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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

American OO in 1936, part I: The Battle of the Gauges and notes on the Reidmere Mechanism

In the January, 1936 issue of The Model Railroader we find a letter to the editor from Spanner in Boston under the heading “Still Going – HO versus OO Gauge.” Spanner directs his comments toward Howard Winther. The Winther OO layout was featured in the July, 1934 issue and Winther had replied to a letter from Spanner in the November, 1935 issue, quoted in this article. Spanner had a reply for Winther and began
I was very interested to hear that Howard Winther builds his OO cars of wood and cardboard (November issue Railway Postoffice), but he must admit it is only recently that the OO trade have started putting out car kits in these materials. I really believe that OO will benefit materially by this, even if it means one up for HO.
That you could make cars from wood and cardboard was perceived to be an advantage of HO in those early years. Looking in the November, 1934 Railway Postoffice column in MR for example we see a letter from HO enthusiast James Dechert who notes under the heading “HO Not a Jewelers’ Gauge” that one of the advantages of HO was
…the entire practicability of constructing rolling-stock from the easily handled materials of wood and cardboard, instead of metal. Cars made from these are wonderfully strong and no one who has ever seen a finished one in all its war-paint would ever guess from what it was made, or how easy to build it really is, or how inexpensive. A set of equalized truck parts with wheels for $1.25, ply-wood floor, balsa roof, artist’s cardboard and stripwood body suitably scribed, a little wire for couplings, ladder-rungs, brake-shaft, etc, a little paint, some very pleasurable labor, and there you are – a very realistic and usable freight car at a cost of around $1.50.
…the construction methods possible in HO and OO should prove a boon if they will only adopt them….
In any event Spanner continues in his January 1936 letter that
As for locomotives, Mr. Winther must be congratulated for the performance of his but does one have to have 12 years’ experience to attain these results? I never yet have seen a OO locomotive that had the hauling qualities it should have in comparison to an HO one. Neither are they as flexible in operation. Even my worm driven engine starts up without the slightest jerk and as for the reduction geared jobs, once under way the controller has to be brought back a notch or two, for reduced speed, proving their wide range in hauling capacity.
In conclusion I would say that I certainly would like to see a OO American locomotive fitted with a Super Reidmere mechanism and compare it with one fitted with the usual OO motor. I’ll bet the results would be surprising.
The Reidmere drive he refers to was made by the English firm of Stewart-Reidpath. I got curious about this as S. R. Jagger of Boston also advertised in this same issue of Model Railroader a finished 0-6-0 locomotive for “HO or British OO” fitted with a Reidmere mechanism. A few details about Stewart-Reidpath may be found in this article, but thanks to reader Andy E. I have even more on the Reidmere drive from a period publication.

The source is a British publication, Indoor Model Railways by E. W. Twining, published in 1937. Chapter five is a review of motors and mechanisms and the first one reviewed is the Reidmere. Of it Twining wrote
The REIDMERE mechanism, by Messrs. Steward-Reidpath, Ltd., of Herne Bay, Kent, is shown in the photographs Fig. 30 and in the scale drawing Fig. 31. As will be seen the motor is of the permanent-magnet-field type ….
The armature revolves at high speed, of course, and a reduction gear between the armature spindle and the driving axle of the engine is necessary as it is in all electrically driven models. In the Reidmere unit this reduction is obtained by a train of spur-gearing, the toothed wheels being indicated by dotted lines in Fig. 31.
…The gauge of the track on which these mechanisms are intended to run is 16 ½ mm. to 1 ft., i.e., H0. It can, of course, be used in 00 scale by lengthening the axles for 19 mm gauge.
It is very interesting to me to see he saw HO as running on 16.5 mm gauge and OO as 19 mm gauge back in 1937 in England, and also it is notable that this mechanism could also be used in OO. It was a mechanism that was available in the USA in that time frame and is something to keep your eyes open for among more likely vintage HO models than OO but it could have been used in OO. Andy E. noted in to me that he has “several of these and they work very well, at least once you have recharged the permanent magnet. Like most pre-war motors using soft iron magnets, these lose their power.”

Moving on, also in this issue we see an ad from The Modelmaker Corp pushing their volume 7 for the “Series on OO Gauge.” They note that “Small gauge model railroaders, either HO or OO, will want this book.” I describe this series here; Grimke was ahead of the curve to be sure.


As to other products, in this issue we also find advertising for Rockhaven Models and from the “OO” Gauge Model Co. This latter firm certainly produced a few of their PRR A-5 0-4-0 switchers but the ad pushes two other models that from the advertisement would seem that they must have been made but none seem to be out there today. (Have one? Be in touch.)

When we return to the 1936 series we will hear again from Oscar Andresen and Howard Winther.

Continue to Part II of 1936 Series

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