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

Monday, December 24, 2018

Two COFC cars and a TOFC by Bill Johann

Back in the April, 1989 issue of The OO Road Bill Johann had a lengthy article on TOFC/COFC equipment in OO scale. While these cars are not specifically mentioned in the article, they were certainly part of the project that led to the article.

For example, in the article he mentions converting the Gilbert P-14D513 flat car and the Revell 4030-002 flat car to OO. Of these two cars, the UP car is Revell and the Philadelphia & Western car is Gilbert. Bill was in the very fortunate habit of marking his cars with built and modified dates on the bottom; the UP car was built in 10-71 but modified 11-86, and the P&W car was built 5-88 and modified 1-91.

On page 8 of the issue a prototype photo is presented of a UP car loaded very similarly to the present UP model, but with actual containers rather than crates. I believe the crates on the car today are commercial products, most likely resin castings, and one is as seen in the photos damaged today. I looked at this car briefly in another article, when it still had S-C trucks.

The P&W car is an interesting one on a few levels. One is that a quick search showing that the Philadelphia & Western was an interurban line, with freight service ending in 1970. Johann modified the cast metal flat with a flat deck of styrene and mountings for the container, which is I believe kitbashed from HO, two models split and put back together as a single, wider container. The small lettering on the flat car is all original Gilbert lettering, but the Philadelphia & Western lettering was likely cut from an alphabet lettering set one letter at a time. Referencing the list of OO model railroad road names (see the March, 2007 issue of The OO Road), I realize that this was the personal road of Ed Morlok, and the car was made by Johann to honor Morlok.

Both cars, when they got to me, were on Scale-Craft trucks. As I have just a few extra pair of the roller bearing trucks Johann produced in limited quantities (described further here), I put those on both cars. They roll great!

Looking at the P&W car I realized I had another car by Johann that was on the same Gilbert flatcar frame. This one is lettered with decals, and the reporting marks are for the personal road of Pierre Bourassa. Johann has dates of 1-67, 1-84, 2-84, and 2-90 on the bottom of the car, he modified it a few times.

Also note the Lallier trailer. As is mentioned in a prior article, I was told by Pierre Bourassa that he built it, although it is clearly marked from Johann working on it 10-91. It is based on a Matchbox frame but with the body built up from plastic. Pencil markings on the flat and on the trailer indicate they were meant to belong together. Lallier as near as I can tell was/is a Canadian trucking firm. 

The white flat would have been done by Johann as a model to honor Bourassa. I’ve been reluctant to build cars for the personal roads of other OO gaugers, but it is an interesting idea, and I may do a few of these.

Friday, December 21, 2018

A first look at the Shapeways OO GP20

Another model that caught my eye recently on Shapeways was this GP20, which may be seen here. I decided to buy one and see what it was like.

I suspect it was designed as an N scale model and scaled up to 1/76. It is not a high detail model, but it has the proportions of course. The material is a nylon plastic that has “a matte finish and slight grainy feel.” My other models are also this material, so I knew what to expect. What I’m hoping to do with this model and also the FA1 recently purchased (here) is work up a better surface and paint job. I’ll report later how that goes. I liked though that this model has no handrails, I will be adding those and some other details.

I had worked up fuel tanks for this model a while ago, inadvertently really, as I spliced together TYCO GP20 fuel tanks to use on my U23B model. That model has been updated now with a new frame (more at the end of this article), freeing up the tanks for this model.

The question was how to work out a drive for this model, or do I build it as a dummy? I had two power trucks that someone had put a lot of effort into building up. They have sideframes from a TYCO engine, but the rest of it is I think NWSL and small screws and brass pieces.

The next question being, how to power these trucks? It occurred to me finally that the original idea must have been to use a central gear tower to drive the trucks with sets of universals to each truck. And I finally found one (I thought I had one), seen in the last photo.

What I’ve done is mock up a frame. Plastic won’t work for the finished model, but I will cut the same frame pattern out of some heavy brass stock now that I have the shape established. There should be plenty of room inside for a motor and flywheel and weights.

It will still be a low detail model, but one I look forward to running with my 1970s/80s era equipment. And I like that it won’t be too hard to finish, you need some of those to keep things going forward.

UPDATE: And a size comparison with the Tyco HO version.

The Shapeways model is bigger in every dimension. The only part of the Tyco version that are OO scale size are the truck sideframes.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

A brief look at a drover’s caboose (or two)

In the previous post (here) I mentioned that the huge “streamlined caboose” of Myron Davis could have been a modern take on a drover’s caboose. Actual drover’s caboose models have been scratchbuilt in American OO a few times, one being visible in the layout photos of the Norfolk and Ohio of Carl Appel (it may be seen here). 

This model is not that same model built by Appel (the roof shapes are different, for example), but it is the same general prototype and I will be working it over for my Orient railway.

Almost certainly Appel and the builder of this model were working from the drawings published in Model Railroader and reprinted in The Model Railroader Cyclopedia. There we learn that the prototype car is from the San Luis Central. They call it with the drawing a “Combination Passenger, Caboose, and Baggage Car.”

There are a few little changes compared to the drawing, most notably the number of windows in the baggage door.

The car has a Nason frame and in the photos is on Famoco trucks, which I will be changing out (likely to Nason trucks). The one other interesting, and somewhat hidden, commercial part are the steps, which are Scale-Craft from the steel side passenger car kits.

This car, nicely built overall, has one central detailing problem. My dad told me that his dad rode in one of these on the ATSF to take cattle to market, so let’s imagine you are a drover riding in this car, on a cold day. Where is the stove? It is in the baggage compartment! I’m thinking that the stack should be moved and also the roofwalks need some revision as well.

I had a memory of seeing another OO drover’s caboose, and found the photo in some materials that Bill Gilbert had clipped from magazines. With a little more digging I see that it is from the June, 1947 issue of Model Railroader and is a model built by H. R. Treat of Teaneck, NJ. In the caption it says that he “likes unique and unusual equipment” and that he built the model from the Cyclopedia plans for his Barbaraton & Theapolis RR.

Any more examples out there? It is interesting how much impact the Cyclopedia had, I have seen a number of models (scratchbuilt and commercial) of various prototypes that are clearly based on those published plans.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A Streamlined Caboose?

One cannot say that Myron P. Davis was not a man of vision. Seemingly single handedly he produced a line of locomotives and other unusual and mostly large OO models in the 1950s. An overview of his products may be found here. 

Then we get to the streamlined caboose, seen here as it looks today. At least that is what we’ve been calling it for years; what Davis called it is not clear to me, it is not in the 1954 pricelist that I’ve seen. This model has much of the feel of being the product of a dream, and this specific example, once part of the George Miller collection, was I believe built by Myron P. Davis himself. I think his idea was to make a hybrid car that is like a very short streamline passenger car, but is actually a caboose or maybe an inspection car (or even a very deluxe drover’s caboose). The bronze cupola casting is styled like the dome on a dome passenger car, but about half as long. The body itself has very nearly the same profile as a Zuhr streamliner. It is a large model, close to twice as large as a Lionel or Scale-Craft caboose.

In a prior article (here) I relayed that I have the essential parts (cupola, steps, body, ends) for three more of these cars, apparently the ones that he did not sell, along with a steel tool used to bend the body, and more. Based on the foundry receipt received with the parts, 18 of these models were produced in 1955. How many other parts or models are out there today, I have no idea. This is a very rare model.

The car itself is soldered together and all brass and bronze. Based on the size of the parts almost certainly he used a torch, and this was not an easy car to get to where it is now. I don’t know if he used several grades of solder, but that would be a good idea, working from harder to softer solder as the model is completed. The idea is to use the higher temperature solder on the first parts put on and lower temperature solder on the later joints, so that the initial connections won’t fall apart. The only screws are the ones holding the trucks on. I think it would have been a good idea to make it so the model comes apart somehow, at least the floor separate from the body.

He also must have had a press with steel tools to stamp out the body, or have had a metal shop punch out the parts. I puzzle about that body, I’m not sure how he was thinking the interior would work. Looking at prototype dome cars, maybe it is possible to have seats and windows directly below the dome, there is more room inside than would be found in a standard caboose.

And then we get to the steps … neat in a way, artistic even, but would you actually want to use them to enter anything? Are they safe? But they are a very essential part of the look of the car, and with the parts I have the actual master patterns, cut from hardwood, and a set of four extra of these bronze step castings.

Some details are a bit rough in his work, the dome being slightly tipped to one end. It rides on Nason passenger car trucks and has never had couplers. I have with the car drawings (“instructions”) from Davis that clarify his plans for the model as to how the parts go together.

Looking at the completed car I’m feeling more inspired to try my hand at building one. By far the most difficult task will be cleaning up the dome/cupola, opening up the windows. I’ve done a lot of torch soldering though, so that part of it I’m kind of looking forward to. It would make an interesting winter project.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A closer look at the Super-Scale NW-2

In 1949 two Diesel switcher models were introduced to the American OO market by Super-Scale, a SW-1 and an NW-2. This prior article looks generally at their production.  

Recently I was excited to obtain one of the NW-2 models. I had been looking for one for many years, these do not come up for sale often at all.

They are made from what the maker called copper but actually they are a combination of a copper material and brass. The frame is a brass stamping, and the ends of the frame and truck sideframes look like lost wax brass castings. The steps and the fuel and air tanks are soft metal. The roof of the cab is brass, as are the brass turnings that are the stacks, horns, and lights.

The really interesting part of the model is the cab and hood. They are separate pieces and were each etched each in one piece, and then were formed to shape. The original instructions indicate this would be done by the modeler, but I suspect as produced this difficult work was done for you by Super-Scale. The hood for example starts out as one large flat piece with the sides and front bent down and soldered into place.

I have a Garrett (Garco) Baldwin switcher (more here) and the two models both have versions of Baker drives (more here) on them. The sideframes are the same on both models. I’m thinking it is actually a HO drive, but passable in OO as the sideframes are somewhat clunky and overscale for HO.

While looking at the bottom, note also that the actual frame that the model runs on is cut from Masonite or some similar material.

Finally there is a great comparison to make between this model and the SW-7 models that have been produced recently on Shapeways (more here). Size wise they match really well. On the other hand, each model has some clunky details, but different clunky details which is interesting as well.

I’m hoping to have this running at some point in the not too distant future. Will see how it goes when I get into the drive, but I think this model can be worked over into a nice one. For a little inspiration what can be done, see this model.