American OO Today

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Lionel OO Freight Cars. Part III: Hopper Cars

Moving ahead numerically, the next model in this survey of the line of Lionel OO gauge freight cars is the hopper. It is of an offset side design very similar to what Scale-Craft had introduced a year earlier but different in many details and the Lionel model is clearly marked as a Lionel product.

The original 1938 0016 cars were lettered in this somewhat fanciful SP paint scheme. This example is not in the best shape and is missing a hopper door, but is otherwise complete. As with the yellow (or cream) box cars, the general thinking is that the gray scheme was a reflection of the goal of producing eye catching models that would sell in train sets. It is has three rail trucks.

This model was followed in the catalog by the 0016 cars produced from 1939-42. Note it is now in a more realistic SP scheme and the car is black! It is still three rail and this is the detailed model. Actually, all the hopper cars they made are the detailed version, there was no semi-detailed version of the hopper produced.

The final example I have for this brief survey is the 0046 hopper. This model is identical to the 0016 car above except for the two-rail trucks. This particular example someone added a load to, which has certainly reduced the collector value today. These were, rather than being gifts to kids, models used on model railroads and who would not want a loaded hopper over an empty?

For even more on Lionel OO hoppers see this article in the Train99 website. This series will conclude with the final model in the line, the caboose.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Lionel OO Freight Cars. Part II: Tank Cars

Next we turn to tank cars and the first version made is this bright silver 0015 Sunoco car.

This is the 1938 version of this model, riding on three rail trucks. The 0015 model is detailed, but the only difference visible between the detailed models and the semi-detailed models below is the detailed models have the brake cylinder casting.

Next up is the 0025 Shell tank car, which is also three rail but semi-detailed and sold from 1939-42. While the Sunoco car had a car number that matched the model number in the catalog, this model is more realistically decaled as SEPX 8126. How you know it is the 0025 car (or another variation) is 0025 is rubber stamped on the frame itself.

Our final example in this brief overview is the 0075 tank car. This model is identical to the 0025 car (and was also produced 1939-42) except for it has two rail trucks and is stamped 0075. Again, it is semi-detailed. The final photo shows the stamping on both of these cars.

Worth noting as well, these cars are very similar to Scale-Craft tank cars (introduced in 1937) but various details are obviously different when you get looking and of course the Lionel cars say “built by Lionel” on the ends. For even more on Lionel OO tank cars see this article in the Train99 website. Next up in this brief series are their hoppers.

Continue reading Lionel OO Freight Cars series

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lionel OO Freight Cars. Part I: Box Cars

A topic long overdue for this website is that of Lionel OO gauge freight cars and the many variations. I don’t own all of them, of course, but have access to enough to give an overview.

The original Lionel box cars were the yellow 0014 Lionel Lines cars. Manufactured in 1938 only, these cars were certainly eye catching! But not very realistic. I don’t own an example but I have had for a number of years this curiosity, a 0044 Pennsylvania car which clearly was made by painting over one of the left over yellow 1938 bodies.

As seen in this highlight, yellow is very visible where the paint has chipped. Clearly, model railroaders did not want fanciful yellow boxcars! As always, click on any of the photos for a better view.

Lionel freight cars were sold as being either detailed or semi-detailed. Both of these 0044 cars are detailed and are two-rail models produced from 1939-42. The one above I take to be an early example and has black ladders, and this second car does not. Otherwise, they are identical.

This final example is a 0074 model, which is the two-rail semi-detailed model sold from 1939-42. The only difference is 0074 model has no brake cylinder. The semi-detailed cars were sold with semi-detailed ("modified") sets. I don’t know the actual price break between the models (these sets also lacked a hopper car, further lowering the cost), but whatever bit of difference lack of a brake cylinder made must have been worth it to Lionel in marketing train sets in those depression years.

The final photo shows the difference between the two versions. It is also worth noting that these models are very similar in overall appearance to the early sand-cast Nason OO boxcars, which could have been an inspiration to Lionel. For even more on Lionel OO boxcars see this article in the Train99 website. Next in this brief series will be the tank cars.

