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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A modern boxcar, finished

Back a few months ago I posted on a boxcar that was nearly done, which is finally done.

Recapping what I did, I had many years ago (in high school, probably) purchased an Athearn 80’ boxcar body thinking I could do something with the sides to make a nice OO model. Subsequently, I did nothing for years … but then the frame you see also came to me in the OO Inventory. The body was missing from a model Bill Johan built. What to do?

After a lot of pondering I finally put the body to use, built it to match the frame, and ultimately opted to letter it for my Orient, matching the recent Diesel projects.

The frame shows when Johann worked on the model, he marked his models well. I will mark the body inside, although pretty obviously I built it. Originally the car body must have been orange (ATSF reefer?) and I left the orange paint on the extended draft gears.

A final note on the topic -- I think I have got the modern thing worked out of my system for a while! I like getting these models out and running them, they look more like the trains I grew up with and run well. But I have no further modern projects planned as of now. What I have out now are a group of steam locomotive basket cases, I have a NWSL quartering jig coming, too many locomotive projects stuck for lack of drivers, but also really all the parts I need to get them going. Will be an exciting and worthy project to get moving forward on them this coming year.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Replacement Scale-Craft bolsters?

One thing that affects Scale-Craft trucks pretty widely are bad bolsters. They shrink, they fracture. There is a point where the solution would be to make new ones.

In my case, I have quite a few more parts for every part of S-C OO trucks other than bolsters … and a box of broken bolsters that can’t be used. If it were cost effective and I knew how to design them, 3D printing replacement bolsters would I think be ideal. Until then, here are some examples of how others have solved the problem and the solution I am working on.

My idea is to use plastic tubing, a round tube inside a square tube, and original S-C brass pins salvaged from broken bolsters. They are harder to get out than you would think, I think they may have put the pins in place before injecting the Bakelite plastic in the mold.

What my method simplifies though is the accurate drilling of the end holes. The complete bolsters seen came from different sources. The common element is they drilled all the holes into solid pieces of modern plastic and used modified screws as end pins. If you had a drill press and made a jig I suppose it would not be terribly hard to drill the end holes, keeping them really square.

In any case, I don’t need more bolsters urgently right now and have to work out a better way to press the end pins on. But perhaps a reader will be helped by this idea for replacement bolsters.

UPDATE: A better option has arrived! 3D printed...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Building Modern Diesels in American OO, Part III: Results

 It took a while but it is great to finally see finished results of big projects.

And here we are, the three “modern” (1970s-80s) era Diesel locomotives are done, two approximations of the original SD-40 prototypes and also an approximation of a GE U23B. Both types are a bit (gasp) freelanced due to the parts sources and not wanting to go extremely heroic in the kitbash job, but even with the compromises they are I think pretty effective models.

Size wise they are correct in all major dimensions and the Shapeways 3D printed cabs were key items to make them work visually next to for example a Kemtron GP7 (not to mention looking correct next to freight cars!). About those cabs, I have mixed feelings. On one hand, they are to scale and are better than any cab I would have scratchbuilt or kitbashed. On the other hand, the surfaces are not all smooth. The roof area of the SD cab is very smooth, for example, but the sides have “lines” of horizontal texture. I could have attempted to sand it off but at the same time felt that might be risky and likely to cause new problems. So I left the cabs as they were.

The cabs drove the paint scheme as well. In my general article on 3D printed parts I note that the FUD material requires special cleaning and acrylic paint. I figured I was best to paint the plastic parts with the standard red I have used for years on Orient Diesels and to paint the cab a contrasting yellow for a modern scheme. That decision worked out pretty well I think.

In part II I was getting to final details. Mostly the handrails are the original ones associated with the donor models. On the SD40s I split the end handrails and added chains, a fun detail to add. Another big final thing was getting them running. Both of the SDs are powered, one drive being not in as good a shape as the other it turned out. I had to replace four of the six main gears on the axles associated with the wheels, they had split. I have had to do this before, it is a design flaw of these old Athearn drives. I don’t think it is noticeable really that the trucks are HO scale, they disappear visually under the model.

The U23B is unpowered. I had a couple options on trucks but decided to use what were originally unpowered trucks off the early type of Mantua/TYCO GP20, with new wheels. I like the look, and they are OO scale wheelbase with correct size wheels so no compromises there. I did go in and add a light wash of black paint in the screens and grids and may add more weathering. One other thing I may change are the fuel tanks. They are constructed from GP20 tanks and are not really the correct shape (as they are EMD tanks). I expect to be tweaking this and the other two models for some time.

