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

Friday, August 29, 2008

The two versions of the Scale-Craft 4-6-2

Just a few days ago, after receiving these photos from Dick Gresham, I realized that I had never noted that there were two distinct versions of the Scale-Craft 4-6-2 produced. Dick has both in his collection, and he had not noted this either; he took one to be all original and the other modified. But I think after reading the catalog copy you will agree that actually these models are both close to all original but one is the early version and one is the late version.

Page 65 of the 1938 Scale-Craft catalog introduced the 4-6-2 (which had originally been produced in limited quantities by Red Adams) thusly:
The new 4-6-2 “OO” locomotive is larger, more powerful than our standard ten-wheeler. Copied from the Southern Pacific P-13 type, but somewhat modified, the design is adaptable to other roads. Powered by our standard seven-pole permanent magnet motor. Smoother operation by driving through second and third drivers. Superstructure is one-piece bronze casting. Operating headlight, switch controlled, lighted by flashlight battery in tender. Collector shoes eliminated through new type insulated trucks. Grounded side of locomotive used as one contact, and the tender truck on the opposing side acts as the other. This new locomotive, under ordinary tests, has hauled 25 to 30 of our standard freight cars around a 26-inch radius curve. Two-rail insulation standard.
That test train of 25 to 30 cars around a 26-inch radius curve really caught my eye! That is the radius of the curves on my layout. Nothing I have will pull more than about 14 average to free rolling cars around the layout, so that is quite a claim.

There is an exploded view of the locomotive in the catalog and a built up model. Of this model Dick wrote in sending the photos that,
It looks like it has brass spoke drivers from a Scale-craft 4-6-0. This one has a Pittman motor, and a ring gear mating with the worm gear on the Pittman motor. There is a lot of space between the top of the drivers and the bottom of the boiler. This doesn't look realistic to me, and I'm having a hard time imaging where someone who would modify the locomotive and install the smaller drivers.
I think the answer is because that was the only size of driver that Scale-Craft produced at that time. The next year Scale-Craft introduced the first version of their 4-8-4. (There are two distinct version of this also; this is a post for the future sometime. I only have the later version in parts). With this model came the development of the drivers for the 4-8-4, which were used on the second version of the P-13, described in the 1939 catalog as follows:
This year we have increased the perfection of this model by adding larger drive wheels of the box pok variety and by adding innumerable details to the superstructure that give the model locomotive the authentic appearance. We are also including six-wheel Commonwealth trucks on the tender instead of the four-wheel as used previously….The new Scale-Craft 12-volt AC motor and 2-rail insulation are standard.
Dick describes this model as looking to be “all original with a 24V DC motor. It has the same drivers as the Scale-craft 4-8-4.”

On the tenders in his collection he additionally notes
The tender in the pictures [see below] has a switch on top just behind the cab. According to my 1938? Scale-craft catalog (green cover), the switch is supposed to operate the headlight which is powered by a flashlight battery in the tender. I haven't taken the cover off the tender to see what is underneath. Neither locomotive has a headlight bulb installed.

Two of my tenders have 4-wheel trucks that are the same as those used on Scale-craft passenger cars. After looking at the picture in my 1938? catalog, I believe that these are the original tender trucks. One of my tenders has the same 6-wheel trucks used on the Scale-craft 4-8-4.
The second tender Dick describes is the same as the one in the 1939 catalog and the one at left is the same as the one in the 1938 catalog. The Scale-Craft 4-6-2 was only produced for two years, made very clear on page 57 of the 1940 catalog: "We have discontinued our Southern Pacific P-13 'OO' locomotive. For those who are building this locomotive, we are continuing to carry Sections 2 and 3." It is a nicely proportioned engine that with the right motor must be quite a puller. Thank you again Dick for sharing these photos.

Finally, as noted this model was originally produced by Red Adams. In the photos of his layout in the May, 1939 issue of Model Craftsman two or three P-13's and a Mountain are visible. Of the two P-13's that are completely visible both have smaller drivers similar to those on the original S-C model, and both tenders have S-C trucks, one with six wheel trucks and one four wheel. The 4-8-2 has larger box pok drivers and four wheel trucks on the tender. Interesting models to be sure.

UPDATE: Photos of the 1938 and 1939 versions of the Scale-Craft P-13 4-6-2 with their tenders, thanks again to Dick Gresham. Click on the photos for larger versions.

And ....

UPDATE II: See this article for closer views of a model that I rebuilt. 

More on Zuhr

Dick Gresham has come through with a few more photos of Zuhr cars from his collection

First, just take a look at these cars. They are nicely built up and nicely proportioned cars as well. Click on the photos for larger versions.

Here also is a close up of one of the trucks. Yes, they really are Varney HO F-3 trucks re-gauged for OO.

Here is a complete kit.

Finally, this photo from Dick which he describes well. “The full width foam diaphragms are mostly gone after 50 years. I've included a picture of the end of the coach which shows some of the foam diaphragm that remains.”

Monday, August 18, 2008

Zuhr Streamliners 101

As a part of my goal to cover American OO from A-Z I recently posted on Red Adams so it is a good time to hit the other end of the alphabet with Zuhr. Henry Zuhr, Inc. (Duraliner) was located in New York, NY, and their line of OO scale aluminum passenger cars was first advertised in Model Railroader in December of 1949. The line included:
001 Coach
002 Diner
003 18 roomette Pullman
004 Combination Pullman
005 Baggage coach combination
006 U.S. mail
007 Observation
008 Baggage
These smooth side streamliners are very easy to spot if you ever see them. Most of the major parts for an observation car are in the photo.

This is the first advertisement. In some papers recently received (UPDATE 2013) I found the form letter you would have received if you had written to them then for more information. It opens,
Dad-blame it !!! Something had to be done. Well ----- We did it ----- !
Here is what you have been waiting for. One of the first real pieces of equipment that has been added to "OO" gauge in years. We give you ----- All Aluminum Streamline Pullmans and Coaches (smooth sides).....
The kits are supplied with all necessary parts, screws and rivets needed for complete assembly, and can be put together in a very short time. The only tools necessary are a small hammer, screw-driver and file. You do not have to be a mastercraftsman, but the appearance depends on your skill.
We are manufacturing these cars for the neglected "OO" Gauger (including ourselves). We want to make other items for you too. So support us in our efforts to grow, and let us know what you want next in "OO"
Yours for bigger and better "OO"
Hildegard Schuler
Herbert Swan
And there is a P.S. that notes the new F-3 diesels from Fred Schorr and the Famoco GG-1, "Either of these 'loco's' with our cars would make your Dream-liner." The initial price was $5.95 complete with trucks. One oddity of the line was that the trucks supplied by Zuhr were actually regauged HO Varney F-3 trucks. While this truck was workable and is seen on models today, Schorr soon produced a much better truck that was well suited to this car, as did also Kemtron.

Finally, I wonder who exactly this Henry Zuhr was? The owners of the firm on the letter are apparently business partners and are not named Henry Zuhr, and the letter has a hand written additional note on it from H. Schuler. A bit of a mystery -- perhaps a reader can provide an insight on the manufacturer name of these great OO models.

UPDATES: Thanks to Dick Gresham I have posted a copy of the Zuhr instruction sheet here and also see this article for a longer description of each of the cars listed above as to length and more. Also see this article for photos of my train of Zuhr passenger cars (two of which are seen above) and this article for a similar train owned by Dick Gresham.

Also see this article for the 1950 Trade Topics review of the Zuhr streamliners.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

E. H. Bessey, Maker of OO and More

One manufacturer that took the idea of printed car sides to a new level was E. H. Bessey of Sunnyvale and later Delhi, California. Active from 1940-ca. 1948, Bessey was an OO gauger. The first published mention I have noted of Bessey [but see UPDATE at end] may be found in the January, 1940 issue of Model Railroader. At that time they had a column, “Along the Division,” that featured news from model railroaders around the country. On page 50 I note,
Mr. and Mrs. E. H. Bessey … are building an OO gauge branch line of the SP, known as the Rough & Tumble RR. Equipment consists of an SP Atlantic, six freight cars and a crummy, and three passenger train cars. Two new locos and 11 freight carriers are on order.
Then the very next month the first advertisement appeared in Model Railroader for his line of products. It reads,
AT LAST! Precision shapes in wood at prices you can pay. Stamp for list. Ties in all gauges. Old time S. P. Boxcar Car, “OO,” Wood body kit 55c—others coming. E. H. Bessey 183 Sunnyvale Ave. Sunnyvale, Calif.
His line of wood body kits for OO gauge lacked hardware but were pre-painted and lettered. The paint and lettering were directly on the wood sides of the cars, these are not the printed car sides that you might guess the cars had. I don’t have the boxcar in my collection [UPDATE: I do now; see this article for photos and more on the boxcar] but I have seen one and I do have a set of the reefers, depicted here. The full line of OO gauge cars produced included:
1 Reefer, wood, 36', Swift Premium Ham #18431
2 Reefer, wood, 36', Swift Premium Bacon #18211
3 Reefer, wood, 36', Swift Brookfield #18101
4 Reefer, wood, 36', Swift Silverleaf #18321
5 Boxcar, old time, SP #34521
Advertisements in Model Railroader in 1940 indicate that they also produced an express reefer and a stock car in OO, but I have not seen examples of these. Bessey did however produce other freight cars in HO, an extensive line of wood shapes made from California Sugar Pine, and also bridge kits in HO, OO, and O.

Recently I was able to purchase on eBay a copy of the “Catalog and instruction manual of E. H. Bessey” dated April 1, 1947. Of the line of OO cars only the SP boxcar is still listed. According to the text their shop was located “on Highway 99, two miles South of Delhi. Shop in rear of Cramptons Indian Trading Post.” He also notes that “this catalog climaxes seven years of progressive work in the production of specialized materials for model building,” which confirms that he started production in 1940.

Back to my set of the reefers in the photo, even though they lack door hardware the look is quite good. This was a well made product. Trucks were not provided; my cars are riding now [UPDATED] on four pair of S-C trucks, which was how the builder set up these cars and was what they were on when they came to me. In the photo they are on a pair of Schorr trucks and also three pair of (oops!) Kemtron On3 trucks.

UPDATE: For a note on a 1939 letter to the editor by Bessey also see this article.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

A mystery die cast flat car

While we are on the topic of Graceline, here is a mystery.

This car matches in many details those of Graceline but it does not show up in any of their catalogs. It appears to be a die cast 40’ flat car. Which they did not make so far as I know, but a number of parts match known Graceline parts and the lettering sure matches that of their hand lettered models as well.

I showed this car once to Bill Chapin, another long time OO enthusiast. He was also quite intrigued by the car. It does not look scratch built or cobbled together; it looks as I said like a real, honest to God die cast OO gauge flat car, something not catalogued by any maker so far as I know.

Click on the photos for a larger view.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Graceline Model Railroads OO Gauge 101

Another major maker of American OO gauge models from 1939-1945 was Graceline Model Railroads, which was run by John Devore of Minneapolis, MN. Graceline was one of the few manufacturers to maintain production during WW II (but apparently with a production gap, late 1943-early 1944). They produced a well designed line of passenger and freight cars, but the metal parts were cast in metal of varying quality (likely due to wartime restrictions) and some have deteriorated badly.

Some years back I was fortunate in a lot purchase to obtain quite a number of Graceline cars. I have a warm spot for the line and also have I believe a complete set of catalogs.

Passenger cars

Their passenger cars featured card sides similar to J-C models but not identical (the doors are separate castings), a wood roof and floor, and cast details. These models were introduced just before WW II except for the wood sheathed cars (1939) and the baggage and troop sleeper (mid-WW II); the latter two were offered as "comprestic kits" only. All of the passenger cars were offered as comprestic kits lacking wood and metal parts and decals late in WW II. They made unique trucks for these cars; the 4-wheel trucks are equalized only and the 6-wheel trucks are sprung (see the 6-wheel trucks here). The passenger line included:
  • 171 Coach, old time, wood sheathed
  • 172 Combination, old time, wood sheathed
  • 173 Mail car
  • 174 Combination
  • 175 Diner
  • 176 Pullman; choice of names--Aberdeen, Tonka, Loring, Palm Springs, Topaz, White Bear Lake, Lounge, Observation, Parlor, Tourist
  • 176-A Coach
  • 177 Solarium
  • Baggage
  • Troop Sleeper
Choice of decals for numbers 171-77 from early WW II: Burlington, Milwaukee, Rock Island, C&NW, Baltimore & Ohio, Illinois Central, So. Pacific Lines, Pennsylvania, NYC, Great Northern, NP, Santa Fe; No. 171 and 172 also offered hand-lettered for any prototype in 1939. The cars in the photo above are the Mail car (RPO) and the diner. The RPO has S-C trucks on it but the diner the original Graceline trucks.

Freight cars

The freight car line is extensive and evolved over the years of production in a number of ways. Most of the boxcars and reefers have card sides (but the early production of some cars is stamped brass), a wood body, and cast details (early production of some cars, stamped brass ends and doors). All early production cars were available with hand lettered sides (which sometimes incorporate gummed paper heralds), as noted below. Cars offered with decals date to early WW II. Some cars were offered only as "comprestic kits" lacking wood and metal parts and decals late in WW II, and others were available in this form only, as noted.

Before getting to the long list of models I should also note that these cars roll on three different designs of freight trucks each in multiple versions. Early period trucks are equalized Bettendorf trucks (very similar to S-C, at a glance, but with a slightly longer wheelbase) and arch bar designs (an example see here); middle period trucks are more finely detailed equalized Bettendorf, Andrews, and arch bar designs (an example seen here); later period trucks are sprung Bettendorf, Andrews, and arch bar designs (an example seen here). Early production models were also offered custom lettering "for your own road." Cars with uncataloged lettering schemes in my collection which appear to be factory applied hand lettering include 40' wood sheathed boxcar, A&WP #1830, AT&N #2103, CB&Q #69820; 40' box car, C&EI #64150 and #64458; 40' reefer, Armor #16096; 50' express reefer, PFE #730, NC&StL #714; wood caboose C&EI #101 and #138.
  • Utility flat, 40' [bulkhead car]--decals for B&O; also comprestic
  • 53 Quad hopper--decals for GN, SP, NYC, Rock Island, CB&Q, PRR, Milwaukee, C&NW, Santa Fe
  • 57 Gondola, 40'--decals, same as 53; also comprestic
  • 60 Flat car--decals for CB&Q, PRR, Milwaukee, C&NW, Santa Fe, GN, SP, NYC, Rock Island
  • Depressed center flat car, cast sides--hand lettered sides for C&NW, CM&StP
  • 110 Wood sheathed box car, 40'--hand lettered side for C&NW, GN, NP, SP #36478, NYC; decals for GN, SP, NP, NYC, B&O, Milwaukee, C&NW, PRR, Rock Island, Burlington, Santa Fe; also comprestic
  • 117 Box car, 40', stamped brass--decals, same as 110; also comprestic
  • 50' Box car, comprestic kit only
  • 50' Horizontal rib box car, comprestic kit only
  • 124 50' auto car--decals for Milwaukee, C&NW, Santa Fe, B&O, Rock Island, GN, SP, NP, Burlington, NYC, PRR; also comprestic
  • 139 Outside braced box car, 40'--decals, same as 110
  • 141 Wagon top box car, 40', stamped brass--hand lettered sides for B&O; decals, same as 110
  • 143 Wood sheathed reefer, 40'--hand lettered sides for Armor's Star, Wilsons #7554, Swift's, Rath's #204, Morrell's Pride #6220, Cudahy Puritan Ham #4226, Kraft #1172, Baby Ruth, Carnation Milk #6402, Old Dutch #1564, Bordens, Orange Growers #404; also comprestic
  • Reefer, 40'--hand lettered sides for Northern #3099, Western, Union, Burlington, MDT, Northwestern, PFE, UP, GN, Santa Fe; decals for MDT, Rock Island, Santa Fe, NP, Burlington, PFE, Milwaukee, C&NW, Western; also comprestic
  • Express Reefer, 50', wood sheathed--hand lettered sides for NP, GN, Santa Fe, NYC, SP; decals for GN, NP, NYC, SP, Santa Fe, C&NW, Rock Island, Milwaukee, Burlington, Illinois Central, B&O, PRR.
  • Caboose, wood sheathed--hand lettered sides available; decals for PRR, C&NW, Milwaukee, Burlington, NYC, Santa Fe, GN, SP; note: either this caboose or the following also available as a comprestic kit
  • Caboose, steel--decals for Rock Island, B&O, Milwaukee, PRR
Car numbers above reflect the numbers on cars in my collection.

The wood caboose in the photo (more here) looks to be a custom variation of the Graceline caboose, very nicely built up with hand lettering that matches the other cars. The C&EI boxcar has brass sides and ends with hand painted lettering and early trucks; the New Haven boxcar is the later version with decals and middle period trucks; and the reefer has also the hand lettered sides. Click on the photo to see more details. And I would mention a mystery die-cast flat that seems to have Graceline parts may be seen in this article.

I find the refrigerator sides particularly interesting as the early models all feature the factory painted hand lettering, no printing or decal process was involved. Each side of each car is slightly different! See this article for views of a couple more examples, showing both sides of the same car. A lot of work, and there are variations beyond what were listed in the catalog that appear to be factory models, such as this one. On the negative side, however, most of these cars I own are not "layout" cars for me. The hand-painted sides are cool in a collection but really stick out on a layout. Cars with decals, such as the New Haven boxcar in a photo earlier in this article, fit in much better. For a bit more on billboard refrigerators in general see this article.

By early 1943 Graceline was out of production, but not out of ideas. While Graceline started out in OO, in 1944 they added a line of O gauge freight car kits and retooled production of the OO line. By January of 1945 the price list makes clear they only offered what they called "comprestic" kits in either scale, which came packaged as seen in this last photo. Comprestic was their name for the material the sides, ends, and roof were pressed from. This was good idea as a wartime product, as it used no critical materials.  Their troop sleeper is the most notable model produced in this style of packaging and material.

Transportation Models

Graceline continued in business but dropped their OO line entirely after the war, instead producing a line of O gauge kits. In the post war period their OO line was produced with yet another truck design in modified form by Transportation Models. Their freight car kits are reasonably commonly seen (the line of passenger cars listed on the boxes, however, may never have been produced), and from the markings on the pressed cardboard parts clearly they used the same dies that had been used to make the same Graceline parts -- or perhaps simply recycled the parts from unsold inventory in their "new" kits.

For even more notes on Graceline production by year see these articles from the OO history series:
Updated 2013

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Early Adventures of H. L. “Red” Adams in Double-O

This article was originally published in volume 20, no. 1 (March, 2006) of The OO Road, the newsletter of the NMRA American OO special interest group. It is among the few older articles I have that I wrote for The OO Road that are in a file format I can easily convert to use in the blog. In fact, one of my favorites was done on a typewriter! Looking in the back issues there are quite a few interesting articles to re-read, I will blog more on those another time.

Over Christmas break I filled in some gaps in my Model Craftsman magazine collection and in the May, 1939 issue hit pay dirt! For inside was a long article titled “Adventures in Double-O” by H. L. “Red” Adams. While significant for writing a series of articles in Model Craftsman, probably his biggest accomplishment was the design of the SP P-13 4-6-2 that was produced initially by him but later by Scale-Craft. A lumber broker by trade, his article is a fascinating look at his trials and tribulations as an OO gauger in the early years. His narrative begins back in 1934.
My adventures in OO gauge, 4 mm scale started in September, 1934 upon the sale of my O-gauge passenger train. This train had been built during the previous year, and upon its completion ran about four months on a partially completed loop. The large radius curves necessary for this O-gauge loop were the primary reason for my decision to go into the smaller scale.

At that time there was nothing on the market in OO except a few aluminum passenger cars that retailed for about $8.00 a kit [the early Nason sand cast cars]. No locomotives or parts were available for the budding enthusiast. My first step was to make 4 mm scale drawings of several different types of freight and passenger cars. At this same time I made up a drawing for a locomotive, a Southern Pacific 4-6-2, known as a P-13. This was the same type which I had built for the O-Gauge train.
Adams was an active member of the Model Builder’s Guild in the Chicago area, and another member, Raymond Willey, was also switching to OO. The annual show was only 90 days away, so they decided together to make an OO gauge display, with Willey making a die for fiber tie strips and Adams making up the wood and cardboard parts for five passenger cars. He continues,
Public interest in our exhibit was intense, so much so that we decided to go into the business of supplying the demand. Immediately upon the close of the exhibition we lined up our production facilities, advertised a small bit, and did a satisfactory volume…. All this time I was making patterns for the OO P-13 which, by the way, was the first small-gauge locomotive that had a one-piece cast bronze boiler, cab, firebox, running boards, stack and domes. Likewise the Vanderbilt tender body was a single aluminum casting. The two patterns had coreboxes and I had quite a time getting everything to come out as it should. …

The main frame of the locomotive was a solid bronze casting, drilled and tapped to mount all the other parts…. My idea was to build my OO equipment to O gauge standards of construction and with the same materials if possible.

The cylinders and valve gear (which was simplified Walschaerts), pilot and trailing trucks, tender and locomotive superstructure were finished without any unusual problems, and I was ready to install the heart of the locomotives, the motor.

After extensive search I found only one that could be used on account of the small space available. I bought one of these direct from the manufacturer and carefully installed it in my chassis, which ran freely when pushed by hand. Well, boys, that motor was the first of several great disappointments to me as far as power went, It lasted about a week; most of the time merely running the locomotive and tender around the track. Thinking perhaps that it was not quite large enough for the job, I ordered the heavy duty type, which was considerably longer, but had the same cross-section. By this time the next model show was at hand, and Willey and I decided to show the boys the wonder of the age. Ray had built up a beautiful track layout … we met the opening day full of confidence that we had the best display in town. We were running a seven-car passenger train headed by our new OO P-13 with its heavy duty motor. This train ran the first day, with stops every few minutes to cool off the motor. Every day thereafter I had to do an operation on that motor to keep it running. Finally after three days of the second week had passed it curled up and died, and our train stopped for good.
The quest for a good locomotive--we can all relate to this.
This poor motor proposition put a stop to our manufacture of locomotives as I absolutely refused to advertise that I had a better locomotive, when I knew it wouldn’t run for a week without giving dissatisfaction. There was plenty of demand for motive power, however, because several people that had seen our train running at the show came and ordered an engine regardless the poor motors. All told we sold nine locomotives in various degrees of completeness. Nobody brought one back so far, so evidently they felt they got their money’s worth.

Another type had been started prior to all the motor difficulty, a Southern Pacific Mt-5, a 4-8-2. This locomotive used the same drivers, cylinders, valve gear, pilot and trailing trucks, and tender that the P-13 used, so necessitated merely making a new main frame and superstructure patterns. This boiler was the same style as on the P-13 and had all the major parts cast integral. The locomotive was finished in March of 1936, but we never sold any of this type…. Friend Willey meantime had several printed sides for reefer cars made to order, along with wood parts and trucks giving us a freight line. He had a P-13, I had two and the Mt-5, and none of them would run longer than five minutes….

In the middle of 1936 I got disgusted with the whole thing and sold out the locomotive and passenger car patterns and drawings to a prominent model railroad manufacturer [Scale-Craft], and decided that I should have had some sense and stayed in O gauge….

However, things and motors come to those who wait. By the fall of 1937, I was able to get an OO-gauge motor that really would operate for long periods without overheating, and all my interest in OO gauge was revived. At this same time, the manufacturer to whom I had sold my original patterns came out with a complete line of OO gauge, making this track size even more attractive than before.
The article continues with an extended description of his layout and models as of that time (1939) and includes photos of the locomotives described and the layout. He had recently switched from outside third rail to two rail, and from the photos of the locomotives looks to have put Scale-Craft trucks on the tenders of his P-13 and Mt-5 models. Trains on his layout were normally up to ten freight or five passenger cars with timetable operation, modeling the Mojave division of the Southern Pacific on a good-sized double track loop. He concluded,
It is the finest enjoyment for me to sit down under one of my palm trees (under construction now) and run my OO railroad, particularly after being so disappointed a couple years back. All I have to do now is keep out of the hot sun, and watch that the Gila monsters don’t take a bite out of me.
OO is not an easy scale today but certainly is easier now than it was in the mid 1930s. In conclusion, I wonder if anyone out there owns one of the original Adams P-13 models (pre-Scale-Craft), knows if the prototype model for the Mt-5 survives (don’t you wish Scale-Craft had produced this model too?), or knows any more details of his or Willey’s other cars? I would love to hear from you.

UPDATE 2011: I added three of the photos from the article which show the layout and his models as of 1939. See also this article for a look at his layout in 1941.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The OO letter archive

This past couple weeks it has been on my mind that I have a car side list somewhere from Bill Chapin; I never throw anything away so it must be here. Also I could not find my letter archive, where I had kept every letter I received related to OO since the beginning of my interest in the scale in pre-E-mail days. Finally, this morning I found the archive, not opened since our last move! Working back through this will be a great project that will take years and will show up over time in this website. I still have not found the car side list but I have found plenty of ideas for articles for future posting on this website.

UPDATE 2013: The archive is now looking like this, using big binders purchased inexpensively at a garage sale! To have it all laid out in the order received is really handy now as I continue my project to document American OO gauge history and people. I did for example find that car side list and there is a lot more in this binder including information on the OO lines of Johann and Ultimate direct from the owners. More of this will be posted over time in this website.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Scale-Rail Industries OO car sides

As a follow-up to the post on Champion, a firm that made great printed sides for a 40’ steel boxcar in the same timeframe was Scale-Rail Industries of Chicago, IL. These were produced in HO, OO, and O gauges. While reefer cars were also marketed in O and HO, I believe only the boxcars were produced in OO. According to their advertisement in the May, 1941 issue of Model Railroader, these sides were
Manufactured from fine grades of Bristol board coated with semi-gloss enamels.
Lettering and heralds correctly styled in full rich colors. Rivets … are sharply raised…. No inks, cuts or type of any kinds are used in the manufacture of these sides.
They were reviewed in the same issue of MR. There they note that "The rivet detail on the box cars is reproduced without distorting the surrounding material.... Hearlds and lettering look like the real thing.” They really are quite good sides, perhaps the best of their type ever made in OO.

This car is one I put together years ago with these sides and a variety of parts on a Picard body. The only problem with using these sides is matching the paint. It is not easy at all to do. I have plans to make another car with these sides soon, and in preparation for this have nearly a dozen different types of paint on hand to use to try to make a close match. With a close match these sides build up into great cars.

Their advertisement in the June, 1941 issue of MR lists OO boxcar sides for UP, NP, Santa Fe, NKP, and C&EI. They sold for 25 cents a pair. In my collection I have all of these (two different versions of ATSF—map or no map), plus CB&Q, PRR, and SSW (Blue Streak). This is I believe pretty nearly the complete line but, as with Champion, I really wish I had a catalog listing of some sort. Any additional information readers may have would be welcomed; contact info is in my profile.

UPDATE: I have added a second photo of a car with Scale-Rail sides, this one built by Howard Winther. He did work out the paint match better than me. It can be done and clearly these sides will build up into a sharp car. Also, the full run of these sides may be seen in this article, and the full run of sides is as follows:

ATSF 136297
ATSF “Scout” 139759
C&EI 64152
CB&Q 30590
NKP 15026
NP 15719
PRR 65400
SL-SF/FFF 128031
SSW 33676
UP “Streamliners” 183617

Champion Model Co. OO car sides and body kits

The topic of Champion Model Co. came up recently on the OO list. It is not a topic I planned to write on so soon [2008] but it is a good one. According to the Champion Decal Co. website [as of 2008, now offline].
Champion Decal Company originally started out as Champion Model Company, under the ownership of Max Gray in 1940. Rich Meyer bought the decal business from him in 1963 and we continue with it.
While best known today for their line of decals, the Champion Model Company of Cleveland, OH, started out with O gauge models, which included according to the Trade Topics column in the May 1941 issue of Model Railroader, “over 50 different O gauge reefer car sides …. nearly all … available in two or more changes of car numbers.” A few pages earlier in the same issue we find their advertisement:
Announcing—A New Line of “OO” Body Kits

Consisting of accurately Milled Wood Body, printed and scribed Sides, Ends, and Assembly Instructions.

24 different reefers now ready, Gerber’s, Ralston Purina, Oscar Mayer’s, Kahn’s, Libby’s, White Rock Water, Santa Fe “Grand Canyon” and Scout,” Soo Line, etc.
These were all affordability priced at 50 cents and were described more fully in a free illustrated folder. It was a bit hard to track down, but thanks to William McCay I now have a copy (2016 update). The line included a 40’ wood boxcar, 36’ and 40’ (and 42') wood reefers, and wood 45’ milk reefers.

A built up milk reefer may be seen in this article. Also, the visual comparison of Champion, Famoco/Eastern, Nason, and Scale-Rail sides may be seen in this article.

Initially in collection I only owned one car with these sides mounted, this incomplete 40’ wood boxcar lettered for the Great Northern. Initially I thought that this model is built on their own body, as it is different in details than Picard as seen in the bottom view below. Click on the photo for a larger view.

Finally, in 2012, I was able to track down a complete kit of the Santa Fe reefer. A built up example of the same model may be seen in this article. What the kit told me most clearly was that the body they shipped out with the kits is identical to those made by Picard, and was likely actually made by Picard, as they offered to make wood body parts for other makers. For the reference on this, read toward the end of this article on Picard. This body is by some other early maker or homemade, with Champion sides applied to the car.

The kit instructions below give a few more clues on the line; click on the scan for a better view. The kits had no metal parts, only a wood body with printed cardboard sides and cardboard material for the ends and roof ribs. They could be built up into a very nice car with a bit of skill.

I have the sense that this line of cars or car sides did not sell well and it was not advertised after WWII, but for sure a fair number of the sides were manufactured and got out to OO gaugers. In my own collection I have a number of examples.

A final note being if you have these vintage cars or printed sides, keep them out of light and store them carefully. The ink is not as colorfast as paint and I have examples that have faded badly over the years.

My current list of car numbers for these printed sides is as follows. Note that at least some sides were made with multiple car numbers.

Reefers, wood side, 40’ or 42’ unless noted
301 GARX/Nickel Plate Road 60147
302 PGRX/Crisco 4063
303 SFRD/Santa Fe “Grand Canyon” 37402 and 39909
304 SFRD/Santa Fe “Scout” 34207
305 GSVX/Gerbers 1003
306 RPRX/Rath’s 36’ 210
307 URTX/Milwaukee 44925 and 44926
308 DICX/Dry Ice 128 and 129
309 MRS/Purina 36’ 5588
310 WFEX/GN 62547
311 Armour “Star Ham & Bacon” 16842 and 16843
312* Armour “Cloverbloom” 13324 and 13325
313 Armour “Veribest” 13279
314 Armour “Star Pure Lard” 16724 and 16725
315 NADX/Frigicar 3408
316 OMRX/Oscar Mayers 6877
317 FGEX 37294 and 37295
318 MDT 20335 (orange)
319 MDT 24547 and 29378 (white)
320 LRX/Lackawanna 7174 and 7175
321 URTC/White Rock Water 55048
322 URTC/Bordens 10218
323 GBW/Green Bay 9137
324 NX/Brine Tank 3503 and 3504
325 EKSX/Kahn’s 1076, 1077
326 UTRX/Soo Line 24045 and 24046
327 SLRX/Budwieiser 36’ 1802
328 AMSX/Asco Milk 12001
Box Car, wood side, 40’ (According to catalog, “the first in our line of box car sides. More to be announced later.”
351 GN 4235
Milk Reefers, wood side, 45’
400 GPEX/Milky Way 755
401 GARE/New Haven 707
[There is no 402 in the catalog!]
403 GARE/Western Dairy 710
404 GARE/Wieland Dairy 783
405 SFCX/Sheffield Milk 1000

 See this article for photos of a nice pair of Champion milk express reefers and also this one for a complete New Haven Dairy reefer. A car decorated GARE/Dairymen’s League 764 is in this article, which would fit in with the numbers of the other cars above but could be decals, the photo is not completely clear on this point.

On the back of the New Haven milk reefer "panels" sheet (second in the final photo above) are found printed instructions. There we learn that "These Car Sides have been Machine Scribed for Realism and Detail ... And Varnished for Lasting Durability." The sides are for an AAR class BMT milk reefer with no ice bunkers. You are to paint the "roof, underbody, and all hardware Black, including ladders on sides and ends."

These are good sides, and I am making it a project to neatly build up a few cars with Champion sides.

Article updated 2016.