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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Two Great Modern American OO Cars

While my layout is set in the transition era (steam/diesel), for a while I have been building up small fleet of more modern era equipment. These two recent eBay purchases (from the collection of Ed Morlok) show what can be done with a bit of effort.

First we have this big Ortner rapid discharge hopper, as would be used on a unit coal train. This is not my first modern Ortner car; I also have another that was built by Pierre Bourassa. For a prototype photo of a similar car see this example (linked from this site). I suspect that this OO model is somewhat freelanced. I am not sure the builder but it was very neatly scratchbuilt and a large car in American OO. It currently rides on Scale-Craft trucks with Ultimate wheelsets but I would like to upgrade it to roller bearing trucks at some point.

The second car is a boxcar built by Bill Johann. This is my fourth modern boxcar from Johann, the first one being the Railbox in this post, and the second and third in this post. Not only is this car lettered for his personal road but it is marked WCJ 3-79 7-85. I gather it was built in 1979 then rebuilt a bit in 1985, perhaps with the cushion frame.

This car I want to talk about a while as it really is an interesting car. The sides themselves to the left and right of the door are from a plastic HO car of uncertain origin. The body in the front in the photo is there for comparison, and is Athearn, for an 86’ auto parts car that I am fairly sure they no longer produce. Click on the photo for a better view. I purchased that body years ago and have long thought about cutting it down a bit for an OO car similar to this one by Bill Johann. It is easy to see how the sides of an auto parts car could translate to OO. The doors on the Johann built car are scratchbuilt, but if you are OK with a slight freelance the existing Athearn doors would work. His car is built over a wood body is full width for OO. The roof has a card overlay and I believe it is actually the roof from a Transportation Models OO kit. The ends are scratchbuilt in plastic which would not be that difficult a task. The underframe is made from parts of two different Nason frames, sand cast aluminum (!), with some extra parts. He used Lionel trucks with Ultimate wheelsets to finish the car.

Personally I am not wild about HO to OO conversions of cars unless some effort is taken to make them as “OO” as possible. In this case, this boxcar is unmistakably OO; you could never put it on HO trucks and run it on a HO layout. I love the look of this car in a train behind the GP-7.

Combine a few modern cars with a few modern diesels such as the below and you are off and running! It is a tempting era for the operator.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

One Approach to Modern Diesels in OO

Back in 1993 Bill Johann put out an “extra issue” of The OO Road that was devoted to modern diesels. More than half the issue is OO scale drawings of modern diesels (reprinted with permission from RMC) but the issue opens with four pages of text related to converting HO diesels to OO. As he notes,
due to the dearth of available power--both steam and diesel in OO--I think that it is high time that movement be made in the direction of getting some locomotives that are relatively easy to construct, not expensive and from a reputable manufacturer. We have lots of cars between us and they are not hard to scratchbuild if needed. You can also use large HO cars; they really don’t look too bad.

… Scale Craft, Lionel, and all the rest are gone by now, so we are left to buy, sell, and trade locos between ourselves. Generally, they barely run, are noisy, poorly painted and lettered and reek of technology of the 1930’s and 1940’s. If you have ever compared the running qualities of a OO loco (both steam and diesel) with the same of the 1990s by Atlas, Kato, Athearn or Overland, you will quickly see what I mean.
Skipping forward a bit, as an operator Johann hit on the idea of converting HO diesels to OO.
At this point I decided to research Athearn’s products with a view toward chopping, cutting, piecing, and scratchbuilding Irv’s hood locos, which had perfect OO hood width (6’ [these are overscale for HO in width]), so as to make close to scale OO locos--the “good enough” philosophy. The trucks would be widened to match the OO track gauge.
Johann went all out on his conversions to bring the bodies as close to OO as practical, but his longtime friend David Sacks (who had by the writing of this article had passed on) had another approach.
Dave, on the other hand, decided to just change the trucks and reassemble the chassis and carbody. They were Athearn’s SD45’s. They ran fine--the steam boys didn’t know the difference and the diesel boys were too polite to point the discrepancies out--mainly that Dave’s SD45’s looked like miniatures. Whereas my conversions took 3 months to do; Dave could do his in a weekend!
In the residual from the Sacks estate I found four of these Athearn conversions--two SD45’s, a big GE, and a FM. All are inoperable at this time and won't be for a long while, if ever, as they need very heavy work and the FM and GE border on parts value only. For sure he ran those SD-45s hard! I am going to try to get the two SD45’s to run again in some form, the bodies are in decent shape (he mounted them all so that they were higher on the frame and close to correct height for OO), but the drives are shot. The first photo shows one of the SD45s and the second photo shows the bigger picture of what is left of these engines; time was hard on them.

