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

Monday, July 5, 2010

OO Variety in 1941, Part VIII: Several OO Dilemmas

To close this series on American OO in 1941 first we turn to the June issue of Model Railroader for poll results.  Overall OO is holding up over the past three years but HO has a lot more people active in the gauge. In short for the years 1939, 40, and 40 OO had 16.9, 13.6, and 14.8% of the results and HO had 39.3, 46.3, and 45.6% of the results. Also we learn that in OO “Two-rail is practically universal,” confirming again that Lionel made a poor initial choice in making their line three rail.

Next up in our survey is the December issue of Model Railroader. It presents a view of the problems OO was having commercially at the time.

On page 656 OO is mentioned in a brief piece titled “Dilemma.”
For years our editorial department has been between the horns of a dilemma. Is OO pronounced oh oh, or double O. You see, it makes a lot of difference, for if it’s pronounced oh oh we must say an oh oh system, but if it’s pronounced double O we must say a double O system. We’ve picked double O and made a double O our standard usage. For the first time this month a reader has called us on it. Interesting thing, grammar!
More importantly, two full columns of Trade Topics were devoted to a rundown of what was at the time available in OO. The article “OO Gauge Review” opens,
A number of our readers are under the impression that a OO gauge model railroad has a lot of advantages but that not much in the way of variety in the way of equipment is available from the manufacturers. So they hesitate to buy! Frequent requests as to where various supplies can be obtained have prompted us to publish this general review of the OO gauge model railroad supply situation.
Before going into the list, the question has some merit as really, you scan over almost any issue of Model Railroader in this era and certainly you have the impression that O and HO are where the action is at. And if you get into the specifics of the biggest OO lines they offered too many models that are essentially the same model made a little different which speaks to a lack of variety and a lot of those models were pretty expensive in relation to the HO of the day which did not help.

As to the manufactures they review in the article, all should be familiar to those who follow American OO Today. In order Trade Topics mentions Scale-Craft, Lionel, Nason, Graceline, and Mantua and runs through their OO product lines.

[The photo here showing a S-C 4-6-0, taken from a September MR article on working semaphores; the layout is by Richard Houghton and was second prize winner in the 1941 MC layout contest].

There were, of course, a lot more makers active then (Famoco/J-C/Picard/etc.), but hardly any others were visible in that issue. Suppliers like Polks had very little OO in their big advertisements. With any advertising you have to sell enough of something to pay for the advertisement or you stop advertising. The very small ads for Nason speak to the idea that OO makers on the whole were not making a lot of money. Scale-Craft did have a full page spread inside the front cover of the December issue with their new 0-6-0 and gas-electric models, and they did sell a few for sure, but in relation to HO and O the dilemma was clear, OO looked a bit like it was on the way out. The big picture being that HO and O ruled.

Turning to the other major magazine, The Model Craftsman, there is another dilemma evident. Basically, while they did cover OO fairly well, MC in 1941 was an uncomfortable marriage of articles on the topics of model railroading and gas racing cars with a bit of airplane and boat coverage. In the July issue they referred to gas racing cars as “America’s newest hobby” as it had only got going in 1939. Model railroading was also a relatively new hobby too, but the magazine really was trying to cover too much.

The war changed everything. It will be a few months until I return to this history series, but when I do the topic will be the war years.

[This article was updated in 2012 to serve as final article of 1941 series]

Return to the beginning of the 1941 Series

Continue to 1942 series

No comments: