American OO Today

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

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A closer look at the Famoco 0-4-0T

This OO model is first seen in print in 1938 (more here) and Famoco had it in production by 1939 (more here). 

First, some background. The prototype 0-4-0T was a somewhat famous engine, in that it worked the Bronx terminal for the CNJ, an intense little operation. Due to clean air laws, this engine was replaced by the well-known early Diesel, CNJ 1000. This article has two prototype photos toward the end, and notes that
The CNJ Bronx Terminal was a very unique terminal located along the Harlem River in The Bronx, New York.  Built in 1906 on a single city block, the CNJ Bronx Terminal was completely isolated from any other railroad, that is, the only way to move freight in and out of the terminal was along the Harlem River on car floats….
CNJ 1000 replaced the 0-4-0T that was in use since 1906.  CNJ 840 was still used as a backup locomotive from time to time, but the main power from 1926 on was CNJ 1000.
Mention is made in the September, 1938 Model Craftsman photo caption that the original OO scale model, by Ted Menten (founder/owner of Famoco), was based on 1935 drawings in MC, published in the October issue. Looking at the model first as produced, one first impression is the cab might be over scale. Standard width of prototype equipment would be 9’ 4” to 9’ 6” but this cab is almost 11 feet wide. But actually the width matches that given in the scale drawings he was working with.

This prototype photo is reproduced from the Model Craftsman article and provides a good comparison. There are a few compromises, the most obvious two being that the side tanks should be longer (less space in front of cab), and the windows and doors are undersized. Looking closer, the model would also benefit from larger domes, larger cylinders, and also that angle at the lower rear edge of the coal bunker would have been a nice touch to emulate. Maybe the cab a bit oversized?

Back in 1938 though the big issue was fitting a motor in a model this small! Menten did it the same way that the 1935 article proposed (for an O gauge model), placing a squat, tall motor in the cab (a big cab does help), gearing it directly to the rear driver. This final photo shows the arrangement pretty well. The frame itself is kind of ingenious, it is a brass stamping, and the drivers would have been mounted and quartered on that frame at the factory. Every part is either a brass turning or sheet brass. In fact the side tanks are solid pieces of brass! They act as weights.

My model lacks a rear coupler at present but it does run. I have noted elsewhere, Famoco wheelsets often are not up to NMRA standards for width, and this model is of that type. The treads are too narrow and it derails on my turnouts. If I were wanting to operate this model I would need to replace the drivers. I believe buyers back in the day might have felt a little disappointed with this model for that reason too, after the effort to build it. It is cute and nicely designed but does not operate well in reality. But still a collectible model and one to enjoy if you have an example.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A modern boxcar, finished

Back a few months ago I posted on a boxcar that was nearly done, which is finally done.

Recapping what I did, I had many years ago (in high school, probably) purchased an Athearn 80’ boxcar body thinking I could do something with the sides to make a nice OO model. Subsequently, I did nothing for years … but then the frame you see also came to me in the OO Inventory. The body was missing from a model Bill Johan built. What to do?

After a lot of pondering I finally put the body to use, built it to match the frame, and ultimately opted to letter it for my Orient, matching the recent Diesel projects.

The frame shows when Johann worked on the model, he marked his models well. I will mark the body inside, although pretty obviously I built it. Originally the car body must have been orange (ATSF reefer?) and I left the orange paint on the extended draft gears.

A final note on the topic -- I think I have got the modern thing worked out of my system for a while! I like getting these models out and running them, they look more like the trains I grew up with and run well. But I have no further modern projects planned as of now. What I have out now are a group of steam locomotive basket cases, I have a NWSL quartering jig coming, too many locomotive projects stuck for lack of drivers, but also really all the parts I need to get them going. Will be an exciting and worthy project to get moving forward on them this coming year.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Replacement Scale-Craft bolsters?

One thing that affects Scale-Craft trucks pretty widely are bad bolsters. They shrink, they fracture. There is a point where the solution would be to make new ones.