Sacks changed all the wheelsets to larger diameter wheels than the stock Athearn wheelses. On the SD45’s they are a mixture of a couple different types of brass wheelsets, including for sure some SC passenger wheelsets, and he turned the middle axles into blind/flangeless wheelsets (he must have had tight curves). The other engines have steel wheelsets of uncertain origin (some are spoked!) but all of those have rusted badly along with other steel parts in the models. The "weathering" easily visible in the first photo is actually water damage.

Looking at them next to a Kemtron GP-7 for sure they look like miniature engines in OO, as does a simple conversion of the FM Trainmaster also noted by Johann. Johann explains though in the following that actually they are close to OO in several dimensions and particularly in overall length and hood width the models convert out to close to OO.
The following are HO to OO conversions that can be done by modifying the trucks only: FM H16-66--Buy an Athearn FM H24-66; EMD SD40 PROTOTYPE #434A thru F--buy an Athearn SD45; GE U23C--now this is a lot of “rebuilding”--buy an Athearn U30C or U33C and treat the unit as a rebuilt U23B modified with 6 wheel trucks. Hey, “This is my great RR”--a quote from Hal Carstens.
He has more tips in the article how to rebuild the drives and the bodies for less compromised models than those done by David Sacks. At the time of the article Johann had converted 14 locomotives to OO for his Watchung Valley, all of which surely today are in better shape than these Sacks Green Brook conversions. If you are itching to operate though and want something that runs a lot better than the drives available in the 1940s or 50s for sure check out Athearn drives, they do work well in OO.

UPDATE: I used the FM diesel body to work out a great OO H-16-66 in this article.

How to differentiate Nason and Scale-Craft (and Graceline) Wheelsets

In working on the Sacks cars a bit to prep them for The OO Inventory (read the next issue of The OO Road for an update on this) one curiosity is he mixed Nason and S-C (and maybe Graceline) wheelsets in his freight trucks (and Famoco wheelsets in the passenger trucks). I am trying to sort those out a bit better before they go out to SIG members.

The primary reason to not mix them for me as an operator is that many Nason wheelsets derail easily on my Mantua turnouts. At first I thought it was something about the flange profile, which if you look hard enough you can begin to spot, but UPDATE it has to mostly do with tread width variations, some are actually OK, many not (see this article for more).

Besides them derailing on my layout the other easy way to tell them apart is to look at the axle. The overall visual impression of Nason wheelsets is that they are similar to most S-C wheelsets but the axle is of a heavier diameter tube on most (but not all!). Graceline wheelsets may also have that heavier looking tube but also the flanges are a bit heavier typically and they track OK generally. The wheelsets on the left in the photo are Nason and on the right are S-C.

In short, of the three brands mentioned in this article, S-C wheelsets with the split axle as illustrated above are pretty much bullet-proof operators on my layout if they are in gauge, Graceline will probably work, and Nason I mostly can't use. I would be curious to know from others their experiences, especially how the different brands track on Lionel turnouts, of which I own no examples.

I should note however that the place TO use Nason sideframes is for tender trucks. The bronze castings are much better than the die cast material used by Scale-Craft to conduct power reliably. All steam locomotives I run that have four wheel trucks on the tender have Nason trucks with upgrade wheelsets, and I also have a pair on a lighted caboose. Save those Nason trucks for electrical applications, they are the best.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The First American OO Gauge Locomotive Produced

While Thuillgrim Models advertised and displayed some locomotives earlier, the OO Gauge Model Co. of Harrisburg, PA was the first firm known to have put a locomotive into production. Operational from 1934-1936, the firm was run by Howard A. LeVan, Jr. A photo of an example of their 0-4-0 with the blueprints may be found on page 28 of the October, 1986 issue of The Train Collectors Quarterly and the model in that photo in the Quarterly article just sold (out of my price range) on eBay this past week, as did a second less complete model, both from the Morlok collection.

