American OO Today

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

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.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Two great pre-war Graceline boxcars

Up today are a couple eBay purchases from last year, vintage Graceline boxcars with the factory lettering.

First up is a wonderful example of the Graceline B&O wagon top boxcar. This model was introduced in 1939 – see this article to see the original advertising. I had previously purchased an example that was built up and lettered with decals (see here), but this new example not only has the original hand lettering but is in beautiful condition.

Stepping back a second, Graceline sold a line of OO cars with hand lettered sides. This was no small effort on their end and to my mind at least these are highly desirable items. I have a bit more on the hand lettered cars here.

Back to this example, it came to me with loop couplers and only one Graceline truck. I found a good pair of Graceline trucks that matched the original truck that was there and installed Kadee couplers to set it up for operation. I am liking their whisker couplers a lot for OO applications, as in this case I just cut down the box and screwed them on, plus they are compatible with S-C and Lionel couplers (manually). This model will be operated when the mood strikes me to run vintage cars. The only downside being that Graceline trucks of this period have rather heavy flanges that bump on my turnouts (but operate fine, otherwise).

The other boxcar is a Graceline wood boxcar, also hand lettered (the C&NW logo is paper, glued on) and also in wonderful condition. This one is on S-C trucks (with the not-often-seen "thin bolster") and needed no additional attention from me other than adjusting the gauge of a couple wheelsets using my NMRA gauge. Most notable perhaps on this one are the unusual couplers. These I have never seen before and would operate automatically pretty well I would think with other couplers of the same design. Notable for us today, these will mate with Kadee couplers well enough to run the car in a train, so I will leave them be.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A simple HO crane conversion

This model is one that I bought on eBay mostly because it was on S-C passenger trucks. Some prior owner had done a really simple conversion (with Kadee couplers and then gluing the tucks on it turns out!), which I have improved upon.

The model itself is illustrated here in the TYCO Brown Box Era website. What I did was carve off the original bolsters and make a new bolster to support a nice pair of heavy duty Andrews trucks. The side frames are brass and I suspect are overscale HO parts.

Back to the crane itself, the frame is wide enough to be OO, all that visual “weight” at the bottom of the model makes it fairly credible as an OO scale model of a fairly modern, Diesel powered crane, although certainly quite freelanced. Probably the Andrews trucks I used are anachronistic, but still to my eye fit a crane of this size.

The original model has a “boom tender” which TYCO created using a flat car with a caboose body on it. I my case at this point I only have that flat car as my “tender,” also TYCO and decorated for the Santa Fe as well. I describe that conversion here; width is the same as the crane, it works well in American OO.

It is an easy conversion. I don’t plan to run it much but it can be run and is a nice addition to the roster.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Two TYCO conversion reefers

As the weather turns to summer I seem every year to turn to some of the more modern cars in my operating collection.

From that roster are seen here a Popsicle car and a Campbell’s soup car. These were converted to OO operation by Bill Johann. He dated the cars as to his work; the Campbell’s car was converted in 1989 and the Popsicle car in 1986 with tweaks in ‘87 and ‘91. They are based on a TYCO HO model introduced in 1973-74, their 62' double-plug door Express Reefer. This was available decorated for a variety of models (more here). Most if not all were not prototypical schemes, but still they are attractive if fanciful cars.

What Johann did was cut the sides off the bodies and build from styrene a new roof and ends, using a widened version of the original frame as well. On the Popsicle car he matched the side color really closely and on the Campbell’s car it is a contrasting color. He also added some lettering to both cars, on the doors and ends. The Campbell’s car is lettered for the Union Valley and the Popsicle car lettered for the Pacific Inland Route, with new reporting marks and car numbers.

The car is a little short visually (in height) but scales out at about 54 feet long in OO and it has plenty of “heft” to pass as OO scale.

The trucks are worth a special mention, they are his custom roller bearing trucks, described further in this article. One of the cars had what I take to be an early version of this conversion which did not track well; those were replaced with a later version salvaged from a broken tank car conversion.

