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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Scale-Craft OO at Kemtron; the end of the line

While as noted in the previous post Elliott Donnelley tried to continue with Scale-Craft OO production into the early 1950s, eventually the residual of the line was purchased and marketed by Kemtron starting in 1954. Located in Fresno, CA, Kemtron also produced a great OO GP-7 in brass (introduced in 1953) [and more here] and other items (including a wonderful passenger car truck), so they were an ideal final owner for Scale-Craft.

Page ten of the Kemtron 1st Master Catalog for Craftsmen (1955) reads
Coming Soon the OO Scale-Craft line of model railroad equipment, Kemtron has purchased all the inventory of parts and kits, plus all tooling for the excellant [sic] OO Scale Craft line. We hope later this year to issue a complete catalog on this line for all who are interested. There're [sic] some beautiful items in the line.
I have highlights that I Xeroxed some years back from the Kemtron 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th master catalogs. The text above was also in the 2nd catalog (with the same grammatical errors!), and this page at right was included in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th master catalogs (and probably in the 3rd), the exact same page in fact. This image is of my clearest copy which is from the 2nd master catalog. Click on the image for a larger version.

The three cars illustrated are the hopper, tank, and caboose. The text at the top of the page reads "These are the first three cars of the Scale Craft OO scale line to be released by Kemtron. Many more coming soon." By the time this same page appeared yet again in the 4th master catalog these words must have rang pretty hollow.

The real problem I suspect was created by Lionel when they in 1938 introduced models that so closely matched these three models that Scale-Craft had introduced in 1937. By the 1950s there were many of both versons of these models available used very inexpensively. Why buy a new one from Kemtron? They could not possibly have sold well.

Kemtron did market to some extent other items from the Scale-Craft line. I also have a Xerox of a listing from The Electronic and Hobbycraft Stores catalog most likely from 1955. (My Xerox is undated but it has information that goes beyond my dated 1954 copy--see this article for that version, which probably dates to December of 1953). There is a note with the listing which reads "Important Notice: Kemtron now owns Scale-Craft. It will most likely take time to reorganize. Most items in stock - if not, they can be ordered especially for you." It lists in addition to their GP-7 the following Scale-Craft models under the ovearll Kemtron heading:

C&NW Class H 4-8-4
Ten Wheeler 4-6-0
Switcher 0-6-0
Gas-Electric, Baggage-Coach or Baggage-Mail
Multiple Unit, Baggage, Baggage-Coach, or Passenger Coach
OOP-611 Pullman Sleeper
OOP-612 Pullman Observation Lounge
OOP-613 Dining Car
OOP-614 Passenger Coach
OOP-615 Baggage Car
OOP-656 Passenger Coach, Open Vestibule
OOF-601 Stock Car
OOF-602 Flat Car
OOF-603 Tank Car
OOF-604 Caboose
OOF-605 Hopper Car
OOF-607 Refrigerator, 40'
OOF-625 Automobile Car, 50'
OOF-626 Refrigerator Car, 50'
OOF-627 Steel Box Car, 50'
OOF-628 Automobile Car, 40'
OOF-630 Steel Box Car, 40'

A couple of those items are quite rare to the point I wonder if they were produced, in particular the OOF-625 and 626 50' cars and the 628 and 630 40' cars; I have seen many of the 627 50' cars but have yet to see any example of any of the others outside of catalogs and lists. The Kemtron OO list here also includes as well all the types of trucks ever produced by SC and Kemtron. Click on the image for a larger version.

Also notable in this catalog listing are the Monroe Hobby Products diaphragms and also the Bob Peare Engineering #6 switches. There were models on the market to keep an OO gauger busy in 1955.

Back to Kemtron and Scale-Craft, I have been told that a few of these S-C models were sold packaged in Kemtron boxes, but I have never seen this packaging. Can anyone confirm this? Their truck packaging may be seen here, and some Scale-Craft parts were certainly sold in Kemtron packaging. But I am skeptical that the kits were.

The Kemtron OO and TT lines must have seemed like good ideas on paper, cornering part of a significant niche market and all, but overall the OO line in particular could not have been much of a seller for them. By the 1960s they only stocked a few OO parts it has been said that the S-C dies were ultimately destroyed by Kemtron to avoid paying property taxes on them. That was the end of the line for Scale-Craft OO production, although it is also said that an individual still owns a core residual of the line today, unsold inventory and more, several owners later.

For a more complete view of their OO line please be sure to check my general overview of Scale-Craft OO gauge models here.

UPDATE 2012: And Scale-Craft also made O gauge models! They were a major manufacturer. As noted in the first comment to the article (see below), the O gauge side of the Scale-Craft car line was acquired by Thomas Industries; these models were available into the early 1960s. Also Central Locomotive Works acquired the line of locomotives. I was forwarded recently a copy of a letter that was sent to Lewis English dated Feb. 28, 1951, where Elliott Donnelley lays out the transition at that time:
...we have just sold our entire "O" gauge line of model railroad equipment; the car line to the Thomas Industries of Wenonah, N. J., and the locomotives to the Central Locomotive Works, ... Chicago, Illinois.

As far as the "OO" line is concerned, this will be carried on under the Scale-Craft name by Mr. Gunnard Stark of ... Lake Forest, Illinois.
For the full letter and more see this article. From there the residual of the OO line made it out to Kemtron as described above.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Scale Craft Loco tooling went to Bob Smith at Central Loco Works, only the O Scale cars went to Thomas. The Central 4-8-4 was a Scale Craft design that reused some pre-war Hudson parts.

JJ