Thursday, February 26, 2015

Derby & Ball Co. - 3

Quick update. 
I've been making some progress on the Derby & Ball Co. complex - as you can see, the basic walls of the "main" building are assembled and have been primed. The building is resting on the "plans" for the woodworking shop portion of the complex.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Derby & Ball Co. - 2

Logo from a 1934-vintage Derby & Ball scythe handle.
I haven't been able to turn up a lot of detail on the Derby & Ball Co., but have found a few interesting facts that I'm including here in the hope that more information may reveal itself. 
Derby and Ball is an example of a manufacturing company that changed with the times and adapted to new markets when their original product was no longer in demand. The company was founded by Albert Derby, one of the principals in a company called Frost, Derby & Co. The company started manufacturing scythe snaths in 1857. In 1882, Franklin P. Ball, who had been engaged in the manufacture of scythe snaths in Springfield, Vt. since 1852, joined the firm which was renamed Derby & Ball. The company had two locations - one was in Bellows Falls, the other in Waterbury. The Waterbury facility specialized in manufacturing the wooden (primarily willow) handles for the various scytes. 
Catalog page showing the various styles of scythe handles offered by Derby, Ball & Edwards Corp. 
In 1920, the Edwards & Edwards Co. merged with Derby & Ball forming Derby, Ball & Edwards Corp.  In 1933 the company was reorganized as Derby & Ball, Inc. In 1933 they started manufacturing baseball bats in addition to scythes. 

The company would last into the early 1960s but not as a manufacturer of scythes or even baseball bats. (The bats were only made for a few years before that business was sold to the makers of Louisville Slugger.) Recreational skiing started becoming popular in the years before WWII, and purely by accident the company started to make skis in 1934. A December 1950 newsletter of the Mt. Mansfield Ski Club explains the story behind how the company got involved in the ski business and explained how the skis were made. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Magazines - Aspirational Clutter?

It's no surprise that my blog post "Hoarding, Collecting or Savvy Buying" is one of the most popular on this blog. Most model railroaders I know (including me!) are buried in inventory. This time around, the "inventory" I'm talking about is not those yet-to-built kits, detail parts and endless stacks of "someday" projects.
Instead, I'm talking about what to do about the one common element that unites virtually every model railroader - the seemingly endless stacks (or boxes, or shelves...) of old model railroad magazines.
To understand my point you need to realize the publishing industry sees a magazine as nothing more than an advertising delivery system. - The goal is to tempt consumers with editorial content to read and enjoy and for them to (hopefully) buy stuff from the advertisers, and then dispose of the magazine just in time for the next issue to arrive and tempt them with more wonderful products and services.
Model railroaders seem to have missed the "dispose" part of the equation - it's truly remarkable how many old magazines are sitting under model railroads. I remember when I worked at Kalmbach the non-hobbyist employees were always surprised when a reader would come by the office for a tour and more often than not quip "I've been getting MR and Trains since I was a kid, and I still have every issue!" (I should add they often had similar collections of RMC, Mainline Modeler, Narrow Gauge Gazette, et al....)
Two events coincided to bring this up as a blog post. I don't as a rule spend a lot of time reading non-railroad blogs (though there are a few finance/investing bloggers I follow) but recently came across this blog while searching about the internet for storage ideas for my wife's art room. 
You can read the full post here ( 
It's an interesting post but these two paragraphs really resonated with me. Read them and see if this doesn't remind you of a model railroader (or three) you might know:

"Then there is the futile exercise of saving magazines for those few articles that you might want to refer back to later on. Or cutting them out and filing then in plastic sleeves in a folder somewhere. My experience of this is, without proper, time consuming indexing, it is difficult to find those articles again when, or if, you ever do want to reference them. This is another form or aspirational clutter. And once again it is so much easier to find this information on the internet, with a few key words typed into your computers search bar."
"I am speaking from experience here. I once used to save every issue of several paper crafting magazines and save clippings from catalogues etc. Now I find all the inspiration or information I need with the tap of a few keys. No, heavy lifting, no allergy issues from the dust when dragged out after long periods, no having to dust them in between times, no big bulky bookcase to store them in, no wasted money, no wasted trees, no frustrating advertising, no agonising over if and when to declutter them, and no constant aspiration of actually doing something with the information in those articles I once thought I couldn’t live without."

