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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Progress Report: Nason Sand-Cast Pullman Coming Together

One rare and significant early item in American OO is the original, sand-cast Nason Pullman. Introduced way back in 1934, the model was initially priced at $9 and is a car I have been interested to own an example of for some time.

In a parts purchase I obtained three sides and three floors for this car, and a project has been to get one of them together. This first photo shows where I am with the model in progress. For ends I have modified Selley parts to match the dimension needed to match the original Nason ends. Also note the extra frame and side which show the parts in their raw form from the foundry. A car that was built up but not painted may also be seen in this article; the raw aluminum is an interesting look! But I have opted for making a fully finished model.

I painted and decaled the sides and ends before assembly to allow for a cleaner job and completed a roof using vintage Nason roof stock. Holes were carefully drilled and tapped to hold the sides to the floor. And at that point I made a discovery. Now I realize that Nason had two different types of passenger car roof stock. The roof I made was nice but too wide to fit the car! Digging around I found a piece that fit perfectly, my only spare piece, and it is clearly the original type of roof stock needed for this car. Both types are seen in the final photo.

As to other details, the frame setup pretty much requires the use of Nason trucks, a pair of which will be worked up from parts. I chose the Pullman name Rock Haven out of the decal set as it reminded me of the early OO layout by Oscar Andresen.

As to the roof, with a second chance at it, a new roof is underway and I am sealing the wood better first for a better finish. And first the roof I made with the later type of roof stock won’t go to waste! I have a set of the later, brass Pullman sides and vintage frame details and such to make yet another complete, all original Nason car from parts.

UPDATE: The finished model may be seen here.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

American OO in 1951-52, part II: What Happened?

The early 1950s are interesting years to look at. Just ten years previously there was quite a lot on the market and for sure OO gaugers were a bit stunned how fast things “went south” for their favorite scale.

One overall point to make right off is how if you follow along in the magazines things really drop off quickly in terms of advertising and OO coverage these two years, to a point where many issues of magazines have no reference made to American OO at all. In the June 51 “At the Throttle” column in Model Railroader it is stated that “OO gauge … has endured a supply famine ever since the last war.” But really the issue was HO was so much more popular, and manufacturers figured out there really was no money to be made in American OO.

Bur certainly there were still some very dedicated American OO gauge enthusiasts working away on their layouts. The best OO photo of these two years of publications I think is this one, found in the April, 1951 issue of Model Railroader. I included the original caption with the scan of this photo of the engine terminal on the Norfolk & Ohio layout of Carl Appel; click on the photo for a better view. Another angle on this same scene may be seen here.

So if you were building a layout what could you buy?

Sources of OO included used items, old stock, and new production. While Scale-Craft was available as noted in part I, many people seem to be getting out of OO entirely, selling out and selling cheap. The ad seen in the scan ran in the Readers Exchange in MR, August 1952.

Some new products were coming, but were not on the market yet. So far the only bright spot really are the intermittent ads run by Schorr for their F-3.  By later in 1952 their advertising turned a bit of a corner, such as this ad in the December, 1952 issue of RMC. It does not make it clear exactly what they had for sale but clearly they had what you needed!

According to a 1955 letter from Myron P. Davis (cited more fully in the Nason Railways 101 article) the final Nason Railways owner Edward Kelly died in 1952. So by or around this date Myron P. Davis had purchased the residual of Nason and also Jerome B. Foster had purchased the patterns for the Nason 4-4-2 and was laying groundwork for his Guild of the Iron Horse production. To jump ahead for more on those two lines see:
The original sale of the Nason patterns to Foster must have occurred by about 1951. There is a very interesting item about this in the November, 1953 issue of Model Railroader. In the October issue there had been an editorial relating to dormant dies and kits and them hoping to bring former and future model railroad manufacturers together. Foster was an architect and must be the person mentioned in the quote below.
OUR OCTOBER ISSUE containing the editorial about inactive dies was hardly mailed before it stirred up some activity. Two years ago and eastern architect completed dies to produce a OO gauge Pennsylvania RR. 4-4-2. Then he became so busy at his profession that he couldn’t get production started. He read the editorial and decided to sell his dies so that someone else could produce the engine.…
With good luck all around, OO gauge might get a new manufacturer and a fine new engine.
I don’t know if there was a buyer or not at that point, but the engine did eventually make it to the market and things were in motion by 1951. In the big picture there was still a critical mass of people that had no interest to change scales with the trends of the time, and to serve that market besides the models hinted at above some great NEW models soon would come on the market from Kemtron, Johann, Schorr, and others. More on those models as the series continues.

Return to start of 1951-52 series

Continue to 1953 series

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The J-C Models Baggage Car and Coach

As years go by I realize there are a few “common” OO models that I do not have good examples of and actually, today, those models may not actually be so common due to the passage of time and time having been hard on the materials used in the model.

