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

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Two OO SFRD Reefers, one Picard and one Champion

Here is an interesting pair of reefers. They make a good case study, as on first impression I think both of these cars are difficult to ID correctly.

The lower car has Scale-Craft reefer doors of the later style they made (the early version used sand cast bronze doors) and S-C trucks, so it has much of the look of a late Scale-Craft reefer. But it is in fact a Picard body, the scribed version, with a variety of parts added and HO decals. Picard bodies, as noted in a prior post, included no metal parts and a simple wooden frame member, which was used on both of these models.

The upper car is another one that was a challenge to ID. The sides are Champion sides, also described in a prior post. I initially thought it might be a rare and complete Champion car, then thought it to be Picard (plain side version) with Champion sides, then finally (Updated: 2012) obtained a Champion kit for this model and realized it is in fact a complete Champion car. The wood parts are identical to Picard and were likely supplied by Picard, as they offered parts to other makers (see toward the end of this article).

Many OO cars are not that easy to ID. I hope to help that out with this site, as there are few other resources to refer to.

Back to the two reefers in this article, how many of you noted they are both in the wrong color scheme? The side color is a bit off, I think in the case of the Champion sides in part due to age and color shift of the printer’s ink, but both should also have black ends and roofs. One is green and the other boxcar red!

Looking online to try confirm the proper color scheme as I am thinking about rebuilding the pair (saving the sides but correcting the roof and ends) I found a most interesting resource in The Santa Fe Railway Historical & Modeling Society website, with this section containing in particular links to a lot of information about my home town of Emporia, KS and the Howard branch, along which I have been many, many times growing up as many close relatives lived within ten miles of this branch line. The last runs on this line were just before I got into model railroading; this resource is giving me much to think about for the layout.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Nason “EZ Built” boxcar

Another car not often seen today is the Nason box car.

This one I rebuilt recently, actually from a junker Nason reefer with new Nason sides and Selley ends and doors. I went to a lot of effort to try to match the paint closely! It was not easy.

The photo also shows most of the parts for an early, unbuilt box car kit. This kit is a bit of a mystery to me, actually. Note that the body is a solid block of wood with the roof painted. I have six Nason boxcars and reefers but none of them have this body, other Nason cars I have are on a body built up from a number of wood parts. [UPDATE: This was the body that was shipped by Page Model Company.] The sides are clearly Nason sides. The kit has printed doors [UPDATE: that are printed on a card with the maker name "Page Model Company," which I did not previously note] and also die cast Nason doors in the box.

These "Eazy-Bilt" (easy-built in early advertising) kits with printed card sides/ends and sand and die cast details became available in late 1935. They are mentioned in the Nason advertisement in the December, 1935 issue of Model Craftsman. I do not have a Nason catalog from before 1937 and what magazine advertisements I see are somewhat vague on this point.

The sixth edition (1940) Nason catalog shows these models clearly sold either as a "construction kit" for $1 or as a complete kit for $2.90. This leads to actually much variation in these cars when seen today depending on if the builder added the Nason details or used other detail parts. Their "hardware kit" also sold for $1.90 and included trucks, die cast ice hatches and end beams, a sand cast underframe, and stamped ladders ("where used on the prototype")or grab irons, brake wheel, and steps.

This car was also available right after WW II. Two or Three rail versions of Dalman, Vulcan, or Andrews trucks were standard. Here is the list for this model:

4 Box car, 40', PRR
9 Box car, 40', B&O
10 Box car, 40', NYC
16 Box car, 40', SP
17 Box car, 40', UP
20 Box car, 40', Erie
21 Box car, 40', CP
23 Box car, 40', Southern

They made other types of box cars, including a wood sheathed 40 footer and also a double door PRR automobile boxcar with a round roof, but the really unique model was a sand cast aluminum 40’ box car that was later produced in limited quantities by Myron P. Davis. I have never seen one of these models but am very intrigued. [UPDATE: See also this post.]

All of these seem to be seen very little on eBay. You are a bit more likely to find their reefers which almost inevitably are not in good shape. If any of you have photos of any very sharp looking Nason reefers I will be happy to follow up further on them.

