Gore and Dephetid

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by slekjr, Apr 30, 2007.

  1. slekjr

    slekjr Member

    Years ago I had a book that featured lots of photos of John Allens model railroad. He was a master builder and photographer.
    Being new to the gauge, along with a lot of others that are new to the hobby as well I thought I would share this link.
    I must advise anyone that has not seen his work to not visit this site unless you have many hours of free time.
    John Allen's Gorre and Daphetid Railroad - A Reminiscence Charlie
  2. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    John had kind of a creativity that just seemed to work. It was easy to understand and didn't seem to be too fussy on details. He seemed to be the kind of guy that would just build what he liked and create a whole nother world. Thanks for the link.

  3. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    There have been a couple of articles on John Allen and the G&D in Narrow Gauge and Short Line Gazette the past few months. I was in awe of his work when I was a teen. No money to try to replicate his work;however.
  4. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Money isn't the deciding factor in a layout like the G&D: an artist's eye and lots of free time is.
  5. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    One must appreciate that John Allen was quite a unique individual at the time, where our hobby is concerned. By profession, he was a talented commercial photographer, having an excellent eye for scene composition, use of lighting, camera tricks, etc...as well as being a skilled model railroader. Admittedly, few have had a similar combination of talents since. And it was this particular combination that gave him a decided step up on even the best modelers of the day.

    It is well documented that John had a considerable sense of humor but I often wonder whether that aspect of his personality didn't perhaps come back to bite him in the end. John was certainly capable of producing images that could almost be taken for prototypical, when he wished to. However, especially in conjunction with his Varney ads and articles in MR, he became far more widely known for caricaturish and highly tongue-in-cheek scenes (recall the dino-switcher, the absurdly swayback cars and the overly rotund little people he used in the ads and in the Trackside Photos scenes in MR?).

    Toward the end, it is said that he was unhappy with the name (which was of course a pun) he had given to his fantastic layout, viewing the name as just a bit too frivolous to be taken seriously by the more accomplished hobbyists. While he is certainly revered as a master by most today, as a true professional in his real-world occupation, one does have to wonder if perhaps he didn't view himself somewhat like the late George Reeves who, as an actor, always considered himself a serious, movie star, leading man type...stuck playing a kids' comicbook hero on TV. One has to wonder exactly how John viewed himself.

  6. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Money is definitely a deciding factor in whether a rural teen with no income builds any kind of layout, let alone one of the magnitude of John Allens. We are talking 1950's rural America. I'm sure this also applies to many young people today, from what I've seen on The Gauge.
  7. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Which 1950s rural teen are you referring to?
  8. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    When people asked how much he spent on the hobby, he said about the same as he would if he smoked and had to buy cigarettes. He used kits at times, and in the later part of his life bought brass engines when they were available, but most of his work was scratchbuilt - items that took a lot of time, but not that much money.
  9. Cannonball

    Cannonball More Trains Than Brains

  10. Jim Krause

    Jim Krause Active Member

    Myself obviously. Did you read my prior replies on this thread? At any rate, forget that I posted anything.
  11. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Don't be so hard on yourself, Jim. According to 'The Book', John was independantly wealthy due to some fine investing his brother did with their inherited money and eventually reached a point where he only worked (photography) when he wanted to. Plus, he never had a wife and kids to look after.

    That said, necessity is the mother of invention (not poverty, as someone else here on the gauge has written in their signature, although poverty may surely be a factor in that necessity). John lived at a time when brass was cheap(er) than today, when paper-sided kits and scratchbuilding with strathmore was the norm. His prize winning engine house seemed to me an exercise in frugality! Remember, when he started in HO, styrene was still years away and it was easier to make your own 'scale' stripwood than buy it - if you could find it!

    Young people today - if they live in 'middle America', have money to spare. It's a question of choices and priorities. If they're here posting on the gauge, chances are they have a computer (or using public internet access someplace like the library) and in that case, have access to a wealth of resources on scratchbuilding, kitbashing, and making do with what you have, not to mention discount prices on many fine products John could not have dreamed of in his day (DCC, Spectrum Steam engines, outstanding ready made track, et al). If kids can afford internet access then they can afford the occasional trip to the LHS.

    Just my opinions...
  12. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Jim Krause: Okay, I hadn't made the connection there. From what little I know of Allen's life and finances, his frugal habits are part of what allowed him to have enough to work by choice, rather than by necessity, and thus have enough free time to do a lot of scratchbuilding.

    There's a difference, after all, between making lots of money and being wealthy. Not sure if you recall a commercial that came out a few years back, featuring a guy showing people his stuff: "Like my car? It's new! I have a huge house in a great neighborhood! How can I do it?...Simple! I'm in debt up to my eyeballs!"

    Sadly, most commercials don't show the risks of being a conspicuous consumer, so most kids (and most adults) learn from the Great Cathode Ray Teacher that they should spend money as fast as they earn it, if not faster. I was a suburban teen without much cash, and while I did do some model railroading, most of it was scratchbuilding with scrounged materials.

    Perhaps another lesson Allen can teach is that you can start small and build your way to an empire--whether by carefully investing a nest-egg and having it turn into enough wealth to retire early, or by starting out with a sub-4x8 model railroad (remember, the first G&D was a 4x8) and slowly expanding it into a basement empire over the course of decades and a couple of intermediate stages. Because, just as most people can't just up and decide to build a museum-quality basement empire, most people can't simply decide they're going to be rich and expect their bank balance to start overflowing with cash. But just about anyone can build a small shelf layout, develop skills, and work towards the day when they can have the layout of their dreams--just as just about anyone can afford to start socking away money for retirement, even if they're young and don't have a lot of disposable cash. Frugality, patience and the ability to economize without compromising happiness are important skills for anyone, of any age, model railroader or not.
  13. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Watching "the video"

    Earlier tonight I was watching "the video" by Sunday River...the only surviving footage (that I know of at least) of the G&D. The narrator says John inherited $1900 from his parents estate at the age of 21 and when he died at age 60 he had 1/2 million in the bank. Does this mean he was 'wealthy'? I'd bet the greater wealth came from his friends and acquaintences made through the hobby. But the money certainly financed his passion.

    And yeah, I love that commercial! I agree with the comment also about starting small and going from there. My first layouts were built as a child/teenager and weren't the 'gems' or nuggets worth saving, unlike the first G&D. So when I started another layout as an adult, I chose to go the small/quality route and build...of all things, a Timesaver!

    As for savings advice, my policy is 10-10-80. 10% to savings, 10% to the church, and 80% for the rest. I really wish I were sticking to that...but it's tough in times of transition. Now that we're finally getting settled into the house (yes, in the nice neighborhood, etc.) perhaps that savings plan can be a reality again.
  14. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Yes, absolutely! Wealth (in the financial sense) means being able to decide when you wake up whether you want to go to work or not, not the total amount one has in the bank. And yes, he had a wealth of friends and associates who shared his passion and helped his project along: like his finances, he knew that careful investing (building social relationships) brought returns.
  15. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    By the time John bult his last layout, the Gorre and Daphetid original was really dwarfed, 2 towns 2 feet apart and one on the end of a siding. Almost as if the Union Pacific had been called the Minneapolis and St Paul.
    There are a couple of observations made about John's frugality and techniques. He claims not to have had a junk box -- supplies for projects were bought fresh rather than saying, "This odd shaped piece of plastic will do". In later years he said that it was easier to write an article and make enough money to buy a brass loco rather than scratchbuild one. He also seems to have had a vision for his layout when he started; someone had to wire a light and John said "There should be 2 unused wires in that cable".
  16. shortliner

    shortliner Member

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