Ed Morlok was very interested in this firm. As best we could tell their production, very limited, included the following models:

0-4-0, PRR A-5
4-4-2, Reading P-7, sand cast boiler
4-6-2, CNJ, sand cast boiler

This advertisement is from the January, 1936 issue of The Model Railroader. The residence of owner Howard A. LeVan, Jr., was the Halderman House, which was the home of the Governor of Pennsylvania from 1823-1829 and was later maintained by the PRR as the residence of its General Superintendent from 1896-1926.

While Thuillgrim did make a few parts and certainly at least a sample of their 4-6-4, The OO Gauge Model Co. 0-4-0 is the first locomotive actually produced in OO with examples known to exist today. Who knows when the next one will turn up for sale; it is an extremely rare model to keep your eyes peeled for.

UPDATE: From site statistics I knew that this page is among the more frequently viewed, and thanks to the current owner I am now able to post these two photos of the same model featured in the TCA article noted above which I authored with Ed Morlok. Click on either photo for a larger view.

First is this view of the boiler and cab. Note the size of this compact model and the card with it.

This second view is of more parts, including another boiler and the frame and motor. Morlok purchased the model from Ed Schwobli, who had worked with Hugh Nason early on.

One final thing to mention as I have a bit more space, I have always been fascinated by the name choice of this company. "The OO Gauge Model Company." Sounds big! They were in early, had some plans for sure, and their models are among the rarest ever produced in American OO.

UPDATE II: And the model featured in the third photo in this article is I think pretty likely an example of their 4-6-2 model.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Rarest Scale-Craft OO Truck

Back last year I had a post about Scale-Craft express reefer trucks. As in they did not make any, but some modelers had a "fix" where they took a standard passenger truck and cut it down a little and changed it over to freight wheelsets as a good stand-in.

But also there was one type of S-C passenger truck I had never found an example of and was curious about. Standard S-C four wheel passenger trucks have roller bearings. However, S-C also made a plain bearing 4 wheel passenger truck that is depicted on P. 47 of the Round Lake catalog only, their last catalog. This is a scan of the photo and description. It was introduced very late in their production, is a rare item, and I until this past week had never seen one in reality.

Among the cars donated to the OO SIG recently from the estate of David Sacks were a number of express reefers. Several have standard S-C passenger trucks, several have the same switched out to freight wheelsets, a couple were modified further for more of an express reefer look as in the post linked already from last year. However, there was this one (1) other truck on one of the cars that stood out. It is an example of the "missing" truck, the one I had never seen.

They have to be rare. Looking at it you can easily tell that it is not from the same casting runs as normally seen. The parting lines are more obvious and the metal seems to be a shinier alloy. Click on the photo for a larger view. I don't think it is a reproduction, it looks and feels like a factory item to me.

This truck had two mismatched wheelsets which is unfortunately not that uncommon on these Sacks cars. One seems to be a S-C freight wheelset with shortened axles (or shorter than I usually see) and the other is a S-C passenger wheelset. The wheelsets fell off as I took the truck off the car to which it was nailed on! I guess he was short on screws that day.

The main elements that set these apart are the friction bearings and the lack of brake details. These sideframes do not appear to have been modified in any way and make excellent express reefer trucks.

Why exactly they were not introduced earlier in the history of Scale-Craft is a mystery. S-C sold O scale express reefers so it makes some sense these trucks could have been developed as part of a push toward an OO version of that car, but if so it was never produced and only the trucks hit the market right at the end. True or not, who knows, but it is a plausible theory.

If anyone has another lone example of this to trade let me know! Would love to get these on a good car. But even if I only have one it is an interesting example of a rare item, I am glad to have it.

UPDATE 2013/14: I found the review of these new trucks in the December, 1947 issue of Model Railroader. Turns out the original spin was that these new friction bearing trucks were for the gas-electric car.
OO gauge fans will be pleased to hear that Scale-Craft has developed two new passenger trucks. One is for the G. E. MU car, the other is a four-wheel roller-bearing passenger car truck. Hard metal die castings are used and these are very nicely detailed. Brass wheels with steel axles are used, and their assembly is insulated for two-rail. Instead of a fiber insulating bushing between the wheel and axle, a dialectric material is used.
These trucks have plastic bolsters that are joined to the sideframes to provide equalization.
The roller bearing passenger truck had been on the market since 1937 so it was not new, but the friction bearing truck was a very new item in late 1947. So new that it is not mentioned in either the "loose leaf" (Hollywood) catalog put out in 1947 or on the "temporary price list" that was sent with that catalog.

So perhaps this truck was intended for the gas-electric car or the MU car seen illustrated in the Round Lake catalog, the final S-C catalog. However, that truck is never seen in any catalog illustration actually on either of those models, so I am again inclined to think it may have originally been for an express reefer that was never produced and was simply an orphan item in the line. I would love to hear from anyone who can check an unbuilt post-war kit of either model to see what was shipped out with them for trucks.

An example of a MU car with these sideframes on it may be seen in this article.

They are quite uncommon and something to keep your eyes peeled for in American OO. Since the original publication of this article I have stumbled across enough parts to make only two pair of these trucks with standard S-C bolsters and parts, and one additional curiosity. Note the non-standard mounting required to use this sideframe. The first of these I found I thought this to be a user modification, but actually I have five sideframes of this type, this is a manufactured version. Perhaps the holes are to to mount them on a drive that was not produced? Certainly this truck is a curious footnote in the S-C OO line.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Mystery [K&W] Automatic Coupler

A reader wondered in a comment to the post on the Bessey boxcar what are the couplers on that car? The photos there show a couple of views of the coupler and also below is a close up.

It is what I would call semi-automatic coupler of some sort. Looking through my list of parts I have seen advertised I am hesitant to say what it is exactly based on that. There may be a magazine advertisement with a photo that pins things down further.

The coupler has a die cast body with the main knuckle being cast. The portion to the right of the knuckle as visible in the photo is spring brass. In other words, if two of these were pushed together just right they would couple but not by the type of action we think of with a modern Kadee coupler; the knuckle is fixed and the other side opens up a bit to allow the couplers to mate.

There is a brass rod that goes out to in the photo to the left. It is attached to the base of the coupler. If this is currently in the original factory position or not I am not sure but it must have had something to do with a system for uncoupling.

If any of you have examples of this coupler packed up as originally shipped and/or can identify this positively do let me know. It is an interesting design that will actually mate manually with standard OO dummy couplers as well which is part of what drove this design to market at the time.

UPDATE: My inclination for those wondering is to guess this is a K&W coupler. In the February, 1940 issue of Model Railroader (p. 110) it was reported that the K&W coupler was named standard by the NMRA for O, OO, and HO gauges. There is a good photo of their new O gauge version in that same issue (p. 107) but I have yet to find a good photo of the OO version. Whatever it is on the car in the photo, it is a factory item, not something made by a modeler in my opinion.

UPDATE II: As this article seems to come up on searches, I have also added this early advertisement, reproduced from the June, 1939 issue of The Model Railroader. I have a bit more detail on this ad and context in this article from my 1939 series on American OO history. The models in the advertisement look to be HO models. I like that line in caps, "Send a dollar and be convinced."

Baker Drive Units and American OO

As I have three OO gauge locomotives with Baker drive units, I recently made an important purchase toward getting them in shape.

In the previous post I mentioned how the Kemtron GP-7 could be purchased set up for a Lindsay drive or a Baker drive. This is the main thing to see to know if a drive is the Baker drive, it runs on a drive belt. Two of the locomotives I have are set up this way, with the third set up with the ring mounted on the inboard end of the truck itself. The belt is plumbing O-ring, which over time will either get brittle or break down. Click on the photo for a close up view.

I was not sure the size I would need for each engine as they are set up with three different motors so I purchased 11/16, 3/4, and 13/16 inch rings, standard plumbing parts, covering the range I expect to need in these applications.

One of the engines with the belt drive I used to run often, a Schorr F-3A (seen in this post), but I have not run it much for several years due to the ring slipping. It is not a difficult fix, it should be running soon, and I even plan to upgrade it and the Baker drive GP-7 with flywheels when I work them over.

