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

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Eastern OO Gondola

One car not seen often is the Eastern OO gondola car, first produced in 1948. This is the best of the steel prototype gondolas produced in American OO in conventional materials, the Schorr brass import car being the one that was actually the best of the type.

This particular car was among the items I won from the Morlok auction was a in lot that included two partially built up Eastern OO gondola cars and a third, similar car partially built up on a Picard body. I was able to finish up the first of these recently and have a second nearly finished, also seen in the photos.

I have sides for several options on these and the two that I was most interested to build up were the Rock Island and T&P versions of this car. I elected to build the T&P car first as I had another project that also needed the same flat black paint. The sides and the rest of the car match pretty well and I love how there is no additional decal work required.

There is not too much to note on the construction except to say that I trimmed the sides carefully with a new X-Acto knife and steel straight edge and touched up the edges with flat black paint. For glue I used Elmers carpenters glue as it was handy. The sides were clamped on using pieces of floor stock covered with plastic wrap to keep pressure even. This second photo shows the Rock Island car ready for painting and the sides that will soon grace this car as well.

For more information:
UPDATE: The final photo is of the completed Rock Island car. It was brush painted (prior to applying the sides) with Floquil Tuscan to best match the sides.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

An OO Scale SP Dynamometer Car

Not long ago there was a listing on eBay some readers may have seen for an OO scale SP dynamometer car. When it first went up I thought that somebody else might grab it but it did not sell. Which surprised me a bit but then I realized that probably the article that Ed Morlok wrote that mentioned these cars was not well known.

The article is posted as a PDF file in the OO Yahoo group site. The title is “HO Gauge Items that are Actually OO Scale” and is dated October 26, 2005. There Ed described this model as follows:
Precision Scale Co … SP Dynamometer car, all brass construction (Walthers Mfr. #585J Item #15372, $105.) (sold out), 00 scale on HO gauge trucks. SC 4-wheel trucks easily replace the HO ones. Being only slightly longer than typical freight cars, these cars will operate even on Lionel’s 13.5 inch radius 3-rail track.  
I did buy it. This particular car a prior owner had converted to be on Kemtron passenger trucks, which match the car nicely. Of course, the car was meant to be HO scale but the builder made it overscale. This is actually not the only dynamometer car that was in this same situation. Morlok also notes another was made by
Model Express … C&O Dynamometer Car, all brass car, 00 scale but on wheels gauged to HO. Appears similar in appearance to Precision Scale car listed above; the main difference is in cupola. Plans for C&O car appeared in MR, July 1944, p. 303, and a check reveals it is indeed built to 00 scale except for track gauge. SC 4-wheel trucks easily replace the HO ones. 
To all this all I can add is that the box for the Precision Scale car says it was “Made in Korea by Sung-Jin.” It really is a fine car! One to keep your eyes peeled for.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

OO Variety in 1941, Part VII: Scratchbuilding and Layouts

There were some pretty active model railroaders out there in American OO in 1941.

First up I would like to highlight again Edmund Collins. He was mentioned back in the 1939 and in the 1940 series, and his 4-4-2 Reading Atlantic was featured on cover of the May, 1941 issue of Model Railroader. This photo shows a bit more detail of his work. The model is outside third rail and had won third prize in the National Model Railroader Model Contest in 1940. He also won third prize in the same contest in 1941 with an interurban car that is seen in the July issue of MR. There it describes him as a “furniture store proprietor.” However, [UPDATE] I note in a letter to the editor of MR in August 1947 he was by that time in the hobby industry, working for Pittman.

Also, note the rubber stamp on the cover in the above scan! It is of interest to me as it is for a hobby shop in the smallish town I am from in Kansas and says something of the spread of model railroading and the hobby industry in general by 1941.

The epic article of this category was in the November and December issues of The Model Craftsman from Red Adams on scratchbuilding a modern passenger diesel, seen here. His article begins, “Well boys, my Mohave OO railroad has at long last acquired one of those new-fangled dielectric streamlined locomotives.” After a bit of defense on the topic of a modern diesel model being the topic of an article we read,
[W]hen I write one of my construction projects for publication, I really build, run and test, change, improve, etc. on the job. If you like these construction articles, I feel that I have done our hobby some good. If you don’t like them, tell the Editor, and he’ll see to it that you get what you want. He tries to give the readers what they want; not necessarily what he feels they should have.
He had written a similar article in 1940 on the topic of sand casting steam boilers. This time the topic is a bit more up to date! This article is too long to really cover properly in this series but if you are interested in the process it is full of drawings and cool photos, with two completed models visible in these photos. He goes way beyond my humble sand casting 101 article; however, I did update it with another photo from his November article that illustrates the patterns and core box castings needed to make this model if you are interested in learning more.

And also Red Adams layout was featured in the March 1941 issue of Miniature Railroading. See this article for photos and more on that layout feature.

Speaking of Miniature Railroading, they had some advertising related to OO as well, but it was not a scale seen a great deal in their pages in 1941, their last year of publication. One interesting item in the April/May issue is in the form of club news from an OO club in Red Bank, NJ, who were building a portable OO layout. Officers of the group were John Muller, G. L. Whitehead, and William McVey.

Turning back to The Model Craftsman, a long article in defense of OO was published in their February issue. The article is by T. W. Cartwright and includes four photos of his layout. The battle of the gauges still raged on but it was not stopping people from building some nice layouts. Some flavor from the article:
So far, I have made converts of several HO boys, and I’m just getting started. So, if there is any truth to this popularity poll business, there is going to be a surprise in store for Mr. LaNal the next time we read the vote. I have not converted only HO gaugers, but there are plenty of O gaugers, also. For instance, a group of twenty-five who were forming an O gauge club paid me a visit first. They became an OO gauge club.
To close the look at layouts, The Model Craftsman had a layout contest in 1941, the OO winners being featured in a six page article in their May, 1941 issue.

Their first prize winner was Sid Wells of Glencoe, Ill, with his Birmingham and Glencoe layout. A photo of his layout very similar to one in the contest may be seen here, published in the 1941 issue of Blow-Smoke, and this photo is one published in the contest article but also later used as the cover photo of The Model Craftsman for March, 1943, from where this scan was made. The layout itself was a bit larger than 7’ X 13’, with a track plan and more to be found in the article.

The second prize winner was Richard Houghton, “a newspaperman from Los Gatos, Californy.” A photo of a small scene from his layout is seen in the final segment of this series on 1941, from an article he wrote; Houghton was particularly interested in block signaling in two rail.

Third prize went to Edmund E. Pattison of Pawtucket, R. I. He gives a rundown of his equipment roster which had some standards and some surprises. “Our motive power consists of Hudson, P5A and gas electric together with a roundhouse goat. The gas electric is equipped with a rectifier as will be the Hudson and P5A in the near future.” As to equipment, surprises include a depressed center flat and a Reading bobber caboose out of a total roster of less than 30 cars.

To close, the final segment of this series on 1941 focuses on some dilemmas of the time for OO gaugers. I was able to update an article from 2010 to serve as the series conclusion, as it already had much of the content I had spotted that I wanted to close out this look at the last year before WWII. So with no delay this time please continue reading at the link!

Conclusion of 1941 series

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

OO Variety in 1941, Part VI: Track, Buildings, and Parts


Besides Lionel sectional track and the line put out by Mantua, both already mentioned in this series, there are two more major lines of trackwork available in 1941.

