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

Friday, February 4, 2011

American OO in 1936, part III: A 2-8-4 and More

People all over the country were starting to get more involved with OO gauge in 1936. This is evident for example in a pair of very small photos published in the May, 1936 issue of The Model Craftsman, where a J. C. Miller of Venice, CA had built up “for the most part from Mr. Nason’s articles” a NYC Hudson and another locomotive, at least a dozen passenger cars, and at least nine box cars. The photos are too small to reproduce well here but show that the OO bug had made it out to California.

The more exciting photo for me is found in the June, 1936 issue of The Model Railroader, where we find this photo and caption. This model had been mentioned in the coverage of the 1936 NYSME show, which I looked at in the previous article in this series, where it was reported that “The Erie OO S-1 was the best steam locomotive in the little line.” Also, as has already been noted, this model still exists today and remains in the hands of his family.

Backing up, as I noted here Winther took a prize at the 1935 NYSME show for his OO gauge 0-4-0. With this 2-8-4 he was looking to do it again in 1936. The model is in wonderful shape today, especially considering that it is over 75 years old. I think the general model railroad public today does not think real model trains like this were even practical back in the mid 1930s. Toy train collectors that collect pre-war models are basically looking at toy trains that looked like toys, not finely scaled and crafted small scale models such as this one.

As to the photos of the model in this post, for space I had to keep them all small but click on any for a larger view. The side view is very interesting to compare to the photo in The Model Railroader. Next we have a close up of the front, where a couple round head screws are visible if you look closely. There is a nice sharp wedge view in the earlier article, and this present article closes with a pair of wedge shots from a bit different angle. The builders plate with the year 1933 is visible on close inspection.
The question is was this model a prize winner in 1936? The reason to ask is while there is a note with the model today that says it did win, The Model Craftsman had reported that the 1936 prize winning locomotive in OO at the NYSME show was a Hudson locomotive by Carl Groh. I am inclined to say that may actually be the case, perhaps the NYSME has records that might settle the question, but certainly the reporter for The Model Railroader thought this Erie Berkshire to be an impressive model with which I would heartily agree. In terms of today certainly Winther took the prize, as we are able to see online photos of it back to back that were published in a magazine in 1936 and also views of the model as it is today. UPDATE: It won the prize in 1937! Probably it was only on display, perhaps not complete, in 1936.

There are a couple more tidbits to glean from the June, 1936 issue as well to highlight before closing. First, OO pioneer manufacturer Oscar Andresen, mentioned a number of times now in this series, is reported to be president of the Boston Society of Model Engineers, also heading their OO group (Mr. Jager had the same position for HO in the group—he was an importer of the Reidmere mechanism). And to close there is a letter in the Railway Post Office column from Robert LeMassena, who wrote that positive review of the Winther 2-8-4 at the NYSME show. He notes as to products that
Personally the only thing I buy are wheels and rail, since I design and build all else for my OO gauge line, and I think that one gets a lot more fun out of model railroading in so doing. It’s tough on dealers, though.
They were a different breed of model railroader than often seen today, pioneers in a new gauge in a new hobby. When we return to this series it will be to look as some of the new products coming on the market.

Continue to Part IV

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