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

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Two Reasons to Keep Spreading the Word on American OO

Two of the reasons I started this site were to spread the word on American OO and to make it easier for people looking for solid information on the topic to find it. Recently I set up several Google Alerts relating to American OO and this past week two items came in that gave me a couple more reasons to keep the site going.

Over at the Model Trains Hub site on December 27 [update 2014: link dead] they posted an item on the book "Lionel: America’s Favorite Toy Trains." The post itself is just a notice about this book being available (it was published in 2000), but it quickly was commented upon in the form of a review of the book. The reviewer noted that while the book had strong points, Lionel OO and HO products must have been a major mystery to the authors and editors of this book. After noting a number of grammatical issues the comment notes,
Perhaps some readers will be willing to overlook the affronts upon the language from uncorrected typographical errors; however, they may be less willing to overlook factual errors in the history and description of Lionel’s products. During the discussion of Lionel’s brief post-war venture into HO scale trains, the Souters state that “Lionel came out with a strange three-rail HO gauge track that was anathema to its primary hobbyist market.” The fact is that Lionel never “came out with” any such track during the Post War or any other era. In the late Pre War Period, the company did catalog and sell both two and three-rail track in OO gauge for a brief time. American OO gauge track is wider than HO and is not compatible with it. The book is confusing not only two different track gauges but also two different time periods.
One would think above all that Lionel OO would be a topic that people writing a book on Lionel would have researched a bit? There are quite a few resources out there and if they had ever held some OO gauge equipment in their hands it would have clarified a lot of things. On the track specifically, there are a number of resources out there on the topic, including for example my post on the topic which may be found here. I keep wishing that some maker might notice that Lionel OO track in particular must actually be in some demand with the high prices it can sell for on eBay; perhaps some maker could actually produce this again for the collector market?

The second that came to my attention was from a British [?] site on electric train sets. Their December 30, 2009 post "00 model trains and the scale they use" [update 2014: link dead] starts out fairly promising with this brief history of the beginnings of British OO
The 00 model train scale is also known as the OO gauge and it’s the most popular standard gauge model railway track in the UK. The gauge is 16.5mm and has a scale of 1:76. This scale was first created by Bing in 1921. At that time I t [sic] was called the “the table railways” and ran on a 16.5mm track, with a scale of 4mm for one foot.

The next year in 1922, the first model locomotives were created but they were powered by clockwork. It was not until 1923 that the first electric powered locomotive was created.
But later falls apart totally when they get to American OO:
The 00 gauge was tried out in the USA but it did not prove to be very popular. The company that tired to introduce the 00 scale was called Lionel Corporation. There were also other companies that tired to launch this scale but the trains only stayed on the market until 1942. This was because the HO scale was so much more popular in America.
Yikes! Perhaps they can be forgiven more easily than the authors of the book on Lionel noted earlier, but in any event if you have read this site at all you know the above quote is a mess. [See this article for a brief history of American OO].

I like to think this site has made it easier to research and understand the topic of American OO. I will certainly keep plugging away on the topic, we have a ways to go.

[UPDATE 2014--and it is interesting to note that the sites that were linked above are both now off line.]

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