Reading this post coincided with an online discussion several model railroaders were having of the best way to store old magazines. I, like many of you, have tried the "cut out the articles of particular interest" approach, placing all those articles neatly in file folders that I never look at.
The consensus from the online discussion was to keep the magazines intact - after all your interests may change in 10 years and you don't want to be stuck without a one-page article from the April 1948 MR  or whatever. 
The "ideal" solution was to keep the magazines intact and invest in a series of large, heavy open side file cabinets kept under the layout and mounted on wheels. 
I've taken the opposite approach - and have decided that our home, and to a greater extent the layout room, is no longer going to look like a public library and storehouse for stacks of paper that I rarely, if ever, use. To that end, many of the magazines have gone - and likely more will follow.
I found the premise that magazines represent aspirational clutter to be interesting. The word "aspiration" is an interesting one - it always seemed far more pessimistic to me than the similar-sounding "inspiration."
Aspiration, to me, smacks of dreams that are reached for, but never quite achieved. 
Inspiration expresses a more positive outlook on things.
I  think it's interesting that the blogger quoted chose the word she did.
Instead of providing inspiration the magazines represent clutter - something that can easily impact the creative process.
I can say that having disposed of a lot of magazines over the last couple of years I truly don't miss them. I still find inspiration in what other modelers are doing, but more frequently that inspiration is neatly stored in a box on my desk  connected to the internet and not in magazine files underfoot.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Derby & Ball

Derby and Ball wood shop is visible to the left side of this Phil Hastings photo. The smoke is obscuring everything but  the smokestack on the remainder of the complex. 
Bernie is coming out here in a few weeks and we'll either resolve the White River Junction issues or break out the saws-all and fix it the fun (albeit messy) way. 
In the meantime I decided to focus my attention on a  few more of the Waterbury structures. 
First up on the docket is the Derby and Ball Co. building complex. 
This includes a long two story structure and a one-story building that was likely used as a wood shop. 
You can see the basic outline of the main building in this mockup, which is nothing more than a piece of newsprint cut to fit the layout with rough sketches of the window and door locations. 
The footprints of the Derby and Ball buildings to the left of the mainline. 

I'd already done some mockups of the structure - my models will be fairly large as model railroad structures go but won't be scale size - I simply don't the have length. But I should be able to capture the spirit of the complex. 
The smoke from the locomotive in the Phil Hasting's photo is obscuring the two-story buildings - here's how they look today - like many of the older trackside buildings in Vermont they've been renovated and altered slightly over the years, but the basic "bones" are still there - I have to thank George Dutka for these shots which he was kind enough to lend me (and they're published here with his permission):
George Dutka photo shows the Derby and Ball main building. The white "garage" in the background is the old woodworking shop. 

Sanborn Insurance Map closeup of the Derby & Ball complex. 

Another photo from George. This shot of the shorter building in the two-story complex reveals the gable roof was different at one point. I plan to build my model following the lower gable trim since I think the resulting model will be a little more interesting.
George even found an "earlier era" picture of the complex - I'll be using this shot to backdate my model in some places - there's room for artistic interpretation even in prototype modeling!

At this point the model isn't much to look at since I've been laying out the doors and windows on the sub wall - more updates to follow. 
(I have to add after building the last three or four structures from wood it's really, really nice to be working with styrene on this one!) 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Happy Groundhog Day!

Sorry, couldn't resist. Hope everyone stays warm and safe!

200,000 page views!!!

Sometime around 2:00 pm this afternoon the blog post counter past the 200,000 mark! I'm humbled that so many people seem to enjoy my ramblings!