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

Monday, May 26, 2008

Nason Railways OO Gauge 101

Nason Railways was the first major manufacturer of OO gauge equipment and supplies. Founded by 1933 by Hugh Nason in New Rochelle, NY, Nason Railways was producing American OO by 1934. They operated from several different addresses in Mount Vernon, NY after 1936. A primary early partner of Nason was Frank Waldhurst and rumored to have also been a silent partner in the firm was Myron P. Davis. More on ownership changes in a bit. The image below is from their 1940 (6th edition) catalog.

Nason models in general are characterized by the use of many sand cast bronze parts and are very much in the style of O scale models of the period.


Locomotive kits were available in three versions, ranging from un-machined, rough castings to complete kits; all were sand-cast bronze.
Passenger cars

Nason passenger cars were produced in two styles. The first models introduced in 1934 had cast aluminum sides, ends, and floors. Models of this design included:
These original models were joined by 1936 by “eazy-bilt” cars eventually all with stamped brass sides but initially only the coach was stamped brass. These included:
Also produced were three models of gas-electric cars of B & O design; a coach, a coach-baggage, and a coach-baggage-mail. These have a sand cast bronze front end that makes it very easy to differentiate them from the comparable Scale-Craft models.

Freight cars

And they made freight cars too! The line included:
 The model in the photo at the right is their caboose, one that came to me in a collection a few years back. Also already seen in this article are a P5-A, a gas-electric, and a reefer.

The reefers and boxcars with printed sides were marketed as "Easy-Bilt" models. These were introduced in late 1935 and were ground breaking models for the time. All of the printed side cars were were made for Nason by the O gauge manufacturer Westbrook, who produced the same models in O gauge. As a result, many of the OO sides still have their "W" codes (W-26, etc.) related to Westbrook production. For more see this article. 

The following list is my current list of their printed side cars; the numbers preceding the listings of boxcars and reefers is the catalog number for that model. If you know more of the printed car numbers do be in touch; for some models clearly as many as three different car numbers were produced.

Box cars and Reefers:
1   Reefer, 40', wood, MDT 16640, 3135, 3309
2   Reefer, 40', wood, FGEX 34328, 35757
3   Reefer, 40', wood, SFRD 17421, 17963
4   Box car, 40', PRR 103514, 568687
5   Automobile car, PRR X-31 69572, 69671
6   Reefer, 40', wood, PFE, SP herald
7   Reefer, 40', wood, WFEX
8   Reefer, 40', wood, ARLX/Armour's Star Pure Lard 12945
9   Box car, 40', B&O 281133, 280096, 278842
10  Box car, 40', NYC 96875, 97123, 97488
11  Reefer, 40', wood, DICX 117
12  Reefer, 40', wood, SRLX/Swift Premium Ham
13  Reefer, 40', wood, URTX/Milwaukee 90983, 95706, 89422
14  Reefer, 40', wood, PFE, WP herald, 51201
15  Reefer, 40', wood, NWX 84021
16  Box car, 40', SP 22573
17  Box car, 40', UP 237136
18  Reefer, 40', wood, BPDX, Borden's Fine Cheese 12037
19  Reefer, 40', wood, MDT, NYC herald
20  Box car, 40', Erie 57037, 59156
21  Box car, 40', CP 240037
22  Box car, 40', wood, UP (1939 cat.—probably misprint)
22  Box car, 40', wood, NP 12838, 12968 (1940 cat.)
23  Box car, 40', Southern 12842, 12756
24  Reefer, 40', wood, ART Crazy Crystals
Flat car, 40' 
B&O 10638
C&NW 42597, 42574
B&O 250538
PRR 397036

According to Keith Wills in his "Collector Consist" article in the September, 2006 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman the wood bodies for Nason were produced by the O gauge maker Westbrook. Actually, as noted in this article on their Easy-Built cars, the wood bodies varied quite a bit over years. I can believe that perhaps some were produced by Westbrook (who is also reported to have produced bodies for Eastern), but they must have also utilized other suppliers for these parts over the years and changes of ownership, they vary too much.

And more

In addition they sold track supplies and other items of use to OO gaugers of the time including very early on a pair of cast aluminum structure kits.

At the beginning of the article two business partners were mentioned. Reader Andrew Meyers found in his collection a letter dated October 1, 1955 to Major McCoid from Myron Davis that outlines the ownership changes. The original partner Frank Waldhorst dropped out of the firm fairly early and Hugh Nason was then the sole owner for a time. However, about 1940 Cyrus Miller purchased half interest, and then about a year later Miller bought out Nason's half as well. Miller then sold the firm to Edward Kelly who owned the firm by late 1946. According to Davis, Miller was never paid by Edward Kelly who died in 1952. Quoting Davis in the letter, "I got what I have from Kelly and he sold the Atlantic locomotive to Jerome Foster [of Guild of the Iron Horse]." More on that that model (and the Nason 4-4-2) here.

In short, after WWII Nason attempted to resume production and clearly had some big plans, but only boxcar, reefer, and caboose kits were actually sold, in addition to various parts (especially for the 2-8-0, some of which found their way into early On3 models). The last Nason price list I know of may be seen in this article, and their advertising ends in 1947 except for one final ad in 1950. Myron Davis marketed some Nason products on his own later, including the P5-A and the sand cast boxcar and passenger cars (more information on Davis here). And as noted already Guild sold an Atlantic, but the model he ultimately produced actually owes very little to the original Nason/Star-Continental design.

As a leading and long time maker of OO many of their models are fairly common but still desirable, especially so their locomotives, and other  models are only rarely seen or only rarely seen in good condition. This is a line the American OO enthusiast needs to be familiar with.

For More Information
Updated 2019


C. R. Chinoy said...

Found an example of the SRLX/Swift Premium Ham reefer, it is numbered 15038.

C. R. Chinoy said...

One more roadname for the list: Wood Reefer, "White Rock Water, Waukesha Wis.", URTX 55048.