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

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Post-War Scale-Craft Reefer

A few years ago now I posted an article on pre-war Scale-Craft reefers (more here). These models are quite distinct from their post-war reefers, and it is time for a look at those as well.

I did not address the topic of Scale-Craft reefers in the 1946 series but I think that S-C started shipping out the new reefers in 1946. Certainly they wanted to, as they updated the instructions/packing sheet for the OOF-609 reefer in February of 1946. At that point they did not update the drawings (which still show the sand-cast doors and hatches) but the text makes clear that they had moved on from the older version of the model. We read for example “As the doors are stamped metal, instead of castings, it will not be necessary to drill them as shown on the drawing. Lay in position on sides and attach with bank pins.”

But was that actually new text? No, actually, as another instruction sheet I have a copy of is dated June 23, 1941 and has the same text about the stamped metal doors, along with a page that explains how to make “war emergency” ice hatches out of wood strip. So by 1941 they were no longer shipping out the original version of the car with the bronze parts.

The “small” ice hatches are a post-war addition to the model and were packed with their own set of instructions, seen here. Dated 2-14-46, these hatches are a lot smaller than the original hatches and are actually underscale. In fairness, the original hatches were certainly overscale, but something correctly scaled would have been about half way between the two versions. If you put the effort into the assembly though they would operate, which was a nice upgrade.

Then we get to a bit of a mystery. The 1947 “Hollywood” catalog listed four different versions of this reefer. There we find these listings:
  • OOF-607 Has over-hanging roof with no ribs and no platform for the ice hatches. A.R.A. brake wheel, ladders, and has end sills with poling pockets.
  • OOF-608 Has over-hanging roof with roof ribs, A.R.A. brake wheel, poling pockets and grab irons.
  • OOF-609 Has over-hanging roof with roof ribs, A.R.A. brake wheel and ladders.
  • OOF-610 Has Murphy-type roof with roof ribs and Ajax brake wheel.
All the photos with this listing in the catalog are old photos reprinted from pre-war catalogs, so they are of little help. Were four different versions actually shipped out?

All the kits boxes I have are marked OOF-609. But another mystery: the Round Lake catalog (the final S-C catalog) lists only one version of the car and that is listed as OOF-607! And they still illustrate the original car with the sand cast doors and hatches in the last catalog, by then nearly ten years after that version had gone out of production.

The two cars seen in the photos are from my collection. Both are basically stock, and one is still unpainted. On one car the ice hatches were installed incorrectly – can you tell which one?

From the photos you can see also one big flaw of this car if you look close (click on the photos for a better view), which is why I am still not sure what I will do with the unpainted car that came to me nearly finished as seen. Both of the cars are supposed to have scribed sides/ends but on both the scribing on the sides in particular is very faint and not nearly as well done as on the typical pre-war version of this car. I may use printed sides instead to finish the unpainted car.

Overall the model comes off as sort of a combination of upgraded parts and parts that are not as good as the older version, something that must have been very apparent to those active in OO gauge at the time.

As a final note, some of the late Scale-Craft instruction sheets for other models were printed with the Round Lake address, but I don’t have any for this car. They may well be out there, as I have them for other items. And as noted in my longer article on S-C boxes, I have yet to find any instruction sheets or boxes with the Hollywood address, just that catalog and the price sheet and order form associated with it.

To close, elements of the kit could have been better executed by the manufacturer. But still, it is one of the items Scale-Craft upgraded for the post-war market and is one commonly seen.

Friday, June 21, 2013

American OO for ’47: Part I, Nason

To start this look at the year our first maker will be the oldest OO manufacturer still in business, Nason Railways.

Nason was struggling in 1946, and 1947 was not a much better year for them. Since the writing of the article on Nason in 1946 I was able to track down a bit more firm information on ownership changes at Nason, which have been incorporated into the longer Nason 101 article. In 1947 the owner was the same as in ‘46, Edward Kelly. Hugh Nason had actually not been with the firm since about 1941, which clarifies much.

