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

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Blow-Smoke, a Newsletter by Scale-Craft, Part V

Continuing our series on the Blow-Smoke newsletter put out by Scale-Craft, the next issue was Volume 2, Number 1 dated Spring, 1939. The only really OO specific item in this issue is that the Johnson tank car was on sale in OO and O gauges, the OO version selling as a kit for $2.15. The copy gushes,
You have seen the brilliant Johnson Tank Cars in the Scale-Craft Catalog—both “O” and “OO” Gauge—and you have no doubt admired them for their contrasting colors and striking design. We contend that these tankers cannot be seen to full advantage until you actually put them in with a string of your other rolling stock. They have zip and a snap that really shows up when they are rolling along the right of way. Silvery aluminum . . . white against black . . . bright orange—you can’t beat this color combination!

This is one of the most attractive tank car kits on the market, and it always adds a lot to any model railroad system. The car body is aluminum with black trimming. The underframe is black. The name “JOHNSON” is white on a black background, underscored with a brilliant orange panel. No description we could write would give you anything like the wallop you get from seeing the actual car.
Wow! I want one of these! Of course, the underlying idea behind the copy was to sell kits. This general topic was also behind the topics in the opening editorial by Donnelley. In order,

1. Customers were writing in wondering if they had missed the current issue of Blow-Smoke. No, while “we started out with the idea of about ten issues of it a year … it has not been possible.”

2. The big topic for them, launching a company in a new hobby and a new gauge, was the topic keeping at least a perception of variety and new items always on the way. He wrote,
When a model company like ours skips a couple of months in announcing new items, it is often rumored that stagnation is setting in. Such rumors are usually groundless, as the company in question is always developing new products throughout the entire year. … Do you realize that it takes from three months to a year to develop a new item and get it into production? Like any other modern manufacturing concern, we are constantly working on new ideas and equipment. Profiting by experiences of the past, we dare not mention a word about them until they are actually being manufactured. This is our rule, but we violated it when our new [O Gauge] couplers were announced shortly after their die was completed. Suddenly, and without warning, our new coupler die broke one evening!

… Our advertising instantly began to do us more harm than good, as we couldn’t fill our coupler orders. This die, after two months of hard work, has been repaired; we are again in production and hope that no more trouble is encountered.
3. Finally, the topic was that of decals or, as Scale-Craft called them at that time, “decalcomanias,” and shipping and handling charges. He wished to clear up in particular that paint and decals were included with each kit, which was a big selling point for cars such as the Johnson tank car.

There were three more issues of the Blow-Smoke newsletter produced, we will return with more soon.

Continue in Blow-Smoke series

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