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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

American OO for 1948: Part I, An Overview, and a Layout Story

Considered to have been the best American OO layout ever constructed, the August 1948 issue of Model Railroader contains the first feature story on the Norfolk and Ohio of Carl Appel. The July issue introduced it with this great teaser,
Next Month Boomer Pete is back again. This time he writes about a OO gauge line in Allentown, Pa. Boomer calls it the best pike he’s ever seen. Large, beautiful photos accompany the story.
Back in 2008 I posted a brief overview on the line which included a quote from the 1948 article. That article has now been updated with two additional photos and more text. I would point you there for more, but to that I would add this photo, of the pre-war version of the Scale-Craft 4-8-4, showing what could be done with this model. To see one of those 50 car trains roll today!

With that context given, that there were some very serious OO gaugers out there, this look at 1948 and American OO turns to a bit more of an overview of the timeframe. The hobby of model railroading was booming after the war and big changes were seen in the layout of both the major magazines.  Model Railroader had a huge format change, moving from the small format used since the 1930s into a full size magazine format often with 100 pages an issue! Model Craftsman was not as big and did not have as much advertising but was after March of 1948 "100% Model Railroading." No longer would they run content or advertising related to model race cars and such. That the hobby industry could support two magazines is another good sign that this was a great year for model railroad enthusiasts.

However, it was not such a great year in American OO. Coverage is spotty; it was a minority scale and clearly did not generate much advertising revenue for either magazine. Advertising that was specific to the OO market was in rapid decline.

Turning to January and Model Railroader, we see this photo of an impressive, big kitbashed 4-6-6-4 model. Collectors seeing this today will probably wince, but back then modelers thought nothing of tearing into what now would be considered rather valuable, collectable engines. It was a different time.

Over in Model Craftsman in June they had this entertaining letter to the editor on OO.
Your new railroad Editorial decision puts you back on the list. Let’s hope it’s good! With plenty of plans to build from. Now how about concentrating on OO gauge, I don’t see why more of the boys and manufacturers don’t realize the vast potentialities of this gauge – With HO, S, O, and all the others, you don’t have to be a Craftsman, to me the other gauges are kid stuff, although I will admit they are popular. Bob Murphy, Jersey City, N.J.
The July issue of MR has report on their annual poll; one bottom line was that S gauge had passed OO in popularity. TT and S both had quite a bit more advertising for products than had OO.

In the August issue of MC we find another letter to the editor from an OO gauger, Dean Wilson of Rockford, Ill. He wrote in part,
What the country used to need was a good 5c cigar. Now we need a good Model Railroad magazine and I feel that you are providing just that and doing a swell job of it. I never did believe in monopolies and still don’t. I am modeling in “OO” so naturally more articles and pictures on OO would be welcome. Keep up your fine work.
In the September issue of MR we find this tiny OO locomotive by George Jones, described as a “GE oil-electric.” A photo of this model under construction may be found in the June issue. Note the scratchbuilt hoppers seen with the model. According to the caption this brass model weighs 1 ¼ pounds and “Ten box cars are an easy load.”

To close this overview, reading/skimming over the year there are a few “gem” articles that are not related to OO. One that I particularly enjoyed (rarely do articles in model railroad magazines make me laugh out loud) was by Bill McClanahan in the October issue of Model Railroader, and fortunately he mentions OO. The article itself was second prize winner in the “How I Built My Layout” contest, but what makes it great reading today is his very colorful writing style.  I will leave it to readers to seek it out further (worth the trouble!) but he does offer this context on his choice of HO scale over OO.
When the shooting finally all ended, I was all squared away to start building. [Harry] Garrett had advised me to buy one kit from each gauge, decide which I like best, and then concentrate on that.
I’m an O gauger at heart, but lack of space stopped me there. OO gauge appealed to me most, but it didn’t offer the variety (especially in locomotives) that HO did – so HO is was. My first kit was a Mantua reefer, and doubts I might have had about plunging into the hobby were washed away in a tidal wave of enthusiasm. 
Speaking of locomotives, the line with the most OO gauge locomotives in production in 1948 was Scale-Craft, and Douglass Scale-Craft will be the topic of the next installment of this series.

Continue reading in 1948 Series

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