UPDATE: The F-3 is running again! It has a large can motor that I put in years ago (the original motor was shot) and to it I added a flywheel left over from an Athearn drive and replaced one wheelset that lacked a gear with another that had a gear from another model. This will be a prime engine again, I should have upgraded it a while ago, pulls like crazy. One other random thing to note, this type of drive has a rather satisfying Diesel locomotive sound unlike any other type of drive, especially now with the flywheel added.

See that F-3 and a Kemtron GP-7 with Baker drives here.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Superbowl Drive

I had not been very happy with the drive that I was able to put together based on a Tyco GP-20 drive that I had been using on my Orient decorated Kemtron GP-7. This engine was available set up from the factory for either a Baker drive (with a belt drive) or the Kemtron-Lindsay drive (with the motor down in the power truck). My engine was set up for the Lindsay drive, and it came to me with one that was incomplete. It looked great and ran with the Tyco drive I installed, but not very well.

Fast forward to just a couple weeks ago. I was able to acquire a Schorr RS-2, which I mentioned in this post. It is in rough shape and had a drive on it that had been worked up from a Kemtron-Lindsay drive like my GP-7 needed. As I plan to repower that locomotive with Athearn drive parts there was an opportunity to shuffle some parts around. Doing the majority of the work during the Superbowl I was able to disassemble and rebuild that drive and mount it on the engine which now runs much better and it is also a good bit more powerful. And it still looks great.

It was not a simple job as it involved replacing the axles which were damaged. Fortunately, I had spare wheelsets that I found a few years back installed in if I recall correctly a S-C passenger truck. Save everything!

Thus, the photo is a bottom view of this type of drive, set up and completely operational with vintage Hobbytown universals. The truck sideframes are suspended and hang from the ends of the wheelsets with the bracket on the bottom. Click on the photo for a closer view.

I actually have another GP-7 that I have not been able to operate. It has the Baker drive and was purchased from Pierre Bourassa, featured in the post below. That engine will be going through the shop soon, I now have a replacement universal for it I can salvage from another drive and I think have everything I need to get it running given a few hours to work it over, a project for another weekend. When it is running I will post a photo of that engine as well.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Difference of Decades II -- Pierre Bourassa, a Brief Look

One of the last “OOldtimers” in the American OO gauge community is Pierre Bourassa. I have been in touch with him lately by E-mail; he will be 93 in just a few days. I have never met him in person but I have enjoyed knowing him by mail for many years now. He recently sent me two photos I would like to share.

His layout was featured in the March, 1956 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, “The road of the reds and greens - Pierre Bourassa's OO Gauge layout.” This first photo was taken on his layout not long before it was acquired by the late Dr. Donald S. Fraley Jr. and moved to Pittsburgh in 2001. I LOVE this photo of a modified Lionel 4-6-4 with a Schorr RS-2 and the town and the big curve with the long train of hoppers. This is inspirational OO modeling of a type not seen today, perhaps never to be seen again. And for train collectors out there, yes, the layout went to same Donald Fraley who edited Lionel Trains, Standard of the World, 1900-1943; he was an OO enthusiast.

Pierre sent me this specific photo because some years ago I purchased that very 4-6-4 from him and it runs on my layout today [2010--see update], as do a number of other cars purchased from him. This Hudson has a can motor, smoke unit, and Nason drivers and is pretty ideal for my layout where I posed it in a similar view. I run this locomotive and many of the cars regularly, and actually have purchased several more cars that certainly Pierre made on eBay as well. If I were to pick just one as the best of the cars I have from Pierre it would be the modern gondola seen in this article; Pierre enjoys modern models too.

The final photo is of another 4-6-4, this one by Nason as built by Pierre. Canadian Pacific number 2817 has a DC71 motor and smoke unit and was a favorite locomotive of his. He gave it as a gift to the late Ed Morlok and this particular one he would actually like to track down again. It is not certain if it passed through the Morlok auction or not but if you have seen it Pierre would love to hear from you; contact me if you have information on the whereabouts of this handsome engine.

I actually for three years, before we moved to Arizona, lived only a few hours away from Pierre and could have seen his layout. I never was able to as our two children were literally in diapers and the time was just too limited then. The layout must still be in storage somewhere, but I don’t know where it is at this point and if it will ever run again. I do know that Pierre still runs a few trains on a shelf layout. I wish I had seen it when I had the chance but at least we all can enjoy these photos from a great OO layout. Thank you Pierre for sharing, and best wishes to him as he enters his 93rd year.

UPDATE 2012. With sadness I report that I have learned that Pierre passed on in January this year. He was 94 and one of the last living "OOldtimers." It is a term I believe coined by Temple Nieter, and my working definition is any OO gauge enthusiast that got into the scale when OO was popular (most often before WWII) and stuck with it for a lifetime. Pierre was part of once very active but now gone Canadian group of American OO gaugers, and certainly Pierre was the last person living who had their OO gauge layout featured in the model railroad press.

In relation to the models seen above, Pierre really wanted to track down that Nason Hudson but it did not turn up. The widow of Ed Morlok was able to track down another Nason Hudson and gave it to Pierre, but it really did not suit him to work on at his age and lacked a tender. I offered to trade him that Hudson for the Lionel Hudson in the photos in this article, and it made it up to his retirement home for his final display and enjoyment. And I got the Nason Hudson running very well, seen in this article.

He loved building models and worked on this layout from 1948-2001, this photo being from the RMC feature article. All I know of his career is best summarized in this quote from the 1956 article.
Pierre Bourassa is in the watch business and is often on the road. Much of his rolling stock construction is done in hotels and he carries his modeling  materials in special cases. New projects are always underway.
I could go on quite a bit (and this issue of RMC is well worth finding, the cover features another OO layout and Newton Guerin) but to close for now, I would add this about Pierre. People throw this term around very casually but everything I have heard or experienced would say he was a true gentleman. He will be missed.

UPDATE 2013: I also recently learned that Pierre was the focus of the "Collector Consist" article by Keith Wills that was published in the November, 1991 issue of RMC. He reports that "Pierre bought his first model in 1947, a Scale-Craft cattle car, sold by a Westmount hardware store.... For Pierre, modeling in OO meant traveling to the U.S. on specific buying trips to places like St. Albans, Vermont, or on vacations to Portland, Maine, where he could find stores selling kits. Ads placed in RMC helped establish a network of contacts in Canada and the U.S., through which he made friends and exchanged information and models." To that I would add I know he was personal friends with many active in our scale including such figures as Fred Schorr. This is an article worth tracking down for more.

Continue in Difference of Decades series

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Difference of Decades I: David Sacks

Back a few months ago I had a post where I had a photo which I will repeat below, of a locomotive and cars on the layout of David Sacks ca. 1980. At the time he sent it to me as had I purchased the locomotive in the photo and several other cars (as I recall a coach and baggage car and also some flat cars and a reefer), and he also threw in copies of the Nason 1940 catalog and the Scale-Craft Round Lake catalog which were very much appreciated at the time on my college student budget. I reference both often to this day.

The layout of David Sacks was a feature article in Railroad Model Craftsman in June of 1955, as described in another prior article in this site. At the time he was in New Jersey which was arguably the main hotbed of post-war OO activity with not one but two round robin clubs very active at the time. He was a member of the North Jersey group, described here.

Sacks moved to California in 1961. Jumping forward, he passed on over ten years ago. A relative of his knew that a regular reader of this blog was interested in trains and showed him a couple items as they wanted to clear them out of the home (from an outbuilding, I believe), and after some discussion the residual equipment from his layout made its way to my home this week, with the main stipulation being it not be turned around for resale and that anything I did not want would be given to the OO SIG for members of the SIG. To find out more on that you will have to join the SIG; more details will be in the next issue of The OO Road.

In terms of the value, it was all a bit picked over and had also been in storage for a long while in less than ideal conditions so nothing is at present of that high a value. I am saving two sets of items out of the group to try to lightly restore them as groups to operating condition (a long heavyweight Green Brook passenger train and a number of Green Brook coal hoppers), and also I am saving some of the items that are more generic and at the point of needing very heavy rebuilding, which I will rebuild over time. More on projects such as that in the future, but the cars in this second photo intrigued me a great deal.

Compare these cars with the cars in the first photo: all these cars are in the layout photo he sent me with the locomotive I purchased in 1982! They are a good case study in the difference a few decades can make. Click on the photo for a closer view.

