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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Scale-Craft Gas-Electric

The Scale-Craft Gas-Electric cars were introduced on page 69 of their 1941 catalogue and were offered until the end of Scale-Craft production. Two different models were produced, a combination coach and baggage car and a combination mail and baggage car. These models were produced with two different drives. The original drive used one of their standard, large motors in the baggage section of the model with a flexible shaft connecting the motor to a geared truck. The postwar drive had a smaller motor mounted on top of the geared truck as one unit.

I have been working for a few years at finishing the rebuilding of one of these models. Essentially it was done in January but I wanted to install an interior.

Backing up, this particular model had been originally built to use the second Scale-Craft drive. However, when it came into my hands it had been rebuilt with a drive from an Athearn HO diesel that was not working. I fiddled with it for a while. Then, a Scale-Craft drive for this model came up for sale on eBay, so I purchased it for possible use. I could have worked it out to use the drive but the model was originally constructed to use the second of the drives, not the first which was what the eBay drive was. To use this drive would have required extensive work on the floor. And, in the end, I doubt that it would have worked well anyway. Instead I used a drive from a trusty old AHM HO RS-2 (and later used the Athearn drive parts in an AHM SW-1). Runs a little fast but it gets around the layout fine.

Looking at it again today I am going to declare this model done! The seats I was going to use are too small (HO) and also I am not going to install window glass. I still am quite happy with how it came out.

UPDATE: Dick Gresham forwarded these photos of the two versions of the Scale-Craft drive for this model. The bottom view shows the early version and the drive not installed in a car shows the second version.

UPDATE II: I put a new drive in this model, Athearn-based with a big flywheel, it now runs great.

UPDATE III: For another S-C Gas-Electric model see this article.

A drive for the E-7

As this is the third post in a row on locomotives, it should be noted that one thing I don’t have enough of are locomotives that actually run well.

One eBay purchase a few years back was a pair of the M. P. Davis/Cusawego Valley Railroad OO Scale Models E units, the E-7A and B. Produced in the post-war period, a previous owner had tried to finish these but had left them incomplete with no drive. In looking at potential drive units, the overall wheelbase of a HO PA-1 truck is about right for an OO E-7 so I started looking and found a deal on a set of three Athearn PA-1 locomotives at a train show, two powered and one dummy. Looking at all the parts again this week I realized the easiest way to do this was to split the drives so that one motor powered the front truck and one powered the rear truck of the A unit, as illustrated in the photo. The unused drive shafts also have to be shortened slightly so they don’t interfere.

This thing really pulls! I normally don’t run freight trains of over ten car trains on my layout and this can pull that number with ease. I love the gearing, the dual motors, the flywheels, and the twelve wheel electrical pickup. I have a long ways to go on the bodies and I am not certain what I will do about sideframes (I have the original Davis sideframes but they are overscale and very heavy looking—I may use the PA sideframes until I find something better) but passenger trains will start rolling soon.

UPDATE: This will pull as many passenger cars as I can run on my layout plus the B-unit as a dummy. The bodies of these two locomotives will be a big job but I will start working in it over the coming weeks, but maybe after I do some steam locomotive work as well.

UPDATE II: The finished models may be seen here.

Two simple American OO diesel switcher conversions

One of my favorite little diesels on the layout is the AHM SW-1. This model is very overscale for HO, probably is around 1/80 scale. Which makes it a little small and narrow in OO, but this is not very obvious on the layout, it passes for OO. The truck wheelbase is correct for OO, at least.

For about 6 years I used the original conversion I made of this model, but as with my first diesels in the previous post I felt the drive was not great and the four wheel pickup was not so great either. I had been thinking about using parts of an Athearn drive I had on hand, salvaged from a Scale-Craft doodlebug that did not run (that I repowered with an AHM RS-2 drive, actually, more on that drive in a minute [UPDATE: and subsequently repowered again with an Athearn drive!]).