In my case, I have quite a few more parts for every part of S-C OO trucks other than bolsters … and a box of broken bolsters that can’t be used. If it were cost effective and I knew how to design them, 3D printing replacement bolsters would I think be ideal. Until then, here are some examples of how others have solved the problem and the solution I am working on.

My idea is to use plastic tubing, a round tube inside a square tube, and original S-C brass pins salvaged from broken bolsters. They are harder to get out than you would think, I think they may have put the pins in place before injecting the Bakelite plastic in the mold.

What my method simplifies though is the accurate drilling of the end holes. The complete bolsters seen came from different sources. The common element is they drilled all the holes into solid pieces of modern plastic and used modified screws as end pins. If you had a drill press and made a jig I suppose it would not be terribly hard to drill the end holes, keeping them really square.

In any case, I don’t need more bolsters urgently right now and have to work out a better way to press the end pins on. But perhaps a reader will be helped by this idea for replacement bolsters.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Building Modern Diesels in American OO, Part III: Results

 It took a while but it is great to finally see finished results of big projects.

And here we are, the three “modern” (1970s-80s) era Diesel locomotives are done, two approximations of the original SD-40 prototypes and also an approximation of a GE U23B. Both types are a bit (gasp) freelanced due to the parts sources and not wanting to go extremely heroic in the kitbash job, but even with the compromises they are I think pretty effective models.

Size wise they are correct in all major dimensions and the Shapeways 3D printed cabs were key items to make them work visually next to for example a Kemtron GP7 (not to mention looking correct next to freight cars!). About those cabs, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, they are to scale and are better than any cab I would have scratchbuilt or kitbashed. On the other hand, the surfaces are not all smooth. The roof area of the SD cab is very smooth, for example, but the sides have “lines” of horizontal texture. I could have attempted to sand it off but at the same time felt that might be risky and likely to cause new problems. So I left the cabs as they were.

The cabs drove the paint scheme as well. In my general article on 3D printed parts I note that the FUD material requires special cleaning and acrylic paint. I figured I was best to paint the plastic parts with the standard red I have used for years on Orient Diesels and to paint the cab a contrasting yellow for a modern scheme. That decision worked out pretty well I think.

In part II I was getting to final details. Mostly the handrails are the original ones associated with the donor models. On the SD40s I split the end handrails and added chains, a fun detail to add. Another big final thing was getting them running. Both of the SDs are powered, one drive being not in as good a shape as the other it turned out. I had to replace four of the six main gears on the axles associated with the wheels, they had split. I have had to do this before, it is a design flaw of these old Athearn drives. I don’t think it is noticeable really that the trucks are HO scale, they disappear visually under the model.

The U23B is unpowered. I had a couple options on trucks but decided to use what were originally unpowered trucks off the early type of Mantua/TYCO GP20, with new wheels. I like the look, and they are OO scale wheelbase with correct size wheels so no compromises there. I did go in and add a light wash of black paint in the screens and grids and may add more weathering. One other thing I may change are the fuel tanks. They are constructed from GP20 tanks and are not really the correct shape (as they are EMD tanks). I expect to be tweaking this and the other two models for some time.

A final detail worth mentioning, I used the coupler mounts original to the SD drives, so even with underset shank couplers they are low. The rear coupler on the U23B is also mounted low to match, which is why it is the trailing unit in the photos, the front coupler is the correct height.

I am enjoying running all three together. They will pull anything I put behind them (some of the Johann built modern cars I have are quite heavy) and it has been fun to get out his TOFC models again as well. Finally I have correct engines to pull those cars!

It has been a great project and it will be interesting to see what additional worlds 3D printing opens up in American OO. But as for me I think with these Diesels done I will change directions a bit and focus on some older school restoration projects.

UPDATE: This photo is a bonus photo, showing the completed OO U23B with a comparable Athearn HO U30C body. The OO model is a pretty effective conversion.

Return to Part I of series

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Graceline Swift reefer completed

Updating a post from a few months ago (here), I finally have the completion (and light restoration) of a prewar Graceline reefer, the type with hand painted sides

This as noted previously was a model that came to me almost complete. All I did really was glue the sides on, supply and paint ladders (Eastern), and supply couplers (Scale-Craft). Still, this project took ages, it took a lot more pondering than it should have. The original builder was doing a very neat job building the car, he just stopped for unknown reasons. I wanted to be sure to do my work at that same level.

The result is a very nice vintage piece. One thing not visible in the photo is the model has cast "wood" ends. I have several more of these cars in worse shape, and knowing now those ends are correct I have a bit more insight how to restore those cars.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

A nice Scale-Craft 2-6-0 conversion

I have seen photos of S-C 4-6-0 models cut down to 2-6-0s, but this conversion takes the idea to a new level, using a S-C 0-6-0 boiler on a cut down 4-6-0 frame to make a modern 2-6-0.

The photos of this neat model were shared by a reader. The 0-6-0 boiler combined with the scratch built tender combine to make a model that is a pretty fair approximation of a Southern Pacific 2-6-0 with a roomy cab. The cab is very roomy if you compare it to scale drawings, large so that it will accommodate the big S-C Universal motor, clearly seen on this model. Also, the lead truck is from a Nason 2-8-0, it is easy to see the “N” logo (and other details) if you click on the photos for a better view.

This model really appeals to me. I have long liked the 2-6-0, being most heavily influenced by an early gift of a copy of the classic book Mixed Train Daily by Lucius Beebe and also by reading practically every railroad book in our public library growing up. One book in particular that I studied first there (and later purchased) was on the MKT northwestern district that ran into the Oklahoma panhandle. In days of steam, it was ruled by you guessed it, 2-6-0s similar to this one.

I have parts of a started (long ago) 0-6-0 kit. The boiler was soldered together but not much more than that -- and the drive parts associated with it are a mess, it would take huge effort to fix.

With that all said as background, I do now plan to do one of these conversions with that boiler. I will save the drive parts to perhaps fix another 0-6-0. My layout is small and not likely to get bigger, this should operate very well, and I have the 4-6-0 parts to work out the drive. Also, one thing I have noted over years is models that I can’t actually run on the layout don’t get me as interested to work on them compared to others that I can run. So for example I have had a S-C 4-8-4 apart for a while on my workbench that I should get done, it won’t take that long really, but it likely won’t take my curves so … back burner. This 2-6-0, though, that I can run, a perfect short line or branch line engine. Now just to get some other projects done….

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Building SD40s and also a U23B in American OO, Part II: Progress report

Back some nine months ago I had an article (more here) on starting a project that used a pair of 3D printed EMD cabs as part of kitbashing an approximation of the EMD SD40 prototypes. With further background being that there are a few 3D printed parts for American OO 1:76 scale on Shapeways (more here). 

In addition, I also purchased through Shapeways a GE cab to use to make an approximation of a U23B. As I have not described that model at all yet (other than teasing it in part I), a few details are in order. It was a conversion proposed years ago in The OO Road by Bill Johann as a relatively simple “good enough” conversion. The hood and visible portion of frame are taken from a vintage Athearn (“blue box”) GE U33C body. Some details are off, of course, but are similar to the correct details for the U23B. The hood itself is OO width, so the key issues were to shorten it slightly in length and to additionally raise the height to match the cab.

The original frame (lower part of body casting, actually, not the metal Athearn frame) was saved and widened, and a drive was no concern as I planned from the start to build it as a dummy.

The trucks are ones I had on hand, modified originally to use on a Schorr F-3, but then I obtained a pair of Schorr trucks for it, so they were available for this model. These are actually the unpowered rear trucks from TYCO GP20 models (!), widened to OO and with new wheelsets. They are the correct length for OO, and I worked out a way to use the original mounting. I also used the fuel tanks from a couple of these models, spliced together for length, they are a little small but believable. For those wondering, some prototype U23B models were built with EMD trucks, trade in trucks from F-3’s and the like, it is a nice look.

The SD40s on the other hand are built on the visible parts of the frames and the drives from two Athearn SD45T-2 models. The length worked out nicely to give convincing porches in relation to the hood used in the kitbash and the 3D printed cabs, without modifying the frame. The frames/hoods on these models come off and on using the same lugs as the original models. Couplers are underset shank Kadee couplers and are a bit low….

The solution on that will be to mount the rear U23B coupler low to match the SD40s and mount the front coupler at the correct height, it will run as the trailing unit. As to mounting the hood on the U23B model I will work out a way that the hood is held on the frame with screws rather than gluing it on as I did with the SD40 models.

While they look pretty good, big picture there are some significant compromises on all three models. One special bummer is that the 3D cabs have some rough surfaces. I was hoping after the bath in Bestine (needed to prep for painting) that they would be smoother, but really they are about the same. I will try to be optimistic that the paint will help level out the rougher side surfaces but realize it will only help so much. I think this may simply be a consequence of the cabs all being scaled up from models developed for smaller scales, although perhaps they were not printed well either.

In any case I have the drives setup now for the SD40s and one body mounted on the frame as of this writing. Compared to the scale drawing the major dimensions are pretty much there, but a lot of specific details are off.

The three Diesels are a big project but good ones for this fall which has been busy for me. I do a few small things on them one day and then puzzle over them and then a few more small things another day. There are still details to sort out, but I think I pretty much have the issues planned out. They will all have for example a modified, “modern” paint scheme for my Orient that is driven by needing to paint the cab with a different type of paint than my standard paint I use on plastic.

The next big thing to do is add handrails, I need them on before painting.

As already noted, there are a lot of compromises on these models. Back to the handrails, for example, with all the other things that are a bit off I don’t see a big reason to not just use the original HO handrails. So I will, modifying the end handrails to have the chained off opening in the middle compared to the original Athearn design. It is visually more important that they just match on all three models rather than being exactly correct.

I hope these models come out well but as of this moment I am not real sure of the result, the compromises have me a little worried but hoping still for “good enough.” They should match the modern cars I have from Johann pretty well at least, so that part is good. I will get them done and do my best, I have been pleasantly surprised before. But the next projects after these will be restoration projects, which may be more the direction I head for the thrust of future work. Knowing though that I might get the bug to keep upping my game as a craftsman and do more with 3D parts. Who knows?

In any case, the trio of modern Diesels are getting close and should be finished sometime during the blocks of time for working on models during the holidays. I do look forward to running these, more then!

Continue to Part III of series

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A look at the Schorr OO RDC, the Hobbytown HO RDC, and the probable actual maker of both

A recent “oops” purchase was the HO RDC seen below with my Schorr OO RDC.

It was listed as OO, the seller had other obvious OO models for sale (Nason!), and looking at it the model certainly looked just like the Schorr model, but with a drive applied to it very neatly. My example being unpowered that was a nice feature, and the price was right.

The model arrives. It took me several days to get down my OO model and then note that the new one was actually an HO model, one that looked like you took the Schorr model and scaled it down from OO to HO and put a drive on it. There was hardly any difference other than the size overall. I thought about returning it, but seeing the two together sold me on keeping it for a while, they are a neat pair. But other than being an early Japanese brass import what was the HO model? I got to digging on that and also looking at some recently received materials on Schorr imports.

To begin, the name of Fred Schorr will be familiar to regular readers, but for those not familiar he was a very enthusiastic OO gauger and imported a line of great American OO scale brass models from Japan after WWII. This article has an overview of his line. The RDC was first advertised in September of 1955, and the original ad may be seen in this article. 

The underlying brass model manufacturer Schorr worked with in Japan was Kyodo. The only part I know of that is actually marked as such in his models are the freight trucks, where Kyodo is stamped into the bolster, using the same logo as in this image I found on the Internet.

I have been in communication with Ed Schorr over the years (son of Fred Schorr), and recently he was cleaning and sent me this surprising photo. Of it he simply said it was “a photo of the guy in Japan that did the work on the brass OO equipment.”

