American OO Today

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

Monday, September 1, 2014

An OO scale Schorr “RSD-5” for the ATSF

One model that is seen in photos of the layout of Willam Johann is a Schorr RS-2 model that he modified with a low short hood and a drive built up from Athearn HO parts with six wheel EMD style trucks. It looked a bit unique but I believe it probably ran great for him.

That model gave me and idea for a project for the future, to approximate an Alco RSD-4 or RSD-5 using the Schorr body and a modified Athearn drive. This model is the result and was yet another summer project, just completed, seen here in several views on the layout.

First, let me say up front that under normal lighting the blue color is not nearly so “electric” looking and is much closer to the proper ATSF color. I painted the whole model yellow, masked off the yellow areas and then painted the blue. This was a new thing for me to try to do and it came out pretty well for an amateur, as my dad might have said. I used Testors paint and Microscale decals.

This particular Schorr model, a late 1950s import from Japan (my introduction to Schorr is here), came to me partially finished. It had been painted green and was set up with a drive but was not completed or operable. I stripped the paint, fixed some minor issues, and set into some minor modifications.

There are two big visual differences between this model and an actual RSD-4 or 5. I think the most obvious one is the lack of the battery boxes on the short end of the hood next to the cab, a remnant of this being based on a RS-2 body. I could have added that detail with great effort but decided against it. Another visual difference that is pretty visible is the exhaust stack should be oriented across the hood rather than lengthwise, which I do notice; I left that detail blue on purpose to not make it so obvious (it should be painted silver).

The other main, big difference are the trucks. They are not that obvious seeing the model operate on the layout (being black helps) but the trucks used on this model are from an Athearn U-33C drive (modified for OO gauge, as in this article), as is the motor. On this particular model the frame had been modified somewhat to begin with, and I cut it out a bit more to accommodate the end pieces of the original Athearn frame to support the trucks and also mount the motor directly on the frame. It all fits like a glove and the original motor if it were any bigger would not fit in the hood!

The last two photos show the drive in more detail. There was no room for a flywheel but the model still runs great as it is. Kadee “whisker” couplers were used to complete the model.

I picked the number 2135 out of the Microscale decal set used, and that number would pin this model down as an RSD-5 built in 1953. It is decorated as it would have appeared in the 1960s. (Prototype photos may be found here). The decals being HO scale are fractionally small but I really don’t think it is noticeable.

I am very happy with this model in terms of how it came out, I plan to run it a lot! I have not fully tested pulling power but it is pulling a train with five die-cast tank cars right now and has plenty of power to do the job.

But I would be remiss if I did not mention that this model runs backwards. Due to the pickup method I would have to reverse the motor on the frame to correct this situation, and to do that I would have to drill new holes for the motor, etc. There is more risk to damaging the finish than there is of “cornfield meets” with other engines on the layout, as I plan to run this in local freight service.

Painting this model I also painted a pair of Schorr F-3 models for the ATSF in similar, 1960s schemes. They are still in progress and will be completed soon to be sure but won’t run quite as good as this model I suspect.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Rutland Milk Reefer

The February, 1996 issue of The OO Road had a focus on milk cars, and one seen is this one, primed in gray paint. This car was not described further there by William Johann except to mention that certain HO trucks could be modified to fit it.

This car then sat, ready to be finished, in the OO inventory for years and years. It was a nice car and it seemed to me to be time to complete it.

Looking at the car closely, I noted that in pencil on the underside of the car it is written “was N&N 94” and “Roundhouse RB 2935.” The N&N would be the Newton & Northern of Newton Guerin, and the Roundhouse notation relates to the model of the MDC Roundhouse trucks modified to fit the car. The sides are hand scribed, nicely but if you look close things are a little uneven. It has Scale-Craft doors and some Graceline parts on the frame. It might be based on a Graceline car, but it is hard to say.

With the car out and painted what to letter it for was a puzzle. Design wise it is a bit different than many express reefers, and I did not have a lot of options for decals (and did not really want to buy more). Finally I found online photos of a Rutland car that had similar general details and I had decals that would work. Not that I model the Rutland even remotely, but I did want it to be a good looking car.

It came out nicely! This photos were taken before the decals had been completely settled in (as I was taking other photos), it looks even better on completion. Note in the bottom view I saved the areas that William Johann had written the notations given above. May it give good service to owners beyond me.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Recent Projects: Five Wood Hopper Cars

Back last year I posted an article in which there was a wood hopper car with some work train cars, one that it turned out had been built by the very young Ed Schorr (son of OO manufacturer/importer Fred Schorr) but came to me in pieces.

