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

Monday, June 23, 2014

A pair of Champion Milk Express Reefers

Up today I have two examples of a model rarely seen, the Champion milk express reefer. The model introduced in 1942; for more on that (including the original advertising) and a photo of the sides used on my cars see this article.

One thing I will note first is that the white lettering is really faded at this point but not for the reasons you might suspect. Actually the white areas are not printed at all, that is the natural color of the cardstock that the sides were printed on. And Champion coated the sides with a clear finish that has yellowed over time. It sort of passes for weathering in a way, and I like the look--but I believe originally the white was much bolder.

These sides were made to be applied to a specific type of Picard body, 44 ½ foot long with a round roof. The Milky Way car I built on a fresh, new body, taking time to smooth and seal the roof for a better final finish. As always, click on any photo for a better view.

The Western Dairy car was built on the only other of these bodies I had around, one that was in the OO Inventory. It was built up originally by David Sacks and had some issues. Paint wise he had decorated it over the years in three different color schemes. The final one, as seen in the “before” photo at the end of this article, was Pullman green; previously it was black and silver and lettered for the Jersey Central, and the original color was orange! I discovered all that while stripping the old details and smoothing the body for the new sides. Also he had built it with a steel weight inside and evidently thought it not heavy enough, so he drilled two holes in the body and added sand and glue! One hole is in the bottom of the car and the other under an ice hatch. I did my best to get all the sand out and re-seal the body; it is still quite heavy.

The hatches are of unknown manufacture, but the other visible cast details are Eastern parts I had in the parts supply. I also dove into the parts supply to approximate the correct brake details under the cars. One detail I left off intentionally, the grab irons on the left side of each car. These I don’t plan to add, the holes would mar the finish of the cardboard sides too much.

The trucks are by Scale-Craft. The Milky Way car has their rarely seen plain bearing, late passenger truck (more here) and the other pair are standard SC passenger trucks modified by a prior owner to resemble express reefer trucks (both being now with freight wheelsets). I touched up the edges of the printed sides and ends with Floquil Pullman Green before gluing them on (one side at a time!).

They both came out really well, exceeding expectations. Working with vintage parts I never know quite what to expect, and it is enjoyable to see the parts come together well and make two rare and interesting cars such as these.

UPDATE: See this article for another vintage Champion milk express reefer. And note this car in the photo to the right. It is Canadian Pacific and was built by Pierre Bourassa. I had forgotten it was around in my collection. It came to me with no trucks or couplers but was a pretty solid model. I think Pierre painted over a set of Champion Sides and added decals. In any case, it seemed worthy of an upgrade. I put my last (for now, at least) set of the uncommon S-C trucks and added Kadee couplers to this nice vintage piece.

UPDATE 2: Also, in the "other" photos (such as the Canadian Pacific model) there is a letter board at the top of the sides. Those parts were missing from the sides and ends I used for the two reefers featured at the beginning of the article; see the main article on Champion sides for a scan of that part with the New Haven milk reefer sides. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A RS-2 for the Grand Island

This brass Schorr RS-2 model is one that came to me in great shape overall, with a very nice paint job and couplers mounted, but it had no drive and only one truck mount (under the long hood--and that mount with a truck still in a raw brass finish).

I have had this model for a while now and have mulled over my options a few times. I was thinking to try to power it, but I finally decided not to. I was working over two of my dummy diesels with better trucks (seen in this article), and realized this model would also make a great dummy engine. I have a bunch of extra Schorr metal bolsters and they fit the model perfectly for mounting the truck under the cab. A bit of paint on the trucks and the model was good to go! A quick fix that turned a model that looked a little sad with its one unpainted truck into a real beauty.

With the model in the photo is a matching Schorr caboose. Both were beautifully painted by William Gilbert for his road. These were both part of the Schorr line of Japanese brass imports in American OO, which I outline further (with links to more info) in this article. 

And another RS-2 came to me from William Gilbert with this model, which has a drive but needs a lot of work and the paint was partially stripped. Be watching the blog for more; I am stripping the paint now and have begun working out a new drive based on Athearn parts. My goal is to turn that model into a smooth-running approximation of an ATSF RSD-4 in American OO. A summer project; more on that another day.

UPDATE: And I found this photo, not the sharpest, but showing the engine on his layout. Several of the cars seen are also in my collection today.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Unique Miniatures ATSF Express Reefer

Digging in the OO Inventory I spotted again this car which is an interesting one, an ATSF express reefer.

Besides being ATSF (with me expanding my ATSF operations lately) it caught my eye that the sides are printed and I have no idea the manufacturer [See UPDATE]. There were a group of American OO modelers on the west coast, perhaps one of them had these made, or perhaps the sides are modified from something produced for use in S gauge. In either case they are I believe a commercial product and were applied to a Picard 50’ body on a Selley frame.

Looking online I also discovered that the model is fairly prototypical in look! Compare the model to this prototype photo linked here.

The builder of this model was David Sacks. In my rebuilding I replaced the trucks and couplers and worked over the frame details. In the files I found this “before” photo, one taken for the OO Inventory. He had glued a large steel weight to the bottom of the car which I removed (it is heavy enough!), and added a set of Cal Scale express reefer brake details that I found in my parts supply.

I touched up paint dings on the body a bit too and replaced a missing ladder. The car still looks a little rough (the finish is not as splotchy under normal light) but I like how it came out and that it has the ATSF mystery maker sides. The trucks I should also note, I am not sure what they are but the side frames are vintage HO parts to which I added Ultimate wheelsets. They resemble the ones in the prototype photo fairly closely. All in all an enjoyable and fairly quick project, this car will see some use again when I run vintage items.

UPDATE: I am fairly sure this is actually a Unique Miniatures OO gauge car. I missed this in the OO series as they don't seem to have actually advertised. However, in my older checklists developed roughly 15 years ago I have a listing for a 1941-42 product by Unique Miniatures of California, a 45' ATSF express reefer. This model fits the bill perfectly. The mystery for me now is how did I have that listed on that checklist? I must have received a tip from someone about this specific, unique model.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Interesting Comparison: Lionel OO track and Trix Twin HO/OO track

Over the years I have vaguely noted (from eBay listings) that Twix Twin three-rail HO/OO track resembles Lionel’s three-rail OO track.

Recently I was contacted by a reader who noticed this too, Robert Vale. What he pointed out to me was that actually the Trix product was introduced in 1935, three years before the original Lionel OO track. I had assumed it was a more recent product, and was correct in a sense as it was produced well into the 1950s. But actually it is the older product.

Just as they appear to have taken existing Nason and Scale-Craft OO models and modified and improved them in developing their OO line (even using Scale-Craft models in their catalog photos in 1938!), it seems that what Lionel did was scale up the early Trix track, using it as an inspiration, and improving it a bit in the process.

In the photos with this article are a series of close ups of the two types of track, the Trix photos being from Vale. I matched his views with Lionel track, the track used being their second type of three-rail track. The 1938 style is the same casting but with a spring clip connector, but I don’t actually own any of it to provide a photo. If any reader can supply some similar Lionel 1938 track photos I would be happy to post them as well.

The details that are the most strikingly similar between the two products are the same materials (Bakelite with steel rails), the tie spacing is similar, and note the “legs,” the raised areas on the end of each stick of track that support the track. The middle of each section does not sit on the table. As always, click on any photo for a closer view.

The power connectors and other details are different. Still, the two types of track certainly are similar overall and have a close, family appearance. To see more examples of the Trix track there are lots of photos online, search Google or eBay for plenty of photos.

For more information and suggested reading, this article covers the history of Trix Twin trains from 1935-37, part of a series of articles on Trix that may be accessed here. Photos of the original track from 1935-36 may be seen in the article linked.

Again, Lionel must certainly have seen these models and used their track as an inspiration for their OO track, scaling it up from 16.5 mm gauge to 19 mm gauge.

A final quick note would be what is Trix Twin anyway? Twin? To quote the wording in the current Wikipedia article, “Unlike other manufacturers of the period, Trix allowed two trains to run on the same track simultaneously under independent control, one collecting current from the left rail and centre, the other from the right and centre. This system was known as 'Trix Twin'.”

Thank you again Robert Vale for the clear photos and for noting these similar products! I don’t believe this has been noted before in articles looking at the history of Lionel OO trains, and this sets a context yet again for the development of their line of American OO trains.

UPDATE: And here we have  two photos from Dick Kuehnemund comparing the 1938 and 1939-41 versions of Lionel OO track. Note the spring clip and the casting of the 1938 track end being even closer in design to the Trix track.

His photos reminded me as well that there is an article in this site already on a pair of 1938 track sections in his collection that are apparently engineering samples by Lionel. See this article for more. 

And for even more on early Lionel and Scale-Craft track for American OO see this article. Thanking again Dick and Robert for these photos.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Update: My Nason sand-cast Pullman

Not long ago I posted about a car in progress, a Nason sand-cast Pullman. This model was one of the original models in the Nason line in 1934 and was one I have wanted to have an example of for some time.

And here is my finished model. All that is visible in this photo is pretty much the stock model, with the exception of the vents which are Famoco (OO) and Walthers (HO) parts. As noted in the earlier article, the floor, sides, and roof all came to me as loose parts. To those I added modified Selley ends and a good set of Nason trucks.