It took some effort--I used the frame from a dummy SW-1, a motor salvaged from a junker SW-1 purchased at a train show, parts from a junker AHM S-2, and one critical part from a Athearn PA-1 drive--but got it all together (it is a very tight fit) and now have an OO gauge SW-1 that runs much better than before with eight wheel pickup. If you convert this style of Athearn drive for OO it is not hard to do, be sure to add washers outside the bearings and also pull the axle somewhat but not so far that you make a dead short in the middle of the axle (a little hard to explain, but this was probably why the doodlebug did not run, I figured out--the two halves of the axle must not touch but need to be moved so that the wheelsets are solid at 19mm gauge). The new SW-1 drive still won’t pull much--four light, free rolling cars are the max--but for the local it will work great as it runs slow and sure.

This photo shows both drives from below. [UPDATE: This article has a better view of a converted Athearn drive.] On the new drive (top) I left the original Athearn sideframes in place on the rear truck. I could put AHM sideframes on, they are actually very close to OO scale, but for now I will leave it as it is. [UPDATE: I did go on and replace the Athearn sideframes on the rear truck with the correct style AHM sideframes].

I remounted the original drive that had been the Orient body under a spare C&NW body. It still runs but I will probably not re-paint it for the Orient and this unit will likely see little future use. [UPDATE: I later worked it over more with an ATSF body, then later managed to burn the motor out. It will be rebuilt or parted out at some point].

I had one other unit on hand that I had wanted to convert to OO, yet another junker AHM S-2 (or "Alco 1000"), a model that is also clearly oversized for HO (more information here), shown in the top photo. This model uses the same drive as my old standard OO drive from the AHM RS-2. All you need to do is cut the sideframes apart in the middle, re-gauge the wheelsets, and mount couplers. It is a quickie job and for pulling a train around for the kids in multiple with other units it will do great. I probably will not re-paint this unit for the Orient either; it can be a locomotive “on lease” from the SP.

[UPDATE: The Alco was later made by Model Power with a better drive suited to the Athearn conversion. For info and photos see this article. It is close to being a 1/76 model but narrow for OO.]

I don’t at this writing have enough parts left in the parts box to make any more AHM drives run but will be shopping. One other note would be although it does reduce pulling power, I have not used any of the wheelsets with traction tires on the AHM conversions. For now I am moving on to other drives. I love the better gearing on the Athearn based drive; it is a real step up.

UPDATE: The Orient SW-1 may be seen in operation in this video.

Also, the image at right shows where you could take the body modifications to a higher level. This model was donated to the OO SIG by Bill Gilbert, who added the white plastic additions that are visible. These give the model a bit more heft and again show us where the next level would be in this conversion.

My First American OO Gauge Diesels

Back in the late 70s I was somewhat short on cash as a youngster interested in American OO but not short on ideas.

These were my first two locomotives.  At that time my road was the freelanced Fall River Railway, running along the Fall River in Kansas. The boxcab was first, constructed on the frame of an AHM RS-2 and an Athearn F7-B body, somewhat in imitation of the homebuilt diesels that ran on the Rock Island.

The other is an AHM model (their Plymouth MDT Diesel) that is clearly overscale for HO and has got to be the easiest conversion there is; all you need to do is widen out the gauge on the existing axles and mount couplers at a new height. The model, marketed by AHM, was manufactured by Lima in Italy. The page of the 1979 AHM catalog that contains this model may be seen here in the HO Seeker website. I suspect the model is actually overscale for OO (!) but it looks very good with American OO models.

While I still use the little switcher as my standard for coupler height (specifically the rear coupler!), I rarely run either now as they are getting somewhat worn out. Lots of scale miles on this pair, pulling heavy loads, and they only have train-set quality drives.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Couple S-C/Lionel Comparisons

While taking photos today I also took a few that are comparisons of different models of the same car. Click on the photos to see the differences more clearly.

First we have Scale-Craft and Lionel cabooses, S-C on top and Lionel below. Outwardly they look quite similar, the bodies have differences but they are on the whole surprisingly small. The most obvious spotting features are the trucks and the cupola windows. The Scale-Craft trucks have a somewhat more toy-like appearance than the Lionel trucks, and the windows are larger in the Lionel model. These two particular cars have had a few extra details added, especially the S-C car as I added new brake wheels. The Lionel car was rebuilt from a junker quite recently (the wheel sets have been replaced with those from English’s Model Railroad Supply) and the S-C car was done back in the early 80s.

