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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lionel and the Scale Market

Over the holidays I have been looking at a few back issues and was reading an article on Lionel for 1955 in the January, 1989 issue of The Train Collectors Quarterly. The focus is on their advertising but in the section of conclusions the author Max Knoecklein presents an interesting theory about why Lionel was not able to adjust to a more scale oriented market after the war. The theory involves their experience with scale trains in the pre-war period, which would include of course the OO gauge line. He noted
By the mid 1950’s … prepackaged “H0 train sets” accounted for 50% of the “ready-to-run” train sales at hobby shops and threatened to take even more. A contemporary market survey revealed buyers to be favoring “H0” because it appeared to be more realistic, and appealed to their concepts of “crafts” and “modeling”. Tinplate, on the other hand, seemed toy-like to these shoppers, and was therefore no longer acceptable. At Lionel the reaction to such talk went something like this: “Our business is toy trains, and there will always be a market for them. We became involved with scale models before the war, and nearly lost our shirt in that venture. We have no intention of making that mistake a second time!” Sound familiar? In 1955 the idea of far-reaching changes to satisfy a real or imagined quest for realism was unthinkable.
It is hard to imagine that Lionel made much money on the OO line (more on the launch of the line here), and they obviously dropped it after the war.

My brother has a small collection of pre-war Lionel O gauge and it always blows my mind a bit when I visit him to see what they were making right before the scale line was introduced. The post-war O gauge line is more scale in character but not as cutting edge as the scale line was before the war. It is interesting to ponder what they could have done if they had a better handle on where the market was heading and angled the OO line toward the market that HO train sets were cornering.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Santa Claus OO Special: Blow-Smoke, Part VI

Scale-Craft continued publication of their Blow-Smoke newsletter with Volume 2, No. 2 for the Fall of 1939. In his opening editorial Elliott Donnelley pushed their new line of structure kits, writing,
On a trip west recently, I found something that I’ve been looking for ever since I took over American Model Engineers, Inc., back in 1936. It’s a good set of model buildings that are, first, authentic in design; second, easy to build and third, low in price.
These kits were produced by Maxwell Hobby Shops of Oakland, CA, in wood. The line included in O and what Maxwell called HO/OO an old grist mill and water wheel, switch tower and tool shed, express office, freight and passenger station, Q P bar, roundhouse (brick, 4 stall, with turntable), log cabin, old Dutch windmill, freight sheds (SP), rural station, Otis trading post, pioneer store, school house, gold nugget dance hall (2 story, brick), modern store, cottage, barn, church, mine. These I mentioned in this prior post as well.

Personally I think the really interesting items are the train sets, presented in this issue of Blow-Smoke with these photos. I described these sets in this prior post which remains one of the more popular pages on the site. Introduced in 1937, these sets have to be among the rarest things ever marketed in American OO; I know of no complete sets in the master carton as seen in the photos reproduced here (which are pre-photoshop creations, both combining two differently scaled views of the sets). They described them as follows:
The SCALE CRAFT “Santa Claus Special” “OO” two-rail train sets will prove exceedingly interesting not only to the novice but to the model railroader who wants additional equipment at bargain prices. The Passenger train set, illustrated above, consists of a complete locomotive kit, a baggage car kit and two passenger car kits. The freight set below consists of kits for the locomotive, a box car, a hopper car, a tank car and caboose. In addition, each set includes sixteen sections of assembled curved track and four sections of assembled straight track, forming an oval of 52” x 72”. The locomotives are powered with a 12 volt Universal motor. You may have your choice of any one of our three following locomotives; K20 ten-wheeler, K1571 Atlantic or K1585 4-6-4 tank. These are illustrated in our general catalog on pages 58 and 59. Furthermore, you may have your choice of any of the decalcomanias listed. The kits consist of die cast parts which will insure complete detail and which are entirely drilled, machined and ready to assemble. Also, the necessary paint and decalcomanias are included.

Special Price--$29.95 per set
$41.55 Completely Assembled
Order now so you won’t be disappointed!
One other note from this issue, Elliott Donnelley offered a price warning.
As you doubtless know, the European war has skyrocketed metal prices and other material costs which in our case has caused increases of costs of supplies as high as 60% in some instances. In addition, labor costs have risen and taxes, too, are higher….

