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

Sunday, September 23, 2012

American OO for 1942, Part III: Modelers “Keep ‘em Rolling”


As noted in part II, as of July 1, 1942, most model railroad equipment could no longer be manufactured. It was a serious time for the country but model railroading in American OO did not stop.

One hero of this installment will be a now familiar name to readers of this series, OO pioneer H. L. “Red” Adams. First up we have an article in the July issue of The Model Craftsman on “A Turntable for OO,” which they note right away “may be built for any gauge.” As Adams states, “this article describes the small facilities I had [had?? More on that later in this installment] on my OO Mojave Railroad, where we serviced 5 steam and 3 Diesel locomotives in reasonably efficient manner.” He describes in it how a turntable and steam service area works and also how to build a turntable. His in OO was 15” long and made from a piece of 1x2. His roundhouse “was one of those Ideal HO gauge kits. These are very good in my opinion, and my OO required very little trimming for clearance.” As he also notes toward the end of the article, “Try it out boys, if you haven’t already got one on your pike; all parts are available and now is the time to stop howling about what we haven’t got, and build those things that we definitely need to finish that railroad!”

The next really notable OO article of the year was by, you guessed it, Red Adams. This time the article is in the September issue of The Model Craftsman, on the topic of building a typical 1895 passenger train in wood. He opens with some interesting background though as to the times and other projects underway.
Well, fellow members of the home guards, at this time I had hoped to be describing the intricacies of constructing a Challenger type steam locomotive for you, but due to complicating factors relating to bronze castings and motors and gears, this project has been tabled for a short time. Most of my patterns are finished, however, so it won’t take long after bronze is again available, before one of these giants will be snaking around the curves of my layout. At least I hope it will get around the curves. After the bugs are ironed out of it, I’ll give you the lowdown. 
However, our railroading is versatile and we model rail builders can “keep ‘em rolling” as far as our building goes, and do it without writing our congressman for special privileges to get critical materials. How about forest products? If we are curtailed on our other products why not resign ourselves and use what is available. If we can’t build locomotives, how about cars and scenery? There’s a lot more to a model railroad than the locomotives. The first scale model I ever built back ten years ago was an O gauge passenger coach; my locomotive wasn’t finished until 18 months after this, so why can’t we start some cars now and in 18 months we will be able to get locomotives again, and then our cars will be ready for them.
Adams used sugar pine to build the models in the article, and decorated them for his Sierra railroad. At the very end he describes the locomotive seen in this photo as well. It was “the only kit job” on his roster, a Scale-Craft model with working marker boards and headlight plus a scratch built Vanderbilt tender. “This is a very good locomotive in my opinion; it runs smoothly and quietly and will haul up to 10 passenger cars if the boiler ballast is used.”

Speaking of wood models and moving over to The Model Railroader, one firm that served the home front model railroad community well was the Picard Novelty Co. Very commonly seen in OO collections today, their entire car body line was available without interruption, and this great photo and short spread are found in the October issue under the heading “Meet Theodore Picard.” It turns out that he made all the car bodies himself!
Theodore D. Picard, who supplies wood bodies for cars in the three popular gauges through his Picard Novelty Co., at Westerly, R.I., has had a varied career in the transportation business. He first went to work in his father’s livery, taking it over after his father died. When it became apparent that the horse was on the way out, he sold the livery and founded the Picard Taxicab Co. This flourished until the advent of everyone owning his own car, and then Picard sold this out and went into the wholesale gasoline business with the Picard Gasoline Co. This was a good thing until the depression, when he bought a complete Delta shop and made furniture and novelties in his spare time. This explains the name of his present business.
The present model railroad car body business is the outgrowth of a request by a customer for a few car kits. All materials are selected and sawed by Mr. Picard himself; his only helper is his brother, who tends to the storage of stock and the shipping of orders. 
Apple of Mr. Picard’s eye is his daughter, Lt. Ruth Picard, who is a nurse with the 7th Evacuation Hospital, U. S. Army.
This reminds us again that there was a war going on. One other company I would highlight in this time frame would be Scale-Craft, who according to their ad in the November issue of MR were 100% defense production. Their production had turned in 1941 toward defense production, and “By the time that War Production Ruling L-81 went into effect” they were “on a full time War Production basis.” They continue,
And now, still greater production is demanded. Three shifts, 24 hours per day, seven days per week, man the machines at Scale-Craft. Hour after hour the big screw machines and millers bite into tons of steel, under the glare of fluorescent lights. Armed guards pace the runways and property lines, and the Stars and Stripes float in the glow of flood lights above the building. This is War – not model railroading!
…We still have a great many kits and parts available, and can serve our many friends as long as these materials last. But when they are gone, we will have no more model equipment until we have licked our aggressors.
Some product was going out. One random item I have in my files is a receipt dated 10-18-42 from Graceline for a gondola kit, two reefers, couplers, and wheelsets. Clearly they could still supply some kits and parts as listed in their catalog.

To close our look at 1942 we turn back to Red Adams. Turns out in the December issue of The Model Craftsman we find out that his layout was also the first prize winner in OO gauge in the 1941-42 Railroad Layout Contest! And it turns out that the layout, as implied in the wording of the article quoted earlier, had been dismantled. A number of new details can be gleaned from the article about the layout (such as he used 24 volt DC Scale-Craft motors), and a full roster of his equipment is given, but the end of the article is the most interesting in the context.
This layout was in operation over three years with reasonably good success, and a great deal of enjoyment. Naturally, it was not the perfect layout, as the one I am starting now will try to make that grade, but the Mojave gave a great deal many modelers inspiration, in that it was completed within a reasonably short time – was not high priced in any way – and occupied a small space. Yet could reproduce any small division town movement, a change of locomotives, simple switching operations, water stop, etc.
This track plan is essentially the same as the one published in 1941 in Miniature Railroading, but a bit cleaner and gives a view of the final version of this layout.  It is the sort of layout that I would be happy to have, perfect for exercising trains of OO models with that double track mainline.

In short the war had disrupted the hobby industry greatly, but many on the home front still participated in hobbies as time and materials allowed. When this series returns the topic will be 1943 and beyond.

Return to the beginning of the 1942 series

Continue to 1943 Series

No comments: