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

Saturday, April 30, 2011

1937, a Big Year for OO: Part II, Three “Firsts” by Mid-Year

With a market for American OO clearly established, by the middle of 1937 three new models of types not previously manufactured in OO were on the market.

First up was a tank car model by Limco, first mentioned in The Model Craftsman in February of 1937. This I model has already been featured in American OO Today with early advertising here and also an example of this very rare model may be seen here. It was the first tank car produced in OO.

The March issue of The Model Railroader has an interesting item included in the article by Robert LeMassena on the NYSME show. Besides noting that “The OO gauge Little Island RR. has been rejuvenated with new additions” he also has this item on a new manufacturer.
Continental Models of Brooklyn displays OO gauge equipment. One interesting locomotive to be seen there is a cross between a Reading and a Pennsy. Either kits or finished models are sold by the company.
My guess is this is the first mention of Star-Continental Models. Their first advertisement I have noted is in the April, 1937 issue of The Model Railroader where their new 4-4-2 was also reviewed. The review is quoted in this prior article, and it was advertised with this advertisement with a photo in the May issue. Click on the photo for a better view. As noted in my longer article on this model, the model is not quite a PRR E-6--it is actually a freelance version of PRR K-4/K-5 Pacific, but built as an Atlantic. This was the only model produced by Star-Continental and was by 1940 produced by Nason.

The final model I would like to feature in this installment was another first, a flat car. This model was first mentioned by Nason in this advertisement from the July 1937 issue of The Model Craftsman, with the photo that ends this article being scanned from their 1939 catalog.

This is the first flat car that was produced in OO. According to the 1939 catalog,
The sides are letterd for Chicago and Northwestern or Baltimore & Ohio and are complete with rivet detail. A bronze underframe is furnished to give the car weight. The stake pockets are stamped and formed brass and require no drilling as the holes for fastening to the car side are stamped in. Flat Dimetal end beams and ASSEMBLED trucks are provided. The kit also includes milled and wood floor, stamped brass brake wheel, formed steps and grab irons, all necessary wood and machine screws, and complete construction drawings.
Note the third rail in the foreground of the photo. The final note is I have never to this date seen one of these except for one that might have been this car that passed through eBay a couple years ago. It should be an easy model to spot and was produced for a while so there really should be some out there. If anyone has one and can supply a photo I would be happy to follow up further on this model.

When we return to this series a focus will be on the actual market share OO had in 1937.

Continue to Part III of 1937 Series

Sunday, April 24, 2011

1937, a Big Year for OO: Part I, the Nason 4-6-4 in Trade Topics and More

In late 1936 Nason introduced their NYC 4-6-4 kit in OO gauge. It would be highlighted in a brief item in "Trade Topics" in the January, 1937 issue of The Model Railroader.
New catalog of Nason Railways of Mount Vernon, N.Y., shows an OO gauge line including an NYC Hudson steam type loco, PRR P-5 electric loco, passenger and freight cars as well as miscellaneous car, locomotive and track parts. From a photo the Hudson looks like a first rate cast boiler job. Kit is $27.00. This is the first OO steam type loco since OO Gauge Model Co. went out of business, and OO gaugers are advised to find out about it.
I would very much like to see this catalog, which according to their advertising went through two printings in 1937. If any reader has a copy they could scan I would like to come back to that in another article. This Nason advertisement was the lone OO advertisement in the issue.

Reference is also made above to the OO Gauge Model Co.; for more on this company and their very early OO models, which were advertised in MR as late as early 1936 but clearly were now unavailable, see this article.

The Model Craftsman gave more overall coverage to OO in their January, 1937 issue. The series of construction articles by E. B. Hansbury, Jr. continued with an installment on building an OO gauge automobile car, an article that included nice scale drawings of the model in addition to the finished car. The photo is a bit dark but the car looks pretty sharp. The model according to the text is hand lettered and it looks to be on Nason trucks. 

Speaking of Nason again, their advertisement in MC, reproduced below, was much bigger than their ad in MR at the beginning of this article and featured a photo of the Hudson model; the ad was a repeat of one seen in the December, 1936 issue as well. On the whole Model Craftsman has more OO advertising, perhaps because it was more New York centric in their outlook and all the active makers were there. Thus in this January issue we also have advertising from OO manufacturer Limco and also Fixen and Hobby Craft Stores had ads which pushed Nason and Limco OO items.

