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

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hoffman's OO Freight Cars

As with most topics, the more you look at it the more you know you don’t know. One company I would love to know more about is Hoffman's.

Hoffman's was a pre-war manufacturer of OO gauge freight car kits in Philadelphia. Their kits included painted and lettered card sides, wood bodies, and cast details, including sprung Bettendorf trucks. The line included:

Box car, RDG, DL&W
Flat car, RDG
Gondola, RDG
Reefer, wood, MDT, ARLX, FGEX
Caboose, eight wheel

Details are a bit sketchy but I did manage to see one of their kits at the home of Bill Chapin some years back. The photo of is the kit and their instruction sheet. If you have more Hoffman's I would love to hear from you.

UPDATE: For the first Hoffman's advertisement from 1938 see this article, and for photos of three more Hoffman's kits see this article.

An OO Gem: The Famoco GG-1

In the article on OO gauge track in the October, 2008 issue of The Train Collectors Quarterly Ed Morlok mentions the Famoco GG-1 as one of the “gems” of American OO.

I don’t own one of these but I did scan from my archive this photo of a model and instructions. I took this photo some years ago at the home of Bill Chapin. Click on the photo for a larger view of the model and instructions.

Note: The rest of this post was updated with the assistance of Dick Gresham. He notes that my photo is probably a prewar version of the die cast model with the AC-DC motor and vertical drive shaft.

The model was originally introduced in 1939 in sand cast bronze. The “Famoco Flash” flyer, reproduced here (thank you Dick G.), introduced an updated version of the die cast model as follows:
Now the famous FAMOCO GG-1 is powered by the powerful Pittman DC-71 PERMAG Motors, geared directly to all drivers! The single motor loco has all six drivers of the power truck pulling --- in the twin motored loco, all twelve drivers are working! … The FAMOCO GG-1 is without doubt, the most powerful OO engine today.
Click on the image to see a larger version. This pulling power was a great thing to have as OO cars are, as we all know, typically somewhat heavy and not especially free rolling. The GG-1 was also available with two of the DC-71 motors, which would have made it quite a puller.

As implied in the flyer, this model is seen today with several different motors. This photo is from Dick Gresham, which is an incomplete model of this version.

Dick also shared a pair of photos of another, older GG-1 in the collection of Dick Kuehnemund. This sand-cast model has a different motor with a horizontal drive shaft and a spring driving the power truck. There is an access plate on the top. He believes that this hole and access cover was added by a previous owner, and he is not sure if the motor in this GG-1 is an original Famoco motor or not.

I have a copy of a Famoco catalog that dates to I believe 1939. This catalog lists a three pole motor as being in the standard kit and a seven pole motor was supplied with the deluxe kit. At the time of the catalog the model was still bronze, with prices ranging from $37.50 for the deluxe, machined kit in two rail to $25 for the semi-machined kit with a three pole motor. By the date of the Famoco Flash flyer the price had gone up to $44.50 for single motor and $56.50 for twin motor.

Finally, it should be noted that Famoco after the war shifted out of OO and produced several models in HO. At the HOSeeker site on this page there is a link to the instruction sheets for their HO GG-1 and also B-1 models. These were introduced ca. 1950, being advertised as new models in the January, 1950 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman for example. The advertised price is a rather more affordable $34.50.

This model is definitely an OO classic to be on the lookout for. As already noted, I don't own one, but it would certainly be an impressive model to see in operation today.

UPDATE 2014. Working over the photo files on my new computer I found this great photo of a built up example of this model. I don't have any idea who to credit it to, and I suspect I have had this photo around since before I launched this blog. An impressive model, one that should be in any OO gauge collection.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Four types of American OO printed car sides

Recognizing at least the most common brands of classic, printed car sides is important to the OO gauger today. I have written about all four of these brands in previous posts, but not all at the same time.

First we have the sides used by Nason Railways. They are printed on a thin, white stock and are embossed either with rivet patterns for steel cars or to mimic wood sides, and included printed ends (not shown in the photo). The sides of the boxcars clearly were painted with paint before printing; the reefers seem to be colored with inks. The inks can be a problem, as the colors don’t hold up as well as paint. Also, on the Borden’s side pictured, the white areas are just the unprinted car side stock, which has turned color with age. And also, these sides were sold with Page kits, see this post for more information on Page, apparently a sub-brand marketed briefly by Nason.

