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

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Two OO Scale Well Cars and a Spine Car

Listed in the OO Inventory of the OO SIG for years have been several container and TOFC cars. As lately I have been getting more interested in modern equipment for OO, so my main request from the inventory was this group of cars. They recently arrived (with the rest of the inventory—see the most recent issue of The OO Road) and as I started getting things organized I made it a first project to also work on these cars.

These cars were built by Bill Johann. I am not sure if I can call them scratchbuilt or kitbashed. Scratchbashed? He basically took HO models and rebuilt them quite extensively to the extent that they are really close to OO and are sized to hold full scale OO truck trailers and containers that he also scratchbuilt for the most part.

The first two cars in our brief overview of a set of five cars are these two well cars. This type of car holds containers stacked two high.

I found a couple photos of these specific models in The OO Road (Johann was editor for some years) but so far as I can tell no specific article was written about them. There is a photo in Vol. 5, No. 1 but the best photo of this pair is in Vol. 15, No. 3 (August, 2001), which shows both of these cars in action.

Also in Vol. 6 No. 2 there is a photo that compares the HO version and his OO modification. I am not sure what exactly his basis model was, but the comparison model is only lightly modified for OO, and these containers were modified only to look like OO from the side. A side note being that the lightly modified car is an orphan car, a “one of” in the SIG inventory. If someone else has the rest of the set contact me, you should have this car.

The two well cars are actually also orphans; they should have originally been part of a larger set. Fortunately however I discovered that they can be run with three other TOFC spine cars that are also orphan cars as a five unit set with only slightly modifying a spine car. Perhaps someone else is running the other cars of both these sets now? I have to hope so.

The spine cars are a type that will hold trailers or containers. The last photo is of a representative car from the set with a container load. Note that the container is scratchbuilt and sized accurately for OO.

Almost all of these cars were damaged when they arrived in Arizona which was in part a function of their being somewhat fragile as plastic models converted to OO. Repaired they run great! I really love these cars; they are honestly much better cars than I thought they might be from merely reading the inventory listings.

The last post in this short series will be on another type of Johann TOFC car that fills out the train well.

UPDATE: A few more details on the spine cars. Each one seems to be made from two HO cars. The two frames are spliced together with top and bottom members added to give the frame the correct length and more bulk. The wheel wells for the trucks are spliced together from HO parts to be long enough. The car ends are built up a bit as well. Effort was taken to build them up so they really don't look like HO cars on OO trucks, they really have more mass. With the big containers and trucks trailers (40' to 45') riding on them they are unmistakably OO.

Also note that 20' and 40' containers are easily available today from the UK for their OO market. Of the containers and trucks with these Johann cars only one container, a 20 footer, was a commercial item, the rest were scratchbuilt.

UPDATE II: The spine cars are based on Front Range cars, as noted later in this post.

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