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

Sunday, December 5, 2010

American OO in 1935 II: “The ‘OO’ Gauge” by Hugh Richard Nason

Two names tower above all others in the early history of American OO: F. D. Grimke and Hugh Richard Nason. Hugh Nason was owner of Nason Railways, the first major OO manufacturer. They had their OO line in production by 1934 and were the largest manufacturer that was solely dedicated to manufacture of American OO gauge train models.

Stepping back a bit, it is sobering in a way to know that there were active OO gaugers alive that actually knew Hugh Nason not that long ago. It would be quite interesting to talk to them about Nason the man as actually I have literally no details on his life other than he was in the 1930s certainly a New Yorker and very enthusiastic about American OO gauge.

Among the issues of The Model Craftsman I own from 1935 I have the four issue run of May, June, July-August, and September and in each of these we find an installment of a series of articles on OO gauge by Hugh Nason. The first installment is titled “Beginning the ‘00’ Gauge” (numbers instead of letters) and includes the first two photos in this present article to illustrate the size of OO models. He states that
In this article I will endeavor to give the generalities of 00 Gauge railroading, and the manner in which to get started. In further articles we will deal with each type of equipment and how to build them to be durable, serviceable, and still a true copy of the original at the most economical means of construction.
He suggests starting working on track first. It is clear that he was assuming that operation would definitely be by outside third rail. Track standards were presented clearly, suggesting a minimum radius of no less than 2’ 4”. He ends the article as follows:
In the foregoing we have given the general outline of 00 gauge, and in the photos a view of the rolling stock, a Pullman and other equipment. It is well to remember that in 00 gauge there is no more precision work than found in larger scales. Motive units are now built, and motors and parts are available to build the most detailed motor unit which looks and runs as much like the real jobs as in any other scale yet built. Do not get the wrong opinion that because it is smaller accurate reproduction is not possible, for you can see for yourself that it is.
Speaking of those parts that are available, Nason Railways had a small ad in this same issue listing “Built-up and Cast Car Kits – Locomotive Kits – Cast Locomotive & Car Shed Kit – Cast Station Kit – Track Supplies and Miscellaneous Parts.”

In the June, 1935 issue the topic is building from scratch a Pullman. This time the title of the article is “The ‘OO’ Gauge” (letters this time instead of numbers) and Nason began,
Enthusiasm seems to want the 12 section Pullman sleeping car as the first piece of rolling stock on their proposed system. Somehow it feels a vote above the other classes of passenger rolling stock, although if one checks the percentage of Pullmans against coaches, one would find them in the minority.
Nason Railways already sold a kit for this model in sand cast aluminum but this article covers how to scratchbuild a model from wood and Bristol board, with scale drawings provided. For example, “Roof molding can be purchased ready to fit into place and file the ends; however Fig. 1 shows the method of building it up from three pieces of wood, preferably straight grained white pine” and “Use a white coated bristol board for the car sides, as this has sufficient strength when backed up with a full length of mica to make a substantial side.” While noting many times that certain parts “can be procured,” he patiently explains how to make every part from scratch, including trucks which were to be built up from brass!

In the July-August issue the topic is building a flat car from wood. “The main floor section, on which we scribe the lines to represent the floor boards, is a piece of cigar box wood, which, when shaped and cleared of the paper, should measure 7-1/16” long, by 1-5/16” wide.” It would have been a light car being made with a wood frame and sides as well. The only metal parts were a cast brake wheel, a turned brake cylinder, and the trucks. “The trucks can be purchased kits, or can be made quite readily if you are handy in working in brass.” Right! Those were different times.

The final installment I have is in the September issue which is on the topic of making a 50 ton steel boxcar very much like the sand cast model they sold but this time made from wood and Bristol board. Scale drawings are included and also this photo of his MKT boxcar. The photo is small but it appears to be riding on sand cast Nason trucks.

Of course any of these models could have been built in HO or O by the same methods, but the idea was to push the new scale of American OO specifically. And Nason was a regular advertiser in The Model Craftsman, so there may have been some agreement there as well for all we know today.

A 1935 Nason catalog was sold on eBay a couple years ago but I did not win. If any reader out there has a copy I would love to see a Xerox but I suspect that this final image, of the Hobby Craft Stores advertisement in the September 1935 issue of The Model Craftsman, inside the front cover, shows most of what Nason had out then. Click on the photo for more details and also a nice sharp photo of the P-5A. That model was being advertised at a steep discount and also note the freight trucks, unmachined, for 98 cents a pair. Click on the image for a better view of the prices.

Nason was the leading firm in OO to be sure in 1935. When we return to this series we will take another look at the OO layout of Oscar Andresen as of 1935.

Continue to Part III of 1935 series

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