Saturday, August 31, 2019

Streetcar sighting in The Chinese Cat

About three-and-a-half minutes into the 1944 Charlie Chan movie The Chinese Cat, cab driver Birmingham Brown nearly swerves into the path of an oncoming streetcar when he discovers Charlie Chan is the passenger he's taking to the Francis Hotel. 

We briefly see the oncoming streetcar from Brown's point-of-view. Interestingly, these streamlined streetcars appear to be cable driven: you can see the slot in the road between the rails, and there's no overhead wiring straddling the street. The movie takes place in San Francisco, but if this footage was actually shot in San Francisco, I wonder where? It seems quite flat, and I didn't know they ran cable driven streamliners. I need to investigate.

[Update: Vince mentioned that maybe it isn't powered by a cable, but maybe by a conduit system. I don't know if SF had such a system. Maybe this was some convenient - and cheap - stock footage? Maybe some more investigation is needed?]

Glyn Lewis, Sage of TT

While we're on the subject of TT, back in the 1950s Railroad Model Craftsman ran a regular column by Glyn Lewis called Off'n the Table Top: News and Views of TT.  The column delivered what it said in the title in several densely packed paragraphs sandwiched between ads from TT manufacturers. 

The Feb '56 column had an interesting block of text on the adoption of plastic as a modelling material, and viewing model railroading in TT as a 'constructive' hobby as opposed to a passive one - which really applies to any scale. Here's what Mr. Lewis had to say (The … in the text are Mr. Lewis' , but the division of the single block of page-saving print into more readable paragraphs is mine):

Of late we have been getting quite a few inquires (mostly from HOers) asking how we feel about plastics. This is supposed to be the "needle"…

S'funny really, back when we said that the Starline cars in TT were good, many sneered and said "Ugh, plastics…toys!" Here is how this writer feels…

We don't care what material is used…

the result is what counts. Back when we were very young, there was, and perhaps is, a man in Canal Dover, Ohio, who made model Locomotives. These locos were considered so fine, so accurate, that railroads all over vied to buy them. His materials? Wood, bone, coal, tin, in fact anything! But the important thing was the result…

a fine model that he ENJOYED BUILDING. The culprit is NOT plastics or brass or lead zamac or chewing gum! We deplore the "ready to run" aspect of model railroading. It's great for kids or for those who want it, but it is NOT a constructive hobby.

We are NOT knocking it, anymore than we would knock anyone whose hobby is going to baseball games, but most baseball fans don't call themselves baseball players. 

We like television, but not to replace living, it's strange that years ago people enjoyed "parlor games" found them mentally stimulating, but now pay fabulous salaries to "experts" to play the same games on panel shows on TV.

The age of "do it yourself"…

non-sense! Kid yourself into thinking you are doing it yourself.

We know of a fellow who had all the signs of a "successful" man, an ulcer, a divorce, and an analyst. This headshrinker told him to get a hobby. That's right, "get a hobby"…

man, you develop 'em, don't get 'em, and the desire must come first. He suggested stamp collecting as soothing, so our hero bought a complete collection for $1500.00 and sat back waiting for the cure.

See? No, we don't wish to deprive the "put it on the track - see it run - boys" of their fun, but if you don't mind we will continue to enjoy kit building, with a little "scratch" and maybe a bit of free-lancing. To the manufacturers we would say, better and more products in TT, but let us build 'em. IT takes longer, but the hobby will last longer, and so will we!

Maybe replace We like television with We like the Internet, successful man with successful person, put a little extra emphasis on will last longer, and so will we, and this almost could have been given last week in a TED talk about the life enhancing virtues of the old-school hobby of model building in comparison to more screen time :-)

Friday, August 30, 2019

A garden of TT delights

I was chatting with a friend of mine this week about a Rocket Garden he's building where all the rockets are being made from Lego. He recently finished a Saturn 1B, an impressive work of Lego kit mingling supplemented with carefully chosen speciality Lego blocks, that will be parked next to a massive Lego Saturn V. The scale of these turns out to be 1:110, and I mentioned that was close to TT, which I thought was 1:100.