The next are the sides sold first with Famoco kits and later with Eastern kits. These are similar in a way to Nason, as they are on a thin white paper, but the background color seems to have been applied as a part of the manufacture of the paper itself with a slightly glossy finish; the color is a type of paint I believe rather than a printers ink. They have held up very well with age. On the box car side note the printing that would be under the doors and at the bottom of the sides (which would be cut off on the model). The rivets are embossed in the side material.

Our next type was produced by Champion. These were in many different lengths and are of quite a variety of designs. Most (but not all) are clearly marked Champion. The stock they are printed on is thicker, more of a thin shirt cardboard, all printing seems to be in printers inks, and they like Nason included car ends. I have seen cars that were built up beautifully with these sides (a notable model being the express reefer), but I have also seen examples that have been very badly impacted by moisture and light. I like these sides a lot but treat them with care and only get out cars with these sides to operate.

The final type was produced by Scale-Rail Industries. These are great sides, maybe the best ever put out on American OO. They seem to be painted and the stock they are printed on is thicker and has held up well with age. Also with these you can see a better style of packaging. Their sides are packed tightly in clear cellophane, where all the other sides were shipped in sort of a waxed paper semi-clear envelope. These were also produced in some good quantity in HO scale. The full run of Scale-Rail OO sides may be seen here.

On cars that have printed sides that seem to be primarily colored with inks, especially Nason reefers and Champion sides, as noted above I would suggest that for purposes of preservation these should be kept in a dark place and not on display.

These are actually not the only types of printed sides produced in American OO. Printed cardboard sides were also used on models produced by Hoffmann’s, Limco (Long Island Scale Model Co.), Unique MiniaturesVanden Boom, and Yardmaster, and possibly even others. And there is a maker today selling new sides on eBay. For more see these articles:
Updated 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Article on On3 track for American OO in the Train Collectors Quarterly

The October, 2008 issue of the Train Collectors Quarterly has an extended, five page article by Ed Morlok on using On3 flex track for running American OO trains. On3 track standards are exactly the same as for American OO--other than the ties being somewhat over-sized this track works great with classic OO trains [but On30 track won't work! See the UPDATE]. This is an article really worth checking out for anyone thinking about becoming an operator.

One issue addressed in the article is that of three-rail operation. Operators today fall into two categories, inside third rail and two rail. I run two rail, but Lionel collectors often desire the inside third rail as used by Lionel, and a loop of original Lionel three rail track in good condition will cost you an arm and a leg. On3 flex track can certainly have a third rail added; you will just need to spike it in by hand down the centerline of the track.

Back in the day outside third rail was very common in American OO. Looking at early Nason catalogs, this was standard for them, only later did they offer two rail products as an option. So far as I know however there are no operators using outside third rail today. Ed Costello used outside third rail on his big layout into the late 1970s but before his death I am told converted it to two rail.

One other note on the TCA article I should mention, I personally always find it odd to see our gauge referred to as American 00, as numbers, instead of American OO, as letters. It was normally called “double O” not “double zero” back in the day, and catalogs and publications are consitent that it is OO not 00. I certainly prefer to use OO instead of 00.

UPDATE: See this article for another view of some On3 track modified for use in OO. The above photo is from reader Drew M.

AND PLEASE NOTE: On3 track is exactly the same as American OO gauge but On30 track won't work! On30 track is the same as HO gauge! I think the popularity of On30 ready-to-run trains has clouded the issue a bit, as it is not the same as On3 but people seem to assume it is.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Trucks of Mystery--Early Lionel OO Reproductions?

In a recent eBay lot two pairs of a very unusual OO gauge truck were spotted.

The winner was Dick Kuehnemund, and he sent photos of a pair after receipt from the auction.

I really don’t have any idea who made these, I have checked I think every resource I have, and these are true stumpers. According to Dick “The side frames look like Lionel's & they're held together like Lionel's: a ‘U’ shaped ‘staple’ at each end of the bolster. I've never seen anything like them.” The trucks have a round Bakelite bolster. I have never seen anything like them either.

Anyone with a theory as to what they are? Click on the photos for larger versions.

UPDATE: I eventually got one pair of the trucks from Dick. The answer to what they are is I think in the end pretty easy, they are early reproduction Lionel trucks. The question of who made them and why remains, but the round Bakelite turning is an interesting solution to insulating a Lionel bolster to make two-rail trucks with S-C wheelsets.

