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

Saturday, October 2, 2010

1934, A Tale of Two Bound Volumes, part 3: Two Feature Articles on the OO Layout of Howard Winther and More

While O gauge was the dominant gauge at the time, smaller scales were picking up steam so to speak, and one very early American OO enthusiast was Howard Winther. Within just a few months time his layout was featured in The Model Railroader and in The Modelmaker; this layout will be the focus of this installment of the series on American OO in 1934.

First up was The Modelmaker in their May issue. They had previously had an article from Winther back in 1933 on making OO gauge trucks. This time the topic is bigger: “An ‘OO’ Gauge Railroad.” He began,
During eight years of model making, the writer developed a fairly large system in O gauge, using electric type locomotives with overhead current supply. The system was quite satisfactory, but was getting cramped for space as larger types of equipment were put on the line. Then on account of a change of residence, the line had to be dismantled, and the equipment stored. In the new quarters, very little space was available, so all work was dropped for a while. However, something had to be done in the long winter evenings, and soon an investigation was begun of the possibilities. Seeing a fine model of a Berkshire type engine in “OO” gauge at the 1931 show of the N. Y. S. M. E. in New York, exhibited by Thuillgrim Models it was realized that “OO” gauge was the answer to the problem.
The Berkshire model he mentions was discussed briefly in this prior article (photo here) and it certainly caught his attention. As his text continues he notes that he designed and completed this small 0-4-0 locomotive in 1931 (click on any of the scans in this article for a larger view). To this by 1933 he had added a 4-4-2 and ten freight cars, “when another change of residence made a larger layout space available.”

The new layout was 10’ x 10’ and the track plan is in this issue. It is sort of a twice around plan with 3’ 6” radius curves. He goes into some detail how the track was laid with 1/8” high section rail with rail soldered to brass ties that are spaced out about 4” apart with the space between those filled with wood ties. Curves and switches were made with the rails and brass ties set up in a jig. It seems initially he ran two rail but at this time was running with an outside third rail. As to the equipment,
I have spent most of my time building rolling stock and experimenting with different types of motive power. As you may realize, there has not been a great deal done in the line of steam outline locomotives for this gauge…. So far I have built 3 locomotives, each one having a different design of motor and transmission….
The three locomotives now in use are a 0-4-0 tank engine, used for switching service. An Atlantic of free lance design for express and refrigerator trains of 6 to 8 cars and a Pennsylvania M-1 Mountain type. This handles 12 cars easily up the 4% grade to the high level.
All the engines have Mantua motors, geared 20 to 1 and will operate smoothly from the merest crawl to 70 m.p.h. for the road engines.
Moving on the freight cars of which this one is shown in the article as an example, “At present there are 11 freight cars in use, mostly refrigerators.” This is a side topic but I find it interesting that there was apparently a lot of interest in refrigerator cars back in that day, perhaps based on some nostalgia for the then fairly recent days of billboard reefers.

Before leaving this issue of The Modelmaker also note that the article right after the Winther article featured this OO gauge 4-6-4 model built by Cyril Chapman. It was a NYC J-1D and just like the locomotives by Winther “The model is powered by a 10 volt Senior 3 pole Mantua Motor….” The importance of this affordable motor and the size of this motor can’t be emphasized too much in relation to the early development of models in 4mm American OO. Chapman could have used Thuillgrim parts or information from the Grimke series on OO in 1931 to build the model but this is not specified in the text. But what is specified in the first sentence gives a good idea why Nason and Lionel would both later manufacture similar OO gauge models: “The Hudson Type locomotive is the most popular locomotive in America today.”

One other quick note on The Modelmaker that summer, in the July issue there was an item on the showroom display that Nason had developed to promote their line in the New York City area.
Nason Railways have supplied a large display board showing their “OO” gauge car construction units. This organization is rapidly developing a very complete line of materials for the 4 mm scale fan.
Turning to The Model Railroader, they had an article in their June issue by James Dechert on “The Space-Saving Grace of HO Gauge." What is notable for us is that he was clearly viewing HO as 3.5 mm scale (modern HO) and he was admittedly “not well informed concerning the American OO.” He wrote, well into his article promoting HO that
There are two other useful gauges for indoor work, both considerably smaller than O and both called OO, one being American and the other British. The scale in each is identical (4 mm. to the foot), the difference lying in the gauge. The American one is ¾” between the rails, which is correct for the scale, while the British one is slightly narrower, being the same gauge as HO, namely 5/8”.
There is not much in it between the three. HO leads as a space saver, while in the availability of parts HO and the British OO are both well catered by several firms. I am not well informed concerning the American OO, but there are at least two men in this country devoting attention to it commercially.
Dechert should have felt a bit more informed when he read the July issue of The Model Railroader as again the early OO models of Howard Winther were featured. On the back cover of the July issue we find this set of three photos in the article “The Penn-Erie OO Gauge System.” While mirroring to an extent the content of the prior article in The Modelmaker we do learn a few more details and also see a couple of his latest models.
The OO gauge model railroad of Howard Winther, Altoona, Pa., is intended mainly for freight and express traffic, and equipment has been built accordingly.
At present the line owns 11 freight cars, mostly refrigerators, 3 express cars, and 3 electric drive, setam outline locomotives. Alternating current of 6 to 10 volts is used, with a two-rail distribution system….
The accompanying photos show some of the rolling stock, and a locomotive under construction. The Pennsylvania Railroad caboose, type N-5, is built up of tinplate, with belt rails of thin brass strip. The construction is all metal.
The gondola car, also following a Pennsylvania prototype, is likewise built of tinplate. The side posts are of bus bar wire, soldered on. The corrugated ends are strips of linoleum binding.
The locomotive is an Erie Berkshire, so he truly was modeling the PRR and the Erie. Of the three photos in this issue the one that fascinates me the most is the caboose. Here we are in 1934 and an OO enthusiast in Altoona, PA had scratchbuilt a nice model of what would become the most common OO model of all, a PRR N-5 caboose. I wonder if this model has made it to today [UPDATE: It has!], or at least a pair of his trucks with the screw visible on the outside? I don’t personally own any model that I feel certain I can date to being produced before 1937 but have a couple that might possibly be from that era. It is something to scope out further in any collection.

With the Winther articles concluded I will also conclude this long segment of this series. When we return to 1934 we will look at a refrigerator car.

Continue to Part 4

No comments: