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

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Meetings of OO gaugers

In the June, 2009 issue of The OO Road editor Paul Magnussen notes on reflecting on the passing of Ed Morlok that
It is times like this that make me wish there was some way we could all get together in one place occasionally, since we are spread out all over the U.S. and Canada…. How would you all feel about traveling to an OO gauge convention? If there is sufficient interest from all of the members, perhaps we can organize one.
It is rare for OO gaugers to meet today face to face. I know there is a meeting of OO gaugers at the York meet most years. I don't believe that any OO gaugers came to the Scottsdale TCA convention this year.

The most notable group of OO gaugers to meet regularly for years and years was known as the North Jersey Midland Model Railroad Association. The group was profiled in the February, 1947 issue of The Model Craftsman as follows.
IT ALL started back in 1938, when Newton Guerin and Ray Scheuble walked into a hobby shop and met Paul Hahn and Erwin Schaff. Seeing this in light of the early dawn of the “OO” gauge era, it was truly remarkable to find four fellas at once in “OO” and each one having a home layout in working condition!

After the first shock of surprise of finding out that each wasn’t the only “OO” fan in the country, the next step was naturally to invite each other to visit the respective layouts. A schedule was arranged for each to hold a meeting in turn, once a month. Thus was born the North Jersey Midland “OO” Association.

The following year, with a little more publicity, five more “OO” men were located and all with operating home layouts. 1939 proved to be a great year, with nine layouts consolidated into the association. With each member in turn playing host, it took two months for the boys to make their rounds. But then came the dark days of the war and with it uncertainty. Too much overtime war work, no equipment available, off to serve the country, housing shortage, etc., and so it went until came peace and a new era.

Out of the wreckage of war, the North Jersey Midland survived, but not with nine operating layouts. Only one remained—just one—the “Newton & Northern RR of Newton Guerin…. This layout is now used exclusively and maintained by the club….

Members today own 39 operating locomotives with 14 more under construction. Freight cars exceed 300 units and passenger equipment add 90 more. The Newton & Northern is probably one of the smallest club-operated railroads in the country, occupying a room 9’ x 19’, yet it keeps 12 men operating it, all busy at one time, and by changing crews it accommodates 25 men in full operating schedule. Curves are sharp—24” minimum. Grades are steep, 2.75% maximum, and operating is done exclusively with Newton & Northern motive power, the largest being a consolidation.
The article goes on at length to describe operation on the layout, with 11 photos and a track plan. In the photos you can see President George Crowley, Treasurer Newt Guerin, and Bill Johann, and other members are mentioned in the text. The photo below is a group of three of them with the original caption.

Soon more layouts were operating again, and in the June, 1955 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman we find a feature article on the Greenbrook lines of David Sacks. I have blogged about this article previously but in relation to the group we learn that
The Greenbrook Lines is the second oldest member of the New Jersey Midland Model Railroad Association, a group of 14 OO gaugers located in the Central North Jersey area. Many of these members have OO layouts of their own and meetings are held on a round robin basis.
In addition to the cover photo, eight photos of the layout are seen here as well, including one that includes David Sacks and another model by Bill Johann. The cover caption reads “Engine house holster Neil Van Duyk, youngest member of the North Jersey Midland Club, keeps plenty busy during club night on the large Greenbrook Lines of David Sacks.” Notable in this photo is a Kemtron GP-7.

While Bill Johann and Dave Sacks both moved west to California, the North Jersey group was still active well into the 1980s. In the “Railway Post Office” column in the May, 1985 issue of Model Railroader we find a letter about a gathering of “true OOldtimers from North Jersey’s group.” In the photo we have (clockwise from left front) Newton “Newt” Guerrin, Erwin Schaaf, George Lehmkuhl, Robert “Bob” Meissner, Alfred “Bud” Spice Jr., Anthony “Tony” Cavanna, George E. Jones Jr., Rowland King, Edward Morlok, and George Crowley. Ed Morlok is described as “a mere youngster in his 40s” and the rest were well up in years.

Ed Morlok passed on recently now and I believe most of the rest of those that were active in the North Jersey group have as well. It is a very different era today for OO, no more round robin groups of “fellas” socializing, running OO gauge trains, and tolerating minor infractions of rule G. [I personally almost never drink, but "rule G" was mentioned specifically in the 1947 article]. Maybe we are destined only to gather on the Internet, but I certainly would be in favor of meeting a few more OO gaugers.

UPDATE 2014: See this article for a look at newspaper articles on the layouts of David Sacks and the activities of this club.

1 comment:

ruxtonite said...

I would be curious if there is anyone interested in the Granite - Maryland area to meet on a regular basis? I have a garage with a large area dedicated to a layout.