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

Saturday, February 8, 2014

OO Track Samples by Earle Gardner

With the dispersal of the train collection of the late William Chapin (1927-2013) these track samples by Earle Gardner were mentioned in recent postings in the OO Yahoo group.

As there are five photos, I will keep them all small, click on any one for a larger view. There is an article on the OO layout of Earle Gardner in Model Railroader's Digest in 1940 (more here), and these track samples must date from about that time. Also that year he started in partnership with Eldyn S. Graves the well known GarGraves line of track products.

I was a graduate student and lived in Rochester, NY, from 1984-87. During those years I visited Bill many times, I have fond memories of visiting his basement and took these photos in that time frame. These track samples were items he was clearly proud to show me. He had been friends with Earle Gardner and obtained these from him or his estate. They are track samples for a line of OO switches that was not actually produced.

The first photo shows a No. 6 stub switch, a gauntlet track (as for a bridge in double track territory), and a wye. The second photo shows another wye and a three way switch. The last photo shows a double crossover. This is completely wired up with switch machines and relays for two rail operation.

This is the back of the double crossover, showing the wiring. These samples are really interesting items I think, and as I told him at the time that this crossover especially almost has the look of folk art.

Also note the trackage underneath the double crossover. This is the yard of his OO gauge layout. All that track is Midlin. More on that in a second.

This photo is a close up of the label on the double crossover. Note the four spikes per tie and the standard, OO rail section. And the price! Not cheap for that day I would say.

Photos of all these track sections as they look today may be seen in an album (here) in the Yahoo American OO group. 

Bill had a number of other OO gauge items from Earle Gardner, the one that particularly sticks in my mind being a complete set of all three Mantua old-time passenger cars. I don't have a photo of that set, sadly.

In later years I was back to Rochester several times and lived about 3 hours away for 3 years. This photo was taken in 1992 and shows the train basement of Bill Chapin. On the left is a big, island workbench with test tracks, there is another workbench on the right, and in the distance is the OO layout seen in part in the photos earlier. I don't have any good photos of the layout but the yard was in the area visible in the photo (through that doorway), with the layout featuring wide curves and smooth running on mostly Midlin but also some Tru-Scale track as well. No scenery.

The layout is gone now and most of his collection I am told was donated to the TCA with the layout and some percentage of the parts and such ending up in dumpsters. Hopefully some of the OO models will see the light of day again (I recall drawers full of S-C 4-8-4 models, for example) and this photo is a memory of the only operating OO gauge layout I have personally seen other than my own.

It is worth noting, in closing, that GarGraves produces a line of OO track today. Aimed at Lionel collectors, a sample may be seen at the end of this article. 

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