Friday, August 4, 2017

"Friendly Fridays... Franklin & South Manchester!"

What better way to kick off Volume II of the Old Main Line than with a visit to everyone's bucket-list layout?   George Sellios' Franklin & South Manchester in Peabody, MA, was on tap as part of a belated Father's Day weekend trip to Boston to see our little millennial. And as part of da-dee's festivities, wife and daughter happily joined in the half hour drive to a non-descript storefront on Main Street.

Anticipation mounted as we climbed the dark stairway to the second floor and then entered through a narrow hallway behind the layout's massive backdrop. But in turning the corner, the expanse of 23' x 42' cityscape revealed itself. The more than 600 detailed structures and extensive scenery was both breathtaking, but overwhelming too. Was I really here, finally? Where should I look first?

There's no mistaking the Sellios aesthetic of a dense and dilipated, depression era urban setting of exquisitely crafted structures.

The ladies were absolutely blown away by the scope and detail. They especially liked the 3-D scissor sign, but I noted George's nod to his childhood favorite, American Flyer Trains.

A deeply religious man, I'm betting that the paint company sign is one of George's little inside jokes. I also suspect that his use of ivy is not out of necessity like it is for many of us.

George says that he wore out the pages of MODEL RAILROADER and was most influenced as a young modeler by masters Frank Ellison and John Allen. He learned his lessons well.

Nothing hidden here... This is the way visible, sceniced staging is handled on the F&SM!

The entire layout is kept clean by its skirting which is pulled up and attached to hooks in the valence when not on display. George says that open houses create the most dust.

The detailed scenes never end. This is one of my favorite ones depicting the depression era. Three Stooges fans should note the tailor shop sign... more subtle than other structures like the not-pictured I.M. Boren Company or R.U. Bawnegan building.

George said that the F&SM has no access hatches even though it is very deep throughout. He relies extensively on the Topside Creeper to reach in, but also swears that he sometimes hangs from the supports above the dropped ceiling and works upside down. I still feel like he was pulling my leg on that one, but a religious man wouldn't do that to me, would he?

Here's a tenement row that would make Earl Smallshaw proud, complete with the requisite balconies and hanging laundry pushed up tight to the tracks.

Allegedly a Batman figurine is planted somewhere in the detailed layout which we could not find in person, nor in the 100+ photos that the three of us took. I assume that such a device is a good trick to help visitors focus on the micro rather than the macro.

Want to do eroded roadways and faded signage? Look and learn, people. Look and learn!

Whoa, wait a minute. What's that middle building doing here? Isn't that the old Atlas/AHM/Tyco Burns Engineering Company? Looks like George fancied it up with a scratchbuilt roof and customary debris. I reckon we can let him slide on this one.

Here's the man himself explaining how he does what he does. The former Minnesota Twins farmhand started Fine Scale Miniatures in 1966 and then the layout about 20 years later.

My pick up line, "Hey babe, wanna be in my blog?" went nowhere with this hot chick. "Better watch it," she deadpanned. "I'm married to a crazy man."  Ouch! That's harsh.

Gina, Kendall and I spent a couple of hours marveling at the workmanship and chatting with the shy craftsman. A proud customer of his brought in a completed diorama of the final FSM kit, I.M. Dunn coal yard. George studied it carefully, looking at it from different angles. The new retiree then proclaimed, "It's perfect... better than mine." High praise indeed!... and very classy.
The Franklin & South Manchester is open one Saturday morning most months. Photos are obviously allowed, as are smart-ass wives, but small children are not. Admission is $5.00. Afterwards, we concluded that two visits are really recommended. The first is just to get one's bearings and take in the overall scope. The second is when you can really relax and appreciate the individual scenes. We look forward to a return in the not-too-distant future... to find Batman!

But it was time to say goodbye and thank George for everything he has meant to the hobby. Now, on back to my daughter's north end neighborhood for a nice Italian meal and then one more stop that evening for another first. This was shaping up to be one heck of a day!

Another bucket list item checked. Fenway Park and the Green Mon-stah on a beautiful summer night. And we got to see the ump toss Sawx manager John Farrell for a tirade that was wicked awesome.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

"Wordless Wednesday... Numero Uno!"




Sunday, July 31, 2016

"Again?... A Sunday Morning's Rude Awakening."

An unwelcome text came in from our friend in Maryland early this morning with news and video of the overnight flooding in Ellicott City. Readers of this blog know that this has been a habitual problem for the area and it is what ultimately rendered the Old Main Line all but obsolete. 
The National Weather Service reported that more than six inches of rain fell in less than three hours. More than five inches fell within 90 minutes! It has been deemed, "a thousand year storm." 
The charming downtown is built on the side of a hill and its main street runs from top to bottom, punctuating with a meet at the Patapsco River. Higher hills on each side of Main Street funnel all water run-off onto it. This area, pictured in happier times, suffered significant damage.

Twenty four hours later damage was still being assessed. This stretch of Main Street is considerably higher  than the area adjacent to the Patapsco River. It did not escape harm.

News is still filtering in about the extent of the devastation. Two deaths have been reported so far. Our family is absolutely gutted, having visited this historic place so many times and always enjoying our interaction with the friendly residents and shopkeepers. Prayers!

BTW, for more photos of Ellicott City and its downtown architecture, see my post on selective representation.

UPDATE: August 1, 2016
Buddy David Olesen sent this update from the Washington Post. The videos emphasize the danger and helplessness that powerful, cascading water presents. The damage is such that there is now the very real fear that some of the historic buildings may not survive. EC will never be the same. So heartbreaking.