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

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.

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