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

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

OO in The Modelmaker, 1925-30. Part IV: 1930 and the First American OO Gauge 4 mm Scale Product

1930 is the year one would have to point to as the first year of American OO existing as a scale and gauge clearly separate from any other.

In the January, 1930 issue of The Modelmaker we find a report on the second annual exhibition of the New York Society of Model Engineers, which had been held in December of 1929. In it the name of F. D. Grimke comes up several times as he was an officer but in particular we have this note.
Mr. F. D. Grimke, made quite a display with an old model hull of three masted sailing ship; Ship weathervane; Reading ¾” scale Atlantic type Locomotive; “OO” gauge Locomotive and passenger car; Gondola; and 39” model steam power boat.
What the OO models were we can only speculate, but in continued coverage of the exhibition in the following issue it is noted that a Mr. M. Brownstein displayed “’OO’ Gauge Railroad Equipment and Rolling Stock.”

The March issue contains a significant development in the form of the first advertisement for the Mantua “Midjet Motor.” This I reported on in this article and I would repeat again that this motor can’t be underestimated as having a strong role in development of 4 mm American OO, as this motor would fit in a 4 mm scale locomotive but not in a 3.5 mm scale locomotive.

Grimke advertised his services as a modelmaker in the June issue and offered for sale assembly drawings for a locomotive (the “Hudson-Lafayette Locomotive”) but the scale is not specified. He had a similar ad in the July issue (later ads specify that this model is 2 1/2” gauge) but on the same page is a much more exciting ad for our purposes, as it is the first advertisement for a 4 mm scale OO product. The ad by H. Thuilliez, reproduced here, is for a blueprint of the PRR type D78B Dining Car. Also of big interest is he states that “Construction set with die cast trucks will be ready shortly.” The advertisement actually does not say that this is a 4 mm scale product but later advertising confirms this is American OO gauge 4 mm scale.

This new advertiser seems to have prompted a full editorial on OO in the foreword to this issue. It opens noting that
Small railways systems like “OO” gauge have been much in favor in many countries, but up to the present have been almost unknown in the United States, owing to the difficulty of obtaining the necessary materials to build the locomotives and rolling stock, and for the construction of the track, signals and depots.
The editorial continues by explaining the size advantage for those living in apartments, etc. The end of the editorial gets down to some of the latest developments.
The writer was recently shown a finished Pullman car built to “OO” Gauge. It was certainly a very excellent piece of work. The builder is preparing to put on the market this Fall complete sets of materials and supplies necessary for the equipment of a complete “OO” System. We feel sure the many of our readers will be interested in his products, which will be first class in every particular.
One notable thing absent from this editorial is defining exactly what OO is. However, in September foreword/editorial we learn
The four most popular scales used in the U. S. (we are considering the question from the scale model standpoint) are “OO” – 4 mm; “O” or ¼” scale, 1 ¼” gauge; ½” scale, 2 ½” gauge; ¾” scale, 3 ½” gauge.

If you are strong in finances and have ample ground to lay out a garden railway system, we would suggest ½” scale 2 ½” gauge, or better still ¾” scale with 3 ½” gauge.

If you wish to have an in door railway and have a large attic, or a spacious cellar we would suggest ¼” scale, 1 ¼” gauge. If, however, you only have a small room “OO” would be ideal for the purpose.
The editorial still left the gauge of OO hanging, as they only defined the scale. Thuilliez and Grimke probably also noticed this omission and made the answer to this question very clear in the first advertisement for their new venture, Thuillgrim Models. This final image is of this first advertisement, found in the October, 1930 issue. Nothing new is listed compared to the products listed in their individual ads mentioned already, but in the ad it is crystal clear that they saw OO as 4 mm scale running on ¾” gauge track which finally defined the scale and gauge as different than 3.5 mm scale or 1/8” scale running on 5/8" gauge track.

As they say the rest is history! American OO was off and running. To keep following the story of the early years continue into this series on 1931.

Return to the beginning of the 1925-30 series

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