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

Friday, July 31, 2009

Midlin History in Railroad Magazine

On the OO list the question came up what magazines other than Model Railroader had OO info in them. Besides Model Craftsman/Railroad Model Craftsman (which appears to have been somewhat more supportive of minority gauges—there were a couple OO firms that only advertised there) there are at least four other titles to watch for. One of those is Railroad Magazine.

This was not a model railroad magazine but actually had some limited OO related content. Bill Chapin put together a list of 16 different OO scale plans that were published in Railroad Magazine between 1940 and 47 (mostly of locomotives), and gave me also a copy of a short article on page 56 of the September, 1940 issue on Midlin track. It has two photos, one of a worker assembling track on a machine that looks like the base of an old fashioned treadle sewing machine, and also a photo of Chemidlin himself. The text reads (the caps are original):
Fred J. Chemidlin of Scotch Plains, N.J., Grew Tired of Forcing Home Midget Track Spikes With Long-Nosed Pliers. So He Designed a New Type of Spikeless Track Assembly. Two Parallel Groves Are Cut to Gage Width in a Cross Grained Strip of Wood, and These Grooves Then Receive the Base Web of Specially Designed Rails. As the Strip is Fed into the Machine Shown in Our Lower Illustration, a Knife Cam Splits It into Tie-Width Sections Which Are Mechanically Kicked Apart to Correct Spacing. Top Photo Shows Chemidlin Assembling a Switch by Hand.
The best copy I have is his Xerox version, hence the low quality of the photo but the text also describes the process pretty vividly. I have more info on Midlin track (introduced in 1939) and two photos of the product in this prior post.

UPDATE: An overview of OO gauge features in Railroad Magazine may be found here.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Kemtron GP-7

I have wanted to post a photo of the OO scale Kemtron GP-7 for a long time. Finally, this past week, I made some decisions about a couple issues that had me stuck in the rebuilding process of this model, a 2002 eBay purchase, and it is now running and ready to paint!

This is a Kemtron GP-7. When it came to me I believe it had been built up completely then stripped and was being worked over by a predecessor when they for whatever reason abandoned the project. I suspect part of the reason was the drive. I fiddled with it a while but decided that the original Lindsay drive unit was pretty much a lost cause due to gear issues. Another drive I knew would work was the power truck from a version of the Tyco GP-20, with the horizontal motor in the drive truck. In the description of this model here they call it the “PowerTorque” drive truck. A few years ago I re-gauged one and had the model to where it ran with it but was not sure how to mount it and if I wanted to use it or go with other options. So it sat for several years but finally I decided to go with the drive at least for now. It has under scale wheelsets but they are not very obvious and the wheelbase is correct. There were a few other repairs to do, I needed to add a weight, etc., and yesterday it all came together and it runs fairly well! Someday I would like to put in a better drive, however. UPDATE: It now has a better drive (and paint).

As to the model itself, I have the original instructions and they begin “This GP-7 Locomotive was produced by Kemtron as a test to see if limited production in OO scale is feasible.” It was priced on the instructions as $27.50 for a complete kit (soldered) and $20 for a complete but unsoldered kit. The Kemtron-Lindsay drive would set you back an additional $16.50, and all of the parts were available as well as items for separate purchase.

It is a somewhat rare item that I am very glad to own. I also have one more example of this model, nicely built up with vintage paint and decals. It is also not operable and has a Baker drive unit that I believe can be returned to operation with some TLC. I was however waiting to get this one set first, and after this one gets past paint and decals that model will be one closer to being up to work on. But there are other things I will be working on first.

Introduced in 1953, as you can see in the photo this etched brass kit built up into a very fine model comparable to the brass models imported in that same time frame. One to certainly keep your eyes peeled for.

UPDATE: This model may be seen in operation in this video (with a Kemtron-Lindsay drive).

ALSO: For more on the introduction of this model in 1953 see this article.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A Great EM Layout

I recently had a tip from a reader about a large EM layout that has inspired many British enthusiasts. It is the Pendon Museum, and looking at the website I have to see this if I ever get to England! There is no large layout of this type in 1/76 in the United States.

I should first briefly note what EM is. I have been curious about this gauge for many years, having first read of it in a book that was distributed in the United States pretty widely, The World of Model Trains by Guy R. Williams. Published in 1970, my parents gave me a copy in the late 1970s. EM is 4mm scale and a type of OO scale model except that instead of 19mm gauge track like we use over here (which scales out to 4’ 9”, only ½ inch off!) on their side of the Atlantic they chose to use a gauge of 18mm (or 4’ 6” gauge), calling this EM for short (as in eighteen millimeters). It is closer to correct than the hybrid gauge/scale of HO/OO, but is an error that Scalefour enthusiasts set out to correct by using the exact gauge for standard gauge, 18.83mm, as described in this previous post.

The Pendon Museum houses a large EM layout that has been there for many years, and it is well worth looking over the website for the great photos especially. This one, linked from their website, is an overall view of the 70’ gallery that houses the Pendon Vale Scene. Looking further in the site it caught my attention that the late Guy Williams, who wrote that book I mentioned above, actually built several of the EM locomotives in the photos. He was very active with this museum and with EM from its beginnings in the early 1950s.

For more on EM do check out also the website of the E.M. Gauge Society. I am sure that there are many EM products that could be used in some manner in American OO; it may be worth the effort to check them out further, they have quite a long list of parts on their website and apparently will ship overseas.

There still is the question, why 18mm? I suspect from having converted HO wheelsets to 19mm myself that 18mm was deemed the practical limit that you could easily widen some types of HO/OO equipment, especially keeping car wheelsets on their original axle and with minimum alteration of the mounting. One less millimeter would give many more options for simple conversions.

UPDATE: For more on Williams and the Pendon Museum see this article.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why read old train magazines

I love old magazines. When I first started out in OO part of what drove me was simple curiosity about these old models in this unusual scale. Who made them? Why are they so uncommon today? I was lucky right in that time frame to be able to trade some more recent magazines to a local N scaler for a good size pile of the older, small format issues of Model Railroader.

With those I did something very important that I only now see what it did for me. I made notes on loose leaf paper about each issue, of which this is an example. I wrote down what was advertised in each issue and notes about any article related to OO. Those notes expanded as I was able to pick up more period magazines at train shows over the years. I still have those notes and turn to them often as I now keep them in the folders with the issue they reference.

A friend recently recommended reading The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin, which I did this summer in relation to thinking over some things in my teaching. These are very interesting books, read them if they sound at all interesting to you, but the point to highlight in relation to OO gauge and reading old magazines and taking notes on them is that it built up an initial knowledge of OO really effectively and was the basis for me for an overall framework for understanding OO on many levels.

I still love going back to those back issues. I have been selling a few duplicate issues on eBay recently, actually there are to my mind a lot of bargains out there in old magazines, they are going cheap. I guess people don’t read them as much these days which is unfortunate. Reading about OO here in this blog is a start but if you are interested in OO and the history of model railroading for sure be building up a collection of period magazines and skim/read them all, they will help fuel your curiosity and provide a lot of great primary information on these great trains.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Big Engines are Sensitive on Curves

About this time last year actually, I was pretty excited to have this Johann 2-8-2 finished, except that it did not run worth a darn. Looked great (there is a better view here) but it would hardly pull itself around the layout.

It has taken me a while to trouble shoot it out. At first I thought it was the mechanism, and I let it sit until I had a block of time to look at it. I took it apart and it rolled freely. Not the mechanism. But I got an idea that maybe I needed a new power pack, and that helped a lot, as posted here. Now it ran but it got stuck here and there. Some of the issues were electrical with turnouts; due to the weight of the engine it would cause the turnout points to short. I got those insulated and it still would get stuck certain points on the curves. I finally figured out that 26” radius was the bare minimum for the mechanism, and where it got stuck was due to binding. In other words, there were places in my hand laid curves that were a bit tight and the mechanism was finding them. I had to work over five areas each about one foot long in the curves, got them smoother using a piece of Tru-Scale roadbed as a tool to visualize the radius, and now the engine runs well clockwise! Counterclockwise, well, it binds up two spots still. For now I will just run it clockwise, and I am not sure it is possible to adjust the track further without rebuilding and it is possible it is just a quirk of the mechanism that it is more sensitive in that direction. I am sure it will never take the passing siding as it goes down to about 24” radius at one end. Someday maybe I will build a bigger layout.

It is interesting to me that I have been running this layout for years, and smaller engines took the curves great. They should take them even better now, and I have clearly learned that big engines require better track work than smaller steam (the S-C 4-6-0 has a blind middle driver, for example) and diesel models. Where the 2-8-2 is sitting in the photo is one of those areas I worked over, right over the area where I had my original golden spike ceremony on February 2, 1982. I have the photos, maybe someday I will post them.

While we are here in the present day, take a look at those boxcars! Click on the photo for a larger view. They are the finished versions of the scribed side cars in this previous post. I love how they look and run on the converted PBL Sn3 Andrews trucks.

As to the locale, It has not been in many photos in the blog. I had hoped to have completed the rough scenery in this area by now but have not. The summer is my best block of time to work on model railroad projects and I don’t think it will get done this year. But finished scenery is in the works and plans.

