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

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Amazing detail from Oscar Andresen, part 1

Back in the late 70s and early 80s I corresponded with the late H. Temple Nieter, the Dean of “OOldtimers.” He got into OO very early, and in a letter I recently located dated 19 March 1982 Temple laid out in great detail his early OO work with Oscar Andresen. In part one of this series I will let Temple tell the story in his own words, completely unedited, with more to follow shortly. The photos with this post are scans of photos I took in the early 90s of Andresen models mentioned by Nieter in his text that are in the collection of Ed Morlok, with more photos to come (as always, click on the photo for a larger version). At the time of the letter from Nieter I was working on an early version of my draft of the OO checklist (still unpublished). Enjoy!

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When you cite Oscar Andresen (NOTE SPELLING, Norwegian style) [Editors note: I misspelled it in my draft list] you bring me to my own start in OO. I had learned of it while still in Dartmouth, senior year, 1930/31. When I got into the Harvard Engg. School I joined the Boston Society of Model Engineers or some such name. They covered everything, live steam to ¾”, sailboats and mantel-piece historical ships, a little airplane and O-gauge. However, I met Oscar and was fixed into OO because he was making it.

He was a photoengraver in Boston, had picked OO for himself and was already making car and loco bodies of photoengraved zinc. Zinc was more available and it soldered nicely. With his teaching, I made the “art-work” or ink drawings of rivets, plated, strips of a steel car-body, using overlaid tissues as a means of having each drawing in line and registered, I had (and still have) the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western prints of their motor and trailer MU cars of 1930/31 when they electrified the suburban service out of Hoboken.

As a result, Oscar shot my drawings with the engravers’ camera, making zinc plates but not as deep an etch as for printing. Also, he made “bite” after bite from the successive negatives thus made, giving the 3-D effect, like die casting, of the car side/end. I made up a 2-motor/2-trailer MU train, late ’34, and it used some 50 hours just for pantographs (4). [Editors note: More on these models in this post].

However, Oscar sent me some other sides, as for the Cleveland Union Terminal electric 4-C+C-4 locos and for a single IC MU. I’ve found brass etched Andresen tenders, cab parts and such, in later years. His own road had a little steeple-cab electric, etched, of which I have an ancient photo [Editors note: This locomotive may be seen in the background in the photo on page 37 of the Feb., 1936 issue of Model Railroader, in the short article on his Mohawk Valley System, along with several MU cars (SEE UPDATE at end of post)]. He died about 1940/43 and his family moved from the house they had built in Lexington, MA, to Brooklyn. The last word was from his widow, then blind, who inquired about values of some HO he had made up his method. Two children are lost to sight. Oscar was a sometimes gruff but always friendly guy; I became quite fond of him for himself, as well as for his guidance in my own OOing. Sorry we have no traces, now. I did find a “Rock Haven”, one of his two rr names, combine at a now departed OOing friend’s basement ten years ago.

Oscar made, mostly, custom stuff altho basic bodies could have stripped-in road names on their negatives used for the engraving. I ran into his apprentice engraver entirely by chance once! It was on another matter but talking and bringing up OO he told me he had worked under Oscar back in those early days!!! In fact, this man (I’d have to search files for his name, in the East) send a poor color-photo of an Oga boxcar made by Andresen for him, also etched. One cab I got by accident with other OO, once, finally went to Pierre Bourassa near Montreal, it being a Canadian “all-weather” type, enclosed with door. He was delighted and used it on a new engine. Thus, even these times [1982], good old Oscar is helping OO!

[Click here to continue to part 2]

UPDATE: For a photo of his steeple cab electric and an accurate biography of Andresen see this post.

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