The "trouble" now is that I did not anticipate how much material I had to remove from the frame to allow for truck swing. I think it might presently take something like 48" radius curves. I don't think Nason was thinking you would run it on much less than 36" from the design. I would have to disassemble the car and remove a lot of material for it to run on my 28" curves, so I think this one is headed for a display case. Still a really fine model, I like the proportions and general look a lot. But I have plenty of Pullmans to run.

Eagle eyed readers who click on the photo will note that the name I chose is Rock Haven. As I also noted in the earlier article, this is to honor the early OO layout of Oscar Andresen. Hugh Nason and  Oscar Andresen were true pioneers and fathers of American OO gauge; this model is in appreciation of both.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Nason PRR X-31 Automobile Car

A fairly late addition to the Nason line of American OO models was their Pennsylvania round roof automobile car. It shows up only in their last (1940) catalog, listed as number 5 in their car list. The listing says “Pennsylvania Round Roof Automobile Car, X-31—Red sides and ends.”

This is an example of this model. I have been looking for one for some time, and finally this one and a companion passed through EBay recently. I was curious about several elements of the design of the model. It is a 40’ car and uses the same frame, doors, and coupler pockets as their standard EZ-Built boxcar kits. The body has a different roof which would be a key to getting close to the design of the prototype car. The sides are printed on thin cardboard (or thick paper, more nearly) as seen in their other kits of this type.

The sides of this example look a bit weathered, but I think that is mostly due to the white printing ink wearing off the sides over 70 some years of handling.

Looking at the bottom, the standard Nason boxcar frame is visible. This car was built up with extra brake details, Scale-Craft trucks, and Kadee couplers. Also, note that the ladders chosen by the builder are standard Scale-Craft ladders.

Finally, looking at the end, I think the builder may have used a different end panel than supplied by Nason. The photo in the 1940 catalog would indicate that the car has a flat panel end. But I can’t tell the maker of the end so it may actually be a Nason part; it is on thinner cardboard stock than the comparable Famoco or Eastern ends, matching the material used on the sides.

Other cars in their line were made with several car numbers. The two of these cars that I own have the same car number (69572), and one seen in this article (scroll down), owned by Dick Gresham, has the number 69588. The one in the catalog photo seems to be a different number that ends with a 71. It is possible it is a pre-production model that does not match the production version. The model owned by Dick G. I would note has the flat ends, as seen in the catalog photo.

The model was a first for OO. It filled a niche and was not produced in much quantity I believe. It is one to keep your eyes peeled for if you are looking to own examples of every model in the complete Nason line.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Pair of Vintage Nason ATSF Reefers, and a Note on Gluing Paper Sides

Up today are two more cars in progress but nearly done and will be done soon!

These are Nason reefers. One thing I have noted over the years is it is rare to see the Nason EZ built freight cars built up really well and still in good shape. The underlying problem is (although Nason trucks can be set up to roll and track great) they were not great kits. One of my few Nason reefers that is operational may be seen in this article, and this article provides an overview of some of the variations of the woodwork supplied with these kits.

The story on these two cars is the one on the left came to me partially built and the one on the right I rebuilt using a body that was in very sad shape with new sides, noting that they have different car numbers than those on the other body. I think it is a Nason body variation but not 100% sure. It is narrower than the car on the left.

That second car I had to glue the new sides on. I have a routine for this and I was reminded that I need to not rush it and it is worth writing it out now so I remember! I use blocks of wood and Xacto clamps to clamp the sides on. The wood blocks (in this case spare floors from Eastern kits) I cover with plastic wrap.

Usually that is all I need to do and can do two sides at a time. These Nason sides, however, are really thin and not nearly as easy to glue on as my favorite, the Scale-Rail sides. The big notes being do them one at a time and it is a good idea to put a layer of wax paper between the block and the sides, white glue tends to stick to the plastic wrap and damage the sides.

Going back to Nason sides and this element, the surface of these sides is easily damaged (and probably also not real colorfast). The car on the left in the first photo had damage when I got it (maybe why the original builder gave up) and the car I did also got damaged in gluing. Doing two sides at one time was too much going on with them curling up and everything. Fortunately, Floquil Reefer Orange is a really close match on the color, so it won’t be really obvious in the end, especially with a coat of Dullcote.

The paint scheme, with orange panels on the ends, is probably not exactly authentic but is still attractive and it is nice to have two cars that match closely as an ATSF fan. From the parts supply I was able to come up with vintage Nason reefer frames, brake cylinders, and end beams, and I also made up ladders very similar to the ones seen on the instruction sheet. I will add Kadee couplers and some good Nason trucks to finish the cars out.

They will in the end look pretty sharp but would have been sharper with a bit better sides. But for being introduced way back in 1936 these are good cars and it is a pleasure to have these nice examples of Nason reefers on the road again.

UPDATE: And they are done now, rolling great and looking good.