Very recently I fixed part of that situation with this pair of J-C Models cars, a coach and a baggage car. Available from 1939 until into the 1950s, my overview of J-C Models is here; these were also produced in O gauge and HO. They also in their OO line produced a heavyweight combine and a Pullman.

I have a number of the Pullmans and have recently been working on them to get them running well. As part of that I also have several ATSF locomotives and it occurred to me that a Santa Fe baggage car would be a great model to have to run with the Pullmans. The example seen here was made up from parts on hand. The roof and floor had been built up into a car but came to me loose, someone had taken it apart and got side tracked after doing some modifications to one end, I think to convert a baggage car into a combine. I opted use these baggage car sides that I had as loose parts and to also fix up the modified end of the body. As the ATSF looks to have typically set up their heavyweight baggage cars on six-wheel trucks I have opted for that for now (S-C trucks upgraded with vintage Ultimate wheelsets), although I may switch it to 4-wheel in the future if the 6-wheel trucks are needed for a longer car. This car has worked out great and has been leading around a string of Pullmans beautifully on the layout.

I should note that nominally this is a 60' baggage car, but actually the sides are long enough to allow you to build it up as a 70' car, which is the length of this model. I suspect the wood parts varied somewhat depending on the year the kit was boxed.

The coach is in a state of “before” and needs work. I am still puzzling over it but I think what I will do is put new sides on it and work it over a good bit with a removable roof. This car is more typical of how J-C cars often look today. The sides have not held up well and the paint job was really heavy to begin with. It has no roof vent details, but on the plus side the original builder used Selley ends, frame, and step details to upgrade the car a bit. These cars were shipped out with only wood and cardboard parts, but I have actually never seen one with the steps built up from wood as described in the instructions. For purposes of this photo I put S-C 4 wheel trucks on the car, which are very appropriate (J-C did not make a line of trucks). The fresh sides there are set aside for this project. These actually vary a bit in length, I really don’t know why, and this car matches up to the shortest set I have extra, which is part of why the coach is a bit shorter than the baggage car.

In either case these are classic models that can be built up into very nice cars. The rivet details are very nice and with good paint and proper handling they operate well.

UPDATE: The rebuilt coach may be seen here.

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.

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, but it is a nice model, out of the ordinary compared to what is usually seen in American OO.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

OO Models by Howard Winther Featured in The Train Collectors Quarterly

I am very pleased to have authored another article on American OO that has been published in April, 2014 issue of The Train Collectors Quarterly. 

“Then and Now: Early American 00 Gauge Models Built by Howard Winther” is a compilation of materials from a series of articles developed for this website, reorganized for better flow and focus on prize winning models by Winther that were featured in early hobby publications, showing how the models look today and giving additional context to the early days of American OO.

The layout of Howard Winther was featured for example in The Modelmaker and in The Model Railroader in 1934, and he won a number of prizes at NYSME events before and during WWII. For some flavor of the content of the article start here and click on the links. Or click on the label “Winther” on the sidebar or here for the full run of articles related to Howard Winther models (in reverse order).

I can’t thank enough the sons of Howard Winther for their photography of models such as this one and notes on their father. It is great that the Internet can bring together people and make possible an eight page TCA article such as this on these very significant and beautifully built and preserved early American OO models.

Finally, as new readers may find this article based on seeing the TCA article I would offer this on my personal perspective on model trains. The best description I can come up with is that I am a “retro-modeler.” I talk about this in a longer article (here) but this is the gist of what I do and relates to why I appreciate so much the Winther models.
For years I have known what I do but at the same time it always is hard to explain to others outside the OO community. It is a little bit like Hi-Rail but not really as there is no toy-train basis to what I do. I am sort of a collector but not a pure collector; I like exploring the history of OO a lot but I also very much like rebuilding old models (these days quite often junkers or old unfinished projects) to fit the theme of my layout, with the idea of running them realistically. My main goal is a functioning model railroad in 1/76, so while I do use vintage items such as these I also have models made with modern techniques and materials that I enjoy as well. 
Another way to say it is I like Lionel OO but have no big collecting desire to own every variation of their production or the budget to achieve that goal. I am much more interested in the bigger picture of all the OO lines. Some items I have were purchased or have been kept purely from a collector standpoint but the ones that excite me the most fit into the theme of my operations.
In short, while I am working to collect for example all of the different models produced by OO makers such as Nason and Schorr, I actually run American OO on a layout (as in the photo above, see more here) and really enjoy OO the big puzzle of sorting out history as well. Great to see the OO coverage with the TCA, and if old scale model trains are an interest keep coming back to American OO Today for more.