Of these cars, the first one I noticed unpacking them was that green Tyco covered hopper car, a HO conversion. It is a pretty distinctive car. The trucks on this car actually have rusted axles and if the car was not plastic it would not look nearly so good now. Three of the cars were still operable and have already made a few tours around the layout after checking that the wheels were in gauge; the Lionel Erie decaled boxcar, the Picard based D&H boxcar, and the Picard based reefer with Champion sides. The final car of the group is the green reefer of origin TBD of which the decals are only about 60% left. One of the articles on Sacks states that he was a machinist by profession, and I have no doubt all of these cars ran well for him, but these cars suffer from heavy paint jobs, sketchy details, and now condition issues including fading, rust, peeling paint (see the boxcar roof), and decals lifting. I am sure he had fun with making the cars and running the trains, don’t get me wrong, and he clearly made a lot of cars, but based on what I see in this group many had quirky details such as reefer hatches on wood boxcar with steel doors and arch bar trucks as on the D&H car. For another example, one of the modern HO conversions was on Schorr arch bar trucks. Still, he liked them enough to keep them running on the layout into his last years so that is all worth something.

The third photo thus is of the currently layout worthy cars from this group on the layout with the engine I purchased from Sacks and rebuilt seen in the photo from Sacks. It is interesting seeing them all together after the passing of time.

Finding the above cars left me wondering, are any more of these cars that just made their way to Arizona visible in the photos in the 1955 RMC article? There are only two that are obvious and similar but probably are not actually the same cars. One is similar to a camp car on p. 14 of the RMC article but it was either rebuilt later or is only similar. The most distinctive one is the car in this last photo, which I would describe as an extended Lionel caboose. There is a caboose of the same style on p. 15 of the article, but this caboose is no. 8 and the one in RMC is no. 9. It could be the same car repainted and renumbered, but also could easily be a twin. It is a little crude in workmanship and the trucks need heavy work before this car rolls again but at the same time it is certainly an interesting vintage item and in terms of condition one of the best in the group. This one I want to keep for running with the Green Brook hopper cars for the coal unit train, it is the perfect mate for the train and very representative of David Sacks. [Update: The rebuilt model may be seen here].

Only one car in the whole group, a kitbashed HO caboose, had Kadee couplers. The Green Brook items I retain I will not plan to upgrade to Kadee couplers, as I will run the hoppers and passenger cars as a block. The other items, more in the category of heavy rebuilding, will be upgraded to the general level of operational standard I have, which includes Kadee couplers.

Periodically I will come back to items from David Sacks; there are some interesting items here and lessons to learn. I look forward to working over a number of these items in the coming years.

UPDATE: The wood boxcar and Lionel boxcar as restored may be seen here.

Continue in Difference of Decades series

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Schorr Twin Hopper and Caboose

Two cars that I don’t own examples of that are among the nicest ever produced in American OO are the Schorr twin hopper & caboose. They were brass imports from Japan.

Dick Gresham supplied these sharp photos of cars from his collection. First we have the twin hopper. Comparing it to the triple hopper in the page linked above you can see they are similar models and were pretty up-to-date models when produced in the early 1950s.

The second photo is of the caboose. This is a great car and one that if you see it you know it is a desirable item.

The thing about Schorr specifically today is it has something of a crossover market of people interested in American OO and people interested in early brass imports. Even if a collector is not specifically interested in OO it is such a unique size that my theory is once you hold some in your hands you want more.

Either of these models actually only rarely shows up on eBay although you never know, there might be three of them show up next week! Because that is the number of Schorr RS-2 diesels that sold on eBay just yesterday, two of them lettered for the road of Fred Schorr himself, the Yorkville and Western. I have a photo of a couple of these RS diesels in an older post and I also just acquired one from a non-eBay source. Mine has some fairly serious condition issues and was modified (bottom of shell cut out) to use the drive that was shipped out with the Kemtron GP-7 kit. If I can get that drive to work it may find its way into my Kemtron GP-7 and with the model modified already my RS may end up as a RSC-2 or an RSD-2 depending on how I work out the drive. I would like to work with some Athearn components to really make it a runner. More on that in a while.