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

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A roller bearing truck for OO

Today I attended the annual "Turkey Meet," the main Phoenix area TCA event. I saw one OO gauge item (only!), a Lionel 003T tender missing two wheelsets for $75 that I did not purchase. But I did spot one item new to me, a roller bearing truck convertible to OO.

This truck was sold originally with cars in a Tyco HO train set. I have modified a number of the similar Bettendorf version of this truck for OO but have not before noted this version, roller bearing, perfect for more modern cars.

In this post I describe the process to do this conversion. The idea is that the sideframes are heavy and can be trimmed enough on the inside so that OO gauge wheelsets will fit. The process will only work with certain HO trucks; standard Athearn trucks for example won't work, the sideframes are not heavy ("thick") enough to be re-worked in this manner. Normally I have used Athearn 36" wheelsets on their original axles, widened out to OO.

I will modify these Tyco trucks soon, I now have three pair of these on three cars that only cost me $1 each. Not bad!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Metal side heavyweights

Two lines offered standard, heavyweight passenger equipment in OO that had metal sides but were generally similar to the pressed cardboard sides seen in the offerings in the previous post by J-C Models, Famoco, Graceline, and Transportation Models.

Following up on their first heavyweight cars that are sand-cast aluminum (see this post for more information) the Nason "Eazy-Bilt" passenger kits were introduced in 1936. The line included:

Coach, PRR P-70
Combine, PRR PB-70
Diner, PRR
Postal, PRR
Pullman, 12 section

As seen in the example in the photos (a Pullman, unfortunately on S-C 4 wheel trucks) and the loose sides (coach) and underside of the Pullman, the sides are brass with a mixture of sand cast, die cast, and turned brass details, including sand cast aluminum ends with die cast vestibules. A Gas-Electric of similar construction details was also produced of a B&O design as a coach, coach-baggage, and coach-baggage-mail.

The first passenger cars produced by Scale-Craft were die cast, the coach and baggage car, and were introduced in 1937. These cars could be built either with an arch roof that was die cast or with a standard monitor roof made from wood. These cars were followed in 1940 by these models with stamped metal sides:

Pullman sleeper

These cars, like the Nason cars, present an interesting combination of materials. The frame is sand-cast aluminum, there are a variety of die cast and formed parts, and the sides are stamped metal. The metal I would describe either as tinplate or steel, at least for any car I have ever seen. They contrast with the die cast cars easily as they lack rivet details. In the photos we have a pair of the Pullman sleepers showing the sides and bottom details and also a late version of the observation kit. Click on the photo for a larger version.

They also introduced a very similar Gas-Electric car (coach/baggage or baggage/mail) in 1941 and packaged the die cast cars a variety of ways (the MU coach and baggage being particularly notable, introduced in 1950).

The final point to note is that the S-C coach and baggage were the only two body dies ever produced for die cast American OO passenger cars. These cars can be rebuilt easily today and look great. The last photo is of a pair of these that I rebuilt some years ago. The coach windows were modified by a prior owner; the detail level rivals that of HO plastic models of today.

Paper side heavyweights

There were four makers that produced American OO heavyweight passenger cars with paper sides.

In our first photo we have three of the brands represented. The top car is a J-C Models Pullman on Scale-Craft trucks, in the middle is a Graceline diner, and at the bottom a Famoco combine on Scale-Craft trucks.

A first key point is if it is a model other than a baggage, coach, combine, or Pullman it is either Graceline or their successor Transportation Models, as J-C and Famoco only made the four standard cars.

Looking at the next photo of the car bottoms gives us more to go on. The Graceline car in the middle has a heavy, die cast frame and die cast details. The Famoco car on the bottom has a wood frame but with die cast side members and details. The J-C car is all wood. But this particular one (you can’t easily see it in the photo) was built with Selley bolsters and Scale-Craft brass steps.

This is what can make these somewhat hard to ID. Reality was that these were cars built by model railroaders for use on a layout so they may not match the stock version. I have for example a Famoco (I think) Pullman that has a Nason sand cast frame (or is it a J-C car with Nason and Famoco parts?), and most J-C cars I have ever seen have picked up at least a few parts by other makers.

Finally we have the ends. Famoco cars used wood and paper parts that are absolutely identical to those of J-C but they had metal details and die cast ends, shown in the photo. The Gracelilne car also has die cast ends, but the J-C ends are pressed paper with wood. Built up well these can look quite good.