The hidden gem in this issue is a letter to the editor from Harold Darr of Berwyn, PA. He sent this photo which they printed very small of his 4-8-4 which I will let him describe.
Since I have become a regular reader of the Model Craftsman, I have developed an interest in OO model railroads and I am building a layout in that gauge. I have noticed, however, that though you have printed many fine articles on rolling stock, nothing has been written about motive power for this gauge. 
 I am enclosing a photograph of an OO gauge Northern Pacific 4-8-4-type locomotive which I thought might be of interest. Would you care to have the plans for publication? This model was made without the use of castings for any part, not even the drive wheels. For all of its length this model will go through a three foot radius curve with ease—this being the minimum curve used on my layout. 
This model gives a fine speed with considerable pulling power and makes a fine locomotive for the first locomotive on a miniature railroad for the reason that it can be used appropriately with the fastest passenger express or the heaviest freight, as the prototype is a dual service locomotive similar to the Timken or Pocono types. 
Some interesting insights into the time. There were some builders out there working in OO and a growing market for these train models. When we return to 1937 the topic will be several other new models in American OO.

Continue to Part II of 1937 Series

Friday, April 22, 2011

Two Gondolas by Howard Winther

Continuing the series of photos of models built by OO pioneer Howard Winther we have two gondolas. Click on either photo for a closer view.

 First up is this one which I take to be the older car of the pair. This one is lettered, by hand, for the maintenance of way department of his Bergen and Essex Railroad. It is dated 1-38 and very likely was in fact built or completed in January of 1938. It looks to be made of wood but by modern standards the details are somewhat representational, noting specifically the rather wide panels in the sides and the upright brake wheel not typical of a steel car such as this. This one rides on his early style trucks as well that are not commercial products but rather trucks he scratch built. Note the lack of spring details.

 This second car, lettered with decals for the Lehigh Valley, looks to be more prototypically based and is a very handsome car. The proportions are better for sure in the layout of the sides and also note the very nice ends. As it is riding on a set of Schorr trucks, probably the best ever made in American OO, at a glance one could easily mistake it for a Schorr brass import except for the lack of rivet details and the layout of the side panels.

It will take me a little while to write it up but as I work on the upcoming "series" posts for 1937 and 38 I will be featuring several more models built by Howard Winther as they are specifically mentioned in the hobby press of the time, be watching for more.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Modifying Athearn Drives for American OO

Over spring break I made a quick trip to Denver to meet my brother and go to their big train show. My main purchases there were locomotives to either modify for OO or use for parts, plus a couple other random items. The first one to be parted out donated this drive.

Athearn has sold great HO locomotives for years and years. What you want are drives made in the same era as this one, which have plastic sideframes that can be snapped off and inside bearings. The wheelbase of a HO road diesel being the same as an OO diesel switcher is what makes this extremely useful to the modern OO gauger.

The modifications are pretty straightforward. Pop off the top gearbox cover to get the truck off the frame, and then pop off the bottom cover to get at the wheels. When there you could just move the wheelsets out to OO gauge (use the NMRA OO standards gauge!) but I used a wheel puller to also push in the axles (half axles) back in a ways so that they went in the center plastic part the same length as before, which should make the drive more solid in operation down the road (but not too far--or it will create a short, the two halve axles must not touch). When you put them back together you will have to add a shim between the wheel and the bearing. I used thick plastic to make a washer, easily visible in the photo.

These trucks are geared nicely, pick up from all wheels, and basically are bullet proof! They have served very well for several years now under my E-7 for example. I am stocked up for parts for these Athearn drives and they will be showing up on several models in the blog this coming year.

This drive specifically is going in a Nason gas-electric. I combined the Athearn parts with with parts from a dummy AHM Alco switcher frame, which is the source of the non-powered truck and the fuel tank. I knit the drive end together from parts from the AHM frame, the Athearn frame (both trucks are in their original mounts) and screws and wood and gap filling super glue. Every project like this is a puzzle to a point, but it came together in an enjoyable few hours, reward time after finishing the taxes. And it runs great with the vintage Pittman motor and eight wheel pick up. The only real challenge was I had to carve out a niche for the motor so that it would fit under the roof, which I also had to carve out a bit to clear the brushes. I still have details to work out on the underframe and the body needs decals but it should be finished in a few weeks, more when it is done.

