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

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

More AHM Stock Car Conversions


As a last project of the year (I like to alternate harder and easier projects) I had in mind to finish up three HO stock car conversions. These were inspired by the overscale AHM HO model I described in this article. There we learn it is based on a NYC prototype and is 15” too wide in HO. In OO it ends up as being 36’ long, a bit short in length but OK for freelancing as I am.

This photo shows my set of four. The NYC model is the one in the earlier article and was made by Bill Gilbert. It is on Schorr trucks and is a handsome car. He also replaced the roof walk, a step I did not take in the spirit of keeping the conversion simple. This was one of those projects where I kept reminding myself, no heroics! Just make a simple, clean model.

For my conversions I tried a couple different truck types on the cars but felt that Scale-Craft trucks gave perhaps the best look of the alternatives due to the wheelbase and the look. The UP car is just the stock version of the car on S-C trucks, and the Orient cars I think came put pretty well. They would look even better if they were 40’ long, and it does not help that the Scale-Craft stock car is 42’ long (as are most vintage OO box cars--two of my S-C stock cars may be seen in this article). Still, the area of the setting of my layout was a major one for cattle shipping and there will be a place for these cars on the regular running roster. And they were again a nice and relatively easy project to end the year with.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

E-Z Mate Couplers on Scale-Craft OO Cars


Standard size Kadee HO couplers have been the de facto standard for American OO operators for many years. They are compatible (manual operation) with Scale-Craft and Lionel OO couplers and are rugged and reliable. As such, I have been a dedicated user and even frequently use the older style #4 couplers when possible; they are great on cars with a wood floor. If not those then I have used the #5 mostly, and the long shank version when necessary (such as on passenger cars).

#5 couplers however don’t install easily in die-cast Scale-Craft coupler pockets such as on the flat car, tank car, stock car, reefer, and boxcar. The typical installation was you assembled the box and then filed it down enough to fit. Not that hard really, but a few extra steps. As a result I have also made some use of their new Kadee whisker type couplers with the built in spring, which can install as a drop in on most Scale-Craft cars. What you do is use only the small lid in combination with a screw and the existing coupler pocket.

With the #5 coupler supply running low and no suitable whisker couplers at the store I finally purchased a set of Bachmann E-Z Mate Mark II couplers for trial. They are plastic and have the centering springs molded on. The result is as seen, compared to the typical #5 installation. Fast and easy, all that is needed is the original screw and a washer.

This does not leave an easy mounting solution for the hopper car which has a different coupler pocket. My personal standard has been to cut the pocket off entirely and install a #5 coupler in its box on the car. I believe with a bit of care and a shim or washer the E-Z Mate will work, but maybe the whisker type better. I don’t run a lot of hoppers, so I leave it to readers to work out this further. But for the standard pocket on all the other Scale-Craft cars E-Z Mate couplers will be seeing use, I will be getting more of these.

To the flat cars in the photo, you may have noticed the trucks. They are what I call “Morlok method” trucks, described further in this article, converted from TYCO or Mantua HO trucks. All of my S-C flat cars are on these trucks, visually and operationally they work well on this specific car type, they have an offset bolster that puts the trucks the right place and also they are not as visible on this car type. More may be found here on the comparison of early and late S-C flats and their truck mountings.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

American OO on Hold in1944: Part IV, Making Big Plans at Scale-Craft

To close this look at 1944 I would like to focus in one final article which gives quite a window into wartime operations in the hobby industry.  The article is “What’s Cookin’,” which ran in the April, 1944 issue of The Model Railroader. The topic overall is “What Manufacturers are Doing to be Ready for Business after Victory,” and “Boomer Pete” visited with several manufacturers for it including Gordon Varney, Rollin Logaugh, M. Dale Newton, Bill Walthers, Megow, and Mantua Metal Products. But the article opens with one of our favorite manufacturers, Scale-Craft.  The photos below are from the Scale-Craft 1941-42 catalog (with yet more views here), and the text of this portion of the Boomer Pete article is too interesting to not quote in full.
The model railroad manufacturer is the forgotten man these days. Without much of anything to sell he has receded some from the model fan’s horizon – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t plenty busy. I’ve visited some of the manufacturers from time to time and their present activities, while very different, are every bit as interesting as what went on before the war.
I went to Libertyville, Ill., on the North Shore one sunny afternoon, and walked across the east edge of town to Scale-Craft & Co., located in a medium-sized brick building which, along with several other industrial plants, backs up against the Milwaukee Road tracks. Probably 50 automobiles were parked outside and the place was obviously humming with activity. When I came in I was greeted with that now-familiar request in war plants, “Fill out this information slip, please, and I’ll give you a badge.”
Tall, dark Elliott Donnelley, boss of Scale-Craft for the last eight or nine years, invited me into his pleasant corner office, decorated with framed originals of old-time railroad lithographs.  (Donnelley, incidentally, has one of the finest collections of these in the country.) Several OO gauge model locomotives decorated the window sills. After getting my hat and coat off I was invited to take a look at the plant, and then the fun started. Donnelley asked the phone girl to ring for the “gestapo,” the local nickname assigned to the county deputies who guard the plant. When the officer arrived from his guardhouse at the back entrance, there was a long conversation about whether or not I should be allowed into the sacred precincts. It ended with Donnelley loudly expostulating, “Who’s running this place, anyway?” [Donnelley is to the left in the 1941 photo, K. M. Boyd on the right.]
Out we went through rows of assorted machinery – milling machines, turret lathes, screw machines, engine lathes, grinders, drill presses – to the steep stairs which lead to the mezzanine floor above the tool room in the rear of the plant. That mezzanine has always been the headquarters of the model railroad engineering department. And it still is, I’m happy to say. An experimental OO motor of new design was just being finished and lots of new designs of all kinds were on the drafting board. Scale-craft is really enthusiastic about what it will be able to produce after the war, with all the equipment and production lessons which can be learned in doing more or less special jobs of unusually difficult specifications. 
Motioning me out over the crowded machine floor and cautioning me to look at the machinery and not at the blond in the yellow sweater, K. M. Boyd, advertising manager, said, “Using this right, we can supply model railroad materials for every fan in the United States, and intend to have products that they’ll all want.”
How those goals will play out over the next few years will be seen. Scale-Craft advertised steadily, the ad here being from the same April issue of The Model Railroader, and clearly they had big plans for the OO line.

Looking ahead, 1945 looks to be a pivotal one for OO scale and model railroading in general. The Germans surrendered in May and the Japanese in August. People were ready, really ready, to move on from the war and the hobby market would boom. Be watching for the series to continue in another month or so.

Return to the Beginning of the 1944 Series

Continue to 1945 Series

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Revisiting the S-C 24 volt DC Motor

After years of not owning any models with the early Scale-Craft 24 volt DC motor I have for almost two years had two on the running roster. It finally occurred to me recently to run these on the “large scale” setting on my power pack (Ed Morlok had noted this possibility years ago), and in this mode they run even better. A great product! Clearly some operators adopted it as their standard at the time (Red Adams comes to mind) but it was a voltage level that was out of step with market.

Was it “ahead of its time?” I found an interesting editorial in the May, 1944 issue of The Model Railroader that makes that very claim. It is on the topic of “Food for Thought” relating to the then proposed change of the HO standard from 6 volts to 12 volts. Editor Frank Taylor notes though that in an ideal world
Perhaps all three gauges should be on a 24-volt standard instead of 12. If 12 volts is four times as good for HO, 24 volts would be 16 times as good, and it would improve the OO and O gauge situations as well….
Very small motors are practical at 24 volts. This was proved some years ago when Scale-Craft brought out a 24-volt OO gauge motor which unfortunately was ahead of its time. Would the advantages of a change to 24 volts all around be worth the temporary confusion it would cause?... We pose the question. Too much is involved for us to presume to answer it.
The photo is from this article, on re-motoring my original S-C 4-6-0, and also one of these motors may be seen in operation in this video, in an S-C 4-4-2. When I run these models it makes total sense why Scale-Craft would try to buck/change the trends of the time, as this motor does run well, especially so on the higher voltage available with the large scale setting on a modern power pack.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

American OO on Hold in1944: Part III, Layouts and More


Starting the year out with a bang, three different OO layouts were seen in the January, 1944 issues of The Model Craftsman and The Model Railroader.

Turning first to MC, first up is a familiar figure, H. L. “Red” Adams. His article is on the topic of track and scene building, but includes the first published track plan for his new layout and six photos, of which these four give the flavor (as always, click on the photo for a better view). The new layout he wrote depicted “a single track main line located along the Cascade Line of the Espee. This line has heavy traffic both freight and passenger, uses heavy power and hauls long trains.” He reported that he in the past year he had nearly completed the layout. The article itself is geared toward how he laid the track and constructed the scenery. Although not listed as such in this issue, it is also notable that later in the year he was listed as an Associate Editor for The Model Craftsman.

A few pages later in the same issue we find this layout built by L. and Ruby Johnston of Vallejo, CA. It was the sixth contest winner featured from the MC railroad layout contest. The article begins “The Little Journey & Return R.R. was started eighteen months ago. Up to that time I was in O gauge, but the lack of space to build and operate true to scale, caused me to switch to ‘OO.’” Johnston reports also that “The running rails were bought from the Scale-Craft people” and the motive power was two NYC 4-6-4 locomotives and also a “2-8-2 Converted N.Y.C.” The scale of the photo is too small to pick out much else with certainty, but that the locomotives are Lionel is a safe guess.

Add caption
Turning to MR, their January issue features an article on scenic backdrops by Richard Houghton. The focus is not on OO gauge, but this photo clearly shows a portion of his OO layout. I wish the detail were better, but pretty clearly visible is a Scale-Craft 4-6-0. Another photo of the layout is seen in the February issue that contains the conclusion of article. His layout had been previously featured in MR in 1940, another view may be seen here.

If that were not enough OO coverage to begin the year, in February MR featured an article on the third prize winner in their layout contest, an OO gauge layout by Mel Kirch. The view published (below) is mostly scenic and “the entire layout was built in 12 weeks, working nights and Sundays.” He had started out in O gauge but “O gauge was too expensive and also too large.” He continues, “OO gauge two-rail looked good, so I bought a flat-car kit and a few feet of track for a trial. Just the thing! From then on my wife and I assembled car kits and house kits….” Soon also he purchased “a Lionel Hudson, a lot of Midlin track, and two switches.” Quite a bit of work went into the layout to be sure, and “the trestle, made from a kit of 222 pieces, is quite an attraction.” The reefer behind the locomotive looks to be a Nason model.

Moving forward to May, in The Model Craftsman we learn that Howard Winther won first prize for locos at NYSME show for his Erie 4-6-0 #67. Is it the model seen in this article?

So far in this article we have seen four different OO layouts in print, which brings up the question of how many people were active in American OO gauge in 1944. The Model Railroader published their Annual Poll results in June 44, and there were 409 actual respondents that were OO gaugers out of 5,105 total. That translates out to only 8.0% but it was still a pretty substantial number of people. Assuming that well less than half of the people active in OO at the time responded there must have been thousands of active OO gauge enthusiasts in 1944.

A long-running feature in MR was their “Along the Division” column, with news items from various model railroaders. One listing that caught my eye was in the September, 44 issue where Bud Spice is mentioned, his OO layout having two Lionel locomotives and 26 cars. Bud Spice will be heard from again, as he among other products later produced the best OO wheelsets ever made! Check the link for more.

The OO layout of the New York Society of Model Engineers has been mentioned a number of times earlier in this series. Due to a move they tore it down, but for a time the layout lived on. According to the October issue of MR the Niagara Falls Model RR. Club “took over the OO layout” of the NYSME when they moved last spring.

Speaking of clubs, they also had club listings in the November, 44 issue of MR, and to my eye the most notable was the North Jersey Midland Club of Irvington, NJ. Newton Guerin is listed as the contact person. The North Jersey group was the largest and most active OO club in the post-war era. I have more on the group here for those who wish to look ahead.

Much more could be reported, but for now there is only one more segment of the series on 1944, be watching for that soon.

Continue Reading in 1944 Series

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Pair of Fleischmann FA-2s in OO


A few years back I posted an article on the Fleischmann FA-2. It is a collectable HO model, but one that is substantially over scale for HO. How much over scale is arguable; in length and width the model is essentially OO scale, but it is HO in height. In that article multiple views of the stock model are posted in comparison to HO and OO F and E unit models.

A colleague had his eyes out for one of these that was not as valuable as a collectable, and this pair came up for sale. The drives were out of the models and damaged, the fuel tanks were missing, and a prior owner had put on an overspray as well. This left the windows a little fogged but on the plus side for my purposes that overspray had preserved the decals, which tend to flake off. And I am a fan of the Santa Fe.

The model itself is a handsome one, even if the Santa Fe owned no FA-2 locomotives. The body is all metal and has screens in the sides that you can see through, a nice detail. The pilot skirting does not extend back as far as the prototype, probably to accommodate the original drive.

This model has been converted to OO operation before. Another conversion of this model may be seen in this article (third photo down) by Bill Johann. He seems to have kept the original fuel tank area on his models, and it is not at all obvious from the photo how he managed the drive conversion.

In my case the fuel tanks were missing and the stock trucks were unusable. In terms of the fuel tanks I referenced a scale drawing and came up with a good approximation of the prototype. Also note the steps in the middle. Having these parts was either destiny or pure luck, but the parts I used are vintage Kemtron lost wax castings that were in some parts obtained from the late Pierre Bourassa.

The drive also was either destiny or luck. I had on hand a pair of drives that would serve very well in the pair. I had purchased them at a meet inexpensively as they had been modified to power boxcars! The prior owner had converted his steam locomotives into free running models with no motors, and the boxcars pushed them around (and pulled the trains). This pair has huge can motors and used Athearn drive parts, which are easy to convert to OO. One of them I had taken the drive parts off of (to use on these AHM S-1 conversions) so I had to rebuild it with fresh drive parts off yet another meet find. That drive is visible in the last photo, as is the inside of that body shell.

For sideframes I could have used Athearn U-Boat side frames, I have some on hand, but I felt that they were too finely scaled and noticeably small in OO. Instead I used AHM sideframes, which are heavier in size and have as a bonus a feature that they block the wheelsets. Why this is a bonus in our case is the wheelsets are undersized, so it is nice that they are a bit hidden by the sideframes.

Both models got extra weight added up in the roof area so as not to block the view through the middle of the model. With the big can motor and the flywheels and the extra weight these models pull like crazy, easily pulling around a 12 car train of Scale-Craft die cast cars on Scale-Craft trucks. That is some pulling power, they will pull anything that I might want to put behind them.

I don’t know that I will ever convert any more examples of this model but for sure this model is a lot of fun to run and will log many miles for me on OO gauge track. The only limitation is that while I was able to compensate for the height a bit with the mounting of the body to the drive I still feel if you put a full height boxcar behind them they do look a bit short, and you also can’t MU them with say a dummy Schorr RS-2, the RS is noticeably taller. But if one was modified with usable trucks these Fleischmann models would match the Hallmark-Lionel F-3 model very well, they are also a bit short in OO but otherwise close to scale.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The 6-8-6 PRR S-2 in American OO; Hallmark and Davis compared


In my article on the OO scale Hallmark-Lionel F-3 I mention other models in the same line, including the Hallmark - Lionel Lines 671 Turbine Steam locomotive. This model has actually been produced twice in American OO.

In the article on the Hallmark F-3 I quote Ed Morlok on that model, but the origins of this 6-8-6 model are the same, it is a miniature version of the famous O-gauge toy train.  As he put it, the Hallmark version of the “locomotive is 60% of the size of the O gauge model. Thus it is … exactly OO gauge. But it is an unpowered model, sold only with a display case.”

The bronze boiler in the front of the photo was made as part of a large line of large OO locomotives by Myron P. Davis. A built up example of one of these may be seen in this article, and it is full to scale for OO for the same prototype. The Hallmark version is of course a 60% size version of a semi-scale toy locomotive, and it really shows. Still, it is interesting to wonder in the category of “what if” about if Lionel had retooled their OO line after the war as semi-scale toys? But, alas, they did not. [Update: A few more thoughts here, Lionel struggled with the scale market].

As to these models, I may never get so far down my list of projects to build the Davis model (the only part I have is the boiler, and I need a bigger layout to run it on first, too), and the Hallmark locomotive does not have much to offer us either. But the tender I believe is however VERY usable in OO gauge. It is about the same size as a Scale-Craft tender and you have to admit looks quite a bit better. It will hit the rails sometime soon I think.