Transportation Models OO, part 2: Passenger Cars?

As noted in part I, this line was introduced in late 1945. Based on the prewar/wartime products of Graceline, their kit boxes listed an extensive line of passenger car kits. These would have had the same construction details as their freight cars, being made of wood and "comprestic" (card) with cast details, and were to be supplied with one of four types of trucks (sprung four and six wheel plain and roller bearing trucks). I have never seen any of those trucks, but Allied full cushion trucks were produced -- however, it is uncertain if Transportation Models actually reissued the Graceline troop sleeper which would actually have used this truck, or if the trucks I have are actually just wartime Graceline production.

The full list of passenger cars is below. A lot of variety—maybe too much! After several years of looking I am highly skeptical that they were produced at all. The only Transportation Models kits I have ever seen as complete kits are their freight cars, which at a minimum were clearly produced in much greater quantity. In the photo below are two different, truck-less models in my collection that I believe would show what a couple of the more exotic Transportation Models cars would have looked like, but I believe are not. The wood baggage car was made with sides that Graceline sold in the "comprestic kit" format, so it does match what the Transportation Models car would have looked like, and the other is I believe a scratchbuilt steel RPO. Heavyweight RPOs are fairly uncommon in OO; they were produced by Graceline and Nason, and possibly also by Exacta.

201 12 sec Pullman, 12 wheel
202 Pullman Solarium, 12 wheel
203 Dining car, 12 wheel
204 Standard coach, 12 wheel
205 Combination coach, 12 wheel
206 Dining car, wood, 12 wheel
207 Standard coach, wood, 12 wheel
208 Combination coach, wood, 12 wheel
209 12 sec Pullman, 8 wheel
210 Pullman Solarium, 8 wheel
211 Dining car, 8 wheel
212 Dining car, wood, 8 wheel
213 Standard coach, 8 wheel
214 Standard coach, wood, 8 wheel
215 Combination coach, 8 wheel
216 Combination coach, wood, 8 wheel
217 Express or Baggage, 12 wheel
218 Express or Baggage, wood, 12 wheel
219 Mail car, 12 wheel
220 Mail car, wood, 12 wheel
223 Express & mail comb. car, 12 wheel
224 Express & mail comb. car, wood, 12 wheel
229 Express or Baggage, 8 wheel
230 Express or Baggage, wood, 8 wheel
231 Mail car, 8 wheel
232 Mail car, wood, 8 wheel
235 Express & mail comb. car, 8 wheel
236 Express & mail comb. car, wood, 8 wheel
401 Standard coach, wood, open end, 8 wheel
402 Combination coach, wood, open end, 8 wheel
403 Mail car, wood, open end, 8 wheel
411 Express or Baggage, wood, open end, 8 wheel

Quite an impressive list! Also note that the cars in the photo are hand lettered! Pretty impressive work by or for a fan of the C&EI back in the 1940s.

As already noted, this line did not stay in production for long. There were as they noted in the ad reproduced here "connoisseurs" who were active, but the OO market of the time was in decline, with the changes of ownership at Scale-Craft and also Lionel discontinuing their prewar OO offerings not helping the situation. These were also not be easy kits to build and, in spite of their advertising, not of the best quality and were not post-war style kits. The wood parts are of inferior quality compared to those of Picard, Famoco, and Eastern, and the last advertisement I know of for Transportation Models ran in December of 1947.

Finally, to go back to a point made earlier in this article, while the extensive line of passenger cars was listed on their kit boxes, it does not necessarily follow that they were actually produced. I open the question up to readers, as I have yet to see an unbuilt kit for a passenger car or a clear listing of these in dealer advertisements of the period.

For more see:
Return to Part I

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Transportation Models OO, part 1: freight cars

Transportation Models of New York, NY, announced their new OO gauge venture in December of 1945. They improved and expanded the wartime OO offerings of Graceline. Vigorously advertised and competitively priced (compared to HO), with boxes proclaiming "Learn Through Play The Model Railroad Way," the line was advertised steadily from late 1945 to late 1947.

The cars were wood and "comprestic" (cardstock), with cast details. In the photos are parts of two kits, a 40’ wood reefer and also the sides for a 50’ ribbed side reefer. In the close up you can see clearly that the sides are marked Graceline (click on the third photo for a larger view). The wood parts are very similar to Picard but the dimensions are different (floor wider, etc) and the quality level of the wood parts is not quite as high.

