Category: "Miniatures"

Ivy Hollow - potbelly stove, part 4

by brae  

Continuing work on the potbelly stove. There's always the kit stovepipe, which has excellent detailing, but I wanted to attempt a straight pipe up through the ceiling, which would be more in line with my inspiration photo. The rub lies in the oval opening at the rear of the stove. I can't just take a round polystyrene tube and use it out of the package. I also don't want to alter the kit parts just in case my alterations fail and I need to fall back on the original stovepipe. As a reminder, here is the stove built for Baslow Ranch.

Debora sent me some defunct Chrysnbon kits for parts some time ago, and one of those was the cook stove. Look here at this part. It's an oval to round adapter.

I cut the top away using the scroll saw and sanded it smooth.

To make the stovepipe that will continue upward, I used 1/2" polystyrene tubing.

In order to make it easier to hold the stovepipe steady while the plastic cement set, I glued three polystyrene rods inside the pipe adapter.

Once the glue set, I glued on the stovepipe, leaving the full length intact. Once I get to the roof, I'll cut the top angle and fashion a chimney pipe for the exterior. I cut a thin band of polystyrene and glued it approximately 3 inches from the top of the adapter to make it look like the stovepipe was assembled in two pieces, which it likely would have been.

I roughed up the surface with sandpaper and spray painted it flat black. It will remain unattached until installation.

While I was painting, I finished the floor pad in the same stippled black finish as the stove.

Ivy Hollow - inspiration photo and history

by brae  

As you recall, when I first started with my idea of building a Rural Free Delivery mail wagon and its post office hub, I found this postcard from 1917 showing a post office with RFD horse wagons picking up the mail. It was precisely the type of building I was after. Stevens, PA is the name of the town on the sign above the door, and there's a short wiki page on the town. After all this fascination, I ended up buying this postcard. :D

It's a very interesting piece. The print is almost like a daguerreotype on paper. It has that weird metallic shimmer at a certain angle. Here's an interesting article on the history of postcards I ran into along the way.

After our lively discussions on the roofing material, which I think we all agree is some type of metal, likely corrugated, I went down a rabbit hole - then explored the whole rabbit warren! It started with a link that Marilyn sent me on historical photos from the Library of Congress (now another research go-to along with Wiki).

To help with my research, I went to and signed up for a membership to peruse old articles. Since Rural Free Delivery was new, along with its aches and pains of growing with the times, there were a number of articles on these pioneering carriers, their professional and personal lives, the service in general and the related news about town.

Stevens, PA post office break-inSat, Nov 4, 1916 – 8 · The Inquirer (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) ·

During the course of my research, I ended up figuring out who wrote the RFD postcard I bought (postmarked Nov 14, 1917) and to whom it was addressed. The text reads, "I just found a card with the old P. Office so I thought you would like to see where you were still doing the office work. It is rather soiled but the other side is alright. We are well. Hope you're the same. Mother."

It is addressed to Mrs. H. E. Harner in Telford, PA. I found a 1907 clipping stating the engagement of Emma Clare (or Claire in another clipping) Lutz to H.E. Harner, who was a pastor. Emma's parents were Mr. and Mrs. Charles S. Lutz.

Tue, Dec 24, 1907 · Reading Times (Reading, Pennsylvania) ·

It's hard to find the first and maiden names of wives in old clippings unless it's an obituary or marriage notice. I found the 1972 obituary of Emma C. Harner, and it identified her parents as Charles S. Lutz and Lydia Mohler. We also finally see her husband's first name of Harvey. All articles I had researched to this point referred to him only as H.E. Harner.

Sat, Nov 4, 1972 · Pottsville Republican (Pottsville, Pennsylvania) ·

The postcard's author, Lydia Mohler Lutz, died in 1947 at the age of 93.

Thu, May 1, 1947 · Pottsville Republican (Pottsville, Pennsylvania) ·

Since we know the name of the post office in the photo, I started researching the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area. I stumbled upon a card catalog entry from The Historical Society of the Cocalico Valley. The card in question was labeled, "Stevens Post Office, Stevens, PA; Stevens Post Office with two mail carriers and delivery wagons, n.d., c. 1900." Well, if that didn't end up being the exact photo used for the postcard, then it would have to be from the photographer standing right next to the person who took the postcard picture! haaaaaa

I called up the historical society, and Cynthia, the Society's librarian, looked up the photo and also found another of a mail carrier with his wagon. I was able to get scans of both. The photo subject was indeed the same, though cropped differently. The quality was about the same as the postcard since it was a copy of the photograph and not the original print, but she was able to scan it at a high resolution to bring out even more detail.

I'm pretty sure that roof is corrugated metal, with uniform panels...or uniform panels with raised metal beams interspersed.

The mail wagon appears to be the same as in the postcard photo - route No. 2. She said there was no name written. The carrier for Route No. 2 could be the same man in the post office photo, but I'll get to his identity in a moment.