Since that time I have received five more of these hoppers! They are all similar cars but actually there are some differences and I will describe them by type.

First, as a general reference this type of car is not often seen but I think they may have been inspired by an article published in the October, 1958 issue of Model Railroader. The Jack Work article is titled “Wood hopper car” and one of the photos is of a very similar twin hopper (with steel hopper bottoms) similar to these cars, complete with the same vertical grab irons on the ends of each side. The hopper bottoms on these cars are metal castings, HO parts (I think maybe Varney).

The best two cars today are the first two above. None of these so far as I can tell had ever been lettered. I decided after a lot of deliberation to letter all these cars for my Orient, thinking I could justify running them in company coal service when I run 1930s era trains. These two cars as the best of the lot got the big, splashy “Orient” lettering, along the lines of that used by the actual KCM&O. (More on my freelanced version of the real KCM&O here).

When these cars came to me most were broken apart to a degree and it was a big puzzle to put them back together. Also they lacked trucks and bolsters which must have been taken off to use on other projects and also lacked couplers. Plus the loads were in variable shape and needed refreshed.

The second best car was the single car in the second photo that is with the original car I received. The original was in worse shape actually and I had to repaint it completely. Note the very different design and these 5 hoppers cars are smaller.

The final two cars I suspect may be the original two made as the build quality is not quite as good. These had actually been rebuilt at some prior point previously, as the ribs don’t all match and some are plastic. They now have more of a “stealth” KCM&O scheme, using lettering from a set of tank car decals from Microscale.

I had some work to do to get these cars back together. When the cars and loads were glued back in I sprayed the cars with glosscote to refresh the loads and to prep the sides for decals. After the decals were on I spayed dullcote on but masked the loads so that they would stay looking like coal.

Keen observers will note the new cars do not have couplers yet! They will have them soon, the problem being lack of enough couplers at the moment and also the holes are pretty stripped out so it is not quite as simple as it could be. I plan to use Kadee whisker couplers on the cars which should work out fine.

They roll GREAT on the Schorr trucks and it is fun to see this string of matching cars together on the layout.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Recent Projects: Boxcars of Yellow and Silver

I try to paint models in groups and these four boxcars are among recent projects completed.

First up is this pair of MKT 37’ boxcars. They came to me as an unfinished project and I think I deduced correctly where the original builder was heading. The bodies are Picard 36’ bodies and they were mounted on the cast frame visible in the second photo. I do not know the maker of the frames. They seem almost purpose made for this body and project (they look quite correct from the side of the car) but may actually be HO parts. Also with the bodies as they came to me was two sets of vintage Champion HO-OO (!, old sets) MKT decals, highly suited to this model.

Luckily, when I first was planning these out there was information online on these cars (related to an Ultra Scale O scale kit) that I printed out, as now that information is not there! The MKT had a large number of these cars in the number series from 74105 to 75597, dating to the early years of the 20th century. They were it seems still in fairly wide use still until the end of WWII but all were out of service by the early 1950s.

Using the photos I had printed out (mostly no longer online, but one may be found here, scroll down) I used Eastern/Famoco ends on both cars and came fairly close to the actual prototype cars in a number of dimensions (including length) and details. The ladders are Eastern parts as is the brake cylinder.

The cars are both on trucks made using the side frames of PBL Sn3 Andrews trucks, as described further in this article. Super free rolling and the right design for these cars! I could wish a few details were sharper/better (and I forgot to add hand grabs on the left ends), but they came out as nice vintage looking models. Periodically I run trains from more of a 1930s era and these will fit right in those sessions, looking freshly shopped as they do. The “Sloan Yellow” Scheme dates to the era of the MKT presidency of Matthew S. Sloan, 1934–1945. Prior to that, these cars would have been boxcar red.

However, mostly I run trains representing a late 1950s era. The silver cars are a little less exotic; they are both pre-war die-cast Scale-Craft cars but decorated to imitate post-war prototypes.