A final detail worth mentioning, I used the coupler mounts original to the SD drives, so even with underset shank couplers they are low. The rear coupler on the U23B is also mounted low to match, which is why it is the trailing unit in the photos, the front coupler is the correct height.

I am enjoying running all three together. They will pull anything I put behind them (some of the Johann built modern cars I have are quite heavy) and it has been fun to get out his TOFC models again as well. Finally I have correct engines to pull those cars!

It has been a great project and it will be interesting to see what additional worlds 3D printing opens up in American OO. But as for me I think with these Diesels done I will change directions a bit and focus on some older school restoration projects.

UPDATE: This photo is a bonus photo, showing the completed OO U23B with a comparable Athearn HO U30C body. The OO model is a pretty effective conversion.

Return to Part I of series

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Graceline Swift reefer completed

Updating a post from a few months ago (here), I finally have the completion (and light restoration) of a prewar Graceline reefer, the type with hand painted sides

This as noted previously was a model that came to me almost complete. All I did really was glue the sides on, supply and paint ladders (Eastern), and supply couplers (Scale-Craft). Still, this project took ages, it took a lot more pondering than it should have. The original builder was doing a very neat job building the car, he just stopped for unknown reasons. I wanted to be sure to do my work at that same level.

The result is a very nice vintage piece. One thing not visible in the photo is the model has cast "wood" ends. I have several more of these cars in worse shape, and knowing now those ends are correct I have a bit more insight how to restore those cars.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

A nice Scale-Craft 2-6-0 conversion

I have seen photos of S-C 4-6-0 models cut down to 2-6-0s, but this conversion takes the idea to a new level, using a S-C 0-6-0 boiler on a cut down 4-6-0 frame to make a modern 2-6-0.

The photos of this neat model were shared by a reader. The 0-6-0 boiler combined with the scratch built tender combine to make a model that is a pretty fair approximation of a Southern Pacific 2-6-0 with a roomy cab. The cab is very roomy if you compare it to scale drawings, large so that it will accommodate the big S-C Universal motor, clearly seen on this model. Also, the lead truck is from a Nason 2-8-0, it is easy to see the “N” logo (and other details) if you click on the photos for a better view.

This model really appeals to me. I have long liked the 2-6-0, being most heavily influenced by an early gift of a copy of the classic book Mixed Train Daily by Lucius Beebe and also by reading practically every railroad book in our public library growing up. One book in particular that I studied first there (and later purchased) was on the MKT northwestern district that ran into the Oklahoma panhandle. In days of steam, it was ruled by you guessed it, 2-6-0s similar to this one.

I have parts of a started (long ago) 0-6-0 kit. The boiler was soldered together but not much more than that -- and the drive parts associated with it are a mess, it would take huge effort to fix.

With that all said as background, I do now plan to do one of these conversions with that boiler. I will save the drive parts to perhaps fix another 0-6-0. My layout is small and not likely to get bigger, this should operate very well, and I have the 4-6-0 parts to work out the drive. Also, one thing I have noted over years is models that I can’t actually run on the layout don’t get me as interested to work on them compared to others that I can run. So for example I have had a S-C 4-8-4 apart for a while on my workbench that I should get done, it won’t take that long really, but it likely won’t take my curves so … back burner. This 2-6-0, though, that I can run, a perfect short line or branch line engine. Now just to get some other projects done….

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Building SD40s and also a U23B in American OO, Part II: Progress report

Back some nine months ago I had an article (more here) on starting a project that used a pair of 3D printed EMD cabs as part of kitbashing an approximation of the EMD SD40 prototypes. With further background being that there are a few 3D printed parts for American OO 1:76 scale on Shapeways (more here). 

In addition, I also purchased through Shapeways a GE cab to use to make an approximation of a U23B. As I have not described that model at all yet (other than teasing it in part I), a few details are in order. It was a conversion proposed years ago in The OO Road by Bill Johann as a relatively simple “good enough” conversion. The hood and visible portion of frame are taken from a vintage Athearn (“blue box”) GE U33C body. Some details are off, of course, but are similar to the correct details for the U23B. The hood itself is OO width, so the key issues were to shorten it slightly in length and to additionally raise the height to match the cab.

