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

Sunday, October 26, 2014

American OO for 1958-59: Part IV, A Super Railroad

The Norfolk & Ohio is considered to be one of the great model railroads of any scale seen in print in the 1950s. I have an overall look at articles on this layout here, with the second feature article on the layout being published in the November, 1958 issue of Model Railroader. That article was reprinted nearly in full in the 1980 Kalmbach publication Classic Articles from Model Railroader, but only nearly in full and the elements not reprinted are worth an additional look.

First up is the cover photo and banner. This was a super railroad in so many ways, obvious seeing that scratchbuilt N&W Y-6b 2-8-8-2 articulated. Flipping inside to the index page you would find this description.

A VISIT to the basement of Carl Appel’s home in Allentown, Pa., is an enlightening experience. MR first took you there to see his OO gauge Norfolk & Ohio back in August, 1948. Since then Carl has expanded his rolling stock roster, built new locomotives and made additions to the layout itself, and thought that – this month – the time was ripe for another visit to the N&O. So on pp. 28-35, we show you – with improved photographic techniques, too – how his railroad looks today. It is, without question, one of the most inspiring pikes in the country.

There are also two more photos of the layout and models that were not reprinted in the Classic Articles book. One is a close up of his scratchbuilt model of a N&W Class J 4-8-4, and the other this overall view of his engine terminal. The caption reads:

The engine terminal at Island Yard is geared to service the N&O’s big, modern power. In the background are an eight-stall roundhouse, power plant and water tank with treatment plant. Up front are the coaling station, sand house and tower, and ash pit with crane for ash removal.

Note also that what makes the scene so realistic is the big yard is not stuffed full of cars like would be seen on the typical layout of the time. He clearly had enough cars to stuff it full, but also had an eye toward creating a realistic scene of modern railroading of his time.

One thing that always puzzled me about the article itself was that there was no reference made to Schorr models but you can see in photos in the article that Appel owned at least a string of Schorr RDCs and maybe a couple gondolas. The answer to that was a very unusual (for MR) formal “correction” that ran in the next issue. In December, inside a red text box, they note that they had “overlooked an important source of OO gauge supplies.” Fred E. Schorr “has 50 and 70 ton hopper cars, covered hoppers, Alco diesels, cabooses and RDC’s.” I hope that correction drove a few new sales to Schorr. This really was not such a bad timeframe to be an OO gauger for the OOldtimers who had stuck it out.

With that, this series of articles would be turning to the 1960s. I will take a bit of a break before posting and plan to take a bit different tactic as to the series of articles in general going forward.

The main thing to note to readers is that the vast majority of the products ever commercially produced for the American OO market had been introduced by 1960. The major items that come to mind are the Ultimate F-3 reissue and Ultimate wheelsets, the latter of which was a particularly great product, one needed by those OOldtimers still in the gauge.

As it will be a little while before I post again in the history series to close I want to thank readers for following along. It has been a wild ride! I have some loose ends to figure out still on OO history, be watching for updates (major ones always being posted to the Facebook page--become a Fan!) as those are worked over.

Return to beginning of 1958-59 Series

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Scale-Craft Switches and Related Items

While not a major manufacturer of track products, Scale-Craft did sell besides an early type of sectional track a line of switches and other products.

Turning first to their switches, in working on the history series I was interested to note that an article in the January, 1952 issue of RMC mentions the original S-C OO switch specifically.  They note it for the insulated frog, and it seems that this may have been the first turnout manufactured of this type so widely seen today.

This particular example seems to be complete and has drawings dated to 1938. The box is marked K-2217-L, with K-1383 (the right had version) also covered in the instructions which are dated to April of 1941.  Note the insulated frogs (this has parts enough to do a crossover) and also that the guard rails and points are steel stampings. A photo of the product as seen in 1938 in their “Blow-Smoke” newsletter may be seen here.

You can’t have a switch without a switch stand! This example is the O gauge (OT-122) version of the S-C product, unfortunately for us, but note that the instructions are for the O or OO gauge version so the OO version must look exactly the same, just scaled down. The example is complete with drawings dated in 1946.

Finally, remote control of switches was always something to be desired. Scale-Craft produced this switch motor. From the item number it is an O gauge item (OX-103, formerly K-2231) but could certainly have been adapted to OO if a buyer wished. The drawings are dated 1940 with revisions in 1945, so this was a product that was marketed for a while.

