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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

More Trucks of Mystery [Hoffman's]

I spotted a couple items I wanted in a recent eBay lot and with them got a few items I was not as interested in, including this car with these trucks.

The car itself is pretty much a garden variety, standard early Scale-Craft reefer with the sand cast doors and hatches, lettered for the Santa Fe and with chipping decals. The really unusual thing were these trucks. Take a look; they appear to be die cast and are sprung. Side on they look similar in ways to Scale-Craft trucks but the details are different. Visually for me they are right on the fence between being a manufactured item and perhaps a prototype of an item put together by a skilled modeler with an eye to either personal use or sales. That they are on a pre-war car may say they are pre-war or it may say that they got put on this car later. The standard S-C truck screws are used to attach them but with a bunch of extra washers, which would imply that originally the car had S-C trucks.

The wheelsets are gone and no wonder, there is at present way too much play between the bolster and the side frames. This maybe again points to the skilled modeler theory. This truck bolster has the round section in the middle and the other is square at that point but otherwise identical.

If they are manufactured items I don’t have the slightest idea of the manufacturer [But see UPDATE at end]. What is sort of sad as well is I don’t believe there is anyone reading this article that will have any idea either. Some things we can figure out with some effort and luck but if this is a manufactured item then this for sure is a low production, oddball item by probably a very minor maker and from the detail level pretty early on.

If anyone else even has a pair of these on a car I would be curious to hear from you.

UPDATE: My thinking now is these are Hoffman's trucks, sold with their kits introduced in 1938. More on Hoffman's here. They appear to have produced the first sprung trucks ever marketed in American OO.

UPDATE II: See this article for another Hoffmans truck, one that looks to be complete and original.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

OO in The Modelmaker, 1925-30. Part III: OO that is not really OO, 1928-29

As noted in the previous segment of this article, scale and gauge nomenclature was not clear or settled in the early years of our hobby, and there were not many products out yet either. 1928-29 is an interesting case study in this. In January of 1928 there is for example an item on rail.
Mr. C. Holt writes that he has had an active demand for his brass rail, which he has in three sizes suitable for gauges from “OO” to 3 ¼”. We have seen samples of this rail, and can recommend it as first class.
The Modelmaker tended to plug their advertisers and Holt was one. Curiously, though, in his ad in the very next issue there is no mention of OO rail, just O and ½ inch scale rail.

In the March issue a reader wrote in expressing an interest “in model locomotives for small gauges” looking specifically for “scale drawings of an ‘OO’ steam locomotive, American Type.” Later in that same issue we hear again from F. D. Grimke. It is in a report on the February, 1928 meeting of the New York Society of Model Engineers, where were learn that he had “exhibited some ‘OO’ commercial clockwork and electric locomotives and cars which he had repainted.” Finally, at the end of this issue is an ad for the American Model Railway Company of E. P. Alexander that includes two items of interest: “Two OO gauge prints: P. R. R. P54 coach and 70-P tender” each of which sold for 35 cents. These should be HO scale based on what we learned of his early models in part II of this series.

In terms of OO the rest of 1928 is pretty slow. We do see one item in the August issue, brief, from a person in Peoria interested in OO and O gauges model railroads.

Things pick up again in January of 1929 with this ad from E. P. Alexander/American Model Railway Company. It seems that they have a special shipment of OO gauge but it is clearly 5/8” gauge and also clearly of British manufacture. An expert in early British HO/OO could probably guess pretty closely what it is, but suffice to say for our purposes these models are not American OO gauge.

In the March issue we read of the annual show of the New York Society of Model Engineers. This time around Grimke displayed a number of 1/8” scale models including a passenger coach, a G. W. R. dining car, and a 1/8” scale switch. So at that point he was working in a smaller scale than American OO. But he was also working on things other than trains, and this photo shows Grimke at the far left with his power boat in July of 1929.

To conclude the year, in the December issue E. P. Alexander also advertised “Many OO Gauge items” in his full page advertisement for American Model Railways. Again, these I would think to be probably British HO/OO 5/8” gauge.

It would not be until 1930 that we see specific mention of American OO 4mm scale, which will be the final topic of this series.

Continue in 1925-30 series

Sunday, October 24, 2010

An OO Gauge PRR P70 Coach

The article on the 1927 3.5 mm OO (HO) models of E. P. Alexander featured a photo of his HO scale (he called it OO) PRR P70 coach. Today I would like to feature an early 4 mm OO model of the same car that is nearly through the paint shop here in Arizona. It is the Nason Railways OO kit for a PRR P70 coach, introduced in 1936, with brass sides.

This particular example has a bit of a story. The sides and the roof were in a lot purchased over fifteen years ago ("before" may be seen here, scroll down) and little by little I have put together the parts needed to complete the car. The prior owner must have been working on rebuilding it and did not finish the project; the sides were actually lettered for the Green Brook of David Sacks but the paint job was quite damaged and my purchase was not from Sacks. It would have matched the RPO in this post.

I opted to strip the sides of the coach (see this post) and over the years I have been able to assemble a set of nearly all of the other original Nason parts needed to complete the car. I had to work up a floor spliced from two floors but there will be (besides couplers) actually only two non-Nason parts on the car body itself, the two raw metal steps visible in the bottom photo. They nearly match the original Nason castings and are I believe vintage Selley parts. The other parts are all Nason and perfectly match the parts in an unbuilt kit in my collection. The trucks to be used are also original Nason trucks but rebuilt with Famoco wheelsets.

Soon I will have the car fully painted and assembled, one of a matched set of four Nason cars I have underway, all of which will be as close to all original as I can make them.

Update. The car nearly finished is here and  the finished car may be seen here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

OO in The Modelmaker, 1925-30. Part II: the Early OO (HO) Models of E. P. Alexander

As a preliminary note one central thing should be pointed out clearly; there are no references at all to HO before 1931 in The Modelmaker! The scales smaller than O were always called OO. F.D. Grimke tried to set the record straight later on HO and OO in articles in April 1931 and May 1933, but even as late as the early issues of The Model Railroader in 1934 there was some confusion out there about scale nomenclature. In short it is a bit confusing for the modern reader to sort out, but the fact is that the first "OO" models featured in The Modelmaker were certainly actually HO.

In March of 1927 we find the first listing for OO parts in the form of not one but two classified advertisements by E. Alexander of New Rochelle, N.Y. The first:
Ready for Delivery “00” Gauge parts, cylinders, wheels, domes, chimneys, passenger and freight trucks, finished cars and locomotives built to order, etc. Send 2 cent stamp for list.
And the second:
Model Railway Supplies, “00,”, “0” and 1 gauge finished locomotive parts, freight and passenger trucks. Separate list for each gauge. Write enclosing 2 cent stamp.
Edwin P. Alexander (1905-1981) was posthumously inducted into the O Scale Hall of Fame in 2000; an overview of his model railroad work may be found here. In short he was very enthusiastic about model railroading for many years. In the previous issue, in February of 1927, he had an article on an automatic block signal system that was designed for use in No. 1 gauge, and in the next issue we find an even more interesting feature article. Due to the significance of this article I will quote it below in full, with the illustration (which may be clicked on for a larger view).
AN “00” GAUGE PASSENGER COACH

By E. P. Alexander

The Pennsylvania P70 coach illustrated is correctly built to scale being 11 1/8” long (280 mm) and 1 3/8” wide (35 mm). The prototype is 80 ft. by 10 ft.

The construction is fairly simple. The floor is one piece of wood as is the roof which is correctly shaped. The ends are also of wood with pieces of rubber shaped to represent the vestibules. The sides are of fiber board having the windows cut out with a very sharp knife. The doors and window frames are slightly recessed by peeling out a little of the board. Cutting out the windows will be found to be the hardest part of the entire construction. Mica was used for glazing. Ventilators are small round head screws and washers, heads being filed down.

