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

Sunday, April 1, 2012

American OO for 1940: Part IV, Layouts and Features

There were more than a few individuals that had were very active in OO, buying the products of the day and putting them to good use, and over the course of 1940 we see a good cross section of those enthusiasts.

Going alphabetically, first up we have H. L. “Red” Adams. An early OO manufacturer and the original maker of the Scale-Craft 4-6-2, he has been mentioned in this site a number of times with this article probably being the most extensive, on his early adventures in OO and his layout as of 1939.

Before looking at his layout in 1940 I would like to first highlight his very interesting article on making boilers by sand casting, featured in The Model Craftsman in January of 1940. The article itself lays out the process of making the pattern for a bronze locomotive boiler well (he was speaking from experience!). A quick quote:
I am in favor of cast superstructures rather than built-up ones because for one thing they are heavier and stronger, and another I believe they are easier to make even for one engine; if you build more than one of the same type the work is almost half. Let me show you how I made up the pattern and core-box for my OO gauge Mt-5 Southern Pacific mountain type.
The photo reproduced here is of the finished model, and in the article may be found more drawings and photos of the process of making the boiler. Seeing the engine I certainly hope that a couple of these are out there somewhere, it is a beauty.

His layout story may be found in the Sept. 40 issue of MC with photos and a track plan. The track plan is the same as featured in another article on his layout as of 1941; see this article for more. As I have mentioned in other articles on Adams, I love his writing style, and he does not disappoint in this article. He notes that
I have always envied those fortunate model railroaders with ample space to operate their systems. Being a “renter” instead of one who owns his own home, I have been forced by circumstances to keep my layout reasonably compact so that my share of a small apartment basement doesn’t encroach upon the neighbor who lives upstairs. There are plenty of layouts that are smaller than mine, so when I mention that my overall dimensions are 14’ long, 8’6” wide, with track 41” above the floor, don’t think for a minute that this is the minimum by any means.
He describes the layout as being “semi-portable.” The structures are all HO structures but they are “close enough” for him, and the layout also it should be noted runs on 24 volts DC, which lines up with the early Scale-Craft motors. These photos show a glimpse of his realistic scenery with an S-C 4-6-0 and one of his passenger trains.

As is also clear from the text, Adams was a big fan of passenger equipment, and his mainline had a minimum radius of 39.5” to accommodate them easily. Articles by Adams on passenger cars may be found in the April and December issues of MC. This article already posted to American OO Today quotes the April article, and this article has more from of Adams from December issue.

Next up is E. H. Bessey. As noted in the previous installment of this series he launched a line of OO freight cars in 1940, outlined further in this article with quotes from the January and February issues of The Model Railroader. But there is more to be found, with the July issue of MR featuring a layout plan that was designed for him by Linn Westcott. What they requested of the design gives a few insights into OO at the time. “We have in mind the type of road that runs from the mountains in which there are mines, down through the agricultural section into the industrial places. We consider our railroad to be a branch of the Southern Pacific, and will use 26” radius curves.” Then in the December issue we find this nice photo of his prize winning layout. It is not at all the same layout as in the Westcott article but as it notes in the caption was built in five weeks and won a first prize for Bessey. He was getting the word out on OO out west to be sure.

A scratch built locomotive and bobber caboose by Edmund Collins were also featured in the 1939 series. Two more of his camelback locomotive models (a Mogul and an Atlantic) were featured in Miniature Railroading for Feb/Mar 1940 (including one on the cover of the issue), and the June 1940 issue of The Model Craftsman has article on making that bobber caboose. In the February 1940 issue of MC may be found a photo of his display layout (at a bit of a distance) at the Lehigh Model Railroad Society annual show. Also in the May issue it is reported that his Reading 4-4-2 camelback was first prize winner in OO at the Philadelphia Model Show. This photo of that model is from the Feb/Mar issue of Miniature Railroading. Other OO winners were Walter S. Reynolds (second prize) for an N&W class A articulated locomotive and E. B. Hansbury, Jr. (third prize) for “nine assorted hand-built cars.” Another model by Hansbury from 1936 may be seen in this article.

Another magazine out in this time frame was Model Railroaders’ Digest. They had an article in their April issue with a number of interesting details on the OO gauge layout of Earle Gardner, which is described in this prior article. Gardner was co-founder of GarGraves track, a line that is very familiar to in the hi-rail O gauge community to this day.

The Wood Acres Route of Richard Houghton is featured in The Model Railroader for December of 1940. Two photos are included with the article, which focuses on his scenic techniques. But it is OO to be sure and a real live layout! Note the Scale-Craft 4-6-0 and the bridges in this view.

Bill Johann has been mentioned many times in this website (this article being a favorite of mine) and was mentioned in the January issue of The Model Railroader. At this time they published a regular feature called “Along the Division” with news from layouts and clubs, a feature that I will reference more in coming years in this series. The mention is brief, only noting that “The OO gauge Watchung Valley is brass hatted by William Johann,” but is notable as I believe it is the first mention of him in a hobby publication.

Finally, a model by M. W. Mather was featured in Miniature Railroading for October 1940. The model is a scratch built Erie K-5 Pacific. A real beauty, one has to hope it is out there somewhere in good shape still.

To close this look at 1940, while there were some very devoted enthusiasts in for the scale (many of the most die-hard “OOldtimers,” who have now nearly all passed on, got into OO before the war) my overall feeling is that American OO was a scale slowing down. For small scales HO was where the action really was.

What will 1941 bring to OO? Check back in a month or so for a look at the last pre-war year for American OO gauge.

Return to Beginning of 1940 Series

Continue to 1941 Series

No comments: