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

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Strombecker OO Railroad Models

Back in the article on American OO Train Sets that has been posted for some time (one of the most popular in the site) I noted that one company and actually the first company to offer OO scale train sets (of a sort) was the Strombek-Becker Mfg. Co. (Strombecker) of Moline, IL.

The instructions for the 2-8-2 are dated 1936, which should be the date of the introduction of these prewar products. In the prior article I note that,
These prewar sets were un-powered wood and paper kits--static models--for a freight train, but the cars could be converted for model railroad use. They were built to 5/32"=1' scale but were marketed as OO. Versions were offered that included either a 2-8-2, tender, gondola, boxcar, and caboose or a 2-8-2, tender, NYC MDT reefer, and caboose.
One final note: Actually, the Lionel 1940 and 41 catalogs also say that their models are built to the scale of 5/32”=1’, the scale of the Strombecker models. Technically OO is 4mm to one foot, but the difference is small, and in those pre-war days it probably was better marketing to use the English measurement rather than metric.
Strombecker itself dated back to 1911, and they made quite a variety of models over many years. This article gives good coverage of their overall line of wood models which included airplanes and military models in addition to trains, and this article covers their later slot car production.

The photos in this article were taken some years back of models in the collection of William Chapin. The line of Strombecker railroad models included the two trains already noted (One version of the freight train included the 2-8-2, tender, gondola, boxcar, caboose and another was the 1922L Freight train which included the 2-8-2, tender, NYC MDT reefer, caboose) and also these locomotives:
  • 1875C 2-4-0, "J. W. Bowker"
  • 1922H 2-8-2, D.L.&W.
  • 1929 2-8-8-2, GN, with 12 wheel Vanderbilt tender
  • 1861C 4-4-0, "Wm. Crooks," GN
  • 1869C 4-6-0, "Ross Winan's" camelback, B&O
  • 1937A 4-8-4, SP Daylight
The freight cars, to describe them more fully, included:
  • 1922T Modern freight cars--gondola, boxcar, caboose
  • Boxcar (also listed in literature as an automobile car)
  • Gondola, PRR 290148
  • Reefer, wood, MDT 5555
  • Caboose, PRR 477618
An article on the railroad models produced by Strombecker was published in the April, 1983 issue of The Train Collectors Quarterly. In the article it is noted of the prewar models that
The majority of these were issued in “O” scale (1/4”) or “OO” scale (5/32”). The two definite exceptions were the 3/16” Hudson, and the 1/8” (slightly smaller than “HO”) rocket.
Reflecting on these in light of the series of articles produced recently on the early history of American OO the choice of 5/32” scale is interesting over modern HO or 1/8” scale (1/96). First, OO was seen by Strombecker at that time as the small scale of choice. Also, while normally we think of OO being 4 mm scale, Lionel literature would later also say that their models were 5/32” scale. This is in reality very close to 1/76, being only fractionally smaller. The tolerances are loose enough on these wood models that I am sure the difference would not at all be notable.

I have never seen one of the freight cars converted to scale use but I have been told the conversion has been done. They were a part of the landscape for OO gaugers of the time, perhaps were a part of why Scale-Craft took the plunge into OO, and certainly served to promote OO as a size for railroad models in general.

UPDATE: From the 1940 series I would add this image, a portion of a great advertisement on the back cover of the February issue of The Model Builder. This is the bottom portion of the ad (full image here), which features three of their OO scale items. The text is a bit hard to read (click on the photo for a better view) but clearly all these models were sold as OO scale models.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My Strombecker locomotive collection-
Strombecker Models