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

Thursday, May 26, 2011

1937, a Big Year for OO: Part V, Nason Strikes Back!

Nason Railways had been a steady advertiser of their OO line for years by now, but in late 1937 they reached for a new level. For in the November, 1937 issue of Model Craftsman Nason bought the back cover and also had a new model to unveil.

Then as now the back cover is prime advertising space. Nason must have been aware of the Scale-Craft OO line launch and they ramped things up to keep pace. The new model is their 2-8-0, “The Freight ‘Hog’ Thousands Have Asked For.” Thousands! More details on this model may be found here, but the initial advertising copy on this “MASTERPIECE IN DETAIL” from 1937 is interesting in and of itself.
We present here and unretouched photograph of an unpainted Reading Consolidation. This model is built from rough castings (just as they are delivered to you) in order that you may see the clean moulding work and the exceptionally fine details we have put into this new kit. This also proves how accurately this model is designed. Castings are clean and true. All machining and drilling are done by modern precision methods that guarantee accuracy.

EAZY-BILT BUT INTERESTING

Here is a kit that will please you better than any you have ever tackled. It is easy to build because it has been engineered right—the headaches have been taken out and the interesting work left for you. We stake our four years’ reputation for building the finest OO models, that you will declare this the most perfect construction kit you’ve ever owned.
Wow. Down in the specifications we read that it uses the Nason Super motor which operated on either AC or DC and cost $29.95. It was a three rail model, there is no option for two rail as initially offered (but it would be an option later). Finally we read, “Large quantity in stock for immediate shipment…. Get yours NOW!”

They followed this up in December of 1937 with a second back cover in Model Craftsman, this one featuring their flat car but actually the full line appears to be listed on the back cover. Click on it for a closer view.

Looking at the bigger picture, Nason could have been miffed a bit at Scale-Craft for their new line being two rail with DC operation, because as shipped in 1937 all Nason products were incompatible with Scale-Craft products. Nason was firmly in the outside third rail camp and their AC/DC motors were more easily run in AC.

Then again, Nason shouldn’t have been too upset as at least there were no duplicate items between their lines and they could certainly sell OO to people that were drawn in to OO by the new Scale-Craft line. S-C was setting a new standard. But S-C cars would operate on a layout built for three rail operation and it would not be difficult to set up an S-C locomotive to run from outside third rail either, as modelers of the time would have figured out.

The bottom line though is that Nason was now not alone in a market they had to this point dominated. And New York City was now not the center of all things OO.

By the end of 1937 Lionel for sure knew about OO. They had seen all the models that were now on the market. They had held them in their hands and had seen them in stores and at shows and in the hobby press and very likely owned samples. Much was to come in 1938 from Lionel and others, a year we will look at next in this series.

UPDATE: See this article for an overview of the two different versions of the Nason catalog that were produced in 1937.

Return to the beginning of the 1937 series.
Continue to 1938 series.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Two Upgraded Scale-Craft Ten Wheelers

These photos I have been saving for a few months until after the 1937 series hit Scale-Craft. For here we have two very interesting, upgraded examples of their classic 4-6-0, a die cast model introduced in 1937.

The model as produced has several quirks that relate ultimately to choices made by Scale-Craft in those early years of die cast models. First we turn to the boiler front or more properly the area on the side of the smoke box leading down to the cylinders. What Scale-Craft did was fill the area with a slanted area. This choice makes the area look a bit odd. In their advertising Scale-Craft built the models in such a way as to not point out the problem but if you were to opt for a silver smoke box then it would be really obvious.

So what OO pioneer Howard Winther did was cut the area out. Click on any of the photos for a closer view. It could not have been easy to do back in those days long before Dremel tools. He did this on both locomotives. The first one, lettered for his road, I would take to be his first attempt at correcting this, and I will come back to the one at the end of this article shortly.

Notice also the firebox under the cab. This is his own extension; that area was blank—very blank—on the stock version.

Next turn your attention to the tender. If you look at a stock tender (such as here) you will see that it is short. Really short, a little odd looking really. I have long thought about taking two tenders and splicing them for height but that would be a lot of work to cut and grind and fit the castings together. Instead, Winther opted to add a piece about 1/8” thick under the body casting of the tender. You did not notice it until I pointed it out, right? I have another tender this has been done to (prior to my owning it) and that tender is now behind a S-C 4-4-2 model that I have in progress. This is a very good upgrade to this tender.

Finally, on this second model he has gone a step further and filled in under the smoke box so that the boiler is actually round. On the first model, Bergen & Essex 25, he left a hole there that is not very visible but there. Again, not easy work and done very nicely. These are a couple of the best examples of this model out there.

Both engines have the later style S-C motor but appear to have their earlier production brass drivers. And there are more detail changes that could be mentioned such as moving the bell to a new location. Certainly Howard Winther took these stock model engines and made them into models that stand apart.

Thanks again to the Winther family for sharing these great photos. I have more from them and will be coming back to them every couple weeks.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

American OO Today, Episode 3: Diesels

UPDATE: This video as will be quickly seen has gone corrupt, the video size ratio is wrong (elongated). It may still be viewed here, but I have hidden it from YouTube (end of update).

A third installment of American OO Today is up on YouTube, this time with the focus being diesels. As I note there, five different diesels are featured in this video, manufactured in the early 1950s by Davis, Kemtron, and Schorr, plus a more recent AHM HO conversion, with a variety of cars.



These links lead to more information on the featured models:

AHM SW-1 http://americanoo.blogspot.com/2008/05/two-diesel-switcher-conversions.html

Davis E-7 http://americanoo.blogspot.com/2008/06/davis-e-7s-and-more.html

Kemtron GP-7 http://americanoo.blogspot.com/2009/07/kemtron-gp-7.html

Schorr RS-2 http://americanoo.blogspot.com/2011/02/restoring-early-brass-import-in-ooa.html

Sunday, May 15, 2011

1937, a Big Year for OO: Part IV, the New Scale-Craft OO Line

Fans of American OO, you knew it was coming--the Scale-Craft OO line, produced by Scale-Models Inc. of Chicago. It was first introduced with this breathless advertisement in the November, 1937 issue of The Model Railroader. The same full page spread ran in The Model Craftsman in their December issue, prominently placed on page 1 of the issue. A lot of people would notice this advertisement, and the new line must have been known for a while by industry insiders. Click on the image for a closer view and take in the excitement!

There is a lot to glean from this spread, especially if you think over the context that has been set up here in this now long series of articles on OO by the years. Among them,
  • These are among the very first OO gauge products made in Chicago, the only predecessor manufacturers being Red Adams and Raymond Willey who were active around 1934-36 but seem to have sold very little product. Adams later reported that he sold out his toolings and designs to Scale-Craft in 1936, which would be the roots of parts of their OO line.
  • The only products really pushed in the advertisement are OO gauge “sets.” By this they mean either their passenger or their freight sets which included the 4-6-0 locomotive and two passenger cars or the 4-6-0 locomotive and the four freight cars plus a circle of track and four straight sections.
  • Nothing like this had ever been marketed in OO and so far as I can tell nothing like this had ever been marketed in scale model trains! Scale model train sets! With sectional track! This was absolutely the cutting edge.
  • These models “run on a perfected 2-rail system, with a 7 pole armature permanent magnet motor.” To this point no OO maker had offered 2 rail models (Nason was all three rail to this point) and DC operation with permanent magnet motors was an innovation in the OO world (but already used in HO). I will have a little more on how these new models ran at the end of this article.
  • The wheels on the freight cars are clearly shiny brass. I have long wondered if initial Scale-Craft production used the Bakelite wheelsets seen on some cars. I still think those Bakelite wheelsets are early but at least the first prototype models in the photos did have brass wheels so it is a mystery to stay on top of.
  • You need the catalog to learn more! Only 15 cents!
Model Craftsman in that December issue devoted more than a half page to the new Scale-Craft OO line in their “Good News” section with the photos seen here as well.
A new entry in the field of small-scale model railroading is announced with the news that Scale Models, Inc., prominent manufactures of 0 gauge equipment, are bringing out a line in 00 gauge. Among the novel features of the new models is the inclusion of complete train sets in both kit and finished form. This is the first time such outfits have ever been offered in the scale-model field. Track is assembled in sections that join together easily, making a portable layout easy to build.

Motive power is taken care of by a husky ten-wheeler of modern design. Shown in one of the pictures in this page, it is powered by a new motor of the permanent-magnet type. Its wheel arrangement makes it suitable for either passenger or freight hauling. All principal parts are clean die castings, and the assembly kits consist of finished units, ready to assemble, as shown in the photograph below. The cast underframe is drilled and machined, and driving wheels come already installed, insulated, and quartered.

No third rails are used, all units being designed on two-rail principle, with track, wheels, and trucks insulated. This gives exceptional realism.