UPDATE: The car kit in the photo I believe to be a version of the Nason EZ-Bilt car but marketed by Page. A closer examination shows the original box label is for Page Model Company, but it is pasted over. Check the later post on Page for more.

Also, the earliest kits according to the 1936 catalog had sand cast aluminum doors listed in the hardware kit, which means if the kit in the photo is early Nason the doors are later production, added to the box by a later individual.

At the end of the article is found an instruction sheet, I believe late Nason era, for the boxcars and reefer. A number of other details may be gleaned from this, including that there are two different versions of the frame of these cars. Click on the photo for a better view, and see this article for a photo of the late reefer kit that it came to me with.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Eastern Model Railroad Co.

Recently I saw on eBay a freight car that was misidentified as being by Eastern. They only made three models, which are all pretty easy to recognize.

The Eastern Model Railroad Co. was run by A. W. Rinck and began selling OO out of Hackensack, NJ, in 1946 (with the gondola being introduced in 1948). According to RMC publisher Harold Carstens in his editorial in their March, 2000 issue, Arno Rinck had the bodies for these cars produced for him by Westbrook, the pioneer O gauge manufacturer. The bodies are different than Picard bodies and very nicely made.

By the 1960s Rinck had relocated way out west, to Hungry Horse, MT, where he was in business until 1980, also selling TT gauge models under the name Craftsman Kits. He advertised for years and years with a small monthly ad in Model Railroader. Some of the residual stock of parts for these kits continues to be seen on eBay to this day.

Eastern produced freight cars with wood bodies, painted and lettered (printed) card sides and card ends, with a cast frame and details. The trucks were equalized Bettendorf trucks of exactly the same design used by Famoco as were the stamped roof ribs. In short, the car sides and many parts of their box car and reefer kits are identical to those marketed by Famoco; the exact relationship of these two firms is not clear today. They also produced a Gondola, a 40' steel car. The full list of sides supplied for these models may be found at the end of this article.
The first photo shows a reefer and box car built up, both are cars I built from fresh kits, and the second photo the gondola kit and the bottom of the reefer. The frame is very easy to recognize, it is die cast and has the word “Eastern” right there on it, and there is a nice K type brake cylinder as well of their own design. Click on the photos for more detail. For a finished Eastern gondola see this post.

The big flaw of kits of this type is it is really difficult to match the color and sheen of the boxcar red sides when painting the other parts. The black is somewhat easier; flat black is close, but a matte black closer. And the reefer as a unique problem as well, the car body itself is a bit too tall. They corrected for this by adding extra blank space above the doors in the printing of the sides, which leaves the overall proportions off.

Still, I know I really enjoyed building that first Eastern box car kit (my first OO gauge model) and I will always have a warm spot for their products. They do, with care, build up into sharp models and the boxcars in particular are among the best produced in American OO, it was a good solid product for the time. And, for more variety, one could always paint over the sides and use decals, as seen with the cars in this article for example.

This advertisement is from 1946, when the Eastern line was launched. The below is my current list of car side numbers. Some of the sides were printed with at least two different car numbers, and I welcome interested readers to contact me to expand my list further. The sides are exactly the same for the Eastern and Famoco boxcar and reefer. Only Eastern sold the gondolas.

Box car, 40'
  • ATSF "Scout" #140387, 145578 
  • B&O 466350, 466346 (Linking 13 Great States) 
  • B&O 466096 (Sentinel)
  • CN #520395
  • CB&Q #32382 (cat.)
  • GN #10094, 52046
  • NYC 97488
  • PRR 100846 
Gondola, 40'
  • B&O 250538
  • C of G 18300
  • Erie 51139
  • PRR 397036
  • Rock Island 80600
  • T&P 17839 
Reefer, 40,' steel or scribed wood sides; steel unless noted below
  • ARLX/Armor Star 14762 (scribed) 
  • Bordens 
  • ART #482 (Crazy Crystals, scribed) 
  • DICX/Dry Ice 117 (scribed)
  • FGEX 36266 (scribed) 
  • MDT 19564
  • MDT with NYC herald #20130 
  • Northwestern (C&NW) #81021 (cat.) 
  • PFE 40516 with SP herald 
  • PFE 50940 with WP herald (scribed)
  • Santa Fe 
  • SRLX/Swift Premium Ham 15038, 17364
  • Union/Milwaukee 
  • Western (GN) #63965 (scribed)
For more information on Eastern see:
Updated 2014

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two Easy Mantua/TYCO HO conversions

These two cars are great HO cars to convert to OO.

