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

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Scale-Craft OO Trucks -- in Bronze? -- and Nason

Scale-Craft OO trucks of all styles had die-cast side frames. They are very commonly seen OO gauge items, and can be set up to operate great today. (Some tips on this topic start here). Then we get to these side frames.

These came to me in a recent donation to the OO Inventory of the OO SIG. What someone did was take standard Scale-Craft OO side frames for the 4-8-4 tender truck, the standard freight truck, and the four and six-wheel passenger trucks, and have them re-cast in bronze. In other words, the die cast originals were used to as master patterns for sand casting copies of the Scale-Craft parts. (More on sand casting here).

Why? Really, these side frames are not very usable, it would take a great deal of effort to build them up as operating trucks. But then again, they are sort of neat items to hold in your hand, bronze sand castings have their own artistic charm. An oddity to be sure from the workshop of some OO gauger of years gone by.

UPDATE: Prompted by the comments below this second photo is of the comparable Nason sideframes. Looking first at the six-wheel passenger truck, the key details are the finer cross section, the round mounting pins, and especially the open areas in the casting. These were absent on the Scale-Craft trucks. Note also in the back the example of the same part in aluminum; these are not nearly as commonly seen. Next we have the four wheel passenger truck. Note again the different proportions, the open areas, and also the lack of brake beam details seen on the S-C truck. The flipped over example shows that the back has had the pin area drilled out and tapped for screws. Finally in the upper left note the Nason tender trucks from their 4-6-4. Again, different proportions compared to S-C and it is set up to have the pins drilled out and tapped for screws, although many Nason trucks were built up by soldering them together (rebuilding these is a special challenge).

I have a fair number of Nason trucks and truck castings on hand as well. Those trucks that have been built up periodically I work on. They are often touchy to get running well compared to S-C, but do have a unique look that is worth the effort. See also this article for photos of built up Nason passenger trucks on and off the rare Nason sand cast cars.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

American OO for 1945: Part III, September-December


To kick things off, in the September issue of The Model Railroader we find this nice photo (below) of an OO layout in Little Rock, Arkansas. The builder, W. Irving Skipper, has done some nice work with the scenery and among the equipment visible (mostly S-C, but note the light colored Lionel boxcar) take a look at the scratch built diesel switcher hiding behind the freight house.

Just a few pages later we get to an article that deserves a close look. The facing page is a Polk’s advertisement which lists the complete line of J-C passenger kits and also Lionel OO caboose kits, “just a few left” at $2.75. With that as context, the article is titled “Model Supplies by Christmas” and is an overview of post-war plans, a “preview of what may be expected on the model railroad market within the next few months.” In the introductory text we learn that “Scale-Craft is moving to a new building designed especially for model railroad manufacturing and will resume normal production of its O and OO line of cars and locomotives here.” Continuing down in the text we find these interesting and specific notes from three prominent pre-war OO manufacturers.
Scale-Craft & Co.: According to Elliott Donnelley, president, it looks now as if it will be the first of the year before Scale-Craft can get back to normal production of its large O and OO gauge line of cars and locomotives. “Of course it is a little early right now to predict,” said Donnelley, “for few of our suppliers know just yet exactly how cancellations will affect them. Material supply is adequate, but the making of new tools and dies will be our worst bottleneck. Moving to our new building will not cause any delay.” 
Picard Novelty Co.: Production of “Pappy” Picard’s wood freight car bodies depends on lumber supply, which he indicates will be available soon. Because the demand for existing body kits is so great, plans for new kits have been postponed. 
Graceline Model Railroads: This firm, headed by John Devore, has changed its production items to O gauge and will drop its OO gauge line.
In the October issue of MR there is a half page ad for Graceline but with the simple note for us that “OO Gauge is discontinued.” And a few pages later this sad advertisement.  Anybody want to buy some dies?

Turning over the The Model Craftsman, Red Adams builds a GG-1 in their October and November issues. Or does he? My October copy is missing the beginning of the article (and my set of issues of MC is incomplete for the year), but so far as I can tell there are no photos of the finished model; I believe it is more of an article how to build one based on his experiences, an assignment given him to fill pages -- he may not have actually built one.

Scale-Craft had two different plant locations in Libertyville, neither of which I have a street address for. In this prior article we had a good view of their first plant there and in the November, 1945 issue of MR there is a drawing of their "new $75,000 building near its present plant in Libertyville, Ill." It is noted that they "will move into it shortly after the first of the year." Click on the photo for a better view. Having gone up and down the most likely streets online all I can say is of the buildings I can see I can't find the new plant either, if it was built to look like the drawing. Maybe it is the building on the end of North Avenue just outside of the Google street view. Of course, it could be right there along the same street and modernized several times since 1946 so much that it is unrecognizable. Or by now a newer building could have been built right on top of either or both of their factory locations.

UPDATE: The addresses were finally located, see this article for more. The building above burned to the ground ca. 2006.

Turning to December, there is a helpful article on rail standards in Model Railroader, which was reviewed briefly in this prior article. More interesting for us however are two specific advertisements. First up is a classic OO firm that we have not heard from for a long while in this series, Nason Railways. In a simple ad offering Christmas greetings we read “We are ready to serve you on a limited basis now, but our complete old line and many new items will come in the near future.” Sounds pretty good! And then we get to this ad from a brand new firm, Transportation Models. Graceline turned around the dies pretty quickly and we will be hearing more from Transportation Models in 1946. For part I of an overview of their production see this article. 

When the series returns the topic will be 1946, a year that saw many changes come in the model railroad market.

Return to beginning of 1945 Series

Continue to 1946 Series

Friday, February 8, 2013

OO Signals by Staples


One pre-war line that was mentioned in the 1941 series was the track related products of the Staples Mfg. Co. As noted in that article,
Next we get to another new firm that put out some great advertising, Staples. For example in the January issue of MC they had a full page ad (also seen in the February issue of MR) on their dummy switch machine. My favorite ad though is this one, from Model Railroader in October of 1941.  They had out a new OO signal and it looks like a beauty, especially so next to that Scale-Craft 4-6-0 steaming into focus. That this signal is not HO/OO is also a big plus for us, although it might have sold better if also marketed to HO fans of the day. It was reviewed in the December issue of MR where they noted that it was about 3 1/4" tall and that "The ladder detail is neat and strong."
To that great advertising image I would now add thanks to reader Drew M. a photo of an example of this product.

The item that is clear from the box is that the owner of the Staples Mfg. Co. must have been named Crawford E. Staples. Beyond that I don’t have anything to add to the text from the 1941 series so I will leave both images small (as always, click on the photos for a better view), but it is great to see one of these rare OO products “in the flesh,” mint in box.

UPDATE: Wondering what else was out there, I did a Google search for Crawford E. Staples. It turns out he has a post-war patent related to signals for full sized railroads! Try the search yourself, all the patent drawings and descriptions come up not far down the first page of results. It is patent number US2555013.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

American OO for 1945: Part II, June-August


Kicking things off, the big news for June was that War Production Board order L-81 had been cancelled. In the June issue of Model Railroader we read in a headline that “Manufacturing Permitted as Long as Materials and Labor Can be Obtained.” In the article we read “All restrictions on copper and brass have been removed, and this should make possible an early return of brass rail to the market….” However, they also report that the war is not over and there are labor shortages in some areas as well.

Also in June we see very hopeful advertising from Scale-Craft in MR and MC. The ad is here, and it is clear Scale-Craft was still sold on OO gauge. They considered it “the best of the smaller gauges” and they were “working on plans for a greatly expanded line” of OO models. How this plays out will be seen over the next few years.

Working on this now long series of articles there are always some surprises, and turning over to The Model Craftsman, their June '45 issue has a feature article that was especially surprising and interesting to see. For featured is a LARGE OO scale layout used to train recruits at the Ordinance School at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland!

The write up shows the layout fills 360 square feet of space and was operated in a completely prototypical manner, breaking up trains so that they may “be unloaded systematically and returned to the main lines promptly.”  The two-rail layout has 70 automatic switches and operates on 32 volts DC. From the article,
The rolling stock of the miniature line includes models of real roads. Assembled from standard commercial kits by the men under Lt. Usinger and bosses before him, the 45 flats, 20 gondolas and 45 boxes carry well-known names…. Since the training model demonstrates only the handling of freight, no passenger or special equipment cars are used on the system.
Three locomotives furnish the motive power. The “king-bee” of the line is a heavy freight engine bearing the mark of the C. & N. W., completely to scale, down to such details as rivets, whistle, bells and piping. A 6-wheel light switch engine and a home-designed Diesel engine round out the driving equipment.
The layout was valued at $2,500, serving well to “orient ordnance men in the control of railway equipment within large depots. Instead of expensive trips to real depots, students see a demonstration of the correct methods of classification, dispatching, switching, spotting, unloading, and control in the short period of 1 or 2 hours.” And it was in American OO! Click on the photos for a better view.

To close out this overview of these few months of 1945 I would close with text from the August Scale-Craft ad in MR. We read there we read “Let’s face the facts. While the government has rescinded order L-81 which prohibited the making of model railroad equipment … materials are not plentiful.” Scale-Craft hoped to get some models in production in the late fall, the topic of the final post in this series on OO in 1945.

Continue in Series on American OO for 1945

Saturday, February 2, 2013

How Long to Build a Scale-Craft 4-6-0?


It might not be the burning question of the ages, but I was very interested to recently see noted clearly on a set of drawings for the Scale-Craft OO 4-6-0 the dates and number of hours in each sitting that were taken to build one of these back in 1939. The list starts as follows:
10-23 – 1 Planning
10-24 – 1 Planning
10-26 – 5 Assembly
The list includes notations also for Paint and Letter, concluding on 12-15 with ¼ hour for assembly. All told it totals up 37.5 hours spread over 20 separate work sessions!

The Scale-Craft 4-6-0 kit was a quality product but by no means “shake the box.” Makes you want to show a bit more respect for these old models and their builders!

The 4-6-0 drawings above from Scale-Craft decal sets are described further in this article.