I don’t have a good example of Transportation Models to compare with and none of their passenger car instruction sheets either. My so-so example (see this post) has wood frame details and paper ends. If you have a better example I would love to hear from you.

UPDATE: For information on American OO heavyweight passenger cars with metal sides see this post.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

J-C Models 101

One type of American OO gauge passenger car that are seen pretty often today are those produced by J-C Models.

Introduced in 1939, J-C Models (also known as jc models, as shown on these kit box ends) of Brooklyn, NY marketed a line of OO heavyweight passenger cars until ca. 1948. These cars had no metal parts, consisting of card sides, wood roof, floor, and details. Models produced were:
This car below is their Pullman, put together nicely, with a set of sides for comparison--click on the photo for a larger version.

The sides are an interesting material. Painted well the detail matches that of modern plastic models, but it is a die cut cardboard material. In a note years ago Temple Nieter described it to me as follows:
Paper is “wood flong,” stenotype matrix sheet; it is pressed by the die (for this) or by type/cut form for printers. Ask a newspaper older-timer about it.
The last photo is of a pair of kits. These are complete but were started by someone long before me. The sides are painted. They give a good sense of what the kits are like.

One problem with many of the cars that are around today is the sides have warped. There really is no fix for this, as there was no provision to remove the roof or sides. Some years back I built a string of these for a friend, the only custom building I have ever done. For those I did work out a way to make the roof removable; it involved reinforcing the sides with wood strips.

One reason why there are a lot of these around is because these were available all through World War II. There were no critical war materials used in their construction (they were sold less trucks and are all wood and card) so the supply of this kit was uninterrupted.

J-C produced a line of very similar cars in O gauge and in HO, this ad for all three running in October of 1947. In fact, this HO instruction on the HO Seeker site is exactly the same as the OO version I have, just with the words HO instead of OO. More of their HO instruction sheets may be found here, including information on their new, post-war line of “Silver Sides” HO passenger car kits. These were introduced in 1948 and were never produced in OO.

Built up examples of these cars can be tricky to ID as modelers added metal parts to the kits, Famoco used exactly the same sides and major wood parts, and the Graceline/Transportation Models sides are generally similar -- except that Graceline cars have cast doors.

These are Classic OO models that while once common, probably are not so common today. Good examples are worth keeping your eyes peeled for.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Mantua OO Turnouts

Dick G. recently sent this photo of a mint pair of pre-war Mantua OO turnouts.

I have a bunch of these but they came to me in a lot purchase and are not in great shape, they all saw layout use and have warped ties. These from Dick on the other hand look great. Click on the photo for a larger version.

The ties are an interesting material that looks like plastic if it is in good shape but is not. In the Mantua catalog they called the material "heavy black fibre." It is a thin, pressed fiberboard that appears to have been coated with a clear or perhaps tinted black lacquer. The rails are attached with clips and glue to the fiber tie stock.

In this photo the fiber strip is easier to see, as it is in a turnout that has deteriorated a bit. Also very visible is the code 100 brass HO rail. It is a no. 6 turnout.

My layout was built with code 100 rail and number 4 frogs but I worked up my own tie template and did not really hit it right, the turnouts never worked that well (I should have Xeroxed a HO turnout and blew it up to OO gauge for a template, but did not think of that at the time). After getting these Mantua turnouts I realized that I could use the rails and re-lay my turnouts into a better geometry. Due to a quirk of the design of the Mantua turnout the throw arm for the points fit perfectly the way I had laid my ties. This turnout is actually re-laid on one of my very first turnouts that dates back to 1978! Finally I have reliable turnouts! The brass rail requires more cleaning but these are good turnouts worthy of re-use all these years later.

Tri-Ang streamliners

In the post on the Fleischmann FA’s I noted also that a colleague who collects HO felt that the Tri-Ang streamlined passenger cars were a good match for the FA and were over scale for HO.

The Tri-Ang American prototype streamlined cars were part of their transcontinental series of cars, and were also sold in the United States boxed as AT&T and Model Power products. In the photos I have included two other cars for comparison, a Schorr RDC that is full scale for OO and an Athearn HO streamlined baggage that is on the money for HO. In the first photo the comparison is pretty clear, from the side the Tri-Ang car is between HO and OO. In the second photo (008) it is clear as well that the Tri-Ang car matches the FA well. In length the cars are short, being roughly 72 foot in HO so they would be roughly 60’ “shorties” in OO, but on something like tight Lionel curves that would actually be a plus. I will let Bob O. describe them further.