First we have the Mantua caboose. From the side this car is OO gauge, clearly over scale for HO. The only problem area is the width of the car which is not that noticeable in service. I converted this car with the original trucks in the manner described a few posts back (here). The couplers used are the underset shank version of the Kadee, so that they would be higher without the body being too high over the trucks.

The other car is a TYCO flat car. This car is over width for HO and again clearly over scale. For this the conversion is also very easy, it just needs new trucks and couplers. Again I used the modified HO trucks on this car, mounted in the off center holes to get them to center out better. (UPDATE: More on the comparison of this car to OO here).

One other note, a very interesting resource on TYCO HO may be found at the TYCO Trains Resource. The car I used for this conversion is here.

UPDATE: And for an even better example of the caboose conversion see this article.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A OO Gauge Covered Gondola

This car was built by Bill Johann, converted from HO in 1997. There is a photo of this conversion in progress in the Feb, 1998 issue of The OO Road, with further information in the November, 1997 issue.

For this car Bill split an Athearn car so that it is full width for OO and built a new cover. The ends have a piece spliced in. It came to me on Scale-Craft trucks. However, they were mounted too close to the ends to look right to me. Instead I have substituted the converted Model-Power/Tyco/Mantua truck mentioned in the previous post. One quirk of these is that they have two holes that can be used as mounting holes that are off center. In this case this is of advantage as I could mount the trucks off center and get them to the proper distance from the ends of the car. This car passes well for OO and is another example of a car a modern OO gauger might want to employ on a layout. It is a car I do enjoy running.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Two kitbashed OO gondolas with kitbashed HO trucks that can be made easily today

With limited options for new models, modern OO gaugers are always looking for models that can be modified for OO. Below is a pair of converted gondolas.

The THB car was built by Pierre Bourassa and the ATSF car is a quick conversion I made. My car is an older AHM HO model, one from the late 1970s. I am uncertain of the car Pierre used, but it is similar. Pierre split the car to make it full width for OO, adding new ends and a load to cover the floor. Mine is narrow but looks OK from the side; the only change is the trucks actually. Pierre’s came to me on different trucks, I think Schorr trucks that I put under a truckless Schorr car. Now it rides on trucks converted from Tyco/Mantua/Model Power HO trucks, as are the trucks on the ATSF car.

I described how to convert these trucks in the August, 2000 issue of The OO Road, illustrated in the photo with from the left, before, a wheel set, and after. The conversion works on these trucks because the side frames are very heavy, which leaves room for OO gauge wheel sets. The required parts are the HO side frame/bolster and Athearn 36” wheel sets. All one needs to do is widen the wheel sets to OO and to take enough off the side frames to clear them. The axle holes have to also be drilled out slightly deeper so the wheels will roll freely. I have these trucks in service on a number of cars on the layout. They roll better than the average Scale-Craft truck and arguably look better as well.

UPDATE (2011). This article comes up in searches and made it up to the top ten list recently, so an update is in order.

First, about the trucks: I have a good number of these HO conversion trucks in service on the layout. For a couple categories of cars (HO conversions and flat cars especially--all of my S-C flat cars in operation use these trucks) they are a great alternative to vintage S-C trucks (visually they "fit" even if somewhat under scale), they track great and have freed up good vintage trucks for use on other cars.

With an influx of more OO cars to use on the layout however I actually converted the black ATSF gon back to HO! But later I spotted (on eBay--post Morlok auction and I suspect from his collection) and was able to purchase a second, closely matching (but unlettered) green gon that must have also been built by Pierre. It has cast metal sides, was widened in the same general way, and has a matching load. I reworked it to also ride on the conversion trucks and put decals on it to match as close as I could the other gon. They look great on the layout as a pair of cars and are operated frequently.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Two Scratchbuilt OO Scale Pulpwood Flats

I noted in a recent eBay auction a car very similar to these two CN pulpwood flats.

