American OO Today

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

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Rethinking Famoco 6-wheel trucks

Back in 2015 I had a closer look article on Famoco 6-wheel passenger trucks. They are of a different design than S-C trucks, and at that time I had two things using them on a specific car accomplished: it freed up a pair of S-C trucks to use on another car, and I thought the look was nice on an ATSF baggage car.

This past week I had that car out again and was wanting to run it, and noted that it was shorting out. With this closer look article, I'll add this: these are not a great truck design. Even with a fresh truck, with good wheels, as things flex as the car rolls around the layout the insulated wheels short out against the sideframes.

The photo provides an even closer look. As I noted before, the bolster is integral to the design and is held on with the pin and locking washer, as seen on the right.

Back in 2015 I also had more of a passenger truck shortage. Now, with the 3D printed bolsters available (more here! I love these) and having used many of them to get a lot of trucks in shape, I'll be converting that car back to S-C trucks and reliable operation.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Composite “war emergency” gondolas in American OO

A recent eBay find was this nice composite gondola lettered for the Yorkville & Western of Fred Schorr. I have two other models of this general type built by Pierre Bourassa, and they are worth a longer look than given in the prior article (here).

I had simply thought of these as being composite gondolas, but there is more of a story. The prototypes were 52’ cars built during WWII to conserve steel plate. I found a good write up here: 
By the late 1930s, the 52-foot, 6-inch gondola had become the preferred design for the railroads serving Northeastern industrial plants….
During WWII, military needs for steel took priority. Rolled steel sheet, which was used for all types of light armor and ship construction, was particularly in short supply. Thus, American railroads received steel only after military demand was met. New cars were limited to those authorized by the War Production Board. With railroads handling the majority of all military and commercial shipments, there was a burden on the supply of rolling stock. Out of necessity, the railroads searched for ways to substitute other materials for steel. By reviving earlier composite car building practices, the AAR design teams replaced sheet steel with wood with steel systems added for strength.
Due to the length of the car, a fishbelly structure was necessary and the ribs provided protection from outward strain from the inside loads. In 1943, the builders replaced steel where wood would suffice. For structural integrity, in place of the already steel side, the designers created a truss of diagonal and vertical ribs. A wood floor was a savings and dreadnaught drop ends were applied. The War Emergency gondola dates from October of 1942 with the building program beginning late 1943 and continued into the middle of 1944.
The model seen here is an attractive model of this interesting prototype, but it is rather under sized really at only 42 feet long.

What Schorr and Bourassa did to make their models was take cast HO sides such as these and build up the rest of the car neatly. So while a plausible model, it is not really an OO scale model at all, at least not if compared to the prototype cars.

Of course, who is to say that in our world there were examples of similar cars produced that were shorter and lower? I’ll probably build up these loose sides someday into OO models, it would make a nice project and not overly complicated.

UPDATE: And, as noted in the first comment (I should have put this in the article to begin with), the sides on the car and in the second photo are almost certainly Ulrich sides. The instructions for this classic HO model may be found here in the HO Seeker site. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

A look at Nason (and Picard) gondola restorations

An uncommonly seen model by Nason is their gondola. Introduced in 1940 (more here), it took me a while to find even one of these. Then, in recent months, a windfall; I now have four!

My original PRR model is seen here with a new companion, a recent eBay find. Both were a bit beat up, and the new model was missing a couple things. For these I did a little restoration work on, as I found a paint that closely matched: Polyscale Oxide Red, which has carried over into the Testors line of Model Master paint as Oxide Red Flat. I have both, they are very close to the same thing, I’d rate it about a 95% match which is pretty good. For these models I used the Poly Scale paint, and used it to touch up anything that stuck out as raw unpainted material. The newer car (in the back) also got Scale-Craft end beams and vintage Kadee No. 4 couplers.

I had also obtained an example of the B&O version, which may be seen in a prior article as it looked before restoration. This one came out well, flat black paint is easy to match and I like how the Selley cast ribs cover the printed rib lines, which was a mistake on the part of Nason really. Now I have a second model, which is seen in this photo as a project almost done. All I need to do now is paint it with a very steady hand. The original builder had left the car 85% done and unpainted. The biggest chore not done was putting the nails/pins on the top of the ribs. I was able to find matching nails and a new frame for the model.

The last photo is of the underside of the unpainted B&O model and an impostor! I had this Picard body sitting around and got inspired that it could be made into a car that would look similar to but better than the Nason model. I sealed the body well and followed up with a combination of Nason, Eastern, and Selley parts. It is ready for painting, a nice variation on the gondola theme.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Two more Champion express reefers

Recently completed were these two express reefers with Champion sides.

I had built up a Milky Way before, but the set of sides I used for the previous model (seen here) lacked the board that is at the top of the side, seen on this new model. This model was built up from fresh parts (including a fresh Picard body), and had been languishing at least a year among incomplete projects, waiting for a bit of motivation to finish.

