American OO Today

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

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Modern GE Diesel in American OO

One recent arrival was this model, a CSX GE Dash 8-40C, scratch built by Pierre Bourassa. For American OO this model is a real rarity as it is a model of a very modern engine!

The prototypes of this model were built 1987-92. Pierre was Canadian but I think got inspired to build this big, contemporary CSX model as he wintered in that time frame in Florida. The note on the bottom of the model dates completion of the model to April of 1991; he would have been 74 then.

The simple overview is he built it from sheet plastic, some metal shapes, and used Athearn HO drive components. He captured the look of the prototype pretty effectively and I would say the one element that these photos does not convey is the size of the model. It is full scale for American OO, it is not a big HO model "passing" for OO in any way.

When it came to me (via eBay) there were two pieces missing off the body (on the side visible in these photos), one of the doors and also the visor for the cab window. I replicated those and repainted them a closely matching color -- but glossy -- hoping that they pass for freshly repaired areas (which they are). Also the truck sideframes needed a bit of attention, being pieced together as they are from smaller HO sideframes. The bigger problems were under the hood.

In short I don't think it had ever run well. Pierre was thinking big on one element, as he used I think PA-1 trucks (with a longer wheelbase than their other 6 wheel Diesels) and certainly added larger wheelsets, which help the look of the model a lot. And it did run, but it seemed to be shorting intermittently it ran badly. I think Pierre or the subsequent owner had tried to trouble shoot this issue without luck, as there was electrical tape several places but places that would not help the situation.

It runs now! He had only set it up to pick up power from 6 wheels. I added the jumpers to bring that number up to 12 wheel pick up and also cleaned and checked the trucks and wiring. It is not quite 100%, something still causes an occasional hitch and it runs around my loop better in one direction. I will keep working on this element. I believe it is mechanical, related to my curve radius being right at the minimum this model will take; hoping with more breaking in this clears up.

The look under the hood in this final photo shows the overall setup. It has a can motor and flywheels. Pierre had added a lot of weight to the model and it was off center, the model was rear heavy. Plus the weights were cramping the wiring. I took out part of the weight, leaving more space and a more balanced model. It is still plenty heavy to pull anything I have put behind it.

A note on the paint scheme. It seems Pierre was trying to do a version of the original CSX "grey ghost" paint scheme, but changed things up a bit with the blue frame and the yellow stripe. I am not sure it is prototypical, but the engine still looks pretty effective and will always be a one-of foreign road engine when I run it.

The car seen with it in the photos is a Railbox car built by Bill Johann (more here). I am enjoying this modern engine pulling modern cars! I have two modern SD-something models underway, and seeing this engine run should propel me getting those finished in the coming months.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A 1934 Reefer by Temple Nieter

Last year I was given a number of RMC “Collector Consist” articles by Keith Wills related to American OO, highlighted in this article.

In particular I was taken by this photo of a 1934 model by OO pioneer H. Temple Nieter, who was the person most responsible for encouraging me as I started out in American OO. I have long wanted to own one of his models, and there must be a few floating around out there, but unless it was actually lettered for his Lake Lines I would have no way to know it was his. This nice 36’ reefer looked pretty sharp on those Lionel trucks and with his custom, handmade couplers visible. The photo shows that the brake wheel was pushed down out of place, though, and it probably needed a bit of TLC.

Fast forward to about a month ago, and this model showed up in a lot on eBay, which I was able to spot and win. Between the Keith Wills article and today the car has picked up a pair of non-rolling Scale-Craft trucks. Also one of the couplers has lost part of the mount, probably in transit at some point.

The notes on the car, visible in the final photo, document what it is. The typed note from Temple says it was built in 1934, and he subsequently gave it to Pierre Bourassa who added his note in October of 1985. From there it made its way to a collection in Pittsburgh and now to me.