PDFs of some of their instruction sheets may be found in the files section of the Yahoo American OO discussion group. They produced quite variety of models! Below is the complete list of freight cars. But with this note: their tank cars and cattle car are "in preparation" in the published listing, but were probably not actually produced.

101 Boxcar, 40', wood
102 Boxcar, 40'
103 Reefer, 40', wood
104 Reefer, 40'
105 Boxcar, 50'
106 Boxcar, 50', double door
107 Boxcar, 50', wood, double door
108 Reefer, horizontal rib
109 Quad hopper, 33'
110 Gondola
111 Flat
112 Utility flat [bulkhead]
113 Tank car, single dome, 8,000 gal
114 Wood caboose
115 Steel caboose
116 Boxcar, 40', double door
117 Boxcar, horizontal rib, 50'
118 Boxcar, 50', wood
119 Tank car, single dome, 10,000 gal
120 Cattle car

One very notable feature were the trucks on these cars, which were not based on Graceline toolings--new, sprung AAR, Andrews, and Arch Bar trucks were produced or at least proposed. As seen in the photo, these had a lot of parts. They are finer and more to scale than the comparable Graceline design, and with care I believe these could be made into a workable truck.

However, I have not yet encountered one in use on a vintage car, and in terms of my own layout the wheelsets are unusable as they are well off from NMRA standards for tread width. The only type I have seen are the AAR type seen here.

The other notable feature you can use to clearly differentiate built-up versions of these cars from late Graceline is that they have fewer metal parts and in particular no die cast frame. With care these could build up into nice cars and I am sure "OOldtimers" made use of parts of these models in kitbashing projects. A built up example of their 50' boxcar may be seen in this article.

Their freight car kits are seen fairly often but that was not all they listed on their boxes! Next up are their passenger cars.

Continue to Part II--Passenger Cars

Friday, October 17, 2008

Frederick D. Grimke: "The Father of American OO?"

This was originally published in the August, 2000 issue of The OO Road and was also posted previously in the "files" section of the Yahoo American OO discussion group.

Some of you may know that there is a new, searchable database of model railroad magazine articles in the Model Railroader web site on the internet. Recently I was looking in my magazine collection for the articles that came up on OO from a search of that database, and found that I actually had very few of them. I did however find an article by Hugh Richard Nason (the founder of Nason) in the June 1935 issue of Model Craftsman that I had not previously noted on scratch building an OO gauge 12 section Pullman.

I have [or had at the date of the writing of this article, in 2000] only one other issue of Model Craftsman from 1935, the April issue, and soon I turned to it. In it I quickly found myself looking at the face of a real OO pioneer, Fred Grimke (p. 9). At that time he was chairman of the New York Society of Model Engineers; the article is a report on their annual show. Only three divisions of railroad models are noted in 1935; OO, O, and #1 or larger models. No HO! [The "good old days"].

Why is Grimke significant to American OO? According to an article by Linn H. Westcott in the January, 1949 issue of Model Railroader Grimke "introduced OO gauge into this country" (p. 17). He was certainly one of the very first people interested in the new scale; by early 1931 he had launched with Harry Thuillez the first American OO gauge manufacturer, Thuillgrim Models. The March, 1931 issue of The Modelmaker notes that at the third annual exhibition of the NYSME "Thuillgrim's two 'OO' Gauge locomotives certainly attracted the most attention" (p. 43).

The cover of this issue of The Modelmaker illustrated two Thuillgrim OO models; a B&A Berkshire and a NYC Hudson. The printing makes the photos grainy, but they look good! [The cover is described further in this article; click on the photo for a better view]. The Hudson model was constructed by Edwin Schwoebli, who later was involved with Nason. Advertisements show that Thuillgrim also planned to produce locomotives including the following: 0-8-0, 2-8-2, 2-10-4, 4-4-0, 4-4-2, 4-6-2, 4-8-2, and "electric type locomotives of latest design." These models are thought to have never been produced, but it is thought that they did produce limited amounts of couplers, freight car truck side frames, and body hardware for freight and passenger cars. Also, the partner of Grimke, Harry Thuillez, advertised blueprints for the PRR D76B dining car back in 1930; this was actually the very first advertisement mentioning American OO, in the July, 1930 issue of The Modelmaker.