It turns out TT's scale ratio is more complex than I thought. Wikipedia tells me this: in its country of origin, the USA, it's 1:120; in the UK its 1:101.6; and in Russia it's 1:130. Clearly my thinking was stuck on UK usage. 

And, as it turns out, Revell’s Jupiter “C” rocket and rail-based gantry kit, is also 1:110, not quite TT, but close, and it's the same as the Lego rockets. I haven't yet finished the kit. About a year ago I added some more details and stripped off the HO trucks. I was going to replace the HOs with N-scale trucks so I could use Kato Unitram track as the basis of the launch pad layout. Watch this space - so to speak - but don't hold your breath :-)

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Bandaged Dark Passage

I don't know what to say about Dark Passage. It has the elements of both an excellent noir, and an odd B-movie all in the same movie. But, it stars Bacall and Bogie, not to mention it features the awesomeness of 1947 San Francisco, so based on those things alone I watched it all the way through. 

Lauren Bacall is infinitely watchable as always. And Humphrey Bogart was surprisingly expressive when bandaged.

Well, ok there were the cable cars and the possible streetcar diner, but as far as movies go, those usually aren't enough to hold my attention. I can't believe I wrote that, but it's true :-) 

Look, if you're a Bacall and Bogie fan, watch it.

But, I must admit that Humphrey Bogart as the bandaged, plastic surger-ied Vincent Parry reminded me of Nash the Slash.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

More paint-by-coat-hanger

I've been reading my way through Louis H. Hertz's  1970 book, The Complete Book of Building and Collecting Model Automobiles. On page 76 I came across this image attributed to the Testor Corp. It's a sequence of images showing how to spray paint a model while using a bent coat hanger to handle the piece. As you know this has been something of an ongoing topic here at 30 Squares (you can find the other posts here, here, and here) so I couldn't let it pass un-noted.

The caption reads:

Some tips on painting. In sequence: employing a bent wire coat hanger to hold a model while painting; cleaning dust and oil from model parts prior to painting; holding spray can at a distance from model for the first coats; attaining a high-gloss finish by close spraying of final coat, and hanging unit up to dry by using the coat-hanger holder.

A Pacific Electric red car in the opening to Ace in the Hole?

On Saturday evening we watched the 1951 noir Ace in the Hole. Given the ongoing discussion here about Dark Passage, I was surprised to see a streetcar used in Ace's opening sequence. The movie starts with Kirk Douglas, as Chuck Tatum, nonchalantly sitting in the driver's seat of his car reading a newspaper while the car is being towed to a garage. We're then cut to a scene of a streetcar rolling by a Spanish colonial building, the offices of the Albuquerque Sun=Bulletin newspaper where Mr. Tatum is going to get a job as a reporter.

I thought, ok interesting, later I'll capture an image for a post, but as I looked at the scene in detail, the streetcar looked like a Pacific Electric red car. I'm no expert on either Albuquerque electric railways or the PE, but it seems unusual for what looks like PE red cars in PE livery to be in operation in New Mexico.

My guess is that this scene was shot somewhere in or around Los Angeles where the PE was still running. The cameraman is sneaky in that the shot starts low, near street level, where it's easy to see the car's paint job and markings, but pans up as the car rolls by to centre on the building's sign, thereby making positive identification of the car more-or-less impossible.

That is a PE car for reference. You can see a number of features similar to the film's car. My gut feeling is that it's a match, but I don't have strong proof.

I guess the moving streetcar, plus the upward camera pan, adds visual interest. I also suspect the use of an old streetcar, in a shot with an old building, is to suggest that life here in this corner of New Mexico is old, sleepy, and a bit out-of-date, which is in stark contrast to Chuck Tatum's style when he makes his entrance to that newspaper office. 

PE cars aside, the movie is excellent, and still seems relevant today. Here's the trailer.

