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Monday, June 11, 2012

OO Variety in 1941, Part III: New Scale-Craft Units, and a View of the Factory


With a large OO line in production, the first half of the year there was not much new out of Scale-Craft. Advertising spreads in The Model Railroader focus on the Pullman, diner, and observation cars and also the hopper and stock cars from their OO line. Their Blow-Smoke newsletter put out only one issue, spring 1941, which is described in three parts in a prior article series starting here.

Where things get really interesting is in the fall. Their 1941-42 catalog came out in August, based on a price sheet I have dated August 1, 1941 that matches the page numbers. As implied in the Nason ad seen in part II of this series, prices were rising in the model railroad field, so S-C made the new catalog completely flexible as to price changes.

One thing I enjoy in producing these articles is finding out new things. One pretty important one is that this catalog went through at least two print runs. In 1946 the 1941-42 catalog was reprinted with an updated price sheet and some items marked “not available” and different prefatory remarks on page 2. Paragraph 2 on that page of the older of two copies I own (which I take to be the original 1941 version) reads,
This is a most unusual Scale-Craft catalog. We cannot print fixed prices for many items, because there is no telling when they will change. Our greatest national emergency is upon us. We are preparing to defend our country, and safeguard our most cherished possessions – life, liberty, and democracy. More than a dozen smaller nations lie crushed in the smoking path of aggressors! They were unprepared! The governmental demands for raw materials used in the Defense Program are heavy and sweeping. They must be met without fail, regardless of civilian needs. Material costs are fluctuating and rising. The price of today may not be the price of tomorrow, and no man can predict the happenings of the future. 
The text almost sounds like it is from 1942 or later; readers are invited to see if they have an earlier example of this catalog with a different text.

The 1946 printing in the same space notes “In order that we may be able to give you a catalog without too much delay we have reprinted our 1941-42 issue,” and supplied with the current price sheet. This booklet sized catalog was 96 pages long and a real deal at only ten cents. As to what was new in 1941, they had, to use the wording of the day, “3 brand new units for ‘00’ gauge service.” This ad that ran in the November issues of Model Railroader and Model Craftsman covers them all, their new 0-6-0 and the gas electrics. Follow the links for more on these models.

The Model Craftsman also runs in the same November issue a great article on “Scale-Craft of Libertyville” with this spread of six photos. Reading a bit like a press release, the article describes their history and physical plant in some detail.
Like many other scale model manufacturers, Scale-Craft started in a small way. But when it really began to expand, Elliott Donnelley, head of the firm, found that there wasn’t enough space in the City of Chicago!
Mr. Donnelley fixed that, though. He acquired an entire two-story plant in Libertyville, Ill., about fifty miles from the Windy City, and this well-lighted and roomy plant provides a cheerful atmosphere for factory and office workers of the still-growing organization.
Scale-Craft went into business in the depression year of 1932. The going was tough. But the excellent workmanship and high regard for accurate detail sold Scale-Craft equipment, even though Mr. Average Man was short of money….
By 1935, Scale-Craft products were being placed in leading hobby shops and hobby corners of department and hardware stores everywhere. The original 4000-square-foot area in Chicago was vacated for another Chicago space of more than twice that large. After four years, the present Libertyville plant was acquired. It provides nearly 20,000 square feet of working area.
The growth of Scale-Craft is, of course, largely due to the untiring efforts of Mr. Donnelley. He’s a miniature railroader himself, and he knows what he’d like to have on his own model pike….
Scale-Craft offers complete lines in locomotive and freight and passenger car kits in O and OO gauges.
This article ties back in to the 1941-42 catalog, as it also had a two page spread of photos of the factory and the people who worked for Scale-Craft. These final three offering the most detail in addition to the views published in The Model Craftsman. First we have an outside view of the Libertyville plant (the bottom left corner being part of a different photo). Next, an overall view inside the plant (showing at least eight workers), and finally a view of owner Elliott Donnelley (with pipe) and K. M. Boyd, Advertising Manager from the “rogue’s gallery,” which also has photos of a number of other key employees. In the catalog they note that they have “about 40 employees” (not a small time operation!) and that “They work and play together as one huge family, sharing their problems, and striving to better the cause of Model Railroading. Each day brings them satisfaction.”

UPDATE: See this article for a bit more information on this plant location, including the physical address.

One other quick note on the year being that Scale-Craft made a big deal that their products were only available from authorized dealers. The second page of the ad in the November MC ad lists for example a network of about 75 dealers for their O and OO products.

With that we leave Scale-Craft for 1941. When the series returns the topic will be another active OO maker at this time, Graceline.

Continue in 1941 Series

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