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

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.

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