American OO Today

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

Sunday, September 20, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Update: Two cement hoppers

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Two great vintage cabooses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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