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

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Famoco OO Gauge Models 101

Another major American OO manufacturer was the Famous Model Company, better known as Famoco. Operating from Baldwin, Long Island, owner Ted Menten reported in a 1949 article that he became a manufacturer in 1937, but their OO line was not introduced until 1938. It was produced until about 1950.

The 0-4-0t was a pre-war product only. The GG-1 was offered before and after the war. The passenger cars were available before and after the war and the freight cars are post-war products.

Passenger cars

Their heavyweight passenger cars featured card sides, wood roof and floor, and cast details including die cast four or six wheel trucks. The line included:
  • 60’ baggage
  • 70’ coach
  • 68’ combine
  • 80’ 12 section Pullman, the car illustrated below being equipped with Scale-Craft trucks.
These cars utilize sides and wood parts that match those of J-C Models perfectly. The distinguishing details are the cast ends and other die cast parts which were not supplied with J-C kits. The exact relationship of these two firms is unclear, as the models were actually on the market at the same time. The thinking may have been for Famoco to market the upgrade version of the model but J-C kept selling the simple version (and was able to keep selling it all through WWII). The passenger car line along with the GG-1 and 0-4-0t are listed in what I take to be a 1940 catalog in my collection.

One other note being that an express reefer was listed as a future model but was never marketed.

Freight cars

More confusion is found in their post-war line of freight cars, as these cars share sides and many parts with the comparable models produced by Eastern Model Railroad Co. See that article for my current list of car numbers on these printed sides. Models produced included:
Both of these models came with exactly the same printed sides for a variety of roads. The wood parts, stampings, and most castings are identical to Eastern. The primary differences between the Eastern and Famoco versions of these cars are Famoco cars often (but not always!) have die cast ends and also the frames are different and clearly marked. (This article has more on the early and late versions of these kits). The boxcar in the first photo is one I rebuilt with new sides and decals years ago. It also has Scale-Craft ladders visible in the photo. The second car is stock, pure Famoco.

Eastern and Famoco freight cars were on the market at the same time after WWII. Why practically identical kits were marketed by two different makers is a mystery to me, although the cast ends make the Famoco version the upgrade model of the two and, at the end of production, was sold at a lower price. It is a point that I hope to sort out with more research.

The freight car trucks of Famoco and Eastern have a similar look to those of Scale-Craft but are shorter in wheelbase and have a different bolster. The comparison may be seen here.

And more

As to how to pronounce "Famoco," they answered that question in this ad from the April, 1947 issue of Model Railroader. In addition to the above Famoco also produced No. 6 turnouts and a track layer. Over the course of OO production they advertised sporadically but seem to have produced a good number of models, as they are not at all uncommon to find today, especially the freight cars.

In the 1949 article (“Alive Again … 00 Gauge”) Famoco owner Menten also notes that he had spent years producing precision military instruments as well. Despite his clear enthusiasm for OO, in the end Famoco left the OO market entirely and switched to producing HO models. See HoSeeker for more on their HO GG-1 and PRR B-1 models, introduced ca. 1950 (being advertised as new models in the January, 1950 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman for example).

More Information:
Updated 2013

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