UPDATE: More on getting the track smoothed out in this article.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Color photos in the 1938 S-C catalog

I received a couple interesting items recently from John Blackburn. One was a link to an article that appeared in the Monday, Sep. 13, 1937 issue of Time magazine. It is on model railroading and while it does not mention OO specifically it does mention Elliott Donnelley of Scale-Craft, then still known as Scale-Models, Inc., and offers this on the budget of the typical model railroader of the time.

The Model Railroader finds that the average hobbyist spends $200 to $250 a year. Typical assembly kit for assembling a baggage coach costs $10.50, a passenger coach $11.50. Biggest manufacturer of parts is Scale-Models Inc. of Chicago, headed by tall young (34) Elliott Donnelley, who left the big printing business of which his father is chairman, Chicago's R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., because of his enthusiasm for model railroads.
This relates to a second item he sent, photos of pages from the 1938 Scale-Craft catalog. This is the cover; I have a Xerox of this catalog but had forgotten totally that it features color or colorized photos of their models. Makes sense and Donnelley had background in the printing industry. Below are samples from the section of freight cars; click on any photo for a larger view.











The passenger cars were also in color. Certainly the catalog worked to show the colorful variety of models that could be built in the brand new miniature scale of American OO and also the catalog reflects the vision of the young owner of the company.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Working in more than one scale

Skimming through some back issues I just obtained, I was surprised to find in the May 1974 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman that William Johann had won the RMC/Dremel Kitbashing Award for a Watchung Valley HO EMD SD35! He was active in a HO club in southern California and built the model for use there. The article mentions that he prefers to model in OO and closes with this paragraph.
The concept of being able to enjoy modeling in more than one scale due to an association of modelers seems to be an excellent idea for the many hobbyists who, for one reason or another, have yet to settle on a single scale or gauge. In this instance, the motivation was sufficient to prompt a modeler to not only join in the fun but to construct a modern hood unit by kitbashing which was not otherwise commercially available.
The model itself was constructed using two GP35 bodies and the drive and some body parts from a SDP40. This photo I believe shows the model on his layout in 1983. As described further in this article, a late version of his layout was dual scale, with HO visible on the top level and OO on the lower at this point.

I know he made similar models in OO from Athearn parts that were based on an EMD SDL39. It was a lightweight diesel for branch line use, built on shorter than standard wheelbase six axle trucks that could be approximated in OO with HO trucks. The result is a unit that looks rather like a small SD40. I have often thought about trying my hand at that one, and someday I may.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Made in Japan: the Schorr OO gondola, triple hopper, and more!

Last year I posted an overview on Fred Schorr, last week I finished the decals on this Schorr triple hopper, and I have been meaning to post a photo of their gondola as well. Besides being a very active OO gauger, Fred E. Schorr, Jr. imported brass models from Japan in American OO. These seem to be hardly known outside of our OO gauge community. The list of these imported models includes:
Locomotives:
Ma and Pa 2-8-0
DL&W camelback 4-6-0
Alco RS-2 diesel
[Their F-3 was not imported--sand cast bronze/USA made, later also sold by Ultimate]
UPDATE: And a PRR A3 0-4-0 

Passenger:
RDC-1 (coach)
RDC-2 (coach-baggage)
RDC-3 (coach-baggage-mail)

Freight:
Cement hopper (two bay)
Gondola
twin and triple hopper cars (ribbed side)
CV wood caboose
Also visible clearly in the photo with this post are Schorr trucks. Click on the photo for a better view. These were available in Bettendorf and arch bar designs. A close up of a Schorr arch bar truck may be found here.

Schorr advertised his products in Railroad Model Craftsman in the middle 1950s. One model that is sometimes associated with Schorr is a brass OO GP-7. This was actually a Kemtron product but Schorr sold it and mentioned it in his advertisements without noting that it was a Kemtron model and not his own product. See for example the ad in the October, 1954 issue of RMC, which is right next to a listing for another OO classic, the Johann 2-8-2.

Back to Schorr, these cars are great cars! I wish I had the complete set of all of the Schorr imports but as of now I only have examples of the RDC 1, the cement hopper, the triple hopper, and the gondola. This particular hopper is lettered with parts of a vintage Champ HO decal set for Rio Grande locomotives, and it came out well I think. My goal was to match this lettering scheme. The MKT car was lettered with Walthers decals.

They are light cars but they look great and on the Schorr trucks they are incredibly free rolling and track well. I could weigh them heavier but instead I either run them at the end of a train or in dedicated trains of lighter cars. When I run these cars I also run with them a light caboose, usually the one converted from Mantua HO that is described in this post.

UPDATE: Even more on Schorr here, with details on production runs provided by his son, Ed Schorr. And, as you read on in the website you will see I now have close to a complete set of all the models they produced.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Interesting 1938 Lionel OO Track Sections--Possible Factory Prototypes

Dick Kuehnemund forwarded these interesting photos of three-rail Lionel track he purchased a while back. Included in a purchase were 2 odd-ball sections which I will let him describe.