Underbody details are battery boxes (wood) and air reservoirs made from brass tubing held with staples. Steps (the only other difficult part if they are made to scale) are built up from sheet brass and wooden blocks. Air and steam pipes are wire with a small blob of solder on the ends to represent the connection. Trucks were English type modified to simulate American type.

The car is finished in lacquers and lined and lettered in oil colors. It will just negotiate the standard curves but when more are built, they will be shortened somewhat.
The one main thing to note is that this car, while he called it “00” in the title of the article with two zeros, was from the dimensions given clearly modern HO, 3.5 mm. scale.

In the October, 1927 issue we find another article by Alexander, this one on a PRR DD-1 electric locomotive in OO (double O this time) scale which was clearly designated as “3.5 MM Scale.” At the end of the description he notes
The model has been commended by various railroad officials of the Pennsylvania Railroad and was mentioned in the Philadelphia Public Ledger. I suppose the novelty of such a small size working model explains much of the interest shown in it.
At the end of this issue we find this advertisement, his first full advertisement for his firm The American Model Railway Company. Note especially the sales of passenger car roof and floor sections and also box car body sections in wood. These are listed as OO but from the articles these are clearly early HO products and perhaps the first American products ever marketed in any scale smaller than O.

It would be quite interesting to actually see his 14 page catalog to know what exactly was for sale. I suspect much of it was imported from England. Whatever he sold it was a start. Small scale models had been featured in the leading model railroad related journal in the United States of that day and a line of products was for sale.

When we continue the focus will be on OO products in The Modelmaker from 1928-29, all of which appear to be 5/8” gauge.

Continue to Part III.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

OO in The Modelmaker, 1925-30. Part I: The First Mention of OO

When I started writing what has turned into a fairly substantial series of articles on OO by the years I began actually not with a big series in mind but really just a look at the OO series by F. D. Grimke that was published in The Modelmaker in 1931-32. But OO was in fact seen in the United States before 1931, and this new series on OO in The Modelmaker between 1925 and 1930 takes us back to the very roots of OO and HO the United States, a story that it will be seen to be is as much about early HO as much as it is about OO.

The Modelmaker began publication in January of 1924 and was aimed at “those interested in making working models.” Initially bi-monthly, it was not until the May, 1924 issue that I see anything on model railroading. In the Foreword to that issue you can tell they must have been getting some inquiries on the topic, including this item from Grimke. The editors were very familiar with him as he had a series of articles in the first three issues of the magazine on building this ½ H.P. marine steam engine.
Mr. F. D. Grimke has shown some samples of a very ingenious rail chair he has designed. Its application is very simple yet effective. The cost for the steel dies is considerable so before putting this work in hand he would like to hear from prospective customers. Address him c/o THE MODELMAKER.
No gauge or scale is specified, they are likely not OO rail chairs, but it shows even back then he was interested in more than building marine engines for power boats from scratch. This photo of the Grimke marine engine is from the cover of the March, 1924 issue.

In any event, after that issue the hobby of model railroading was featured regularly in The Modelmaker but OO would not show up mentioned in print until December of 1925, in the form of a review of the contents of the November, 1925 issue of Model Railway News, a British publication. It is a one sentence item, which must have been the title of an article: “A Reversing Clockwork Locomotive Gauge ‘OO’ Scale 4 mm.” The following issues in 1926 have similar mentions of British OO articles.

And thus it began. When we return to this series we will look at the first American prototype “OO” (HO) models to be featured in articles in The Modelmaker, built by E. P. Alexander.

Continue to Part II.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More Early American OO Freight Trucks

I figured out within a few days actually the maker of the truck sideframes in this earlier article, so today I have two more mysteries that I think won’t be so easy to solve. They both came to me very recently in purchases of parts. Click on the photo for a larger view.

The trucks on the right look really early. Size wise they are similar to Nason but they are much rougher looking than I have ever seen. The bolster was with these parts in the lot they came in and seems to match. They look to me to be aluminum castings. My guess is either they actually are very early parts by a low production, early maker (possibly even Nason or maybe Page) or they are home made. In either case they could still be rebuilt to use on the layout and seem to have seen layout use back in the day.

