American OO Today

The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Saturday, January 12, 2019

The "collectors" used on the original 1937 SC 4-6-0

One thing I had never seen were pre-1939 versions of the instructions for the Scale-Craft 4-6-0. Recently I obtained most of the  original 1937 instructions, including the full page drawings for the tender.

There are a number of changes, with the most notable being the "collector" under the tender. It has two wipers on it to contact the rails. Another collector was to be placed on the locomotive. There were no wires to the wheels at all!

This close up shows the drawing of the collector and that the date in October of 1937. I have a pair of the collectors and it is tempting to put them on a model to see how well they work. The holes in the collector line up perfectly with the holes cast in the frame.

I had noted them applied to the locomotive previously (see this article), but not the tender. This photo from the 1937 S-C catalog only shows the collectors ("wipers") under the cab of the locomotive, but not on the tender as seen in the drawings. Looking at the actual collectors, I can see how there are holes in the locomotive frame to line up with the application of these collectors.

So what do they look like? Here are a pair of them. Clearly the original S-C idea was that you would have better operation on such small scale models with the sprung collectors touching the rail than just with contact from the wheels.

By 1939 though, they reevaluated that and they were gone from the design. One more thing to add to the expense and complication of building the model I suppose. And, of course, not prototypical and visually distracting.

I posted about these on the American OO Scale Railroading Facebook group and it seems very confirmed that these were standard with the early S-C sets and for the earliest production. I'd still like to see the main drawings for the locomotive that are actually 1937 drawings and not updated in 1939 or later, they would clarify things even more. With a final footnote that the directions are pretty different in 1937 as well, it is interesting to see how they modified and updated the model and the directions over the years.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Two COFC cars and a TOFC by Bill Johann

Back in the April, 1989 issue of The OO Road Bill Johann had a lengthy article on TOFC/COFC equipment in OO scale. While these cars are not specifically mentioned in the article, they were certainly part of the project that led to the article.

For example, in the article he mentions converting the Gilbert P-14D513 flat car and the Revell 4030-002 flat car to OO. Of these two cars, the UP car is Revell and the Philadelphia & Western car is Gilbert. Bill was in the very fortunate habit of marking his cars with built and modified dates on the bottom; the UP car was built in 10-71 but modified 11-86, and the P&W car was built 5-88 and modified 1-91.

On page 8 of the issue a prototype photo is presented of a UP car loaded very similarly to the present UP model, but with actual containers rather than crates. I believe the crates on the car today are commercial products, most likely resin castings, and one is as seen in the photos damaged today. I looked at this car briefly in another article, when it still had S-C trucks.

The P&W car is an interesting one on a few levels. One is that a quick search showing that the Philadelphia & Western was an interurban line, with freight service ending in 1970. Johann modified the cast metal flat with a flat deck of styrene and mountings for the container, which is I believe kitbashed from HO, two models split and put back together as a single, wider container. The small lettering on the flat car is all original Gilbert lettering, but the Philadelphia & Western lettering was likely cut from an alphabet lettering set one letter at a time. Referencing the list of OO model railroad road names (see the March, 2007 issue of The OO Road), I realize that this was the personal road of Ed Morlok, and the car was made by Johann to honor Morlok.

Both cars, when they got to me, were on Scale-Craft trucks. As I have just a few extra pair of the roller bearing trucks Johann produced in limited quantities (described further here), I put those on both cars. They roll great!

Looking at the P&W car I realized I had another car by Johann that was on the same Gilbert flatcar frame. This one is lettered with decals, and the reporting marks are for the personal road of Pierre Bourassa. Johann has dates of 1-67, 1-84, 2-84, and 2-90 on the bottom of the car, he modified it a few times.

Also note the Lallier trailer. As is mentioned in a prior article, I was told by Pierre Bourassa that he built it, although it is clearly marked from Johann working on it 10-91. It is based on a Matchbox frame but with the body built up from plastic. Pencil markings on the flat and on the trailer indicate they were meant to belong together. Lallier as near as I can tell was/is a Canadian trucking firm. 

The white flat would have been done by Johann as a model to honor Bourassa. I’ve been reluctant to build cars for the personal roads of other OO gaugers, but it is an interesting idea, and I may do a few of these.