The original frame (lower part of body casting, actually, not the metal Athearn frame) was saved and widened, and a drive was no concern as I planned from the start to build it as a dummy.

The trucks are ones I had on hand, modified originally to use on a Schorr F-3, but then I obtained a pair of Schorr trucks for it, so they were available for this model. These are actually the unpowered rear trucks from TYCO GP20 models (!), widened to OO and with new wheelsets. They are the correct length for OO, and I worked out a way to use the original mounting. I also used the fuel tanks from a couple of these models, spliced together for length, they are a little small but believable. For those wondering, some prototype U23B models were built with EMD trucks, trade in trucks from F-3’s and the like, it is a nice look.

The SD40s on the other hand are built on the visible parts of the frames and the drives from two Athearn SD45T-2 models. The length worked out nicely to give convincing porches in relation to the hood used in the kitbash and the 3D printed cabs, without modifying the frame. The frames/hoods on these models come off and on using the same lugs as the original models. Couplers are underset shank Kadee couplers and are a bit low….

The solution on that will be to mount the rear U23B coupler low to match the SD40s and mount the front coupler at the correct height, it will run as the trailing unit. As to mounting the hood on the U23B model I will work out a way that the hood is held on the frame with screws rather than gluing it on as I did with the SD40 models.

While they look pretty good, big picture there are some significant compromises on all three models. One special bummer is that the 3D cabs have some rough surfaces. I was hoping after the bath in Bestine (needed to prep for painting) that they would be smoother, but really they are about the same. I will try to be optimistic that the paint will help level out the rougher side surfaces but realize it will only help so much. I think this may simply be a consequence of the cabs all being scaled up from models developed for smaller scales, although perhaps they were not printed well either.

In any case I have the drives setup now for the SD40s and one body mounted on the frame as of this writing. Compared to the scale drawing the major dimensions are pretty much there, but a lot of specific details are off.

The three Diesels are a big project but good ones for this fall which has been busy for me. I do a few small things on them one day and then puzzle over them and then a few more small things another day. There are still details to sort out, but I think I pretty much have the issues planned out. They will all have for example a modified, “modern” paint scheme for my Orient that is driven by needing to paint the cab with a different type of paint than my standard paint I use on plastic.

The next big thing to do is add handrails, I need them on before painting.

As already noted, there are a lot of compromises on these models. Back to the handrails, for example, with all the other things that are a bit off I don’t see a big reason to not just use the original HO handrails. So I will, modifying the end handrails to have the chained off opening in the middle compared to the original Athearn design. It is visually more important that they just match on all three models rather than being exactly correct.

I hope these models come out well but as of this moment I am not real sure of the result, the compromises have me a little worried but hoping still for “good enough.” They should match the modern cars I have from Johann pretty well at least, so that part is good. I will get them done and do my best, I have been pleasantly surprised before. But the next projects after these will be restoration projects, which may be more the direction I head for the thrust of future work. Knowing though that I might get the bug to keep upping my game as a craftsman and do more with 3D parts. Who knows?

In any case, the trio of modern Diesels are getting close and should be finished sometime during the blocks of time for working on models during the holidays. I do look forward to running these, more then!

Continue to Part III of series

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A look at the Schorr OO RDC, the Hobbytown HO RDC, and the probable actual maker of both

A recent “oops” purchase was the HO RDC seen below with my Schorr OO RDC.

It was listed as OO, the seller had other obvious OO models for sale (Nason!), and looking at it the model certainly looked just like the Schorr model, but with a drive applied to it very neatly. My example being unpowered that was a nice feature, and the price was right.

The model arrives. It took me several days to get down my OO model and then note that the new one was actually an HO model, one that looked like you took the Schorr model and scaled it down from OO to HO and put a drive on it. There was hardly any difference other than the size overall. I thought about returning it, but seeing the two together sold me on keeping it for a while, they are a neat pair. But other than being an early Japanese brass import what was the HO model? I got to digging on that and also looking at some recently received materials on Schorr imports.

To begin, the name of Fred Schorr will be familiar to regular readers, but for those not familiar he was a very enthusiastic OO gauger and imported a line of great American OO scale brass models from Japan after WWII. This article has an overview of his line. The RDC was first advertised in September of 1955, and the original ad may be seen in this article. 

The underlying brass model manufacturer Schorr worked with in Japan was Kyodo. The only part I know of that is actually marked as such in his models are the freight trucks, where Kyodo is stamped into the bolster, using the same logo as in this image I found on the Internet.