I asked Cynthia about the large brick house behind the post office, figuring it might still be standing. She said the house was the home of J. Frank Lutz, once the postmaster of Stevens, who she thought was the publisher of the postcard. She mentioned the house is still standing though it has been renovated. As expected, the post office building is long gone.

With the Lutz name to search, I found a September 2011 newsletter from The Lancaster County Postcard Club. On page four, there is the same image from the 1917 postcard (theirs is indicated as mailed in 1910) as well as an old map from 1899 of Stevens and other photos of the area. While the newsletter writer seemed uncertain whether the person standing in the doorway was in fact J.  Frank Lutz, the two carriers were definitively named as Harrison Z. Enck (route No. 1 - 28.5 miles) on the left and Harry R. Ludwig (route No. 2 - 25 miles) on the right (no names were given for the horses, unfortunately). I tried to obtain more info from the newsletter club, but they have not replied to my inquiries.

I found a photo of J. Frank Lutz dated March 7, 1924, and it could be him in the RFD postcard based on this likeness. On a side note, I had a hard time figuring out the relationship, if any, between Emma Lutz, her mother Lydia Mohler Lutz and J. Frank Lutz. It seems it was common to use the same first names across families and areas, making it difficult to differentiate who was who.

Fri, Mar 7, 1924 · Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) ·

The newsletter writer mentions the building in the back left as a painting and carriage repository that was also the property of Mr. Lutz. As of the 2011 newsletter, it was noted that the shorter of the two buildings shown in the original postcard still stands as a storage shed. I was able to find the same postcard (unused) of the hardware store and adjacent buildings for a reasonable price online.

I typed the current address Cynthia gave me into google maps, and I think I found what remains of the three buildings. Maybe? Brick to siding for the house? The shed building looks very similar, and it is right on the railroad tracks. Seems like the right location.

On page five of the newsletter, there is another photo of the post office they indicate as dated 1907-1909 showing the hardware building and the post office right on the railroad tracks. Look, no window awnings! :D I was able to track that photo back to this website, but the site owner had no other information on it. The Stevens/Reamstown station description on that website mentions the Lutz Hardware Store and Carriage Repository, indicating this railroad station started as a small platform for a dairy farmer and that the building was originally owned by J.S. Heiser before becoming the Lutz Hardware Store.

It's strange, though, because there are a few differences besides the awnings. There is no sign on the Lutz Hardware building, the post office sign doesn't seem to mention the town name as it does in the RFD postcard, and the door is also different. The building seems closer to the railroad, or at least the easement, which can't be seen in the RFD postcard but there is more area and a short post between the building and the utility pole in the RFD postcard. So, it's hard to tell if this is an earlier or later photo. It seems as though it would be later since it is more likely the railroad easement would encroach on an existing building than more space being added after the railroad was in place. Regardless of the time relation to the RFD postcard, I think it's pretty awesome to have found a second photo of the same tiny post office.

image from West2K, used with permission

I found this notation stating Mr. Lutz was born November 22, 1872 (died October 19, 1959 - aged 86) and never married. The article doesn't mention his being a postmaster, but it does mention the hardware store and carriage repository. It seems Mr. Lutz got himself into trouble for postal money order fraud and spent some time in jail around 1941.

Wed, Mar 26, 1941 · Intelligencer Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) ·

I found a book called The Zartman Family by Rufus Calvin Zartman (dated January 1, 1909) showing a brief history on Mr. Enck. It references his job as a rural mail carrier.

There was a lovely write-up about Mr. Enck in a 1925 newspaper titled Traveled 200,000 Miles in 21 Years as a Rural Mail Carrier; he was noted as being 68 years of age at the time the article was written. It mentions his starting the rural route No. 1 in Stevens and says he carried over 600,000 pieces of mail without missing one. The photo in the article is noted as being of his first horse and mail wagon. Hard to tell if it matches the RFD postcard photo.

Sun, Jun 21, 1925 · Sunday News (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) ·

There was conflicting information on the second carrier in the original RFD postcard photo. I found a clipping from 1903 announcing the start of the two rural routes in Stevens, PA - scheduled for March 2, 1903. This clipping mentions the driver of route No. 2 as Harry H. Shirk (not Harry R. Ludwig).

Sat, Feb 21, 1903 · The Inquirer (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) ·

In a May 13, 1922 Letter to the Editor written by Harry R. Ludwig, he mentioned he had been a rural letter carrier for 16 years, which indicated a start around 1906. It's not clear if the man in the RFD postcard and the other photo is Harry R. Ludwig or Harry H. Shirk. The 1922 letter had a photo of Harry R. Ludwig. Hard to tell without a photo of Harry H. Shirk, which I could not find, but the men in the photos do have a similar build. In my research, I found two different men with the name Harry H. Shirk, and neither was referenced as being a mail carrier so I couldn't tell which was the right one.