Tri-Ang did two series of passenger cars, 1st and 2nd. The "Transcontinental" name comes from the fact that the second series were sold in differently colored sets with only the word "Transcontinental" in the letterboard.

Series 1 was the baggage, coach, dome coach, diner (actually a coach with a different interior), and round-end obs with the viewing bubble at the tail. These cars generally resemble Pullman-Standard cars, except for the tail car, which is taken from the one-of-a-kind tail car of Milwaukee Road's Olympian Hiawatha. They were sold in silver/gray, silver with a red window stripe, solid blue, & blue with a gray roof. The ones I've seen have "Tri-Ang Railways" in the letterboard, but some made for the Australian market had "TransAustralia" or "Southern Aurora" in the letterboard. I don't think these cars ever had the word "Transcontinental" on them, but for some reason people seem to call both sets "Transcontinental" cars. Go figure.

Series 2 was the baggage/dorm, coach, diner (coach with a different interior), and dome observation (i.e., with the viewing bubble in the roof, not the tail, and a boat-tail rounded end). These cars were all modeled after Budd cars of the Canadian Pacific. They even have a raised shield-shaped molding next to the door, to hold the beaver herald that CP mounted on the cars.

These cars were sold in many liveries. One group is lettered only "Transcontinental." These were sold in silver with a red window stripe, silver with a red letterboard, blue with a gray roof, and two-tone green. All these sets have only "Transcontinental" in the letterboard.

The same models were sold in the 1950s Canadian Pacific livery (silver with a tuscan letterboard and yellow lettering), the 1970s CP Rail livery (silver, red letterboard with the "PacMan" CP herald), the CN "new image" livery (silver, black window stripe with the "wet noodle" CN), and at least 3 sets of "TransAustralia" livery.

The second-series cars were imported into the US by American Train & Track, and when AT&T went out of business, Model Power acquired the remaining stock and reboxed them. You can find them in either box. The American versions had X2f couplers, instead of the British-style wide loops, and came in Santa Fe (silver), Burlington (silver), Pennsylvania (silver with tuscan letterboard and yellow lettering), and B&O (silver with blue letterboard and yellow lettering).

Tri-Ang also produced an RDC-2 (the RDC that combined a baggage compartment and passenger compartment), in both powered and dummy versions. This car also came in versions lettered "Trancontinental" and "TransAustralia," but the more common versions are the ones for the North American market. These were the silver/black/red Canadian National and in the U.S. (AT&T again) the Santa Fe, Northern Pacific, Cheasapeake & Ohio, and Reading. The American RDC's are all silver; C&O has blue lettering, the others black. The CN car is silver, black windowband, red ends.

Any of these things in excellent or better condition, especially with the original packaging, will command a decent price among collectors.

For more information on Fleischmann Bob suggests and for Tri-Ang he suggests, where there are a number of photos of these models. Thank you again Bob for this great information.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Fleischmann Alco FA

A German toy company with a history dating to 1887, Fleischmann entered the HO gauge model railroad field in 1952.

According to the outline of Fleischmann history in the website, their early HO products were in a scale of 1/82 instead of 1/87. Most notable to us in American OO was this American prototype Alco FA, which is clearly overscale for HO.

The model is of an Alco FA-2. The prototype was introduced in 1950. The first advertisement I located for the Fleischmann version is on the inside rear cover of the September, 1957, issue of Model Railroader, selling for $14.95 ready-to-run. It is all metal; in this advertisement the model is listed as being available for Union Pacific or New Haven, and it was also available for the Santa Fe.

This model has been converted more than once to use in American OO. Thanks to a colleague I was able borrow the stock version of one of these models and also the F-7 (plastic body) that replaced the FA in the Fleischmann product line for comparison. The photos tell most of the story, click on them for larger views.

First, compare a top view of the Fleischmann units with that of a Schorr F-3 and a M. P. Davis E-7. The FA is close to proper width and length for OO. The FA body should be about a foot and a half longer than the F-3. It is not full length for OO, but is certainly closer to the length of the OO model than the HO model.