Thuillgrim seems to have produced very few models. But Fred Grimke nevertheless certainly made a mark in American OO early on and may actually be, if Linn Westcott was correct, the person to crown as "The Father of American OO."

[Thanks especially to Ed Morlok for his assistance in the research that led to this article].

UPDATE: A review of the 1931-32 series on OO by Grimke begins here. The caption with the photo above is "Mr. Grimke, Chairman, N. Y. Society presenting Merritt MacKnight with the Craftsman Special Award." Howard Winther won first award in OO for his 0-4-0 freelance switcher (also displaying 4-4-2, and 4-8-2 locomotive models) and his P.R.R. caboose won first award for freight equipment. The 0-4-0 and caboose as they appear today may be seen in this post.

Back to Thuillgrim, as I note in the 1931-32 series where the models are described in more detail, they advertised the line for nearly two years and it is possible an example or two still exists out there, unrecognized for the significant model it is. And, as I conclude there,
Frederic Drayton Grimke was ahead of the curve and ahead of his time but would be heard from again in the pages of The Modelmaker as an author and in other publications in relation to his being a longtime officer in the New York Society of Model Engineers. I will have more on those another day but in conclusion I would add that on reading this series of articles in The Modelmaker it is clear that Grimke truly was the father of American OO. He in this early series set all our major standards and laid the foundation for all that was to come from the firms that followed Thuillgrim, especially Nason, Scale-Craft, and Lionel.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hand lettered, factory sides from Graceline

One of the most notable things about early Graceline OO production is that models were marketed with sides that were hand lettered at the factory.

For example these two cars selected from my collection. The photos are of both sides of the cars.

You have to look back and forth a few times but you begin to see the differences. On the reefer, first look at the head scarf of the old Dutch woman, and also the U in “Cudahy.” These sides were not printed or decaled. Both sides were actually hand lettered, I would suspect in batches.

You can see differences in the SP box car lettering as well, the shape of the numbers, etc. This car is riding on their early type of truck that looks like Scale-Craft but is not, the wheelbase is longer and they have a different bolster. Look closely at the small lettering. I can’t imagine doing this lettering with a fine brush, but someone did it back in 1939 or 40. The circular logo is however not hand painted, it is printed on paper and was glued on the car sides.

Back to the reefer, it has a stamped brass roof that includes all details in one stamping (plus a wood roof walk), which is also interesting. The sides of both cars are a pressed fiber material scribed to look like wood.

Click on the photos to zoom in on the details even more, the comparison will be clearer. Interesting vintage cars!

UPDATE: The boxcar was further rebuilt here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Two more Nason box cars

Sand cast items have long fascinated me. One I have yet to hold in my hands (but would like to) is a very early, classic OO item, the Nason cast aluminum box car.

Dick Gresham sent in these photos of this model in his collection. Aside from the wood roof and the cast bronze couplers it is all aluminum. This car is on Scale-Craft trucks as well. It is an attractive, well proportioned model.

This model is one of the first commercial models in American OO, introduced I believe in 1934. By the date of the first Nason catalog in my collection (Summer, 1938) the model had actually been dropped from the line, replaced by the EAZY-BILT version of the car, and it most likely it was dropped from the line earlier than that as the later version was advertised in the December, 1935 issue of Model Craftsman for example. (Anyone with a very early Nason catalog, I would love to hear from you).

I should note, however, that the car was back in production in 1940! The sixth anniversary catalog reads,

"ALL STEEL BOX CAR. Due to popular demand we have again made available the All Steel Box Car kit at a new low price. This kit includes aluminum sides, ends, floor, and cat walk. Doors are cast into sides and under-frame into floor. Brake wheel platform cast into ends."

The complete kit was then $4.00, as compared to the EAZY-BILT version for $2.90.

Well after the end of Nason production M. P. Davis is also reported to have produced a limited quantity a run of these from the original masters as well.

Speaking of the EAZY-BILT cars, Dick also forwarded this photo of the Nason PRR round roof automobile car. It is of the PRR X-31 design and was number 5 in their catalog list. I believe it is one of the original ten cars of this type mentioned in the advertisement mentioned above from December of 1935. This car has printed card sides and ends applied to a built-up wood box (rather than a solid piece of wood as seen in the car kit in my previous post on Nason boxcars). It also has Nason cast bronze couplers and Nason 3-rail trucks. Another pre-war classic! Thanks again to Dick for sharing these photos.

