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

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Building a OO Gauge FM H16-66 Diesel, Part II


Back in 2010 I started in toward completing a project started by Bill Johann, that of converting an Athearn HO Trainmaster diesel into an OO scale H16-66 diesel. He described it in an “extra issue” of The OO Road in 1993, and in part one I outlined the general project and how elements of the large HO model translated perfectly to OO as the slightly more compact “baby Trainmaster.”

Fast forward to today and I am pretty excited about how the H16-66 project came out. The big picture details came out great and it has exceeded expectations on several levels.

My fear was that with all the effort to make this model it would not be effective, as the badly damaged conversion that had been done by David Sacks clearly looked to me like an HO model on OO trucks. The fear was unfounded; this model has the visual heft of a full scale OO model. In the Part I article scroll down to see it before painting and for other details of the conversion. It really looks quite good, two key "big picture" details being correct make the model pop. Those details being the hoods are the correct height and width, and from the side the major details such as the frame height and cab size are dead on correct for OO. The cab in particular I credit with making the biggest single visual difference over the old Sacks conversion, as he kept the original HO cab on his model.

The result is that this model does not at all look like a miniature, under scale model, and it looks great sandwiched between a Kemtron GP-7 and a Schorr F-3, as seen in these photos. The pairing with the Schorr F-3 has been particularly effective. Both have flywheels and the F3 of choice has a big can motor. The pair runs and pulls great on the layout. One test was assembling a train of thirteen die cast S-C and Lionel cars, a very heavy train and no problems pulling them around. The F-3 is a very heavy bronze casting (more on this Schorr F-3 model here) and the H16-66 has extra weights added and 12 wheel drive. The pair has much more pulling power than anything I have ran previously and the pair will crawl around the layout beautifully together. [The Kemton GP-7 in the first photo is described in this article.]

A quote from a very recent Tony Koester "Trains of Thought" column in Model Railroader (September, 2012) in regard to locomotive conversions comes to mind regarding this FM diesel; “…then it will at least temporarily assume the role of ‘New Best Friend.’” For now it is a favorite model, and I believe I will run this engine quite a bit in the coming years.

With this project out of the way, I have all the parts I need to make two examples of another project laid out by Bill Johann in that same extra issue of The OO Road, an EMD SD-40 prototype. When time allows I will start in on that. The biggest challenge will be the cab, but if I can get that looking right the rest of the model should fall into place.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Two American OO Coaches of Mystery [Solved: Graceline]


The cars of the day today are these two American OO heavyweight passenger cars. They came to me in a large group of items some year ago, and periodically I get them out and ponder them. On first glance they look pretty average with the typical die pressed paper sides, maybe J-C or Graceline, but whenever I look at them closer their origins are not clear at all.

First I can tell you what they are not. The sides on these cars are not Famoco/J-C Models, and they are not Graceline sides either [see UPDATE]. The rivet patterns and window spacing is unlike that of any side in either line of models. Click on the photos for a better view.

So what does that leave us with? They look too professional to be home made, so I am left with maybe the original 1936 version of the Nason easy-built coach (they briefly sold a side of this type before changing to brass sides) or maybe Raymond Willey (very early productalso mentioned in this article, a friend of Red Adams) or ???

Whatever they are, as to these sides they are in their second use on a car. The builder painted over decals and they had been applied to a previous car body with pins. The holes are still there, but this time around the builder used glue and I think cast Selley parts for the ends and doors and steps and frame, along with Scale-Craft caboose smoke stacks for more of a work train/older time look.

These at one point had trucks based on the screw holes but have never been set up with couplers. The builder knew what they were. I do not. So while I realize this will never be a high traffic article, items like these cars of mystery intrigue me, and hopefully a few other readers out there will take a closer look at cars that look like J-C and find more cars with these early sides.

UPDATE 2013: Working on some Graceline cars the doors at the end of each car tipped me off, they are Graceline doors. Looking also at their catalogs again I realized that the coach is not illustrated. So ... 99% sure these are Graceline coaches, and more inclined to restore them now as well, with correct Graceline under frame parts from the parts supply.

UPDATE 2014: And they are done. See this article for the finished cars. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

American OO for 1942, Part II: Production by Major Manufacturers Ends


As noted in part I, all the major manufacturers of model railroad equipment had to cease production for the hobby market by June 30. The three months leading up to that deadline are the focus of this installment of the series on the history of American OO gauge.

In short, even a casual reader looking at the hobby magazines of the day can tell that the war had a serious impact on everyone. Manufacturers were enthusiastic about their niche of the hobby market, but they were needed by the war effort. The larger ones retooled, expanded, and shifted toward products for the war effort during these few months. The smaller ones closed or ran more or less as one man shops offering products made without use of critical materials.