None of these are items I have any plans to use today but it is nice to have them as part of the Scale-Craft collection.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Problematic Drive Trucks

While I try to keep the thrust of my comments positive on vintage American OO products, any collector knows that they were products of their time and were not all well made. Those problems did discourage some people along the way to be sure and could discourage modern American OO gauge fans as well. A pre-war and a post-war drive will serve to illustrate.

First up is this pre-war Scale-Craft gas-electric drive truck. I have a gas-electric that is nearly through the shop (a rebuilding project) and it has the mounting there for this drive truck. It is missing the big gears and the upper drive shaft but is otherwise complete (someone before me took the gears off, but I found gears that would work).

Puzzling over it all though, in the end I have realized the way the shaft comes out the end of the drive truck it is not designed well to take curves. On the original you are to use a spring shaft or a big universal to connect the drive directly to the big, standard S-C Universal AC/DC motor. After the war they replaced this design with a drive truck that has a permag motor mounted directly on the drive truck. This is a much better design. Photos of both drives (click on them for a larger view) may be found at the end of this article.

In terms of the model I have, I now plan to install an Athearn based drive such as I have used on other gas-electric models, such as this one. I believe the model would at best run badly with the original drive truck.

The post-war example, in terms of problematic design, are these Schorr drive trucks. These are the original drive trucks for their great RS-2 model, a Japanese import and one of the last models introduced to the American OO market. The body looks great (see an example here), but the drive trucks are problematic.

These examples have both been modified somewhat I think by people who were trying to make them work. One in particular the gear tower has been removed and the truck modified for a belt drive. Combing parts of these two trucks I could certainly get one back the way it was shipped out, but even then the geometry is problematic. You would need to have very wide curves and use good universals to connect the motor to the truck and then the truck to the other drive truck under the floor.

Looking deeper, the mounting to the body is also problematic. No wonder people seem to have often put in different drives or built their Schorr RS-2 models as dummy models.

For vintage OO diesels the Kemtron-Lindsay drive and the Baker drive for OO are both better made; I have seen both fitted to these Schorr models. So modelers worked out the problems and got trains rolling, much as I recently worked out an Athearn-based drive for my powered RS-2, a model I am really enjoying on the layout.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

American OO for 1958-59: Part III, and Into 1959

Model railroading itself was booming in 1959, and notably the January, 1959 issue of Model Railroader is their 25th anniversary issue. American OO gauge was not too prominent in the issue, but on p. 92 we do read that “For a while, it looked as if OO gauge was to be the most popular of the small sizes….”

Moving ahead to their June issue we do see some great OO model making on display. In this case it is custom locomotive models built for Major McCoid by Jerry White (Superior Models). There are two engines featured. First up is this New Haven Class I-4 Pacific. McCoid was then stationed at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, Califorinia and he enjoyed his hobby by having models custom made for him, operating them on the layouts of others. This particular model had previously been seen in RMC in 1953; more on this model and on Jerry White may be seen in this article.

The second engine is this stunning Erie triplex. The caption notes that “A Pittman DC-91 is used to drive all 24 of the loco’s drivers!” Given the right layout to run on it must have been an extremely impressive model and surly these fine models still exist today?

Turning to Railroad Model Craftsman, in their September issue we find a great quote on OO from Hal Casrtens. It is in an editorial talking about all the different gauges, and of OO he wrote:
OO GAUGE – You’re way out in left field with OO gauge, a size which once seriously threatened to push out HO. Imports from Japan plus a few domestic items (and adaptable HO accessories) make life pleasant enough for pockets of real die hard modelers who wouldn’t trade OO for an island full of wild women.
In the next issue we also find this photo of a Schorr 2-8-0 on layout of George Jones. It is pretty much looking just like it would have looked out of the box from Japan, but the caption provides one interesting footnote on the OO clubs in New Jersey. Jones is active in the ABCOOR group and it states that 24 volt motors are “standard on member roads of the ABCOOR club.” Having owned several models from layouts of members of the North Jersey group, for sure they were running 12 volt DC, which eventually became the standard for those remaining active in American OO.

Keen observers of OO history will know there was one more layout story published in 1958-59, a very major one on a "super railroad," which will be the topic of the final (oh my!) article of this series.

UPDATE: Ed Schorr, son of OO manufacturer Fred Schorr, follows the site and he reports that the Erie Triplex "was built for Capt. Lacado (sp?), who was captain of the USS Upshur, a troop ship." He also notes that "His wife was very helpful in getting photos and measurements for the 2-8-0 Ma & Pa in 00." Thank you Ed! I recall seeing references to a Captain and will be looking for those again as I fill in details of OO history further.

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