I don’t have the complete year of The Model Craftsman, but it appears that Nason ran the same ad in Model Railroader and Model Craftsman each month up to a point around mid-year when they dropped the MC advertising. As the year starts the focus by month was:

  • January -- rail, spikes, Hudson frames
  • February/March -- parts, steel rule, reefer and boxcar frames, roof stock
  • April -- caboose, reefer, and boxcar kits less trucks
  • May -- Consolidation tender parts
  • June -- worm bearings, Atlantic drivers, Fibre gears 
  • July -- Pullman roofs and floors (pine)

One theme of advertising in 1946 was that trucks were coming soon. Finally, after many long months, Nason has trucks available, Dalman freight trucks “newly designed” in bronze, the ad featuring this item running in August and September

And in October, finally, they advertised as available complete box and reefer kits with trucks. In November the same ad would run again, and then the trail runs cold. Nason Railways would fade into model railroad history. I know of no further advertising by the firm.

Certainly their kits were priced right. $3.25 a kit, complete; the comparable Scale-Craft cars in 1947 listed at $4.95. But the fact was these were tired, pre-war kits, undoubtedly mostly pulled together from old stock, whose time had passed.

However, the year was not quite done! This post card was postmarked November 29, 1947. Nason had an idea to market the Westchester line of HO-OO buildings as OO. The second post card below shows another part of the Westchester line in the same marketing campaign. The line is briefly described in this prior article and besides these two cards I have two more sheets of Westchester buildings with "Nason Railways, Inc." rubber stamped in the margins.

The very last Nason advertisement I know of ran in 1950, for packages of parts for the Hudson locomotive and the Consolidation (more here). A couple elements of the line were disbursed to others, in particular Guild purchased the rights to the 4-4-2 model (more information here) and M. P. Davis also marketed a bit of former Nason product on his own (more information here) including the P5-A and the sand cast box car and passenger cars. Davis was apparently the final owner of the Nason toolings, and I am pretty sure I own one small Nason master pattern that came down through his ownership, for the passenger car diaphragm (see more here).

While 1947 was the pretty much the end of the line for Nason, 1947 still was a big year for American OO, and when the series returns the topic is the biggest OO manufacturer, Scale-Craft.

Continue to Part II of 1947 Series

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Lionel/Johann 2-8-4 in OO

A recently completed project was reworking a vintage conversion project. The OO Lionel Hudson was modified by many modelers in a number of ways, but my personal favorites are the modifications I have seen of this model into a 2-8-4. It was done more than a few times back in the day.

Which is why I was very excited to recently obtain this model. This conversion was originally worked out by Pierre Bourassa using the drive parts manufactured for the Johann 2-8-2. It was nearly complete I believe, had some real nice details (note the figures in the cab, but also he could certainly assemble a valve gear and there are some real small screws and such that took some skill to apply), but it also had a few quirks. The biggest ones being that while it had a smoke unit installed it was never wired up, and there was also no proper screw connecting the cylinder block area to the smoke box. The result was a model that I believe ran well for Bourassa but was actually not quite done or at least those details got missed. He sold this model to William Gilbert who worked on it more before I obtained the model.

Another similar locomotive on my roster I purchased directly from Bourassa, a Johann USRA light 2-8-2. This locomotive was built up well but the scratchbuilt tender was somewhat odd and undersized. I rebuilt the engine a few years ago and paired it with a Star or Nason 4-4-2 tender that I had in my parts supply, as can be seen in this article, a much better match for the engine which after my recent track work runs nicely on the layout.

The 2-8-4 had a similar tender issue, as Bourassa had modified -- somewhat roughly -- a Nason 2-8-0 tender to represent the tender used on TH&B no. 201, his prototype. That tender was also with the model (partially disassembled) and is seen on the passing track in the photo. Gilbert had made the smart move to pair the engine to a two-rail Lionel tender (no whistle), which looks a whole lot better with the big engine to my eye.