The car kits are pressure die castings, beautifully detailed, and requiring a minimum of effort to assemble. All drilling has been done at the factory, and no soldering is necessary. Passenger cars are made with rounded roofs like air-conditioned prototypes.
Pretty modern!!! The Nason line was made in the manner of the O gauge models of the time but Scale-Craft was on the cutting edge of the newest technology.

I don’t have the complete 1937 catalog, just a Xerox of the full section on the OO gauge line and the introductory pages to the catalog. As you might guess they were pretty excited about the line there as well. They emphasized how the costs were much lower than O gauge, noting especially that “our Scale-Craft Construction Kit for a complete ‘OO’ Gauge Train, including built-up track, can be had for roughly the same price as the construction kit for an ‘O’ Gauge locomotive alone.”

One curiosity I would note is the side view of the locomotive, seen here (in a scan of a Xerox), clearly shows that there were rail wipers (“collectors”) installed under the cab. They may not have needed to pick up power from the tender at all.

Back to prices, the passenger and freight train kits listed at $48.50 and the assembled trains sold for $68. A kit for the locomotive would set you back $32.75 (finished for $45.00) and the cars ranged from the completed passenger cars at $6.75 down to the kits for the freight cars at $3.75 each. Not that cheap but the price point they felt they needed to hit. Decals, track, and various parts are listed for separate sale as well. They hit the ground running with a very complete line, with a note in all caps that switches would be ready approximately January 1, 1938.

One other brief note from the December issue of MR would be that Scale-Craft had an operating OO display  layout at a show in Los Angeles. They were putting in the new scale nation wide.

To close, I was able to buy one of the early Scale-Craft DC/permag motors with transmission mint in box on eBay a few years ago (box makred “1121 MOTOR MAY 1 1940”). I had been fiddling with an S-C 4-4-2 model for several years that I wanted to mount that motor in and just yesterday got it together and running. Oh my! It runs VERY well. While it is a 24 volt DC motor it runs fast enough at 12 volts for my layout and is smooth and quiet. The engine easily pulls the four car passenger trains I would run with it. It was easy to wire up and ran smoothly from the very first time I set it on the rails. When it is done I will have more on this model and will be sure that it gets in a video later as well. [UPDATE: The video is here.] I am very happy with the operation. Buyers who saw the new line demonstrated back in 1937 should have also been as well; the assembled models must have been eye popping for the day in look (being die cast with operating doors, etc.) and operation. And the competition knew they better seriously step it up.

It would take Lionel about a year to tool up and catch up with the innovations pioneered by Scale-Craft. When we return to conclude our look at 1937 we will see that Nason was up for the competition and positioned to develop their OO line further.

Continue in 1937 Series

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Retro-Modeling in American OO

A reader of American OO Today, Brian Olson, wrote in with a note that he had seen in a recent issue of Garden Railways a term used, “retro-modeling,” and that it fit in exactly with what we are doing in OO. Looking over in their website (you have to be logged into Trains.com to read it) I found an article on “Old model-railroad books” by Marc Horovitz from Garden Railways where he uses the term as follows in relation to one of the books in his list (a very interesting list I might add, I have a couple of these books and will keep my eyes peeled for more of them).
Davis, Barton K., How to Build Model Railroads and Equipment, Crown Publishers, 1956

This excellent book takes you through the construction of a variety of different projects. The techniques shown can be applied to any scale. This book’s a treasure trove for retro-modeler’s.
Digging around online I see the term used in relation to work on model cars and model airplanes. There it seems to relate mostly to using vintage items (old stock) and/or vintage techniques to build scale models in the style of the period the item might have been built.

That ends up sounding a lot like what I am doing in OO. There is a visual side to vintage models that it is hard to put a finger on exactly but it is part of the appeal of American OO. To be sure I throw in modern materials and techniques as needed, I want smooth operation, but I am not looking to upgrade things much beyond the level that a skilled individual could have nicely built up a model back in the day. It is certainly not fine-scale work; I am fairly content with a good representation of a model.

Complete vintage items that are in good shape I will only rarely touch but for minor restoration. However, rebuilding old kit built models so that they look sharp and new is as readers know by now very interesting to me and gets at the concept of retro-modeling. The photo above shows a few examples of Scale-Craft cars that I have brought through the shops from junker to sharp but with only minor updating to their vintage look. The reefer and hopper I rebuilt years ago and the stock car and box car more recently. All were stripped with new decals added as were modern brake details, but they are unmistakably vintage items, rebuilt to look clean and operate well.

