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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Nason Pullman

The other of the four recently rebuilt Nason passenger cars to get through the shops is this Pullman. It also ties in with the most recent article in the 1936 series, as there is a photo of a Nason Pullman to be found there as well.

This car is the stamped brass side version of the car. In the rebuilding I changed very little from the way it was originally built, so it has a great vintage feel to it. It is on a set of Nason trucks with new, modern wheelsets. Click on the photo for a bigger view.

I was able to pull together decals from a vintage set. The name of the Pullman is “Golden Horn,” pulled from the available decals but also very suited to the layout of a French horn professor. The car works well on the layout and looks a lot better than before rebuilding (photo here). But overall this car will see less mileage on the layout than the 60’ cars on the roster, they really look better on my 28” radius curves.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

American OO in 1936, part IV: The 1936 Nason Catalog

Back more than two years ago I was given a scan of a copy of the Nason 1936 catalog. I have converted this to a full PDF version that has been posted to the files area of the OO Yahoo group, and it is also the topic of this installment of the 1936 series.

The cover is printed with their address being in New Rochelle, N.Y., but in my copy it has been over stamped with their Mount Vernon, New York mailing address. Imagine you got a copy of this in the mail back in 1936 of a full line of products in American OO. It is a small but impressive line in a new scale in a new hobby. The Forword reads,
You have undoubtedly stood on a station platform at night, after the Limited’s markers have become a mere speck in the darkness, and sensed a thrill. In the construction of a model railroad system, we visualize in each part of the labor the thrill that will come at the disappearance of our own Limited as it passes through a gorge or into a tunnel bound for its destination. This reaction is undoubtedly the same that has caused the popularity of this hobby to grow in rapid strides for old and young alike, both in this country and abroad. The thrill of your completed models will repay you a thousand fold for the many pleasant hours you have spent in their construction.

It is our desire to constantly offer you new and better model equipment, and to continually improve existing models. To aid us in carrying out this objective we welcome constructive criticism and suggestions.

If in the construction of any model or in the layout of your system you are confronted with a problem, we sincerely hope that you will at all times feel free to call on us for any assistance which we may be able to offer.
With that we get to the models in the line. First up is the P-5A, illustrated in the photo above.
The P-5A model locomotive (Pennsylvania Railroad) is an accurately detailed representation of its prototype. On actual test it has pulled 20 pounds without overheating. It is ruggedly constructed of bronze castings and is a twin motored job. It is approximately 9 ½ inches long and is an excellent unit with which to start your systems motive power.
The model sold as a finished locomotive for $59.50, as an unmachined kit for $22.00, and as a machined kit for $24.00. Sign me up for a machined kit!

Next up is a section titled “Steam Outline Parts.” What were advertised were drive wheels, tender trucks, smoke box front, etc. for a “Hudson type” locomotive. Their 4-6-4 model would not hit the market until later in 1936, but they could get you started with some useful parts by the date of this catalog.

Their standard motor was the “NASON Super Power” motor with 2” shafts. It was advertised as operating at 10 volts AC or DC. It sold for $4.00 and would have been operated with the hand reverse unit that sold for another $1.25 complete.

Next up were the passenger cars. The main listing was for the “EASY-BUILT” cars (Pullman, diner, combination, or coach) with “Bristol or die stamped and formed brass sides.” I have only seen the brass side versions of these cars; I would assume that the Bristol board type would only be very early production. Also available were the rarer cast aluminum passenger cars (Pullman, combination, coach, or all service express). Of these, they note that “These kits are the same as the EASY-BUILT type except that the car sides and floor are cast aluminum.” This photo is provided but it is difficult to say if it is the stamped side or cast version of the Pullman. This may have been intentional.

On the facing page we have their passenger trucks in a sharp photo. The four wheel trucks are PRR or Commonwealth types with bronze sideframes. Price ranged from kits for the 4-wheel trucks at $1.15 to an assembled 6 wheel truck at $2.75. Of the kit for the 6 wheel truck they note “The detailed drawing furnished with these kits make the assembly an easy matter.” However, having seen my share of sideframes that were never built up into trucks, the sideframes in the kit versions of these have no holes drilled or tapped in the bronze which would have been a very difficult job without some serious tools. Click on the photo for a closer view.

Finally we get to freight cars, their EASY-BUILT box and refrigerator cars. These were a great bargain at only $1.00. They wrote,
The sides and ends of these cars are PAINTED, SCORED and LETTERED with HEARLDS. RIVET HEADS are provided in the side and end panels of all steel box and automobile cars. The sides and end panels of the refrigerator cars are SCRIBED to represent the sheathing thus overcoming a difficult job for the model builder. The provision of the lettering and heralds on the finished car sides and ends eliminates one of the hardest jobs that the average model maker encounters….
Nason also offered hardware kits to complete these cars at a price of $2.00. These included either cast aluminum reefer hatches or boxcar doors, a cast aluminum underframe, grab irons and ladders, and assembled trucks. These items could also be purchased for separate sale.

My scanned copy of the catalog only shows seven pages but I believe there is or should be a final page. Reference is made in the listing for the freight cars of a “CAR LIST” to see the kits available.

Another thing to be read into the catalog is there is no mention of anything being available in two rail. It is clearly assumed that you will be operating OO with an outside third rail, visible in several of the photos above. That changed with the introduction of the Scale-Craft and Lionel OO lines.

The big picture though is in 1936 OO had a manufacturer that was happy to help anyone getting in the gauge. They were being joined by others, who will be the focus of the next article in this series.

Continue to Part V of 1936 Series

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Scratchbuilt American OO RS-3

In the previous post we looked briefly at a pair of Schorr RS-2 models. These were early brass imports made in Japan. However, not every OO gauge Alco RS type model is a Schorr import. One was featured on the cover of Railroad Model Craftsman in May of 1979 that had been scratchbuilt by Ed Costello, and also this model below was scratchbuilt by Howard Winther. Click on any photo for a larger view.

Comparing them, the first thing to note is this Winther model is of an RS-3 (manufactured 1950-56), as it has the battery boxes on the running boards next to the short hood. The Schorr RS-2 models have an overlay applied on the sides of the short and long hoods that has the door details stamped or etched into the surface. The Winther model lacks these and also has a different type of more accurate looking handrail post. Many details are different, including being equipped with a steam generator and the stack being in a different location. Note also the drive in the bottom view with the low mounted motor; this should be scratchbuilt as well.

When I look at these photos I certainly think to myself I could never ever build this model. I think most modern model railroaders would never even think of scratchbuilding such a complicated model with all those curves and details to manage when there are so many commercial options in pretty much any scale. It looks extremely well proportioned and is in great shape. Thank you again to the Winther family for sharing these photos of this great vintage model.

To close it is worth looking in comparison also to the Costello model that was on the RMC cover, visible in this prior article. I am fairly sure that model should also still be out there today and in that photo you can see the handrails again are of a different type and his side panels are not built up with overlays but rather are of one piece of metal. Not to mention the stack is in a different location, the top of the radiator on the long hood has more detail, etc. Some of the guys who stuck it out in OO into the diesel era were certainly capable builders, as these models attest clearly.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Restoring an Early Brass Import in OO—A Schorr RS-2

One of many ongoing projects is the restoration of this Schorr RS-2 to operation. This model came to me with a heavy and damaged paint job and the drive for a Kemtron GP-7 installed. That drive was moved to this model last year. Then the idea was to move the drive from an Athearn HO FM Trainmaster to this model, to approximate an Alco RSC-2, but that would have required more modification than I wanted to do because of modifications the builder had made to the RS-2 (and I decided to try to modify the FM for OO also).

Basically what had been done was the builder had put some extra weight in the long hood end, a LOT of weight in the short hood end, and also extra weight in the top of the cab by melting some low temperature alloy in place. It was really way too much and the cab weight was actually visible through the upper windows. The only way to get it out was with a torch and very carefully! This photo shows that model “after” the melt out but before the reassembly this weekend. I decided to leave the weight in the long hood end and will balance it with additional weight on the short hood end.

As is visible in the photo the short hood and cab needed a bit of touch up soldering, needing in particular the two side overlays reinstalled and the end. My torch is really a bit too big for the job (I usually use it for repairing brass instruments) and my iron is too small (big enough for electrical work) but with care and clamps and wire I was able to get it all tacked back together with solder, which I then reinforced with super glue. I also worked in a similar fashion on the frame, getting it all as close as possible to the original model. The next step is clean-up and painting. This unit will be built back up initially as a dummy unit as I have a pair of the original dummy trucks for this model ready to go. Potentially it will be rolling on the layout in a few weeks.

The model with it, at the top of the photo, is a recent eBay purchase of a mint version of the same model. This one I will hold for now but I would love to get it running with a good drive as well at some future point.

For those readers not familiar with Schorr, Fred Schorr imported a series of great OO models from Japan in the post war period. Run sizes varied; the RS-2 seems to be relatively common but certainly still desirable not only for OO gaugers but also for general collectors of early brass models. An overview and links to photos of other models from the Schorr line may be found here.

UPDATE: The finished model may be seen here.

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