[Update, 4:30pm, 25 Aug: Vince alerted me to this interesting post at Cocoposts. The writer thinks the scene was shot in Albuquerque, as streetcars were still running at that time. Although, I must admit the streetcar in question still seems quite similar to a PE red car. I need to do some investigation.]

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Dark Passage to the Powell Street Cable Cars

Cable car 510 from pg. 334
Over at Orange Crate Art Michael Leddy wrote an interesting follow-up to his Harry's Wagon post. The location looks like the famous cable car turntable at Powell and Market in San Francisco.I can only make out the car number, 520, in middle photo. According to Mr. Smallwood in his book, The White Front Cars of San Francisco, 520 and 510, shown over on the left, were from the same batch manufactured in 1891 by Carter Brothers.

Cable Car 514 from pg. 332
I've shown 514 over on the right only to note that you can see a piece of the façade of The Owl Drug Co. in the upper right corner of the photo. It's quite different from that shown in Dark Passage - an earlier incarnation maybe? 514 was manufactured by Mahoney Brothers in 1887.

To wrap up his discussion of the Powell Street cable cars, Mr. Smallwood mentions: It is interesting to note that the Powell-Mason cable line has provided service from terminal to terminal over the same route, using the same method of propulsion and operated by the same cars, for more that 90 years! Certainly this must be a world's record for city transit.

So, if Dark Passage was made in 1947, car 520 had been in operation for around 56 years - not a bad service life.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Was Harry's Wagon a White Front Car?

Car 990 began service 1 Aug 1933; pg 186
Over at Orange Crate Art there's an interesting post about a diner called Harry's Wagon that appeared in the 1947 noir Dark Passage. The movie is set in San Francisco, and stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

The diner reminded me of the streetcars in Charles Smallwood's The White Front Cars of San Francisco that was published by Interurbans in 1978*. Harry's was a real place, so I leafed through the book to see if by some wild chance Harry's Wagon might be in there amongst photos of repurposed cars. No dice. 

Naturally, the book is jammed full of streetcars that look quite similar to Harry's Wagon, but there's no obvious match, and no reference to that diner. One major difference: Harry's has a 4 window front, and all the similar streetcars had only 3. Maybe Harry's was reno-ed? Can't say for sure.
*I bought this book back in January after seeing an ad for it in an old issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. On a lark I looked for it online, and found one for $5 plus $10 shipping. I bit and the rest is reading history :-)

Monday, August 19, 2019

New stock of records

I surprise myself sometimes. I got up Sunday morning, put on some coffee, and decided to cut some records. Well, make some record sleeves for Stella's.

So yeah, I took an impressionistic approach, cut up some coloured paper into squares, 4mm on each side, and then glued them into the bins.

This is a shot midway or so through the process.

Over on the left is the partially depleted record pile. I didn't cut enough on the first go-round, and had to cut an additional pile of about the same size. Those bins hold a surprising number of records.

As well as records, I cut some pieces of file folder into 5mm x 4mm rectangles to act as bin index cards. They were inserted randomly to give the impression that Stella took the time to identify artists. 

Speaking of surprises, a few months ago I bought a copy of Bill Evans' Waltz for Debby on vinyl. I have a copy on CD, but now that I'm a certifiable vinyl snob, I wanted to find out if I could hear the difference between the vinyl and CD versions. Well, one thing lead to another and I only opened the album on the weekend. I found that inside the sleeve was a Ray Charles greatest hits album! Awesome indeed, but I was in the mood for some BE. Lesson Learned: Open The Album As Soon As I Get Home. In case you were wondering, here is Waltz for Debby:

Sunday, August 18, 2019

A&A façade drawing

I dropped by the drawing board and drew out A&A's facade. I like to do these things with traditional drafting tools instead of software because I feel pencils and rulers help me better understand a project. 

A&A's façade underwent a number of stylistic changes over the years. I've chosen one that I think dates to the early '80s. Also, I think this version will give the most impressive night photos.

Dimension-wise, this model's façade is working out to be about 50' tall and 43.5' wide. And you can see that the main signs will take up about 2/3 of that area.

I'm thinking about being more ambitious with this project. That photo over on the right is sourced from Wikipedia, and it tells me that version of the façade dates from around 1975. The ambitious part is I'm wondering if this façade could be put on the back of the building. Basically, the model would have two façades - think of it as if it were a record with an A and B side - and you'd just flip it around to the side you want to see. Although, that is one complicated façade they had back in '75! I'll have to see how I feel once the main façade is built, and then I'll decide about adding one on the back.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The Well Appointed Site Office

The scene of wanton miniature building crushing in The Case of the Golden Oranges took place in this trailer that was being used as a subdivision construction site office.

On the outside it looks like any other trailer of it's type being put to this use, but on the inside it seems rather well appointed.

It's got faux wood panelling, curtains on the windows, a selection of hardcover books on the shelf - not to mention pottery - as well as very decent furniture. I guess this is for the benefit of potential buyers and well-heeled investors. Or maybe it's just product placement. Or maybe the set dressers used whatever they had on hand.

And as you can see from this and the previous photo, there was more than one miniature house - or 'little trinket' as the characters called them - scattered around. It looks like there are 2 on the drafting table, 1 on the desk by the woman, and another in the foreground by the man's elbow.

The fictional development was called Sunrise Hills, and you can see the Modern Homes it offers start at $22,500, with no down payment. That was in the spring of 1963 in an equally fictional, although likely close to reality, soon to be ex orange grove in the outskirts of Los Angeles. My parents first home, in 1957 in a then non-fictional, far-flung hinterland of Toronto, clocked in at $16,025

(If you're wondering about the differences between US and Canadian currency in that era, Wikipedia has this to say... Canada allowed its dollar to float in 1950, whereupon the currency rose to a slight premium over the U.S. dollar for the next decade. But the Canadian dollar fell sharply after 1960 before it was again pegged in 1962 at C$1.00 = US$0.925....This peg lasted until 1970, after which the currency's value has floated).

An unsolved murder in The Case of the Golden Oranges

In the Perry Mason episode, The Case of the Golden Oranges, which first aired on 7 March 1963, there was a murder that until now has remained unrecognized and unsolved. 

Architect, James (Jimmy) Wheeler, unpaid for his services, returns to the subdivision construction office late one night to claim his house models, only to be surprised by Mrs. Doyle who drops by for a rendezvous with developer Gerald Thornton.

Jimmy: These things belong to me Mrs. Doyle. I made them on my own time. I'm taking them with me.

Mrs. Doyle: I wonder just how far you're going to get with them.

Jimmy places a model on the floor beside his carton, unaware of the horror that's about to occur when Mr. Thornton arrives.

Mr. Thornton: Well what have we here?

Mrs. Doyle: Mr. Wheeler tells me he's repossessing some of his little trinkets.

Mr. Thornton: Well that's funny. I thought they were my little trinkets.

If it makes you feel any better, Gerald ('The Foot') Thornton is later shot, not for this outrage, and it's not by Jimmy, but who could blame him if he did. 

No more is mentioned of this crushing of an innocent miniature building. 

I can only hope they got this scene in one take :-)

Friday, August 16, 2019

Aurora Rolls Out The A/FX

The model car parking garage got Vince and I talking about diecast and slotcar scales. Naturally, the topic of A/FX came up, and I had to go look for an old ad.

I came across this one in the July-August '71 issue of Jack Kirby's Challengers of the Unknown - I think it was a reprint issue. 

It's full-page and it seems to leap off the page. I didn't own an A/FX slot car set, but this ad does a great sales job.

Now that's a parking garage!

