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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Three from the Winther brothers, with thanks

Those following this site know I have been working for some years on a long series of articles on the history of American OO gauge. One of the pioneers of American OO was Howard Winther, and fate and Google brought his sons to American OO Today, where they were surprised to see their father beginning to be profiled in that series. Further I was surprised and pleased to learn that they were both TCA members and had nearly all of the models their father had built, stored in beautiful condition, which they subsequently provided great photos of. This is all outlined further in this article, which relates to the article I was able to write for the TCA Quarterly based on text developed here.

Another great thing is that subsequently the brothers donated the Winther models to the TCA, where with all the documentation provided I believe they will be appreciated for the historic and significant models that they are. Hopefully some can be on display in their museum with the companion photos from early issues of Model Railroader and The Modelmaker -- that would be a compelling display.

The TCA however did not want quite everything, there were just a few incomplete, kit built cars that they did not take and the Winther brother sent to me, with thanks. Two were run of the mill, unpainted S-C passenger cars (seen actually in this article, I used the nice Winther photos to upgrade that one), and then we have these three.

The first two are J-C models kits. The coach is pretty much stock, but on it and the business car (or superintendents car, a shortened Pullman) Winther did something I have not seen before and I will do on some future model. What he did was remove part of the floor stock at the ends so that the steps can be mounted higher up, in a prototypical position; the steps being Selley castings rather than the wood parts supplied with the kits. Neither has interior detail and neither looks to have ever been completed. All three cars had window “glass” but the windows in the coach warped at some time in the past. The silver details on the coach were all neatly painted by hand. As always click on the photos for a better view.

To note it as well, the office car may be seen here in a prior article, but the coach and the baggage car are new cars to the website.

Saving the best model for the last, we have this baggage car. It is wood and appears to me to be scratchbuilt and is a nearly completed car. Notably, the roof stock is not commercial and is built up from two stacked pieces of floor stock. The sides were scribed by hand and are a little uneven. It has one (only) of his hand made couplers on it and I am pleased to confirm that they mate perfectly and easily with modern Kadee HO couplers. The detail level is very nice really. Why he left it so close to done but not actually completed is a mystery. This car does have a somewhat heavy paint job, so that combined with the uneven scribing may have pushed it down the list for him -- it may be as simple as it was not quite up to his standards.

In any case, I do plan to at least put some good S-C trucks on all three cars sometime soon and label them as being built by Howard Winther. As to lettering, I am going to have to ponder that long and hard. I think he may have had a prototype scheme in mind with the coach – I am open to suggestions there [see UPDATE]. But in any foreseeable near term all three will stay as they are, incomplete handiwork of a real OO pioneer that I am thankful to be able to own.

UPDATE: From Facebook the suggestion is that he may have been thinking New Haven with the coach, it has a scheme similar to that of their Osgood Bradley ("American Flyer") coaches. A bit more on these coaches may be found in this article. The car itself is not a match but the silver windows and overall color are a match.

UPDATE II: With these cars they also sent a Famoco Pullman kit. I only glanced inside at first and thought the trucks were Famoco. How wrong I was, they are actually hand made, scratchbuilt trucks by Winter!

They are nicely scaled and roll very freely. The wheels may be commercial parts, the screws certainly are, but the sideframes are not. Readers with a good eye might think they are Nason sideframes, but the openings are different as well as other details and the casting quality better than typical Nason. They seem to very fine bronze castings, or perhaps lost wax brass castings. They certainly took some real skill to make, and certainly it would be appropriate if they could be used on one of the above cars.

Setting the cars on trucks is an interesting experience, they look really different on trucks. Setting them on these trucks, I am inclined to think the "New Haven" coach is the best choice -- if for no reason other than it is a longer car. But I will certainly ponder it for a while first, four wheel trucks are more appropriate for them all. One final curiosity, that car shows no evidence of ever having had trucks mounted (the screw holes are marked) but it has that one big loop coupler.  So close to having trucks and couplers, but left as you see it in the top photo by Winther.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Two great pre-war Graceline boxcars

Up today are a couple eBay purchases from last year, vintage Graceline boxcars with the factory lettering.

First up is a wonderful example of the Graceline B&O wagon top boxcar. This model was introduced in 1939 – see this article to see the original advertising. I had previously purchased an example that was built up and lettered with decals (see here), but this new example not only has the original hand lettering but is in beautiful condition.

Stepping back a second, Graceline sold a line of OO cars with hand lettered sides. This was no small effort on their end and to my mind at least these are highly desirable items. I have a bit more on the hand lettered cars here.

Back to this example, it came to me with loop couplers and only one Graceline truck. I found a good pair of Graceline trucks that matched the original truck that was there and installed Kadee couplers to set it up for operation. I am liking their whisker couplers a lot for OO applications, as in this case I just cut down the box and screwed them on, plus they are compatible with S-C and Lionel couplers (manually). This model will be operated when the mood strikes me to run vintage cars. The only downside being that Graceline trucks of this period have rather heavy flanges that bump on my turnouts (but operate fine, otherwise).

The other boxcar is a Graceline wood boxcar, also hand lettered (the C&NW logo is paper, glued on) and also in wonderful condition. This one is on S-C trucks (with the not-often-seen "thin bolster") and needed no additional attention from me other than adjusting the gauge of a couple wheelsets using my NMRA gauge. Most notable perhaps on this one are the unusual couplers. These I have never seen before and would operate automatically pretty well I would think with other couplers of the same design. Notable for us today, these will mate with Kadee couplers well enough to run the car in a train, so I will leave them be.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A simple HO crane conversion

This model is one that I bought on eBay mostly because it was on S-C passenger trucks. Some prior owner had done a really simple conversion (with Kadee couplers and then gluing the tucks on it turns out!), which I have improved upon.

The model itself is illustrated here in the TYCO Brown Box Era website. What I did was carve off the original bolsters and make a new bolster to support a nice pair of heavy duty Andrews trucks. The side frames are brass and I suspect are overscale HO parts.

Back to the crane itself, the frame is wide enough to be OO, all that visual “weight” at the bottom of the model makes it fairly credible as an OO scale model of a fairly modern, Diesel powered crane, although certainly quite freelanced. Probably the Andrews trucks I used are anachronistic, but still to my eye fit a crane of this size.

The original model has a “boom tender” which TYCO created using a flat car with a caboose body on it. I my case at this point I only have that flat car as my “tender,” also TYCO and decorated for the Santa Fe as well. I describe that conversion here; width is the same as the crane, it works well in American OO.

It is an easy conversion. I don’t plan to run it much but it can be run and is a nice addition to the roster.