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

Saturday, September 8, 2012

American OO for 1942, Part I: Wartime Restrictions

As we all know, World War II was raging in 1942, and the United States was fully engaged in the conflict. This look at American OO gauge model trains in 1942 will focus on the year as it rolls out and the changes seen due to wartime restrictions. First up is the period January to March.

The January issues of The Model Railroader and The Model Craftsman both had editorials on the topic “We are at war!” However, there were products in the pipeline so to speak just before the outbreak of war that were in fact still rolling out, the most notable probably being the Mantua old-time combination car. As they state in their January advertisements, “This is of similar construction as the coach and baggage cars which have enjoyed such great popularity with model railroaders. Complete with WORKING doors and seat units.” In HO the car sold for $3.50 and in OO it would run you $4.00. Oh, and their 1942 catalog was now ready, “Including a Page for OO Gaugers.” This image of the combine is from this catalog. However, the version of the 1942 Mantua catalog posted on the HOSeeker site seems to be a later printing, one that actually contains no reference to OO gauge production of this model or the Belle of the 80s — only the OO track is listed — with the last page also clearly noting that they stopped manufacturing model railroad supplies on June 30, 1942. But that is jumping ahead a bit in our narrative.

Another OO new item for January was featured in an ad in The Model Railroader, a new line of round roof milk express reefers by Champion. The ad tells more, click on it for a better view, and other advertising makes it clear the bodies are by Picard. I was able to also recently purchase on eBay a set of the sides for the car in the ad, seen below as well. All in all quite a few items are still listed for sale in OO as of January, with small ads from Graceline, Nason, and Selley, for example.

The epic article for January in The Model Craftsman is from H. L. “Red” Adams, whom we have seen before in this history series and we will be seeing a lot of for the next few years. The article is on putting interior details in modern streamlined passenger cars in OO. The cars featured are the same ones seen in an article from 1940, and full size OO blueprints are included in the issue as well. For a view of one of his streamlined cars from 1940 see this article, and also this article gives two more views of my set of four similar cars, which seem to have been built following the articles by Adams very closely (I believe using bodies briefly marketed by Newark Electric).

By the February issue it is clear that the war was slowing things down a lot in the industry. Scale-Craft advertised that they were now involved 90% in war work. Brass was not available for model railroad uses, which impacted the manufacturers of track pretty significantly. Mantua put out with much fanfare their new steel rail, covered in both magazines. Midlin however required a special type of rail and they made clear in their advertising that they had to curtail production and were returning to mail order only as a one man shop.

Graceline has the ad I would feature for February, from The Model Railroader, showing “3 OO Honeys,” their flat, gondola, and utility flat. The photo helps make clear what the difference was in their minds between a standard flat car and a utility flat. The March issue of MR also has a nice ad on their trucks and Trade Topics covers their line as follows:
The number of die-cast parts introduced recently by Graceline is worthy of note. These OO gauge items are among the many: depressed-center flat car sides, passenger and freight car ends, air brake system, ice hatches, end sills, baggage car doors, passenger car steps, Ajax brake wheel and gear. The items are too numerous to review separately, but on the whole a wealth of detail has been incorporated into each and they represent the result of much research and designing. The proportions are pleasing; castings are made from a lead base alloy.
Their ad also mentions their 1942 catalog, of which I have a photocopy. In short everything in this overview article on Graceline was available, with the exception of the early brass-side cars with hand lettering. In the catalog they note
A little over three years ago we started Graceline Model Railroads with the idea of giving the 00 modeler a wide variety of authentic model railroad equipment and affording you the enjoyment of model railroading at its best. ... From comments received from hundreds of 00 fans, we feel we have been more than rewarded for our efforts.
Now that a large part of our time is devoted to defense work, we have a double duty and privilege to perform,-- to do our part to help defend our Country, and to carry on the important work of Model Railroading to the best of our ability.... we feel that the need for a hobby as mental relaxation and diversion from the more serious problems is greater than ever before.
These are days when close co-operation is needed, both from the manufacturer and from the modeler. I am sure that if we work together we shall be able to enjoy this fascinating hobby in the difficult times that lie ahead.
At the end of March a critical decision was made by the government, with the purpose of conserving metal, directing it toward the war effort. The May issue of Model Railroader lays it out well:
Model railroads of the country began doing their bit for the war effort Mar. 31, when, under Order L-81 from the War Production Board, production of all items containing 7 percent or more critical material, by weight, was slashed 75 percent until June 30, after which date production must cease entirely. Production of items containing prohibited materials — rare metals such as tin, antimony, etc. — is already halted.
The article there goes into more detail but in short the larger manufacturers were effectively limited to supplies on hand and were rapidly shifting to war work, and the smaller makers who could not shift over to war work would continue to supply the hobby with a limited range of products that did not contain critical war materials. How this plays out will be seen as we continue in this series.

Two older articles in this site that relate to early 1942 include this one with two views of the layout of Sid Wells, and also Railroad magazine also had some OO specific content in 1942, see this article for a glimpse of that.

When the series returns the topic will be the period leading up to June 30, 1942.

Continue in 1942 Series

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