1 - A piece of straight "terminal" track in which the actual terminal piece from a regular curved section has been adapted to fit very neatly into the #0062 straight section. Also: 1 outer rail has 2 small gaps, possibly to activate an accessory?? And:

2 - A 1/2 curve, formed by cutting & splicing a regular section back together. The rails on the 1/2 section are ONE piece.

On both, the workmanship is too neat to have been done at home over a 12 pack of Sam Adams!
These are the spring clip type pieces, 1938 style. I have an overview of Lionel and Scale-Craft OO sectional track in this article with more photos. Also Dick notes that "Good old Lionel cleverly(?) required odd-lengths of the 1939 - 42 style of 3-rail track to make such layouts as a simple Figure "8": they offered 1/2 curves, 1/2 straights & 5/6 straights. Naturally, they're VERY rare!!!! In 20+ yrs. I think I've only gotten about 4 of each."

These are extremely interesting pieces--well crafted by someone with some real skill to fit their needs.

Dick noted also that "The workmanship is  professional, making me think they could be prototypes." Looking at them I would certainly agree with that.

They don't at all have the look like some guy at a hardware store selling Lionel trains worked these up for a customer. These really could be engineering samples done by Lionel of track types that were not produced. Click on any of the photos for a better view.

Dick also has a question:
Have you ever seen or heard of Lionel making 3-rail "adapter" or "transition" tracks: sections with the 1938- style of connectors w / the spring clip under the center rail on 1 end & the regular "later" version as sold from 1939 - 42 on the other end? A friend asked me about them & I drew a blank.
For me I have not heard of this but the question is one that has been pondered for years by many collectors. Certainly a real craftsman could have put such a piece together in those hard economic times. But I have never seen one and I think someone at that time had cheaper track options if they were really building a layout. And if they had the funds to build a large Lionel OO layout they could have simply just used the later track.

The rails would be a special challenge when splicing any of these sections and that is what makes these sections of track so interesting and what makes them look so professionally done. Thank you again Dick for these interesting photos!

UPDATED 2014. And also see this article comparing Trix Twin HO track from 1935 to Lionel 1938 and 1939-41 track.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Scale-Craft express reefer trucks?

Exhibit “A” below is a photo of two express reefers. The car on right has a standard Scale-Craft passenger truck on it and the one on the left does not. It gives the visual impression of being maybe 85% the size of the regular passenger truck and has plain instead of roller bearings.

I have three pair of these mounted on cars. All of them have freight car size Scale-Craft wheelsets. Click on the photo for a better view.

I had a memory that Scale-Craft had cataloged a type of passenger truck that I have never seen. S-C made a plain bearing 4 wheel passenger truck that is depicted on P. 47 of the Round Lake catalog only—it was introduced very late in their production and I have never seen one in reality [anyone have one?]. BUT, the truck on the car on the left is not that truck--it would have rounded off ends--and S-C never cataloged an express reefer truck!

It looked at first to me like a factory item but looking closer clearly a modeler worked these up themselves by filing down the roller bearings into something close to plain bearings, filing off the brake hangers, and changing them over to the smaller wheelsets. They are actually pretty effective, makes you wish Scale-Craft had in fact produced a similar express reefer truck.

UPDATE: Rare S-C truck located! This truck would have been just right for a Scale-Craft express reefer, if one had been produced. There is more at the link but in short after WWII Scale-Craft produced a 4-wheel plain bearing passenger truck, an orphan item in their line.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Scale-Craft OO Track and Tie Strip

One of your options back in say 1940 if you wanted to build an OO gauge layout was to use tie strip.

John Blackburn forwarded this photo of two rolls of tie strip, along with two pieces of Scale-Craft sectional track. In the Scale-Craft 1940 catalog they list among track parts these sections, switch kits, and “Continuous Tie Section” which was available in 50 and 100 foot rolls. It was priced at 5 cents per foot, but also packaged as part of a track kit, which was the below:
K2218 15 Ft. 2-Rail Track Kit (Consisting of 30 Lineal Ft. Steel Rail, 15 Ft. Continuous Tie Section, Connectors and Spikes … 1.95
I don’t think I would ever want to actually use the tie strip at this point in time but it was one of the options out there and something to keep your eye peeled for.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Which is the real vintage OO gauge box car?

Two of these three cars I just finished and one is vintage. Can you guess which one it is?

They are all lettered for the Great Northern. The car on top is Hawk and the two bottom cars have Picard bodies, and all have at least a few Scale-Craft parts.

