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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

American OO in 1933, part II: More on OO from F. D. Grimke and the Emergence of HO

The Modelmaker was an interesting publication. It was an established publication and as 1933 began the only one of its type. But it was not really a model railroad publication; it was, as the cover stated, “for those interested in making working models” which included boats, airplanes, and live steam models. The exact, actual interests of the editors are not clear to me as a reader but I don’t think they were particularly knowledgeable with respect to HO and OO gauges.

For one, everything smaller than O was called OO. This is confusing when reading these old issues today. Fred Grimke had tried to set the editors straight back in April of 1931 but they don’t seem to have paid attention.

The cover story of the March, 1933 issue of The Modelmaker was the OO gauge model railway of Mr. Edward Beal. It was British prototype and was built to 4mm scale. Illustrated with several photos including this one, the article begins,
This is to be a “propaganda” article. I understand from an American friend that the four-millimetre scale has not yet found any measure of acceptance among enthusiasts in the United States. My only conclusion is that no one has yet taken the trouble to place its claims before the model railroader.
You can almost hear Grimke saying OUCH still to that. Didn’t he write a whole series on OO in 1931-2 that was published in The Modelmaker! Didn’t his firm Thuillgrim advertise American OO products for nearly two years! Furthermore, he had already laid out for them clearly in prior publications that HO and OO were different. As actually was also laid out by Mr. Beal in his article except that he does not explain about the gauge difference, as he was building what we would call HO/OO models (OO bodies on HO gauge track). Beal wrote,
If I were beginning again I would probably espouse HO, as I know from experience that the smaller the scale the better, working conditions being granted. But it is true that OO gives somewhat more scope for motor mechanisms and consequently for increased hauling power.
The article has a number of photos of what was a very nice early layout [more information on Beale may be found here] but I think the text got Grimke working on a new article on OO. Titled “’OO’ Model Railway” and published in the May issue, Grimke lays out the basics of the early days of British OO when he begins,
Attached hereto, please find the results and comments arising from queries, questions, &c., upon what basis the “OO” Model Railroad was developed.
My authority for these notes are Volumes 1 and 2 of the Model Railway News and Model Railways by H. Greenly.
In 1922 and 1923 and some time previous, the need was felt for a gauge and scale smaller than the “O” Gauge. Accordingly, Mr. Greenly, in collaboration with several others, presented to the Model World a model railroad built to a scale of 4mm per foot and operating on a 5/8” gauge track.
Grimke goes on to explain that HO had a scale of 3.5mm to the foot and a track gauge of 5/8” or 16.5mm and OO had a scale of 4mm to the foot and a track gauge of ¾” or 19mm. This article was followed up by another article in the June issue where he lays down the idea that the 1/8” scale that some used for HO was incorrect with 5/8” gauge track; that if models were to be built to 1/8” scale the gauge should be 37/64”. As we know that did not catch on.

I should while am here mention that on the second page of this second article there is a short note that “Mr. Temple Nieter … is building a very complete ‘OO’ gauge railway system on 4mm scale, ¾” track.” Temple Nieter has been mentioned a number of times in articles in American OO Today, and I believe this is the first published mention of him being active in OO.

Still, the editors seem confused. Photos of “OO” models by George D. Stock appear in the July issue but these surely must be HO models, based on the fact that he was a very prominent early HO gauge enthusiast. In the same issue we see references to 3.5mm scale models by Alan Lake Rice, another early HO enthusiast, so there is progress there I guess. In the September issue a reader wrote in that he was building an “H-O” railway system, so finally the editors or proofreaders were getting it.

Otherwise the rest of the year is pretty slow for OO in The Modelmaker. I don’t see any advertisements or other articles. But Grimke did have one last piece of news. In the December issue we read, “Owing to the death of the late Chairman, Mr. F. D. Grimke has been appointed to fill the office for the balance of the year.” Grimke would be Chairman of the New York Society of Model Engineers for many years following and in this prominent position remained an influential person in the development of American OO.

To conclude this look at 1933 I should mention that Model Craftsman started publication this same year, 1933. I don’t have any copies of Model Craftsman from their first year, and I suspect that if I did have the full run it would shed light on other early products. [UPDATE: I do have some now]. When I have access to those at some future point I will add on to this series. In particular I know there was a three part series "The Apartment Railroad: Building the NYC '5200' class" by Charles G. Cunningham that was in their August, September, and October 1933 issues. This series is tagged in the index of model railroad magazines as an OO gauge article. I will keep watching for these to come for sale at a reasonable price, but if a reader has access to Xerox these articles I would be especially interested to see them.

In 1934 a new magazine appeared, The Model Railroader, and I will turn to the topic of 1934 soon.

Return to beginning of 1933 series

Continue to 1933-34 bonus article

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