For years I have known what I do but at the same time it always is hard to explain to others outside the OO community. It is a little bit like Hi-Rail but not really as there is no toy-train basis to what I do. I am sort of a collector but not a pure collector; I like exploring the history of OO a lot but I also very much like rebuilding old models (these days quite often junkers or old unfinished projects) to fit the theme of my layout, with the idea of running them realistically. My main goal is a functioning model railroad in 1/76, so while I do use vintage items such as these I also have models made with modern techniques and materials that I enjoy as well.

Another way to say it is I like Lionel OO but have no big collecting desire to own every variation of their production or the budget to achieve that goal. I am much more interested in the bigger picture of all the OO lines. Some items I have were purchased or have been kept purely from a collector standpoint but the ones that excite me the most fit into the theme of my operations.

Back last year I had a photo from a reader of a Scale-Craft Pullman Observation he had build up fresh from a kit. This also certainly gets at what retro-modeling is where he wrote,
I have been building a collection of old, wood kits to be put away for the grand kids to be opened in the future--with the idea of them seeing what went into building these things in "the old days." Most of the equipment is HO scale, but I've done a couple of OO scale for the fun of it.
Expect to see the term retro-modeling crop up in this site more often. I used to think that people who came to Lionel OO from the collecting side were the future of American OO but now I am not so sure. I think the future of American OO may actually more along the lines of retro-modeling. In the big picture of things American OO is at present very affordable, there is always something on eBay, and what could be more retro than working in a model railroad scale that has more or less been out of production since the mid-1950s?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Problematic: Late Scale-Craft Wheelsets [With Long Update on Other Makers]

One hobby-within-a-hobby that I really enjoy is rebuilding old freight and passenger car trucks. Actually, I am kidding, it is not so much something I enjoy as something I have needed to get better at to run vintage/retro trains reliably.

With my code 100 track I avoid running standard Lionel wheelsets. They actually work great in a way, Lionel opted for a much wider tread and larger flange that will not derail under any normal circumstance. With their solid metal bolster you have to use a solid axle wheelset for two rail operation; a split axle type wheelset such as the standard Scale-Craft wheelset will create a dead short (standard S-C wheelsets with brass wheels require an insulate bolster for two rail operation). So with the Lionel cars I run I either have them running on RP-25 contour Ultimate wheelsets (which were made in Lionel and S-C versions—the best OO wheelset ever!) or on late Scale-Craft wheelsets with the solid axle. I had saved a number of them from cars for this very reason.

Actually, I should have said I had Lionel trucks running on those late S-C wheelsets until this past weekend. I had noticed some nagging derailment problems in turnouts with one of these cars in particular, a car I very much wanted to run. I kept checking the gauge of the wheelsets and of my track but could not solve the problem. Finally I checked the width of the tread as seen in this photo.

You tend take it for granted that all wheelsets should be up to NMRA standards, especially these which date to probably the early 1950s. However, of these only a fraction of the production is up to NMRA tread width standards! On virtually every one of the wheelsets I have of this type one or both sides are well under standards. The tread is not supposed to drop in the slot on the standards gauge.

I had used these wheelsets mostly in reproduction Lionel trucks. To get those cars operating well the solution was to drill the axle holes a little bigger and use Ultimate wheelsets pulled off S-C upgraded trucks, with those trucks being converted back to standard, split-axle type S-C wheelsets from the parts box, which on my track (and especially the Mantua turnouts) are pretty much bullet proof. (But see the UPDATE, below).

The side story being that S-C was shipping out trucks at the end with problematic, off standards wheelsets. It did not help out the end of their sales or reputation with operators of the day. And I am totally banning their late type wheelsets from the layout. I really don’t need derailments caused by wheelsets.

In the past I noted as well that Nason wheelsets are also touchy, and that I have Nason trucks that have been re-worked by prior owners with Scale-Craft and Lionel wheelsets (Nason and SC wheelsets are similar, more here). (UPDATE: See this one too!) Those operators knew things I am just figuring out. What I discovered in following up further was that quite a percentage the Nason wheelsets I tested are also under NMRA standards in tread width! Some actually are up to standards and seem to operate great but do test every Nason wheelset for this same dimensional problem if you plan to run them. On my track anyway it makes a huge difference and I suspect would also make a huge difference in operating on Lionel three rail track as well, in particular their turnouts. I would be interested to hear from any Lionel operator on this topic.

UPDATE: (Now itself updated several times) It is interesting how some problems will have an obvious answer but yet it can elude you for years.

The issue with the wheelsets got me looking and now I see also that well over half of the Famoco/Eastern wheelsets I have around are under/off standards as well. I like to keep cars "pure" if possible and I have only seven cars that are set up and in a condition that I would like to operate them regularly that are on Eastern/Famoco trucks.There is one specific point on the layout that models are most likely to derail and I used that area for testing purposes. I was very hard pressed to come up with five pair of Eastern/Famoco trucks that really work even after seriously sifting through the loose parts supply and cars not set up for operation.  It is a combination of tread width and flange profile variation that kills these trucks. The wheelsets are obviously from several runs, some of which were clearly not up to standards. Not good. And the insulation has shrunk on some runs and the trucks can fall apart easily. Not the best design to develop repeat customers.

Ultimately in shifting through the parts suply I realized that I could combine some (but not all!) of the Famoco/Eastern axles with the early S-C Bakelite wheelsets and re-mount them in the Famoco/Eastern trucks. I was able to fix three pair of trucks up with these and have all the Famoco/Eastern cars I run rolling around the layout great, plus one spare pair of trucks for future use. After some real effort.

I also have a good number of Graceline cars and a couple of those I would like to run on the layout. These I also had found to be touchy on my track when I try them (an example may be seen here) even if they were in gauge and now I know why. I knew their wheelsets varied and now I can see that another variable that was off was, you guessed it, tread width. This, combined with their flange profile being way too variable, makes a lot of their trucks be not suited for my operation anyway as shipped out. Another project to do and I will keep shifting through the parts supply.

To touch on one other maker, the one Transportation Models wheelset I tested was way off, under width. I have never seen a pair of those trucks built up on a car. With too many small parts and bad wheelsets (an example may be seen here) that is completely understandable.

To their credit, Scale-Craft did, overall, make wheelsets that operate well. They seem to have had a spec for these that is actually just a hair narrower than NMRA standards as later set but they do operate well for me, probably because they are consistent with a good flange and the trucks are square and solid in design. The problem with the solid axle late type wheelset is quite a number of wheels are more than a hair under their spec. Every other run of them beside the solid axle type featured in this article (there were many runs over the years, take a close look and the variations are clear) seems to be closely up to dimensional specs and thankfully cause me no operational problems. The early Bakelite wheelsets have a wider profile similar in width to Lionel and also cause me no operational problems.

Thus, the unexpected project now is going through the vintage wheelsets yet again and separating out the ones that are not up to standards. They will be put in a box where the sun does not shine, only to be used on cars that I know I won't be trying to run or salvaged for parts (for axles for example).

Standards varied just a bit year to year in production runs for the small firms, and we have to remember also that those wheels were made by humans. If the lathe operator had a bad day then wheelsets just off standards were made and ultimately shipped out. Unfortunately for those makers it translated into inconsistent/bad product and would have impacted customer satisfaction for sure. Operation would be spotty, depending on track standards. I suspect strongly that Scale-Craft and Lionel used far better machinery and cutters to make their wheelsets than the other early makers.

To conclude what has become a rather long article, tread width is critical and can't be taken for granted with vintage scale models. This will now be something that I specifically look for in prepping any car for layout operation.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

1937, a Big Year for OO: Part III, Grimke, Winther, and 10.3% of the Market!

A first note in this installment would be that NYSME chair F. D. Grimke was specifically mentioned in an article on the history of model railroading in the February issue of The Model Railroader. OO is mentioned several times, with the specific note that Grimke “introduced OO gauge,” further noting that “F. D. Grimke worked out the American OO gauge, changing the gauge to 19.0 mm to fit the British scale of 4.0 mm to the foot, and built very complete American type locomotive models in this size.” Our longer, introductory article on Grimke is here.

Turning to The Model Craftsman, in the May issue, in the letters to the editor a reader could get the impression that OO was on the way out. One letter compares HO and O gauges with no reference to OO and another reader in Detroit writes
I have written to the suppliers of “OO” equipment who advertise in MODEL CRAFTSMAN, but so far, have received only one company’s catalogue. This has made me somewhat hesitant about building a system in OO gauge, as has the fact that there seems to be some agitation against “OO” in this district.

Have you any idea as to the consensus of opinion regarding the future of “OO”? And is there a possibility of its gradually passing out of the picture, due to the increasing rise in popularity of “HO.”

I have been in favor of “OO” because it offers a greater opportunity for finer detailing, then, too, the size difference seems to me to have a possibility of being a better “picture” in the completed layout.

However, if “OO” is on the way out, and I only have one or two sources of supply for “OO” equipment, then “HO” is naturally the logical gauge for me to use….

I have been advised that the dealers in model railway equipment do not want two small gauges, but would prefer concentrating on “HO.” This seems to bode ill for “00.” Yet I am wondering about the enthusiasts who have built and are building in “00.” Likewise, I am wondering about the expense that companies have undoubtedly gone to in producing such things as the N. Y. C. Hudson Locomotive….
Good questions! The May issue of MC also reports the prize winners for 1937 at the NYSME show, and the winner in the category “Smaller than O gauge” was Howard Winther for this beautiful model of an Erie 2-8-4 locomotive, here seen as it looks today. For more on this model see this article. On the same page of MC advertising may be found for the Nason Hudson and the Star Atlantic.

The June issue of The Model Railroader has the results of a survey of readers. While reporting that “OO Gauge Gains,” which it did rising from 2.1% in 1936 to 10.3%, the real story was that by comparison HO had 33.9% of the market in 1937. These numbers were not good for OO.

The survey itself is a bit flawed as it is really geared toward the title of the article, “1937 Prototype Favorites.” As they report in the lead line, the Pacific type locomotive, box car, and coach are the winners. There were 70 actual voters from the OO community. More can be gleaned from the survey results but I think one of the most significant figures was the overall average weekly hobby budget of those answering the survey: $2.36.

Between the survey and the letter to the editor cited earlier the picture we are left with is that some felt that we did not need two small scales and HO was in the lead at least in part because it was smaller and cheaper.

There is for sure overall more OO coverage in The Model Craftsman than in The Model Railroader. For example the September issue of MC has two articles on building OO equipment. The first is by Frank Waldhorst (a partner in Nason) on scratch building an “All-Gage” Pullman Observation (the scale drawings are clearly based on the Nason instructions) and the second by R. E. Goode on building a neat wood sheathed SP box car. Within a few years Graceline and E. H. Bessey would bring out very similar models of this same type of car. Finally, Hobby Craft Stores of New York was a dedicated OO advertiser of Nason products and we will give them the last word in this installment, with the top portion of their advertisement on the back cover of this issue.

When we return to this series it will be for the launch of what would become the largest OO manufacturer.

Continue in 1937 Series

Monday, May 9, 2011

An OO Scale 1940 Ford

Recently in some items from Bill Gilbert I received a number of great OO scale size cars and trucks. Many of these he had modified, and among the best examples were a group of 1940 Ford cars.

I hate to cite eBay as a source but I was able to find a listing for this car which describes it as a “1970-77 Tootsietoy 40 Ford Die Cast Car”. I am sure there are books on Tootsietoy that have considerably more detail on this model and its production, but the listing seems to ring true to what it is, a die cast toy from the 1970s.

Using a scale ruler and prototype dimensions I found online this car does appear to be scaled for 1/76 (if just a bit toy like). What Bill did was remove the hitch at the back and repaint the models nicely. Also note that one car he made into a convertible with an interior from another model.

This model does not seem to show up on eBay often. It would be one to keep your eyes peeled for, and I will certainly be making use of these great models on the layout. For information on some other road vehicles suited to American OO by IHC see this article.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Two Schorr Gondolas: Variations?

To follow the recent post on the gondolas scratchbuilt by Howard Winther we today have the underside of two Schorr gondolas. Looking at these cars I realized that one of the examples I have of this car couldn’t be easily set up at the right coupler height for my layout standard. Schorr trucks have low bolsters but with all truck shims removed the couplers were still too high.

The Schorr gondola, described further here, is a very nice model that is among the more commonly seen of his brass OO gauge imports. Looking at these cars it appears that these may have been imported in at least two runs. Most of these cars that I own have a metal bolster but one has a plastic bolster. The plastic bolster cars combined with Schorr trucks result in a car that is just a bit higher on the trucks. Also note that the plastic bolster car has brake details soldered on the car while the metal bolster car has no evidence of these parts; this particular one has had an Eastern K-type cylinder added. But making things even more curious, I have other metal bolster examples of this car that clearly do have the soldered on brake cylinder details.

