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

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Photos: A Scale-Craft 4-8-4

One of my recent projects was getting this vintage Scale-Craft 4-8-4 running. The drive was locked up and the wiring to an existing manual reverser was shot. But the motor was still good it turns out, and the model basically solid. It was originally built by someone who took some real time with the work. This is the post-war version of the model, with the built up frame. A couple of the springs were missing on the drivers and I rewired the model with a modern rectifier. In the photo, one wire has come off the connection to the tender. If I were to do it again, I would think about replacing the motor, but the model does run fine now, needing (sigh) larger curves than I have on my layout (it would run fine on something more like 36" radius). Click on any photo for a better view of this vintage model.








I have another of these models in the shop as well, needing a bit more TLC and it will get a new motor.  For more on the two versions of this model see this article. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A deeper look at sprung Graceline trucks

One puzzle for me recently has been assembling more working examples of sprung Graceline trucks. Their Andrews trucks were introduced in 1941 (more here), and the other versions are products they were developing and sold to some extent early in the WWII era. Their post-war successor, Transportation Models, sold a different truck that took the refinements further (but not very well executed, I have never seen one successfully built up, more here).

If you have any of these Graceline trucks around you may not have good feelings about them. The wheelsets shipped out were terrible (the plastic wheels were undersized in every dimension! Don’t track well and look very small in the big trucks), the wheelbase is (with one exception, seen in this photo) well over length, but the even bigger problem is A LOT of these have issues with the castings. Their earlier products have held up better.

However, in reality, by now if a vintage casting was going to go bad it has gone bad already. In various purchases, I have obtained these trucks, including a group of kits for the Andrews trucks. Also, years ago, I had tried to work on these and have on hand usable reproduction bolsters from that project. In short, I had enough parts around to think about working on them again with the Graceline hopper project also underway.

The frustration I had with these in the past was my reproduction sideframes were not stiff enough and also the wheels fall out easily. The few working vintage trucks I had come across all had some iteration of Famoco wheelsets, but those are so variable (tread width and flange issues) that even then they were not very usable.

Another issue in my past work trying to build or rehab these trucks was using modern axles that have the > ends. What I ultimately learned with that was that vintage trucks that are equalized at all actually need blunt end axles or the wheels tend to fall out when handling the car.

Periodically I would note that I had also saved a group of the "oddball" early S-C freight wheelsets with bakelite wheels (like were used on the front truck of the 4-6-0). They track fine, but need a truck with a wide opening and are difficult to use in Scale-Craft trucks, they need an exceptionally long bolster. But I found that these wheels can work great in the Graceline trucks, at least the Andrews trucks, they are in the truck on the left in the top photo.

The other story to tell is of what was some product development being done by Graceline during the war years. According to their catalog from early in the war the trucks available then were the sprung trucks, "the finest detailed and smoothest operating trucks in 00."

No. 181--A.R.A.
No. 182--Andrews
No. 184--Arch Bar

I had at some point early on stumbled onto examples of two versions of the A.R.A (Bettendorf) truck, all using the same bolster. I actually made molds of the “big” one years ago, which has a wheelbase that nearly matches the Andrews truck. There is also a “small” version that is scaled pretty well for OO, seen at the bottom of the comparison photo and at the right in the top photo.

I have not built up the arch bar example and probably won’t, they are somewhat overscale and fragile. I have a couple working pair of the big Bettendorf trucks (seen also in the final photo, on the left), those I did make work with careful adjustment using modern wheelsets with > axles. The one that intrigues me today is the small Bettendorf. I have two pair I did just get working. The design needs an axle that is very short and square, the journal boxes are small. I have parts to make several more pair but after a thorough search I don’t have any more suitable wheelsets on hand. A project for another day, as the built up trucks really are very nice.

I should mention there are two styles of bolsters. The ones packaged with the Andrews truck kits I have is lighter in cross section but none have been usable. The heavier style works with all these sideframes, and is what I reproduced.

The springs are not easy to put in. Among the Graceline springs I had the larger diameter ones look better. A lot of those same springs were too big (up and down) and it helped to cut them down at least a little. As I ran out of those I switched to what I am sure are O-scale springs which work pretty well.

I have built up or worked over seven pair of Andrews trucks, mostly with the S-C wheelsets but one has other vintage wheelsets that happened to fit, some iteration of Famoco. I mentioned earlier that I have unopened packages of these trucks, just like shipped out by Graceline. Every bolster I have checked so far has been unusable and I also put the side frames to a simple test. Does it break in my hands? About 3 of 4 cracks easily if not already broken. I can squeeze out one more pair of Andrews trucks from parts on hand (when more wheelsets are located), and have more than enough for the hopper project now.

On that project, a brief update is, as already posted (here), I have a car together, I plan to work up a frame mold, and have materials to move forward more when the weather cools off a bit, which it will soon. Projects are moving slowly, but I have enjoyed puzzling over them which certainly is what keeps me going in American OO.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

A look at frames for American OO freight cars

Besides the full floor castings seen on Lionel boxcars, the Nason cast boxcar, and a number of Scale-Craft models (boxcars, stock cars, and late style reefers, plus the “half floor” used on their flat car), there are a number of distinct frame castings which are to be seen on vintage American OO freight cars.

Since Scale-Craft was mentioned already, to begin we have the frame used on the early version of their reefer. It is cast in the same, hard die-casting material as all of their castings. In the photo with it is a similar frame, Graceline, which is a soft metal casting. This frame was also produced by Selley as a separate sale item – and actually Selley also sold a version of the Nason reefer frame and a unique 50’ frame as well. More on that in a bit. And click on any photo for a bigger view.

Having just mentioned Nason twice, they made three distinct types of frames seen in this photo. The 50’ frame I have only seen in bronze, probably for the weight as it is for their flat car. The middle frame in the photo is the reefer frame and might be the Selley version of this. I have seen this casting in aluminum and in soft metal, this one is soft metal. It would be easy to just say the aluminum version is the Nason version, but if that is the whole story I don’t know, they sold cars for a long time with a series of owners. It is fish belly in design though, which visually defines it from their boxcar frame which is straight. The idea I think they had was that the reefer frame is for a wood car and the boxcar frame is for a steel car. It also came with their gondola kit.

Next up are the Eastern frame and the two versions of the Famoco frame. The early version of Famoco is the unmarked frame; later production split the frame in half to avoid shorts due to the trucks potentially getting rotated and picking up electricity from opposite sides of the track. The Famoco frames are of a hard die casting metal and the Eastern frame is a soft metal casting.

The next three frames are for Hawk cars. These are not real common; the 50’ frame is for their double door boxcar, the 40’ fish belly frame is associated with their boxcar and gondola, and the short frame (with the nice rivet detail) is for their caboose. The material is a soft metal and might actually just be straight lead from the look and feel.

Finally we have these three frames. The one at the top is the Selley 50’ frame, mentioned earlier and not a part of any kit, but it would have been handy building up a Picard 50' body. It is soft metal. The bottom one is also soft metal and is from the very rarely seen Hoffman kits. The middle one is sand cast bronze and is … a mystery. I have two of these. If it was just some project part made by someone back in the day or part of a very obscure kit or part line I don’t know. The fish belly is slightly canted to one side giving it more of the feel of the project of some individual.

Knowing what type of frame casting a car has can be helpful in identifying a model, but to close keep in mind that there was nothing to stop someone from using a different frame casting on something else. It was their model railroad after all, and hopefully they were happy with the results.