Friday, December 21, 2018

A first look at the Shapeways OO GP20

Another model that caught my eye recently on Shapeways was this GP20, which may be seen here. I decided to buy one and see what it was like.

I suspect it was designed as an N scale model and scaled up to 1/76. It is not a high detail model, but it has the proportions of course. The material is a nylon plastic that has “a matte finish and slight grainy feel.” My other models are also this material, so I knew what to expect. What I’m hoping to do with this model and also the FA1 recently purchased (here) is work up a better surface and paint job. I’ll report later how that goes. I liked though that this model has no handrails, I will be adding those and some other details.

I had worked up fuel tanks for this model a while ago, inadvertently really, as I spliced together TYCO GP20 fuel tanks to use on my U23B model. That model has been updated now with a new frame (more at the end of this article), freeing up the tanks for this model.

The question was how to work out a drive for this model, or do I build it as a dummy? I had two power trucks that someone had put a lot of effort into building up. They have sideframes from a TYCO engine, but the rest of it is I think NWSL and small screws and brass pieces.

The next question being, how to power these trucks? It occurred to me finally that the original idea must have been to use a central gear tower to drive the trucks with sets of universals to each truck. And I finally found one (I thought I had one), seen in the last photo.

What I’ve done is mock up a frame. Plastic won’t work for the finished model, but I will cut the same frame pattern out of some heavy brass stock now that I have the shape established. There should be plenty of room inside for a motor and flywheel and weights.

It will still be a low detail model, but one I look forward to running with my 1970s/80s era equipment. And I like that it won’t be too hard to finish, you need some of those to keep things going forward.

UPDATE: And a size comparison with the Tyco HO version.

The Shapeways model is bigger in every dimension. The only part of the Tyco version that are OO scale size are the truck sideframes.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A brief look at a drover’s caboose (or two)

In the previous post (here) I mentioned that the huge “streamlined caboose” of Myron Davis could have been a modern take on a drover’s caboose. Actual drover’s caboose models have been scratchbuilt in American OO a few times, one being visible in the layout photos of the Norfolk and Ohio of Carl Appel (it may be seen here). 

This model is not that same model built by Appel (the roof shapes are different, for example), but it is the same general prototype and I will be working it over for my Orient railway.

Almost certainly Appel and the builder of this model were working from the drawings published in Model Railroader and reprinted in The Model Railroader Cyclopedia. There we learn that the prototype car is from the San Luis Central. They call it with the drawing a “Combination Passenger, Caboose, and Baggage Car.”

There are a few little changes compared to the drawing, most notably the number of windows in the baggage door.

The car has a Nason frame and in the photos is on Famoco trucks, which I will be changing out (likely to Nason trucks). The one other interesting, and somewhat hidden, commercial part are the steps, which are Scale-Craft from the steel side passenger car kits.

This car, nicely built overall, has one central detailing problem. My dad told me that his dad rode in one of these on the ATSF to take cattle to market, so let’s imagine you are a drover riding in this car, on a cold day. Where is the stove? It is in the baggage compartment! I’m thinking that the stack should be moved and also the roofwalks need some revision as well.

I had a memory of seeing another OO drover’s caboose, and found the photo in some materials that Bill Gilbert had clipped from magazines. With a little more digging I see that it is from the June, 1947 issue of Model Railroader and is a model built by H. R. Treat of Teaneck, NJ. In the caption it says that he “likes unique and unusual equipment” and that he built the model from the Cyclopedia plans for his Barbaraton & Theapolis RR.

Any more examples out there? It is interesting how much impact the Cyclopedia had, I have seen a number of models (scratchbuilt and commercial) of various prototypes that are clearly based on those published plans.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Streamlined Caboose?

One cannot say that Myron P. Davis was not a man of vision. Seemingly single handedly he produced a line of locomotives and other unusual and mostly large OO models in the 1950s. An overview of his products may be found here. 