I have two cars with the plastic bolster and couplers set up this way. The other one has no brake details but here is the kicker: it is lettered for the Yorkville and Western, the personal road of Fred Schorr himself.

Returning to the cars above, there is a modification visible on both cars so that Kadee couplers could be applied. It is possible with care to get a standard #5 coupler to work (with inserting half a coupler box inside the one built into the car) but the builder of these two cars opted to remove the original mounting, perhaps back in the days when the #5 was not available. And it is very possible that the plastic bolster was applied at that time and has nothing to do with there being multiple runs of this car, as this was a standard part Schorr sold with the trucks.

For now the high coupler/plastic bolster car in the photo will be set aside. It also has a couple visible paint chips so it is not one I am looking to operate. At some point in the future I will work over coupler mounting on both of the cars with plastic bolsters further.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Nason Gas-Electric

One recent project finished was this Nason gas-electric coach, a pre-war OO product I first see listed in their 1939 catalog.

They sold this model in three versions (as a “B. & O. Gas-Electric”); coach, coach-baggage, and coach-baggage-mail. In this first view we see the model at a similar view as seen in their catalog photos, but the opposite side showing the cast bronze radiator.

If I were choosing ideally I would have built the coach-baggage-mail version but this model came up on eBay of the coach. This particular one was completed to the point that it was ready for decals (with two tone paint) but had no drive. I suspect it was an unfinished project.

The place where the builder did a great job was on the roof. It is not obvious from the photo or catalog description but the first ¼ of the roof, at the cab end, is a bronze casting that is married to a wood rest of the roof. To get it all that smooth and solid took some body putty and real effort, and they did a very nice job.

Rather than risk damage to the model I painted over the original paint job to decorate it for the Orient, using the same paint scheme I used for a Scale-Craft gas electric that I rebuilt a few years ago. The final photo shows the two models together to see the comparison. On the S-C model I used a modified AHM drive unit (the type with a vertical shaft motor) and on the Nason one I used Athearn parts as a basis, as described in a prior post. Also on the rear truck I added Nason sideframes. They both run about the same speed but the Nason model performs better, it has a very smooth drive and 8 wheel pickup. It really puts a smile on my face to see it running around the layout so well. It also, with all that weight over the drive truck, has impressive pulling power and will pull with ease 6-8 freight cars, although that would not be a way it would be operated normally of course.

I plan to run it in general service with a RPO-baggage trailer [UPDATE: finished model here], something I have seen in prototype photos pulled by an all coach gas-electric such as this, and I have a model in the collection spotted to modify this summer for that job. For now it runs with a Nason PRR coach, seen in the first photo as well. The pair of models tuck into my short staging track very well, so when I run transition era sessions on the layout for sure this model will be racking up some miles.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An OO Scale Ruler that is Easily Available in North America from Rulers of the World

At the end of the previous article I had a link to an article in an online magazine, Model Railroad Hobbyist. It is a magazine that I had not stumbled upon before and this was doubly surprising as it is free, looks to be a very nice monthly product, and it has been online since January of 2009! I will be reading all the back issues this summer. I especially like the view online option.

In their May, 2011 issue they have an article on Rulers of the World Scale Rulers, which you can access from the link above or from this direct link to their article. The manufacturer website is here and in short for a mere $5 (actually $4 plus $1 for shipping) you can have in your hands a brand new scale ruler in OO scale. We would want an Imperial type ruler for model railroad uses. It is certainly easier to order this from North America than the other (British OO) options and very worth checking out.

UPDATE: The image is of my ruler after it arrived. No complaints from me, a nice product.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Memories of Bill Johann, by Ed Loizeaux

I moved to California from New York in the 1960s and found myself working at LOCKHEED ELECTRONICS in the Los Angeles area. While there, I met a gruff Germanic mechanical engineer named Bill Johann. We worked on a couple of projects together – he on the design end and me on the manufacturing end. Together we were responsible for making sure everything went smoothly for new products as they transitioned from the Engineering Department to the Manufacturing Department.

One day while in Bill’s office, I noticed a wall calendar with train pictures. Liking trains myself, I went over for a closer look. Bill noticed my interest and before long it was clear that we were both model railroad enthusiasts. Soon we were having lunch together and spending time together at work all the while talking about model trains instead of MIL SPECS and DoD. I had just moved to California and all my HO trains were packed in boxes and I was contemplating a new layout. Another idea lurking in my head was the possibility of changing scales. I sort of wanted something larger than HO, but was uncertain how to proceed. This would be an opportune time to change scales, I thought, and so I wanted to keep that option open.

At some point, Bill and I began discussing all the pros and cons of the various scales. HO was OK, but not great in my view. But I had never really seen anything else in a hobby shop and had no “feel” for what things were like in the different sizes. Bill then invited me to his home to meet some of his other train buddies and to operate on his layout. I had no idea what to expect, but figured it wouldn’t hurt to go see another HO layout. Obviously, I was making an assumption there. As we all gathered in Bill’s living room, one fellow walked in with a l-o-n-g Walther’s Pullman passenger car in O scale. Someone else had some On3 equipment. One fellow brought an HO car. Soon there were eight guys each with different pieces of equipment in various scales. They were all talking about how much fun they were having in a minority scale other than HO. I sort of got the point, but not fully…….yet.

Then we went into Bill’s layout room and began running trains. I soon realized that something was “strange” but couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. It was different, but not by much. It ran well and looked OK and seemed normal – almost. After a while someone asked me if I knew what this was. I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t need to play dumb, I was dumb. Soon it was ‘splained this was OO which is a tad larger than HO. Just enough, Bill said, to make it run better and be more interesting. I thought OO looked really interesting and wanted to learn more. Bill was eager to help with my education. In retrospect, he was merely dangling the candy in front of a child. But I didn’t care. The experience was enjoyable.

As time went on, I changed jobs and moved to northern California and lost touch with Bill Johann. My scale decision was made and I chose S scale which, as we all know, is between OO and O scales. At the time, there were a total of six locos in S scale and two of them were of no interest to me. So I marched into S scale figuring nobody ever needed more than eight locos. I planned to have two each of four engines and weather them dramatically differently so that they would appear to be eight different locos. That was my plan anyway. Since that time S scale has blossomed with brass imports, mass produced plastic, many craftsman kits, laser structures, figures, vehicles and so forth. No more would I suffer from a shortage of locos.

Twenty years later, there was an Sn3 Symposium in Costa Mesa and I decided to attend. I don’t remember how, but Bill Johann and I somehow reconnected and he invited me over for a visit to see his new layout. Yes, it was still OO, but now it had lots of modern stuff on it. I took along a couple of S scale buddies to Bill’s house and we all enjoyed an afternoon viewing the sights. Bill was now retired and, for some strange reason, appeared a bit older. Amazing how I never change, but everyone else gets older. Bill showed us how he modified Athearn HO stuff to get what he wanted. He liked modern diesels because of the straight flat surfaces which made kitbashing and/or scratchbuilding easier. No more trying to create compound curves by hand for F-unit noses. It was a fun visit, just like the original one years before, and we all thanked Bill and headed for the door.

On the way out, Bill did have one last comment for me. He told me that OO was sadly slipping into oblivion. It was painful to him, but could not be denied. He told me the few remaining OO guys all had lists of equipment prepared with the names of who should get what when the owner passed away. This was, apparently, the only way anyone could actually obtain OO equipment because nothing was being made any more. Bill found this to be a practical arrangement, but sad all at the same time. He was glad to see that I had moved out of the HO world into something more exciting. He smiled when I told him he was the one fellow responsible for giving me the courage to try something different. He really liked hearing that.

“S”incerely…..Ed Loizeaux

The photos spread over this article were taken in 1983-84 and show the layout of Bill Johann, with him on the right in the photo of the golden spike being driven along with George and Orlyn on 1-15-83. Johann certainly enjoyed the interaction with other model railroaders and was initially part of one of two very active OO gauge round robin clubs in New Jersey in the postwar era. He was active in the North Jersey group by 1947 as noted in this prior article, which I just updated to include a photo of Johann as a younger man. Eventually the groups merged and they were still meeting actively into the 1980s.


Back to Johann and California, this particular version of his layout was dual gauge. Almost all of the equipment visible is OO (I for sure own a couple of the cars in the photos now, such as this Railbox car) but the F-3s and the SD35 in the golden spike photo are actually HO models according to the caption on the back. (Note also, the HO SD35 won a RMC kitbashing award! More on that here.) If I had a much larger space I might consider running HO in the background actually, it would be an interesting forced perspective effect if pulled off well. But that is a topic for another day.


Many thanks to Ed Loizeaux for sharing this wonderful view into a world of OO gauge activity of not that long ago. And one final plug, there is a great viedo of his S gauge layout on YouTube and also this article on his layout is easy to access online, check out his great model work.