As to the car itself, I don’t doubt that Nieter built it in 1934, but it was certainly rebuilt at some later time, most likely in the 1940s. The decals are nicely applied but are almost certainly Walthers products (HO) and the car number used is the same as in the drawings in the Walthers “PLD1” book (521 Prototype Lettering Diagrams, first published in 1942 and reprinted numerous times).

The hatches look like Nason hatches and there are nice door details on the car, but the most notable detail are the couplers. They are made from sheet brass and spring steel wire, and would have coupled automatically and uncoupled with a ramp system of some sort. They also have centering springs and are a very interesting piece of craftsmanship that will mate automatically with a Kadee coupler today.

I won’t be changing the couplers but this car will soon be on a set of trucks that roll! And I will adjust the brake wheel and fix the coupler mount. Very glad to have this car, an authenticated piece from one of the pioneers of model railroading in American OO.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Two Printings of the 1937 Nason Catalog

One item not noted in the 1937 series was the two printings/editions of the 1937 Nason Catalog. I had a scan of the cover of the second printing, so I did know there was more than one version, but no full copy of either to reference. However, copies of both versions recently arrived and they are well worth a brief look.

Both versions are clearly marked on the cover as to being the “1st Edition” or the “Second Printing.” That the 1st Edition was printed as so would indicate that they knew the line would be expanding that year and more than one version would be needed. Both of my copies are photocopies, but it is noted on them that the 1st edition has a tan cover and the second printing a yellow cover, with the 1st edition running 12 pages and the second printing running 16 pages.

In both the Foreword is the same:
On entering our fourth year of development and manufacturing of 00 gauge scale model equipment we offer one of the finest and largest assortments of kits and parts for accurate reproduction of railway models ever available in 00 gauge. During the past three years we have been able to make many additions to our line and it is our desire to constantly offer to you new and better equipment at prices within the reach of every model builder. To aid us in carrying out this objective we welcome constructive criticism and suggestions.
If in the construction of any model or in the layout of your system you are confronted with a problem, we sincerely hope that you will at all times feel free to call on us for any assistance which we may be able to offer.
We are prepared to estimate on Exhibits, Displays or any models, parts or material not included herein.
Moving on, first up in the catalog the NYC Hudson locomotive. Kit prices are the same between the two versions ($27 for a complete kit) but the photos are of different models. In the 1st edition it is of a model decorated for the NYC, and in the second printing it is this model decorated for the “Beaver River” railroad. They liked that photo so much it was run on pages 2 and 4 of the second printing. This scan is from the 1940 catalog for clarity.

The next item in the catalog is their venerable P-5A locomotive and then the Easy-Built passenger cars. In the second printing they include a nice photo on page 9 of the PRR coach, not found in the 1st edition. Both versions have the full list of passenger equipment you would expect to see, including all the Easy-Built kits and the cast aluminum cars. (See the Nason 101 article for an overview of the line).

Next up then are the Easy-Built freight cars. The listings are the same for the box cars and reefers but only the second printing includes the flat car, which was a new model that year, illustrated with this photo which I have again scanned from the 1940 catalog.

Concluding the catalog was a listing of track materials including rail, third rail, track gauges, etc. In short, they offered anything you would need to make an American OO gauge layout other than a caboose, which they would not offer until 1939.

Finally, I would note that in the 1937 series article the big news late in the year was the new Nason 2-8-0 model, which was not listed in either version of the 1937 catalog. The line was rapidly growing, it was quite a year for what was then the leading American OO gauge manufacturer.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Reefer with Vintage HO-OO Decals

One recent project was completing this 36' reefer. It came to me about 50% done.

The body is Picard with their scribed sides, but modified a bit to take die cast reefer doors of uncertain manufacture (maybe Selley). It also had a modified Graceline frame mounted and was assembled. I added all the roof and end details, including using modified Famoco/Eastern ladders and hatches. It is riding on Schorr trucks and has Kadee whisker couplers; I plan to run this when I run 1930s era equipment on the layout.