Then we get to the streamlined caboose, seen here as it looks today. At least that is what we’ve been calling it for years; what Davis called it is not clear to me, it is not in the 1954 pricelist that I’ve seen. This model has much of the feel of being the product of a dream, and this specific example, once part of the George Miller collection, was I believe built by Myron P. Davis himself. I think his idea was to make a hybrid car that is like a very short streamline passenger car, but is actually a caboose or maybe an inspection car (or even a very deluxe drover’s caboose). The bronze cupola casting is styled like the dome on a dome passenger car, but about half as long. The body itself has very nearly the same profile as a Zuhr streamliner. It is a large model, close to twice as large as a Lionel or Scale-Craft caboose.

In a prior article (here) I relayed that I have the essential parts (cupola, steps, body, ends) for three more of these cars, apparently the ones that he did not sell, along with a steel tool used to bend the body, and more. Based on the foundry receipt received with the parts, 18 of these models were produced in 1955. How many other parts or models are out there today, I have no idea. This is a very rare model.

The car itself is soldered together and all brass and bronze. Based on the size of the parts almost certainly he used a torch, and this was not an easy car to get to where it is now. I don’t know if he used several grades of solder, but that would be a good idea, working from harder to softer solder as the model is completed. The idea is to use the higher temperature solder on the first parts put on and lower temperature solder on the later joints, so that the initial connections won’t fall apart. The only screws are the ones holding the trucks on. I think it would have been a good idea to make it so the model comes apart somehow, at least the floor separate from the body.

He also must have had a press with steel tools to stamp out the body, or have had a metal shop punch out the parts. I puzzle about that body, I’m not sure how he was thinking the interior would work. Looking at prototype dome cars, maybe it is possible to have seats and windows directly below the dome, there is more room inside than would be found in a standard caboose.

And then we get to the steps … neat in a way, artistic even, but would you actually want to use them to enter anything? Are they safe? But they are a very essential part of the look of the car, and with the parts I have the actual master patterns, cut from hardwood, and a set of four extra of these bronze step castings.

Some details are a bit rough in his work, the dome being slightly tipped to one end. It rides on Nason passenger car trucks and has never had couplers. I have with the car drawings (“instructions”) from Davis that clarify his plans for the model as to how the parts go together.

Looking at the completed car I’m feeling more inspired to try my hand at building one. By far the most difficult task will be cleaning up the dome/cupola, opening up the windows. I’ve done a lot of torch soldering though, so that part of it I’m kind of looking forward to. It would make an interesting winter project.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A closer look at the Super-Scale NW-2

In 1949 two Diesel switcher models were introduced to the American OO market by Super-Scale, a SW-1 and an NW-2. This prior article looks generally at their production.  

Recently I was excited to obtain one of the NW-2 models. I had been looking for one for many years, these do not come up for sale often at all.

They are made from what the maker called copper but actually they are a combination of a copper material and brass. The frame is a brass stamping, and the ends of the frame and truck sideframes look like lost wax brass castings. The steps and the fuel and air tanks are soft metal. The roof of the cab is brass, as are the brass turnings that are the stacks, horns, and lights.

The really interesting part of the model is the cab and hood. They are separate pieces and were each etched each in one piece, and then were formed to shape. The original instructions indicate this would be done by the modeler, but I suspect as produced this difficult work was done for you by Super-Scale. The hood for example starts out as one large flat piece with the sides and front bent down and soldered into place.

I have a Garrett (Garco) Baldwin switcher (more here) and the two models both have versions of Baker drives (more here) on them. The sideframes are the same on both models. I’m thinking it is actually a HO drive, but passable in OO as the sideframes are somewhat clunky and overscale for HO.

While looking at the bottom, note also that the actual frame that the model runs on is cut from Masonite or some similar material.

Finally there is a great comparison to make between this model and the SW-7 models that have been produced recently on Shapeways (more here). Size wise they match really well. On the other hand, each model has some clunky details, but different clunky details which is interesting as well.

I’m hoping to have this running at some point in the not too distant future. Will see how it goes when I get into the drive, but I think this model can be worked over into a nice one. For a little inspiration what can be done, see this model. 


Friday, November 23, 2018

Putting a drive in a Hallmark Lionel OO F3

I have four of these Hallmark Lionel F3 models (more on this model here), a static display model produced in 1999 that is 60% of the size of the classic Lionel O gauge model. Other than being slightly short it is almost exactly 1/76 in size.

Seen here now with a drive, one of my models a prior owner had started converting to have a working drive, so whatever collector value it might have had was already somewhat reduced. I’m not sure what drive they were thinking to use, and they stopped work on the model after a few initial cuts to the front truck.

At a recent train show I purchased several junker Athearn Diesels to use for drive parts and with the GP35 scored, because I realized that the frame could be used to power this F3 with only modification of the gauge. That process is outlined in this article. The trucks are a bit small visually but then again you hardly notice them in reality as they are black, your eye is drawn elsewhere.

The following photos outline the process of the conversion.

The first step, after getting the drive set up, is to disassemble the Hallmark model and cut the plastic frame to fit the drive. The model will sit on top of the Athearn drive. Mark things carefully, you don’t want to cut more material out than you have to. The original fuel tank will be completely removed, the one cast into the Athearn drive will be the one visible on the finished model. About half the cuts were done with the saw but the rest were with the cutting wheel in a rotary tool. Work slowly!

This shows the drive after the cuts. There is one other notable modification to the plastic frame of the F-3, I carefully drilled holes from the inside to match the mounting lugs cast into the sides of the Athearn frame, and those hold the frame on the model. Also, up inside the metal F3 shell, you have to remove the cast on fins that would hit the motor. They broke off easily with locking pliers.

Finally things are almost done. The plastic frame is held onto the metal body with screws in the original mounting holes. The rear coupler has a Kadee coupler mounted at the correct height and the front coupler mount is used to hold the pilot of the F3. This part has to be carefully cut off the front truck of the Hallmark model and I used the coupler hole to mount it on the Athearn frame. It sticks out a little too far and I'm pondering fixing the issue. It would involve developing a different way of mounting the pilot, fixing it to the locomotive. Doing so would also involve eliminating the gap inherited from this being a miniature version of a toy train locomotive.

Also notable in the last photo of the frame, I glued the steps on below the frame. The ones over the trucks have to be removed from the original trucks and slightly modified to clear the drive.

This is not an easy conversion, but it is straightforward, the hardest single step being to be cut the frame out carefully. If I personally do another conversion or not I don't know, but it is a good looking and running unit.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A closer look at a 1934 PRR model by Howard Winther

Regular readers will know there is a series of articles in this website on early models by OO pioneer Howard Winther. A group of these models are now in the collection at the TCA museum, more here. I also wrote an article on these early models that was published in the TCA Quarterly, more here.

Recently I spotted on eBay, hidden in a lot containing OO freight cars of no great value, this model. Howard Winther made three of these Pennsylvania R50-b express refrigerator cars in 1934, and I wrote about two of them that the sons of Howard Winther had sent me photos of here. To review, the November, 1934 issue of The Model Railroader in their regular column “Along the Division” reports that “The Hasbrouck shops of the OO gauge Penn-Erie System have recently completed three all-metal Pennsylvania R50-b express refrigerator cars. All work, excepting the wheels, was done in the company shops.”

In the prior article I had photos of cars number 2731 and 2732, which so far as I know are presently in the TCA museum collection. The car I purchased and is seen here is car number 2730. How this car came to be sold by a dealer on eBay I don’t know. It is possible it was separated years ago from the other Winther models.

An article from 1934 reports other of his freight cars were built up from tinplate with brass strips, and this model is all metal for sure. How he achieved the shape required for the roof of the car is a good question. It was not easy, I think, I would guess he at least made a wood form to use to help shape the curve. The doors are made from small bits of brass, the body is all soldered together.

The trucks are a wonder to look at closely. The side frames are die cast. The time required just to make the trucks boggles my mind, as he would have created the dies to cast the sideframes, I’m thinking cut from metal. They are cast in something similar to linotype, and use a brass bolster and clip to hold them together. The wheels were commercial and are insulated for two rail operation. The flanges are similar to current NMRA standards. But the gauge is somewhat under. Even with that, the wheel treads are wider than standards and the car operates fine on my layout.

The underside is plain and roof are plain, and there is no brake detail. The bottom of the car is not painted, the silver you see is the tinplate material the car is built from. The couplers are his personal style, which in spite of the age will couple automatically with Kadee couplers. That was not his goal, of course, back in 1934, but it is a testament to his craftsmanship and his design. When it got to me both couplers were bent; one I simply bent to get back into shape matching the photos I had, and the other required more extensive rebuilding including soldering the knuckle back together.

To close the lettering also deserves mention. It is all done by hand and very neatly. Decals? Not an option for him in 1934.

I don’t run PRR models normally, but I do recognize the value of this model, documented to be by a leading early advocate of American OO. I’m glad I spotted it, and I’m happy to own it for now.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

A scratch built modern OO tank car

I finally got to my final tank car project from the summer, fixing a few issues with this modern tank car built mostly from brass by Bill Johann.

From the side you can tell it is not a HO conversion, this is a large model of a prototype nearly 60’ long. Where it was worse for the wear over the years was the railing around the dome. I got it nearly back to the original configuration; when it came to me it was pretty much flattened out.

The other thing I did was very lightly fill in just a few chips. I was going to try to do this on the Trout built tank cars in the recent post, but I think the cure will look worse than the problem so I will leave those alone. In this case though, eliminating a few splotches of raw brass was the right call.

From the bottom you can see Johann worked over this model several times. I think one of the most interesting details are the trucks. He modified Lionel trucks to be roller bearing trucks with rotating axle ends. Half of the caps are missing at this point. The wheels are I believe Athearn Diesel wheels set up like S-C wheels. Oh, and he also built up a new, insulated bolster from plastic and metal. It was no small task to accomplish, and the resulting trucks roll quite well for his effort.

With that I’m done with tank cars for a while except for having some lined up to decal. Good projects for the fall.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Five more freight cars by James Trout

There are some interesting things to note with these stock cars, tank cars, and the flat car by artist James Trout. (More on his background here).

First up are these two stock cars. I take the one in the front to be one of his earliest attempts at scratchbuilding in OO, and the one in the rear a relatively late project. WCS 26003 is built up from wood and completely hand lettered, and note that the really small lettering is representational only, merely small marks. WCS 26907 on the other hand is basically a nicely built Scale-Craft kit but with upgraded ladders, a modern roof walk, and it is nicely weathered as well. But note the lettering is all done with decals.

The bottom view reveals the truck and brake details. The early model has Nason trucks with a Nason brake cylinder – but noting also the trucks have modified Lionel wheelsets with the flanges turned down. The S-C model has some upgrades, but is by no means super detailed. On all of these photos click for a closer look.

Next up we have these tank cars. The car in the front is built from a Scale-Craft kit and the UP car in the rear is Lionel. Both have interesting modifications that are not all visible in the photos. One of the most interesting is he used brass strips on the S-C car and brass wire on the Lionel car to duplicate the tie-downs that would be on the prototype holding the tank to the frame. Both cars are lettered with decals, but his hand lettering makes an appearance, fixing a decal issue on the SDRX car and painting the hazard sign on the UP car.

The bottom view also reveals the added brake details. This is a great addition to these cars as they are so visible. The Kadee couplers being added much more recently to these models likely built in the 1940s or 50s. Another thing to note, these cars are not black. Being an artist, he knew that a very deep gray looks more realistic. The cars are each slightly different in color. Finally, there is more of the small "marks" lettering on the frame of the S-C car, representing very small lettering.

Finally, we have this flat car, WCS 27425. It is longer than the comparable S-C model at 52', and is a light model, wood with added details. The lettering is a mix of decals and hand lettering, the large lettering being done by his steady hand. The only commercial parts are the Schorr trucks, couplers, and brake wheel.

Based on how the trucks are applied I’m thinking it was built originally with a different brand of truck, maybe Nason. There are no brake details but I love the look of the frame and floor from below.

All I have done to this point on these cars is gentle cleaning with Q-tips and water. I’m going to work on matching the tank car colors, and if I can come up with near perfect matches I hope to fill in the chips on those cars as well, those are nice cars that deserve to see service on the layout.

UPDATE: But it is not easy to match the color and sheen. Who knows what type of paint was used and it was likely custom mixed. So for now the cars are just cleaned up and stored safely.