To finish our comparisons we have a group of hoppers. These are all unpainted which lends a bit more clarity the comparison. The Lionel car, in the middle, is slightly more detailed overall with ladders cast into the body. Which makes sense; they could use the Scale-Craft model as a starting point and improve on it. The model on the bottom is the Schorr triple hopper, an early brass import. The trucks for this car are on the middle left (not very clear in the photo) and are widely considered to be the best ever made for American OO. The trucks on the Lionel car also have replacement wheel sets, these being by Ultimate.

Picard Novelty Co.

The Picard Novelty Co. produced OO scale bodies from 1940-after 1947 in Westerly, Rhode Island. In the period their line of wood body parts were known for consistent quality and production did not stop during WWII. Perhaps because of this, these body kits seem quite common in OO collections today, assembled or unassembled.

The boxcar (or reefer) body kits were shipped with an wooden under frame and a roof walk. The line included boxcars with plain or scribed sides from 36 to 50 feet long with an overhang or receded roof, a similar wagon-top boxcar, and an express reefer. They also produced a gondola, a cement hopper, a twin hopper, and a quad hopper [see update].

The car in the photo I made some years back from one of their scribed side kits. It came out well! Instead of the stock frame I used a spare Eastern frame. I have a couple more of these in progress that will be modernized more, they will be equipped with Selley cast ends and Selley doors.

UPDATE: Just purchased/received an item I had an eye out for, a Picard cement hopper. While the boxcar kits seem to be quite common, the other models they made are not often seen. This particular one was nicely built up with reefer hatches, stamped brass ladder stock, and Nason trucks. It lacks some detail but the overall effect of the car when neatly assembled is quite good, it is a welcome addition to the collection.

In the photo with the cement hopper are the floor and one side of the quad hopper kit showing the familiar stamped marking of the maker. I also have a kit for the twin hopper of the same design.

UPDATE II: Welcome Train Collectors Quarterly readers who have searched for Picard Bodies based on the listing in "Who Done It?" part 107. For a complete rundown on Picard production please see my longer post on the topic, The story behind picard bodies. For all of my posts related to Picard please click on the Picard label below.

UPDATE III: And see this article for a better example of the Picard cement hopper.

Famoco OO Gauge Models 101

Another major American OO manufacturer was the Famous Model Company, better known as Famoco. Operating from Baldwin, Long Island, owner Ted Menten reported in a 1949 article that he became a manufacturer in 1937, but their OO line was not introduced until 1938. It was produced until about 1950.

The 0-4-0t was a pre-war product only. The GG-1 was offered before and after the war. The passenger cars were available before and after the war and the freight cars are post-war products.

Passenger cars

Their heavyweight passenger cars featured card sides, wood roof and floor, and cast details including die cast four or six wheel trucks. The line included:
  • 60’ baggage
  • 70’ coach
  • 68’ combine
  • 80’ 12 section Pullman, the car illustrated below being equipped with Scale-Craft trucks.
These cars utilize sides and wood parts that match those of J-C Models perfectly. The distinguishing details are the cast ends and other die cast parts which were not supplied with J-C kits. The exact relationship of these two firms is unclear, as the models were actually on the market at the same time. The thinking may have been for Famoco to market the upgrade version of the model but J-C kept selling the simple version (and was able to keep selling it all through WWII). The passenger car line along with the GG-1 and 0-4-0t are listed in what I take to be a 1940 catalog in my collection.

One other note being that an express reefer was listed as a future model but was never marketed.

Freight cars

More confusion is found in their post-war line of freight cars, as these cars share sides and many parts with the comparable models produced by Eastern Model Railroad Co. See that article for my current list of car numbers on these printed sides. Models produced included:
Both of these models came with exactly the same printed sides for a variety of roads. The wood parts, stampings, and most castings are identical to Eastern. The primary differences between the Eastern and Famoco versions of these cars are Famoco cars often (but not always!) have die cast ends and also the frames are different and clearly marked. (This article has more on the early and late versions of these kits). The boxcar in the first photo is one I rebuilt with new sides and decals years ago. It also has Scale-Craft ladders visible in the photo. The second car is stock, pure Famoco.

