American OO Today

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

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A streamlined shorty diner and baggage car

Up today are a couple cars that have been very slowly working though the paint shop for a couple years.

The baggage car is modified Zuhr. A postwar product (more on Zuhr here), this one a prior owner had modified somewhat but never finished. The car as manufactured had a side skirt on it in particular that had been removed (as was done on many prototype cars). I worked out basic frame details, the doors are Zuhr I believe, and the trucks are Kemtron.

The diner has more of a story. This came to me about 2/3 done from Bill Gilbert. It is a shortened Scale-Craft car but a more nicely done conversion than the one seen with it in the second photo. That on has been seen in this website previously, and was modified by Pierre Bourassa. Pierre’s car looks more freelanced with those end doors and has more of a feel of a car that has had one end chopped off.

Bill on the other hand wanted to make his model imitate the design of a heavyweight car that had been rebuilt for use with streamlined cars. With the model was a clipped out photo of an Erie-Lackawanna diner (this one). He shortened the sides more wisely, leaving one more window, and really gets much of the look of that prototype car. He also added the frame details off a HO model, a very successful conversion.

Both of the new cars are in my streamliner scheme and look great on the layout. The diner in particular exceeded expectations and looks so much better than the green diner in fact that I am tempted to re-letter it for another road and sell it! It might look better on 6 wheel trucks, and in all cases the cars operate well on my curves and are enjoyed.

UPDATE: The Pullman green diner is now on 6 wheel trucks. I had to modify the frame to do it, but worth the effort, it does look better.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Two modern cabooses

Not long ago I posted an article on a TYCO modern caboose that is overscale for HO and suited to use in American OO.

The first photo shows the Santa Fe caboose on a train. Especially at normal viewing distances this car came out really well.

The two examples in the second photo are ones I converted to operation. In the back in the photos is one that is nearly stock. The trucks are “Morlok Method” trucks, but using a shorter wheelbase roller bearing truck I found on some train set cars and mounted so that it centers a bit further in from the ends (mounted "offset" using the original frame locations for trucks). In both cases there are no major modifications to the body or frame.

For the front model my goal was to more closely imitate a modern Santa Fe caboose, and one key item for the “look” was blanking some windows out. Which I had never done before but it was not that hard. I patched behind the opening with styrene sheet and fit pieces into the openings to be nearly level. After that had set I used green Squadron putty and sanded it down. With the decals there too the old opening is nearly invisible.

On the Orient car you might notice it only has one set of end handrails and both cars still lack smokestacks. I will fix the smokestack issue soon. The cars I purchased to do these conversions were junkers and I ended up with only three usable end handrails. I also converted one more car, lettered for the fictional Chattanooga choo-choo. That one I will get out whenever little kids are by to see trains run. Relatively quick projects making a car never actually produced in American OO.

UPDATE: This model was later sold by IHC in a paint scheme similar to the one I applied for the ATSF. I think mine looks more authentic though, the blanked out windows do help the look.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Converting TYCO 62’ hi-cube boxcars to OO

Not long ago (here) I featured a couple of modern cars converted from large TYCO reefers, conversions done by Bill Johann. In that article I mentioned another TYCO car that had caught my eye for conversion, their 62’ hi-cube boxcars.

These models are described further here in the TYCO brown box resource website, where they may be seen as they looked before conversion. This specific model was only produced from 1972-76, although there have been reissues later using the same moldings. The original TYCO models only came in two road names, decorated in reasonably prototypical schemes.

What is great for our purposes is that this model scales out at about 54 feet long in OO and they can be made into models that would be similar to the 53’ double plug door boxcars of the early 1970s.

I had for several years two of the UP models and one of the SOO models sitting on the shelf. As much as anything, besides them scaling out well, I also had trucks I could use on the cars (two pair being the Bill Johann roller bearing conversion trucks) and I felt sure they should be a quick and fairly easy conversion, especially using the modified stamped brass scale-craft ends to speed the build.