Sat, May 13, 1922 · The News-Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) ·

Considering the rural routes in Stevens, PA began March 2, 1903 and the RFD postcard was mailed in 1917 (and the writer calls this the "old" post office), the photograph had to be taken in the time frame of 1903 to 1917.  Also, the 2011 newsletter references their identical postcard as being mailed in 1910, which would narrow it down to 1903-1910. Articles pertaining to Harry R. Ludwig (written by Mr. Ludwig himself) indicate he began his RFD career in 1906. My guess is the photo was taken right when the RFD routes started in 1903 or soon after, and so it's likely not Harry R. Ludwig in that photo. But, could he be the man in the other RFD No. 2 photo? The wagon is certainly more worn in that photo than the original RFD postcard. I guess we'll never know.

In a clipping from May 2, 1921, it was noted that Mr. Ludwig fractured his arm cranking his automobile. I wonder if he ever injured himself using a horse wagon.

Mon, May 2, 1921 · The News-Journal (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) ·

Mr. Ludwig was born November 6, 1879 and died in 1927 at the age of 47.

Sun, Mar 6, 1927 · Sunday News (Lancaster, Pennsylvania) ·

Much of historical research is guesswork, because newspapers and the like can be filled with errors, and finding the retractions and corrections isn't always easy. But, I had a lot of fun getting this far - all starting with a simple google search that landed on an antique postcard. And, reading old newspapers is a real hoot!  :D

Sat, Mar 18, 1905 · The Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) ·

Do I usually go through this much research during a build? You can ask anyone who has been behind the scenes before to confirm, but the answer is absolutely yes! :D To me, part of the enjoyment is immersing myself in the life and times.

Blog issues

by brae  

I had to do a blog upgrade last night to fix errors, and now the comments are not working. I hope to have things back to normal soon...fingers crossed.

Ivy Hollow - potbelly stove, part 3

by brae  

Continuing work on the potbelly stove. I left the glue and ice cubes to dry for roughly a day and a half. The glue turned out not clear/not white, which was just fine. There were a couple of bare spots, so I glued in a couple of ice cubes with super glue gel. I super glued the wire into the groove of the front leg. This will be painted black and go through the floor then to the power strip in back, sight unseen once the stove is installed.

I added some texture to the inside of the stove where it might be seen. I glued the front door shut, though the kit does allow for a swinging door. I find it simpler to just keep it closed with the damper glued in the open position to see the lights inside. The stove lid is removable, though.

I used Testors model paints to add red and orange over the top of the ice cube/glue surface and let that dry completely. The trick is not to shake or stir the paint but use the transparent colored liquid after the paint has settled. This was taught to me by the helpful folks at the local HobbyTown USA.

Mmm...watermelon candies! :D

Working slowly with a small paintbrush and the lights on, I painted the surface flat black in spots. It's easier to add more paint than take it away.

I carefully removed the masking from the bulbs. The yellow LED was a bit too bright in relation, so I toned it down with the Testors paint. If I were to do this again, I would make the third flickering bulb orange instead of yellow.

I fine-tuned the surface with greys and a bit more black, covering the tops of the LEDs to mask them.

It might seem too dark in the photo, but the effect in real life is lovely.

Glowing embers....

Of course, you really won't be able to see much of them once the stove is in place, but I know they are there...and the next time I need embers, this is the method I will use.

Next up is the stove pipe and adding a smidgen of dust.

Ivy Hollow - potbelly stove, part 2

by brae  

Continuing work on the potbelly stove. This is the reference photo for the finish I'm after (under the dust). :D

Even the sanding and flat black spray paint didn't take away all of the sheen and smoothness of the plastic stove, so I stippled on a base coat of satin black by Americana. I then stippled on alternating layers of flat black and satin black, ending on flat black. Using the satin finish base made it look more like iron, which does have a slight sheen. My Baslow Ranch stove doesn't have this texture, because I didn't think of it at the time, but all the grime on it disguises that fact.

The stippling effect was important to do in thin layers to make sure the texture was in scale. I've turned plastic into iron. :]

I patched the open holes in the pot except the one for the wire using Squadron Products White Putty, then painted the patches black once dry.

After feeding the wire through the remaining hole, I glued in the wire bundle with Aleene's Quick Dry supplemented with super glue gel. I kept the lights on the 3V battery while working so I would know if any of the LEDs failed during the process.

I had dabbed Winsor & Newton Masking Fluid on the LEDs to protect them for the next steps. Here the fluid is still wet; it dries clear.

Working in two layers, I added some Aleene's Quick Dry glue then poured in some ice cubes from Alpha Stamps into the pot, using a toothpick to arrange and settle the pieces.

The upper layer of ice cubes is even with the bulbs.

The steady red bulb is the strongest of the three (showing as near white on the left below), but the flickering yellow (upper right) and flickering orange (lower right) bulbs add some nice depth already.

Next up, turning Malt-O-Meal into burning embers. :D

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