The Rock Island car was inspired by finding the decals in the parts supply (and I like the Rock Island). The Orient car was my solution of how to paint another silver car using decals on hand. It came out pretty well really and would also fit in with my more 1960s-70s operating sessions (if I overlook the shortcomings of the S-C body casting). Both cars are on reproduction Lionel trucks, which has become a de-facto standard for these S-C cars on my layout, I just think they look better on the longer/lower trucks than on the original, stock trucks.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Recent Projects: A Gulf Tank Car and two ATSF Heavyweights

This summer a major goal was to paint and move through the shops generally a number of projects.

Among the recent projects completed one that really pleased me was this tank car. It is Scale-Craft, a vintage car that was stripped and repainted with a two tone (sliver/black) scheme. Looking in the decal supply I spotted a vintage Walthers HO set of Gulf tank car decals and I really like how this car came out.

Liking it as much as I do it seemed like one suited to receive a special pair of trucks. I had a couple Scale-Craft trucks in the parts supply that had side frames that had been modified with brass bushings. What a predecessor had done was drill out the holes larger and put in pieces of brass tube to make new brass bearing surfaces for the wheels. I had some years ago another car come in with these from Pierre Bourassa, and it had Schorr wheelsets on it; the combination rolls great. I also had four orphan Schorr wheelsets that Pierre had used in a scenic application and cleaned them up to use in these sideframes, resulting in a car that rolls and looks great.

As to the ATSF heavweights, the coach is the finished version of a J-C Models car that the “before” may be seen here. I put new sides on it, cleaned up details, repainted.

The baggage car has more of a tale. I have various loose parts, remnants of the unfinished projects of others, and one effort I have made is to try to get things back together when I can. In this case I had the roof and ends for a Graceline baggage car and the sides and frame from a J-C baggage car. What I did was modifiy the frame to match the roof (adding some more Graceline detail parts in the process) and put it all back together as a hybrid model. The sides had been previously used and were painted red, as can be seen with the flash showing the inside of the car through the windows.

Both cars have good Scale-Craft trucks and the same vintage decals. They are probably from the 1940s and would not quite snuggle down as well as I would have liked. But in the big picture that is OK, these cars have a nice vintage look and make a nice pair that are in much better shape than when they got to me.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

American OO for 56-57: Part IV, Articles in 1957

In 1957 Model Railroader was pretty much devoid of coverage of American OO gauge, but the topic does come up a couple times in Railroad Model Craftsman.

The first item of note is found in the May, 1957 issue of RMC. It is a photo of the layout of George Jones, his layout having been described further in this article. The caption mentions the Lionel Hudson “freshly coaled and ready for any run,” but there is more to see here. The diesel pulling the train is probably one of his scratchbuilt models; the passenger cars are neatly painted for the Union Pacific, the car on the left being a cast Scale-Craft coach and the next one looks to be Zuhr on the Varney F-3 trucks. The cars in the yard are obscured but finally I would note that it looks like his switch stand is a DPDT toggle switch with springs connecting it to the turnout. A practical solution to the issue of wiring the points and frog of the switch for the correct polarity; he was clearly an operator and was ready to run trains with his OO club friends.

The same issue has a photo of a TT scale engine built by a modeler with a name I recognized; Howard A. LeVan Jr. He started the firm that put the first OO gauge locomotive on the market, the OO Gauge Model Co. More on that early firm here (they did not last long), and clearly LeVan was enthusiastic about trains still but not active in OO.

The other interesting item is found in the October, 1957 issue of RMC, a letter from Dave Sacks with a photo of his back yard and mention of both New Jersey OO groups

First off, how many photos have you ever seen of an OO gauger’s back yard? I am not sure from the text but I am guessing that is a detached garage, not his train building over to the left. In his letter Sacks mentions that “This buckboard was donated along with the Liberty emblem by the Jersey Central for our North Jersey Midland Model Railroad Assoc.” He plans to add a board with “Green Brook Lines” and also noted that the marker light at the top “has been wired up electrically.” To this the editors added, “Dave is a double-O gager, has just put up a new 55 foot long pike having 650 feet of track and 60 turnouts. The North Jersey area is still an OO stronghold with two very active clubs, the NJMRRA and ABCOOR.”

George Jones was active in the ABCOOR group and Sacks in the NJMRRA group. And there were OO gaugers many other places. Looking ahead to 1958-59, if you are anxious to read ahead the November, 1958 issue of MR has a great feature story on the layout of Carl Appel, for more see this article.

When the history series returns the topic will be 1958-59.

Return to the beginning of the 1956-57 series

Saturday, August 2, 2014

American OO for 56-57: Part III, Still More Products

Besides the Schorr brass items there were other products available for the American OO enthusiast.