First alphabetically is Midlin. In addition to the existing line of track and switches, Midlin advertised a line of scale figures, a new # 6 crossover, and background panels. Midlin advertised steadily in all magazines; they had a quality product that must have sold well in HO and OO scales. This is reflected in an article in the October issue of The Model Craftsman, which has a brief history of the company, with Fred Chemidlin visible at the bottom left in the photo. The article gives a great view into the hobby industry of the time.
The story of Midlin Models, like so many other manufacturers in the hobby field, is that of a small beginning and a rapid and phenomenal rise to success. The owner and founder of Midlin Models is Fred Chemidlin. Mr. Chemidlin had long been connected with the hobby industry in the capacity of an employee, until three years ago when he entered the manufacturing field for himself. 
Faith in a single idea, perseverance to see it through, regardless of the difficulties encountered along the way, is probably the real reason for Mr. Chemidliln’s success. In 1937, with only one hundred and thirty dollars, a patent for an automatic track making machine, and the necessity to support a large family, Mr. Chemidlin started his now extensive business. At first, his was a one-man manufacturing plant. He was the one man.   
… Now there is a staff of ten men. When the rush season sets in, the crew is increased to fifteen.  
… At one time … (t)o obtain the rail at a price to make a profit, he convinced his banker to purchase the rail for him and hold it as security for the amount of money necessary to buy it. Each evening he had to trudge a mile and a half to the post office to mail out the kits that he had finished that day. The weight of several of those kits was considerable at the time, but now, looking back, Mr. Chemidlin feels they were quite light because each kit meant a satisfied buyer. Those same buyers comprise the foundation of his business.
Another line of OO track was introduced to the market in 1941, Tru-Scale. The first ad I have found is in the January issue of Model Railroader, basically just promoting that a product was on the way. By March they rolled out the line more clearly and by August they had upgraded to an ad with a photo, the ad seen here. A photo that shows a samples of Tru-Scale, Mantua, and Midlin track may be seen here.

Turning to parts, K&W (already described in this series in 1939 and 40) still had various parts out such as a water column and a signal bridge (and couplers).

A more extensive, new line was by Selley. The first ad for the Selley Mfg. Co is in The Model Craftsman for March 1941. “A complete line of model railroad cast metal parts from one service.” After this point they advertised steadily in MR and MC. This scanned ad is from the August issue of MR. A lot of the parts are very similar to Nason and Graceline parts. For a longer overview of Selley see this article.

Next we get to another new firm that put out some great advertising, Staples. For example in the January issue of MC they had a full page ad (also seen in the February issue of MR) on their dummy switch machine. My favorite ad though is this one, from Model Railroader in October of 1941.  They had out a new OO signal and it looks like a beauty, especially so next to that Scale-Craft 4-6-0 steaming into focus. That this signal is not HO/OO is also a big plus for us, although it might have sold better if also marketed to HO fans of the day. It was reviewed in the December issue of MR where they noted that it was about 3 1/4" tall and that "The ladder detail is neat and strong." [UPDATE: A photo of one of these signals mint in box may be sen in this article.]

Finally, as to buildings, Skyline and Ideal have out extensive lines of HO/OO buildings. See this article for a good introduction to Skyline, and this article for more on Ideal.

There are still two more installments to this series! When we return the topic is scratchbuilding and layout photos.

Continue in 1941 Series

Monday, June 18, 2012

OO Variety in 1941, Part V: Smaller OO Lines


A number of smaller OO lines were in business in 1941. First up in this review are makers that had lines that continued in production from previous years.

Starting alphabetically, E. H. Bessey advertised in Model Railroader that they had five kinds of OO car kits and also bridge kits. These models are notable for the lettering being printed directly on the wood car sides. The four types of old time reefers are described in this article and the boxcar may be seen here.

So far as I can tell Famoco ran no advertisements in 1941, but was clearly still available. Polks for example clearly carried this line, and in an ad first run in the February, 1941 issue of Model Railroader says they have a “new” 0-4-0T “Roundhouse Goat.” This was actually first produced in 1939, and this same wording about the “new” OO roundhouse goat may be found in their ad in December! They stretched the meaning of “new” a bit there. The Famoco overview article is here. For those interested in more on Polks, there is a nice series of photos of the Polks store on P. 66 of the January issue of The Model Craftsman.

J-C Models was not particularly visible in the hobby press. I believe however it was, like Famoco, still available as the company clearly survived into the post-war era, and ads are to be found, such as in the January issue of Model Railroader. The J-C overview article is here.

Model Lumber Co. continued to advertise new body kits in OO (see MR for January and March, 1941) but it is not clear from ads what they made. Their ad from December of 1940 may be seen in this prior article. UPDATE: See that article for a few more notes on their coach and combine kits in OO.

Also Picard advertised steadily in Model Railroader. These OO body kits were widely used in the period by OO gaugers. The Picard overview article is here.

Then we get to the topic of new lines in the OO market.

