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

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Modern Equipment in American OO Gauge


With travels in the summer I see a number of trains and always get itching to operate and work with some of the more modern OO gauge equipment I own, as I frequently see big trains out west.

Within American OO Today there are a number of articles on modern (70s and later) OO gauge models, but judging from the stats many of those are pretty low traffic articles. With that thought, I offer the links below which offer a bit of inspiration toward what can be done in modeling more recent equipment in American OO. Click on any link for more information.
The photo is from the well car and spine car article. I will mention here as well, the red one is an orphan the yellow one I can run with other cars but it seems that the sets they were a part of were broken up. If you have part of these sets, let me know, perhaps we can work out a trade.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Quartet of ATSF Reefers in OO

When I have blocks of time I try to get to some of the bigger projects that are underway. Early this summer the final project was finishing this group of ATSF reefers.

First up is this overall view of the set on the layout. The depot is just a bit out of place, but the string of reefers has a great look.

Those that follow OO on eBay will have noticed that there is a seller who makes new OO printed car sides for quite a variety of models. I have a brief review and photos of a set of his PFE sides here. They are printed on what I would think of as cover stock and come in quite a variety of schemes. In their own right they are a collectable, but I wanted to make use of them to rebuild some vintage cars.

One of the cars as I tore it down is visible here. The one specific thing to mention is that most standard OO car bodies are actually 42 foot, but these new sides only work on 40 foot cars. So I had to sort through the junker cars a bit to find four 40 foot bodies that matched, all of them being Picard. Then I stripped them down to make a set matched, solid, square bodies. Three of them had weights inside from the original builder, so I weighed the other to match. The finished cars are a bit heavy but run well together.

The second photo is the full group from the train name side. It is a nice set. I should mention right off that the color is a bit too red/orange to my eye. As they run together it is not really a problem in a way, the eye accepts them as correct, but the color to my eye is a bit off.

Moving to the third photo, this compares the new printed sides to similar vintage OO sides. They match very well for size. The vintage reefer has Champion sides and the vintage boxcar is Eastern, with Famoco selling cars with exactly the same sides as well.

Speaking of Eastern/Famoco, they also sold reefers and actually they, if I am honest, don’t look so good. The problem is the car sides are too tall. Compare these new cars to the Eastern/Famoco reefer seen here or here. That particular PFE car, I spent ages building it up well and it just does not work visually. I have others of these that are not in great shape, and would be inclined to rebuild them as box cars (I have plenty of box car sides) and salvage off the hatches to build more cars like the ones in the present article. Another alternate is to use the Eastern/Famoco sides on shorter Picard bodies and work out cars like these.

The fourth photo  shows the map side of the cars for comparison as well, and they match nicely. This speaks well of the folks at Champion and Eastern for scaling the sides accurately, and it also shows how the new car sides match the vintage look convincingly.

The final photo gets into construction details of the bodies. One thing that appealed to me on the ATSF models was that the body would be painted black. Why this is good is the somewhat heavy vintage detail would be hidden to a degree.

Starting up top, the hatches are vintage Eastern/Famoco parts that, along with the ladders, were purchased off eBay, there is a seller that lists these periodically as well.The ends are Eastern; these are pressed cardstock. I trimmed them carefully with a new X-Acto blade and glued on with carpenter’s glue using clamps and boards to hold them square as the glue set.The underframes are Nason parts. I had enough to do the set and love how they match. I used Eastern brake cylinders and worked up fresh sets of Scale-Craft trucks.

There was one final part, not that visible in the photos, which I cast up myself in molds I made years ago, the end piece at the bottom of the ends. This is a modified Eastern part, one that allows me to drop Kadee couplers right in place.

I trimmed the sides in a paper cutter to make perfect, straight cuts. As to how to glue the sides on, I did that with carpenters glue, two square pieces of floor stock covered with plastic wrap, and clamps. Most of the sides went on without a hitch but you can’t rush this process at all.

How well these cars will hold up over time is yet to see, but the sides and a bit of effort did turn four junkers into a sharp set of reefers.

With that, this may close out the month for me for American OO Today, as I will be tied up with other things until August. I look forward to the fall and more OO projects, and until then stay cool.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Winther Refrigerator Week: Part III, A PFE Trio

To close our look at American OO refrigerator cars by OO pioneer Howard Winther, we have a great set of PFE cars.

Several things are clear looking at these in comparison to other cars featured that were built by Winther. Above all though these are early examples of his craftsmanship. Note that all of the cars of this set of three are hand lettered. They all ride on his now familiar scratchbuilt trucks seen in a number of photos of his cars, and all also have his early couplers bent from sheet stock.

The first car is PFE with an SP herald. I believe the herald is a printed piece applied to the car side.

This is clearer with the second car today, this PFE reefer with a UP herald.

Also note that the lettering is simplified on all these cars in that only the major lettering you would really see is there. Time was not spent to hand letter all the small numbers and such back when these were made, I believe sometime around 1935 based on the photos of the other models. In fact these could be among  his earliest models, as the 1934 article on his layout in The Modelmaker states that "At present there are 11 freight cars in use, mostly refrigerators." Imagine this trio rolling around his layout back in that day! They were great models.