I have been in communication with Ed Schorr over the years (son of Fred Schorr), and recently he was cleaning and sent me this surprising photo. Of it he simply said it was “a photo of the guy in Japan that did the work on the brass OO equipment.”

You can actually glean quite a bit from the photo, it is worth clicking on for a closer view. Clearly the gentleman is working on a run of streamlined passenger cars of some sort. Note the big soldering iron and the generally Spartan setup of the shop. I am inclined to say they are HO models.

That brings us back to the HO RDC. With a little digging I found some basic info on the Hobbytown of Boston RDC in the HOSeeker site, and clearly this is an example of that model. According to them the model was available from 1956-58. From the Magazine Index at Tranis.com it would appear that this model was unfortunately not reviewed in the hobby press at the time.

What Hobbytown sold was a kit, but model came with a complete, painted brass body to which you added the drive, which they supplied parts for. This image is a portion of their ad that ran in the January, 1957 issue of  Model Railroader, showing the model and price. It is a little hard to tell if the ad is a photo of a model or a prototype photo, but other photos were found online to confirm, the model I bought is clearly a built up version of the Hobbytown RDC.

Taking a closer look, the OO and HO models are twins, there are basically no significant detail differences other than the bottom of the model, were the HO version was set up to accommodate the Hobbytown drive. The Schorr models were not powered.

I should mention as well, typically Schorr models were built to designs that had recently appeared as scale drawings in the hobby press. In this case, the underlying drawings appear in the January, 1952 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. Both the Schorr and Hobbytown models follow these drawings closely, with the Hobbytown model having a slight edge on some detail placement. Yet, even then, that article has only side elevations and it looks like the builder imagined a few things relating to the ends and frame.

But even then the models are basically identical; the model maker handled the same construction details the same way (look at the steps, for example, and the roof), and the factory paint is also identical. It certainly is a plausible theory that Schorr approached Kyodo to make the OO model, and subsequently Hobbytown approached Kyodo to make the same model in HO to use with their drive parts, testing the waters so to speak toward putting their drives in imported brass bodies. Comparing the two models and production dates it is hard to come to any other conclusion really.

Certainly people don’t think of Hobbytown being an early HO brass importer, but with this model they did briefly experiment with Japanese brass, in the process producing a model that was clearly superior to the subsequently introduced Athearn HO model, having a better drive and being a full length model rather than a shorty model.

And with this article, too, it is an interesting to note and see a view of the actual makers of these brass models. It is a time long passed now, but the models live on and still are nice representations of their prototypes.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Time was not kind to these cars

Several recent posts have featured models by James Trout. These two are also Trout models and I believe when new were outstanding models.

Then here we are today. To the caboose first, it is beautifully scratch built and has a complete interior! It is missing the glass from one window but the really sad thing is the cupola is completely gone. I suppose the crew has a great view but it is a bit breezy! It is lettered, by hand for his personal road, the West Coast Southern.

The reefer is also a bit sad to see now too. While complete, obviously the material used for the sides (some sort of tinplate) of this completely scratch built model did not hold the paint well. The lettering is all by hand, and from prior posts you may recall that Trout was a Disney illustrator, it is beautifully done. Note in particular the Santa Fe heralds, the second photo being the one on the opposite side of that seen in the first photo. It is not a decal, and it is just amazing to me that painting this by hand is even possible. He had the skill to do it.

As to these two cars and my plans for them, the reefer I will probably always leave like it is. The hand lettering is still intense to see in person, if only the paint had stuck better to that metal! The caboose though, I have another Trout caboose built from wood in better shape, and it has a cupola of a design that I can likely duplicate. I will certainly give that a try at least to match the paint well and get it back to closer to the way he intended it to look.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Schorr wedge plow

The name of Fred Schorr should be a familiar one to regular readers. Up today for a look is a rarity, a wedge plow he built.

It is decorated for his road, the Yorkville and Western and is scratch built from wood, sort of the classic scratch building job of a model never offered in American OO.

The wings on the side are fixed in place, this type of car is always one that would be rarely run (unless you model winter!) and probably was spotted on some siding normally.

The bottom view shows a few more details of the model. The blade must have taken some time to form, in particular. And of course the car rides on Schorr trucks.

I am glad to have a group of cars from his layout, at some point I should shoot a short video showing some of these models in action.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Simple rebuild: Lionel PRR boxcars

One thing I try to do is always have different types of projects going on of different levels of difficulty.

In this case, readers should easily recognize the models, they are Lionel boxcars decorated for the PRR. They had been probably built from the kit version of these models and came to me in not very good shape at that, with heavy paint and decals flaking off.

So in the summer I stripped the models (soaking in 90% isopropyl alcohol for days and scrubbing, repeated several times) and repainted them in a batch of boxcars using Scalecoat paint.

I did want them to be nice enough for the layout and used HO Microscale decals and Kadee couplers. Simple projects -- they took a few months, but a nice break from more involved rebuildings and kitbashing.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

ATSF heavyweight baggage cars and RPO by James Trout

Following up on the combine (rider car) for the Fast Mail seen last week, we have these three ATSF heavyweight passenger cars (potentially for the same train) by James Trout, two baggage cars and an RPO.

To the baggage cars first, they are lettered as cars 1826 and 1599. The latter model has the distinctive fishbelly sides seen on some ATSF baggage cars. Both cars are built with the same sides which are copper and appear to be photoengraved. The rivets are very small but very distinct, the effect is wonderful compared to say pre-war J-C models sides. Comparing the sides to a set of Exacta Pullman sides, the details match very closely in style, so my conclusion is that he almost certainly used Exacta #501 baggage car sides on these two models (my overview article of the excellent sides offered briefly in the post-war period by Exacta may be found here).

Another neat feature are the trucks. What he laboriously did was remove material from standard Scale-Craft truck sideframes to upgrade and change their appearance. One set he mainly just opened up the filled in areas between the journal boxes, this I have seen done before. But the other pair was more of a project, he modified the sideframes extensively to match or at least closely approximate a design used on ATSF baggage cars. They end up looking a bit like Famoco passenger trucks from the side but heavier duty. As always, click on any photo for a better view.

The RPO model is lettered as ATSF 77. This model is scratchbuilt. The sides are a thin tinplate material and have rivets pressed in in the same manner as the combine. As with the baggage cars there are a lot of little details here, quite a bit of soldering and fabrication was required. There are no interior details, but the metal bars in the windows are a nice touch. Also note, on this and the other cars, the shape of the fillet at the top of the roof is nicely continued down to the end of the cars.

To the final photo, the trucks on the RPO are Kemtron, a post-war product described further in this article. They are built up from lost wax castings and look great on this nicely detailed model.

All three cars have Devore couplers and of course the sides of all these cars are hand lettered. Also you will note little dings here and there. I am not going heroic on restoration on these but one of the baggage cars did require some rebuilding of the frame, possibly damaged in shipping. Many of the cars I have from Trout have this type of light damage, and as I work them over I will feature them here.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

An ATSF heavyweight combine

With this beautiful car we have the first of a group of passenger cars that were built by James Trout. As noted in a prior article he was an artist with Disney for more than 40 years and put his considerable skills into action in his American OO models.

I will begin by saying what this car is, it is an ATSF combine and it caught my eye as a perfect car to have for a Santa Fe branch line mixed train, such as would have run on the line I traveled along so many times with my parents growing up in Kansas. Although I have to note that this specific car is from a group (2602-2608) which were actually not used in mixed train service, instead they were rider cars for The Fast Mail. For more information on these cars in general see this page in the Santa Fe Railway Historical Society website. 

Still though, this car really caught my attention not only for being at least very similar to a mixed train combine but also as I had recently completed a similar model someone else started years ago, they converted a pair of Scale-Craft bodies into a combine (seen here). That car, when I completed it, seemed like a nice car for my layout to run on an approximation of an ATSF mixed train, and I planned to upgrade it with an interior. Now, with this new Trout model here, I am not so sure….

The arrival of this car and others with it may mark a slight turning point for me. Let me explain. The first issue, if it is an issue, is that this model is so well made. When I look at the average vintage model in American OO, I definitely have better modeling skills than a lot of people back in the day. But this combine, it is built at a level of old-school craftsmanship I have aspired to but never quite achieved, one that is rarely seen today in any scale.

This model must have taken many hours to build. It is obviously scratchbuilt and there are hardly any commercial parts to be seen, the most visible being the Nason trucks. The sides are sheet metal -- some sort of a dull tinplate material -- and he used some sort of rivet making die or machine to punch in all the rivets. It is an accurate and beautifully built scale model of the prototype, with real glass in the windows and an interior. As always, click on the photos for a closer view.