UPDATE: A couple more photos from Dick Gresham. First we have a side view of the X-31 car.

The other photo is most interesting and brings up a question. It is a side by side of the Nason cast box car the Lionel box car. They sure look a lot alike! Lionel was very aware of the Scale-Craft line when they launched their own OO production. It is almost as if Lionel got hold of one of these Nason cars and told their people to make a very similar car but die cast. A very interesting pair to see side by side. Click on the photos for a larger view.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Nason OO gauge box cab “diesel”

One of the more uncommon American OO items was just seen on eBay this past week, a Nason box cab "diesel." This model was introduced in 1939 and was also featured in their 1940 catalog, and is actually an electric loco (New Haven prototype) minus pantographs in sand cast bronze. The model was discontinued with WWII but was later also produced by Ultimate.

The link is here, take a look at the four photos while you can. It sold for over $150.

UPDATE: Of course, that link is long dead but thanks to Dick Gresham I have a couple photos of another Nason box cab. This example is lettered for the Rock Island, which seems appropriate as they had a number of diesel locomotives of unusual designs. This particular model is built up in a way that matches the model in the 1940 Nason catalog (photo here) very closely. Dick commented,

"I think it is all original. It has the same motor as pictured in the Nason Sixth Anniversary Catalog on page eleven. This same motor was used on Nason's gas electric cars. However, the insulated brush holder is missing on my motor. It probably cracked and fell out as this item changed hands several times. The brushes are present because they are soldered to wires. There is a large reversing switch mounted on the underside of the roof. The direction of travel is reversed by rotating the smoke stack slightly." Click on the photos for a larger view.

UPDATE: For photos of two more nicely built examples of this model see this article.

UPDATE II: And for yet another similar model see this article.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Scale-Craft OO at Kemtron; the end of the line

While as noted in the previous post Elliott Donnelley tried to continue with Scale-Craft OO production into the early 1950s, eventually the residual of the line was purchased and marketed by Kemtron starting in 1954. Located in Fresno, CA, Kemtron also produced a great OO GP-7 in brass (introduced in 1953) [and more here] and other items (including a wonderful passenger car truck), so they were an ideal final owner for Scale-Craft.

Page ten of the Kemtron 1st Master Catalog for Craftsmen (1955) reads
Coming Soon the OO Scale-Craft line of model railroad equipment, Kemtron has purchased all the inventory of parts and kits, plus all tooling for the excellant [sic] OO Scale Craft line. We hope later this year to issue a complete catalog on this line for all who are interested. There're [sic] some beautiful items in the line.
I have highlights that I Xeroxed some years back from the Kemtron 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 5th master catalogs. The text above was also in the 2nd catalog (with the same grammatical errors!), and this page at right was included in the 1st, 2nd, and 4th master catalogs (and probably in the 3rd), the exact same page in fact. This image is of my clearest copy which is from the 2nd master catalog. Click on the image for a larger version.

The three cars illustrated are the hopper, tank, and caboose. The text at the top of the page reads "These are the first three cars of the Scale Craft OO scale line to be released by Kemtron. Many more coming soon." By the time this same page appeared yet again in the 4th master catalog these words must have rang pretty hollow.

The real problem I suspect was created by Lionel when they in 1938 introduced models that so closely matched these three models that Scale-Craft had introduced in 1937. By the 1950s there were many of both versons of these models available used very inexpensively. Why buy a new one from Kemtron? They could not possibly have sold well.

Kemtron did market to some extent other items from the Scale-Craft line. I also have a Xerox of a listing from The Electronic and Hobbycraft Stores catalog most likely from 1955. (My Xerox is undated but it has information that goes beyond my dated 1954 copy--see this article for that version, which probably dates to December of 1953). There is a note with the listing which reads "Important Notice: Kemtron now owns Scale-Craft. It will most likely take time to reorganize. Most items in stock - if not, they can be ordered especially for you." It lists in addition to their GP-7 the following Scale-Craft models under the ovearll Kemtron heading:

C&NW Class H 4-8-4
Ten Wheeler 4-6-0
Switcher 0-6-0
Gas-Electric, Baggage-Coach or Baggage-Mail
Multiple Unit, Baggage, Baggage-Coach, or Passenger Coach
OOP-611 Pullman Sleeper
OOP-612 Pullman Observation Lounge
OOP-613 Dining Car
OOP-614 Passenger Coach
OOP-615 Baggage Car
OOP-656 Passenger Coach, Open Vestibule
OOF-601 Stock Car
OOF-602 Flat Car
OOF-603 Tank Car
OOF-604 Caboose
OOF-605 Hopper Car
OOF-607 Refrigerator, 40'
OOF-625 Automobile Car, 50'
OOF-626 Refrigerator Car, 50'
OOF-627 Steel Box Car, 50'
OOF-628 Automobile Car, 40'
OOF-630 Steel Box Car, 40'

A couple of those items are quite rare to the point I wonder if they were produced, in particular the OOF-625 and 626 50' cars and the 628 and 630 40' cars; I have seen many of the 627 50' cars but have yet to see any example of any of the others outside of catalogs and lists. The Kemtron OO list here also includes as well all the types of trucks ever produced by SC and Kemtron. Click on the image for a larger version.

Also notable in this catalog listing are the Monroe Hobby Products diaphragms and also the Bob Peare Engineering #6 switches. There were models on the market to keep an OO gauger busy in 1955.

Back to Kemtron and Scale-Craft, I have been told that a few of these S-C models were sold packaged in Kemtron boxes, but I have never seen this packaging. Can anyone confirm this? Their truck packaging may be seen here, and some Scale-Craft parts were certainly sold in Kemtron packaging. But I am skeptical that the kits were.

The Kemtron OO and TT lines must have seemed like good ideas on paper, cornering part of a significant niche market and all, but overall the OO line in particular could not have been much of a seller for them. By the 1960s they only stocked a few OO parts it has been said that the S-C dies were ultimately destroyed by Kemtron to avoid paying property taxes on them. That was the end of the line for Scale-Craft OO production, although it is also said that an individual still owns a core residual of the line today, unsold inventory and more, several owners later.

For a more complete view of their OO line please be sure to check my general overview of Scale-Craft OO gauge models here.

UPDATE 2012: And Scale-Craft also made O gauge models! They were a major manufacturer. As noted in the first comment to the article (see below), the O gauge side of the Scale-Craft car line was acquired by Thomas Industries; these models were available into the early 1960s. Also Central Locomotive Works acquired the line of locomotives. I was forwarded recently a copy of a letter that was sent to Lewis English dated Feb. 28, 1951, where Elliott Donnelley lays out the transition at that time:
...we have just sold our entire "O" gauge line of model railroad equipment; the car line to the Thomas Industries of Wenonah, N. J., and the locomotives to the Central Locomotive Works, ... Chicago, Illinois.

As far as the "OO" line is concerned, this will be carried on under the Scale-Craft name by Mr. Gunnard Stark of ... Lake Forest, Illinois.
For the full letter and more see this article. From there the residual of the OO line made it out to Kemtron as described above.

A letter from Elliott Donnelley, Father of Scale-Craft OO

Digging in the files last night I found a forgotten treasure, a letter from Elliott Donnelley of Scale-Craft to William Chapin. I got to know Bill Chapin, a long time OO gauger, in the late 1980s when I was a graduate student in Rochester, NY. I was to his house a number of times and he allowed me to borrow and Xerox many catalogs and other materials.

Included in these materials was this letter from Elliott Donnelley dated October 3, 1950 to Chapin. Bill must have written him about the availability of OO. The letterhead is for Scale-Craft & Company (with the added phrase “Not Incorporated”) of Round Lake, Illinois, and lists Elliott Donnelley as president and N. Burton Barr as Vice President. Donnelley (UPDATE: seen at left in this photo from the 1941 Scale-Craft catalog) had sold the firm to Doug Douglass in 1946. Douglass moved operations to California, but a few years later Donnelley purchased the line back. The letter begins,
Dear Mr. Chapin:

For some time I have been intending to write you in regard to our plans. Every time I have started, some new national crisis has arisen. Rumors have run rampart [sic] and I, as a result, have stalled. Now is the time in my opinion to “take the bull by the horns” and make a definite stand.

