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

Sunday, September 26, 2010

1934, A Tale of Two Bound Volumes, part 2: The Oscar Andresen OO Layout and a Bit of Confusion about HO and OO

Moving on to March of 1934, in The Modelmaker we find not only four OO advertisements (Nieter Models, Oscar Andresen, Nason, and H. Dalrymple) but also the first published feature article on the early OO layout of Oscar Andresen. This was more than a year before the layout was featured in The Model Railroader, being featured in their May 1935 and February 1936 issues.

Illustrated with this photo (click on it to see a larger version) and with a plan for a small, portable layout (but not the layout illustrated in the photo) Andresen began,
You often hear this remark, “I do not have a space large enough for a general railroad layout.” The man who feels that way should get acquainted with “OO” gauge. Here is a size that will appeal to the most fastidious person because of its smallness, and yet remarkable accuracy of details are obtainable. A system is this scale requires just a little more than half the space used for “O” gauge and make a model railroad practical for those who are not blessed with an old fashioned attic or cellar. The illustration is from a photograph of my railroad. I have christened it “The Mowhawk Valley” and hope later to have other mythically names branch lines feeding into it.

This picture shows an area of 1 ft. 2 in., by 3 ft. 6 in. and gives a fair idea of the number of railroad cars that can be placed in a small space. The Passenger stock is of the largest type (84 ft.) These cars have been made almost entirely by hand, the truck frames being the only parts that were cast. Due to the photo-chemical process I use, I have been able to construct quite a variety of cars.
Speaking of those cars, a reader recently sent in a photo of an example of one of the long gondola cars just like the one in the layout photo but not built up. Etched in brass this is a rare early item to be sure!

UPDATE: For more on the Andresen layout in 1935 see this article.

Returning to The Model Railroader, in the March issue we find a neat aside about Temple Nieter promoting OO gauge under the heading “Nieter Has It in the Bag.”
Reading over H. T. Nieter’s article on OO gauge in the last issue recalls to mind the day last summer when he visited us. He brought a little black bag, about a foot long, and carried it right up to the attic when we went to see the “Gulch Route” [the layout of A. C. Kalmbach]. When we wondered why he didn’t leave the bag downstairs with his coat and hat, he opened it, and, lo, out came a whole railroad—track, trolley wire, a semaphore, and an M.U. car! And it worked. Thus were we introduced to the “Lake Line,” a travelling railroad if ever there was one.
In the case of the April issue of Model Railroader we however find confusion. It is probably not what younger people today would call “epic fail” but still it clearly shows that the small gauges were not well known and the editors were still sorting it all out. The cover story is on the Diminutive and Obstinate R.R. of George Stock. The text begins,
My always diminutive and sometimes obstinate OO gauge railroad, the “Diminutive and Obstinate,” runs from Carbuncle Heights, through Neurasthenia, to Bilgewater Junction.

The track, 115 feet of it, is 5/8” gauge[.] It is of a brass section soldered to tin ties every 3 inches. The intermediate ties are light cardboard. The third rail is the outside type, consisting of 26 gauge hard brass wire soldered to the heads of ½” brass escutcheon pins placed every 3 inches. This system is very efficient as it allows a locomotive to start on any section of a switch and move off again without any hesitation.
As he continues I think what is interesting is apparently Stock himself called his layout OO gauge. We would think of it today as being HO but even then it is not modern HO. According to the published track plan it is “OO” gauge but 5/8” track gauge and built to a scale of 1/8” = 1’ 0”. In the text he notes that his motors are all DC with permanent magnets operating at six volts. One locomotive was “built around an English motor” and two were built around Bing motors. Which gets at what was certainly an advantage for HO at that point in time; there were actually some supplies out there of foreign manufacture, even if OO was more visible in the hobby press over here.

In the April issue of The Model Railroader for example Mantua had their OO motors advertised and Nieter also advertised. There was also another note from Nieter on page three that described the motor setup in his MU cars; he used a spring on the drive shaft to allow the needed flexibility for curves.

As mentioned in part one, I actually only pretty recently came in possession of the 1934 bound volumes of The Modelmaker and The Model Railroader referenced here and have only a few loose, early copies of The Model Craftsman, the first one being March of 1934. In it I see no OO advertising but there is an article on “Scenery for ‘OO’ Gauge” by William O. Hillary. It is pretty generic, primarily on making tunnel portals. The text says OO is slightly larger than half of O gauge but later with the plan in the article it is stated that it is that it is full size for OO but ½ full size for O. This would mean that the plan is 1/8” scale, not 4 mm. Maybe it was seen as being close enough for small scale work. We will hear more from Hillary in the future.

One final topic I should return to is that of H. Dalrymple, mentioned in the first paragraph of this installment. An early OO dealer and maybe manufacturer he advertised in The Modelmaker in April for example “Electric Motors for ‘O’ and ‘OO’ gauge. Exceptionally powerful, compact and inexpensive.” Howell Dalrymple was located in Brooklyn. Active from 1934-35, he listed "OO gauge kits, parts, and motors" in later advertisements. He is one of those figures I know of in early OO history but know little about; any further info from readers would be appreciated.

When we return to this series we will hear more from pioneer OO gauger Howard Winthur.

Continue to Part III.

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