On the left is most of a pair of sand cast bronze trucks of a leaf spring, arch bar design. It is a type most often seen on cabooses. I don’t know of an OO maker that produced such an item but here we are and these sure look like early OO parts with the detail level we associate with the typical sand cast bronze casting. Note also that the wheelsets in the truck when it got to me were not insulated; they were for three rail use.

Making use of my parts supply I was able to set the caboose trucks up for two rail use with a vintage caboose. The wheelsets I used I believe are Famoco. I also spent some time setting up a pair of Nason 4 wheel passenger trucks that came to me with un-insulated wheelsets at the same time; one now has Famoco wheelsets and the other Scale-Craft. Both took some effort, the setup involving finding usable wheelsets with an axle either the correct length or just a bit long so that the bolster could be shimmed out with washers. To use the S-C wheelsets I had to change the truck over to a fresh pair of insulated bolsters. To offer a bit of general advice you have to work out as much play as possible not only so the wheelsets don't fall out (!) but also so that if they have a metal bolster the trucks don’t short out in two rail use. Ultimately the trouble is worth it as I got some great vintage trucks working for cars I hope to run on the layout (they roll great) but still it renews my respect for the craftsmanship of early OO gaugers and it speaks also to the idea that it was easier to make trucks that worked in three rail back at that time.

Returning to the photo, looking at the parts they also remind me that as much as you can try to study old catalogs and such there are questions that very likely the answers to are lost to history, such as who actually produced these trucks. Some mysteries out there maybe won’t be solved.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Updating and Upgrading American OO Today

One thing that I had begun to feel myself is that American OO Today is getting so large that it is getting hard to find information, especially initial information. This past week I have upgraded elements on the right side menu and also have updated several articles.

The single article with the most updating is certainly my initial article on Lionel OO Gauge. As I note there, that article was among the first ten on the site back in 2008 and as a result was high in search rankings for Lionel OO--and as such desperately needed a major upgrade. It has now been upgraded into a more fully fleshed out "101" type article on Lionel OO which I would invite regular readers to check out again.

As to the side menus, I have added a list of suggested articles and also there is the interesting, generated list of articles that are the highest traffic articles in the site based on their Google Analytics stats for the past month. Some of these I have observed have for many months remained high traffic, mostly because they hit on search engines, but hopefully also they will be of interest to regular readers who may have missed them. I also added a menu of recently updated articles. These will focus on articles that have had text updates recently, as I making an effort to upgrade and update some older posts that readers may have missed.

Working through these updates it points out to me a number of models yet to be covered in the site as well, so do keep checking back as the site grows week by week, there is still a lot to cover!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

1934, A Tale of Two Bound Volumes, part 5: The End of a Good Year

1934 was a good year for the hobby of model railroading in general, and reflecting that trend The Modelmaker was back in print in November with a good focus on model railroading. They noted in their Foreword to this issue
It is very regrettable that our financial condition made necessary a temporary suspension of the publication of The Modelmaker. We are glad, however, to have been able to make arrangements to resume with this issue. The December issue is already in the hands of the printer….
On the following page they had an important announcement.
We have come to the conclusion that in view of the fact that 90% of our business is at present mail order it is not essential that we maintain a New York office. We are accordingly moving on December 1st to … Bay Shore, N.Y.
And also on this same page they plug the purchase of back issues by noting
“OO” gauge fans will find an extremely valuable series of 9 articles contained in Volume 8. This series entitled “OO” Railway Notes was prepared for us by Mr. F. D. Grimke, present chairman of The New York Society of Model Engineers, as a result of very extensive experimental work in this field of model railroading.
Rather vindicates the significance of his 1931-32 series, one they seem to have actually cut short.