Eastern and Famoco freight cars were on the market at the same time after WWII. Why practically identical kits were marketed by two different makers is a mystery to me, although the cast ends make the Famoco version the upgrade model of the two and, at the end of production, was sold at a lower price. It is a point that I hope to sort out with more research.

The freight car trucks of Famoco and Eastern have a similar look to those of Scale-Craft but are shorter in wheelbase and have a different bolster. The comparison may be seen here.

And more

As to how to pronounce "Famoco," they answered that question in this ad from the April, 1947 issue of Model Railroader. In addition to the above Famoco also produced No. 6 turnouts and a track layer. Over the course of OO production they advertised sporadically but seem to have produced a good number of models, as they are not at all uncommon to find today, especially the freight cars.

In the 1949 article (“Alive Again … 00 Gauge”) Famoco owner Menten also notes that he had spent years producing precision military instruments as well. Despite his clear enthusiasm for OO, in the end Famoco left the OO market entirely and switched to producing HO models. See HoSeeker for more on their HO GG-1 and PRR B-1 models, introduced ca. 1950 (being advertised as new models in the January, 1950 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman for example).

More Information:
Updated 2013

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fred Schorr, importer and manufacturer of OO

One of the most important figures in post-war American OO gauge was Frederick E. Schorr of Hazelton, PA. A very active OO modeler, to keep OO supplied with new equipment he imported brass models from Japan beginning in 1955 (more here), produced one new model domestically, and bought and sold a great deal of used OO. His son Ed was also active in OO and assisted with the business.

The only model in the line not imported from Japan was the F-3, available as an A or B unit. This model is normally seen in sand cast bronze although I understand that it was also produced in aluminum. This model was later also produced by Ultimate Screw Machine. This particular model in the photo has had Kemtron sideframes substituted for the original Schorr sideframes and weighs more than two and a half pounds!

The locomotives imported from Japan include a Ma and Pa 2-8-0, a DL&W camelback 4-6-0, and an Alco RS-2 diesel. All are highly desirable models.

Another unique model was the RDC in three versions. This contemporary self propelled passenger car was imported as an RDC-1 (coach), RDC-2 (coach-baggage), and an RDC-3 (coach-baggage-mail). The model in the photo is an unpowered RDC-1.

Finally we get to their great freight cars which are among the best looking ever produced in OO. These models included a covered cement hopper (two bay), a gondola, twin and triple hopper cars (ribbed side) and a CV wood caboose. These rode on probably the best trucks ever manufactured in OO, which were either spring arch bar trucks or sprung Bettendorf trucks.

UPDATE: More on Schorr here, with links to photos and info on most of the models in his fairly extensive OO line.

Nason OO Gauge Freight Truck Designs

Nason Railways produced freight trucks in three basic designs, Vulcan, Dalman, or Andrews. The truck on the left is the Vulcan type, with four springs visible. The Dalman was a somewhat heavier looking design with two visible springs. The Andrews type has the characteristic extra piece on the bottom of the journal box. All are sand cast bronze.

One selling point was that these trucks were sold completely assembled. They are seen with two different bolster designs. In the photo the Dalman and Andrews trucks have a fiber bolster that has tabs that were attached to the truck sideframes with screws. The Vulcan truck however has a square bolster that is pinned onto a peg on the back of the sideframes. Click on the photo to see this more clearly. Note also that the truck in the middle has wheelsets a prior owner worked up from 3 rail Lionel wheelsets. They cut the axle and used plastic tube to hold the gauge, in the manner of the Nason wheelsets seen on the outer trucks.

From the catalog copy I cannot determine if any one truck was sold always with any one model. If anyone has insights on this based on instruction sheets I would love to hear from you (As of this writing I don’t have any freight car instruction sheets for Nason in my collection).

UPDATE: Reader Dick Gresham filled in a couple details of note. One would be that the three rail version of these trucks have a brass bolster, not fiber as in my photo, and he supplied a photo of the three rail truck. The second would be that the flat car instruction sheet (click for link to PDF version) does not specify any specific type of truck. Most likely the other freight cars are the same, they could be shipped with any of the three styles of truck.

Also note in his photo: Tru-Scale track with the self-gauging roadbed, a staple of OO gaugers of the past, available before and after WWII. My track is in contrast handlaid with modern code 100 rail.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Nason Railways OO Gauge 101

Nason Railways was the first major manufacturer of OO gauge equipment and supplies. Founded by 1933 by Hugh Nason in New Rochelle, NY, Nason Railways was producing American OO by 1934. They operated from several different addresses in Mount Vernon, NY after 1936. A primary early partner of Nason was Frank Waldhurst and rumored to have also been a silent partner in the firm was Myron P. Davis. More on ownership changes in a bit. The image below is from their 1940 (6th edition) catalog.

Nason models in general are characterized by the use of many sand cast bronze parts and are very much in the style of O scale models of the period.


Locomotive kits were available in three versions, ranging from un-machined, rough castings to complete kits; all were sand-cast bronze.
Passenger cars

Nason passenger cars were produced in two styles. The first models introduced in 1934 had cast aluminum sides, ends, and floors. Models of this design included:
These original models were joined by 1936 by “eazy-bilt” cars eventually all with stamped brass sides but initially only the coach was stamped brass. These included:
Also produced were three models of gas-electric cars of B & O design; a coach, a coach-baggage, and a coach-baggage-mail. These have a sand cast bronze front end that makes it very easy to differentiate them from the comparable Scale-Craft models.

Freight cars

And they made freight cars too! The line included:
 The model in the photo at the right is their caboose, one that came to me in a collection a few years back. Also already seen in this article are a P5-A, a gas-electric, and a reefer.

The reefer and boxcar with printed sides were marketed as "Easy-Bilt" models. The following list is my current list of their printed side cars; the numbers preceding the listings of boxcars and reefers is the catalog number for that model. If you know more of the printed car numbers do be in touch; for some models clearly as many as three different car numbers were produced. Another curiosity: many reefer sides have a "W" code printed on them (W-26, etc.). The theory is that the code relates to the sides (later production?) actually being made for Nason by Westbrook.

Box cars and Reefers:
1   Reefer, 40', wood, MDT 16640, 3135, 3309
2   Reefer, 40', wood, FGEX 34328, 35757
3   Reefer, 40', wood, SFRD 17421, 17963
4   Box car, 40', PRR 103514, 568687
5   Automobile car, PRR X-31 69572, 69671
6   Reefer, 40', wood, PFE, SP herald
7   Reefer, 40', wood, WFEX
8   Reefer, 40', wood, ARLX/Armour's Star Pure Lard 12945
9   Box car, 40', B&O 281133, 280096, 278842
10  Box car, 40', NYC 96875, 97123, 97488
11  Reefer, 40', wood, DICX 117
12  Reefer, 40', wood, SRLX/Swift Premium Ham
13  Reefer, 40', wood, URTX/Milwaukee 90983, 95706, 89422
14  Reefer, 40', wood, PFE, WP herald, 51201
15  Reefer, 40', wood, NWX 84021
16  Box car, 40', SP 22573
17  Box car, 40', UP 237136
18  Reefer, 40', wood, BPDX, Borden's Fine Cheese 12037
19  Reefer, 40', wood, MDT, NYC herald
20  Box car, 40', Erie 57037, 59156
21  Box car, 40', CP 240037
22  Box car, 40', wood, UP (1939 cat.—probably misprint)
22  Box car, 40', wood, NP 12838, 12968 (1940 cat.)
23  Box car, 40', Southern 12842, 12756
24  Reefer, 40', wood, ART Crazy Crystals
Flat car, 40' 
B&O 10638
C&NW 42597, 42574
PRR 397036

According to Keith Wills in his "Collector Consist" article in the September, 2006 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman the wood bodies for Nason were produced by the O gauge maker Westbrook. Actually, as noted in this article on their Easy-Built cars, the wood bodies varied quite a bit over years. I can believe that perhaps some were produced by Westbrook (who is also reported to have produced bodies for Eastern), but they must have also utilized other suppliers for these parts over the years and changes of ownership, they vary too much.