It is not easy to guess is it? The double sheathed wood car is on Schorr arch-bar trucks, the other two on Scale-Craft trucks. Give up yet? Click on the photo for a better view.

In a sense they are all vintage cars as I was not the original builder; all were started at least long ago. But I did work on all of them. The decals probably have maybe given it away? The layout of the decals is a bit sketchy on the outside braced car….

It is what I would call the real vintage car, restored slightly. The outside braced car came to me via eBay and was at that time on a Scale-Craft frame. I had several Hawk frames in my parts supply and mounted one back on the car, which showed marks that it originally was built with this same type of frame. I added the old-style “straight pin” Kadee couplers to complete the restoration, which mate fine with modern Kadee couplers.

The Picard cars were partially built from an estate purchase. A photo of them before painting is here. The “after” came out quite well I think, the steel car coming out better than I expected, a neat paint job does wonders. I used another pair of the old style Kadee couplers on the steel car and Kadee No. 4 couplers on the wood car.

They all run great on the layout. The steel car I will run mainly with other vintage cars and the arch bar trucked car I will run with older time equipment. I have parts to do several more of the same type of steel car, this was just the one that was the closest to done—a project for another summer.

Friday, July 10, 2009

More random notes on setting up vintage (and new!) OO cars with trucks and couplers

I am near the end of this series of “truck” posts. I managed in the recent “truck blitz” to get around two dozen cars running well that either were bad ordered or not at all in service. In the process I learned a few things.

Some cars cannot be set up for certain brands of trucks
This is a function of truck swing, bolster height of truck, and truck wheelbase. Nason trucks have very high bolsters, Schorr very low bolsters. Scale-Craft trucks if set up right are bullet proof and work on practically any car. They are a great design for the operator. With five cars recently that I had tried to set-up to run on other brands of trucks I ended up throwing in the towel, they are now back on S-C trucks like when I bought them, including the four Bessey reefers in this post. While they looked great on the upgrade trucks in particular, they were built in such a way that really only S-C trucks would fit the cars correctly due to truck swing issues.

Some cars need an intentional “loose” truck
This has to do with the bolster/car possibly being slightly out of square but more likely the bolster screw hole being out of square. Usually this does not impact both trucks and some types of truck are more forgiving than others. In an extreme case the hole can be drilled out and filled with glue and the truck mounted with the screw glued in at vertical. Put the car on a track while the glue sets so that it is true vertical. If you grease the screw very lightly it can be removed easily.

Get coupler height just right
Coupler height is critical. My “height gauge” for years has been the rear coupler on this locomotive. It sits on the test track right above my workbench. It, along with the NMRA standards gauge, is an indispensible tool. I get everything to be essentially exactly the height of this coupler. This prevents many problems.

Washers—a must!
Hardly any cars need no washers to set up the height correctly. There is a type of washer that S-C shipped out with their trucks. After a while you begin to spot them; the hole in them is too small for a lot of screws, but not S-C truck screws. Use these as often as you can setting up cars with S-C trucks.

Treasure your S-C truck screws and bolsters
I don’t know of any source for the same type of screw. When possible I use other types of machine screw that fit the bolster hole but it is not always possible. I wonder what the average S-C Bakelite bolster will be like in another 50 years? A percentage has totally become unusable.

I am not a fan of S-C dummy couplers
Except of course for long passenger cars, where I love the extra swing they have. For freight cars, ugh, they just don’t generally couple easily with Kadee couplers (but will couple). Lionel dummy couplers are very similar but a bit more compatible with Kadee. Other than on passenger cars S-C dummy couplers are more or less banned from the layout, as are all brands of dummy coupler except Lionel.

I am a fan of Kadee HO couplers
Kadee couplers match S-C and Lionel OO couplers in size very well. The Kadee No. 5 works well in most situations where the car was set up originally for Lionel or S-C couplers, and often can use the same screw hole. I also have quite a supply of Kadee No. 4 couplers that I picked up cheaply over the years. I have made a deal with myself to build these up and use them on every car that can use them, which are mainly freight cars with wooden floors. They are more difficult to assemble for sure but one nice thing about these is the obvious extra slack action they add to the train, it is a nice effect on starting and stopping. But, again, they are not so easy to assemble.

With all that you have no excuses. Get some more vintage cars running!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Truck mounting on S-C flats

Below is a stack of Scale-Craft flat cars, which were shipped out with two different frames. On top is the late frame and on the bottom is the early frame, and it is easy to see that the trucks mount at different locations. The early frame I think was their concession to tight radius curves and the late is for the real situation that scale modelers demanded something that looked less toy-like. The short-wheelbase trucks may in fact be slightly too close to the ends. [See UPDATE].

