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

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Raymond Willey OO

There are cars out there that clearly were made but were even back in the day very rare and may well never turn up. For example, Raymond Willey, who had worked with Red Adams, advertised a “Complete Line” of OO in the April, 1935 issue of Model Railroader, and tie strip and a baggage car with assembled trucks in the May, 1935 issue.

Just as Red Adams 4-6-2 did actually sell a few of his locomotives before he sold the design out to Scale Craft, it is likely that a few of these Willey cars also made it out to the market. Will they ever be found? Maybe not, but every unusual car is worth a good, close look, who knows what it could be?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

OO Passenger car cross sections

Heavyweight passenger cars should be a bit over 10’ in width. Below is a photo of several cars side to side. Note that one is thinner.

It is a Nason Easy-Built type Pullman with brass sides. Note that it is just over 9’ and is noticeably under width. The cars are left to right Famoco, Scale-Craft, Nason, and J-C. The Nason car when run in a train with the other cars is noticeably under sized in cross section and height, approaching that of a large HO car. Most of the difference is the roof and floor stock. From the side the car is OO scale.

I also have this piece of clearly marked Nason roof stock that is 10’ wide. It appears to be from the same car as these sides for an easy-built coach, which I got out again and I hope to build up. Click for a larger photo. I also have a complete, unbuilt kit with this same roof stock. One nice thing about this coach is that it is longer than a Scale-Craft coach and closer to scale length. On the negative side, no rivet detail.

I see two possibilities for the Pullman. One is that there was a production run where Nason used different roof stock that was narrower. The other is that a builder used parts to perhaps rebuild an existing car of uncertain manufacture. Any insights out there? I don’t have a lot of Nason, would love to know what roof stock went out with the cast cars for example.

UPDATE: And the coach may be seen, nearly rebuilt, in this article.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

80’ S-C passenger cars on 26” radius curves

I have been working on passenger cars lately and one useful observation would be that the 80’ Scale-Craft passenger cars are touchy on 26” radius curves. The frame shape and size limits the truck swing to the extent that it is problematic.

So I got looking back in the collection of cars waiting for rebuilding and noticed that these three Scale-Craft cars had been modified in the frame area to allow more truck swing, each one slightly differently. The car on the left has the area in question filed down, next it is filed down even more and the mounting changed so that there is no offending screw, and finally one that was filed down less but insulated with cellophane tape. Click on the photo for a larger view.

I am generally speaking reluctant to modify cars much for the layout, but these pre-modified cars are all good candidates for rebuilding for the layout.

All the other brands of passenger cars produced in OO seem to not have this problem in relation to the frame limiting truck swing.

One other note on the Scale-Craft cars would be that as built the coupler height would be slightly too high. I have one car that was altered to also resolve that problem and that will actually be the first I rebuild.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A Pair of J-C Pullmans

This photo is of a happy reunion of two cars. Reunion? They were actually from the same lot purchase.

Both were truck-less. The lower one needed only a little touch up work, and as I had a number of spare Graceline parts including their combo truck bolster and coupler pocket I used them to upgrade the car a few years back. Originally I used Kadee No. 5 couplers in the boxes but they did not allow enough swing to operate reliably. So I recently purchased long shank couplers (Kadee No. 46) and switched those out and this car worked great on my 26” radius curves.

Then, looking for things to maybe sell on eBay I found the upper car, which was in pieces due to probably shipping or storage damage years ago. Looking at it, I realized that it was a mate to the other car and could look and operate just as well with only a little work. A few hours of work later, with the same added Graceline parts and Kadee couplers they are a pair again.

One thing to add is that built well I really like J-C/Famoco heavyweight passenger cars with the pressed cardboard sides. Click on the photo for a better view. The sides in particular visually rival that of any modern HO product and match the cast Scale-Craft cars well.

UPDATE: And both cars are riding on upgraded trucks now, great vintage models.

Monday, August 17, 2009

An Orient GP-7

Following up on the post on the Kemtron GP-7, the decals are done on my model.

Click on the photo for a larger view. I am very happy how it looks, and it runs OK (but not great) with the Tyco drive. It is a drive option to consider in OO today, at least the wheelbase is correct, but at some point I want to put a better drive in this model. For sure my best locomotive in terms of operation is the Davis E-7A with the modified Athearn PA-1 drives.

On the down side, I have now used up my entire supply of yellow alphabet sets of the size to letter locomotives for the Orient, but at least as of now there are no more models in line for these decals, and the current plan is to focus on passenger cars this fall.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Buying track I did not need

With an operating two rail layout, Lionel three rail OO gauge track is not something I really need, and I have never owned any of it. But then the collector in me kicked in, and I started looking for a small, odd lot of this classic track, and finally found one for a reasonable price.

I guess it gets at why people collect stuff. Something catches you interest, you want to find out more. You want to actually hold it in your hands; you want to find a full set of a certain item, etc. To find that last piece will take some effort sometimes.

Holding this track in my hands now has been interesting, as I have not held a piece of it in years. It really does not “feel” pre-war. I can kind of imagine how someone would have felt back then to hold it in your hands for the first time, this is pretty amazing stuff. I did a quick survey with a couple of my favorite junior high students to guess how old this track was. They guessed that it dated to the 1960s-70s. Lionel had quite a product going with the pre-war OO line; no wonder collectors drive a market for our defunct but most interesting scale.

The one thing that really surprised me and I have never seen noted in print is that they are out of gauge! It is a little hard to estimate by eye but the gauge is at least 19.5mm and probably closer to 20mm. While it does look like Scale-Craft equipment would run fine on this track, this does perhaps explain the wide tread profile and large flanges seen on Lionel equipment.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A tale of five tank cars

An end of summer project was finishing up five tank cars, all kitbashed to varying degrees and in progress for years. I have long wanted to be able to run a good string of tank cars.

The one that has been in progress the longest is this one. The frame and tank were sent to me by Bill Johann back in 1995—I still have the little box. He included with it a print out from the November, 1994 issue of Model Railroader of an article on early ACF tank cars and a note, he saw that one of the photos was of a car of this type owned by the real Orient RY (absorbed by the ATSF in 1928) which I model but as if it existed into the 1950s. A plastic body (HO) had been donated to the SIG that was just about the right size; he sent it to me and a Selley frame to start me on the project and even scaled the plans up to OO to give me a head start. It still took a good bit of work, I had to replace the bottom part of the tank, etc, and ultimately it is a bit freelanced (I did not scratch build the high running boards), but after 14 years I got the car together finally! I will run it with other 1920s era cars.

UPDATE: Finished car here.

There is one side story with this car worth noting. I have three pair of what I thought was a heavy arch bar truck for OO by maybe Kemtron with lost wax brass side frames. Then, putting them on this car, I noticed they really looked heavy. Huge journal boxes! And the wheels are too large? Looking in Kemtron catalogs I saw no such listing and I finally realized they were, duh, On3 D&RGW 3’7” trucks. They will be on the way to eBay soon. The trucks on the car in the top photo are the modified North Yard Sn3 trucks from this post.

The next oldest pair of cars are these. The single dome car is Scale-Craft and pretty unremarkable other than I bought it on eBay unfinished and somewhat in disrepair and fixed it up. The other car started life as a three dome Tyco HO car of this type. I saw it at a show some years back and got it with the idea of making a two dome OO car out of it, which it is now, on a lengthened Selley frame with other parts. It seems to look best on S-C trucks, which I still find a bit toy-like but two dome tank cars are fairly common in toy trains but not common in reality so they kind of fit. For those curious, here is a link to a photo of a real two dome tank car.

UPDATE: The finished two dome car is here and the S-C car here.

The last pair of cars may raise a few eyebrows. They are Lionel, sort of. Some years back I purchased a pair of Lionel tank car bodies in an eBay lot with the idea of building them up for OO. The other parts needed hardly come up for sale, but I did manage to buy a frame. I finally decided to work up the rest of the parts from HO and the parts box. So the car with the Lionel frame has S-C ladders and a dome top cut off an Athearn HO car; the other car has the frame of that same Athearn car and a dome from yet another HO car. The trucks are made up from reproduction Lionel parts with late Scale-Craft (solid axle) wheelsets. The handrail stanchions are from two different scrapped locomotive boilers. Forgive me Lionel collectors. They won’t be decaled to resemble Lionel cars.

UPDATE: Final versions here and here.

Again, the model railroader side of me has wanted to run a long string of tank cars for a while, and when the decals are done I will be able to. One of the “Lionel” cars will be UTLX for sure, and most if not all of the rest Orient. The white Orient decals I use are actually Microscale HO tank car decals for the Orient, so it is about time I used them on a tank car.