These were made by Pierre Bourassa, as was the car I saw on eBay I believe. The shorter car of this pair is built on a Scale-Craft frame (box car or stock car) but the rest is plastic. The longer car is pretty much all plastic. It has a removable load, while the other does not. On this one I replaced the trucks Pierre used with a pair of roller bearing trucks modified from old HO Central Valley trucks. The shorter car has his original Scale-Craft trucks which may get replaced at some future time.

I have some other interesting scratch built modern cars from Pierre that I will come back to in future posts.

Info on early HO trains

From time to time I need to ID models that I believe to be early HO models converted to OO.

One of the sites I have found that is a fantastic resource for this is HOseeker.net. It is also handy for seeing for example instruction sheets of the HO versions of cars also produced in OO, such as this J-C Models baggage car. A site worth checking out by any OO scale enthusiast.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Nat Polk recalls the mid-30s, Scale-Craft, and Lionel OO

Looking in back issues of The OO Road I found a note from Ed Morlok on an article posted in the Aristo Craft Trains website, a 1995 interview with hobby pioneer Nat Polk, who passed on in 1996. There are several items of note in relation to American OO in the interview but this exchange is the most interesting,
B: How did you get into model railroading?

N: Model railroading, of course, was a love of ours always. Because we sold Lionel and American Flyer and Marx - that was strictly from the toy end. When people like Gordon Varney and John Tyler from Tyco or Mantua it was called then, because the company was in Mantua, NJ, started to sell by mail. We got very interested and talked to those two.

1934 was the year that Al Kalmbach started Model Railroader, and that was the year we opened in New York City. Bill Walthers was already in the mail order business. So we went to Tyler and to Varney and said we think we can sell these train kits and locomotives and so on through the model airplane shops. Well, they didn't believe that, but they were willing to have a go at it. So, we bought a bunch of stuff and gosh, in one month we got rid of it because it was very easy to teach those model airplane shops to go into model railroading. After that they were called hobby shops, no longer model airplane shops and we did very well.

About this time the fellow in Chicago, you know the Redbook man, Donnelley – Reuben [sic] Donnelley went into business. He was making kits mostly, and he came to us and we did the same with his line.

B: He was OO and O gauge?

N: Yes, he was OO and O gauge. That was one of the reasons that Lionel jumped head first into OO. They were so afraid that this guy who was loaded with money that he could put in a gauge they didn't have. I told Josh Cowen, don't crash into it because you have HO lurking in the background and it is much more popular and much more available in HO, but Lionel jumped right in to OO because they were worried about Donnelley, they weren't worried about any of the HO guys. That was a mistake on their part, as we all know now. Cowen was afraid of Donnelley's money and that Donnelley would surpass him.

When Donnelley's daughter died in an accident at home, he lost all desire to do anything, and that was when he stopped making anything else. He kind of lost heart.
Nat Polk was the founder of Polk’s Hobby, a major supplier for OO back in the day. The direct link to the article is at http://www.aristocraft.com/articles/nat/natpolk.html

I believe Mr. Polk is actually referring above to Elliott Donnelley (1903-1975), a son of R. R. Donnelley, who owned Scale-Craft. He had a number of interests, this short biography pointing to his activities with Trout Unlimited and also a youth center is named for him. R.R. Donnelley and Sons is still in business and a very major commercial printer to this day. Reuben H. Donnelley was the brother of R. R. Donnelley and had another large business that was based in New York (DEX is the successor firm), which would have been more familiar to Polk and Cowan (he published their telephone directory) and likely caused the 1995 slip of the tongue. The gist of it is that Cowan knew that Scale-Craft had the finances to start a new scale in a big way and he wanted to keep up. Interesting reading.

UPDATE: A very similar interview with Nat Polk may be found in the September, 1996 issue of Classic Toy Trains. Essentially the same passage quoted above may be found on page 110, with a few tweaks and shortened.

UPDATE II: More information on Elliott Donnelley may be found in this article.

UPDATE III: And another view on the story about the child is found here. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More on the early Scale-Craft OO box car

One other late summer project was finishing up another Scale-Craft box car.

First, a question, which of these three is the one I just finished? Two of these are from I believe the late 1930s and in good shape. Click on the photo for a larger version.

It is not totally obvious, is it? The one I finished up is the one for the Burlington. This body was purchased on eBay, I believe that it was painted many years ago, very nicely. The decals I used were an old Walthers HO set from the 50s; they match the car pretty well and only look a little under scale. [But, see UPDATE: they match exactly vintage S-C decals!]

Comparing the cars, the older ones are the original version of the car with the frame with the trucks too far in from the ends. Also one of the older cars, the Milwaukee car, has the uncommon version of the Scale-Craft truck with plastic/Bakelite wheelsets. As noted in the previous post on getting Scale-Craft trucks in shape, I am not totally certain of the era these were produced in but these trucks were on the car when purchased and I believe are the original or a very early version of the Scale-Craft truck.

UPDATE 2012: As already indicated, a purchase of two sets of vintage pre-war S-C decals rewarded me with the clear confirmation that the late version of their decals, made for S-C by Walthers, are identical to the decals used on the Burlington boxcar. The other cars are lettered with an earlier version of S-C decals.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Getting Scale-Craft trucks in shape

Anyone who has tried to run any OO gauge models since 1937 has made some use of freight cars with Scale-Craft trucks. Close to half of the cars in my collection have these trucks. Those on the layout have been worked over to varying degrees to get them in shape.

By far the biggest problems are with the bolsters, both of the problems being illustrated in this first photo. On the left we have a bolster that has shrunk. I would say roughly ¼ of all the S-C truck bolsters I have show some evidence of this shrinkage. For this problem in reality there is no good fix; if the truck won’t roll put the truck on a car you don’t plan to operate and move on.

The problem on the right is fixable. Note how the side frame is tipped in relation to the bolster. In his article “A Fix for Scale-Craft Trucks” that was published in the May, 1994 issue of The OO Road Bill Johann recommended the use of what he called bolster shims. These you would insert between the end of the bolster and the side frame, down in the pocket it fits in, to keep things square; the thickness will be in the .015-.025 range. This can help a lot, keeping everything square.

The central problem is many S-C trucks don’t roll well, and on a heavy car that is really a problem. Besides bolsters the principal problems are with the axle holes. These may need re-drilled slightly bigger and or deeper, Johann recommended a .070-.073 diameter drill. Chamfer the holes and blow in some powdered graphite as well.

A secondary problem can be the bolster clip; the longer tab can interfere with the wheel sets. These Johann recommended trimming to a 30 degree angle, the part that can hit the flange.

Speaking of wheel sets, Scale-Craft marketed at least three distinct types of freight car wheel sets, two of which are illustrated here. By far the most common type is on the left, brass wheels with the split axle. Some examples of this type were made with steel wheels. This type of wheel will work very well if the gauge is right; use a NMRA On3/OO standards gauge and get them in line.

The type on the right has wheel sets that are not brass but rather are a type of plastic or Bakelite. The treads are slightly wider but this type seems to also track well. This type I think it is from very early Scale-Craft production but I really don’t know this firmly. Anyone with an un-built, very early kit out there that can confirm this? They are the same wheel shipped out in the lead truck of their 4-6-0 as well.

The final type is in the last photo, with a solid axle insulated on one side, from late Scale-Craft production. I tried to get a few of these in gauge that needed adjustment and ended up messing up the insulation, so be a bit careful with these.

[UPDATE: Actually, the insulation is fine! Now I know that Scale-Craft trucks are very sensitive to solid bolster axles, which can cause shorts due to the flex and play in the trucks. Also now the very early type of wheelset with plastic wheels makes perfect sense, it totally avoids any shorting issue for two rail use. With a further UPDATE being I avoid using the late wheelsets on the layout. The problem being that the tread width is typically under NMRA standards to such an extent that they derail constantly on my layout.]

In short most Scale-Craft trucks can be fixed to provide good service unless the bolster has shrunk, in which case it may not be practical to fix the truck.

UPDATE: Continue to this article for even more on tuning up Scale-Craft trucks.

Kitbashed Stock Pens for the Layout

In layout news, very recently I did finish this stock pen.

