Articles 2016



Temperance, Prohibition and Bootlegging

Part 1: Public Demonstrations

Ratification of the 18th Amendment, ushered in one of the most romanticized but violent periods in our nation’s history.  Americans readily broke what they saw as a ridiculous law with the overflow of rebellious action pulling down established social conventions regarding gender and station.  Emancipated “Flapper Girls” danced the Lindy with “West Eggs” in dingy speakeasies while white knuckled bootleggers raced against the police and hijackers to deliver illegal booze. It was the time of G-men, gangsters and moonshiners.  For those modeling the Victorian 1890s, roaring twenties or depression years adding this bit of color to your layout is an easy way to show that you “know your onions…yowza, yowza and how!”

Part 1 of this article covers the activities of the various “Dry” movements from public marches to saloon busting. Load up your “smashers” and grab your axe, it is time to chase demon rum from our lives and join Carrie Nation for a “hatchetation”.

Prohibition movements leveraging political action had existed since the early 1800’s but did not get nationally organized until 1873 with the creation of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).   Formed under the broad mission statement of  “A sober and pure world” it invested its efforts first in temperance through abstinence then under the direction of it second president, Frances Willard, quickly added a number of social reforms including suffrage, labor rights, sanitation, public health and world peace.

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As evidenced by its name the WCTU was designed for women. This led to it being criticized as gender-biased despite the many male supporters. The name also alienated women of other faiths such as Jews, Hindus and Buddhists who held the same moral view on abstinence.

Public demonstrations by the WCTU took two forms which reflected the groups divided opinion on how to achieve reform. Part of the membership felt that their goals could be reached by personal interaction with their fellow citizens while the rest were convinced that legislation should be the focus of their efforts.

The first and most common action was a holdover from the defunct pre-civil war American Temperance Society (ATS). The ATS had thought to solve the problem of drunkenness by convincing tavern owners to close their shops or switch to non-alcohol based drinks such as lemonade and tea. They also sought to proselytize their religious views to the customer base. In this effort groups of women would kneel outside of the saloons in their town often enduring verbal and physical abuse from the crowd. It was not uncommon to be soaked with a fire hose or buckets of stale beer while being mocked. In extreme cases they were physically assaulted.

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The second form of demonstration was  the picket march or parade. This was especially common in larger cities where hundreds of members could be brought in from the surrounding area and the goal was to influence politicians and civic leaders. Counter demonstration by “Wets” might also be an unwelcome part of the event.

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Not every gathering was organized or supported by the WCTU. Many small town churches and civic groups promoted abstinence from alcohol on a personal level. Any group of citizens could gather outside of a saloon or brewery to proclaim their oath of sobriety. Most of these were led and attended only by men but could be mixed. They commonly carried an American flag but would not include banners or signs promoting other social issues. Women’s church groups also existed, especially in the south, but had little interest in partisan politics as they considered the WCTU’s interest in suffrage to be radical. They contented themselves with saving the poor immigrant from his hellish ways or bringing drunks to salvation.

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It was from such humble roots that the most dramatic superstar of the early prohibition movement hailed, Carrie Nation of Kansas. Having lost her first husband to alcoholism she became a devout proponent of total abstinence. She was a member of the WCTU and later the Anti-Saloon League. Out spoken and possessed of radical zeal she would confront tavern owners with the greeting, “Good morning, destroyer of men’s souls”, and then proceed to smash their business with rocks and bricks she carried in a sack. She called these “smashers” but quickly adopted a small axe because it was easier to handle.  Although most active in Kansas she traveled the southwest leading protests and performing “Hatchetations” on any saloon she came across. Nation was sometimes accompanied by an organ player and a small choir but often worked alone. Standing six foot at 175 pounds there were few men willing to confront her once she started swinging.

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Modeling ideas 1870s to 1920:

Modeling a confrontation scene in front of a saloon should feature WCTU members holding signs bearing their logo and cloth banners extolling the advice “Moderation in all things healthful; total abstinence from all things harmful”, “God Wills It”, or “Lips that Touch Liquor Shall Not Touch Ours”. An era appropriate (43 star) American flag would also be prevalent. Some of the ladies might be holding Bibles, hymnals or flowers. I think it could be represented with as few as three women figures and equal number of men although a larger group will certainly increase the visual impact.