Friday, August 14, 2009

An Overview of OO Gauge in Railroad Magazine, 1940-47

Following up on the post on Midlin OO gauge in Railroad Magazine,I recently obtained three issues that are great examples of OO coverage in this classic magazine.

First, I should note that there is no current publication quite like Railroad Magazine, at least on trains. It was a popular “pulp” magazine and besides articles on prototype trains and some model railroad features a thrust of the publication was railroad fiction, stories of railroading of the past and their present day.

Themes were developed in multiple articles in any given issue. So for example in the December, 1941 issue a theme was the caboose and one of the articles in this issue was on building an Erie bobber caboose. The plan with the article is scaled just a bit over OO, and the article reads a bit like fiction. From it you can tell how to build one but it is not clear that the unnamed author had actually built one exactly as described.

A theme in the January, 1942 issue is PRR electric locomotives. In relation to that we get a real OO gauge feature, “Build a High-Speed Freight Motor” by Henry B. Comstock. He is listed as “Associate Editor, Railroad Magazine” and was obviously a real OO enthusiast. With photos, illustrations, and text he describes how to build from scratch a Modified P-5a (for more on P-5a history, see this post). The body was made from five pieces of maple, this photo showing the completed model. Plans are included for the OO version of this model in this seven page feature article, the only essential commercial parts needed being the motor, gears, and wheels.

According to information received from William Chapin, Railroad Magazine featured OO projects in a number of issues from 1940-47. One of the last OO gauge features is on The Cincinnatian, subtitled “Build an OO Gage Model of America’s Newest Streamlined Steam Train,” found in the June 1947 issue, by “The Nutsplitter.” It is not a detailed article but is OO oriented and is again a part of a series of articles related to this train. The beginning of the article may be seen below.

After 1947 they still had model railroad features, but as a popular circulation magazine they moved these features toward more popular gauges, in particular HO.

UPDATE 2013: In addition to updating the title, to keep the information together in one article below is the full list that was put together by William Chapin:

5-40  C&O 4-6-2
9-40  F. J. Chemidlin (Midlin track)
12-41  caboose, 4 wheel
1-42  PRR P-5a
8-42  ATSF 4-8-4
7-43  PRR horse car
2-44  PRR 4-6-2, pt. 1
8-44  PRR 4-6-2, pt. 2
9-44  N&W 2-6-6-4
2-45  PRR 6-8-6
8-45  N&W 4-8-4
9-45  hospital car
2-46  Rodgers 4-4-0
4-46  NYNH&H 2-C-C-2
5-46  PRR 2-10-4
6-47  B&O 4-6-2 "Cincinnitian" & train
7-47  PRR 2-10-4 (reprint of 4-46?)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Two reefers with non-standard parts

These two cars were recent purchases and make an interesting case study. Reefers were colorful and popular items in OO, there are a lot of them around, and most makers produced quite a variety of lettering schemes. Especially the printed side cars, it would take ages and a lot of luck to pull together a complete set.

The first car is an early Scale-Craft reefer. The paint and decals exactly match that of the car that is behind, which has the original sand-cast hatches. So while both have the original S-C decals, a prior owner started changing out the hatches with die cast parts by another maker, maybe HO. I believe the paint scheme is actually wrong, the roof and ends should be black instead of boxcar red, but I have three ATSF reefers painted the same way. Someday I will work on this pair of cars more.

The second car is a URTX reefer. On first glance I would think it to be an Eastern car with late Scale-Craft doors. But on comparing it with the other car in the photo which is a stock version of the Eastern car, the sides and ends are Eastern as are the roof ribs but the hatches are undersized and match Varney HO hatches I found in the parts supply.

The bottom view compounds the mystery; the car has a Scale-Craft frame instead of the Eastern frame on the stock version. My conclusion is it actually a late Scale-Craft body to which mostly Eastern parts have been added. It can be touched up a bit and still be a nice vintage piece, but it will always be a bit of mutt.

Also the bottom view shows the jackpot item of the lot this was purchased in; the URTX car has Schorr trucks. Click on the photo for a better view. You don’t always win on odd lots but sometimes you do come up with something like this pair of trucks, very desirable items.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Bessey Boxcar

When I saw this for sale I knew it was out of the ordinary, perhaps Graceline? The photo was not completely clear. When it arrived I realized that it is an example of the boxcar produced by E. H. Bessey.