It is built from combining two Life-Like HO modular stock pen kits. For years and years I have had a pair of Campbell stock pen kits (HO) that I was going to combine but in the end it was looking to be too much work and they would have been fragile and not too suited to the reality of my layout with children in the house. The kits went together well, and this pen will likely be on the layout for many years. This area I hope to have sceniced further by Christmas, time will tell.

By the way, the stock car is a Scale-Craft model, one I rebuilt a few years back. Great photos of another similar model may be found in the photos section of the American OO discussion group on Yahoo, very recently a group member posted quite a few great photos of models by Scale-Craft and others, check them out.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A new Lionel hopper car for the layout

I recently completed rebuilding a Lionel hopper, an eBay junker purchase. I decided to make it match another hopper I had, a Scale-Craft hopper rebuilt some years ago.

They make a nice pair. At a glance they look very similar, but details do differ between the two. As with the box car, I believe Lionel set out to make a better version of the same basic model. The Lionel model was introduced in 1938; the Scale-Craft model in 1937. The Lionel trucks are more detailed and better scaled, and their car body has more rivets and finer detail than seen on the Scale-Craft car.

As to specifics of this Lionel hopper, it has reproduction trucks built up from parts from English’s and Kadee HO couplers, my standard coupler. These are great in OO as they will mate manually with pretty much any standard OO coupler of the past. Mounting these required only slight modification of the body. The body as of now is missing the corner steps, at some point I will add those.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A modern RailBox car in OO

I was recently able to obtain this car, a modern RailBox box car.

It was built by Bill Johann. When I saw the listing I thought it might be a HO conversion; actually it is beautifully scratchbuilt on a Picard body. When I got it I realized that this car looked familiar somehow and I found why; it was depicted on page 5 of the May, 1990 issue of The OO Road. There we find this model was made in 1980, confirmed by the markings on the bottom of the model, WCJ 8-80.

It is still in very good shape. One thing of note are the trucks, which are modified Lionel trucks. This is actually the only notable damage to the car; he modified the trucks to have roller bearings but most of the bearing caps have broken off. The wheelsets are the ones by Ultimate and the car tracks great. Paint, decals, everything very nice! While “modern” trains are not my primary interest (my layout is set in the postwar period) I do have enough modern cars to run a train of them and will enjoy this car.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

“On the Future of American OO Gauge”

I have been looking over back issues of The OO Road lately. The first issue dates to October of 1985 and there are many interesting articles to be found. One editorial by Ed Morlok, published in the November, 1997 issue, has a particularly notable title, “On the Future of American OO Gauge.” It is tempting to quote this editorial in full!

What is the future of this vintage model railroad scale? If you are reading this far into this website you must have some interest in American OO gauge. Ed wrote that two of the things that were keys to the survival of S scale and Hi-Rail O gauge today are a nostalgia interest and the fact that most new equipment is available ready to run. These were both scales that were in serious decline in the 1950s and 60s. Ed wrote,
What does this say about the future of OO? First, I think there is a natural market for OO among modelers of this nostalgia group. Second, for them to be attracted the items must be available ready-to-run or nearly so.
So, where are we today? Thanks to eBay actually there is almost always something available in American OO, cars and locomotives by Lionel and Scale-Craft particularly, that are essentially ready to run with a little basic TLC. But you need track to run these models. What little Lionel OO track that there is that is sold on eBay always goes for sky high prices and may not be very usable due to age and condition. On3 flex track will work, but the ties are out of scale and it is not as easy to get running as sectional track [Ed wrote an article on using On3 flex track for OO for the Quarterly, and see also UPDATE]. It seems that the conclusion of the 1997 editorial is exactly relevant to the situation today.
The key missing element is track. All the other components, like power packs, buildings and scenery, are available—one can easily use HO items. Even the OO locomotives with 24 volt motors can be operated with the larger power packs made for G gauge, as those locos take 18 volts. So we get back to track.

