Founded in 1933 in Chicago as an O gauge manufacturer (originally known as American Model Engineers, Inc.), Scale-Craft introduced its OO scale line in 1937 under the leadership of Elliott Donnelley. Donnelley was also involved with the family printing firm, R.R. Donnelley and Sons, one of the largest printers in the world. It was a quality line that utilized the same construction techniques as the best O gauge models of the time with many die cast parts.
They chose OO over the slightly smaller HO scale to allow for larger motors and better operation. Highlights of their pre-war offerings include:
- 4-6-0 based on a Maine Central prototype, die cast. The most common Scale-Craft locomotive.
- 4-4-2 variation of above model
- 4-6-4t variation of above model
- C&NW 4-8-4, die cast
- Heavy 0-6-0, brass and die cast of Chicago, West Pullman, and Southern prototype
- 4-6-2, sand cast bronze; of Southern Pacific prototype, this model had first been marketed by H. L. "Red" Adams
- Coach, die cast
- Baggage, die cast
- Pullman sleeper, stamped steel sides
- Observation, stamped steel sides
- Diner, stamped steel sides
- Gas electric cars, two types, steel sides
- Caboose, die cast
- Hopper, two bay, die cast
- Box car, die cast
- Tank car, die cast
- Stock car, die cast
- Flat car, die cast
- Reefer, wood with cast bronze details
Of these models it should be noted clearly that at a glance the caboose, hopper, and tank are all very similar to the comparable Lionel models but may be recognized easily by the differing trucks (VERY popular with modelers of the day [more here]) and other markings. Scale-Craft it should also be noted introduced their versions a year before the comparable Lionel models.
very rare train sets with track, a complete passenger train (4-6-0, baggage, two coaches) or a complete freight train (4-6-0, box car, tank car, hopper, and caboose). The track is sectional on a steel base and may be seen in this article.
Production of this line was temporarily halted in 1942. Production resumed after the war, but in late 1946 the line was sold to Doug Douglass who moved operations to California; he had been west coast sales manager. Douglass made a go of it, tried to promote OO to be sure, but it was a tough sell. He seems to have mostly shipped out products that were put together from old stock, as only the "loose leaf" catalog, price list, and order form are known to have the Hollywood address printed on them. Soon Donnelley purchased the line back.
New offerings from post-war Scale-Craft included:
- Revised standard 40' reefers with stamped brass parts instead of bronze
- A 50-foot single door boxcar, stamped brass (introduced in 1946)
- Three other variations of this car with stamped brass sides (50-foot double door and 40-foot single or double door) were cataloged but perhaps never made [speculation also is that the original box car dies were damaged]
- A 50-foot steel reefer that was probably never made, based on the 50-foot boxcar (link above)
- Die cast MU cars which were based on the die cast passenger cars (illustrated in the Round Lake catalog but perhaps never produced either)
- And an orphan item, a new four-wheel passenger truck (friction bearing) that I would speculate might have been intended for an express reefer model.
Eventually the residual of the line was purchased and marketed by Kemtron starting in 1954; by the 1960s they only stocked a few OO parts. Kemtron also produced a great OO GP-7 in brass (introduced in 1953) and passenger trucks.
I would also note that S-C had their own line of decals in the prewar era, later selling the models with Champion decals. More on their line of decals may be found here.
One common question today is that of how to wire and trouble shoot Scale-Craft locomotives with their big Universal motor. This article on bench testing these motors will get you started. There is a link there to the wiring diagram as well. These can be run nicely on DC with the use of a modern rectifier, as described in this article.
Another note being that you need a power pack that puts out plenty of amps, those motors draw like crazy, the average modern HO train set pack won't do much for these old motors. But also my current DC power pack seems to not work well with these specific motors in bench testing without a rectifier connected. It is a puzzle. If you are a Lionel OO operator and run AC you will have good luck with these vintage motors I think. The two S-C locomotives I most frequently run on the layout both have the early S-C DC motor installed, which work well for me. Finally, probably for the reason of the ease of use of a permanent magnet DC motor, operators who stuck with OO in the post-war era often converted older models to run on DC. See for example this Lionel Hudson that I run frequently, upgraded by a prior owner with a big can motor.
- Series on Blow Smoke, a pre-war newsletter by Scale-Craft
- Scale-Craft in 1933-34
- Scale-Craft in 1937
- Scale-Craft, a 1938 story involving lawyers
- Scale-Craft in 1939
- Scale-Craft in 1940
- Scale-Craft in 1941, with views of the factory
- A tour of the factory in 1944
- Post-war plans as of 1945
- Scale-Craft early 1946 and their factory locations in Libertyville and a change of ownership
- Scale-Craft in 1947
- Scale-Craft in 1948
- Scale-Craft in 1949
- Scale-Craft in 1950 Part I -- Part II
- Scale-Craft 1951-52
- Scale-Craft in 1953