For every car there is always the question of painting and lettering. For lettering I opted to use this vintage set of Champion HO/OO decals, as made clear by the package. I think these are all actually HO decals but Champ felt there was enough OO market going in the post-war era to sell for a good while their decals packaged as HO/OO decals.

It could use a few more small details and touches. But as I have mentioned elsewhere in this site, it is always interesting to me to see vintage cars such as this come to life. In this case the model was not even completed by the original builder but now it certainly has a sharp look.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Recent Projects: Reefers by Graceline and S-C/Champion

I try to keep some projects moving through the workbench, and these two rebuilding projects are among those completed recently.

The Scale-Craft reefer is a car that came to me mostly built up. It is a late version of their reefer and on these models often the sides are scribed very lightly (poorly!). This was a car that I think the original builder decided was not worth painting due to that issue. I opted to remove the hardware from the sides and complete the body, paint it, and then apply a set of vintage Champion sides. I will be doing more of these in coming years, it is a great “fix” for these late S-C cars. More on Champion sides here; note that my list of their car sides has been updated considerably.

The other reefer is a combination of a Graceline body that came to me stripped to just wood and a frame, fresh late Graceline or Transportation Models sides/roof, and Famoco cast ends and hatches – riding on Schorr trucks. More on Graceline here. I puzzled a great deal how to letter it and opted for this 1960s scheme using HO decals. It will be run when I run models of that era, which has been an enjoyable change of pace.

Both are sharp cars. It is always exciting to see these models looking this pristine, just as they might have in the 40s when both of these models were originally on the workbench of a model railroader.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

And Then There’s Vanden Boom. Part II: Other Freight Cars

Vanden Boom offered much more than the line of OO gauge reefers described in Part I. They listed the Lionel OO line in their catalog too and also several other unique cars of their own  manufacture.

First up is the 00C1 Standard caboose in wood. This first illustration is of an advertisement for this car. Note that no scale is listed in this ad from the September, 1940 issue of Model Railroader. It would seem their thinking was that people would write asking if it was available in their favorite scale and the answer would be “Yes!” as they sold it in HO, OO, and O gauges. But reading the ad I am inclined to think most would think it to be an O gauge kit, and that is clearly a prototype photo, not a model in any scale.

It is of a very distinctive model and if any example exists in OO today it should be really easy to spot with that metal “cupalo.” It is based on a Union Pacific design. Their catalog notes that they specialize in Union Pacific, Santa Fe, and “Western Railroads,” which was a good niche market to serve with many lines of models being very eastern road centered.

This second illustration is from the instructions to this kit. All I have is this page and also a photocopy of the box lid. The box is marked as the OO kit and the instructions say it is a drawing full size for OO. However, the Vanden Boom logo in the instruction page has an “O” in the middle. In the 1940 catalog the middle of the logo reads O, OO, or HO depending on the section of the catalog it was used in.

The logo seen here for comparison is from the OO section of the catalog. It is possible they provided an OO drawing with the O gauge caboose, but also very possible they simply dropped the wrong logo into the drawing.

Finally, this is the caboose as listed in the catalog. The photo is clearly of a model but I am inclined to think perhaps the O gauge version, judging from the trucks.

If that were not enough, there were even more cars! Next up alphabetically is the 00F1 40’ outside braced box car, which was illustrated as below in the catalog.

As with the caboose, I have to wonder is that really the OO model? They also sold the Lionel OO box car and the photo used is clearly a prototype photo. Plus, this model was also offered in O and HO gauges. For the caboose and box car I am not sure the photos are of OO models, but for the wreck train below I think they probably are the OO models as different illustrations are used for the O and HO versions.

Finally we get to the last really interesting group of models, the “W” cars. They are all part of a wreck train; most are actually illustrated in the catalog. The list is:

00W1 Open end passenger car
00W2 Combination baggage and coach
00W3 Blacksmith car
00W4 Crane (non-working)
00W5 Tool car
00W6 Flat car

This first photo shows the caboose again and the coach, and the final photo shows the blacksmith car, crane, and tool car. The blacksmith and tool cars in particular look to be on Nason trucks. No other OO maker sold these models and if any exist today they would certainly stand out from the crowd!

