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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

American OO in 1935 III: The Oscar Andresen Layout and a Change for The Modelmaker

Oscar Andresen was one of the most visible early American OO gauge enthusiasts and manufacturers. His layout was featured in The Modelmaker in 1934 and twice in early issues of The Model Railroader, specifically in the May 1935 and February 1936 issues.

The May 1935 article gives us a pretty good view into his layout and was the cover story. This first photo was the cover photo of the issue. As noted in this earlier article with a before and after comparison taken from this same issue, he was not only a photo engraver and model railroader but also a painter. Thus in an era long before Photoshop the images in this article are all re-touched, with various details added. Even with that element these photos are quite interesting today. Keeping in mind this was way back in an era when toy trains really looked like toys these were amazing small scale models. The article begins,
The OO gauge system of Oscar Andresen, Shade St., Lexington, Mass., is slowly taking shape, and the photographs with this article will give an idea of the scenic completeness of the portions already finished. The total space available is only 10’ 6” x 12’ 9”. This allows for very little straightaway. There are two windows and one door.
The article goes on to describe that the layout has a double track mainline with 12 switches and varies from a width of 3 ½” to 2’. The cover photo was of “Mohawk Valley, a country town with a small commercial station. The main industry is the Mohawk Valley car shops.” The second photo is of a station made of plywood. “The general design follows an actual suburban station near Boston, with an arched driveway for the numerous taxis which come and go continually (No depression here!).”

There was also a smaller town scene, not depicted in the article but described, called Rock Haven. This final photo is another view of Mohawk Valley. You can see again retouched elements, for example the gondola on the left is brought into focus with the paintbrush, the right side is totally painted in, and the birds and such are in new positions. The figures he notes “are all made by the same process as the car sides, a method of transferring an exact image with raised portions to a metal surface.” As he was also a manufacturer (this ad ran later in the same issue) this following text is especially interesting.
The Mohawk Valley car shops have been working overtime turning out cars, not only for the Mohawk Valley, but also for other roads in the vicinity. A new observation car was built for the M.V. just before the holidays and more recently a caboose was delivered. The Rock Haven had a sand type gondola built for it…. At the present time work is going forward on a body for an M.U. unit.
A prior article series looked specifically at the early, photoengraved models produced by Andresen, but more recently I received from a reader several more photos of his products. The first one is of a set of reefer sides and the second a view of a group of models. Note the raised lettering. Near the end of the article he offers
What do you say if we board a special train on the Mohawk Valley for a tour of inspection? We are sure to forget the passage of time, and so we will naturally stop at the car shops to watch the construction of many types of cars. The strangest site of all is to see the riveters at work, “Wonder of wonders.” They make no noise. The process used not only permits rivets without noise but at the same time raises all lettering above the car surface. All around the shops and other factories at Mohawk Valley there is no sign of a depression, with work going forward at full blast.
Again, I go back to thinking of what toy trains looked like in 1935 and what these models looked like and the comparison is very striking. Andresen was way ahead of the curve. Returning to the layout, there he was also pretty ahead of the curve with an around the walls plan of the general type that we associate with more modern layout design. OO had some serious model makers who also ran their trains.

Speaking of model makers, this issue also has a note on a “consolidation just completed between the publishing interests” of A. C. Kalmbach and the Modelmaker Corp. In short The Modelmaker was taken over by the publishers of The Model Railroader. All model railroad content would be in The Model Railroader and The Modelmaker would continue publication but with a focus on “Working models of all types, including large scale live steam railroading.”

When we return to this series on 1935 the focus will be on a letter from another OO pioneer, Howard Winther and other new products on the market.

Continue to Part IV

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