I won’t be converting more of these but I do want to do some conversions of the very similar TYCO 62’ hi-cube cars (more here), of which I have three examples ready to go! Maybe this summer I will add them to the operating fleet as well, rebuilding them in the same general manner as these vintage Johann conversions. They are a bit taller and have prototypical schemes -- plus the sides in OO are very similar to the size of the sides of a typical 53' double plug door boxcar -- they will be cars that are run.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

An Exacta #201 Pullman in OO scale

A maker with big plans for HO, OO, S, and O Scale models right after WWII was Exacta Scale Models, Inc. of Portland, Oregon. In my main article on Exacta (here) we see that their line was at least supposed to be pretty extensive in OO but all I knew for sure had been produced was their streamline cars (which are also seen fairly commonly in HO – for more on Exacta HO see info linked from this page in the HOSeeker site). As to the other OO items listed in their 1946 catalog, I really had no idea if they were produced or not.

And then these car sides came up on eBay a few weeks ago. Clearly they are what they are marked as being: their #201 Pullman car. Exacta listed an extensive line of “moulded copper” car sides in OO, including eight different heavyweight passenger cars with two different Pullmans. As listed on eBay these sides and ends had with them a streamlined roof of uncertain origin and a floor and frame from a Scale-Craft kit, but as shipped out Exacta sold these as only sides and ends, you were to supply the other parts (perhaps using a J-C kit as a base for the new, upgrade sides). The detail is really nice I must say; especially the rivet details. As always click on the photo for a bigger view.

The packaging has the handwritten notes “Room car” and “Night Flyer,” as visible in the photo. I am not versed enough in Pullman floor plans to give any particulars of this design, but clearly there must have been some difference between this car and their #200 Pullman model. Anyone else have one to use for a comparison?

The back of the sides/ends is interesting to see firsthand. I really don’t know the process used to make these parts but clearly the copper is clad onto a zinc base that is very visible and rough. As they are now the sides are a little bit bent out of shape too (due to the passage of years and storage) but could be easily worked back to being very nearly flat.

Finally here are the ends and their original packaging. They are flat and would require some bending to bring them into the correct shape. A wooden J-C end would be very useful to guide the bends, bring them to final shape, and perhaps also to support the finished parts.

This is the sort of item I am unlikely to build up. Call me in this case an “extreme vintage scale railroad model collector,” but clearly these are rare items that were only manufactured briefly and an interesting item. If I do build them up it will be to make the nicest Pullman I can, these are great sides to be on the lookout for.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

An easy, modern OO scale caboose conversion

This is an interesting model that I stumbled across recently. An eBay seller had listed examples of this model a couple times in the OO listings, which is where it caught my eye.

A product of the 1970s, it is a Tyco “brown box era” model and was available in a variety of schemes -- the ATSF scheme seems most common along with The Chattanooga Choo-Choo train set version. More info on the model and paint schemes may be found in the Tyco Brown Box Era HO-Scale Trains Resource.

In these photos the Tyco model is seen with a vintage AHM HO caboose body, and the comparison is interesting. The cupola of the Tyco model is certainly OO scale and the body is longer and taller than an HO model should be as well. The windows are nice and large and seem to be appropriate for OO scale. From the top the body should probably be wider in OO scale (prototypes undoubtedly varied a little), but it is nevertheless also wider than the HO model and is overscale for HO in basically every dimension.

I think the roots of what happened is the folks at Tyco wanted to use the same frame they used on 40’ boxcars and reefers for a 40’ caboose. It would simplify inventory and anyway it was a train set model, freelancing in this manner was not a problem from their perspective. To make it look more realistic/plausible they had to scale up the caboose a bit, so it ended up being more or less 1/76 scale.

This example is my first simple conversion of this model, and it is riding on the original trucks but modified with the “Morlok method” (described in this article) and HO 36” wheelsets.

I have several more of these bodies that I will be using as the basis of additional models. In particular I am interested to make a more convincing ATSF version, blanking out some windows and using decals to letter it in a correct paint scheme and use better trucks (mounted a bit further in from the ends, too). This type of project is a great break from the more involved vintage projects underway and certainly this model can be used as the basis for a variety of modern caboose conversions.

About Me

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