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

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Mantua/Tyco 4-6-0, and notes on Vintage Mantua OO

One category of models usable in American OO are HO scale models that were produced with over scale bodies. While Mantua had a pre-war line of OO gauge models and track (in addition to their HO line--scroll down for more), much later Mantua/Tyco produced a 4-6-0 in plastic, a model of Sierra Railroad No. 3. As noted in the NEB&W Guide to Mantua Steam Locomotive Models,
Based on the Sierra's No. 3, a loco used by Hollywood in many films. It was also featured in the TV show, Petticoat Junction. The loco was originally built by Rogers in 1891. In 1929, it was seen in Gary Cooper's The Virginian, but then put into storage until after WWII. In the '50's, when mainline steam was gone, it was brought back out for the camera for High Noon, The Great Race, Lassie, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Wild Wild West, and Little House on the Prairie. Currently (2006), the prototype is in pieces and needs funding to be restored. Unfortunately, the model was made to OO scale (1/76) rather than true HO (1/87).
A couple variations of this model were produced mounted either on 2-6-0 or 4-6-0 mechanisms and I had an eye out for one for years to convert to OO. Finally I located one cheap at a train show with a damaged boiler. My first plan was to replace the boiler but I was able to locate a new boiler that I could apply a more modern cab to, in this case from a Scale-Craft 4-6-0 body. My idea was to make the model look more like Hoosac Tunnel & Wilmington No. 21, a similar 4-6-0 which I had seen a photo of in the February, 1964 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. With a few more detail changes and Schorr tender trucks it came out well. An unmodified HO version is also shown in the photo for comparison. The bell on my new model is a temp, it will be replaced.

How does it run? It runs nicely. The drive is not an easy job to modify but it is fairly straightforward, the hardest part being that you have to widen out the drivers on the existing axles without altering the quartering of the crank pins, and then add spacers to the frame to keep things from moving around too much. The locomotive when I first got it running ran better than every other locomotive on the roster, in fact, which was a bit of a bummer and motivated me that things had to change!

I chose number 9 as there was a gap in the roster of the real Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient RY at that number. If they had a number 9 it would have been a similar locomotive.

While this model was not produced for use in American OO, as already noted Mantua, a major early HO manufacturer, actually produced OO in the classic period, just before WWII. Most notable were a re-gauged version of the HO 4-4-0 “Belle of the Eighties” locomotive, three matching cars (coach, combine, and baggage [see UPDATE]), and track. The track (introduced in 1938) used HO size (code 100) brass rail on fiber (cardboard) ties. The photo illustrates the track, sold in 18” lengths. I also have used the metal parts from Mantua turnouts on my layout, see in various photos in this website. A boxed example of their OO turnout may be seen here.

UPDATE: As I note in a follow-up article on Mantua (read it here), the old time passenger cars were not listed in the catalog, but they were advertised in 1941 (see The Model Craftsman for September, 1941 for example) as available in HO or OO. That ad may be seen in this article. Also note the combine was introduced in early 1942, as seen in this article.

UPDATE II: Also note the deep roots of Mantua in the development of American OO with the initial production of their "Midjet" motor (more here). This is the original advertisement, from the March 1930 issue of The Modelmaker. Their motor was sized right for OO models, too large for HO, and was the standard motor used by the earliest American OO enthusiasts. Smaller motors were developed a little later.

In an article in the HO catalog put out by the Model Railroad Equipment Corp. in 1953 Mantua owner John N. Tyler looked back on those early days in an article titled "These are Better Days." He wrote,
Now it is about time we took up the very heart of your railroad empire as a subject. Locomotives:-- And a whole book could be written about scale model locomotives in the early days. How they were built and how they operated would consume many chapters and every phase would be intensely interesting. To have operating scale model locomotives it was necessary to have extremely small electric motors. Mantua pioneered, developed, and built the first motors to be used commercially in HO and OO. Through the years these motors have been re-designed and improved.
At the end of the article he wrote,
Model railroading as a hobby has come a long way in a comparatively short time as time is measured. Yet, it has given pleasure and relaxation to many thousand who have taken up the premier hobby because of its diversity and lasting fascination.
I am glad that it was my good fortune to be among the pioneers. I take great pride that Mantua originated and produced so many of the important items that have lead to the success of the model railroad hobby. I only hope that this brief outline of the past and present has been interesting to you. I am gratified that it was my good fortune to have lived it.
The article offers this photo and this brief bio of Tyler:
Mantua Metal Products is one of the large producers of locomotive and car kits in HO gauge. For a generation the Mantua name has signified quality and Mantua and John Tyler are synonymous. Today the Mantua plant employs over a hundred persons engaged entirely in manufacturing HO equipment. During the past war, the company was awarded the Army-Navy "E" for the precision quality of its workmanship.
Mantua was founded in 1926. Tyler was an electrician by training and emigrated to the United States from England in 1925. For more on their Midjet motor see this article, and a good overall history of Mantua may be found here.


Anonymous said...

Hello Eric

Wasn't sure how to communicate with you I couldn't find an email address. I see you use HOseeker as reference in your Blogs and thought you might want to view the latest update. It is a 1937 Mantua Catalog thats list Mantua OO Scale Trains in the pages.

Hope you enjoy this Catalog.

aks "HOseeker"

John Ericson said...

I am a big fan of the HOseeker site. I don't see much more than OO motors in the 37 catalog but they did offer the track and the 4-4-0 soon.

As to contact info, I get contacted pretty regularly via my school E-mail address and there is another contact address in my Google profile.