For those finding this article looking for info on their O gauge models, there is an article on Vanden Boom by Keith Wills in the May, 2000 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman that goes into more detail, but all of these OO models were also listed in O and HO gauges and their most extensive listings are of O gauge models. The 1940 catalog is over 50 pages long and well worth searching out for more information.

Advertising for that catalog ran sporadically in Model Railroader into early 1942 at least, and I also found via Google some classified ads they ran, including one on this page of the March, 1944 issue of Model Builder.  It simply reads, "MINI-TRAIN CATALOG--Send 25c in coin or stamps, VANDEN BOOM'S, 3823 Broadway, Kansas City, Mo."

They were located at Broadway at 38th St. in Kansas City, MO. Google street view shows no building resembling the one in their catalog at that location today.

I don’t know if I will ever track down any Vanden Boom OO. It must be very rare, and the line was certainly not well advertised or known back in the day. Perhaps some collectors have some though--if you have more info to offer on the line I would love to hear from you.

Return to Part I

Saturday, November 8, 2014

And Then There’s Vanden Boom. Part I: Reefers

Regular readers might assume that this website has by now covered it all in American OO! But actually, Vanden Boom is a perfect example of the more you study a subject the more you discover there is to learn.

Looking at a list of car sides I recently received that had been put together by a deceased OO gauger I saw references to a very large line of printed car sides by Vanden Boom, a pre-war hobby shop in Kansas City. The name rang a bell in a way as I had seen their advertisements such as this one from MR, 11/40 -- and it is just a memorable name -- but they basically never mentioned OO gauge in their advertising which puzzled me a great deal. And then, digging in my files I discovered that I actually had instructions for their caboose kit as well!

This all led to my buying a copy of their 1940 catalog, which is the source of the great illustration below. Click on the photo for a better view. They offered a large line of reefer cars with printed sides in O, OO, and HO, something that so far as I can tell their print advertising never indicated! Their Model Railroader advertising typically only indicated they had a catalog and, in late 1940 various specific models with no gauge indicated. But I should note that OO does come up in their advertising for one specific product -- a series of ads beginning in the May, 1939 issue of MR features their new HO and OO tie strip.

The actual car numbers listed below are as printed in the illustration. The Private Reefers number -- PR-1, etc. -- is as in the illustration in the catalog, but when they list the specific OO versions of these models later in the catalog the numbers are 00R1, etc.

PR-1 Union Refrigerator/IGA 16803
PR-2 Union Refrigerator/Carnation 23090
PR-3 Union Refrigerator/Pabst-ett 23249
PR-4 Union Refrigerator/Heileman’s 19511
PR-5 Union Refrigerator/Prima Beer 19524
PR-6 Union Refrigerator/A&P 23027
PR-7 HBCX 101 Hills Bros.
PR-8 Union Refregerator/Phenix Cheese 23237
PR-9 URTC 23333 Pabst
PR-10 Union Refrigerator/Carnation 23099
PR-11 URTC 40679 Best Foods
PR-12 NADX 6000 Pacific Egg Producers
PR-13 NADX 1828 Page Milk
PR-14 NADX 2688 Pluto Water
PR-15 NADX 6337 Land O’ Lakes
PR-16 URTC 93185 Miller High Life
PR-17 URT 66000 Hormel
PR-18 NPKX 100 Pikes Peak Pure Lard
PR-19 DMRL 2532 Decker Meat
PR-20 NADX 3116 White House Brand Poultry
PR-21 NADX 6268 Baby Ruth
PR-22 Northern/Bananas 7100
PR-23 Cudhay 7471; one side Old Dutch Cleanser and the other Puritan
PR-24 CIPX 101 College Inn
PR-25 ART 419 Crazy Crystals
PR-26 URTC 10802 Jelke’s
PR-27 WWDX 1043 Wescott & Winks
PR-28 WCL 7554 Wilson’s
PR-29 KOHX 1005 Kohrs
PR-30 MFAX 105 Producers Creamery
PR-31 URTC 93132 Schlitz