So while the length is close, from the front it is easy to tell that the FA is short, HO height instead of OO. But it is again wide enough to pass for OO, if just a little narrow.

Finally, in profile below, we can see yet again that the model is a handsome one, overall about half way between HO and OO and in reality something close to 1/82 scale. This unit in good shape is a very collectible HO item, so I will be on the lookout for a junker. My thought is that the body rebuild would need to include a new pilot and also an extension on the bottom of the sides. Looks like an interesting project, I do like early Alco diesels.

UPDATE: My colleague (thank you Bob O.) pointed out a couple more points very worth mention. First, "I’ve seen models on Ebay that have been custom-painted for other railroads (e.g., New York Central), but the only factory paint jobs are UP, NH, and ATSF. Curiously, no matter which railroad is modeled, the engines always have the same road number: the powered unit is always 1341 and the dummy 1342, which are the Fleischmann item numbers." He clarified that the FA was always in metal and the F-7 that replaced it was always plastic (and sold for less). Finally, there are passenger cars that look to match the scaling of the Fleischmann FA that I will investigate further. "The Tri-Ang American-prototype streamliners are all just a little too wide and a little too tall to be standard American HO (1:87). I’m not sure that they are 1:82, but I suspect that they are because they look “right” behind the Fleischmann FA. Fleischmann’s own metal passenger cars (UP and NH) seem to be 1:87, but since they are European prototypes, I can’t be sure that they are not just low-profile 1:82 cars. The plastic Hi-Level cars that Fleischmann sold to accompany the Santa Fe engine are 1:87—at least they look right with 1:87 engines and a little undersized with the 1:82 Alco FA."

UPDATE II. This photo includes the passenger cars that were companion pieces to the three versions of this locomotive. The ATSF version is in plastic and is clearly HO. The NH and UP cars are rather curious looking to the modern model railroader as they are I believe 1:82 scale versions of European prototype cars but painted for American prototypes. They are in metal and in size match similar American cars in HO as the prototypes would have been smaller cars.

UPDATE III. I converted two of these models to OO operation, seen in this article.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fixen and Early Nason

One of the first suppliers of OO gauge was The Fixen Line of Richmond Hill, NY. Ed Morlok some years back gave me a copy of their price sheet. It is three pages long with pages dated 12/1/34, 12/5/34, and 12/19/34, and they state that they are “agents for Nason Railways.”

The first page notes to “make all checks, money orders, etc., payable to E Fickeissen” and later notes make all checks payable to E. Fickeisson or H. Goret. The page presented here is the first page; click on it for a larger view.

Within the price sheets they are not always clear who the maker is of the listed item. Certainly the first listed item is Nason, the P5A model. These were not cheap! The “Craftsman Kit” was $32 and was only rough castings, a “Workbench Kit” was $37 where at least the wheels were machined and finished, a “Simplified Construction” kit ready for assembly was $62, and a completed locomotive would cost you $75! Makes those eBay prices today sound pretty good.

For passenger equipment they had the original Nason sand cast passenger cars; the Pullman, coach, coach-baggage, and express. At the bottom of this page they also list “blueprints.” This caught my attention as I have was told by Ed Morlok that Fixen acquired the Thuillgrim toolings but did not develop the line, and the original product advertised by Thuillgrim partner Harry Thuillez was blueprints for the PRR D76B dining car back in 1930. Alas, the blueprints in the Fixen listing seem to just be the instructions for the Nason models.

The last page features “small lifelike figures of American types correctly made for OO gauge.” These would seem to be of their own manufacture. The full list was:

X-1 Engineer or fireman, standing
X-2 Engineer or fireman, walking
X-3 Laborer or switchman, standing
X-4 Laborer or switchman, walking
X-5 Conductor, standing
X-6 Conductor, walking
X-7 Pullman porter, standing
X-8 Pullman porter, walking
X-9 Red cap, standing
X-10 Red cap, walking
X-11 Red cap, standing
X-12 Red cap, walking
X-13 Man in business suit, standing
X-14 Man in business suit, walking
X-15 Woman, standing, short coat
X-16 Woman, standing, long coat
X-17 Whistle posts

Fixen advertised intermittently in Model Craftsman and Model Railroader between 1934 and 36. I don’t have a complete magazine collection in that era but the figures seem to be one of the principal products mentioned in the advertisements I have access to. The Fixen Line did not last long but was an interesting early advocate of OO gauge and another element of the early, New York based American OO scene.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"... showed some promise in the late 1930s"

Train collectors today are often only vaguely aware of American OO. Why is this?