Modeling a march or parade scene should feature  WCTU members carrying the same sorts of signs listed above as well as those promoting suffrage or other reform issues such as anti-tobacco or gambling slogans. Members might wear a sash proclaiming their hometown membership location. In some cases a wagon or carriage with leaders of the WCTU riding in it would be part of the procession. It would need quite q few figures. Preiser has a large selection of Victorian era men and women in 1/22.5 but the other scales will be hard to come by.

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Since I model the 1930s I will not be building one of these scenes. If you add such a scene to your layout please share some pictures with me and I will post them here.

Part 2: Scofflaws and Revenuers (coming in June)

Part 3: Rise of the Gangsters (coming in July)



If you are going to travel you are going to need something to put your clothes in for the trip out and your souvenirs in for the trip back. These containers in their crudest forms were cloth sacks and wood boxes but as commercial travel matured to carry the masses so did the style and construction of baggage.

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For centuries wooden chests had served to carry personnel possessions, household goods and valuables on long trips. The design was fairly simple; a wooden box with a hinged lid reinforced by leather or metal banding. Most had a hasp for securing the lid closed with a lock; more elaborate versions had latches and locks built in. The construction was sturdy as most of the journeys were one way. Intended for travel as freight the items were too heavy to be convenient for leisure travel. Trunks crossing the ocean in a ships hold or the prairie in the back of a wagon would finish their days as a hope chest or strong box.

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One of the most common versions of the chest is the army footlocker. These began as plain wooden crates made of pine or some other cheap wood. By WWI they were made of oak, hickory or other hardwoods. The edges were reinforced with brass strips and most had a single or double removable tray in the top. Constructed primarily by furniture companies a lacquered wood stain protected it from the elements. In preparation for WWII the brass was upgraded to steel and the wood to birch plywood. The lift out tray remained. Made in mass by a wide variety of companies the finish was a healthy coat of olive drab green paint. Vietnam veterans found their familiar green footlockers now had a plastic tray inside but otherwise looked unchanged from the forties. These old standbys were phased out in the 1990s in favor of commercially available containers like those made by Pelican and Hardigg.

Crude wooden chests were not going to suit the wealthy world travelers of the nineteenth century. They wanted style and versatility. Most importantly they needed something that could be used in the stateroom of a steam ship or hotel suite in an exotic location that might not have the comforts of home….like a wardrobe or chest of drawers.  Enter the steamer trunk.

Intended as upscale storage for clothing and personal items these portable closets boasted elaborate interiors. Features included sets of drawers, pigeon holes for shoes and a rack for clothes on hangers. Travelers would stand the trunk on end next to a wall and open it like a book on edge. Some designs included matching separate pieces that attached to the top as extra drawers or a jewelry box. Other companion pieces included hat and jewelry boxes even a wet bar or wine cabinet. Such baggage was a major investment with an elaborate set of trunks costing more than a small house.

Early manufacturers included the Shwayder Trunk Company of Denver, Colorado (which became Samsonite in 1910) and Rhino Trunk and Case which is still in business today. They were later joined by iconic makers such as H.J. Crave, Noble and Graff and Louis Vuitton. Regardless of the maker or model most steamer trunks have a few things in common. The basic trunk was still a wooden box. These could be made of hardwoods if the exterior was stained and finished but most had a leather or cloth cover with brass rails and decorations. The interior was often covered in embossed paper or some kind of cloth. Built in locks and hasps were common. Heavy leather handles provided a place for the porters to handle it.  None of this would matter in the era of mass transit though.

By the mid 1920’s the automobile (and soon the airplane) had made travel for travels sake popular and affordable. The demand for smaller lighter bags, holding only a few days of clothes brought about a new design that could be easily carried by their owners. Baggage became luggage and the suitcase was born.

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While trunks and chests needed to be stout and weather resistant to survive the hold of a ship or railroad baggage car; suitcases were usually found strapped to the back of a car remaining under the control of their owners during the trip. The need for heavy wood construction gave way to cardboard and cloth.  The first suitcases were literally designed to hold a suit. One side had a flap which held shirts and undergarments in place while the other had straps or bands to hold suit coats and pants flat during travel. Exterior closure was by either straps or clasps; both would later be replaced by zippers.

Suitcase function did not change much from the 1910’s to the 2000’s but materials did, leather exterior coverings replaced the cloth covers of the 1930’s which were replaced themselves by man-made materials in the 1950’s. Cardboard construction became plastic and eventually metal frame. By the 21st century air travel has driven yet another change in design. Restrictions on both weight and dimension have returned baggage to the short stout designs of the early wooden chests. What’s next? I would say spray on clothing but we all know you are not allowed to take aerosols in your carry on.