The couplers are an interesting choice, they are HO Devore couplers. It was an oversize (for HO!) working knuckle coupler produced in the 1950s that scales out very close to correct in OO. Trout at one point had a large layout, but with the limited swing they offer I am thinking that Trout either only displayed this particular car as a shelf model or he had very wide radius curves.

Of course the lettering was all done by hand as well. It does not look like it was at any normal viewing distance though and clearly Trout had the steady hand of a real artist.

Basically, this and other cars that recently arrived have suddenly pushed the bar much higher for me in American OO. I have over the years had fun building and rebuilding quite a few nice, neat models. I own other models built to a similar level as I have achieved, but built by others (thinking especially of Pierre Bourassa, William Johann, William Gilbert, and Fred Schorr). But these models have really challenged me, they are absolutely the best scratchbuilt models ever to be in my train room and certainly leave the average model built on a pre-war design now looking less good than it did before, no matter how neatly built. Also, while I would love to run this model, I actually can’t as my curve radius is not big enough – and even if I swap out the couplers out it will look better on 36” or more radius. That issue I will have to ponder as years go forward.

There are quite a few more of these cars by James Trout to describe one by one, about half and half ATSF and his personal road which I will introduce in a later article. Some are very complete and in beautiful shape and others have significant issues from storage that I will need to address. In any case, it is good that I have at least the skills to lightly touch up these models as needed, the group is giving me a good challenge and I will aim to describe a couple every week or so, be watching for more of these stunning models.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Two modern 60’ boxcars

Today we have a pair of modern cars in American OO, one completely scratch built by Bill Johann in 1985 and the other started by him in the 1990s and finished by me.

The Cotton Belt car is the older model. The body is wood and it is built with traditional methods, rolling on Lionel trucks which he must have felt had enough heft to look right on the car. The car in front has perhaps more of a story. The frame was in the OO Inventory, and the model had no body. It clearly had one before, maybe a couple different bodies even based on the dates on the frame (seen in the third photo), and was also on Lionel trucks. In any case it originally must have had a plastic body generally similar to the one I built up.

So the body I made has its own story. Way back in high school or close to it I bought an Athearn HO 86’ boxcar body thinking it could be converted to OO. And then it sat and sat, moved from place to place. But looking at that orphan frame it was clear that the Athearn body would make a good basis for a somewhat freelanced 60’ boxcar in OO. It exactly fits the frame, and the big plug doors I think make the model, as do the couplers on the long cushion draft gears.

How I worked the Athearn body over is fairly clear in the photos. I did split the roof and cut both ends off, making a new roof and new ends. The brass part of the ends are extra parts that I had that were produced for the Scale-Craft 50’ boxcar, and the other commercial looking parts are HO. The roof was a special challenge and actually the roof you see is the second roof that has been on the car. I opted to do a simplification that Johann did on other models I have, it is probably not totally prototypical but then again the car has a few compromises. But it is a good match for the frame and will certainly be a believable model when decorated, most likely for the ATSF.

UPDATE: The finished car is here.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Introducing American OOn3

Although a new topic in this website, over the years I have seen a few references here and there to OOn3 models being built. Attempts at activity in this gauge date from after WWII, as the 12mm gauge track required for OOn3 is the same as TT standard gauge track, so you could make use of TT gauge locomotive mechanisms and, if you did not mind the small wheels and ties, commercial TT gauge track and trucks.

Recently obtained were these two cabooses. The one in the front is standard gauge and was scratch built by Fred Schorr, and is lettered for his personal road. (It is a near twin to the caboose in this article, and has full interior and lights!). The one in the rear is OOn3 and was built by his son Ed. It is neatly scratch built and rides on modified HOn3 trucks.

Note, in comparing the photos, that from the side they are similar in size but the narrow gauge model is not as wide. As always, click on the photos for a closer view.

According to Ed he made one other model in OOn3, a D&RGW C-16! If anyone has that model out there reading this, I would love to hear from you. I do hope the owner knows what it is and how unique the model is!

The idea of OOn3 has intrigued me for years, I like Colorado narrow gauge, but it just seems like too much work compared to for example switching scales and then building a layout in Sn3. I laid that OOn3 track seen in the photos back when I was in high school (!), but as an experiment I think originally to lay some TT gauge track. But the ties I used were way too big for TT and it ends up being about right visually for OOn3 or maybe more correctly for HOm (HO, meter gauge) due to tie size.

