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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

American OO for 1958-59: Part I, Rolling Along…Slowly

Starting our look at 1958-59 a good place to begin is with layout photos and other published content from OO gaugers in 1958.

Not a lot was published! Only one layout photo made it into the hobby press, this photo of four OO locomotives, presented in the April, 1958 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. The photo shows a scene on the layout of Len Franckel, a member of the ABCOOR club in New Jersey. From the caption, “They are, L to R: 1949 Scale Craft 4-8-4, Pennsy 4-8-2 M-1a custom built in 1954, 1949 Scale Craft 4-8-4 with super heaters, and a Pennsy K-4s built from an old Star Atlantic kit but with a Nason Hudson main frame.” I can’t really offer any more details than that but the four track line with the group of big engines is impressive.

Letter writing is another way to get the word out that your scale is not dead! In reading the magazines of the year I found letters to the editor that were published from three different, very active OO gaugers.

First up is Bill Johann. The June, 1958 issue of RMC has long letter from Bill on layout design and operating his OO layout. First though, I would mention that Johann is an excellent example of someone building and operating his model railroad for a lifetime; this article gives a view of operating his later layout out in California. But for now the location is New Jersey and he is an active member of the North Jersey club (more here). 

To his letter, it is in reaction to the problems of the typical big layout designs of his day, that they had excessive track and equipment, with limited potential for real operation. After a good bit on that large topic he wrote,
By now you’re wondering what kind of a baloney merchant is writing this. I’m snowing no one. My railroad is a large one, finished except for completed scenery which is in progress. This road has 380’ of track, 9 locos, 57 cars, no fancy switches or trackwork. Operation is point to point with a run around. There is no excessive maintenance. Provision is made for club style timetable operation (with a timetable!) requiring 8 men to operate the schedule and covering 370 well lit square feet. Yet I can run the railroad alone.
Our club, the North Jersey Midland Model RR Association (OO) has six other railroads of a similar nature and a seventh about half completed. These layouts are all big but they’ve been designed so that they are not only buildable but easily maintainable. I don’t claim our methods are the living end for everybody, but I do think that there is a large segment of the model fraternity who would go for this type if it were pushed by the pros! We think we have something that is rarely seen in model railroading.
There is a letter in reaction to the Johann letter in the August, 1958 RMC, and that response (which focused on layout maintenance) led to a long letter in the October issue from another member of the North Jersey club, Newton Guerin, on his layout and operation. He starts,
In reply to V. H. Coley, Mr. Johann was very conservative when he said that his layout keeps eight men busy. In fact, I am one of the fourteen mem who operate his railroad and for the past seven years have enjoyed it to no end and his operation is as faultless as you can get. 
Guerin continues with a number of details about his layout and others in the North Jersey club.
Speaking of layouts, Mr. Johann’s is only one of seven such layouts in our association. In fact, his is the smallest, having 385 feet of operating track. My layout being next to the largest has 525 feet of track and takes 12 men to operate it and if you were shocked before, I too, can run it by myself…. My layout has fifty turnouts, 22 of them electric machines, 100 cars, 15 locomotives and rarely is a piece of equipment missing from its’ run. In fact, one loco just reached it’s 20th year of operating, and many other pieces of rolling stock are not far behind in age.
My layout is 72 feet long and averages over 4 feet wide. I have a mainline run of over 300 feet and goes around 3 walls of the cellar. There are six major towns where train meets and terminal movements are made. There are six other towns, namely flag stops with an odd spur or so for the local freight. I hold my trains to 10 cars, as I run small line power mostly 4-6-0, 2-8-0 and 2-6-0 locos.
Mr. Johann’s railroad has over 250 feet of run, his heavy power is Mikados and he runs twenty car trains. His layout layout is the oblong type with a central operating opening. His layout, I believe, is about 12 by 30 feet as a guess.
All layouts are equipped with cabs, that when the engineers are through, a toggle is moved to auxiliary control, this transfers everything to a center control unit. This allows each individual to operate his own layout, til next meeting time.
Our layouts, all of them, are set up to handle the following jobs: In the main cab is Engineer 1, 3, and 3 respectively, who handle main line trains. Engineers 4 and 5 are Yard Engineers at each terminal. Towerman “A” handles the main terminal switching. Towerman “B” handles the junction tower. Towerman “C” the other terminal. Towerman “D” and “E” mainline towers and Towerman “F” the branch. In addition we have the Turntable Engineer (Hosteler), and use any extra men as brakemen in the terminal yards.
This is believe it or not less than half of the letter, but it gives quite a window into the operation of these OO layouts. He mentions the Johann 2-8-2, see more on that engine here.

As you may have figured out already, most of the OO “coverage” for 1958 is in RMC. But to close I would note that the October, 1958 issue of Model Railroader has an interesting letter from Temple Nieter. He wrote the first article published in MR on American OO (see this series for more), and in his letter speaks of the older days of model railroading and that OO kits are now rare.

But there are still products that can be purchased. When the series returns the topic is American OO products on the market.

Continue reading 1958-59 Series

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