The motivation to finish it was the arrival of this Sheffield car, a recent and inexpensive eBay purchase. It was a bit rough, and lacked trucks and other details, but appealed to me as I had no example of the Shieffield sides. Curiously, the body is not a Picard body, and I’m thinking it is one the builder worked up from scratch. I added a few details (brakes, ladders, etc.) and did some light restoration, but it will never look great. It runs great though with the Kadee couplers and a fresh pair of Famoco passenger trucks, which pass well as express reefer trucks.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

The largest American OO tank car ever built

Myron P. Davis really liked big models. An article in the January 1996 issue of the Train Collectors Quarterly by Donald S. Fraley titled “The Unfinished Locomotives” looks at his big locomotives, and I have covered some of them in this site as well (this article being a good place to start). Most of his models were produced and sold in some limited quantity.

According to the Fraley article, Davis passed in December of 1968. Obviously he kept on building big Amercian OO models to the end of his life, as I was recently able to obtain this surprising and amazing model, which clearly was one of his creations. The paint and construction match that of the huge but freelanced “streamline caboose” seen in this recent article.

The prototype is a very notable car built in 1965 by GATX. It is 94 feet long and is one of a kind, as it was deemed too large for use on Eastern railroads. Notably, a model of this car was offered in N scale in the early 1970s, and the prototype car has been on display since 1971 at the National Museum of Transport in St. Louis.

The present tank car, when it got to the prior owner, was on Nason Atlantic tender trucks. These are, of course, not correct for the car. The N scale model is on Bettendorf trucks, but the prototype is on roller bearing. I opted to obtain the model less trucks and replaced them with Nason Vulcan trucks, upgraded with Ultimate wheelsets. Painted black they have the overall look of heavy roller bearing trucks, and suit the model.

The body is sand-cast bronze (!) and it weighs almost two and a half pounds. Note the Nason brake details in the second photo.

With the trucks mounted as they are the model will negotiate the curves on my layout surprisingly well. There is an issue with the pivot point on one end, it will not take turnouts very well as things are not quite square. I’ll have to work on that more, because as of now I’m inclined to try to put together decals suited to the prototype car, as I do run models from the era when this car was being tested. What an amazing model, one I am happy to have.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

A look at the Nason “All Service Express Car”

A car I have long puzzled about is the Nason All Service Express Car. It is a 60’ baggage car of a somewhat unusual design that, being more familiar with western roads, I did not recognize.

One of the most notable things to mention first is this car was a part of the initial line of sand cast aluminum passenger cars, introduced by Nason Railways in 1934 (more information here, with photos of a completed model). This scan shows the parts of the car and also a built-up example, as shown in their sixth edition catalog.

The car body, thanks to help from the America OO Facebook group page, I now know is based on the PRR B60 Baggage Express Car. The Nason model would be of the original version of the car, not the later/updated version with porthole windows.

The trucks seen on the Nason model are Commonwealth 4 wheel top equalized passenger car trucks, a type only used, so far as I can tell, on the Erie, the New Haven, and the Boston & Maine. And apparently not on very many cars. Why Nason decided to make this truck and put it on a PRR prototype car I don’t know. Probably it is just a danger of guessing the future, it was a modern truck design for the time that caught the eye of Hugh Nason, but was not a winner in the longer term.

This photo shows what I have of this model: a floor and three of the trucks. It’s a start I suppose, or parts that might complete the set of sides and ends someone else has.

I should mention that the castings of these models are so fine, people might think they are die cast. But they are sand-cast aluminum, and Nason must have used a fine art foundry to make the parts, they are very well made. The cast parts are meant to be screwed together.

This is an uncommon model and I would think desirable, one to look out for.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Building a better Baldwin, Fleischmann HO to OO conversion 2.0

A few years ago, I did an initial conversion of a Fleischmann Baldwin switcher to operation in OO. This is a vintage HO model that is rather overscale for HO (more here), the only major dimension that is off really for OO is height, the model is a bit short.

As the first conversion ran well and came out looking great in the ATSF “zebra stripe” scheme I finally decided to build a second model up, using the same methods but improving things a bit. The first model used the original Fleischmann paint, and I kept the original Fleischmann number that is cast into the cab. The new model as it came to me had several heavy coats of paint on it that I had to remove, and in the process of prepping the body I also sanded the numbers off.

The body and the handrails were spray painted black. As I noted in the article with the original model (here) the zebra stripe scheme hides very effectively the fact that the box ahead of the cab is close to twice as big as it should be. Painted black, the eye is drawn away to the stripes. The black handrails on the new model are an improvement on the original model, and I may go back and paint those black as well. The big headache was applying the decals, straightforward but time consuming. I used Microscale HO decals.

I had a request to show how the drive was put together, which hopefully this photo reveals better. I tried to improve on the first drive, but I think the first one might have come out better, so this photo is of the original drive. The frame, motor, and front truck on the new model are from a blue box era Athearn road diesel. It has to be cut down a bit to fit, cutting as much off as possible while maintaining the original motor mount. I have had very good luck with the converted Athearn drives, more on that process here. The Athearn frame is held secure using the original screw holes that held on the original front truck. On both models I did not correct the shape of the fuel tank, it is not quite right but I can live with that detail being off, it is not obvious to the eye being painted black.

