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

Friday, July 4, 2014

American OO in 1954-55. Part I: Articles and Features

While not often seen in the hobby press, a good place to start with this look at 1954-55 is with some American OO layouts. If there were no layouts, why have products?

The layout that I have the most coverage of for this year is by far the Greenbrook Lines of David Sacks. It was featured in Railroad Model Craftsman in June 55; I have more on that article here. In addition to that coverage, it was also featured in newspaper articles in 1954 and 55, which I look at more in this longer article. He and his friends in the North Jersey club were very active in this time frame.

But they were not the only OO club in New Jersey, there was another one known as the ABCOOR (Associated Bergen County OO Railroads) group. We get a glimpse of them and the layout of George Jones in an article in the April, 1954 issue of RMC, in an article on a self-powered section car.
ONE can hardly believe that this OO gauge unit is self powered as it scoots around the layout at a scale speed of about 25 miles per hour….
The unit was built for George E. Jones of Rochelle Park, N. J., by Ralph W. Green who estimates that the entire job took about 50 hours…. George uses 24 v. DC current on his two rail OO gauge pike and the high 24 volts (rather than 12v) provides a very smooth power with barely any arcing of the wheels. An idea of the minute size of the section car can be gained by comparing it with the diesel A unit, a home built job by Mr. Jones….
George’s Union Pacific Lines measures roughly 8x10’ and consists basic of two loops, one of which circles over itself on 2% grades. At a recent meeting of the ABCOOR (Assd. Bergen County OO RRs), we saw a four unit diesel pull a 53 car freight drag up and over itself for nearly three hours of continuous operation without a single derailment. For a gauge which many people have already given a formal burial, we thought this a singularly outstanding achievement. Altogether the ten members of this group own and operate over 100 locos, 200 passenger cars, 550 freight cars in addition to one of the most terrific section hand cars we’ve ever had the pleasure to see.
Note that freelanced, FT-inspired diesel in the photo, which is very similar to the E-Unit seen in this article (especially note the roof and front profile of the models). And who wrote the article? It does not say but it seems that the editors of RMC wrote it (note the use of “we”), which may be why RMC will be the magazine with by far the most OO coverage for the coming years. They had personal relationships with OO gaugers in the part of the country that was the hotbed of remaining OO gauge activity! They knew it was not a dead scale even if there were hardly any products advertised.

Probably not coincidentally a letter in the June ‘54 issue of RMC from Bill Johann mentions the North Jersey club as well. My understanding is there was a friendly rivalry between the two groups, although they certainly socialized and I am told ultimately, as numbers dwindled, they merged into one group.

In the September, 1954 issue of Model Railroader there is an article on custom builder Jerry White. Among other scales he worked in OO, and several OO models by White may be seen here. Later in the same issue in the “Bull Session” column there is a note from OO gauger Jim Trout of Los Angeles, who described OO fans as “rugged individualists who keep working in OO in spite of the lack of supplies and publicity.” That certainly describes the tone of the time for OO well.

Finally, there is this nice photo in the April, 1955 issue of MR of one of the Moale trolleys. My main article on the Commander may be found here. From the caption,
These fine cars are part of a 62-model collection built by Comdr. Edward S. Moale, USN Ret. …. His goal is at least one model representing a prototype for each state. He has five cars to go. All models are OO scale and built from scratch. The foreground model is of a Columbus, Delaware & Marion parlor car that was sold to IT, and the first interurban ever air-conditioned.
With that the next topic in this series on American OO in 1954-55 is products seen in catalogs.

Continue to Part II of 1954-55 series

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