Moving over to Model Railroader, the best advertisement of the year was this small one (enlarged here for better reading) from Nason Railways. They had already advertised a number of times but finally in this ad they actually lay out what they had for sale in American OO in 1934; the cast aluminum passenger cars, the cast aluminum buildings, and their important P-5a model. This was the first commercially successful OO locomotive (photo here) and to my mind is a must have for any serious OO collector today. [And see UPDATE]

This same ad ran in the December issue, where we also see a trade topics item on another early OO manufacturer, Raymond Willey. But overall there is a bit of a push for HO from this point forward in Model Railroader, with for example an article in this issue by Eric LaNal on “The Nature of HO Gauge.” In it he states,
HO is just coming into its own. The experimental years are over, and you have all the pioneers’ mistakes to profit by. You can get all the supplies you need, and build a most elaborate railroad for far less than the cost of a single ready-made O gauge scale locomotive.
As to The Model Craftsman, I would note in the December issue that Temple Nieter had advertising listing OO M.U. cars, wheels, trucks, pantographs, and rails. He managed to promote OO in all three magazines that year which speaks again to his enthusiasm for the scale although in terms of products for sale he would never be a major maker.

All in all it was, as already noted, a good year for American OO, particularly with several feature articles on the new scale and the arrival of a serious and stable OO manufacturer in the form of Nason.

UPDATE: I should have noted as well a prior article on Fixen, which was a supplier that sold Nason and also a line of figures. I have their price sheet from December of 1934; more on this here.

UPDATE: The 1934 series continues with this article on the early OO trucks by William O. Hillary.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

1934, A Tale of Two Bound Volumes, part 4: Bad Times for The Modelmaker, and a “00-Gauge” Refrigerator.

Economic times were down and a sign of those was that The Modelmaker temporarily suspended publication after their July/August issue, not to return until November. So for this installment we turn to The Model Railroader and also The Model Craftsman.

After the OO coverage earlier in 1934 in The Model Railroader things slowed down a bit. One item that caught my eye was in the September issue, on the New York Society of Model Engineers. They met every Tuesday evening in the Knickerbocker Building in New York City, and in addition to a large ¼” scale layout they also had an OO layout. This is the first mention of this layout and as things lead up to the big product releases of 1937/38 having this OO layout in this prominent location by 1934 can’t be overlooked as a reason why Lionel in particular went into OO instead of HO.

Turning to The Model Craftsman, I only own three issues from the year. In the October issue they had an interesting article by William D. Hillary on “An 00-Gauge Refrigerator Car.”

Before looking at the article itself, I need to digress a bit. The title of this 1934 article has OO as 00, zero-zero in other words. In The Modelmaker and The Model Railroader they were pretty consistent that it always be OO gauge as in letters instead of numbers. I personally obviously am pretty comfortable calling it OO in print and advocate that use today, but actually "a large train collecting organization" in the United States consistently calls it 00 in their publications when the topic comes up. I am really not looking to pick a fight but it is a topic that someone back in TCA history must have been pretty wound up about. 00 was/is used commonly in Europe but it goes against the grain of almost everything published on the scale in the United States during the period it was most popular. I suspect that it was probably mostly a visual thing for American readers that OO won out over 00. In any event, for me when I do see a reference to 00 it does stand out a bit.

Hillary in the article tells how to scratchbuild a refrigerator car. “The method to be described demands a certain amount of care with regard to accuracy, as this gauge is too small for much leeway in this matter.” After this full size scale drawing (above) he goes into the practical aspects of building the car from wood and Bristol board, building an underbody of wood, scribing the sides by hand, etc. The last sentence has me interested to see the next issue, which I don’t own, “The construction of the trucks will be taken up next month.”

UPDATE: I own it now! More here.

When we return to this series on 1934 it will be to finish up what was a good year for American OO.

Continue in 1934 series.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Two Old [Nason] Truck Sideframes

In part III of my series on 1934 I noted that I don’t own any equipment that I feel sure was produced before 1937. One of my most obvious candidates, a Nason P5A, is two rail so while it is a model dating to 1934 my specific model must be later production.

However, I have this pair of truck sideframes that when I was initially writing this now updated article I had been looking at for a few months. They were found in the OO SIG inventory. At first I had no idea the manufacturer, and they looked like they could easily be either a manufactured, very early item by a maker like Thuillgrim that had only sketchy details about parts like truck sideframes in their advertising or something made early on by a skilled modeler who needed trucks before there were easily available commercial options. At first impression to me they also looked like they were cast in a die that was fairly crisply made but was open faced on the back. Because of them looking so crisp I was not thinking they were Nason parts as their trucks were sand cast bronze and were rougher looking.

Shortly after first posting this article I realized that they were in fact two sideframes from probably early production of the Nason Vulcan type truck. What threw me off was that I had only seen this truck as bronze castings that were not nearly as crisp--these are very nicely cast in aluminum--and also that odd pin. Nason meant for you to drill and tap the sideframe and to use screws to assemble the car, and most were I believe drilled and tapped at the factory for said screws, but some modeler had drilled through the front to add what looks like a small nail and had capped it on the back with a brass piece. I am not sure how these pins were to actually work with a bolster, and looking at the sideframes they don’t look like they were ever assembled into a complete truck that saw layout use.

So that mystery is solved and these are very likely early production Nason parts. I have also since then now also noted a pair of their 4 wheel passenger trucks in aluminum as well so at some point they had production runs of trucks in aluminum instead of bronze. At some point I will try to build the sideframes featured in this post into working trucks.

For those interested in mysteries, my longest standing one is the die cast flat car in this article. That one I would love to solve and it also looks like an early manufactured item but I sure can’t tell.

UPDATE: See this article for more early trucks that won't be so easy to identify.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

1934, A Tale of Two Bound Volumes, part 3: Two Feature Articles on the OO Layout of Howard Winther and More

While O gauge was the dominant gauge at the time, smaller scales were picking up steam so to speak, and one very early American OO enthusiast was Howard Winther. Within just a few months time his layout was featured in The Model Railroader and in The Modelmaker; this layout will be the focus of this installment of the series on American OO in 1934.

First up was The Modelmaker in their May issue. They had previously had an article from Winther back in 1933 on making OO gauge trucks. This time the topic is bigger: “An ‘OO’ Gauge Railroad.” He began,
During eight years of model making, the writer developed a fairly large system in O gauge, using electric type locomotives with overhead current supply. The system was quite satisfactory, but was getting cramped for space as larger types of equipment were put on the line. Then on account of a change of residence, the line had to be dismantled, and the equipment stored. In the new quarters, very little space was available, so all work was dropped for a while. However, something had to be done in the long winter evenings, and soon an investigation was begun of the possibilities. Seeing a fine model of a Berkshire type engine in “OO” gauge at the 1931 show of the N. Y. S. M. E. in New York, exhibited by Thuillgrim Models it was realized that “OO” gauge was the answer to the problem.
The Berkshire model he mentions was discussed briefly in this prior article (photo here) and it certainly caught his attention. As his text continues he notes that he designed and completed this small 0-4-0 locomotive in 1931 (click on any of the scans in this article for a larger view). To this by 1933 he had added a 4-4-2 and ten freight cars, “when another change of residence made a larger layout space available.”

The new layout was 10’ x 10’ and the track plan is in this issue. It is sort of a twice around plan with 3’ 6” radius curves. He goes into some detail how the track was laid with 1/8” high section rail with rail soldered to brass ties that are spaced out about 4” apart with the space between those filled with wood ties. Curves and switches were made with the rails and brass ties set up in a jig. It seems initially he ran two rail but at this time was running with an outside third rail. As to the equipment,
I have spent most of my time building rolling stock and experimenting with different types of motive power. As you may realize, there has not been a great deal done in the line of steam outline locomotives for this gauge…. So far I have built 3 locomotives, each one having a different design of motor and transmission….
The three locomotives now in use are a 0-4-0 tank engine, used for switching service. An Atlantic of free lance design for express and refrigerator trains of 6 to 8 cars and a Pennsylvania M-1 Mountain type. This handles 12 cars easily up the 4% grade to the high level.
All the engines have Mantua motors, geared 20 to 1 and will operate smoothly from the merest crawl to 70 m.p.h. for the road engines.
Moving on the freight cars of which this one is shown in the article as an example, “At present there are 11 freight cars in use, mostly refrigerators.” This is a side topic but I find it interesting that there was apparently a lot of interest in refrigerator cars back in that day, perhaps based on some nostalgia for the then fairly recent days of billboard reefers.

Before leaving this issue of The Modelmaker also note that the article right after the Winther article featured this OO gauge 4-6-4 model built by Cyril Chapman. It was a NYC J-1D and just like the locomotives by Winther “The model is powered by a 10 volt Senior 3 pole Mantua Motor….” The importance of this affordable motor and the size of this motor can’t be emphasized too much in relation to the early development of models in 4mm American OO. Chapman could have used Thuillgrim parts or information from the Grimke series on OO in 1931 to build the model but this is not specified in the text. But what is specified in the first sentence gives a good idea why Nason and Lionel would both later manufacture similar OO gauge models: “The Hudson Type locomotive is the most popular locomotive in America today.”

One other quick note on The Modelmaker that summer, in the July issue there was an item on the showroom display that Nason had developed to promote their line in the New York City area.
Nason Railways have supplied a large display board showing their “OO” gauge car construction units. This organization is rapidly developing a very complete line of materials for the 4 mm scale fan.
Turning to The Model Railroader, they had an article in their June issue by James Dechert on “The Space-Saving Grace of HO Gauge." What is notable for us is that he was clearly viewing HO as 3.5 mm scale (modern HO) and he was admittedly “not well informed concerning the American OO.” He wrote, well into his article promoting HO that
There are two other useful gauges for indoor work, both considerably smaller than O and both called OO, one being American and the other British. The scale in each is identical (4 mm. to the foot), the difference lying in the gauge. The American one is ¾” between the rails, which is correct for the scale, while the British one is slightly narrower, being the same gauge as HO, namely 5/8”.
There is not much in it between the three. HO leads as a space saver, while in the availability of parts HO and the British OO are both well catered by several firms. I am not well informed concerning the American OO, but there are at least two men in this country devoting attention to it commercially.
Dechert should have felt a bit more informed when he read the July issue of The Model Railroader as again the early OO models of Howard Winther were featured. On the back cover of the July issue we find this set of three photos in the article “The Penn-Erie OO Gauge System.” While mirroring to an extent the content of the prior article in The Modelmaker we do learn a few more details and also see a couple of his latest models.
The OO gauge model railroad of Howard Winther, Altoona, Pa., is intended mainly for freight and express traffic, and equipment has been built accordingly.
At present the line owns 11 freight cars, mostly refrigerators, 3 express cars, and 3 electric drive, setam outline locomotives. Alternating current of 6 to 10 volts is used, with a two-rail distribution system….
The accompanying photos show some of the rolling stock, and a locomotive under construction. The Pennsylvania Railroad caboose, type N-5, is built up of tinplate, with belt rails of thin brass strip. The construction is all metal.
The gondola car, also following a Pennsylvania prototype, is likewise built of tinplate. The side posts are of bus bar wire, soldered on. The corrugated ends are strips of linoleum binding.
The locomotive is an Erie Berkshire, so he truly was modeling the PRR and the Erie. Of the three photos in this issue the one that fascinates me the most is the caboose. Here we are in 1934 and an OO enthusiast in Altoona, PA had scratchbuilt a nice model of what would become the most common OO model of all, a PRR N-5 caboose. I wonder if this model has made it to today [UPDATE: It has!], or at least a pair of his trucks with the screw visible on the outside? I don’t personally own any model that I feel certain I can date to being produced before 1937 but have a couple that might possibly be from that era. It is something to scope out further in any collection.

With the Winther articles concluded I will also conclude this long segment of this series. When we return to 1934 we will look at a refrigerator car.

Continue to Part 4