But what is in the middle? The car in the middle has an early frame and what were called in the most recent issue of The OO Road “Morlok method” trucks. I describe them further in this post, converted from Mantua/Tyco/Model Power HO trucks with re-gauged Athearn 36” HO wheelsets. They are pretty ideal as an upgrade for an early style Scale-Craft flat due to the holes you would use to screw them on are offset slightly--a pair are on top of the flats to show this feature. As such, you can mount them so they look to be closer to the ends. Also, as they are fairly hidden the change of trucks is not very visible, and what you can see looks better than the original S-C trucks. Finally, they track and roll well. These trucks won’t work on every car but they will work well on this particular model, which in terms of my operations has allowed me to free up a few S-C trucks for other cars.

[More on making these conversion trucks here]

UPDATE: After writing the post I had to check. The truck centers should be roughly 5' 6" in from the ends of these cars. The late S-C car truck centers are less than 5' in and the early more than 6'. Morlok method trucks will improve either type of flat, you just position the hole chosen so that the truck is ofset in the correct direction.

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.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Four vintage heavyweight Pullmans

In the previous post I spoke of putting modified S-C six wheel trucks on four cars. These are the cars and trucks. The rebuilt trucks roll great! They had been modified to the extent that the end beams have all been filed off and rounded (by a prior owner!). Painted black you have to look for it to notice. As to the cars these trucks are now on they are all Pullmans by different makers painted up generally the same (with green roofs) so they are interesting to compare. Click on any photo for a larger view.

In this first photo the car in the front is a nicely built up J-C models car. It has picked up sheet metal steps and actually I had put this car in running order a while back, which included adding Kadee couplers. More on that in a minute. The other car is a bit more interesting. I believe it to be Famoco. It has die cast ends and other parts that would fit with it being Famoco but also has a Nason frame. It could just be a J-C kit souped up with other parts. J-C and Famoco sides and wood parts are identical.

In the second photo the car in front is a Nason EZ Built car. The brass sides show through here and there and this car was lacking steps. Recently I was able to purchase a Nason kit and in the parts supply I found these steps that matched the ones in that kit. The rear car is Scale-Craft. They went for a bit more modern Pullman design with the wide windows. Both of these cars are lettered for the Burlington.

One tip on setting up the trucks with North Yard wheels, I put a washer between the wheel and the side frame on each wheel on one side of each truck. Why? To help prevent shorting by holding the wheelset just a bit away from one sideframe. I picked this idea up after taking apart quite a few trucks, it can help.

One new thing for me with these two posts has been working with dummy couplers. For the 80’ cars the Scale-Craft couplers are the way to go! They need all that swing to get around my 28” radius curves reliably. I had worked on the J-C car some a few years ago and put Kadee #5 couplers on it at that point. If I had a wider radius I would keep it as it is but I am pondering converting it back to dummy couplers for better operation—or at least a switch to the long shank version of the Kadee.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Vintage OO Gauge Streamliner

With all the recent posts on rebuilding vintage OO trucks you might think I have become a bit obsessed by the topic. I have! I am enjoying running cars I have not been able to run before now, and have had some time to work on the truck problem recently. It is like a giant puzzle trying to figure out how to maximize the number of working Scale-Craft passenger trucks in particular.

First, this is an “after” photo of the observation car of my “new” streamline train, but first I need to set up what got it to this point these past few days.

One set of cars long in the bottom of a box in storage was a four car streamliner. They were not operable, the trucks barely rolled and there were coupler issues, and I had honestly long thought it a bit of an ugly train. What I thought was the worst part of the train was it had odd six wheel trucks on the cars that were modified Scale-Craft trucks. Not the right trucks for these cars, they should be on four wheel trucks. I had some extra S-C four wheel passenger truck sideframes, and a few weeks ago I figured out that I could not set them up to run with the North Yard wheelsets I had on hand without shorting. I had no spare S-C passenger wheelsets. But I could set up six wheel trucks with North Yard wheelsets. HMMM.

Looking around in car storage, I have also long wanted to get several truckless vintage heavyweight cars running that were purchased in the same lot with the streamliner. Then, some inspiration hit. I could take the four wheel truck sideframes, build them up with wheelsets from the six-wheel trucks on these cars and other scavenged parts, replace the six wheel trucks with four wheel trucks, and get the streamliner running--and get four of the vintage heavyweights running too.

So here it is! I think this train looks MUCH better with the new four wheel trucks. I worked up the trucks carefully and the train runs great! The full train is a RPO/baggage, a diner, a Pullman, and the observation at the beginning of the post. The original trucks were unpainted S-C castings, these are however painted silver to match the train. Click on either photo for a better view.