And more

In addition they sold track supplies and other items of use to OO gaugers of the time including very early on a pair of cast aluminum structure kits.

At the beginning of the article two business partners were mentioned. Reader Andrew Meyers found in his collection a letter dated October 1, 1955 to Major McCoid from Myron Davis that outlines the ownership changes. The original partner Frank Waldhorst dropped out of the firm fairly early and Hugh Nason was then the sole owner for a time. However, about 1940 Cyrus Miller purchased half interest, and then about a year later Miller bought out Nason's half as well. Miller then sold the firm to Edward Kelly who owned the firm by late 1946. According to Davis, Miller was never paid by Edward Kelly who died in 1952. Quoting Davis in the letter, "I got what I have from Kelly and he sold the Atlantic locomotive to Jerome Foster [of Guild of the Iron Horse]." More on that that model (and the Nason 4-4-2) here.

In short, after WWII Nason attempted to resume production and clearly had some big plans, but only boxcar, reefer, and caboose kits were actually sold, in addition to various parts (especially for the 2-8-0, some of which found their way into early On3 models). The last Nason price list I know of may be seen in this article, and their advertising ends in 1947 except for one final ad in 1950. Myron Davis marketed some Nason products on his own later, including the P5-A and the sand cast boxcar and passenger cars (more information on Davis here). And as noted already Guild sold an Atlantic, but the model he ultimately produced actually owes very little to the original Nason/Star-Continental design.

As a leading and long time maker of OO many of their models are fairly common but still desirable, especially so their locomotives, and other  models are only rarely seen or only rarely seen in good condition. This is a line the American OO enthusiast needs to be familiar with.

For More Information
Updated 2014

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Scale-Craft OO Gauge Trains 101

To begin a series of introductory articles on the various lines that produced American OO gauge models first up is Scale-Craft. The image below is from their 1939 catalog.

Scale-Craft & Co. (originally known in OO as Scale-Models, Inc. and sometimes listed as Scale Craft or Scalecraft) was without a doubt the most important OO scale model railroad manufacturer, certainly eclipsing Lionel in variety and very likely also in overall volume of sales. 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
Passenger equipment
Freight cars
This photo is of three of their early models, the cast boxcar (with original decals), a tank car I rebuilt, and a baggage car that I also rebuilt. Also on this page please find unpainted examples of yet another baggage car, the open end variation of their coach, and two hoppers. The links lead to still more photos and information.

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.

These were all marketed as kits but were available built up and very early on Scale-Craft marketed two 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:
The 4-6-2 was dropped from the line before WWII, and one gets the sense that OO sales must have been slow in spite of the effort made to launch a few new items (in particular the 50' steel box) and serve the market.

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.

To close, while Scale-Craft was not the first OO firm, certainly they were the firm that made things really happen in OO when they introduced their OO line in 1937. To learn more about these models and their historical context explore the links in American OO Today.
See also

Monday, May 12, 2008

Some notes on TT scale, and Why would I ever want to model in American OO scale?

This weekend at one point I was working on my old computer and saw a link to TT is a slightly newer gauge than OO and about half way between HO and N gauges in size. American OO was in production by 1934 and in use for several years prior to that; TT was introduced in 1946 by H.P. Products. While the current situations for OO and TT differ (and are actually better for TT, as there are new products produced today) there are also some parallels between the two gauges for modelers (UPDATE: "retro modelers") today.

In the site there is an article posted on the topic "Why would I ever want to model in TT scale?" (go to and find the link there). In it a number of points are made. One quote:
American TT scale is a challenge to model in because there are few items available. But things are getting better. New items are coming out every year, although you will not hear about them in the Modeling Press. This is because TT still has a small following. Where you will hear about them is here on this web site, and at the TTSMR group at There are both regular items that remain available, and there are also some special runs of items that are only available when they first come out. Some items require you to order by advance reservation and can take up to a year to be delivered. More often than not, these items require no deposit or money up front. Also, don't forget to do an Internet search every once in a while for TT scale.
Note: The rest of this article was updated significantly in 2011 and 2013.

