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

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vintage OO Layout Photos IV: Fred Schorr, 1948

Today in the vintage photos series I have a great line up of kitbashed locomotives by Fred. E. Schorr, Jr. This particular photo is dated on the back 5-1-48 and has three similar locomotives on what must have been near a key junction on his layout.

Fred Schorr was an OO manufacturer and imported brass models for American OO from Japan. The models in this photo however are all based on Nason or perhaps Star-Continental 4-4-2 boilers with other Nason (and Lionel) parts. The Star-Continental 4-4-2 was sort of an odd model in a way, of its time. Introduced in 1937, it was a freelanced version of a PRR K-4/K-5 Pacific but built as an Atlantic. I have a bit more on the original model here; after 1939 it was produced by Nason, until WWII.

Starting at the front in the photo we have an unmodified version of the boiler mated with the running gear and tender of a Nason 2-8-0. Next up, based on the M1 marking, is a 4-8-2 also along PRR lines built on the same Nason 2-8-0 running gear but with a Lionel Hudson tender. In the back we see finally a 4-6-2, the model Star-Continental perhaps really had in mind when they created their 4-4-2. The 4-8-2 and 4-6-2 models have lengthened boilers and other modifications that can be spotted with a close look (click on the photo for a closer view). A lot of hours of work are on display in the 1948 photo!

To close, from one of the first articles on this website we have this very similar model. It was also built by Fred Schorr, probably I would guess a bit later than the models above. This model is also based on the same 4-4-2 model but this time with the original tender and with the boiler mounted on a Scale-Craft 4-6-0 frame. It is a very fine model but as noted in an update to the original article, it needs a bit of work at present as the gearbox is worn out. One quirk of this model could be noted as well; it runs (or ran) backwards from normal standards. I don't know if this was intentional or not; the other locomotive I own that was built by Fred Schorr, a 2-8-0 camelback (also using the Nason 2-8-0 and 4-4-2 parts), runs beautifully in the right direction.

Continue reading in OO Layout Photos series

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Three Freight Cars by Bill Johann

Those in the OO SIG know there is an inventory maintained by the SIG, which at present resides at my home. Several items were recently claimed, including these three cars built by Bill Johann. Before they left Arizona I thought it a good idea to document them further for the website, as they are nice cars. Click on any photo for a better view.

These first two were scratch built by Johann in late 1987. How do I know? Because they are signed and dated. This first photo shows the cars overall. The Bliss Fall gondola is wood and has a gravel load, and the Mill Creek flat is plastic and has a machinery load. They are nicely finished and lettered, with the gondola showing just a bit of wear from transportation/storage.

The second photo show the bottom view, which gives the dates they were completed. The frames are very similar. The flat has the later version of his roller bearing truck which roll wonderfully. Other than trucks and couplers there are very few commercial parts on either of these cars.

Next we have this big three dome tank. I believe it was based on a Tyco HO model. What Johann did was make a new frame from brass and add other details. It is also an effective model, as even though it is based on a HO body it is still a large car in American OO. He built this car in 1978 but updated it in 1991.

Finally, a close up of part of the bottom of the tank car. I appreciate a lot that he took the time to sign the cars with his initials and date them, it is something I plan to start doing. It is a sure way to know that he built the cars and for me at least that carries some value as he built some great cars and was such a big figure in postwar American OO.

If you are not a member of the OO SIG, more information may be found here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Pair of Alco Switchers for the Orient

The last completed project of 2011 was this pair of Alco S-2 switchers. These both started life as Model Power HO models, which were based on an AHM model (the “Alco 1000”) that I describe further in this prior article. Also, an older conversion of one of these that I did may be seen here, but it is running with the original AHM drive with the vertical motor, which is an easy OO conversion but not a great drive. It is geared too high and only has four wheel electrical pickup.

Also in that second link above may be seen an SW-1 conversion also based on an AHM/Model Power model with a horizontally mounted motor. It was converted to run with an Athearn power truck, with a key thing to note right away being that both of these models are marketed as HO but have overscale bodies and trucks that from the side especially scale out very well for 1/76. This fact lends them to conversion to run in American OO without a lot of heroic effort.

I wanted to do a pair of these and I am very happy with the end result. The conversion is pretty straightforward. It took two different train shows to locate the models but I found two good examples with the horizontal motor setup. Step one was completely tearing down the models to repaint the frame and body. I used the original motor and the front truck of the Model Power models and modified the drive truck area to accept an Athearn drive truck, selected as it not only is simple to convert to OO but also because it has better gears and picks up power. Using the drive involved opening up the frame area to accept the larger drive truck mechanism (there is plenty of room in the cab to do this easily), making a new mounting bolster out of rectangular plastic tube (glued in the pocket where the original truck mounting was), fitting the drive, and modifying the cab weight to clear the back of the new drive. I also added more weight above the drive truck as there is extra room, leaving the model weighted just a bit heavier than it was from the factory.

The second photo shows the underside of one of the models, giving a clear view of the drive modifications. These I have described in previous articles, with a good description found here. I used the original front truck but modified it so the sideframes would clear the wheelsets (widened out on the original axle) and modified the other sideframes to mount on a ground down remnant of the original Athearn sideframe. Power is picked up from all eight wheels, and the driveline itself uses mostly Athearn parts (a couple shortened) but with the original AHM part that was on the gear tower shifted over to the original motor to make it all work.

The main compromises are the model is a bit narrow over the walkways and the wheelsets are too small in diameter. These defects are not particularly visible and are totally acceptable to me in the context of now I have a pair of models that are closely matched, that run very smoothly at prototypical speeds, and have enough power together to pull a good string of cars. Right now to begin the year I have them running with “modern” cars from the 1980s but they look great with equipment from the 1940s era on up. Plus, if anything goes wrong with the drives I can easily fix them and I only spent something like $60 total on both models! Retro-modeling is easy on the budget.

I would certainly do this conversion again and very likely will at some point, perhaps next time keeping the factory paint job. In particular, the first HO locomotive I ever purchased was the AHM ATSF version of this model; at some point I would like to get one of those set up for OO. But a more likely project will be to create an OO scale Alco RSD-1 (or MRS-1) from these body parts and the drive of an Athearn FM Trainmaster. It is great to get projects done but also great to be thinking ahead to the next one.

Finally, looking ahead for this site, I will have to slow down on posting for probably the next several months. Professionally I hit one of the busiest times of my year. I will try to have something new up every week or two, and trust that regular readers can find much of interest in the site with a bit of digging around.

UPDATE: To make the conversion a bit clearer, this final photo is of the drive with the body removed. Focusing in on the drive specifically, the first plastic part off the motor was originally on the gear tower side of the Model Power drive. The rest of the drive line is Athearn but with parts shortened to make it all fit. Wires are soldered on to the Athearn drive as well to facilitate 8 wheel pick up. Also visible in the photo are the modified weights. The bottom line being this model now runs quite smoothly, the conversion is well worth the effort.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Schorr 2-8-0 for the Orient

The third recent project completed was getting this Schorr OO scale Ma and Pa consolidation running.

The first challenge was the connection between the motor and the drive. The motor is a large Pittmann motor on its side filling the entire tender. The original connection was a flexible rubber tube that was broken and brittle on this vintage Japanese brass import. I was able to modify the connectors that originally went from the motor to the drive of a Model Power HO Alco switcher to fit this model. It involved making a slightly longer drawbar. With some tune up this model is a bit noisy but otherwise runs great.

In a prior article I have photos of a similar model from Dick Gresham. Looking back at them I realized that my example was painted exactly the same way (note the side rods in particular) and that must be the factory paint job. So I did not modify the paint at all, and since the model is of Ma and Pa engine number 26 (and that number is on the headlight from the factory) it is now Orient number 26, which fits in my freelanced version of the Orient just fine. (The actual Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient did not have an engine number 26, but the closest actual locomotive numbers above and below were according to the published roster similar sized consolidations, so the number is a very good fit).

This is a model I very much enjoy running, well worth the effort to work out a better drive connection from tender to engine. I was even able to double head it with my converted Mantua/Tyco 4-6-0, the two look very nice together.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Updated: S-C Gas Electric and RPO/Baggage

The subject of a prior article, this Scale-Craft gas electric has been on the layout a few years. Well, not actually on the layout a lot as it really did not run that well with the AHM drive unit it had. I rarely ran it at all.

In a train show purchase this fall however I was able to buy several Athearn drive units. They were actually in powered boxcars--long story there involving a prior owner who used them as pushers for de-powered steam locomotives--but the happy ending is that I was able to use parts from them to repower three models this fall and I have enough more parts for two more locomotives. The first fixed was this gas-electric, which now has an Athearn drive truck with a large flywheel. It runs great!!!

The RPO/Baggage was described in this prior article but I did want in this update to show it next to the S-C gas electric for comparison. To briefly summarize the earlier article, this car was created by a prior owner from the RPO/Baggage version of the S-C gas electric. It needs a few more details but even as it is makes a great trailer for the powered unit. They are a very enjoyable pair to run on the layout.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Retro-Modeling: Matching Stock Cars and Hoppers

In late 2011 several projects were brought through to completion. To begin a short series of posts on them, first we have these matching Scale-Craft stock and hopper cars. Two of them were cars I completed initially in the 1980s—can you guess which ones?

To get right to it, the cars on the left are the older models. In recent projects I have enjoyed working on cars in groups, at least as pairs and in larger groups if possible. My goal here was to match closely the older models so that they could be run together in pairs. The new, matching cars were both stripped of old paint to begin. Details were tweaked and both were repainted. For both of the new cars I also worked up good square and free-rolling S-C trucks from parts. Click on the photo for a better view.

The stock cars are close matches and are for my Orient. The hopper cars are lettered for the ATSF and have a bit more of a story. The one on the left was one I upgraded with a few extra details and the lettering scheme was done to match a HO hopper I had on hand at the time. This time around I also added a few details but I went to the Internet and did some image searches and came up with this lettering scheme that worked in respect to vintage, scrap decals on hand. So the lettering is a little different but I still think they make a great pair, with the hopper really looking much like a model that could have been made in the 1940s with those vintage decals. These cars should put in many miles on the layout in coming years.