Of course, like most every other project I do it seems, they took 2-3 times longer than I thought they would. Photo three shows the models in progress; the bodies were split down the middle, new roof and ends worked out, frame widened. They came out well but certainly they are examples of “good enough” models rather than being accurate scale models of say an Evans double plug door boxcar.

I used the Johann conversions as a model overall of what I would do, and I imitated him in terms of the roof question in particular. They are simplified compared to the prototypes, but hopefully believable.

One change that I don’t think is obvious is I used light gray paint on the UP cars rather than the silver of the original model. The flash of my photo made it look almost white; on the layout though I think the color change works fine. A final painting note being I will hit the SOO car with some Dullcote soon and eventually would like to try some weathering.

Having finished the cars I am not planning to do more of these conversions. They look good enough, I am pleased, but I do have enough modern cars of this general type for what modern operations I do. But -- there is one more, similar car nearly done, based on an Athearn car, more on that when it is finished in likely a few months.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Fox trucks for American OO?

I was pointed to a HO product that does convert into a pretty convincing American OO Fox truck.

Fox trucks were a patented product of the Pressed Steel Car Co. which I understand made all of these trucks around of the turn of the 20th century. Mostly seen used on freight cars, one of the more exotic designs of Fox truck were their Express Passenger Trucks.

I believe they are out of production now, but these were manufactured in HO cast resin by Funaro & Camerlengo. Where these are useful for us is the wheelbase works out as correct for OO freight trucks. The design itself is a bit off but still it is pretty convincing.

I was able to obtain 5 sets of castings, and the question on looking at them was what car could I use these on? The set of 5 wood hopper cars seemed a good choice (seen here), and the first pair made are seen on this example. I will over time make the other four pair. Basically you split the bolster and sand it down to fit inside plastic rectangular tube stock. I used HO 36" wheelsets on the cars, which roll nicely.

I know few if any readers will search out this product specifically, but it does remind that there are unusual HO items out there, available today, that are useful in American OO.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Two Champion OO gauge 36' reefers

Up today are a couple more cars just through the paint shop, these reefers featuring Champion 36' reefer sides.

The Champion overview article is here. What got me inspired was I spotted these two bodies in the Picard supply and noted they were about 1/2 done. Both had the rather intense cast frame installed, seen in the second photo, but one body was Picard and the other was by an unknown maker. Which is saying a lot as I have looked at all this OO gauge history so much. As always, click on the photos for a better view.

The reefer built up on the mystery maker body is the Purina car. This car was number 309 in their line and according to the instructions with the sides was to be painted with Tuscan red ends, roof, and trucks with a black under body. I will switch out the trucks at some point, the cars are both on Schorr trucks I had on hand at present. What is unique about this body is it is a bit chunkier than the Picard body and there was a raised, flat area to glue the roof walk onto.

I have never been a beer drinker but the number 327 Budweiser sides I had appealed to me as well. These sides are slightly shorter in height so they went on this slightly shorter Picard body, all painted in the "dark olive green" (Pullman green) recommended in the instructions printed with the sides. On both of these models the ends and ladders are Scale-Craft parts, the brake cylinder is Eastern, and the hatches are probably HO parts fished out of the parts supply.

Looking from the bottom, you can see the frame casting. I am not sure it is an OO or a HO part but it fits both models like a glove. I used Kadee whisker couplers on both cars, making a great pair of vintage style models.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Champion New Haven Dairy express reefer

Another recent project was rebuilding this Champion New Haven Dairy express reefer. These are nice models and rarely seen.

I rebuilt a pair of Champion/Picard express reefers last year but did not realize then that the sides I used were incomplete. See those cars here. I was lacking the single strips that go on the top of the sides, which are seen on this model.

This particular model came in sad shape, one side warped out and a prior owner had repainted over the sides and added decals. I had to strip down the car and make a new side from scrap parts (from parts of two sides) but in the end the car came out very nicely. It is on S-C trucks with freight wheelsets, the common solution to the truck problem for this model.

Whith the car done I was thinking that was the end of my supply of these unusual 44.5 foot Picard bodies, but then I found another! Partially built up, seen also in the photo with another fresh set of sides. These cars are not difficult to complete, so as I get to painting flat black again I will plan to build up another Milky Way car with that extra strip above the door.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Three OO cement hoppers

For today the topic is three OO scale cement hoppers, ready for painting. It is an interesting trio. The mostly brass car is Schorr. It was constructed from remnants of another OO gauger's project. What he did was convert two Schorr brass 2 bay cement hoppers into three bay cars. As he used 2/5 of the middle of each car, this left me two 2/5 car ends and two 1/5 car ends. Looking at the parts I thought I could splice the bigger ends together and I could! That car came out fine and will blend in a train easily. As always click on the photo for a better view.

The three bay car in the front is Picard. A few years ago I posted a photo of a vintage example (here), nicely built up in a way but not real prototypical (with the reefer hatches, etc.).  Another car came to me in a group of things, started but not completed, never had ends applied or mounts for trucks. It occurred to me that I could use parts of the 1/5 Schorr ends and make a pretty prototypical model. Vintage wood shapes from the parts supply worked perfectly on this model. It has a vintage look still but will I think be pretty successful when painted and lettered, will be one of the best examples of this car ever built up!

That leaves one more car. I think the story on this Picard hopper is that it was completely built up as an open hopper (what their two bay body was meant to be) but then someone had an idea and put roof stock on it and was working on making it into a covered hopper -- but abandoned the project. I added the hoppers and all of the details, including Schorr hatches from the parts above and the end parts of Schorr roof walks. The main roof walk is HO from probably a boxcar. The car is surprisingly effective, I am very interested to see it with the paint and decals in a string of cement hoppers on the layout.

All three took more time than I thought they would but they were fun projects and I look forward to finishing them up later this summer.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Unusual Famoco passenger truck

Before and after WWII Famoco had a full line of American OO products -- locomotives and freight and passenger cars. For an overview see this article.

Their passenger cars came with either four or six wheel trucks. All of their four wheel trucks I had ever seen or made a note of were of the type seen on the left until this past week. Sorting some parts out for use on projects, I noted the pair on the right.

Even with the paint to see through it is clear they are of a different type. The standard trucks as on the left always struck me as being more for an express reefer than for a 70' coach or combine. The trucks on the right would suit a passenger car better visually, with that top beam and a bit more "heft" overall.

The question would be are they factory trucks? I think so, looking at them and the materials involved. As the pair got to me it was missing two wheelsets, which I have replaced with Famoco wheelsets of the type seen in the trucks at left.

The one Famoco catalog I have does not answer the question of there being two types of four wheel trucks or not, as it does not list trucks (yet) for separate sale. The original passenger car kits were just wood and card. From 1939, the catalog states that "Hardware Kits for the above body kits are in production and will be announced when ready. They will include all metal parts necessary to assemble complete model ready to run." That hardware included trucks.

My catalog copy is several generations of Xerox, if you have a better one I wish the photos could reveal the trucks on the cars in the catalog. The kit instructions for the passenger cars however clearly show the trucks of the type on the left in my photo.

Theoretically the trucks on the right could be someone's personal special truck, cast to use a Famoco bolster. The materials seem to much like the die cast materials used by Famoco itself, though.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

A simple tank car conversion

This car has been rolling on my layout for some years. An older conversion, I recently spruced it up a bit.

It is a TYCO 315-A tank car, "brown box" era, described in this article in the TYCO Brown Box Trains Resource. Years ago it was the car my daughter considered to be her car, and she would "fix" it and such. Originally I had put "Morlok method" conversion trucks on it. Eventually I used those trucks on another car and had converted it back to HO.

