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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Early and Late Versions of the Famoco OO Box and Reefer Kits

My first Famoco freight car was a late production box car. Subsequently I noted a couple Famoco models with paper ends instead of die cast. While sorting through some Famoco kits I noted that actually there was a change in these cars during the course of the run of their production.

This first photo is of an earlier production kit. The instructions are printed on the front only of the page and most notable are two things to my eye. One is the frame is in one piece and is not marked specifically as being Famoco. The second is that the ends are pressed cardstock. Also note the price on the box: $4.50. I knew from their advertising that the price was dropped on this kit from $4.50 to $2.95 at some point, and with a little digging the first advertisement I located with the price drop was published in the May, 1948 issue of Model Railroader. So this first kit must have been produced before that date.

This second kit is later production. Originally priced at $2.95, it is missing the trucks (someone must have pulled them to use on another car) but it has the new version of the frame in two halves and also the cast ends. The instructions shed some light on this. Quoting from the second page, “The FAMOCO kit now has a split underframe, the reason for this improvement is to prevent any short circuits between the trucks.” They go on to explain how the trucks are insulated on one side, etc. As to the ends, “In addition to the above improvement we now include the two die cast ends, this improvement speaks for itself, it saves the time of putting all the small parts on the old embossed paper ends….” They caution however that the ends are exact to scale but “sometimes the wooden parts are a little oversize” so to be careful, “Tolerances are harder to hold in the wood parts than in the metal.”

In any event the early and late versions of their reefer and boxcar kits are good products from the period and ones to keep your eyes peeled for.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Head End Cars from the Green Brook

Slowly I have been working on a number of projects and one is restoring to operation a matched group of passenger cars built by David Sacks. These three cars are the first through the shop.

The RPO is a Nason model. The main problem to resolve with this car was the trucks which took a surprisingly long time to set up. The major problems were that the trucks did not have enough wheelsets and also the wheelsets present were unusable. He had converted almost all of the six wheel trucks on any car to four wheels only, presumably due to tight radius curves. The car itself is fairly rare and I really wanted to set it up with the Nason trucks as they are also somewhat rare and an interesting item as the major parts are bronze. Also, Sacks had drilled out the outer holes of these trucks and they were originally three rail so that reduced the number of options for wheelsets. I was able after a lot of experimentation and digging to use four Kemtron wheelsets and two Famoco wheelsets to get the trucks rolling.

The milk reefers are a pair. I always find pairs of cars inherently more interesting somehow, so I wanted to get them both back in running order. One needed very little work and the other not too much more, it had a broken truck and a hatch off. The cars themselves are built on I believe Picard bodies and have a number of parts added; Lionel brake cylinders, and Scale-Craft sand-cast (early) reefer hatches, stamped brass boxcar doors and ladders, their die cast frame (modified), and ride on modified Scale-Craft passenger trucks with freight wheelsets. The resulting cars are pretty effective in a general, free-lanced way although almost certainly have no prototype.

More on the rest of this train over the next few months; every car has problems due to storage but will make an interesting model to run, and I like the general paint scheme, I may do something similar in fact when it comes to working on a streamlined train for the Orient.

UPDATE: I should have noted with the Nason RPO that it has brass sides. I like this car; this was built up from their "Pennsylvania Type Mail Car" kit which in their 1940 catalog sold for $4.00 as an "Easy-Bilt" kit. With assembled trucks the kit cost $4.75.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

New Parts in Old Molds

As has been noted a few times now, a fairly recent purchase was the Nieter molds. Pierre B. needed a new pilot for a Lionel Hudson project; I recently traded him the Hudson in this post for a Nason Hudson, actually, and in transit to him the Lionel pilot broke. As Temple Nieter left his last part cast in each mold, that last Nieter original was sent to Pierre but it seemed like a good time to try the molds out with Cerrobend.

This photo shows the results. The mold on the left is the Nieter mold for the Lionel pilot, the second mold he made for this actually and I have both. It dates to the early 1970s and it worked great other than one of the divisions between one of the boiler tubes in the pilot let go, so I have to use these with care. A part I cast in this mold is in the photo with it.

The mold on the right is a mold I made of a different molding material in the early 1980s, and the castings with it are a pair of castings from this mold, reproduction Eastern/Famoco boxcar doors. I have seen these same parts on eBay recently actually, and the ones for sale look to be Nieter copies cast in a mold I also have in the collection. My doors came out well in the old mold.

I have yet to fully inventory what I have of the Nieter molds, but after I get cleaned up with taxes and such I will be posting about them more. Most of them are certainly still usable, and between molds I made and molds from Nieter I have usable molds for over 100 OO parts. If you have any specific needs such as Pierre had I may be able to help you out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More on the Famoco GG-1

There was some recent discussion of the Famoco GG-1 on the Yahoo group, and a reader provided these photos which illustrate the late version of this model well. Click on any photo for a larger view.

Famoco produced two versions of this model. In my prior post you can see the early, sand cast version. This model in its box is however the post war version, two rail, dual power, permag motor. The parts are all laid out ready to build the model. This was also marketed in a HO version. The body is die cast and the lines of the model are attractive! I have no need for a GG-1 for purposes of my layout but someday I would still love to own one of these classic models.

The third photo is of another model in the same collection, this one an original body paired up with a number of reproduction parts by Temple Nieter. I have most if not all of the molds he used to make the small parts in the below photo, and this was a model he had special interest in. The last version of his parts list, dated June, 1980, has this most interesting text: “Altho not listed, I am trying to mold the Famoco GG-1 body in a single casting, using as pattern the two halves, joined, (original lead-alloy parts used).” From this I gather that he was trying to make all the parts for this model. He got close but I have no body mold for this model. I am thinking however that with more modern materials it would be possible to reproduce the body in halves as originally set up but cast in a plastic resin. No time right now to explore this, but perhaps some other year.

Until then, if you need a part or two for this model, feel free to contact me and I may be able to help out.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Can Motors and Flywheels

I have had a couple projects close to done for a while and in between other work these past few days finally closed the deal. Both have vintage Baker drive units.

First we have this Kemtron GP-7. I purchased this from Pierre B. way back in 2003! When it arrived it had a broken universal and I was not able to run it. With it taken apart I later needed a DC71 motor to fix another locomotive, a steamer set up for that motor (but with a dead motor that needed replaced). This model donated its motor, so it was far from running, but I had in mind that I wanted to use a can motor to upgrade this model. Fast forward to just a short while ago, I was able to scrounge the needed Hobbytown universal from a junker drive from the David Sacks residual that was on a Schorr F-3 and also a can motor from another model in the same residual. Parts in hand I finally went to work over the weekend.

This second photo shows the drive as it is set up now. The motor just fits inside the body and is a very tight fit. I replaced the drive belt with a brand new one from the Lowes plumbing section. I also added an Athearn flywheel that I had left over from another project. This model runs great!

The other project was finishing up a pair of F3’s. For years and years I have had an AB pair of Schorr F3’s that I could not run together. It was really a bummer; both were powered and complete but did not run the same speed, with the B unit running a bit too fast. (But that drive would work OK in the lead ... see this for an update on that).

Off eBay a couple years ago however I was able to purchase a pair of Schorr F-3 dummy trucks. Pondering the junker F-3 in the Sacks inventory already mentioned I realized that I could use the drive from the F-3B in the Sacks engine and convert this B-unit to a dummy. This side view shows the trucks; the Schorr trucks are heavier in detail than the Kemtron trucks.

Now that I have a dummy B unit the result is a great looking pair of engines! The A unit has plenty of power to pull the B-unit and a dozen average cars. Looking under the hood, on this one we see yet again a can motor and a flywheel, this time an even larger can motor. A few weeks ago I replaced the drive belt, fixed a gear problem, and added yet another Athearn flywheel.

The best thing of both of these projects is these are great running engines that I can really run without fear of ruining some vintage motor or irreplaceable part. How many other OO models of this vintage have a can motor and flywheel?

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Two Versions of the Scale-Craft 4-8-4

Here is a locomotive I approve of! A few months ago I posted a review of the Scale-Craft 4-8-4, the largest die-cast steam locomotive ever offered in American OO. Dick Gresham has provided these photos that illustrate the differences between the prewar and postwar versions of this model. Due to the number of photos I will leave them small and stack them below. Click on any photo for a larger view.



The model in the photos above is the prewar version. Dick also sent three pictures of the bottoms of prewar and postwar locomotives. Besides having different frames (sand cast or built up) he explained in his message, “There are definite differences in the pilot and trailing trucks. There is a part number visible beginning with OOL on the postwar pilot truck.” Also he noted that “The prewar locomotive has an inclined drive shaft, while the postwar version has a horizontal drive shaft.”


What I lack in the parts of a locomotive in my original post are drivers. I also have a Scale-Craft 4-6-2, a recent eBay purchase, which lacks drivers and could use the same style of drivers. Any easy solutions would be welcomed to this problem. I expect in the end however that I will have to commission some drivers from a maker for both of these models.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

More on Oscar Andresen, Pioneer OO Gauger

The name of Oscar Andresen is one still remembered in American OO circles, as not only was he a producer of rare, very early and very detailed OO models (see this post) but also his layout was featured twice in early issues of Model Railroader magazine, specifically in the May 1935 and February 1936 issues.

In the earlier article I posted I quoted memories of Andresen relayed by Temple Nieter. Through the wonders of the Internet I heard from Andresen's granddaughter Barbara who supplied a short biography and a number of new photos. It has always struck me that the photos in these articles were retouched by an artist in those days long before Photoshop. Turns out they were very likely retouched by Andresen himself. Besides his interest in model trains Oscar Andresen was also an avid photographer and artist. All these interests combined in the photos published in Model Railroader.

The first photo in this post is an example of one as published in Model Railroader, and the second is one is the version just forwarded. It is most interesting to compare the two, as it is un-retouched. He painted in the overhead wire and enhanced various details in the published version.

Barbara also provided the following biography which fills in many details. The memories provided in the earlier article from Temple Nieter are fascinating but a bit fuzzy; I am glad to be able to set the record clearer of this pioneer OO gauger.
Oscar Adolf Andresen was born October 10, 1890 in Stenkjer Norway. He became a US Naturalized citizen and made a living as a photoengraver. His parents were Norwegian immigrants Nils Martinus Andreassen and Leonora Dorthea Lindkvist, both tailors. He was an avid photographer, an artist, and was interested in architecture and model building of all types.

He and Anna Karoline Dempsey were married October 8, 1922. They traveled and raised their family, a son, Robert Edward Andresen and a daughter, Edith Loraine Andresen. Oscar had many interests and talents. I’ve been told of his great sense of humor and charming wit. He left this world far too early, dying October 6, 1957. I was only 3 at the time and never had the chance to know him.

Gone but definitely not forgotten because he left behind glimpses of himself within his many paintings, drawings and photographs, including sample photos of his model trains. Fortunately for his five grandchildren and great-grandchildren I am documenting his story for the family archives.
UPDATE: For more on his layout from 1934 see this article.

UPDATE II: For more on his layout and products from 1935 see this article.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Sand Cast OO Track Gauge [Pratts]

Here is another mystery item, sent in by Wayne Harland, a track gauge for American OO.

While it looks a bit like a religious relic, this is vintage OO for sure, sand cast in bronze. As Wayne relates, this gauge “slips over the rails and maintains perfect spacing for straights and curves.”

As to the question of a maker, Nason comes to mind as they were a big maker of sand cast items. And their catalogs do list a track gauge, but it is actually listed as being made of wood. Wayne reports this was with some Nason and Famoco items, and the early version of their GG-1 was sand cast; unfortunately, while I can find listings of a track layer and number 6 switches, I have not yet found a listing of a Famoco track gauge.

I also note the “extra” bar off to one end. I would be curious if this was there to use to place and adjust the height of an outside third rail?

It has the look of a factory produced item. Whoever made it, it has an artistic, vintage look and patina for sure. Thanks to Wayne for sharing this interesting vintage item.

UPDATE: I believe this is an example of the track gauge introduced in 1939 by Pratts. See this article for more. On their product the extra bar was for the third rail, as I guessed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Three S-C Tenders

The standard tender supplied with the Scale-Craft 4-6-0, 4-4-2, and 0-6-0 is of a somewhat unusual, short design. While many OO gauge enthusiasts of the time just lived with this, content that it was a nicely detailed die cast model, others opted to modify it.

To the rear in this photo we find a standard S-C tender and a stock, plain-vanilla 4-6-0. To the front are two modified tenders. The one of the left was nicely done by adding a layer of something like sheet Bakelite to the bottom of the tender. It has modified Scale-Craft passenger trucks. The one on the right has a thicker layer added of wood. It was built by David Sacks and was recently donated to the OO SIG.

The Greenbrook tender honestly is a bit too tall. I like the visual proportions of the medium tender a lot however. Seeing it really makes one wish Scale-Craft had made the original tender that height. Since taking the photo I have switched the trucks off that tender, they are needed on express reefers I have in progress. When I use this tender it will get Nason trucks for better contact and a better look.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Two Approaches to Track for American OO

In recent correspondence with Pierre Bourassa he included a few more photos, and the one below is especially interesting as it illustrates two approaches he has taken to laying track in American OO today.

The track to the rear is On3 flex track but modified slightly--what he has done is cut the ends of the ties off so they are OO length. The ties are still a bit heavy but match up pretty well actually with the tie size used by Lionel for example back in the 1930s. And of course it is exactly in gauge for American OO; NMRA track standards are the same.

For the track in the front he took a different approach. What he did was split HO flex track down the middle and relay it for 19mm. Some years back Pierre sent me samples of this including a turnout he had modified but not used on his layout. With ballast added down the middle it is pretty effective and certainly does the job in terms of getting trains rolling. As Pierre noted on the back of the photo, "I like it!"

And if you have cars as nice as that Zuhr Canadian Pacific stream liner in the background, who would not want to run them? If you are lacking for track, give either approach a try and get some trains running.