The back truck is the front truck from an AHM SW1 which also donated that portion of the frame (cut down) and all four side frames. The fit between the base of the Athearn motor and the AHM truck is very tight and requires careful trimming of the Athearn frame and the truck itself. You will also need to cut part of the Athearn drive shaft off to not interfere with the truck mount. When it moves freely you will be good to go! I attached the remnant of the AHM frame to the body with screws into some heavy wood strips glued to the body.

Looking at the bottom, you can also see how the truck sideframes are mounted. On the Athearn end donor HO Athearn sideframes were cut down and the AHM sideframes glued on with clearance not to interfere with the wheels. On the AHM end, spacers were inserted to give sufficient clearance for OO gauge wheelsets. All the wheels are somewhat undersized for OO but it is not I feel very noticeable.

The couplers I should mention are mounted directly on the Fleischmann body casting but in the Kadee plastic boxes; if mounted directly on the bodies there would be a short between the two models operating back to back.

Together the two models run great and can pull 8 of almost any type with ease on my layout. Of course, this is actually me using modelers license, as so far as I know the prototype ATSF models were not MU equipped.

Among models I run regularly the Fleishmann Baldwin deserves a quick comparison to an AHM S-2 (the “Alco 1000”, more on this model here). The S-2 is clearly overscale for HO but it looks small next to the Baldwin, which gives a better impression of being to scale for OO. In reality, both models are a bit small for OO, but overall the Fleischmann is certainly a good looking model. I don’t imagine it looks right on a HO layout, however!

Finally, sharp eyed readers who clicked on the very first link in this article might have noticed I also have a Garco Baldwin in bronze. I’m on the fence what to do with that model. Originally I was thinking to rebuild it, but it is not quite as close to OO scale size and a little rougher model -- and actually has the original HO drive too. No rush anyway, and I'm thinking most likely a HO collector might appreciate it as it is.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A nice interior in a Scale-Craft coach

From time to time I will luck into a vintage model that catches my eye. This is one such model.

From the outside, this looks like a nice but pretty standard Scale-Craft coach. It is on the six wheel trucks instead of four, so that is a slight upgrade.

The real upgrade is a rather nice interior. Sometimes I will see these built up using Suydam (HO) interior parts, but these are not those.

What the builder did was use a “T” shaped wood strip and cut it to length and smooth it out. After painting, to those he added cloth pieces for the headrests. Also there is a simple floor added inside as well.

There are no people except for the people in the rest room, represented by a silhouette behind the frosted glass.

Kind of makes me want to kick it up a notch and work on some interiors again. It is the type of project I seem to never get to, but is well worth addressing on some cold winter’s night or two.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

A look at the Nason B&O gondola

One of the rarest American OO models manufactured by Nason Railways is their gondola. Introduced in 1940 and decorated for the PRR, in 1941 a version for the B&O was added. Thanks to a tip (thank you!) I was recently able to purchase one of these models

The article that is an overview on the Nason gondola is here, and my PRR car may be seen more closely in this article. 

There is one big difference between this B&O model and my PRR model. The PRR has stamped brass ribs, and here you can see the ribs are soft metal castings.

Also several of the ribs are missing on this model. The instructions for this model don’t specifically say the kit includes brass ribs, but it does say that they are attached with brass pins which would be the way my PRR model is set up. Either Nason ran out of the brass ribs, or the builder opted for on this B&O model to use Selley part number 20037 “Gondola reinforcement strips” (more on Selley here).

Fortunately, I had a memory that I had seen ribs of the same type in my parts and found the supply, enough to fix this car and build at least one more. I’m planning to finish a partially built Picard gondola with the Selley ribs and other matching parts, it should turn out nicely.

UPDATE: See this article for the restored version of this model and more

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

A look at the Nason cast combine, with notes on the trucks

Among the most desirable I feel of the early Nason passenger cars are their sand cast aluminum cars; an overview of the line may be found here.

This combine was a recent eBay purchase, nicely built up. The floor, sides, and ends are all finely cast, with the roof being wood.

I don’t have the original instructions for this model, but I do have them for a couple other of the sand cast cars, the line was developed in early 1934.

A word on the trucks. Set up right, these are great trucks, they roll well and look fine. But note that a percentage of Nason 6 wheel passenger trucks, maybe a third of them, are soldered together, as are the trucks on this car. That for sure saved time, as the other type has holes drilled and tapped for screws, and that is a tough job in bronze sideframes. I’m sure too, as built up and sold, the soldered truck was a fine arrangement. The problem is if you ever need to fix the trucks basically you can’t. So if wheelsets keep falling out or the middle one gets wonky you are out of luck.

In the case of this car, one of the trucks the outer wheels fall out.

As I don’t plan to run this car at this point, I’ll live with that.

I have a number of these soldered trucks saved in a box, if I really get low on trucks someday, I’ll get back to them.