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

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.