You can actually glean quite a bit from the photo, it is worth clicking on for a closer view. Clearly the gentleman is working on a run of streamlined passenger cars of some sort. Note the big soldering iron and the generally Spartan setup of the shop. I am inclined to say they are HO models.

That brings us back to the HO RDC. With a little digging I found some basic info on the Hobbytown of Boston RDC in the HOSeeker site, and clearly this is an example of that model. According to them the model was available from 1956-58. From the Magazine Index at Tranis.com it would appear that this model was unfortunately not reviewed in the hobby press at the time.

What Hobbytown sold was a kit, but model came with a complete, painted brass body to which you added the drive, which they supplied parts for. This image is a portion of their ad that ran in the January, 1957 issue of  Model Railroader, showing the model and price. It is a little hard to tell if the ad is a photo of a model or a prototype photo, but other photos were found online to confirm, the model I bought is clearly a built up version of the Hobbytown RDC.

Taking a closer look, the OO and HO models are twins, there are basically no significant detail differences other than the bottom of the model, were the HO version was set up to accommodate the Hobbytown drive. The Schorr models were not powered.

I should mention as well, typically Schorr models were built to designs that had recently appeared as scale drawings in the hobby press. In this case, the underlying drawings appear in the January, 1952 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. Both the Schorr and Hobbytown models follow these drawings closely, with the Hobbytown model having a slight edge on some detail placement. Yet, even then, that article has only side elevations and it looks like the builder imagined a few things relating to the ends and frame.

But even then the models are basically identical; the model maker handled the same construction details the same way (look at the steps, for example, and the roof), and the factory paint is also identical. It certainly is a plausible theory that Schorr approached Kyodo to make the OO model, and subsequently Hobbytown approached Kyodo to make the same model in HO to use with their drive parts, testing the waters so to speak toward putting their drives in imported brass bodies. Comparing the two models and production dates it is hard to come to any other conclusion really.

Certainly people don’t think of Hobbytown being an early HO brass importer, but with this model they did briefly experiment with Japanese brass, in the process producing a model that was clearly superior to the subsequently introduced Athearn HO model, having a better drive and being a full length model rather than a shorty model.

And with this article, too, it is an interesting to note and see a view of the actual makers of these brass models. It is a time long passed now, but the models live on and still are nice representations of their prototypes.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Time was not kind to these cars

Several recent posts have featured models by James Trout. These two are also Trout models and I believe when new were outstanding models.

Then here we are today. To the caboose first, it is beautifully scratch built and has a complete interior! It is missing the glass from one window but the really sad thing is the cupola is completely gone. I suppose the crew has a great view but it is a bit breezy! It is lettered, by hand for his personal road, the West Coast Southern.

The reefer is also a bit sad to see now too. While complete, obviously the material used for the sides (some sort of tinplate) of this completely scratch built model did not hold the paint well. The lettering is all by hand, and from prior posts you may recall that Trout was a Disney illustrator, it is beautifully done. Note in particular the Santa Fe heralds, the second photo being the one on the opposite side of that seen in the first photo. It is not a decal, and it is just amazing to me that painting this by hand is even possible. He had the skill to do it.

As to these two cars and my plans for them, the reefer I will probably always leave like it is. The hand lettering is still intense to see in person, if only the paint had stuck better to that metal! The caboose though, I have another Trout caboose built from wood in better shape, and it has a cupola of a design that I can likely duplicate. I will certainly give that a try at least to match the paint well and get it back to closer to the way he intended it to look.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Schorr wedge plow

The name of Fred Schorr should be a familiar one to regular readers. Up today for a look is a rarity, a wedge plow he built.

It is decorated for his road, the Yorkville and Western and is scratch built from wood, sort of the classic scratch building job of a model never offered in American OO.

The wings on the side are fixed in place, this type of car is always one that would be rarely run (unless you model winter!) and probably was spotted on some siding normally.

The bottom view shows a few more details of the model. The blade must have taken some time to form, in particular. And of course the car rides on Schorr trucks.

I am glad to have a group of cars from his layout, at some point I should shoot a short video showing some of these models in action.