First up are the April issues of The Model Railroader and The Model Craftsman. Advertising by lines that made or had made OO products was certainly down. Looking at MC, Mantua had track available, Selley had a smaller ad (and in Trade News it is reported that Selley has been in business since 1909!), Midlin had a small ad, and Nason had this small ad, “keep them rolling.” Over in The Model Railroader, Scale-Craft had a full page ad but it was devoted to telling how they had shifted to war work. It is almost as if they kept running ads for two reasons, to keep their name out there but also to keep MR going with some ad revenue. Other companies in other gauges had similar tactics. Oh, and another familiar name from the pre-war era is seen again: Howard Winther. He won first prize in all the OO categories at the NYSME show.

The May issues of both major magazines have photos of OO gauge layouts, MR having the best views. They are of the layout of Richard Houghton, a name seen a couple times earlier in this series. His layout had been seen back in 1940 as well, also in an article focusing on scenic techniques. But note the overhead wire and that neat scratch built box cab electric in this photo.
As to products in May, note this Picard advertisement in MR. They have express reefers “manufactured expressly to fit those attractive Champion sides” that we saw mentioned in part I. Also Trade Topics has a review of the new Picard hopper kits, and the parts “fit together like a glove.” Unlike most other model railroad manufacturers, Picard was in an excellent position in 1942; essentially a one man shop with a great product that used no critical war materials. My overview of Picard is here, and there will be more on Picard when we get to part III of this series on 1942.

Also the May advertisement from Nason in MR states that they are “now stocking decals.” Looking at their prior catalogs, while it sounds like an obvious thing for them to market, decals were not a product they had ever listed for sale. Recently I was able to pick up a set of these Nason decals on eBay. The set itself inside looks usable still after all these years, and certainly these are not often seen.  The decals themselves look to my eye to be smallish, as in maybe actually a HO product repackaged as OO.

As to the June issues, it was summer so model railroading always slowed down a bit, but I think especially so this year compared to other recent years. Model Railroader had their poll results for 1942, with OO dropping in popularity and HO now going over 50%! Oh my, that was not good news for OO gaugers. The theme of the full page Lionel advertisement in MR was a sentiment of the time, “We must fight, first,” and we all know that there would be years of fighting still to come. When this series returns we will look at the rest of 1942, the first six months after the end of production of most model railroad equipment for the duration of the war.

Continue to Part III of 1942 Series

Friday, September 14, 2012

An OO Gauge N&W Caboose and Matching Hoppers

I was recently able to purchase a modified Lionel OO caboose which matches perfectly three hopper cars I had obtained from Bill Gilbert, a great set of four kitbashed American OO freight cars. First up is the caboose.

After I won the auction the seller contacted me as the smokestack had broken off in packing the model. No problem, I could fix that! He relayed one aside, that when it was for sale he got questions related to the listing saying it could not be not a Lionel caboose, it had that extra window. In my case though, that is exactly why I bought it, it looked like a carefully modified Lionel OO caboose! Which it is, and very neatly done. The builder (I think Bill Gilbert) added the window to match an N&W prototype. I found easily online photos of for example an N&W class C-2 caboose with very similar proportions and that extra window on one side. The model itself had one quirk; I believe it was always a shelf model. Because one truck had three rail wheelsets and the other two rail! I had to work over that truck to set it up for running on the layout.

The first of the matching cars are these two three-bay hoppers. They are Schorr models but with modified ends. A stock Shorr three bay hopper may be seen in this post, the end is rounded, and actually I have previously described these modified cars in this article as well, but without a photo where you can easily see the changes, done on the cars to match N&W practices. Also note (it is hard to see) he has added a few other nice details such as painting the ends of the air hoses silver to imitate the connectors that would be there.

Finally we also have this nice Schorr two-bay hopper car. Again the car is detailed nicely and like the others also has a nice custom coal load and modified ends.

It would be a shame not to run these cars! My layout is generic enough that these N&W models don’t look too out of place and these are all great OO models, very happy to have them.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

American OO for 1942, Part I: Wartime Restrictions

As we all know, World War II was raging in 1942, and the United States was fully engaged in the conflict. This look at American OO gauge model trains in 1942 will focus on the year as it rolls out and the changes seen due to wartime restrictions. First up is the period January to March.

The January issues of The Model Railroader and The Model Craftsman both had editorials on the topic “We are at war!” However, there were products in the pipeline so to speak just before the outbreak of war that were in fact still rolling out, the most notable probably being the Mantua old-time combination car. As they state in their January advertisements, “This is of similar construction as the coach and baggage cars which have enjoyed such great popularity with model railroaders. Complete with WORKING doors and seat units.” In HO the car sold for $3.50 and in OO it would run you $4.00. Oh, and their 1942 catalog was now ready, “Including a Page for OO Gaugers.” This image of the combine is from this catalog. However, the version of the 1942 Mantua catalog posted on the HOSeeker site seems to be a later printing, one that actually contains no reference to OO gauge production of this model or the Belle of the 80s — only the OO track is listed — with the last page also clearly noting that they stopped manufacturing model railroad supplies on June 30, 1942. But that is jumping ahead a bit in our narrative.

Another OO new item for January was featured in an ad in The Model Railroader, a new line of round roof milk express reefers by Champion. The ad tells more, click on it for a better view, and other advertising makes it clear the bodies are by Picard. I was able to also recently purchase on eBay a set of the sides for the car in the ad, seen below as well. All in all quite a few items are still listed for sale in OO as of January, with small ads from Graceline, Nason, and Selley, for example.

The epic article for January in The Model Craftsman is from H. L. “Red” Adams, whom we have seen before in this history series and we will be seeing a lot of for the next few years. The article is on putting interior details in modern streamlined passenger cars in OO. The cars featured are the same ones seen in an article from 1940, and full size OO blueprints are included in the issue as well. For a view of one of his streamlined cars from 1940 see this article, and also this article gives two more views of my set of four similar cars, which seem to have been built following the articles by Adams very closely (I believe using bodies briefly marketed by Newark Electric).

By the February issue it is clear that the war was slowing things down a lot in the industry. Scale-Craft advertised that they were now involved 90% in war work. Brass was not available for model railroad uses, which impacted the manufacturers of track pretty significantly. Mantua put out with much fanfare their new steel rail, covered in both magazines. Midlin however required a special type of rail and they made clear in their advertising that they had to curtail production and were returning to mail order only as a one man shop.

Graceline has the ad I would feature for February, from The Model Railroader, showing “3 OO Honeys,” their flat, gondola, and utility flat. The photo helps make clear what the difference was in their minds between a standard flat car and a utility flat. The March issue of MR also has a nice ad on their trucks and Trade Topics covers their line as follows:
The number of die-cast parts introduced recently by Graceline is worthy of note. These OO gauge items are among the many: depressed-center flat car sides, passenger and freight car ends, air brake system, ice hatches, end sills, baggage car doors, passenger car steps, Ajax brake wheel and gear. The items are too numerous to review separately, but on the whole a wealth of detail has been incorporated into each and they represent the result of much research and designing. The proportions are pleasing; castings are made from a lead base alloy.
Their ad also mentions their 1942 catalog, of which I have a photocopy. In short everything in this overview article on Graceline was available, with the exception of the early brass-side cars with hand lettering. In the catalog they note
A little over three years ago we started Graceline Model Railroads with the idea of giving the 00 modeler a wide variety of authentic model railroad equipment and affording you the enjoyment of model railroading at its best. ... From comments received from hundreds of 00 fans, we feel we have been more than rewarded for our efforts.
Now that a large part of our time is devoted to defense work, we have a double duty and privilege to perform,-- to do our part to help defend our Country, and to carry on the important work of Model Railroading to the best of our ability.... we feel that the need for a hobby as mental relaxation and diversion from the more serious problems is greater than ever before.
These are days when close co-operation is needed, both from the manufacturer and from the modeler. I am sure that if we work together we shall be able to enjoy this fascinating hobby in the difficult times that lie ahead.
At the end of March a critical decision was made by the government, with the purpose of conserving metal, directing it toward the war effort. The May issue of Model Railroader lays it out well:
Model railroads of the country began doing their bit for the war effort Mar. 31, when, under Order L-81 from the War Production Board, production of all items containing 7 percent or more critical material, by weight, was slashed 75 percent until June 30, after which date production must cease entirely. Production of items containing prohibited materials — rare metals such as tin, antimony, etc. — is already halted.
The article there goes into more detail but in short the larger manufacturers were effectively limited to supplies on hand and were rapidly shifting to war work, and the smaller makers who could not shift over to war work would continue to supply the hobby with a limited range of products that did not contain critical war materials. How this plays out will be seen as we continue in this series.

Two older articles in this site that relate to early 1942 include this one with two views of the layout of Sid Wells, and also Railroad magazine also had some OO specific content in 1942, see this article for a glimpse of that.

When the series returns the topic will be the period leading up to June 30, 1942.

Continue in 1942 Series