Sunday, February 24, 2019

Rendered Small: "Whether or not this is adequately and fairly called a psychosis is for others to judge."


If you're a long-time reader of 30Squares you know that I think E. L. Moore's work has its roots in the long-gone American miniature folk art building tradition, although he played out his practice of it in the post-WWII world of model railroading. As well, he was a transitional figure in that world and saw out the end of the 'folkways' approach to model railroading. Vince and I were talking about this theory, and it got me to take a look at Burke and Campbell's book again. Along the way I also found the above video about a movie that surveys their collection. It's pages 50 and 51 in the book that, for me, solidify the link between our modern conception of model railroad buildings and their roots in the folk art past (I know this isn't anything new to many readers, but to me it was). That little scan down there from the bottom of page 51sums up the link rather nicely.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Tabletop Hollywood

Image sourced from this Altas Obscura story
Vince alerted me to this story in Atlas Obscura about an 11' x 12' model, made in the 1930's, of a section of Hollywood. This diorama, along with 5 other similar sections that appear to be lost, were built over a 4 year period by a 25-person team headed by a Mr. Joe Pellkofer. It's an amazing diorama and I encourage you to take a look. I especially like Mr. Pellkofer's comment: I didn’t build the damned thing to see a movie star. I built it just because I felt like it. And because Hollywood is Hollywood. It’s magic.
[24 Feb update: You can see some more images over at Discover Hollywood Magazine.]

Monday, February 4, 2019

San Antonio train station + road trolley

I continue to sort through old photos and found this one which I believe to be a side view of the train station in San Antonio, Texas. I shot it sometime in the mid-1990s - that's about as precise as I can get as we visited the city several times back then. When I enlarged the picture, the sign on the back of that road trolley reads Via San Antonio. Wikipedia tells me it is, or was, the name of city's transit company, and they run a road trolley service through parts of downtown for tourists.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

From the Time Machine's Glovebox: The Small Buildings Game

The first HO building from the small buildings game was based on some O scale industrial windows.
Often when I see some small object, or maybe an odd kit, I think, "This would make a great X", where X is some sort of model building. Sometimes I follow-up and build X, mostly I buy the object or kit and it sits on the shelf to age. But, when I do get around to building X, I don't call the activity model building, I think of it as 'the small buildings game', because to me the game is to make the building seem sort of credible. I've played a few times over the years and have often posted the results. Here are a few from the archive.
The El Camino Municipal Pool was built from the pickup bed of a 1/25 scale 1958 Chevrolet El Camino. The sign came from an HO scale Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
Post office tower building based on a coin bank bought from Canada Post. The slot at the top is now a light.
Gecko Records used tiles for walls that I bought at a Mexican products store in Bloomfield, Ontario (!) for 50 cents each.
The Deroalow was built from the bed cap from an AMT 1/24 scale Deora kit. Its cousin, the Amtronic Ranch, came from AMT's 1/24 scale Amtronic.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Diecast wrap-up

I'm going to finish off the diecast series with one long post of the leftoversThose two Hot Wheels motorcycles used to have training wheels attachments that would allow them to race down the orange track, but those have been lost to time. I'm pretty sure I have a trike as well in some box around here.
Ah, the Hot Wheels Mighty Maverick. This was another of my favourites and luckily it too is intact. That giant rear wing was the highlight for me. Well, just about any car with an airplane sized wing bolted to the trunk caught my attention back then. The proto-aerodynamicist in me I guess. I considered the Richard Petty SuperBird the ultimate in automotive big-wing technology. I don't know if there was a Hot Wheel of that thing, but I did at one time have a model kit, but, alas, it's lost to time :-(
I found this other picture of the T-Bird misfiled somewhere, so for completeness I thought I'd post it.
The Deora is my favourite custom car and this is Hot Wheel's Deora 2003. 'Nuff said.
While I'm on Deora memory lane, back in maybe 2005 or there abouts, I kitbashed this lunar hot rod from 1/24 Deora and Moon Scope kits from AMT. No, the ATV in the back isn't gas-powered. It had all that removed and converted to electric :-) Looking back on this thing I think lunar dust would have gummed up all its works and left it inoperable.
The green Hot Wheels Hot Heap over on the left is the closest to mint condition of all the old cars in this collection - I think that's because it didn't get raced much. Original colour. Windshield intact. Straight axles. All signs of not much use.
This Hot Wheels '68 El Camino is virtually brand new compared to most of the other Hot Wheels shown here. Back in 2011 I was picking up some things for my father at a Zellers near his house, and decided to drop by the toy department to see what was new in the Hot Wheels world. I thought seeing the El Camino was a good omen as I'm a big El Camino fan. It's too large for the layout, but I'll think of someway to incorporate it into the Alta Vista TC.
I think this Hot Wheels bug was originally my sister's. We had a coding scheme where we used flower-power decals to identify her's. It's missing its engine.
The Hot Wheels Lotus Turbine. And following the trend that if a wheel is missing, it's missing from the rear on the driver's side. Ok, in this case the driver's side is both sides :-) so let's say on the left.
These are fairly new Hot Wheels T-bird convertibles and they had a supporting role at The 2016 LOL Bring What You've Got Car Show held along Ocean Blvd.
When I bought these Hot Wheels Radio Flyer and Express Lane cars not all that long ago I recall they reminded me of MPC's Zingers kits.
This Johnny Lightning Sunbeam I think dates from '98 or thereabouts. A excellent rendition and a favourite.

Friday, February 1, 2019

The Moore Way

In between bouts of dealing with the polar vortex, I've been talking with Vince about putting together some videos that demonstrate E. L. Moore's construction methods. We've been discussing the look the videos should have, and I've been thinking about E. L. Moore's - for lack of a better term - 'life philosophy' of building model buildings. And even though what follows is a bit tongue-in-cheek, it might also suggest how a book about E. L. Moore might be organized that covers his techniques and model building life in an interesting manner.

I think there are 12 basic principles to his way, and in no particular order, here's my list:


1. Figure out your compelling interests

This list doesn't have any particular order, but this item must be first. For Mr. Moore, his interest was in the world he inhabited in the later 1890s and early 1900s, the time of his youth. You have to figure out where your interests lie. Neither I nor E. L. Moore can help you with that. You might know them already; it might take your whole life to figure them out.

2. Read a lot

He reported that in the '50s he had a library of maybe 1,000 volumes. He read at least one newspaper every day and frequented the public library. He sometimes reported when he was feeling particularly lazy he'd lay around in bed and read a book with a cat.

3. Write a lot

He wrote a few thousand manuscript pages and spent lots of time writing letters. He noted he did all his important communication from the seat of his pants while at his typewriter. Writing is a powerful way to learn and understand even if what you write doesn't lead to publication.

4. Learn how to take photographs and process pictures

He was a photographer who developed his own photos. These days everything is digital, so you don't need to hassle with chemicals and enlargers and stuff like he did. I've done plenty of old-school processing and I'll never go back to that even if Ektachrome is going to be re-released. A significant part of the field of model railroading has been driven forward by people who were either professional photographers or highly skilled amateurs - there's a hidden history there.

5. Learn how to draw plans

You don't need to be an artist, but you do need to know how to draw elevations and floor plans to help you understand the size, proportion, spacing, and detail of what you want to build. Whether you do it on a computer or a piece of paper is irrelevant. 

6. Be a storyteller

He was a consummate storyteller. He had something to say and said it. And said with humour and style. More often than not, buildings were a stage for his stories. You don't need to copy his style, but finding your own is important.

7. Ditch your tv

He reported that he didn't own a television and was saving the experience of watching it for his old age :-) Today we'd probably include ditching any service that provides the endless stream of pap that was once the exclusive domain of over-the-air broadcast tv. I hear someone out there saying, "but we're in a golden age of tv" - no we're not and we never have been. You won't be missing anything by pulling all the plugs on the cops, mobsters, lawyers, doctors, crooks, reporters, politicians, talking-heads, influencers, ad men, hosts, con-artists, singers, spaceships, spandex, sword-and-sorcery and the never ending list of buffoons and buffoonery. Full disclosure: I'm completely addicted and couldn't completely unplug; and he seemed to relish being a featured guest on an episode of Carolina Camera in the early '70s :-)

8. Walk, don’t drive

He didn't own a car and walked most places, although he could get a ride when he needed one. You can see and experience more and get a better sense of a place when walking, but it makes you an outcast and limits what you can do. It's a trade-off, and maybe not always a good one for getting by in society. 

9. Visit with friends

The Sage of Charlotte wasn't a recluse. Although he didn't have a ready means to travel at will, if you were in town there was an open invitation to drop by, and many like-minded model railroaders did. 

10. Use common, inexpensive, readily available materials

He was a man of very modest means. He lived in a small rented apartment, didn't own a car, likely lived off social security, or a military pension, or savings from his photography business, and the proceeds from the sale of his magazine articles. When he visited a hobby store he was known to spend an hour or so carefully browsing the entire store and in the end only buy a few pieces of balsa and some miscellaneous supplies. Although, he usually purchased via mail order when he needed supplies in bulk and a good deal. But still, he produced some great projects from just balsa and card. Limitations can stimulate creativity. Many of model railroading's greats created impressive stuff with quite little. His limitations were imposed by a lack of cash, but it didn't stop him. Myself, I think if one has to wear a lot of safety gear while model building because of the nature of the 'advanced' materials being used, some sort of line has been crossed.

11. Minimize the use of ready-made parts and kits

He hated building kits and didn't use many ready-made parts and materials in his scratchbuilds. Any use was often with reluctance when prompted to do so by an editor who wanted him to use advertisers goods, but sometimes it was of his own volition. Brick papers and sheets often show up in his builds. How are you going to be unique if you're relying heavily on mass produced products?

12. Build regularly

He said he was quite lazy and didn't work to any schedules. That is b.s. :-) He worked for long stretches everyday for weeks, and months, and years on end. It probably didn't feel like work because it was all self-directed. He did what he wanted, when he wanted, which included breaks and goofing-off. His only boss was himself.

None of the above will guarantee you'll be successful, produce your masterpiece, get you published, win a contest, or express what you are compelled to express. You also need to bring your own talents into play. These principles are just some guidance to help develop and maximize those talents in an old-school, get to the root of things way, and nothing more.