I wrote about the Bessey boxcar in this prior post and their reefers in this post; now I own a complete set of their cars. This is the only type of 40’ boxcar they offered and this particular one has been modified a bit.

The unique thing about all their cars is that the sides are wood but painted and lettered at the factory. A prior owner of this car modified the printing on the sides and the end to alter the car number, painting over the last digit. Maybe he had another of the same car and wanted them to have different numbers?

It would be interesting to see exactly how this was shipped out, as in what was in the box besides the painted body. The 1947 catalog just says it is a "OO OLD TIME S. P. WOOD BOX CAR G- 4 Body kit, no hdwe." It sold for 75 cents. This builder used a combination of Scale-Craft parts along with a Hawk frame, visible in the bottom view. Also visible is a brake cylinder that I have not seen before, it is turned from wood. An interesting car, one I will only lightly touch up when I set it up for the layout.

I would note to conclude that this car looks quite a bit like the comparable scribed Picard body, but if you compare them from the bottom the side stock is thicker on the Bessey cars.

UPDATE: The reworked car may be seen here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thuillgrim OO, cover story of The Modelmaker for March, 1931

A final magazine to watch for is The Modelmaker, which is the source for the earliest information on OO gauge models in America.

This issue, March 1931, is perhaps the most desirable. The cover story is on the two Thuillgrim OO locomotives that had been displayed at the Third Annual Exhibition of the New York Society of Model Engineers. As I note in my prior post on Thuillgrim, the editors of The Modelmaker state that “In the Trade Exhibits Thuillgrim’s two ‘OO’ Gauge locomotives certainly attracted the most attention.”

I know of no other photos of these models but it would be quite a find if they still exist. Click on the image for a larger view.

As I note in the other post Thuillgrim had plans for some real OO gauge production. They have an advertisement on page 58 of the same issue and give an address in Cedarhurst, Long Island. They regret in the ad that “at this time, we are not able to quote prices” on their models but that they expect to be able to by April 1.

While so far as I know ultimately not commercially marketed in any quantity, these two models could very well be the first two locomotives constructed in American OO; they certainly led the way for other makers to follow.

UPDATE: Tuillgrim advertised from 1930-32; at this point I am inclined to say they did produce at least a few of the 4-6-4 models based on advertising and certainly sold rail and other supplies. I will be researching this further in upcoming posts.

UPDATE II: A series on American OO by the years starts here, with extensive coverage of Thuillgrim and other very early lines.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More on Red Adams OO Layout in Miniature Railroading

Another magazine to watch for is Miniature Railroading. Published in a similar format to Model Railroader in the pre-war era, American OO shows up in it fairly often.

In the March, 1941 issue for example you can find a article on the Mohave Railroad, the OO layout of Herb Adams. This is the same gentleman also known as H. L. “Red” Adams who produced early OO gauge models in the Chicago area, profiled in this earlier post. This lead photo in the article looks back toward his yard and engine facilities, which reflect that he was for sure interested in running passenger trains.

The article has a couple areas of focus, on his desert scenery techniques (the results of which were very realistic for the time) and also his special lighting effects. Looking at the scenery first with this second photo, it is built up on a wood framing with screen wire and wood fiber plaster. "When the plaster was dry, Herb applied cheap, flat white oil paint." This he adjusted to various tones of color using "10-cent tubes of color." From the photo it is clear this made for a good place to run trains.

His locomotives at this date are reported to be “a Pacific, an Atlantic, and a ten-wheeler for the branch line” and equipment includes 15 freight cars, a streamliner, and standard passenger cars. The other theme of the article has to do with lighting, this last photo giving a view of what he was doing. It is a close up of an wood S-P caboose interior. It is riding on Scale-Craft trucks but note what is inside; glass rods and a lighting system. From the article,
The car markers are so built that they "pipe" the light to the outside. The ends of the rods are gound on a wheel or filed so that there are four facets on the sides at the end, and a single facet on the extreme tip. The glass may be bent to shape in any gas flame or bunsen burner.
With the track plan I would offer this final quote, which gives a good sense of what he had achieved.
Although it isn't especially apparent in the accompanying photographs, Herb's equipment is done with the utmost detail -- and this applies to his scenery and buildings as well as his locomotives and rolling stock. He's a fellow who takes pains and pride in his work, and a string of varnish streaking its humming way along his pike looks just as well in the glare of flood-lamps as it does with lights lowered to simulate the night time.
There are a number of other interesting articles in Miniature Railroading, a magazine that started publishing in 1938 and quit publication in 1941. A title to watch for.

Updated 2011

Sunday, August 2, 2009

More on bench testing S-C universal motors

A prior post is on “How to bench test a Scale-Craft universal motor” and it remains one of the more popular pages in the site. People do seem to want to run these classic models.

This past week I got back to working on a pair of locomotive projects that both have S-C universal motors and tried to bench test them with my new power pack. What I found was that they only run weakly at lower voltages. At higher voltages they seem to lock up due to the way magnetic field worked. But on the AC transformer I use with O-27 they run fine.

The new pack is a MRC Control Master 20, which I love on the layout--a great pack. As a bonus, the large scale setting works well with early Scale-Craft DC motors, as it will put out more than 12 volts and those are 24 volt motors.

According to MRC it produces “smooth, flat line DC.” At 100 VA it is putting out plenty of amps to run Scale-Craft universal motors. But as noted they won't work with this pack. My guess is that it is something to do with the waveform of the DC and the fields of the motor.

The bottom line is that S-C AC/DC universal motors seem to be touchy on modern DC, at least wired up for bench testing, but work fine on AC. In the post yesterday I noted that back in the day AC power was not uncommon in OO. I need to track down a rectifier; it may solve the issue. But for now I will stick totally with permag motors on the layout.

UPDATE: Use of a modern rectifier is the key to running on DC. See this article for more.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A 1940 OO layout in Model Railroaders' Digest

Another magazine Bill Chapin pointed me toward was Model Railroaders’ Digest. It was published in a format similar to the early issues of Model Railroader. As of now all I have is an article from the April, 1940 issue, which gives a very interesting picture into what the layout of a very active OO gauger of the time would have looked like.

The article is “The Two Layouts of the St. L. I. R. R.” by Earle A Gardner. In partnership with Eldyn S. Graves he the same year would found GarGraves, still in business to this day and well known for their tinplate track products. The article describes his O and OO gauge layouts, with a focus on the OO layout.

Of special interest to us obviously is the OO layout and the very specific details the article offers on the equipment. Unfortunately, in the article there are no photos but from the track plan, reproduced here, you get a good sense of the layout.
The line is divided into two divisions. Two trains are regularly run at one time. One curve is 13 1/2” radius and is taken perfectly by all of our engines including Lionel Hudsons. On our Nason 4-4-2, quite a few changes had to be made in the understructure before it would handle this sharp radius and our Scalecraft Atlantic had to be converted into an 0-4-2 for switching use and for clearance on this small radius.

Believe it or not, one of our Lionel OO scale Hudsons has been equipped with ball bearings on the main motor drive shaft, which makes it far quieter in operation. In addition she has been fitted with auxiliary pick-up on the pilot trucks. This job has to be seen and heard to be appreciated. In rolling stock we now have 2 hoppers, 3 box, 2 tank and 2 caboose from Lionel, 1 stock, 1 flat, 3 reefers, 3 box, 1 baggage and 2 coaches from Scalecraft, and 1 combination and 1 coach from Graceline, both old style open end cars.

Normal operation calls for the Scalecraft passenger equipment hauled by a Lionel Hudson to connect with the O gauge…. Into Fineview comes the Nason 4-4-2 hauling the Graceline cars….
This layout would be such an interesting thing to see today!!! Two trains in operation, tight curves, classic models modified in various ways. Ball bearings?!? He was right on the cutting edge. There is one other detail clear from the article as well, that it was wired for two rail AC operation and that
All trackage used is Midlin. All switches are electrically operated using concealed mounted switch machines…. Transformer used is Lionel type V which handles this layout perfectly.
Midlin track was only introduced in 1939 as were a number of the models mentioned in the article. It was quite a time for OO gaugers and I look forward to reading more classic issues of Model Railroaders’ Digest. So far as I can tell it was a pre-war publication only, one to keep your eyes peeled for, it is not often seen.

As I mentioned GarGraves, I should add one other note. To this day they sell a type of OO gauge track. It is distinctly GarGraves with oversize ties and rails, two or three rail. The UPDATE: current listing is here. To see an example of this track go to the end of this article.