Before commenting on the above, other reasons are put out there in the same article for getting into TT scale, notably,
  • One may be because N scale is too small and HO scale is too big.
  • Another may be because the other scales are becoming too expensive.
  • Another may be because you like the challenge of scratch-building.
  • And one other may be that you are thinking of starting a small Cottage Industry at home, and you want to test the waters and some manufacturing processes without having a huge demand for items right away, and to see how good you may be at it.
One other point made in the TT article, that anyone active in American OO also knows, is that we have to make things work from other scales to really build a layout. See this article for a visual comparison of OO and TT gauges.

For just a bit of TT history, the first small "teaser" ad on TT was published in the September, 1946 issue of The Model Railroader, and this ad is the very first full page ad published the next month. TT was a post-war development and the first commercially produced scale smaller than HO. Note the poem and the logo were part of their advertising from the very start. Click on the ad for a bigger view.

Just like American OO was developed in part to use the best of the small motors of the early 1930s (the Mantua Midjet motor in particular), the choice of 1/120 for TT scale was also dictated substantially by the smallest Pittman motors that were practical to put in a locomotive in 1945, the models being scaled to fit.

I should note that the website quoted above is pretty dead, it does not look to have been updated in years. A more recent development in the online TT scale world is a message board, TTnut has really taken off (plenty of users, photos of vintage and new products, etc.), check it out for more, there is quite a bit going on in TT. The new RTR boxcars by Gold Coast Railway are tempting....

In the great scheme of things in train collecting, American OO and TT are both fairly inexpensive to work in today, which is a plus, and both are unique sizes visually.

Back to American OO specifically and working in the scale today, I started the Yahoo OO group and also obviously also this American OO Today site. We are fortunate to have a collector market that will hold up as long as anyone is collecting Lionel trains (there is always some Lionel OO on eBay) and also there are quite a few HO products that can be modified for use in OO. For one example, standard HO Kadee (and compatible) couplers are perfect in OO and will mate with any standard dummy coupler from the past (Scale-Craft, Lionel, etc.). Additionally, several over sized models have been marketed in HO that can be modified for OO as well, such as the AHM SW-1 and S-1, the Mantua/Tyco Belle of the 80s 4-6-0, and even there is a newly produced American OO diesel switcher that is an actual, newly produced 4mm scale model. Plus the indispensable NMRA standards gauge is available and On3 flex track works fine in a pinch to run two rail models. We are not a dead scale yet! If you are on the fence, do at least check it out, you may catch the OO bug.

Friday, May 9, 2008

My first OO scale railroad car, and a visual comparison with HO

When I first read of American OO model trains being 1/76 instead of 1/87, which was what I had worked in mostly to that time (HO), I was very curious to actually see the comparison. I had purchased a couple of items in TT scale (1/120) in this time frame (late 1970s) from a company located in Hungry Horse, Montana, the Eastern Model Railroad Company. This company had actually started out as an OO gauge manufacturer in Hackensack, NJ, in 1946. Their line featured three cars, a 40' steel boxcar, a 40' reefer with steel or wood sides, and a 40' gondola. He still had old stock of the boxcars at that time and I purchased one and built it, the car on the bottom in the photo.

The other car is one of my original HO cars, a 40' boxcar by MDC. it gives a good comparison of size; OO is bigger. Click on the photo for a larger version.

Back to the Eastern car, there are a couple things to note about this craftsman kit with printed card sides and cast details. First, the trucks look like Scale-Craft trucks from the side but they are a little shorter in wheelbase and have a different bolster. The second would be that perhaps 80% of the parts are identical with those on a Famoco boxcar (including these trucks), and the production of these models actually overlapped. This is one of the mysteries of OO history. The sides are the same; the two main things that are different are the two models have different frames and the Famoco version has cast ends instead of pressed card ends. J-C Models passenger cars also share about 80% of their parts with Famoco and production overlapped; the J-C version has no metal parts while the Famoco has cast ends and other metal details.

UPDATE: My overview article on Eastern OO is here.