Finally, speaking of the show where I purchased the Athearn drive truck used in this model, there was one seller with OO (Lionel) at the meet but that was all. Someday I have to get to York. Being way out west as I am it will be a few years though before I invest in that trip.

UPDATE: The finished gas-electric is here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Streamliner for the Orient

A project underway since last summer has been a streamline passenger train which is finally essentially complete.

Most of the cars in it are Zuhr but starting at the front in this first photo we have a Scale-Craft heavyweight baggage. This one has been upgraded with Kemtron trucks, excellent lost wax brass castings, and they suit a car such as this presumably upgraded for use on a streamlined train set (more on Kemtron trucks here). Behind it is an RPO. This car and all the rest of the cars in the train are Zuhr; a photo of this car before rebuilding and also more information on Zuhr OO equipment may be found here. I had to work out doors myself which is why the porthole windows. The cool baggage door is actually the cab side of an old AHM RS-2 that I had in the scrap box. Don’t waste anything!

Moving on, next we have two more 60’ cars. Both have been modified with the bottom side skirts removed and they like the RPO above are on Schorr trucks. In the back we have a 60’ coach and in the front an oddity. As it is actually a Zhur observation with the observation end cut off. These two cars both have partial interiors thanks to a prior owner and all four of these cars look great on the layout.

The last two cars also work fine on the layout but with my somewhat sharp curves they don’t look quite as good as they are full 80' cars. In the front is a diner with an interior which has also been modified with the side skirts removed and in the back a pretty much stock version of what Zuhr called a combination Pullman. This as noted in the earlier article came to me from eBay mounted on what were actually the stock trucks shipped with these cars, which were modified Varney HO F-3 trucks (see this article for a photo). I think some of these passed through eBay recently but the buyer might have thought them to be trucks usable on an OO diesel. They may have passed for passenger trucks back in the day but for me with my modern eyes those really looked odd on the car and the Schorr trucks I was able to add are a great upgrade. (More on Schorr passenger trucks here).

It took quite a while to decide on a paint scheme but I was really interested that they be silver and the red stripe ties them in with the locomotives and enhances the very plain sides of the Zuhr cars. The width was defined mainly by the way the stripe would work on the baggage car, which you can do if you are freelancing. And to Bob O. who suggested the Tamiya masking tape thank you! I had been very phobic about stripes. It was not that hard to do.

You would think since they are lettered for the Orient that this train would be the “Orient express.” And I suppose the fictional locals who might have rode this fictional train might have called it that, but my official fictional name (the KCM&O was real but my version into this era is fictional) for this train is The Plainsmen, in honor of the old, long defunct drum and bugle corps in my home town of Empoira, KS. (But maybe The Plainsman would be better grammatically for a train?).

I hope this set of cars will see many miles of use, and I have certainly enjoyed finally running it these few weeks.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dummy GP-7 and RS-2 Models for the OO Orient

The newest engines out of the shop are these two brass dummy diesels. They have both been a while coming and long wanted.

In the front we have a Schorr RS-2, described a bit more in this article. In short it was an imported brass model made in Japan and came to me in sad shape. The drive that was in it was one actually meant for a Kemtron GP-7, and that drive is at present in the locomotive in the lead in the second photo.

The engine in the back is a Kemtron GP-7 (more here). This brass model was marketed as a kit and came to me from eBay with no trucks. I have some Schorr F-3 truck parts I could have used but they seem too rough/heavy (in part because they are sand cast) to suit the detail level of the model. I eventually hit upon modifying two unpowered trucks from Tyco GP-20 models with OO sized wheelsets added. This truck has the correct wheelbase and the sideframes look great in OO but much too big in HO. They are not as free rolling as the Schorr dummy trucks on the RS-2 (which came to me mounted on a passenger car [!] and are slightly modified) but still I am pleased with the visual result. Click on the photo for a closer view of both models.

I stripped and painted both models, and I added custom decals for the Orient, my road. For more about my version of the Orient see this article.