Champion had their new line of OO body kits out, first advertised in the May issue of MR. That ad and an overview of their extensive OO line of boxcar and reefer kits and printed car sides may be found here.

Hawk launched their OO line with an ad in the February, 1941 issue of The Model Railroader, priced right at .50 a car. That ad and an overview of their line of OO freight car bodies may be found in this article.

Also new to the OO market was Lee’s Mfg. Co. of Chicago, which in a very small ad in the December issue of MR proclaims to “OO Fans” that “This is the pickle car you have waited for. Dry kit complete with precision cut wood parts and hardware.” The dry kit sold for $1.00 less trucks and couplers. Anyone ever see one of these? And how many people really ever are waiting for a pickle car?

Mantua was a leading HO firm but had a line of OO track on fiber ties that was still out (described here), but also sold three brand new pieces of OO equipment in 1941; their Belle of 80s 4-4-0 locomotive and an old time Baggage car and coach. The 4-4-0 is described in this article, with a catalog photo. The baggage car is mentioned in the September issue of MR and this ad from the September, 1941 issue of MC, has more detail, with the baggage and coach in OO for $4.00, compared to HO at $3.50. Click on the photo to see the prices and other interesting text related to price changes.

Finally, Scale-Rail Industries had out an extensive new line of “Processed Car Sides” in OO and HO gauges. The first advertisement for the line was in the May, 1941 issue of Model Railroader, and may be seen in this overview article on Scale-Rail. There is also a review in Trade topics in the same issue, where they note that the “Hearlds and lettering look like the real thing.” Perhaps the best car side produced in OO, with a Picard body and some more parts these sides work up into great cars.

UPDATE: And another apparent 1941 product was the ATSF express reefer by Unique Miniatures (more here).

When the series for 1941 returns the topic will be track, buildings, and parts.

Continue in 1941 Series

Friday, June 15, 2012

American OO Today on Facebook and your Mobile Device


I am not a smart phone user yet, but I know many websites are upgrading to allow for better viewing on a mobile platform. How does American OO Today look?

It looks very good! I can see ways to edit articles to work a bit better on mobile devices but Blogger has done a great job with their mobile platform. Particularly the OO series articles work very well on the mobile platform, you can easily read from beginning to end and surf all over the site via links. If you are a mobile user, check out how American OO Today looks.

Also we have been on Facebook for a while. As can be seen from the second screen shot, we are still stuck under 20 fans. I would love to see the site up above 30 fans as a goal to put out there. Feel free to become a fan or promote the site to any of your friends who use Facebook. The Facebook page is here.

Also, one other update as the 1941 series is in progress. I was hoping to finish it before I get tied up with some summer commitments, but I may not make it there. I will do my best though, be watching for more.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

OO Variety in 1941, Part IV: Graceline


Graceline Model Railroads was a steady advertiser in The Model Railroader in 1941 and had an expanding OO line.

To begin the year, in January they had nice new item, 6 wheel Pullman trucks. I have updated an older article on this truck with their advertisement, check here for more.

The next month we find another small ad in MR, this one boasting that “3,000 OO gaugers can’t be wrong!” You get the sense they were pretty excited about OO and were selling some product.

In March we get this ad which focuses on their new sprung Andrews with a great photo. These trucks were reviewed briefly in Trade Topics in the April issue of MR as follows.
A well detailed Andrews freight truck in OO gauge has been brought out by Graceline Models [sic]. The truck is sprung and equalized. Four actual working coil springs are employed to provide the springing action and the bolster works and locks on the side frame much the same as the prototype. Considerable detail has been incorporated in the bolster and the side frame. The inside of the wheels also have spiral-like detail. Good rolling qualities.
What they fail to mention is that these trucks are overscale and closer to S than OO. I have several pair of these trucks but none with the “spiral-like detail” mentioned on the wheelsets. A gondola on a pair of these trucks may be seen in this article (scroll down). Casting runs varied; some of what I have of these truck castings are in great shape and others are completely unusable today.

I would also mention that their automatic couplers were another product they pushed. There is a review/overview of the topic to be found in Trade Topics in August of 1941.

Then we get to this great, half page ad published in the November issue of Model Railroader. And it is big news as they have out 9 new body kits! I don't have their 1941 catalog but I do have one from early WWII; I believe by this date they had out most of the cars listed in this Graceline overview article. Also, note the bottom line of the ad: “Let’s boost OO!”

Of the cars listed, I have the instructions for the outside braced boxcar. This model is not common (the Hawk version being seen relatively often) and would be one to keep your eyes out for. Note the steel ends (which were metal castings, marked Graceline on the back) and doors. Also note in the drawing the one most easily identified feature of these cars, the cast metal frame, which is represented accurately in the drawing.

Finally, to close, in the December issue of MR Graceline pushed their warning signal, which were also reviewed in same issue in Trade Topics. I have several of these; they are quite a bit overscale, to the extent they must be close to O gauge. Originally they came with a printed sheet, according to the review. I believe these were also later produced by Transportation Models after the war.

In short though Graceline was looking to boost OO and sell some models. When the series returns the focus will be a number of smaller firms in the OO market.

Continue in 1941 Series

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

Thursday, June 7, 2012

OO Variety in 1941, Part II: Nason Railways


The oldest and largest maker of a line solely dedicated to the OO market was Nason Railways. They produced no new catalog in 1941, but the full line appears to have still been available, based on advertising by other sellers such as Hobby Craft Stores. See the Nason 101 article for the full list. Nason themselves ran only small ads in 1941 with regular monthly specials, as follows:

  • MR and MC, January -- 5 freight car bodies for $4
  • MR and MC, February -- C&NW flat for $2.75
  • MC, March -- “trial track kit” for $1
  • MC, April -- 12 section Pullman, complete, $3.50
  • MR and MC, September -- cast aluminum Pullman, $5.85
  • MR and MC, October -- new B&O Gondola for $2.75
  • MR and MC, November -- cast aluminum combine for $4.85
  • MR and MC, December -- 5 freight car bodies for $4

That their early cast aluminum passenger cars were pushed is interesting (see an example of the Pullman here) but the new item of the year is the B&O Gondola. In 1940 Nason had introduced a PRR gondola, discussed in this prior article, which was notably reviewed in Model Railroader, Model Craftsman, and Miniature Railroading in October of 1940.  One year later in October of 1941 Model Railroader has another Trade Topics review of the gondola, probably the last published review of any Nason product.
The wood floor, sides and ends, which are furnished cut to size, form the nucleus of this OO gauge gondola car. Printed car sides with embossed rivets are glued to the framework, after which the metal underframe and formed brass external ribs are installed. End sills, ladders, trucks, and couplers are included in the parts supplied in the kits. The couplers are well proportioned die castings with widened shanks so that the 2-56 screw holes provided for mounting purposes will not weaken the material. The car can be put together quite easily, and practical drawings and instructions are included with each kit. Trucks are for either two- or three-rail operation.
The PRR version of this car is rare and it was not until I was preparing this article that I even noted there was a B&O version. Consider this car a real rarity; if anyone has one I would love to share a photo. Another item gleaned from the review would relate to couplers. All the Nason couplers I have seen have been bronze, but apparently at the end they shipped out a die cast coupler.

The other Nason item that might be considered notable on the year were the freight car body kits, as they were the special twice in the year. A prior article on the Nason E-Z Built boxcars focuses on an earlier version of the model and the marketing of this same basic kit under the Page name. Recently however, I was able to purchase this example of the reefer kit which is I believe later production.

In the standard kit you got only a basic version. Turning back to the 1940 catalog for clarity, for $1.00 you got one of the “body construction kits” and for an additional $1.90 you could purchase “hardware kits to complete body kits.” The hardware kits included trucks, ice hatches, end beams, underframe, die stamped ladders, brake wheel, formed grab irons and steps, and, the stamped/embossed reefer door hinges. In the photo you can see most of those parts so this particular kit is the body kit plus the hardware kit (but less trucks).

As I also note in yet another article, these cars came with other slight variations. For sure you would need the extra parts to build up an attractive car, so the 4 cars for $5 was not actually quite the deal they might have hoped it to be.