I have not mentioned yet that the model has a big Pittman DC motor and a brush had broken in shipping at some point due to the sketchy boiler mounting and things shifting, and a spring was missing. I fixed the motor (found a new brush and spring in the parts supply! Save everything), worked out a proper mounting system for the boiler so that the front of the engine is no longer loosely sitting on the frame (but had to remove the smoke unit to accommodate the new screws), and a few other details were tweaked to bring it to what you see in the photo. I thought about repainting and renumbering the locomotive itself but then decided as a freelancer I could certainly live with it being Orient no. 201.

It runs beautifully around the layout and is a great puller. I love seeing models such as this come back to life. I have several more steam locomotives pulled out now on the workbench; hopefully there will be a few more articles like this before the end of the summer.

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Simple OO Caboose Conversion, Made Better

Several years ago I posted a brief article on two simple Mantua/Tyco HO to OO conversions, one of which was a conversion of the Mantua “heavy” caboose to OO. As I say there, “From the side this car is OO gauge, clearly over scale for HO. The only problem area is the width of the car which is not that noticeable in service.”

This caboose is very easy to obtain (still in production, in fact! Lots of them are around) and for any reader thinking that they wish they could run or display a Reading style caboose in OO, buy one! My Orient car is run often, it is light and works well and is a nice contrast to Scale-Craft and Lionel cabooses. As a shelf model it would be very effective with only a little effort, and it has been sold decorated for many different roads.

That said, William Gilbert saw the HO model and thought a bit bigger. What he did was purchase two of them and modify the bodies so that roughly 3/5 of a standard car is on each side of the centerline, with the roof smoothed with putty and arched to shape. The result is a car that looks even better to be sure, as it is completely OO gauge.

The first photo shows the more modified car and the less modified car with a Schorr covered hopper for comparison. The Reading car is a very nice caboose in this context and would work great with good vintage items as well. The second photo shows the comparison of the cars from the end. It is amazing how much difference the change of width makes, as the cars look totally identical from the side.

At present my Orient car is on “Morlok method” trucks and the Reading car is on Famoco trucks with new wheelsets. At some point I may upgrade the trucks on both further, but in any case this really is a simple conversion worth looking into.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Vintage OO Layout Photos V: Locomotives on Bridges

Today we have a treat, three different vintage OO layout photos featuring locomotives on bridges.

First up is this fairly recent photo of a Reading 4-4-2. The notes on the back of the photo tell us that this model was built by Pierre Bourassa (5-98) for Ed Morlok using a Nason (or Star-Continental) 4-4-2 frame and a Nason 2-8-0 boiler, with the photo taken 7-18-98 on the layout of Tony Cavanna. The layout had seen some scenic progress since another photograph posted previously of the same layout (here--scroll down), which featured a Graceline troop sleeper. Looking off into the distance clearly this is a large layout. Underneath the bridge may be seen a S-C 4-6-0. Back to the 4-4-2, Pierre built it nicely and added a bit of weathering. It is a conversion that must have been done a few times back in the day. And that is quite a bridge. As always click on the photo for a larger view.

Next we go back a few years to a photo dated 1956. It is on the layout of Fred Schorr and the photo, which came to me from Ed Schorr, features his first locomotive, i.e. the first scratchbuilt locomotive built by Ed Schorr, son of Fred Schorr. Number 51 is a handsome 2-6-0, a nice match to the open end car it is pulling. The bridge is also a very nice one and is again an indication of the size of the layout. I would love to have a sharper view of that yard in the background, it is full of interesting, classic models. And finally note the figures set up in a scene below the bridge, a nice conversation piece for visitors at the least.

