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

Friday, October 22, 2010

OO in The Modelmaker, 1925-30. Part II: the Early OO (HO) Models of E. P. Alexander

As a preliminary note one central thing should be pointed out clearly; there are no references at all to HO before 1931 in The Modelmaker! The scales smaller than O were always called OO. F.D. Grimke tried to set the record straight later on HO and OO in articles in April 1931 and May 1933, but even as late as the early issues of The Model Railroader in 1934 there was some confusion out there about scale nomenclature. In short it is a bit confusing for the modern reader to sort out, but the fact is that the first "OO" models featured in The Modelmaker were certainly actually HO.

In March of 1927 we find the first listing for OO parts in the form of not one but two classified advertisements by E. Alexander of New Rochelle, N.Y. The first:
Ready for Delivery “00” Gauge parts, cylinders, wheels, domes, chimneys, passenger and freight trucks, finished cars and locomotives built to order, etc. Send 2 cent stamp for list.
And the second:
Model Railway Supplies, “00,”, “0” and 1 gauge finished locomotive parts, freight and passenger trucks. Separate list for each gauge. Write enclosing 2 cent stamp.
Edwin P. Alexander (1905-1981) was posthumously inducted into the O Scale Hall of Fame in 2000; an overview of his model railroad work may be found here. In short he was very enthusiastic about model railroading for many years. In the previous issue, in February of 1927, he had an article on an automatic block signal system that was designed for use in No. 1 gauge, and in the next issue we find an even more interesting feature article. Due to the significance of this article I will quote it below in full, with the illustration (which may be clicked on for a larger view).
AN “00” GAUGE PASSENGER COACH

By E. P. Alexander

The Pennsylvania P70 coach illustrated is correctly built to scale being 11 1/8” long (280 mm) and 1 3/8” wide (35 mm). The prototype is 80 ft. by 10 ft.

The construction is fairly simple. The floor is one piece of wood as is the roof which is correctly shaped. The ends are also of wood with pieces of rubber shaped to represent the vestibules. The sides are of fiber board having the windows cut out with a very sharp knife. The doors and window frames are slightly recessed by peeling out a little of the board. Cutting out the windows will be found to be the hardest part of the entire construction. Mica was used for glazing. Ventilators are small round head screws and washers, heads being filed down.

Underbody details are battery boxes (wood) and air reservoirs made from brass tubing held with staples. Steps (the only other difficult part if they are made to scale) are built up from sheet brass and wooden blocks. Air and steam pipes are wire with a small blob of solder on the ends to represent the connection. Trucks were English type modified to simulate American type.

The car is finished in lacquers and lined and lettered in oil colors. It will just negotiate the standard curves but when more are built, they will be shortened somewhat.
The one main thing to note is that this car, while he called it “00” in the title of the article with two zeros, was from the dimensions given clearly modern HO, 3.5 mm. scale.

In the October, 1927 issue we find another article by Alexander, this one on a PRR DD-1 electric locomotive in OO (double O this time) scale which was clearly designated as “3.5 MM Scale.” At the end of the description he notes
The model has been commended by various railroad officials of the Pennsylvania Railroad and was mentioned in the Philadelphia Public Ledger. I suppose the novelty of such a small size working model explains much of the interest shown in it.
At the end of this issue we find this advertisement, his first full advertisement for his firm The American Model Railway Company. Note especially the sales of passenger car roof and floor sections and also box car body sections in wood. These are listed as OO but from the articles these are clearly early HO products and perhaps the first American products ever marketed in any scale smaller than O.

It would be quite interesting to actually see his 14 page catalog to know what exactly was for sale. I suspect much of it was imported from England. Whatever he sold it was a start. Small scale models had been featured in the leading model railroad related journal in the United States of that day and a line of products was for sale.

When we continue the focus will be on OO products in The Modelmaker from 1928-29, all of which appear to be 5/8” gauge.

Continue to Part III.

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