With that we leave Nason Railways for 1941.Next up is Scale-Craft, who introduced several new OO models in 1941.

Continue to Part 3 of 1941 series

Monday, June 4, 2012

OO Variety in 1941, Part I: Lionel

1941 was a year that had the most variety of equipment available for any pre-war year. As today they are the best known maker of pre-war American OO models, the first maker to be examined in this series on 1941 will be Lionel.

In terms of the line itself, things were pretty much as they were in 1939. The 1941 catalog lists it all clearly in a nice two page spread. As I noted in the article on their line in 1940, they hit a reality check after the initial line was launched. Initially it must have related to sales, but as time went on it related to the focus of product line of the company itself.

Clues about this are found in a January, 1941 review of a new book in their magazine, The Model Builder, which they introduce as follows:
The Handbook for Model Builders is a publication produced by the Lionel Corporation and compiled and written by the staff of the Model Builder magazine. About one-third of the contents has previously been published in the Model Builder. This book is written for boys who own and operate manufactured trains and equipment as distinguished from hand-made scale models.
According to the review the book does actually include information on OO, but it is clear that Lionel recognized the thrust of their market was not toward scale model trains. OO was barely mentioned in The Model Builder at all in 1941, with a smattering of advertisements related to products in other lines (Scale-Craft, Nason, etc) being most of what you will find.

Lionel OO models start showing up often as used items in classified advertising. One interesting ad from The Model Railroader in February, 1941 for example lists a “Lionel OO gauge Hudson converted for outside third rail, used once, $18.” Other ads over the year make it clear OO is a gauge people were getting out of.

Then we get to the ad that in working on this series I have called in my notes the epic advertisement. It first appears on the back cover of the April, 1941 issue of The Model Craftsman and was a bit out of tune with reality. The initial version is presented first in this article. Note the layout photo of an actual scale layout and the headlines and advertising copy ("rapidly becoming the first choice of enthusiasts everywhere," etc.). [UPDATE: This view is a close-up of the layout]. As always click on the photo for a better view.

This ad ran with slight text and photo variations in The Model Craftsman until the October issue, this second version in this article being the most common version from the middle of the run. After that point I don’t believe Lionel advertised the OO line again in the hobby press. For sure HO was much more visible than OO at this point in time, a fact not reflected in the ad copy. They could try to project popularity out there to the buying public, but reality was clearly not on their side.

To close, a basic mistake Lionel made was to develop a line that was incompatible with the products of other makers in the same scale. In particular they did not produce what people wanted electrically. The Model Railroader for September 1941 has a “Letter from the Editor” from A. C. Kalmbach on the topic of “Troubles of a OO Gauger,” directed toward a specific reader who had sent in a question. Note that at one point Kalmbach specifically talks about converting a Lionel Hudson to a rectifier instead of sequence reverse, and it is a good overview of some of the thinking of the time.
In general, direct current is much more suitable for model railroading than is A. C. ….

The reversing unit in Lionel locomotives is not entirely satisfactory, it being of the sequence type. It would be much better to take out the reversing unit in that engine and put in the rectifier type reverse which is … absolutely positive and satisfactory in every way. It is by far the most popular type of reverse in scale model railroading. Then you can get Scale-Craft engines with series wound motors (not permanent magnet motors) and have these equipped with rectifier reverse. They’ll run on the same track and the same power as the Lionel engine and give you perfect reversing control….

Scale-Craft & Co. have one of the most complete lines of OO gauge equipment, including series wound motors which are suitable for D. C. and A. C., wheels, cars, locomotives and kits. Motors alone are made by L. & S. Models … ; a complete line of OO gauge equipment by Nason Railways … ; some OO equipment by Mantua Metal Products Co. …. Mantua makes chassis alone for OO gauge locomotives which may be something you’d like to use. You can buy the chassis with drivers, motor and gearing all assembled to mechanical perfection and they build your own superstructure.
The perception was that A. C. with sequence reverse was for toy trains; D. C. operation with either a D. C. motor or a rectifier was where it was at with scale models. With that when the series returns the topic will be the oldest American OO firm still in business, Nason Railways.

Continue to Part II of 1941 Series