The exciting thing for me though has been to run a trio of brass diesels around the layout. One element of setting up the engines to operate was a bit of a challenge but sorted itself out, that of mounting Kadee couplers. The GP-7s both required overset shank type couplers to try to get the coupler height down to close to standards. They ended up the same height but a bit too high. So what I did was intentionally mount the short hood side coupler on the RS-2 too high (to match the Geeps) and at the correct height on the long hood end. As a result it will be the trailing unit for many a train on the layout. I also have a couple of cars with the same general setup to give operations a bit more flexibility, in particular more modern ones of the era when RS-2s were being retired. I hope to feature these models in operation in another video in a month or so.

UPDATE 2014: I reworked the truck mounting on the RS-2 and also located a set of Kemtron trucks for the GP-7, which rolls much better now! And I tweaked the coupler height issue as well. Great models.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Two “Butter dish” Milk Cars

Back about a year ago I featured a vintage butter dish milk car that had originated from the layout of David Sacks. Today we feature another OO gauge version, this one from Bill Gilbert and currently owned by John Svensson. It is decorated for Bordens and is in their later red paint scheme, nicely built up and detailed. Click on the photo for a larger view.

The white one with the end fin is a TT scale version of the same car, built by John Svensson and it provides a good comparison of the two scales. For more a bit more of a comparison of OO and TT see this article.

This photo also gives another view of his layout and his hand laid track. He notes that “I only have a small section with any scenery installed at this point, note the lack of ballast!” John has a number of projects underway including building up one of the Worsley Works OO gauge SW-7 models. A photo of that model may be found in the March, 2011 issue of The OO Road and as it is completed we hope to feature it here as well.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

On American OO in the Internet Age

One of the features I enjoy in this website is the gadget over in the right column that features the ten most popular posts this week. It is driven by the Google Analytics results of which pages in the last seven days have been most viewed. I like watching it to see what comes up as it is partially a result of links from recent articles and partially a result of searches done by site visitors. It gives a sense of what articles have generated content related to things people are actually looking for. Some come up for random reasons related to searches unrelated to American OO but the main Lionel OO article has never dropped out of the top ten and for sure that article is a first destination for people just getting into Lionel OO.

A few days ago an article from 2008 on JC Models came up in the search rankings for the first time. Why? I suspect because a number of JC OO gauge kits have come up on eBay recently.

This ties in actually with the editorial in the most recent (March, 2011) issue of The OO Road, the newsletter of the American OO SIG of the NMRA. The question there being in this Internet age what is the function of a traditional newsletter? For sure part of the modern newsletter audience is that percentage of people who are not able to access the Internet easily. But on the other hand, most of the OO SIG members actually do have Internet access and they use it to search sites like this for articles and information that would largely be lost in back issues and inaccessible to people who did not own them in hard copy. And I try to add new content at least every week, so there is a reason to keep coming back.

I have a number of published articles in my field but also have in my field a large presence online. With American OO being a long-time interest of mine I set up this site three years ago in April of 2008, and with OO being such and outlier to modern model railroading and modern train collecting this was for sure the right thing to do as the number of people with an interest in OO is I think going up—at least site traffic is thanks to Google and more seems to be showing up on eBay. This is part of why I set up this site; with the basic skills down it is not that hard to put up a site like this, you only need to generate the content, and I had a good start on that content as I had previously worked out in a book draft and two articles (the latter written with the late Ed Morlok, published in the October, 1986 and April, 1987 issues of The Train Collectors Quarterly).

In terms of new content I have a lot of ideas for the site, and the support of readers with photos and ideas has been extremely helpful also. All that I need is time, which sometimes is in short supply.

I do like print publications though, that you can hold in your hands. In working through OO history nothing helps more than old magazines and catalogs. I have a series started looking at OO history though the years and I look forward to when I get into the time frame that The OO Road was launched by Ed Morlok, there is a lot of interesting information in those back issues of the SIG newsletter to highlight. It will take a few years to get there though.

For sure there is still room for a traditional newsletter like The OO Road but it is a changing time—print publications are rapidly becoming less relevant, especially so in such a small niche market as American OO. When I launched the site there was very little online about American OO. But today if you are a train collector and stumble across some OO gauge JC kits for sale you can search and find information on this website. It is a new world.

If you are a regular reader I would still recommend that you join the OO SIG (information here) and support that publication with new content. And also consider setting up a site of your own or perhaps a message board. There are many ways to spread the word out there; it is up to all of us to do what we can.