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

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dies by Nelson Gray

Ever wonder what a die looks like? Among the Nieter molds were four original dies for OO parts. These were made by Nelson Gray in the mid-1930s.

How exactly Temple Nieter came to own these dies I don’t know but I do know that he in several letters to the editor of Model Railroader wrote that he was looking for old OO dies, wondering what happened to them. Presumably Gray gave or sold these to Temple. I do recall from a letter from Nieter that Gray made these in high school and they are dated by Nieter to 1934.

Technically these are incomplete dies. They are made of aluminum and are for two types of freight truck, a “generic” cast design and a rather heavy looking arch bar, a rather nice 6 wheel passenger truck, and a “square” coupler incompatible with any standard brand. (Plus the die with bolsters for the trucks). These items were never put into production in the classic era, they were never used for actual die casting, but were produced in limited quantities by Nieter, by recasting them in silicone rubber.

Those with really broad knowledge of the history of scale model railroading may recognize the name of Nelson Gray as actually he was an early manufacturer of American prototype Nn3 and Z scale models. We learn from the American Z scale website the following.
Inspired to enter this new market, which at the time was populated exclusively by European products, Nelson Gray of upstate New York began tooling up some American-based Z scale models in his garage. (He had also developed a line of Nn3 products as well.) Around 1982 he sold all of his tooling to Kadee of Oregon, who added it to their N scale Micro-Trains Line and introduced it in 1984.
Gray started out in OO though, tooling up his first dies seen here. I hope to do something with these dies at some point, especially the passenger truck which is a nice item. Six wheel trucks are in short supply generally; nothing looks worse than a full length heavyweight car on four wheel trucks.

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