Besides not being seen often at shows it also is rarely mentioned in the hobby press. I recently noted an article in the Classic Toy Trains magazine website on "The difference between gauge and scale." It is a reprint of a section of the book Beginner's Guide to Toy Train Collecting and Operating by John A. Grams. Way down the page, toward, the bottom of the article, OO gets mentioned as follows:
OO (1:76) showed some promise in the late 1930s.
And that is it! Does it show promise today? If you are a regular reader of this site I believe you also feel that American OO has promise. It is an interesting size with an interesting history, with some big production by makers like Lionel, such as illustrated above. It is up to all of us to do what we can to get the word out.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More on Mantua OO

A site I enjoy poking around in is the HOSeeker site, which is chock full of old instruction sheets and catalogs. A number of firms featured in the site produced HO and OO models. One of those was Mantua.

From this page you may access a number of Mantua Catalogs. In my collection I only had the OO highlights of the 1942 catalog, but in the HOSeeker site you may view the full 1940, 41, 42, and 47 catalogs and many more.

Mantua as of 1940 only sold the OO track. In 1941 they introduced the Belle of the Eighties, and in a footnote on the page featured here note that it was available also in OO. I have seen this model in OO in the collection of Bill Chapin with a pair of their old-time passenger cars, first seen in the 1947 catalog. By 1947 however only HO items are in the Mantua catalog.

What happened was the old time cars were introduced late in 1941. An advertisement from September of 1941 may be seen in this article, showing the cars as available in HO and in OO. The 4-4-0 model itself is exactly the same as the HO version, just re gauged for OO, and the cars must be the same story..

The catalogs also cleared up for me that the 8-ball Mogul was never marketed in OO--I was told at some point that it might have been, but this is not the case. In short, Mantua OO was only available before World War II, and production was limited to the Belle of the Eighties, the three old time passenger cars (the combine being introduced in January of 1942), and the track.

My general overview of Mantua OO may be found here.

Updated 2012

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Page Scale Models

In my recent post on car sides I mentioned there were several other makers that produced OO gauge cars with printed sides besides the more commonly seen sides/models of Champion, Eastern, Famoco, Nason, and Scale-Rail.

UPDATED 2011: Initially, all the info I had on the Page Model Company (Page Scale Models) of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ, was contained on this instruction sheet. Bill Chapin had this sheet (only) and allowed me to Xerox it some years back. Click on it for a larger version.

From it we can glean the details that the body must have been a solid wood block and that printed car sides and ends were glued on.

While I was always pretty sure it was a pre-war firm, after years of looking, in 2011 I finally tracked down a Page advertisement in the December, 1938 issue of The Model Craftsman. That ad may be seen in this article.

Also I was able to examine photos from Dick Gresham of a pair of Page kits that were sold on eBay. Comparing these cars to the kit shown in this photo was interesting. I had thought that this kit was by Nason (it was sold to me as such, but without instructions). Actually, it is Page. But read on.

What is especially confusing is the sides are identical to those of the Eazy-Bilt cars of Nason, which Nason had added into their line by late 1935. The box in the photo is actually marked Page Model Company under the pasted on label that shows it is a Erie boxcar kit. The Page marking seems to have been intentionally pasted over, later. I think this kit was actually sold as Nason back in the day, after they quit trying to market these as Page.

Page really did not last long. My guess as of now is it was a brief attempt to put out a lower cost version of the Nason cars [see comment #4, below], but it did not work out and Nason sold what residual stock was left from the attempt, such as this kit.

Be watching for another update or article on this--I don't believe this relationship has been noted previously, and there are certainly variations in details of the Eazy-Bilt cars as well to note in more depth. (The built up car in this photo and more details on the Nason Eazy-Bilt boxcar kits may be found in this post).

UPDATE 2013: And welcome to the Train Collectors Quarterly readers who did a Google search for the Page Model Company and found this article after seeing the Page 00 gauge cars in Part 122 of the "Who Done It?" series, published in their January, 2013 issue. As a text search this article is presently on the fifth page of results, but as an image search the instruction sheet here is right at the top! See this new article for more photos and information on the Page Model Company.