Conclusions: It would be great if someone could make OO track—ideally ready-to-run, but at least easy for a new modeler with few skills to use. It would seem only prudent to make this attractive to the Lionel collector, in the hope that person would become an operator. Sharp curves would seem ideal for this segment of the market, as would both two and three rail track. At the same time, a large radius curve suitable for other brands of OO would test that end of the market—say 26” radius or more. And switches would seem to be important—very important. Any takers?
I keep hoping that someone in a position to produce track work will notice just how scarce original Lionel OO track in usable condition is (the Bakelite is fragile and prone to warp), and again the sky high price it commands today. As was noted in the description of TM's Lionel OO Studio Layout , Lionel OO switches are “very rare” and a full oval of 2-rail track “is almost impossible to find.” Myself, I love operating my OO models but believe it or not I own no Lionel OO track! I have bid on it occasionally on eBay but it always goes higher than I am willing to go. [But see UPDATE 2]. All of the track on my layout is hand laid.

Trains in any scale really are a pleasure to run on good track, and the scarcity of that track has to be a deal breaker for many potential OO enthusiasts. I hope there will be a maker step up to the challenge someday soon, it would help things immensely.

UPDATE: Also I should note that Gargraves does make a line of OO track! This slipped my mind in the original posting. I have seen a piece of this, it is certainly toy-like in look but would get you going and is worth checking out to be sure, especially if your primary interest is Lionel. To see the listing check their UPDATE: pricelist here. And thanks to a reader for the photo, which illustrates the very large ties and heavy rail clearly.

UPDATE 2: And I do now own some Lionel track! It was a very impressive product for the day I must say. Also note that On3 felx track works perfectly for OO 2-rail operation, the track standards are the same.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Where to buy NEW American OO parts today

There are a couple parts I have needed lately and this morning I checked to see the list was still there and it is! Bowser sells nearly a hundred different OO parts which are either from the original Selley line of OO parts or are re-production Lionel OO parts. They have parts for example to make re-production Lionel freight trucks (I have several pair rolling on the layout right now) and much more.

The complete list may be found at: http://www.bowser-trains.com/Prices/Price%20List.txt

You have to scroll down a ways for OO. The first OO listing is “Selley 20001 OO PR PULL OR COACH SIDES $1.40” and the last “Selley 20102 OO DUMMY COUPLER $0.60” Check it out! Brooklyn based Selley started selling OO parts in 1941 as part of a line of HO, OO, and O parts, and English’s (Bowser) has had most of these parts available since the 1980s.

UPDATE: This line is unfortunately no longer (as of 2009) available. But for more information on the basis of their production see this article for more on Selley OO parts. The article includes a list of all the castings that were available.

Trucks that look like Scale-Craft trucks…

Scale-Craft freight trucks are a standard in OO. The first die-cast truck produced in OO, they were introduced in 1937 and are the most common type seen. While pretty reliable today (unless the bolster has shrunk--some have over time--and they are not especially free-rolling unless well adjusted) these by modern standards do have a bit of a toy like look.

Most firms in the period tried to make their trucks more realistic, but two other companies also produced very similar trucks. These photos are side, top, and bottom views of all three of these trucks. On the left is a Famoco/Eastern truck, in the center a Scale-Craft truck, and on the right the original version of the Graceline truck. At a glance they all look the same, from the side

The Famoco/Eastern truck from the side is quite similar but with a shorter wheelbase. It clearly is a close copy. In the top and bottom views however it can be seen that they used a different style of bolster, one of cast metal that was crimped on. Also the wheelsets are of a more standard design with a full axle.

The other truck, on the right, is Graceline. They made a number of types of trucks; this is what I take to be the first type. The wheelbase is slightly longer and the detail less fine. Note that the bolster is a block of fiber material with pins that hold the sideframes on. Also, look at the axles. They are of the same type as Scale-Craft, with half axels that are joined by a Bakelite tube. The tube is larger diameter than Scale-Craft and the flanges are less fine as well.

Both of these I believe were intended to be better/cheaper trucks. They do have fewer parts and must have been cheaper to make. In practice I find the Famoco/Eastern trucks can give good service on the layout if they have a good set of wheels and the Graceline version can be made to work with a good set of wheels also. I have seen Graceline trucks with quite a variety of wheelsets, actually--a post for another day.

UPDATE: The worst type of Graceline wheelset are these.