But really it is a reasonable American OO scale 8,000 gallon tank car in a close to prototypical scheme. I decided to put it back on some OO gauge trucks, but this time modified Famoco trucks with new wheelsets, and also decided to add a little lettering. It as built had no car number or reporting marks, this was always a problem in my mind. Now it has some! It is not a great model, will always be a HO train set level car, but I enjoy having it rolling again.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Three from the Winther brothers, with thanks

Those following this site know I have been working for some years on a long series of articles on the history of American OO gauge. One of the pioneers of American OO was Howard Winther, and fate and Google brought his sons to American OO Today, where they were surprised to see their father beginning to be profiled in that series. Further I was surprised and pleased to learn that they were both TCA members and had nearly all of the models their father had built, stored in beautiful condition, which they subsequently provided great photos of. This is all outlined further in this article, which relates to the article I was able to write for the TCA Quarterly based on text developed here.

Another great thing is that subsequently the brothers donated the Winther models to the TCA, where with all the documentation provided I believe they will be appreciated for the historic and significant models that they are. Hopefully some can be on display in their museum with the companion photos from early issues of Model Railroader and The Modelmaker -- that would be a compelling display.

The TCA however did not want quite everything, there were just a few incomplete, kit built cars that they did not take and the Winther brother sent to me, with thanks. Two were run of the mill, unpainted S-C passenger cars (seen actually in this article, I used the nice Winther photos to upgrade that one), and then we have these three.

The first two are J-C models kits. The coach is pretty much stock, but on it and the business car (or superintendents car, a shortened Pullman) Winther did something I have not seen before and I will do on some future model. What he did was remove part of the floor stock at the ends so that the steps can be mounted higher up, in a prototypical position; the steps being Selley castings rather than the wood parts supplied with the kits. Neither has interior detail and neither looks to have ever been completed. All three cars had window “glass” but the windows in the coach warped at some time in the past. The silver details on the coach were all neatly painted by hand. As always click on the photos for a better view.

To note it as well, the office car may be seen here in a prior article, but the coach and the baggage car are new cars to the website.

Saving the best model for the last, we have this baggage car. It is wood and appears to me to be scratchbuilt and is a nearly completed car. Notably, the roof stock is not commercial and is built up from two stacked pieces of floor stock. The sides were scribed by hand and are a little uneven. It has one (only) of his hand made couplers on it and I am pleased to confirm that they mate perfectly and easily with modern Kadee HO couplers. The detail level is very nice really. Why he left it so close to done but not actually completed is a mystery. This car does have a somewhat heavy paint job, so that combined with the uneven scribing may have pushed it down the list for him -- it may be as simple as it was not quite up to his standards.

In any case, I do plan to at least put some good S-C trucks on all three cars sometime soon and label them as being built by Howard Winther. As to lettering, I am going to have to ponder that long and hard. I think he may have had a prototype scheme in mind with the coach – I am open to suggestions there [see UPDATE]. But in any foreseeable near term all three will stay as they are, incomplete handiwork of a real OO pioneer that I am thankful to be able to own.

UPDATE: From Facebook the suggestion is that he may have been thinking New Haven with the coach, it has a scheme similar to that of their Osgood Bradley ("American Flyer") coaches. A bit more on these coaches may be found in this article. The car itself is not a match but the silver windows and overall color are a match.

UPDATE II: With these cars they also sent a Famoco Pullman kit. I only glanced inside at first and thought the trucks were Famoco. How wrong I was, they are actually hand made, scratchbuilt trucks by Winter!

They are nicely scaled and roll very freely. The wheels may be commercial parts, the screws certainly are, but the sideframes are not. Readers with a good eye might think they are Nason sideframes, but the openings are different as well as other details and the casting quality better than typical Nason. They seem to very fine bronze castings, or perhaps lost wax brass castings. They certainly took some real skill to make, and certainly it would be appropriate if they could be used on one of the above cars.

Setting the cars on trucks is an interesting experience, they look really different on trucks. Setting them on these trucks, I am inclined to think the "New Haven" coach is the best choice -- if for no reason other than it is a longer car. But I will certainly ponder it for a while first, four wheel trucks are more appropriate for them all. One final curiosity, that car shows no evidence of ever having had trucks mounted (the screw holes are marked) but it has that one big loop coupler.  So close to having trucks and couplers, but left as you see it in the top photo by Winther.

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