The third car of the set has a Western Pacific herald. Note that this one is just a bit worse for the wear after storage in that a truck came apart. Winther packed his OO gauge models up carefully in wood boxes due to several moves made later in his life, which is why these models are in overall such excellent condition today. It is like they were packed up in a time capsule.

The last photo is a close up made from the previous photo. If you zoom in on any of these photos the pencil guide lines for the lettering are visible. Hand lettering such as this is a skill, and to match three cars so closely is another testament to his craftsmanship.

With that we come to the end of the Winther photos. For those just stumbling on to these now I would point back to these two articles as the essential background reading.
It rare to see early models such as these, but especially so to see early models that were featured in The Modelmaker and The Model Railroader and won awards at the time. Thank you again to the Winther family for sharing these photos of models by an real American OO pioneer, Howard Winther.

Return to the beginning of Winther Refrigerator Week

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Winther Refrigerator Week: Part II, Decals


For part II we have two more refrigerator cars built by Howard Winther that are a bit easier to identify.

These two cars both look to be post-war Scale-Craft kits, lettered with decals. Their pre-war version of this car had sand cast bronze doors and roof hatches that were probably a bit too bulky looking to suit Howard Winther. The later production had a door stamped from brass sheet that was applied to the car side.

This first car, decorated for the Illinois Central, on first glance is pretty much a stock but nicely built late S-C kit. It is on Scale-Craft trucks and you can see the stock S-C ladders and other details. But then I look closer and wonder, is that actually a scribed Picard body? It really has the look. Or was Winther just such a craftsman that he added the wood board details himself? The stock S-C sides in their post-war production of this car were plain.
 
The second car also has a number of visible S-C parts. The hatches are replacements; the stock S-C postwar ice hatch was undersized and Winther knew he could do better. This car has no wood scribing on the sides and would seem to have the original S-C body. Then take a look at the trucks; these look to be Schorr trucks. Widely considered to be the best trucks ever sold in American OO, at least two batches of these were imported from Japan. They certainly are a lot better looking than the stock S-C trucks on the first car.

Both cars are nicely painted and decaled examples of classic OO models. The series will close later this week with three more great, early examples of OO craftsmanship.

Continue to Conclusion of Winther Series

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Winther Refrigerator Week: Part I, Printed Sides

More than a year ago I received a treasure trove of great photos of early American OO models by OO Pioneer Howard Winther, sent by his family. Most of those 80 photos have now been posted in the site (with boxcar week almost exactly a year ago, starting here), but there is one group not yet addressed, his refrigerator cars. Only one photo has been posted yet (see this article for that 1935 car and more background), so up today first is a group of four cars with printed sides.

First, just to look at the general side of this, a lot of refrigerator car kits were produced in OO gauge, especially in the pre-war years. People loved the color of them I think, and they were ideal models for producing with printed sides. The sides of most cars was a different color than the roof and ends, so it was quite possible to build a sharp car, matching colors was no problem.

Which leads us to this first car. Actually this whole group, one reason I waited so long to post these is they are really hard to ID as to manufacturer, especially so from photos. Clearly the sides are pre-war commercial products. But produced by whom?

My best guess is the first car may be Hoffman. Compare to the sides of this unbuilt Hoffman kit. They look quite close but the car number is different … and Nason made a similar car. Whatever the manufacturer, it is built very well and equipped with his scratchbuilt trucks and couplers. (Trucks described here; couplers described here).

I updated my Nason  Railways 101 article again to include the list of car sides as presented in their 1939 and 40 catalogs, augmented with car numbers when possible. This second car is similar to the possible Hoffman car but may actually be Nason or their lower cost side brand, Page, under which they marketed the same cars. Or possibly Champion, they list this side as well. Again this model has those great scratchbuilt trucks and couplers seen on so many of these Winther cars.

This third car looks like it is by a different manufacturer. Nason sold an SFRD reefer that I have never seen. My best guess though is this might actually be an elusive Yardmaster kit. Yardmaster was only available in 1940. I don't own any but kits are out there! This particular car is very worth a closer look. The printed lettering "WO 2-40" is clear near the center of the photo when I zoom in, which is consistent with a line that was introduced that year. Champion also made similar sides, but these are definitely not those, seen on a car in this article. Note also the printed ends and the typical great build seen in these Winther photos.

Finally, we have this car. Maybe I am missing something but I am stumped as to the maker of these sides. Looks very commercial and very much like Hoffman or Nason but I don't see this model listed in their lines. I don't have a full list for Champion, which is another possibility. Zooming in on the original photo I can't glean a lot more, but unlike the other cars in this article this reefer is riding on Nason trucks and has metal ends that look to be pressed out of brass, similar to those seen on a couple of the boxcar photos. And of course loop couplers.

Note also that all of the cars in this group have added door details, grab irons, etc. This last car having the most extensive detailing, as it has hinges added. Great early models in great condition! Don't forget to click on the photos for a closer view. This short series will continue with two more easily identified cars.

UPDATE: Also several bad links were fixed, no idea why they became corrupt.

Continue to Part II of Winther Refrigerator Cars