Continue reading Lionel OO Freight Cars series

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Amazing detail from Oscar Andresen, part 3

As noted earlier in this series (back in 2009! Starts here), Oscar Andresen was a Boston engraver and pioneer in American OO. His work was featured on the cover of the second issue of Model Railroader magazine in 1934 (more here) and he offered his early models commercially under the name Rockhaven Models, which was a name associated with his personal layout.

Recently I was able in a trade obtain three Andresen models – two nearly complete and one in parts – which has allowed an even closer look at his craftsmanship. My three are all etched zinc, two passenger cars and a stock car.

We will begin with the big Rock-Haven coach. Which brings up a first question. If you bought these sides from him, what was he thinking, how was the purchaser to letter them for a different road? Or letter them at all? This quote from the May, 1935 issue of Model Railroader gives about all the clues we have for why he did this (for more from this article, including photos, see here).

What do you say if we board a special train on the Mohawk Valley for a tour of inspection? We are sure to forget the passage of time, and so we will naturally stop at the car shops to watch the construction of many types of cars. The strangest site of all is to see the riveters at work, “Wonder of wonders.” They make no noise. The process used not only permits rivets without noise but at the same time raises all lettering above the car surface. All around the shops and other factories at Mohawk Valley there is no sign of a depression, with work going forward at full blast.

And there we are. My guess is the raised lettering gave you a guide to hand letter over them for whatever the underlying lettering was. Still though, the question would be: is this actually a car intended for his own layout? Did he originally design them for his layout but later decide to sell them to others? It is an interesting question.

This car has been partially assembled, the zinc sides have been soldered to brass strips and integrated with wood parts. Building the car to this point took someone some effort. The zinc parts have crisp details to be sure and are just thick enough to not have the feeling of being fragile to the touch. The ends are separate parts and the doors are separate but soldered to the sides.

This is seen more clearly in the set of loose sides for the Pullman. These have been soldered on the back to square brass rods, and one of the doors has come off (as has one of the rods). Again, fine detail and the lettering is raised from the surface. They came to me with a group of Nason parts and it seems a prior owner was looking to build this car up as well. The only notable, non-Nason or S-C part with the sides was a big piece of zinc to apparently use as floor stock.

The last car is a great item too, a stock car that matches the stock car seen in a 1934 article (see here), it just lacks doors.

Looking at it closer there are a number of interesting things to note. One is the entire car is zinc and brass. The roof is actually hollow, with the visible top area showing etched rivet details. The sides have square brass members applied to them, and they are of a thick zinc with again rivet details etched in. The ends as well are etched with brass members applied. The floor is solid zinc.

There are no doors and the underside is totally lacking in detail. I am somewhat on the fence about working on this car further, it is such an amazing rare/early item. It will be difficult to clean the ends for painting for example. If I go forward with it I have a pair of bent/warped S-C stock car sides and those can donate doors to this model.

Continuing that thought, how do the cars compare? The Andresen car is slightly shorter (40’ instead of 42’) and as seen in the final photo the design is different in several ways.

The other missing parts are not too hard to find/fabricate, but it is notable that the model was set up to have trucks sitting on or attached to pins protruding from the floor. I can work something out I am sure.

Also the couplers on the model are a real curiosity, as they appear to be sort of a link and pin coupler, not a commercial design. Looking at the available Andresen photos, the front coupler of the steeple cab loco seen in this article seems to be the same design! So maybe this car is actually from his layout? That would make the car even more notable.

What to letter it for is also a good question. I will go slow on this but would love to see it reach a more complete state such as Andresen would have hoped for when he produced the parts so long ago.

As to the passenger cars, I am considering assembling the Rock-Haven car a little further (but not paint it) and to use the six wheel trucks I have from Howard Winther on the model (seen in this article, at the end). Of all the cars I have this one seems the only one worthy of riding on that set of early, handmade trucks, becoming a very unique model with parts on it by two different pioneers of American OO.

Return to beginning of Amazing Detail series

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Howard Winther OO models on display at TCA museum

Regular readers of American OO Today know there are a number of articles here relating to the early (and award winning) American OO models by Howard Winther. A pioneer in the scale, his first article on his early OO gauge modelwork is found in the February, 1933 issue of The Modelmaker, back in the days before there was a dedicated model railroad magazine!

Winther really had some skills, and in particular won several awards with his OO models at the early NYSME shows, which led to them being featured a number of times in the hobby press.

It turned out that his beautiful models had been carefully packed and stored over all the years. With the generous help of both of his TCA member sons (who stumbled onto my OO history series when it was being written) I was able to produce an article for the TCA Quarterly (April, 2014), which is described here.  These models were and are a window into some of the best model railroading had to offer from the early days of the hobby; it was great to feature them and their story, focusing on photos of them in the hobby press of the 1930s and photos of the models today.

But the story has not ended there! These photos are of the models now on display at the National Toy Train Museum in Strasburg, PA. They have their own special display case!

This second photo is of the display itself and do click on it for a better view. You can see the article displayed prominently, along with one of his awards, several structures, and of course the trains that will be familiar from the articles here. For a view of many of them, pre-TCA, follow this link (the "label" Winther in this site) and scroll down past the most recent articles.

Our final photo (all photos by Anker Winther) is of the inscription with the display itself. Of course I am biased, I think these are really significant early models, but may they long be featured by the TCA! It really is a happy ending for me, and knowing that I helped get the ball rolling for this end result is a treat as well. Hopefully I will be able to visit the display at some point, and for sure any readers in driving distance I hope you have the opportunity to see them in person.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Schorr PRR A3

Very likely the rarest of the Schorr brass imports in American OO scale is their PRR A3 0-4-0 model.

The model is mentioned in this article, with a quote from Ed Schorr, son of importer Fred Schorr. Ed recalled that

He would have also imported a B&O dock side switcher and the Ma and Pa 10-wheeler but could not get enough guys interested. He did however have a handful, maybe 5, PRR A-3 class 0-4-0s made.

Reader Jeff Barker found this one recently at train show in Cincinnati and provided these photos. What a sharp model, nicely painted. The trucks are clearly the familiar Schorr arch bar trucks. As I noted in the earlier article, it must be one of the rarest of items ever commercially produced in American OO.

To the other models mentioned by Ed Schorr, those would have been just as nice but were not to be. This little 0-4-0 however, for sure one to keep your eyes peeled for, hopefully the rest of the handful that was produced is still out there somewhere.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Overview of American OO in the Quarterly

The October, 2015 issue of the Train Collectors Quarterly finds a new article that presents an overview of American OO.

Titled simply "American 00 Gauge," the text mostly can be found in this site somewhere, this article being one prime source. The inspiration though for writing this was realizing that these days the average train collector has not even heard of American OO and has only a vague notion that there is such a scale -- and even then perhaps thinks it is just some type of early HO (thinking it to be some variant on British OO?), not the unique scale that it is between HO and S scales.

The article covers briefly the history of the scale and gauge, and also looks briefly at activity today. I don't have illusions that the article will open some new flurry of activity, but hopefully a few TCA members will be inspired to look over their collections and ponder what they have.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

OO scale “Old Time” passenger cars from the CP (Cactus Patch!)

In a lot purchase not long ago I obtained two old time passenger cars. I did not give them a much thought initially -- my guess was they were simply kitbashed HO models on HO trucks widened out to OO.

I have a friend who collects HO and he gave me some leads as to possible manufacturers and they did not pan out. Still, the cars looked really familiar in a way. I finally realized that they both were models that there were O scale plans for in the Carstens publications Rolling Stock Plan Book — on the same two page spread! -- of which I had purchased a copy way back in high school.

Thinking there was maybe a series on how to build these 1863 PRR prototype models in RMC, I looked in the Model Railroad Magazine Index that is maintained in the Model Railroader website. There is actually an underlying publication, on page 50 of the February 1960 issue of RMC, but it is just the same scale drawings for a coach and a mail car as in the Rolling Stock Plan Book, in HO instead of O scale.

I don’t know which source was used by the builder, but these two cars were built from these plans. The coach has a little more liberty taken compared to the plans, with the substitution of scribed siding, but is made really nicely and proportioned exactly to the drawings. The trucks are HO I think, widened out to OO. And note the nice custom decals for the Cactus Patch and Western.