As with their F-3 this model comes with a nifty display case! I put it to use with a favorite pre-war Nason Pullman, described further in this article, and now on display in my office.

In short, for the right price this Hallmark-Lionel model is worth picking up, if only for the tender and the display case. And I still marvel at what M. P. Davis did in developing all those big bronze models for what was certainly by then a very small market in American OO.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Difference of Decades, and Scales


These two models were completed decades apart by me. For a project underway I needed to pull up another set of sideframes from a HO scale AHM RS-2. This led me to dig out the engine in the back. While it looks the same generally due to the effect of perspective, actually the engine in front is a Schorr RS-2 in OO scale and the AHM HO model is in the rear.

I probably completed the HO model sometime around 1982, so it is (gasp) some 30 years old now. I put a bit of effort into it, as I modified the long hood slightly, built up new footboard areas, and made new handrails. The black lettering for the Orient is unique, it is the only model I lettered in this manner, all following models have large yellow lettering. I have been working with the Orient theme since late high school (more here).

The OO RS-2 is described further in this article. It was imported by Fred Schorr in the 1950s from Japan, and this particular one I also had to rebuild to a similar degree. The scale comparison is probably more interesting than the trip down memory lane, but it has been interesting digging this bit of personal model railroad history out again.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

American OO on Hold in1944: Part II, New Products


So far as I can tell there are only two new products in 1944 that are fairly widely seen today, and there are also a couple very interesting new items that are items of mystery.

First up is the Picard cement hopper. A very nicely built up example may be seen in this article (scroll down) and the first advertisement I noted trumpeting this product was in the February, 1944 issue of The Model Craftsman. It was a good product, and for a market starved for new products I am sure it was a popular one.

As with their other body kits this model was in HO, OO, and O gauges. I found it interesting too that actually even Picard apparently had supply problems to keep production going in 1944. In their ad in the November issue of The Model Railroader we read this NOTICE:
We are now in a position to accept orders on our Car Bodies, and shipments will shortly go forward as in the past. Fortunately we can now obtain wood, and expect to have within the very near future a complete stock to take care of your demands. Anticipate your wants well in advance, that we might give you as good service as possible.
The other new item seen fairly often is the line of Graceline comprestic kits. I recently added a photo of three of these kits to the Graceline 101 article (scroll down to the end). As I noted in the update there,
By early 1943 Graceline was out of production, but not out of ideas. While Graceline started out in OO, in 1944 they added a line of O gauge freight car kits and retooled production of the OO line. By January of 1945 the price list makes clear they only offered what they called "comprestic" kits in either scale…. Comprestic was their name for the material the sides, ends, and roof were pressed from. This was good idea as a wartime product, as it used no critical materials.  Their troop sleeper is the most notable model produced in this style of packaging and material.
The first ad saying this part of their OO line was available was in the April, 1944 issue of MR, seen here. I have not located a price list from 1944 but clearly the troop sleeper was new and available in 1944, described further in this article. I did find a listing for the line in an ad in the December, 1944 issue of MC, but compared to my 1945 price sheet I believe it is a listing of their O gauge line. The topic of Graceline will be one to look for again soon in this series.

There are two other new products that sound really notable but where are they today? Were they actually produced?

First up is what in my notes I call “the 4-4-2 place.” First advertised in the March, 1944 issue of The Model Railroader, a company called Model Products Co. has a “limited quantity” of PRR E-6 locomotives. “More later.” The next month they had a bit more text in the ad, that this model was the “Dream of every model railroader.” What you don’t get from the advertising is what the model was made of, etc. You get the impression that it might not be the old Nason/Star model, but maybe it is just a model worked up from old Nason stock, they were both in the NYC area. The May advertisement, reproduced, here, gives some more clues, but what exactly this model was remains unknown to me.

Our other product of mystery for 1944 is first advertised in The Model Railroader in November. E. S. Spargo of Flordia had this ad for a PRR. M-1a Mountain. The ad makes it clear that the model (or partial model, not all parts seem to be there) is die cast in “sparson” alloy. What that is I can’t say but my guess it is a zinc alloy, as he also sold rail of the same material. Zinc was used as a wartime substitute material for rail, but it really did not work that well and had very limited use.

With that we are half way through what I have planned on OO in 1944, more will be coming soon.

Continue in 1944 Series