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

Saturday, June 29, 2013

American OO for ’47: Part II, Scale Craft

1947 was the first year of the move by Scale-Craft to California -- an important year for an important line of OO models. They put out a new catalog by the end of the year, advertised steadily in Model Railroader, and a number of dealers also advertised their products. Overall, the OO offerings seen in advertising by dealers included tank, hopper, box, stock, reefer, coach, baggage, Pullman, diner, observation, 0-6-0, and 4-6-0 kits, but there is much to look at.

Starting with their January advertisement in Model Railroader, it is a “statement of policy by the new Scale-Craft owner” the main points of which were:
1. “…establishing manufacturers’ representatives as our direct contact with the hobby dealers who serve you.”
2. “Pushing to completion … our line of improved postwar locomotives.”
3. Products will be available through dealers or direct.
4. “Our heart will continue to be in OO gauge and we will give it every effort for improvement.”
Their February ad is very interesting, with a photo and testimonial from Herbert Friend. His OO layout was mentioned in the 1946 series, where another photo may also be found. Under the heading “why you should consider OO for your layout” he offers this testimonial in a letter dated January 11, 1947.
Dear Mr. Douglas,
I could fill a book with reasons for my choice of OO gauge, but here are the essentials.
First of all, I wanted good operation. In OO, with its substantial engines and cars, I got large powerful motors, smooth at all speeds and trains that held the rails.
Secondly, I wanted a railroad in which I could perform all normal functions within a small area. Here OO has proved ideal for, though my system is larger than many in O gauge, trains never lose their identity yet cover almost twice the mileage.
Thirdly, I wanted detail – and found OO superb. Most of the detail that goes on the largest models came with the kits in OO – the rest was easy to add.
Last, but far from least, the cost is very low. The little difference between OO and its smaller rivals was far more than repaid in better quality and durability.
To any modeler who wants fine appearance and real operation OO is the gauge of no regret.
The March S-C ad in MR notes they have OO “for immediate delivery” and April focuses again on OO, with the heading “Why you should consider OO for your layout.” The answer: “Detail.” The photo is a close-up of the underside of the OO hopper car. What is not mentioned is visually this photo tells nothing new really, this model has been on the market since 1937 with no visible changes.

At this point we need to turn to a (the?) “temporary price list.” The one with my copy of the Hollywood catalog is not dated but several items are marked “Will be in production in April,” and the fact it is marked “temporary” I think should date this to early 1947.  The OO line listed includes these models, and those with the “April” ready date are noted below.
OOL-617 Ten Wheeler [4-6-0, April]
OOL-620 North Western [4-8-4, April]
OOP-624-B Gas Electric coach & baggage [April]
OOP-624-P Gas Electric mail & baggage [April]
OOF-601 Stock Car kit
OOF-602 Flat Car kit
OOF-603 Tank Car kit
OOF-604 Caboose kit
OOF-605 Hopper Car kit
OOF-607 Refer Car kit
OOF-608 Refer Car kit
OOF-609 Refer Car kit
OOF-610 Refer Car kit
OOF-627 Box Car [50’] kit
OOP-611 Pullman Sleeper Car kit
OOP-612 Diner Car kit
OOP-613 Solorium – Lounge Car kit
OOP-614-A Coach kit – A-C roof
OOP-614-M Coach kit – Monitor roof
OOP-615-A Baggage Car kit – A-C roof
OOP-615-M Baggage Car kit – Monitor roof
Prices listed ranged from $69.50 listed for the 4-8-4 down to $6.95-$7.50 for passenger cars and $4.50-$5.45 for freight cars. Note that there are four versions of the reefer listed. This model had been upgraded in 1946 and no longer had the bronze parts of the prewar version but instead featured stamped brass doors and working hatches. For more on the post-war version of the Scale-Craft reefer see this article.