To model baggage for my train I wanted items that reflected all kinds of travelers, immigrants, vacationers, business men, what have you. This meant everything from old wooden chests to cloth and leather suitcases and even steamer trunks were needed. Once again working in 1/20.3 meant there was little to nothing available so I would have to make masters and cast baggage. Unlike my steel drum project I would need more than one master item. I set down and looked at what would make up a good mix of bags and chests. I came up with 10 which later expanded to 16 unique items. These included three different hat boxes, a pet carrier and a steamer trunk. Ugh! The construction of each is basically the same; a wooden or plastic shape that supports the details made of paper and styrene. Molds were made and items cast.

After painting I found a very easy detail to add, the tourist label. These were very common from the 1880‘s to the 1960s. The subjects were famous hotels, steamer lines, railroads and national parks. These sorts of things are still around but people tend to put them on the bumper of the car. I found about thirty such vintage stickers on line and copied them onto a power point slide.  A little tweaking to get the size right and they were ready to print. Since they did not have to withstand the weather I printed them on plain paper and glued them to the trunks and bags using TB3.As always a clear coat of Treehouse Matte sealed the deal.

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I now have a large selection of baggage to place around the layout on platforms, vehicles and baggage carts.

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More information on the making and casting of the luggage as well as the baggage cart and handler can be found in the People section.


Motorcycles and Riders

When it comes to adding scenery to the layout the most expedient is by far vehicles. Whether die-cast or plastic, models are readily available in almost every scale across the entire history of the automobile. Most model railroaders practice a very basic form of selective scenery compression in the absence of drivers and or passengers. Just place the vehicles on the roads of the layout and let the observers add the people in their minds. Unfortunately this practice does not hold up very well for motorcycles. A riderless bike defying gravity is too much for the imagination to compensate for.
You could choose to forgo placing motorcycles on the layout except as parked models but that would ignore the fact that motorcycles outnumbered cars in the US until the latter part of 1910 when Henry Ford’s 1908 “Tin Lizzy” model T finally made the car affordable for the general populace. It seemed that every bicycle shop in the nation had fabricated a motorized version of the common pedal bike but only two brands would survive the Great Depression, Harley Davidson and Indian, with the rest going down in the first few months owing to a small market share and lack of operating capitol.

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The creators of an American legend.

Indian Motorcycles made it past World War two before finally going bankrupt in 1953 but Harley Davidson endures to the present. Lucky for us model railroaders their motorcycles are well represented and readily available. If you want motorcycles on your layout then HD is your best option.

The effort to build a powered bicycle began in 1901 in a tool shed behind the home of Henry Melk, a longtime friend of Arthur Davidson. The next summer they were joined by Arthur’s brothers, Walter and William. Like most early motorcycle builders the HD brand was an attempt to bolt a small combustion engine into a pedal-bicycle frame. The motor, designed by William Harley, boasted a meager 7.07 cubic inches of displacement. It was severely undersized and failed to produce reliable horsepower but did provide the friends with valuable experience.

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The original HD. One was built in 1903 and a second in 1904.

The group’s next offering was a new single cylinder engine designed with help from Ole Evinrude (of outboard motor fame) and made available as a do it yourself kit for converting bicycles. It was well received and within a year HD was building and selling complete bikes. Financial success arrived in 1907 when HD introduced the first V-twin two cylinder engine attached to a beefed up new frame that could withstand the rough roads of the time. Their first large orders came from police departments who saw the motorcycle as an inexpensive and reliable form of mounting their officers. Harley continued to design bikes for law enforcement for the next 80 years.

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1909 Model 5 V-twin, the first HD production motorcycle. It had the unique claim to fame of having spare parts available from the factory for repairs.

Harley Davidson made many improvements to the frames and features of their motorcycles over the first three decades of its existence but engines were what built the brand. In 1911 the company introduced the F head. This engine would be the mainstay through World War one until 1929 when it was phased out by the flat-head. This 45 cubic inch V-twin design would prove so reliable that variations of it would continue in production into the early 1970s. Joining the line in 1936 a 61 cubic inch engine was introduced and dubbed the knuckle-head in reference to the rocker boxes on the cylinder tops.

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1917 Model 17T featuring the F head engine. This was the first motorcycle 
adopted by the US Army.

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1936 Model EL featuring the knuckle-head engine.

Military need in World War Two sucked up all of HD’s production in the form of the model WLA. The designation reflected Army specifications which favored the smaller and more reliable flathead engine which could operate on poor quality fuel as low as 73 octane.

Left: 1942 WLA. The bike was used extensively by armored units for scouting and messenger service.
Right: Army scout riders in training circa 1943. Still missing most of their combat accessories riders like these were trained in many of the skills that would be common in motor-cross racing during the 1960s and 70s as well as road hazard avoidance techniques taught in modern riding classes.

Manufacturing over 90,000 of the motorcycles during the war there was no production capability left on the factory floor for civilian bikes. Fate had intervened on engine design so while the flathead went to combat the knuckle-head went on life support before dying an early death in 1947. The following year HD introduced the pan-head as its top of the line engine. It lasted only slightly longer than its predecessor before being replaced in 1965 by the shovel-head engine ushering in the modern big twin era.

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The Harley Davidson legacy of engine design. The distinctive V-twin has been copied around the world.

Developing alongside of motorcycle technology was the riding culture. Early interest in bikes was as a novelty but as reliability increased so did the population of the riding public. Harley Davidson had jumped into the motor sport scene with both feet for both the promotion and the development opportunities. Company sponsored teams competed on, board and flat tracks, hill climbs and endurance races. Young men and women soon wanted a taste of the excitement. Riding clubs sprang up all over the East coast and throughout the Midwest. As America’s love affair with motor vehicles grew recreational riding quickly caught up to recreational driving. By the 1930s riders were regularly traveling cross country from coast to coast. A common site in any small town could be dusty riders alone or in groups out to see the country.

Sales boomed in the 1920s but it was not all leisure riding. Police departments, delivery companies and the military all used motorcycles or their three wheeled cousins the servi- car. A common site on many a lonely highway was the State Police Officer on his bike. In 1933 New Mexico’s motor patrol (forerunner of the State Police) began with 10 officers mounted on Harley Davidson motorcycles. Their job was primarily enforcement of traffic law on the highways.

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New Mexico Motor Patrol Cadets.

Regardless of why they were on a motorcycle early riders soon found a need for some protection from road hazards such as grit, rocks, bugs and the occasional low flying bird. In the 1910’s riders borrowed clothing from the automobile enthusiasts, long coats, driving glasses and gloves were common gear along with sweaters and driving caps. Post World War 1 riders quickly adopted surplus pilot garb including leather gauntlets and flyers caps. As bikes became heavier and more powerful leather equestrian coats and pants became popular. The most iconic look of all was the black leather coat as worn by Marlon Brando in “The Wild One”. Styled after the army uniform “Ike” jacket this apparel was not available until post World War Two when HD introduced it in 1947.

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1915 an early group of riding enthusiasts shows off their “Hogs”.

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1920 with the weight and speed of motorcycles increasing, clothing choices became heavier and stronger to protect riders.

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1930 with the end of World War One a surplus of high quality pilot apparel drives another change in riding gear.

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Marlon Brandon answers the question of “What are you rebelling against Johnny?” with “Whaddaya got?”

Those of you using 1/24th or 1/32nd will find a large selection of figures and bikes available. Since I am working in 1/20.3 scale I have to settle for 1/20th details. I have only been able to find one motorcycle model suitable for the 1930s. It is made by Matchbox and is a passable version of the single seat 1937 knuckle-head. These come two to a package so I decided to model one figure riding and one figure standing with the bike parked nearby

Left: A cherry 1937 knuckle-head in turquoise blue. This is the bike I based my project on.

Right: The rider body, made from a Tamiya pit crew figure, is fitted to the seat and handlebars of the Matchbox motorcycle.

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Paper, styrene and model bits used for the details made this my most complicated figure so far. The Motor Patrol became the New Mexico State Police in 1935. The uniform has remained virtually unchanged in appearance with the distinctive black and grey still used today.

The Completed figures.


It is 1938 on the Cibola Railroad. Route 66 is still a dirt road across the desert running from Chicago to Los Angeles as this rider, decked out in period garb, is ready for a warm bath and a cold beer in the town of Broken Wheel.

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“Okay pal, where’s the fire?” One of New Mexico’s finest stops a speeder outside of Albuquerque in the late 1930’s. Many a rancher got their first look at a V-twin while being issued a citation for speeding.
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Full build-logs for both figures, including detailed notes on their design, can be found on the main page of the vehicles section.

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