31 different sides! There is also a line of Standard Reefers, those being listed only with their OO item numbers below. These models were “not lettered, but sides painted, decals furnished.” The illustration below is from the catalog and shows a Private Reefer and a Standard Reefer, presumably the actual OO models they sold as they look as if they could be on Nason trucks. But ... the Blatz car is not a model listed for sale! So yet another layer of mystery there, or maybe it is the 0037 car, with decals?

0032 SFRD
0033 CB&Q
0034 MILW
0035 SOO
0036 NP
0037 URTC
0038 NWX
0039 BOWX
0040 NRC
0041 RI
0042 FGEX
0043 PFE
0044 Erie
0045 MDTSP
0046 MDTWP
0047 M&StL
0048 ART

A total of 48 different reefers are listed; building all those could keep you busy for years. I also mentioned a caboose kit earlier, and the line was even large than that! For more read on to Part II.

Continue reading Part II.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

American OO for 1958-59: Part IV, A Super Railroad

The Norfolk & Ohio is considered to be one of the great model railroads of any scale seen in print in the 1950s. I have an overall look at articles on this layout here, with the second feature article on the layout being published in the November, 1958 issue of Model Railroader. That article was reprinted nearly in full in the 1980 Kalmbach publication Classic Articles from Model Railroader, but only nearly in full and the elements not reprinted are worth an additional look.

First up is the cover photo and banner. This was a super railroad in so many ways, obvious seeing that scratchbuilt N&W Y-6b 2-8-8-2 articulated. Flipping inside to the index page you would find this description.

A VISIT to the basement of Carl Appel’s home in Allentown, Pa., is an enlightening experience. MR first took you there to see his OO gauge Norfolk & Ohio back in August, 1948. Since then Carl has expanded his rolling stock roster, built new locomotives and made additions to the layout itself, and thought that – this month – the time was ripe for another visit to the N&O. So on pp. 28-35, we show you – with improved photographic techniques, too – how his railroad looks today. It is, without question, one of the most inspiring pikes in the country.

There are also two more photos of the layout and models that were not reprinted in the Classic Articles book. One is a close up of his scratchbuilt model of a N&W Class J 4-8-4, and the other this overall view of his engine terminal. The caption reads:

The engine terminal at Island Yard is geared to service the N&O’s big, modern power. In the background are an eight-stall roundhouse, power plant and water tank with treatment plant. Up front are the coaling station, sand house and tower, and ash pit with crane for ash removal.

Note also that what makes the scene so realistic is the big yard is not stuffed full of cars like would be seen on the typical layout of the time. He clearly had enough cars to stuff it full, but also had an eye toward creating a realistic scene of modern railroading of his time.

One thing that always puzzled me about the article itself was that there was no reference made to Schorr models but you can see in photos in the article that Appel owned at least a string of Schorr RDCs and maybe a couple gondolas. The answer to that was a very unusual (for MR) formal “correction” that ran in the next issue. In December, inside a red text box, they note that they had “overlooked an important source of OO gauge supplies.” Fred E. Schorr “has 50 and 70 ton hopper cars, covered hoppers, Alco diesels, cabooses and RDC’s.” I hope that correction drove a few new sales to Schorr. This really was not such a bad timeframe to be an OO gauger for the OOldtimers who had stuck it out.

With that, this series of articles would be turning to the 1960s. I will take a bit of a break before posting and plan to take a bit different tactic as to the series of articles in general going forward.

The main thing to note to readers is that the vast majority of the products ever commercially produced for the American OO market had been introduced by 1960. The major items that come to mind are the Ultimate F-3 reissue and Ultimate wheelsets, the latter of which was a particularly great product, one needed by those OOldtimers still in the gauge.