It has taken me a great deal more time and the all important cash to get the Scale-Craft business back on its feet than I ever dreamt it would. I think if I had foreseen last January all the troubles that we have had, I would have been tempted to dump the whole business in Lake Michigan.
The letter continues that while the Round Lake version of their catalog (the last Scale-Craft catalog) says that they were moving to a mail order business model, they were as of the date of this letter “changing our sales policy to a limited dealer set up.” This was so that customers could inspect merchandise before purchase. After an explanation of how this would work and a discussion of necessary price increases and of the O gauge line he continued,
As for “OO”, the Chicago and North Western 4-8-4 is now in production. The Ten-wheeler 4-6-4 [sic] should be ready about November 1, and will be followed by the 0-6-0 about a month afterwards. We have done some redesigning on both of these locomotives which we hope is for the better. Sometime next spring we plan to have a Hudson 4-6-4 type in “OO” available.
WHOA! That last item is a real news item. Scale-Craft in 1950 was planning to produce a new 4-6-4, presumably similar to their O gauge 4-6-4! Sadly, this was never produced. After discussing shipping problems he closed,
As for our future plans, we have them, but it wouldn’t be wise to say too much about them at this time until I can see what restrictions are going to be imposed on the use of materials and labor.

Thank you for being so patient and not hanging me mentally from the highest tree top.

Sincerely yours,

Elliott Donnelley
As also noted in this this post (which has an interesting, related quote from Nat Polk), Elliott Donnelley (1903-1975) was a son of R. R. Donnelley and was the owner of Scale-Craft, the leading maker of OO gauge models, during the majority of the time the line was in production. Besides model trains, in which he had been active since the early 1930s, Donnelley had a number of interests, this short biography pointing to his activities with Trout Unlimited and also a youth center is named for him. R.R. Donnelley and Sons is still in business and a very major commercial printer to this day.

UPDATE 2011: Also see this longer biography of Elliott Donnelley in the Lake Forest College website. This is the best bio I have seen of Donnelley (link updated 2013) and should be read in full. Donnelley was also interested in live steam models (this photo is linked from their site) and we learn these additional details of the time frame that he produced OO gauge models.
In his early adult and married years he and his spouse, Ann Steinwedell Donnelley (Hardy), lived in various small houses in Lake Forest on Wildwood and Atteridge Roads. In 1934 The Donnelleys built a home, designed by architects Frazier & Raftery, on Ridge Lane in Lake Forest, originally with a train room in the basement. Donnelley's model train set-up later moved to the nearby basement of Lake Forest's City Hall. In 1955 the Frazier firm again designed for the Donnelleys a new International Style home on former J. Ogden Armour estate land on Waukegan Road. (These houses are discussed and illustrated in detail in Walter Frazier..., a 2009 book on the firm's work in the community.) Again, there was a train room and also a shop for his live steam train operation, at full steam Saturdays and for visiting groups.

The personable and very down-to-earth Elliott Donnelley later was vice chairman of the family-led printing firm, R. R. Donnelley & Sons, complementing his more patrician brother, Gaylord, who was chairman, and facilitiating good relations with the company's line employees. His people skills led him to be a leader in various arenas, including as mayor of Lake Forest from 1954 to 1957.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Hawk outside braced boxcar

Not long ago I had a pair of posts on Hawk. Hawk OO is not common, producing four different cars briefly before WWII. On eBay very recently I was however able to spot a couple of the Hawk outside braced boxcars in a large batch of OO that passed through.

Here is one of them! It is as nicely proportioned as I hoped; this is a very good looking car. Compare this model to the instructions, which are posted here, and especially to the photo in the upper left hand corner of the instruction sheet. It is clearly the same car, with paper details where described. The main visible difference in this photo is the builder added some Scale-Craft details (ladders, brake wheel) and trucks.

One thing not obvious from the instructions is both of these cars are built on a wood block, the car body is solid rather than hollow. This car seems to have been offered with bodies constructed both ways.

Looking at the bottom of this first car was a shocker as this car has a Scale-Craft frame! It is from the early version of the flat car, the one with the trucks set too far in from the ends. Why did the builder do this? I am not sure, but they must have had their reasons, and it is a good fit at least.

I actually purchased two of these cars; the other one has the original Hawk frame just like the one in the gondola kit in the photo in this post. The other car is actually only decaled on one side, and both need various touch up work. I will likely re-work both soon and may re-install a Hawk frame on the car in this post, I have several extra frames. This is a great car, one to keep your eyes peeled for.

UPDATE: I did install a Hawk frame to this car and also see this post for more on the other version of this car. And, again, so far as I can tell Hawk sold this car either with a solid block body or with a body built up from smaller parts (sides/roof/ends/floor).