Speaking of track, you can buy what would be very workable OOn3 track commercially now, as there are several lines of HOm track, also 12mm gauge. It is more of a European specialty product so tracking down suppliers in the US is more of a challenge, but it should in closing also be noted that there are entire lines of products that are built in HOm and various types of OO narrow gauge models as well, but not specifically US prototype of course. Maybe if a situation came where I really had to seriously downsize I might think about freelancing some mining or logging line OOn3, who knows the future?

Saturday, August 27, 2016

OO Reefers, done right

A number of makers sold refrigerator car kits in American OO, many of them being not too visually successful.

Why? The central problem is that the typical prototype reefer has a height of around 13’ 4” but the typical steel boxcar is 15’ tall. For an OO scale model this is an actual difference of 7MM (!) which is quite visible. The problem is that most OO makers used what were really boxcar bodies in reefer kits, which were supplied with reefer sides and other details. This first photo shows the difference pretty clearly. The tall model was built by me some years ago from an Eastern kit, built as carefully as possible, and I have never been happy with it. At the time I built it I thought the body was too tall and it is, I should have shortened the model. The shorter model also has printed Famoco/Eastern sides, but put on a body that is the correct height – with some great upgrades such as working reefer hatches.

The builder of the shorter, prototypical model was James Trout. He did the job right. I am also happy to share this second group of PFE reefers which he also built. They are all different and I believe are meant to reflect accurately different classes of reefers. As always, click on the photo for a better view.

As noted in the previous article, Trout was a Disney illustrator. At first I was thinking maybe the sides were silk screened, they are not commercial sides and were not lettered with decals, but with a closer look I believe that they were entirely hand decorated. The logos, the small lettering, everything! He had the hand and skills to do it, and the result is eye popping. They look wonderful in a train on the layout.

Back to the topic of reefers built from kits, S-C reefers are a bit tall as are Nason. The latter (depending on the body – they vary) is closest to accurate for OO, as the early PRR boxcar body they based their bodies on is not 15’ tall. In any case, the down side here of the arrival of these Trout reefers is most of the other reefers I have now don’t look “good enough” on the layout. For once I am thankful that the layout is small!

Monday, August 8, 2016

An ATSF Caboose and Boxcar

Two cars in a group recently received are these fine examples of scratch building in American OO. Both are ATSF models built by James Trout. His name has only come up one time in this website to this point, in this article, where a 1950 reference is made to his fine ATSF locomotives. I have one of these models and will come back to those in a future article. In the OO rosters put together by Temple Nieter he was always listed as James Trout but he actually had a professional name, Jimi Trout, and was an artist for Disney for more than 40 years. His OO models show some serious skill and are worth a close look.

First up is the caboose. I first saw this on a list from his son I wondered if it would be a simple ATSF lettering job on a S-C or Lionel caboose. No! This is a completely scratch built model and is of the distinctive ATSF design. Look first at the trucks; they are not commercial products (that still roll great) and are prototype specific. Then start looking around. There are a lot of details to feast your eyes on. The body is metal (thin tinplate, I think), the windows are real glass and then see inside? It has a full interior that is very difficult to see with the small windows. The roof can’t be removed, either, it is a detail you have to really work to see. A final detail to mention, the lettering is not decals, with the skills he had as a Disney illustrator he painted the lettering by hand.

The other car that I will focus on today is this boxcar. On first glance it looks like a nicely built up Eastern or Famoco car. But look closer, those are Scale-Rail Industries sides and this is not your average boxcar. Starting up top, the roof walks are not wood strip, they are of the metal grate type that is almost never seen on OO cars. The roof itself has the raised panels between the familiar Eastern/Famoco ribs. The doors are Eastern/Famoco as are the ladders. The underframe is made from shapes and the AB type brakes are visible under the car. The Andrews trucks are Nason (square bolster) and I believe are a choice on his part to be prototype specific. Finally note the good match of the paint, which is no easy thing to do today (especially with Floquil off the market) but he managed this easily I believe with his art background.