Starting alphabetically, Baker OO power trucks are mentioned in the “Bull Session” column in the April, 1956 issue of Model Railroader. I have not seen actual Baker advertising for these but they were typically used in Schorr F-3 models, and also the Kemtron GP-7 could be purchased set up for a Baker or a Lindsay drive (and some found their way into Schorr RS-2 models as well). More on Baker here.

The 2nd Kemtron Master Catalog Dates to 1956 and according to the October 1956 issue of MR the catalog was already sold out! The 3rd catalog “will be ready in November.” While not listed in the catalog, a letter to the editor in RMC for July of 1956 asks where to purchase a Scale-Craft 0-6-0, and the answer was Kemtron.

I have a copy of the 2nd catalog and HO Seeker has 3rd (1957) complete online (here). The third edition has more complete coverage of trucks available:

and the listing for the their OO power truck (the Kemtron-Lindsay truck, seen above) was much clearer in the 3rd catalog,

But the pages on the GP-7 and the S-C line are exactly the same in both editions:

Finally, it should be mentioned that MHP still advertises the OO passenger car diaphragms in MR every month and Eastern must have still had their cars available for purchase, although not advertised.

Things were getting a little slim. When the series returns we conclude with a look at articles related to American OO published in 1957.

Continue reading 1956-57 Series

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Update: A Pair of Graceline Coaches

Back a couple years ago I posted on two coaches of mystery, see this article for the “before” photo. I had puzzled over them for a while, but finally realized that they were pre-war Graceline cars.

Clearly the cars were built up and painted and then rebuilt by prior owners. The rebuilder before me I think wanted to turn them into pseudo old time coaches with a truss rod frame. The look did not work at all, they were clearly steel cars. I think that person probably knew the look did not work either; there was no evidence that trucks had ever been put back on the cars.

I made a decision to make the frames much more standard. I was able to use some Graceline parts from the parts supply but I did not have a main frame member that was the correct length for this car so I improvised there.

For decals I opted for the Union Pacific because I had two similar Graceline cars decorated for the UP, the diner and RPO seen at the beginning of the Graceline 101 article and also a Nason Hudson I decorated for the UP. The vintage decals I found matched those on the other cars almost perfectly, although the paint color is a little different. I have enough for another car and plan to decorate a S-C baggage car for the UP the next time I am painting things Pullman green, it will make a nice little train. The trucks are Scale-Craft.

One final “mystery” not shown in the photo is each car has sides that don’t match. The photo shows one type of side and the other side of both cars has paired windows. Not sure why they don’t match but both sides appear to be standard Graceline sides, not by another maker. But at least the cars are together and operable vintage cars now; getting more cars such as this together and operable has been a summer goal.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Note for Sellers: What is American OO Worth?

People come to the American OO Today site for a variety of reasons, and one is to scope out values of vintage models in our obscure gauge and scale.

First, thank you for visiting! It is not like American OO is the most visible scale today. As an aside, I was told recently that the new TCA museum has not a bit of American OO on display! Please surf around the links a bit and get up to speed, models in American OO were in production and available from the early 1930s into the early 1960s and there were a lot of enthusiasts in the gauge, especially before WWII. It was manufactured in large commercial quantities by Lionel and Scale-Craft in particular.

Values are a topic I have not addressed much in this site. In part that is due to Lionel having price guides. If you are selling Lionel, start there! My main article on Lionel OO is here.

So what if it is not Lionel? Right or wrong, an otherwise similar Scale-Craft item (die cast and similar quality level) is worth something like half of the Lionel equivalent. My main article on Scale-Craft OO is here.

Speaking generally most OO is probably worth half as much as Lionel, but there are major exceptions due to rarity and such. Some items are hardly ever seen for sale and when they show up on eBay there can be a bidding war. I know too, from the website stats that people will research up on things after they see unusual listings. So as a seller rest assured if it is an interesting item it will probably sell at a nice price, there are enough people looking for unusual OO items.

That said some stuff is relatively common, especially Scale-Craft. Most of their line was manufactured in large commercial quantities for a long while. The bad news being that common freight cars in so-so condition are probably worth $10 or less, especially with postage cost being part of the equation for buyers.