Since I fancy myself something of a miniature building connoisseur I found this parking garage in Louis Hertz's book Building and Collecting Model Automobiles from 1970 mind bending. Here's what the caption says: a twelve-foot-long parking structure with a capacity of 1,000 model cars (Dinky Toys - Meccano Ltd., Lines Bros). Mr. Hertz states the model cars are around 1/4 inch scale.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Low rise buildings on the Alta Vista TC

I've been sorting and taking stock of buildings for the Alta Vista TC. Quite by accident I noticed that I have a preponderance of low-rise buildings. Clearly there's some setting in my brain that prefers that size. It looks like the bank and Natural History Museum are almost exactly the same height!

Monday, August 12, 2019

A&A's on the drawing board

I've set the Natural History Museum aside for awhile now that main construction is over. I'm going to leave the roof and interior detailing for whenever it's time to place the building on the layout. 

I've been hearing A&A Records call me and I can't resist. Last summer about this time I made a cardboard mockup in HO, and now, a year later, I want to try and build up the facade. From the internet I found a photo and have worked on adjusting it to be close to HO by comparing figures that are near the front windows with some in HO scale. Right now I'm working on creating a scaled drawing and figuring out how to build the various components.

I pulled Stella's from the shelf to reminisce and figure out what remains to finish it - I've had high hopes for this, but it's never set my imagination on fire. Those are the record bins and cash desk. I've added some posters and indexing since I last worked on them. Maybe I'll get the urge to add records, or maybe I'll just listen to Sheryl Crow :-)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

E.L.'s Balsa Bits

An homage, but with apologizes to Cap's Hobby Hints.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Seth's Dominion

You can find the full documentary here at the CBC (for some reason unknown to me, the embed code wouldn't work with blogger). From the film: I'm just trying to make the world the world I want to live in.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

On little annoyances

After sitting for a few months in the basement, the front door of the bank had developed a serious kink in the frame between the door and adjacent window. 

I've been trying to ignore it, but it gave me a bad twinge every time I glanced its way. For mental heath reasons I broke down and decided to fix it. I carefully clipped the bottom frame, sanded it back a bit, re-glued the frame into position, and finished off with a dab of paint. Although far from perfect, it now looks like a door that no one would give a second glance, let alone a mental twinge.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Bill Clouser's paper trolleys

Source: Popular Mechanics, Nov. '58
Vince and I have been having an on-again, off-again discussion about Bill Clouser's trolley models. Recently Vince sent me a link to an article in the November 1958 issue of Popular Mechanics by Robert Hegge - yes, that Bob Hegge of Crooked Mountain Lines fame - called Model Trains Made of Paper ... and They Run about some HO and O scale trolley models Bill Clouser made from various thicknesses of Strathmore board. Mr. Hegge has this to say about Mr. Clouser's construction methods: 

He uses no special tools, only a single-edge razor blade, steel straightedge, and sandpaper.He uses his head also - it's his outstanding tool.

Popular Mechanics, Nov. '58
Back in the '70s MR, RMC, and RM would write about using Strathmore for making things, and since there was no internet, and I lived in remotest Scarborough, I had no idea what they were talking about. If I had just seen Doug Leffler's article, Modeling with Strathmore in the July '73 issue of RMC, all would have been made clear: it's Bristol Board manufactured by the Strathmore company, and it comes in various plys. Mr. Leffler notes 1, 2, and 4 ply are most useful for HO construction.

So, add trolleys to the things that can be made from paper.

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Natural History Museum Gets Doors

The doors only needed a little sanding and fitting to get them neatly installed.

I also added some baseboard along the bottom inside wall edge. It's just some 0.02" x 0.04" styrene strip. I left it white, and surprisingly it makes the interior pop. 
The doors out to the patio don't look too bad either. It turns out the door window frames don't have an inset edge for inserting the glass, so the glass has to be neatly glued to the door frame, as you can see in the leftmost door.

The digital camera highlights the misaligned brickwork in the corner. In-person, when looking at it with my own two eyes, it doesn't look too bad, but zoomed in with a digital camera, it's horrible. The digital camera is a harsh mistress.