70s, Tyco got the molds and sold the kit in their brown-box line.

Things take a turn once Pola started to sell the kit. In this incarnation it's no longer a machine shop, but has become a pickle factory.

It doesn't have anything unique that visually indicates the new business, although, I do like how they've changed the foundation and base to make it more practical. There's also a loading dock and sliding door on the side.

At some point Pola put it in a box that actually said Pickle Factory.

Maybe the Pickle Factory label was simply for the English-speaking markets as this one, which obviously is targeted for the German market, refers to the building as Hengst & Co. Cannery. Maybe cannery and pickle factory are the same in German - I've relied on Google Translate for translation services :-)

The Hengst & Co. Cannery gets a nice blue box.

[Added 31 Jan 2020] It looks like Atlas also marketed the machine shop under the name Johnsons Inc. Chemical Products. The base and loading areas are similar to the Pola releases, and it looks like a water tower has been added to the roof.

[Added 18 February 2020] It's good to see that Walthers now markets the Machine Shop. The box has a rather clinical look compared to its ancestors, but at least it's still on the market.
[Added 12 May 2020] A version marketed by the West German company VAU-PE. What makes it unique are the extensive grounds and out buildings that have been added.

[Added 16 May 2020] Another blue box Pola variation, but this time some sort of benzene processing plant instead of pickles.

[Added 19 May 2020] Another Atlas boxing. Unlike Johnsons Chemicals this one is in red brick, points towards the right, and doesn't have a water tower. Overall it seems quite standard; it just has a different sign.

[Added 26 May 2020] A boxing in the Quick series of Pola kits. From the box-top painting this appears to be a box-stock branding without any additions to make it unique.

[Added 26 May 2020] Not to be left out of the action, our old friend IHC sold a boxing, and much like the Pola Quick version, this doesn't appear to have any unique additions.

I don't know if this is a complete list of all the Machine Shop's boxes and versions. If you're aware of others, please leave a comment.

** Back in the Jones Chemical Co. article in the March '74 issue of Model Railroader, part of the deal Eddie Jones makes with E. L. Moore to build the model was to hand over an oom-pah band record as partial payment - apparently handing over that item caused Mr. Jones some pain :-)

I don't know about oom-pah bands, but when I heard a Townes Van Zandt song called Blue Ridge Mtns. (Smoky Version) on his album Sky Blue that was released earlier this year, I immediately thought it seemed like something that fit in the E. L. Moore canon. You can find the song on the internet, but its embedding is disabled, so I can't include it here. The album has a haunting quality that stopped me in my tracks. Get it if you can. 

And yes, look up in the sky on the Sky Blue cover and you'll see a web of streetcar overhead power lines. Where was the cover shot back in '73? I need to find out.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

A review of the Model Builders' Manual by Mat Irvine

I recently bought a copy of Mat Irvine's new book Model Builders' Manual.

It's an excellent, high quality book with lots of information on a wide range of topics related to building plastic model kits, which include the hobby's history, companies, model ranges, basic building techniques, photography, and much more. My only question I have is: who's the target audience ? - other than me and Vince of course :-)

Mr. Irvine refers to the book as a 'starter' manual for any potential model maker, and notes that it also includes enough extra topics to be of interest to more experienced model builders. I love all the information on the history of the hobby, and learning about the companies and models they've made. I especially liked the chapter called Scale as it filled me in on a lot of questions I've had about the various scales and their origins.

The history part of the book reminded me of Louis Hertz's Complete Book of ... series, and to a certain extent Martin Evans book, Workshop Chatter: A Bedside Book for Model Engineers, that I bought earlier this year*. When it comes to the non-construction related chapters, Model Builders' Manual is solidly in that Hertzian lineage of books that fill an important place in helping interested readers learn about the who, what, when, where, and why in a hobby's history, as well as snap-shoting where we are today.

It does include chapters that introduce basic and advanced construction techniques, but doesn't step the reader through all the details of any particular project. When I look back to the days when I was a kid and was just getting started, what I desperately wanted to know about were construction techniques. The more the better, and in as much detail as humanly possible to communicate :-)

My first model building instruction 'book' was Revell's pamphlet, How to Build Better Car Models. It was number 3 in a series of 6 that Revell published in 1973. In the '70s I bought model car kits in the Simpsons toy department near my childhood home. As well as kits, they had a Testors paint stand, some rudimentary brushes, and these pamphlets were positioned nearby. These 32 pagers were focused on construction techniques and only construction techniques. These days though the internet provides a much better source of how-to construction information. Maybe that's why Mr. Irvine's book takes a higher-level approach to this information: it's something of a guide to navigating and making orderly sense of all that stuff that's online.

Model Builders' Manual is an excellent book and I highly recommend it. I'm now looking for other books by Mat Irvine to see what I can see.

* I came across Workshop Chatter quite by accident while doing some searches on the work of Vivien Thompson. This book kept popping up, but it wasn't obvious why, so I thought it might contain information about some of her projects. I was able to find a cheap copy online, but found that although it contained nothing about her, it was a fun read in its own right.