Finally we have this I think slightly older photo, again from the layout of Fred Schorr. Starting with the bridge itself, compare it to the bridge in the first photo. The arched portion looks like the same bridge, either actually the same bridge or a bridge built from the same kit. Next notice the Schorr F-3 and boxcar hiding under the bridge and the 2-8-0, which must be either kitbashed or scratchbuilt. Finally, look up on the bridge at that 4-6-2. While one could think it might be modified from Nason parts (like the engine in the first photo), based on the note from Ed Schorr and looking at my notes I am thinking it is probably a very rare model by one of the first OO manufacturers, the OO Gauge Model Co. The main article on this firm is here, and this should be an example of their CNJ 4-6-2. Certainly they had plans to market this model based on their advertising and very likely had at least a small run of boilers made. Advertising (seen in the linked article) for the model called it the Jersey Central Blue Comet, and seeing this handsome model it makes one wish it were much more common. Unfortunately, they appear to have gone out of business in 1936, a year before Scale-Craft launched their OO line, and nobody else picked up their toolings.

All the models above likely still are out there and would be ones to keep your eyes peeled for, and it is also great to see these large American OO layouts with bridges, they make for neat photos.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Commander Moale on his OO Trolley Models

One of the more unexpected American OO models you will run into occasionally in the model press were the OO trolley and interurban models made by Commander Edward-Semple Moale. I own one of these models today and have featured them previously in this website three times:
As mentioned in two of the other articles, there were a group of original photos of the Moale trolley layout in items associated with the OO Inventory of the OO SIG. I believe they came to the inventory via Edward Morlok, who owned the last of the Moale layouts and all the cars at his passing, before they disbursed on eBay (photos of two models that I took at his home are featured in the first article above). I would like today to feature the last four of the original Moale photos that are sharp enough to post along with most of the text of an article by Commander Moale. The article was published in Traction & Models in October of 1975 with the title "Over 60 'OO' Scale Cars" and gives great insights into the commander and the models and layout seen here. He begins,
Here are a few photographs; some in black and white and others in color. They show some of the more than 60 "OO" gauge models which I have been building since 1937. Some of these were built at sea, on board ship, some in Iceland while in command of the Naval Ammunition Depot at Hvalfjiord, and others while stationed in Washington, where I was able to buy a house with a magnificently spacious attic. The latter enabled me to build a layout of 5 scale miles (4mm=1 foot), which I called the STONE HILL RAILROAD, in memory of a wooden non-scale clockwork outfit built for me by my grandfather in 1898 in Seattle. 
Upon retiring after 37 years of active service, I moved here to Charleston, S.C. This, of course, necessitated abandonment of the Stone Hill Railroad. A very sad discovery was the fact that the attic in the house which I bought here is as hot as the proverbial gates of his satanic majesty's realm in summer and frigid in winter. This being the case, I must use a moderate size room in the centrally air conditioned part of the house for an Electric Railway library, locomotive and street car picture gallery, and city street car layout. The extremely tight curves on this type of layout, of course, preclude the use of interurbans, so that these must be relegated to the humble category of non-operating mantle piece display models.
My copy of the article is an old Xerox but the scenes in the article are very similar to the ones in these photos, with a couple identical items visible. Such as for example the two truck trailers on the interurban line seen at the right. The caption of the similar photo says "My great invention that didn't pan out."

The other car that is definitely visible in the article and in these photos is the Spokane Inland Railway car visible in the last photo. He made a wide variety of trolley and interurban cars and built them to operate.

Three of the photos are dated in the mounting as may be seen here to 1955 and 56. The first photo is a long view of the layout. The second view is the location seen in the distance in the first photo, and the third and fourth photos are of a location to the left of that in the second photo. Much can be gleaned from the photos (click on them for a larger view), including his operation of a steam railroad as well with a Scale-Craft ten-wheeler and various S-C, Nason, and Lionel cars also visible. The US Navy tank car in the last photo is also a nice touch in relation to his long Naval career.

More than anything though I wanted to feature today the text written by Commander Moale, briefly describing his layout and model building in his own words. Layouts such as this will almost certainly never again be seen in OO, but certainly the unique models built by Commander Moale are ones to treasure today.

UPDATE: Another published photo from 1955 of a Moale trolley may be seen here (scroll down).