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

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

1953, OO Making a Comeback, Part II: Layouts, a Passenger Diesel, and a Mailing List

HO was dominating the market, but all in all 1953 was a very good year for American OO gaugers.

Kicking off the year for magazine coverage, actually the cover of the January issue of MR features an OO layout. The caption tells us that Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ OO gauger Bob Wood “grins happily as traffic moves over his OO gauge Ho-Ho-Kus & Western. The upper engine is a 2-8-4 which Bob built up using Nason drivers. The other loco is a Scale-Craft 4-8-4.” The locomotives are painted for his road. Other details to glean include that the hoppers are repainted Lionel models and the ATSF car down in the lower left corner has HO Mantua hook/loop couplers. I have seen these on enough cars to know they were popular in the OO gauge community before Kadee HO couplers effectively became the OO standard among operators.

In this issue is also found a photo of a full length dome car in OO by Robert Hopper, but I want to focus in on another OO item, the OO coverage in the “Bull Session” column. Readers of this website are familiar with the great layout that editor Ray L. Rhodes reported visiting, but read closely as there is also I believe a reference to a model that has not to this point been mentioned in print.
On a trip east recently I stopped in Allentown, Pa., to visit the OO gauge Norfolk & Ohio of Carl Appel. This pike was written up some years ago in MR as one of the outstanding scenic pikes of America [August, 1948 issue--see this article for more], and everything the article said about the terrific scenic work on this model road is true.
The cellar walls are masked with colored photo-murals, and when you stand there looking at it, you get the eerie sensation that the railroad is the right size, and you have suddenly become a giant towering over a real countryside. 
The main thing I wanted to report, however, is that Carl has the sweetest four-unit OO diesel you’d want. Each unit is a bronze casting, with bronze sideframes, powered by a DC-71 motor. These diesels are the work of Fred Schorr of 613 W. Diamond St., Hazelton, Pa. Also available is a passenger diesel and a switcher. And, incidentally, if you’re an OO gauger looking for sources of supply, try Gunnard Stark, 849 Summit Ave., Lake Forest, Ill., who is retailing parts and kits for the OO gauge Scale-Craft & Co. line.
The diesels mentioned are the Schorr F-3, the Super Scale switcher, and the “passenger diesel” is I believe the M. P. Davis E-7. All are post-war products but this is the first mention in print that references a passenger diesel or any model that I might guess to be by Davis. It makes sense too that it might be out by now, as the price list/catalog produced by Davis dates to 1954 and he owned the Nason residual by 1952 at the latest. This was one of his most common models; he must have had a good sized run cast. More on the Davis E-7 may be found here.

Not to be outdone, the February issue of RMC has a cover photo of the OO layout of Pierre Bourassa! His name is also familiar to regular readers of this site. The caption inside offers these details:
A small section of the 00 gauge pike operated by Pierre Bourassa of Montreal, Canada. Under construction since 1948, the road is based on Canadian prototype with over 600 feet of trackage, 110 freight and passenger cars, eight diesel and eight steam type locomotives. As Mr. Bourassa is a traveler in the watch business, most of the equipment was built up in hotel rooms, materials being carried in special cases. The various units were then put to use on the permanent layout illustrated.
Certainly the last two cars in the train are Scale-Craft, and those locomotives are beauties, the second model looking to be a Nason Hudson and very possibly the one seen in a color photo in this later article, which is also a good place to find out more about Pierre Bourassa.

Moving back to MR, their February issue has this photo of the layout of Carl Appel. It is an unusual photo in a way for the time, as it does not highlight any equipment, the focus is on the scene itself, on “…the way the track and scenery blend into the background, you can easily mistake this scene … for a real one in the great outdoors.” It really does convey the feeling of waiting trackside for a train to pull through.

In the March MR John Armstrong has great quote on OO gauge in an article on the design of an On3 layout. He calls OO an “excellent, if fading, gauge.”

But there were some people doing their best to not see it fade! Among the most important of those were Bill Johann and Fred Schorr. Years ago Johann gave me a hand written mailing list of over 300 names that he put together (that is his handwriting) with Schorr in 1953. The hotspot of OO gauge activity was New Jersey, with 46 names listed.

How this was used was to get the word out on new products like his 2-8-2. For example in a letter I have that is dated Jan. 5, 1954 Johann wrote to an OO gauger,
Sorry you did not get one of the original blurbs. I sent one, but it was to your [old address]….
Enclosed are a few. If you have any OO friends, pass them around….
And attached were five more of the flyers. I believe he sent flyers out to every single name on the mailing list and probably multiple copies! And Schorr sent out direct mail too and maybe M. P. Davis as well.

So things are rolling still in American OO. When the series returns the topic will be 1954-55.

Return to beginning of 1953 series

Continue to 1954-55 series

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