As it will be a little while before I post again in the history series to close I want to thank readers for following along. It has been a wild ride! I have some loose ends to figure out still on OO history, be watching for updates (major ones always being posted to the Facebook page--become a Fan!) as those are worked over.

Return to beginning of 1958-59 Series

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Scale-Craft Switches and Related Items

While not a major manufacturer of track products, Scale-Craft did sell besides an early type of sectional track a line of switches and other products.

Turning first to their switches, in working on the history series I was interested to note that an article in the January, 1952 issue of RMC mentions the original S-C OO switch specifically.  They note it for the insulated frog, and it seems that this may have been the first turnout manufactured of this type so widely seen today.

This particular example seems to be complete and has drawings dated to 1938. The box is marked K-2217-L, with K-1383 (the right had version) also covered in the instructions which are dated to April of 1941.  Note the insulated frogs (this has parts enough to do a crossover) and also that the guard rails and points are steel stampings. A photo of the product as seen in 1938 in their “Blow-Smoke” newsletter may be seen here.

You can’t have a switch without a switch stand! This example is the O gauge (OT-122) version of the S-C product, unfortunately for us, but note that the instructions are for the O or OO gauge version so the OO version must look exactly the same, just scaled down. The example is complete with drawings dated in 1946.

Finally, remote control of switches was always something to be desired. Scale-Craft produced this switch motor. From the item number it is an O gauge item (OX-103, formerly K-2231) but could certainly have been adapted to OO if a buyer wished. The drawings are dated 1940 with revisions in 1945, so this was a product that was marketed for a while.

None of these are items I have any plans to use today but it is nice to have them as part of the Scale-Craft collection.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Problematic Drive Trucks

While I try to keep the thrust of my comments positive on vintage American OO products, any collector knows that they were products of their time and were not all well made. Those problems did discourage some people along the way to be sure and could discourage modern American OO gauge fans as well. A pre-war and a post-war drive will serve to illustrate.

First up is this pre-war Scale-Craft gas-electric drive truck. I have a gas-electric that is nearly through the shop (a rebuilding project) and it has the mounting there for this drive truck. It is missing the big gears and the upper drive shaft but is otherwise complete (someone before me took the gears off, but I found gears that would work).

Puzzling over it all though, in the end I have realized the way the shaft comes out the end of the drive truck it is not designed well to take curves. On the original you are to use a spring shaft or a big universal to connect the drive directly to the big, standard S-C Universal AC/DC motor. After the war they replaced this design with a drive truck that has a permag motor mounted directly on the drive truck. This is a much better design. Photos of both drives (click on them for a larger view) may be found at the end of this article.

In terms of the model I have, I now plan to install an Athearn based drive such as I have used on other gas-electric models, such as this one. I believe the model would at best run badly with the original drive truck.

The post-war example, in terms of problematic design, are these Schorr drive trucks. These are the original drive trucks for their great RS-2 model, a Japanese import and one of the last models introduced to the American OO market. The body looks great (see an example here), but the drive trucks are problematic.

These examples have both been modified somewhat I think by people who were trying to make them work. One in particular the gear tower has been removed and the truck modified for a belt drive. Combing parts of these two trucks I could certainly get one back the way it was shipped out, but even then the geometry is problematic. You would need to have very wide curves and use good universals to connect the motor to the truck and then the truck to the other drive truck under the floor.

Looking deeper, the mounting to the body is also problematic. No wonder people seem to have often put in different drives or built their Schorr RS-2 models as dummy models.

For vintage OO diesels the Kemtron-Lindsay drive and the Baker drive for OO are both better made; I have seen both fitted to these Schorr models. So modelers worked out the problems and got trains rolling, much as I recently worked out an Athearn-based drive for my powered RS-2, a model I am really enjoying on the layout.

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John Ericson firmly believes everyone needs a hobby. TCA 01-52672