Kits are an interesting case. Lionel kits sell sky high. Other brands, not so much. It is not that they are undesirable but not many people are actually looking to build them either. Rarity does kick in a bit though, kits for example like these pre-war Hoffmann cars at left almost never show up for sale. People are curious about the unusual.

Trucks are another interesting topic. Speaking generally trucks could be around half of the value of the item they are associated with. But easily could be worth more, if the trucks are more desirable or in good shape. One big problem being that a sizable percentage of Scale-Craft bolsters have shrunk/distorted over time, leaving those trucks inoperable.

I quietly sell some things from time to time. I can understand the reasons to not price too low, I don’t want to give stuff away that I took the time to list. I list at what I think is a fair price though, and that is all any of us can really ask.

In short, American OO does have some value, don’t throw it out! Give eBay a shot if you are a seller but with reasonable expectations. Most OO will not command nearly the same pricing as seen for mint Lionel OO models, but most will sell for enough to be worth your time to list it and will be appreciated by the buyers.

Friday, July 25, 2014

American OO for 56-57: Part II, More Schorr Brass Imports

The really interesting new products of these years are all Schorr. His Ma and Pa 2-8-0 was first advertised in the March 56 issue of RMC and then, in August we see the first listing for his 4-6-0 model as well. Both ads are seen below.

It must have helped a bit that RMC was based in New Jersey and that area was the hotbed of American OO activity, as Fred Schorr gets specific mention in the RMC September 56 “Dispatcher’s Report” column, where they note that there is “more new OO equipment lately than there has been in over ten years.” See his ad in this issue as well as it is the first to mention his caboose, which must also be a new model for 1956.

One extremely interesting document that made its way to me is a price sheet which must date to 1957, based on the models listed and not listed (the RS-2 being first advertised in 1958, for example). It consists of one page of text, and works through the models in the line at that time. It begins,
The 2-8-0 Maryland and Pennsylvania Locomotive in “00” gauge 4 MM. scale is a very proud little locomotive. No. 26 of the Maryland & Pennsylvania, Baldwin built in 1912. Detail you have never seen before and the tender is equipped with the best you have ever seen in arch-bar trucks in any gauge. Built up painted and ready to run 12 volt DC. 2 rail, $45.00.
After that are a group of testimonials, the most interesting one being from J. B. Foster, owner of a competing firm, the Guild of the Iron Horse. He says “Honestly, I think she is one of the cutest little consolidations I ever saw, just smells of the backwoods branch line and old time railroading. Those arch-bar trucks are what ‘00’ has needed these many years. They are detail and perfection.” Other comments confirm that “Both the 2-8-0 and 4-6-0 are swell items.” Continuing with the rest of the line,
And so it goes with all replies. Not one single kick. The same applies to the new 50 ton hoppers with Bettendorf trucks $4.00 eash, and those Bettendorf trucks sold out so fast I am now waiting for more of them along with the new arch-bar trucks. $1.35 a pair in lots of 6 pair.
And that 4-6-0 camel back. It’s a beauty for one that likes the type. Only a few of these left at $42.50.
And those RDC cars No. 1, 2 and 3 are still in demand that I am 6 weeks behind on deliveries. Still $19.95 less power but ready for the track with trucks. Power trucks for the RDC cars with Pitman DC 71A motor $18.00.
That old style wood caboose, (Central of Vermont) built up in brass and painted RED with arch bar trucks $6.95.
70 Ton triple pocket hoppers, less paint, and couplers, with Bettendorf trucks $4.00, built up in brass with the high rounded ends.
High side gondola cars built up in brass, less paint and couplers, but with those famous Bettendorf trucks $3.50.
The flyer ends with a survey of sorts to ask customers what models they might be interested in. In particular he was floating the idea of a NYC 4-6-0 model, Budd streamline cars, and streamliner trucks. Of those, only the trucks made the market, seen in this article which has a few more notes from his son Ed Schorr on these imports.

To close, apparently a second run of camel back 4-6-0 models were imported in 1961. The black and white photo of that model above is not only the model seen in the 1956 advertising, it is also one Schorr sent out in 1961 to promote that run (clearly marked as such on the reverse). Click on the photo for a better view of the model. I don’t own one of these and would not have any idea how to tell the two runs apart (if there is a way), but if a reader has several you might want to look them over and see what you can tell, I would be happy to share that.

Quite a good number of Schorr models were imported in this timeframe. But here was even more on the market these years, and when the series continues it will look at other products.

Continue to Part III of 56-57 Series

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