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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Graceline/Transportation Models “Utility Flat”

Up today is a rarity. Graceline and successor Transportation Models both cataloged what they called a “utility flat.” For a long while I puzzled over what it might be, then in some loose parts found the key parts that cleared up that it is in fact what would typically be called today a bulkhead flat [not really, actually, it is a unique B&O design, their "More Service" flat car -- see UPDATE at end].

Then, this example recently came up in eBay, which gives the full visual impression of the model. It seems to be built up from the Transportation Models version of the kit (since it does not have the Graceline cast frame) but when it came to me was not on Graceline or Transportation Models trucks.

Periodically I will have weeks where I do nothing but assemble and tune up trucks. I have parts for a number of pair of Graceline Andrews trucks. These were reviewed in MR in 1941 (see more here) and besides being rather overscale are frankly not easy to get running today and probably never were easy to get running. By now a lot of the castings have deteriorated in particular, and even with all the effort to select the best parts out they may not track well. In any event, I did get a good pair together with modern wheelsets and they are now on the car. Visually they are interesting at least and correct for the brand of car.

This second photo is of the “comprestic” parts and frame. Graceline sold this as a comprestic kit (the sides only) during WWII. Note also the trucks and frame details.

Between these parts, even more loose vintage parts, and now the complete car to compare them to, I should be able to build up at least one more of these unusual and rare models. The actual design is a bit freelanced [oops, see UPDATE], but it is a nice model, out of the ordinary compared to what is usually seen in American OO.

UPDATE: There is a nice article on the prototype car in the Sept. 1940 issue of Model Craftsman, with drawings and 4 prototype photos. The idea the B&O had with the "More Service" flat car was that it could be loaded flexibly, including as a gondola with side boards added. The ends can be raised and lowered and helped as a safeguard against shifting loads. Thank you to Jeff Barker for pointing out this article, this photo is a scan from MC.

There is a big secondary topic here too, smaller makers like Graceline tended to produce models that matched scale drawings recently published in the hobby press. The quad hopper, for example, is in the Model Railroader Cyclopedia. Schorr models also all seem to be built following recent scale drawings of the time. I will explore this topic more in a future article.

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