Continuing with their advertising, the May MR ad is an open letter from Doug Douglass to “Scale-Craft Fans.” In short he concludes “We are gradually getting straightened out and we see glimmers of hope for the future as regards critical items. You O gaugers and OO gaugers are going to be well satisfied when the fruits of our efforts find their way to your dealers’ shelves.” In the June MR the theme again is detail in OO, with the focus being on the Stock car. “True to Prototype!” In July advertising looked at their O gauge trucks and couplers. The August MR ad focuses on their new Transformer-Rectifier but also notes “Visiting rails at the N.M.R.A. convention in Oakland, see our OO portable layout – try out your own locos!” They were keeping an optimistic tone in relation to OO to be sure, as reflected in their September MR advertisement. The focus again is on why you should consider OO for your layout. This time the answer was “Performance.”
During the Glendale Hobby Show and World’s Inventors Exposition recently held in Los Angeles, a Scale-Craft ten-wheeler built from a standard, stock kit by Robert P. Oates was run an average of 10 hours a day for 20 days … hauling from four all-metal passenger and baggage cars to 15 freight cars without a single failure. This is equivalent to two years operation for a locomotive on the average private layout.
October was O gauge again, but November advertising again focused on the OO line, listing these cars as available: tank, hopper, flat, box, reefer, caboose, coach, baggage, Pullman sleeper, diner, and observation. In the December ad they again feature the OO power truck but with some important extra text on the new Scale-Craft catalog. It is “loose-leaf” and “contains only those kits and accessories actually available at this time.” The idea was as new items were added you could add pages to the catalog to update it. I have two copies of this catalog and they appear to me to be identical. It has 60 pages and is bound with the metal clips visible in the scan of the cover. Inside the same OO models are illustrated as were listed on the “temporary price list” quoted earlier. The photos are all the same as those seen in the 1941-42 Scale-Craft catalog, the format is the same, and the descriptions are pretty much the same with some tweaks. For an example, the caboose text has some adjustments, and I particularly enjoy the subliminal message at the end of the 1947 version.
1941:
Every main line freight train must have its caboose, and this goes with model railroad trains as well. The Scale-Craft caboose model is all-metal throughout, and fits together like a glove on the hand. It is taken from the all-steel type, as used on the Pennsy and C.&O. Rich in detail, simple to assemble, and true to prototype, it represents long months of development. Eighteen different decalcomania sets are supplied; like other Scale-Craft kits, its parts are fully machined and ready to assemble
1947:
Every main line freight train must have its Caboose, and this goes with model railroad trains as well. The Scale-Craft Caboose has its body and cupola diecast in one piece with details faithfully reproduced. The underframe, end platform, and steps are also diecast while the laddesr [sic], and support rods are stamped brass in one piece which make for ease in assembly.
The Scale-Craft Caboose is modeled after the all-steel type used on the Pennsylvania and Chesapeake and Ohio. You will need several of these for your layout.
Turning back to the December issue of MR, they also had a review of the new OO gauge trucks produced by Scale-Craft. This review solves a mystery, as there was a type of passenger truck produced by Scale-Craft that is very uncommon and is only listed in the final (Round Lake) catalog. For more on that mystery see this article.

Speaking of mysteries, here is another. So far as I can tell there are no boxes or instruction sheets marked with Hollywood address. This leads to a theory, that most of what they sold was assembled from old stock or from parts/materials mostly produced at the Libertyville plant in 1946. I have a bit more on this in this article looking at Scale-Craft boxes.

By the end of the year the 4-6-0 and 0-6-0 were advertised widely by dealers. Looking at the big picture, prices as listed in advertising were lower than for example comparable Varney HO engines.  Price was not the issue, and the new Scale-Craft owner was trying to make a go of it. But the OO market was shrinking, and HO was dominating the market.

But not all the makers and OO gaugers got that memo! When this series returns the topic will be three of the other makers that were actively serving the market, J-C, Famoco, and Eastern.

Continue reading 1947 Series

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