Looking again at the close up of the observation, in the photo at the top of this post, you can tell the train has interior detail. This train is scratchbuilt and I don’t believe it follows any particular prototype. The builder used stainless steel fluting that looks like O gauge size on the cars and microscope slide glass in the windows, including the bent glass in the rear observation windows. The cars are shorty cars (just under 70 ft). A lot of time and effort went into the making of these cars.

Working with the dummy couplers was something of a first for me. I really prefer Kadee couplers, but as it is a matched set of cars I saw no reason to change this aspect. The train has Scale-Craft couplers; I had to replace two of them.

It has a nice look for vintage cars and really is a nice little train that runs well on my layout. One plus is the cars are not lettered, so I can then pull them with pretty much any locomotive. Pretty much the perfect pike-sized streamliner for my layout.

UPDATE: I believe this train may be an example of the cars marketed by Newark Electric in Chicago. See this article for more.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Two vintage OO cabooses

I have had both of these cabooses a while but just this past week got them set up again for operation.

The lower caboose is Nason and is on Nason trucks. Overall it is pretty much the stock version of this classic car.

The upper caboose was purchased on eBay and deserves a closer look. When I saw it I thought it might be modified Nason and it was in a lot with a Nason reefer. Actually, it is scratchbuilt and was in fact at some point repaired a good bit with a couple “Dutchmen” added to one corner of the roof and the steps, plus one of the steps is plastic at the site of that repair. I set this car up with modified Sn3 Rio Grande Models caboose trucks.

I am not certain but I doubt this car follows any particular prototype. The thing that most interests me with this car is the hand lettering and in particular this date. I think we can assume that the builder lettered this side of the car on 9-10-37. The other side is actually unlettered.

One coupler on this car is Nason and the other end had no coupler. I put on a Kadee so that it would easily trail a train of vintage OO cars. The Nason car has Scale-Craft couplers. The trucks on it have modified Lionel wheelsets (I did not do the deed!), described in this post.

UPDATE: The Naugatuck Valley caboose was later upgraded (right word?) to a pair of vintage arch bar trucks of uncertain manufacture that match the car well, seen in this article.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Thoughts on tuning up Graceline trucks

Following up on the post on tuning up Nason trucks, one type of early Graceline truck is very similar to the Nason “square bolster” type. Can it benefit also from new wheelsets?

In an estate purchase years ago now I purchased quite a number of Graceline cars. Of them, several were quite interesting to me but one in particular with cardboard sides had been built nicely with decals; this one, in the photo. I had already spent some time working on it to get it running among the vintage cars I run, which is why it has Kadee couplers.

Graceline made several styles of trucks including sprung trucks but the early “square bolster” type is probably the best. They seem to have used two different types of wheelsets in these trucks, one type that are not workable with my track, and another type that seem to run fine. The ones that are bad on the older cars have a rather square flange that is wider than that seen in other brands and the other type has a flange that is very similar to Scale Craft.

This particular car had at some point picked up a pair of the trucks with the not OK wheelsets. I tried to change them out with S-C wheelsets and made a discovery, the axles are smaller on Graceline trucks and SC wheelsets won’t fit.

Rather than drilling them out and getting into yet another involved project, I decided to switch out the trucks on this car for the trucks of the same design from another car (that had the better wheelsets), and again, it seems to be running OK on those. Before the car would derail almost every time it went around the layout.

One note on this boxcar, I did not “do the deed,” but this was actually built originally as a reefer. Someone removed the hatches and added the Scale-Craft doors before repainting it as you see it now.

While I am glad to see this car back in service I must admit that I don’t think Graceline freight trucks of this era look all that great. While “scale looking,” they are clearly over scale in length and probably very close to S scale overall. Quite a contrast to Scale-Craft trucks, which while well designed for operation are somewhat toy-like in look.

[One other footnote, I do have a diner with six wheel Graceline passenger trucks that I have tested, it runs fine, also has the better style wheelsets.]

UPDATE: Ultimately I put S-C trucks on this car. Some Graceline trucks can be rebuilt (one car in this post for example) but Graceline wheel sets are variable and some have tread width issues that are the deal killer for me. More in this article.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Keys to tuning up Nason OO trucks

New wheelsets, square bolsters, and a little luck.

One of my projects now is to return more of my “vintage” OO gauge models to layout worthy (operable) shape, as in put them to the point that I can run them reliably on the layout. I would like eventually to get every model that I have out on display up to a reliably operable condition. Related to that, there is a category of very special knowledge that is pretty inside stuff, you have to really be deep into the topic to want to figure it out even. In American OO how to tune up Nason trucks is one of those topics.

I have for some time had a couple cars on Nason trucks that ran fine but they came to me on modern, RP-25 wheelsets so why they ran fine seemed no big mystery. Another car also ran fine with what appeared to be the original wheelsets. And then we have the few other Nason cars in my collection. One I had invested a lot of time in to rebuild carefully and it was hopeless, that car would derail literally every time around the layout in the turnouts.

The wheels were in gauge. The only real clue I had was from the late Bill Johan. Back in this post I quoted him from the May, 1994 issue of The OO Road where he indicated what types of OO trucks he used on his layout for operation: “…I’m sort of fussy—Scale Craft (reworked extensively…), Lionel, or Nason with the square bolsters only, if you please.”

In looking closer, I found that the one car that ran well with what I thought were all-original Nason trucks had Scale-Craft wheelsets! And I found that another pair of trucks I had that were not mounted on a car but tested well had modified Lionel wheelsets! It looks like a predecessor took three-rail Lionel wheelsets and cut them in half (!) and put them on Nason sub-axles to make two rail wheelsets. In other words, a couple modelers before me figured out the same thing. One secret to running Nason freight car trucks is new wheelsets.

Nason wheelsets must have run on the layouts of Hugh Nason and his friends just fine. For me they are very touchy. The the flange is often somewhat sharper with less of an angle toward the tread compared to a Scale-Craft wheelset, but the big problem is the width of the tread itself being variable and probably a bit narrow.

In the photo we have a "rogues gallery" of Nason trucks. Starting clockwise from the top we have on the caboose U bolster trucks that have been modified with Lionel wheelsets, a stock square bolster truck, a square bolster truck modified with S-C wheelsets, a stock U bolster truck, and finally another U bolster truck on a Picard covered hopper with S-C wheelsets. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Nason wheelsets look similar to most Scale-Craft [and Graceline] wheelsets but the sub-axle may be “heavier” looking (they used two types) and the face of the wheelset is more curved than any version of S-C. The flange difference is subtle but my turnouts "see" tread width variations clearly. [And I have actually noted at least five different styles of S-C freight car, split axle wheelsets! All track just fine for me through my Mantua turnouts. Graceline is another story, more on that in a future post.]

The other part of the problem is the bolsters. Johann preferred the square bolster version of Nason trucks. Actually, for sure Hugh Nason himself was a three rail operator and I strongly suspect their trucks set up best for three rail use with the cast bolster. The U shaped fiber bolster for two rail operation can get out of square pretty easily and the solid square ones are not all perfect either. The sideframes being bronze are also not easy to work with if they are out of alignment at all.

I was able to get one pair of square bolster trucks set up really well with Scale-Craft wheelsets. That is what will stay on the boxcar that I rebuilt, seen in this last photo. As for the rest of the Nason trucks I tried to work on, it was a bit frustrating. I could not get any one pair to operate well with S-C wheelsets due to issues with bolsters and getting everything square. Not my lucky day.

In the end I have several pair of Nason trucks that are all original and complete and on vintage Nason cars that can’t be operated on the layout. I would prefer they be operable, and they would be actually if I had no turnouts, but at least they are complete cars with matching trucks and represent the output of this classic OO maker well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rio Grande Models Sn3 trucks for OO

One other maker of Sn3 trucks is Rio Grande Models. I purchased two of their designs, a 4’ 6” caboose truck (arch bar) and their version of the Andrews truck seen in the below photo.

As with the PBL trucks the sideframes scale out pretty well for American OO due to a quirk of scales and gauges. In fact, I would rate their Andrews truck as being even a bit better looking in OO than the PBL version. However, it is not completely clear to me how they intended these to be built up even in Sn3. My guess is that you are just supposed to clamp and glue the parts together after the wheelsets are in.

The big thing for an OO conversion is to figure out a bolster that holds the axles very square. It would be a pretty simple matter actually with a drill press to drill out a new solid bolster with holes on each end to fit that sideframe pin, similar to the design used on some Nason and Graceline trucks back in the day. Get it all good and square and it would work. Another option is to cut the existing bolster and insert it inside a square plastic tube to extend it to OO width. The option I tried, seen in this photo, was to make a new bolster from Evergreen 3/16" square styrene tube. I cut it very square in my trusty Miter Jr., clamped it all square with the wheelsets I chose in place (NWSL 20” On3 wheelsets, just a hair underscale), dropped on some super glue and let capillary action do its work.

There may be a better way but in any event this is one way to do this conversion and both pair of trucks look like they will be solid and reliable runners. This is for sure yet another truck option for American OO use today, as seen on this small tank car (converted from a large HO car some years back) before painting. Click on the photo for a larger view. The car on the right, for comparison, is Scale-Craft.

The caboose truck was also built up in the same manner and was going to be used on a vintage Nason caboose. However, the trucks don’t match up well with the screws and bolsters on this car (the screws are at an angle), which is a bummer. I will save them for some other wood caboose in the future.

[A theme of a couple of these truck posts is that I need to get a small drill press. I better start shopping…]