Both do show some effect from the long storage. I will clean both a bit more but then again, it does pass for weathering to a point! Every few weeks I will focus on a couple more of these cars, displaying craftsmanship worth taking a close look at.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Two Early American OO Models by Temple Nieter

Frequent readers of this site should be familiar with the name Temple Nieter. If not, he was a pioneer in American OO who promoted OO enthusiastically until his passing in 1984. A series of three articles that starts here is a good place to start for an overview. I own only one Temple Nieter model, a reefer, described in this article.

That reefer provides a good comparison to these two Nieter models, a boxcar and a reefer, in photographs shared by reader Lon Walker. I will start with the boxcar. The Lake Line was the personal road of Temple Nieter and the car is neatly hand-lettered. Note that the model is an X29 PRR boxcar. This is significant as Nieter actually advertised this very model for sale. Production must have been very limited (Nieter was an electrical engineer by profession), but whatever was sold should be a very similar model, it is worth looking your collection over to see if you can find another car of the same type. The doors look to maybe be Nason castings though, perhaps added at a slightly later date. The ends of both cars are plain.

Looking at the bottom we see a couple more significant things. So let’s say he built this car around 1934. Note that the trucks and couplers are not commercial products (as always, click on the photo for a closer view). The couplers are the same as those on my reefer, they are a design bent out of sheet metal, a design inspired at least by another pioneer, Howard Winther (see his couplers in this article, along with a little drawing by Temple Nieter of how the couplers were made).  The trucks are very similar to the trucks on early Winther freight cars as well. For a pretty good view of a Winther truck see this article; it is actually possible that Winther made the castings for Nieter.

Turning to the reefer, the sides are lettered differently, this one being the more interesting side. My Niether reefer was clearly rebuilt and lettered with decals at some later point (and lost the early trucks), but this one seems to be all original or closer to it at least with the hand lettered sides. Note the early trucks again and the same style of coupler is present. The hatches, not seen clearly in these photos posted, look like they are likely Nason castings.

Back to the couplers, seen again in this final bottom view, what Nieter noted to me of the design was as follows:

Before my filed SC type [he used a modified SC coupler on his layout that was filed slightly so it would couple automatically] there was Howard Winthers’ made of 1/8 strips of tin-can sheet metal, shaped as a coupler, maybe from 1933! I knew him and adopted his style but quickly added the “hose” wire and the ramp idea on that kind.

Lon has several other cars with this that may or may not be Nieter purchased in the same lot, including a boxcar that has wires from one truck mysteriously running up inside! From his writings Nieter had some ideas about power distribution that were far ahead of his time (more here), one wonders if that car is related somehow. In any case thank you Lon for sharing these photos of these interesting, very early models.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Modern Hopper Cars for American OO

One car type seen a lot in modern times is the covered hopper. Modern hoppers of all types (2, 3, or 4 bay) were never produced in OO scale.

To solve this problem, Bill Johann did a few conversions, including these two models seen here. One of these two hoppers is seen in a photo on Page 7 of the February, 1994 issue of The OO Road, where he briefly describes the conversion. At that time his note was: “Tyco 4 bay converted to OO, change made to trucks & couplers only.” In the text of the article itself he also notes in general that these “HO cars will look a little low and narrow with respect to a full sized OO car.”

The TYCO car involved is this one, seen here in the TYCO brown box website, but there are many similar models out there that could be used and certainly from the article Johann converted Athearn cars as well.

The interesting thing is he subsequently went back and worked on the car more. Note in the bottom view all the dates? The newest is 9-94, and he at that time converted both cars into three bay hoppers. This certainly gives it more of a scale look, as described in a prior article on another of his hopper conversions: “The key to this conversion was that the original three bay covered hoppers in the 1960s were under 4.500 cubic ft capacity and the newest ones today are over 5,000 cubic feet. This means that a very large HO covered hopper is a pretty good stand in for a small covered hopper in OO.”

And these models I think prove that a very large HO four bay hopper will pass in a pinch for a somewhat smaller OO three bay hopper. These are nice cars I enjoy having on the layout, notable also for the nice decal lettering and weathering. The trucks are his HO conversion trucks described in this article.

I have another similar car, still in its four bay state, that given enough time it would be fun to convert into a three bay car. In the article he also proposes converting these cars into two bay hoppers, which look like a very viable conversion as well. It would however be tempting to do a more involved conversion to obtain a closer to full scale car with the post sides as seen on many covered hoppers -- those sides would be relatively easy to make with sheet plastic and shapes. In any case, these cars are one solution to the modern hopper problem, and one that it will be worth exploring.