The mail car, when I first saw it, I though had lettering for the Central Pacific. But actually it is clear in this case that it is actually for Cactus Patch, the builder maybe counting on a bit of double meaning. In the photo I show it with the scale drawing showing how it is larger in every dimension and is scaled up accurately for 1/76. Note in the photo you can see the floor is Masonite! The coach has a more detailed floor. And note too, both cars have link and pin couplers. They could be run but I think were mostly shelf models.

Then we come back to the topic of the Cactus Patch and Western. I have one more car for this line, seen in the final photo. Note how large in comparison this express reefer looks to the rather small 1860s era models. It matches with cars built by David Sacks for his Greenbrook Line, and a good guess is it is a subsidiary line of his. Note too, the decals match between the express reefer and the coach.

[If I were to build a garden railway, Cactus Patch and Western would be a great, fanciful name….]

In total these cars are quite interesting models. I still am so surprised they are not HO kits on modified trucks, instead being nicely scratchbuilt models. I won’t be running them a lot (if at all, with the link and pin couplers) but it is really interesting to see these 1860s models next to more modern cars. And I wonder how many other cars are out there for the Cactus Patch and Western?

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Update: Two cement hoppers

Back a few months ago I posted about a group of three cement hoppers I had nearly completed but had not yet painted.

These two have now been finished. As described in the other article, the car in the back was created from scrap parts of two Schorr hoppers, a brass import, left over after kitbashing projects by a prior owner. The paint really brings the project together, and at viewing distances on the layout you would be hard pressed to note it was pieced together as it was.

The car in front also came off well. It was a completion of a project someone started where they were converting a Picard wood hopper car body into a covered hopper. Noting that it has a bit more "husky" look (and is a bit larger than the finely scaled Schorr car), I chose to decorate it with an approximation of a 1960s/70s era scheme. Both cars were lettered with scrap parts of several sets of decals, don't look too close at the fine print!

The Schorr car has Schorr trucks and modern Kadee couplers. For the Picard car I took another approach, it has vintage Kadee couplers and Nason trucks. Or at least trucks made with vintage Nason sideframes and other upgraded parts. I had noted these trucks (their Vulcan type truck) look really heavy and are likely somewhat overscale. As a result they have some of the look, to my eye, of a more modern truck (in spite of actually being a type of replacement truck for Arch Bar trucks), and fit the car pretty well. I used upgrade wheelsets and new bolsters. They take some careful adjustment but roll nearly as freely as Schorr trucks, making them worth the effort to build. Painted flat black you can also imagine they are actually roller bearing trucks pretty easily; I will likely work over more of these for the modern cars I operate.

Both cars look great on the layout! In particular the Picard car matches in detail and style the scratchbuilt modern cars made from wood by Bill Johann such as this Railbox car. They took some effort but great to see the results rolling on the layout.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Two great vintage cabooses

Caboose models often get special treatment from their builders, these two being great examples.

The car in front is an upgraded Scale-Craft model from the Niagara Valley Lines of Canadian OO gauger Jack Winsor. I have another caboose from his road as well, it being a bobber caboose that was scratchbuilt as a gift to Winsor by Fred Schorr. That model is described in this article. 

The car in back is lettered for the Yorkville & Western, which was the personal road of Fred Schorr, the OO manufacturer/importer. Schorr completely scratchbuilt this great model from wood.

As always click on the photos for a better view of these models. One major detail that does not come through in the photos is the Y&W caboose has a full interior including a stove and wall and chair details. These details even in person are almost impossible to see! There are no lights in the caboose and it has no provision to remove a roof section so far as I can tell, but you can see the great details through the end windows and through the cupola.

The one big detail that stands out on the NVL caboose is that Winsor filed off all the handrail castings and added 20 (!) wire handrails and working cut levers with the couplers. There are also marker lamps, with one missing today, and note the neat hole added to the steps as well. The trucks on the car now are my replacements, which came off a car that had been built by Pierre Bourassa, who was fond of adding the weathering details seen.

Schorr went further in his details and added chains and even a brakeman figure. This is a very nice caboose of a type that few would go to all that effort to build today. Besides the couplers and step castings the only other obvious commercial parts are the Schorr arch bar trucks and the end ladders, which are Scale-Craft.

Both cars have window glass and a paint scheme involving several colors, neatly applied by brush painting. Wonderful examples of the art of model railroading in American OO gauge.

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