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

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tru-Scale Self-Gauging Roadbed


In the 1943 series last week I again arrived at the topic of Tru-Scale and their line of roadbed in HO, OO, and O gauges. It is high time for a broader overview of this classic line.

The line itself was introduced in 1941, and it quickly became a popular product. One thing that helped them greatly was that the product itself was wood and production was not impacted by WWII material restrictions. So long as you could locate some rail (steel rail being available during the war) you would quickly be off and running as the roadbed was cut with tie plates that gauged the rail properly and the product also was very easy to spike. After the war, the product retained a degree of popularity and for sure many users had their start with this product in that time frame.

Turning to the photos, first up are two views of the product itself. The switch blocks lack tie plates but the straight and curved sections have them. Note if you look closely that in the selections in the photos you can see that three different tie cutters were used. I take the ties that are very narrow (they look like HO scale ties) to be a somewhat later batch than the two types of wider ties. This probably relates to cutters wearing out and changes of ownership. The original owner was OO gauge enthusiast Jaurez (“Joe”) Tostado, who was tragically killed in 1943. From there the firm has had a series of owners (see UPDATE below for info on the second owner) and it remains in production to this day (but not the OO gauge product).

I have some Tru-Scale, enough for a small layout if planned carefully. About 15 years ago I did lay a short test track with Tru-Scale, seen in the final photo. As I wanted to use modern code 100 rail I took the option of sanding off the self gauging feature and spiking the rail down with gauges. It still was quite easy to spike and really this was/is a fine product, one I would personally think about using if I were to build a new layout. I see no signs of warping on the examples I own, and this clearly was a high quality product.

Vintage OO gauge Tru-Scale is not often seen on eBay, at least in part due to shipping costs being high in relation to the actual value of the roadbed. It certainly has a retro look and is a classic to look out for.

UPDATE: The second owner was August Kniff. This bio and photo were published with an article on "The Importance of Roadbed" that was published in the 1950 Model Railroad Equipment Corp. catalog, giving several interesting details on him and his background.

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