Therefore, on January 1st, 1940, we will announce a new price schedule which will show increases in many of our prices, but I assure you every increase will be kept as small as practical under existing conditions. I am making this announcement now so that everyone who is contemplating purchasing any equipment will have time to act before the price increases go into effect.
Happy today would be the OO gauge collector to find a factory assembled Scale-Craft train set in the original box under the Christmas tree! Be sure to click on the photos for a closer view of these important early American OO products. [Updated 2012].

Continue in Blow-Smoke series

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Post-War Kit

A post from almost two years ago over at the Old Model Kits Blog from January 2008 on The HO Scale Model Railroading Revolution of the 1940s gets at another part of what led to the demise of American OO. Besides Lionel not returning to the OO market, much of what else was available were basically pre-war style kits. Outside of a few new locomotive kits (Super Scale, Kemtron) just about the only really new kit item in OO were the Zuhr streamliners.

To open, they note on model railroading in general that
By the mid 1930s, the ingredients were in place to move this hobby to the foreground. Model railroading did not need injection molding; it just needed inexpensive mass production techniques for stamping, casting and printing as well as an advertising and distribution network….

Around 1935, some pioneers started making and marketing railroad kits. Since the real trains were made from metal and wood, the kits were also. Injection molding, the basis of the modeling hobby today, simply was not required. Small details were cast metal or punched from sheet steel. At first, they duplicated the tin plate scales as this was the closest thing to a ‘standard’. These kits could build into impressive and realistic scale models, but the initial market reception was cool. No serious scratch builder would want to buy a kit! The fact that it would not run on his layout was yet another issue. But people without the time or talent for scratch building saw the kits and began to build them. A slow but steady growth curve was established for kit sales and the manufactures noticed.

After World War II, factories turn their output back to the expected demand in consumer goods. Kit production, which occurred during wartime with non-strategic resources (wood, cardboard, etc) resumed but with better materials. Manufactures attempted to standardize scales with O, OO, TT, HO, and S being the most visible. The post-war kits had several improvements over the ones from the 1930s. Borrowing from the tin plate manufactures, they lithographed the metal sides with correct colors and decoration. This almost eliminated painting, and a similar process was used for wooden sides. The wooden sides were pre-grooved, windows were cut, celestory roofs pre-carved, and numerous detail parts were added such as window frames, brake and vents. Some details appeared in low-cost but attractive plastic. The American middle class, long tired of war, returned to normal jobs and their lives. Model railroading was now available to anyone and the hobby grew dramatically. During many years it was impossible to fill demand for the most popular kits.
I suspect there never was such a demand for any post-war OO model that the demand could not be filled. HO had won the battle of the gauges; many modelers moved on, with most of the people who stuck it out in OO being “OOldtimers” who got into the gauge before WWII.

One of the models featured in their post are the HO scale J-C models silversides kits; I have linked the big photo from their site. These were never produced in OO. Pre-War J-C kits still build up into fine models but it is interesting to ponder the “what if” of what an upgraded, post-war version of their OO line would have looked like.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Cars, Trucks, and a Bus by IHC

While now out of production for a few years, one scenic item on the layout that I have enjoyed are a series of cars and trucks once sold by International Hobby Corp. They were marketed for HO but, as their ad copy implied at the time, they are somewhat over scale for HO (“Will look great on HO layouts”). I am not sure if they are exactly 1/76 but they are close and work great in OO.

This first photo is of a 1949 Ford Woody Wagon, a 1955 Chevrolet Step-Side Pick-up, and a 1955 Ford Thunderbird. These all have “pull-back” motors, i.e., if you pull them back they will go forward like toys but they are not too noticeable. They offered also a 1957 Chevrolet Corvette and several other cars too modern for the era of my layout such as a Dodge Viper and a 1964 Ford Mustang. They advertised with multi page advertisements in Model Railroader for some years, and the complete list of these cars may be found in for example the March, 2003 issue. I have three of the Step-Side Chevrolet trucks as they really suit the small town Kansas theme of the layout and my grandparents owned one.

The second photo is of other models they also sold that also seem to be somewhat over scale for HO, including this Pepsi truck, the Peterbilt stake-side truck, and a 1940s bus. The bus is the only plastic model in the group, all the rest are die-cast in metal.

I took a look on eBay and found a couple of these models for sale. I really should pick up a Corvette if I see one and perhaps a Mustang, but for the size of my layout I probably have about enough cars and trucks to do the job.

Related to that, I should also mention that the scenery items on any layout don’t all have to be to scale. To force perspective a little I also have an S scale car and truck that are set right at the front of the layout and a couple HO models that are put to the back.

UPDATE: For a nice 40 Ford see this article.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sand Casting 101, and the Ultimate (Schorr) F-3

I have seen eBay listings where the sellers seemed to think if it was cast it was die cast. Actually, a number of the more desirable non-Lionel OO items are actually sand cast in either bronze or aluminum.

This Ultimate F-3A (originally produced by Fred Schorr, introduced in 1949) will serve as a good example and is actually part of what could have been the last run made of any OO scale model in sand castings in the late 1960s; a brief history of their production is laid out in this previous post, which included in particular the best OO wheelsets ever! A set of their F-3 castings are laid out in this photo (the most commonly seen model of their production, besides the wheelsets), and note especially the extra “sprue” material on the bottom of the locomotive shell.

This gets at how the parts were made, as sand castings. The ever useful Wikipedia has a good, brief overview of the process, which begins as follows:
There are two main types of sand used for molding. Green sand is a mixture of silica sand, clay, moisture and other additives. The air set method uses dry sand bonded to materials other than clay, using a fast curing adhesive. The latter may also be referred to as no bake mold casting. When these are used, they are collectively called "air set" sand castings to distinguish these from "green sand" castings. Two types of molding sand are natural bonded (bank sand) and synthetic (lake sand), which is generally preferred due to its more consistent composition.

With both methods, the sand mixture is packed around a master pattern forming a mold cavity. If necessary, a temporary plug is placed to form a channel for pouring the fluid to be cast. Air-set molds often form a two-part mold having a top and bottom, termed cope and drag. The sand mixture is tamped down as it is added, and the final mold assembly is sometimes vibrated to compact the sand and fill any unwanted voids in the mold. Then the pattern is removed with the channel plug, leaving the mold cavity. The casting liquid (typically molten metal) is then poured into the mold cavity. After the metal has solidified and cooled, the casting is separated from the sand mold. There is typically no mold release agent, and the mold is generally destroyed in the removal process.

The accuracy of the casting is limited by the type of sand and the molding process. Sand castings made from coarse green sand impart a rough texture on the surface of the casting, and this makes them easy to identify. Air-set molds can produce castings with much smoother surfaces. Surfaces can also be ground and polished, for example when making a large bell. After molding, the casting is covered in a residue of oxides, silicates and other compounds. This residue can be removed by various means, such as grinding, or shot blasting.

During casting, some of the components of the sand mixture are lost in the thermal casting process. Green sand can be reused after adjusting its composition to replenish the lost moisture and additives. The pattern itself can be reused indefinitely to produce new sand molds. The sand molding process has been used for many centuries to produce castings manually. Since 1950, partially-automated casting processes have been developed for production lines.
Early OO manufacturers such as Nason and Adams basically scaled down O scale techniques of the day and made OO parts; Adams for example actually appears to have developed the original patterns for the Scale-Craft O gauge SP 4-6-2 as well as their OO gauge version, and he describes his trials in this article. And after the war M. P. Davis had a large line of sand-cast OO models as well (described here, with more links).

For those seriously interested in the methods used, Red Adams also provides a lot of practical information in two later articles. The first is in the January, 1940 issue of The Model Craftsman on the topic of casting a boiler, and the second is a two part series in the November and December, 1941 issues of The Model Craftsman on making from scratch a modern diesel locomotive by sand casting the body. This photo is from the November, 1941 article and shows the patterns and core boxes for an E unit locomotive, using the same methods used by Schorr for their model. The finished model may be seen in this article.

Returning to the F-3 model featured in this article, this last photo shows the top of the model in both the original Schorr version and the later Ultimate version, which are easy to tell apart as on the underside the word Ultimate is cast right in. The Ultimate version is actually just a bit cleaner than the original and also note that the bronze itself is of a slightly different quality.

And they are heavy! This is part of the charm of American OO. Have to love those classic sand cast models.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Walthers and Scale Craft on Rectifiers

One topic I have touched on a couple times is that of rectifiers. The photo below is of a vintage Nason motor with a vintage rectifier mounted on it. Click on the photo for a close up.

I was doing some cleaning recently and found my copy of Handbook for Model Railroaders, 2nd edition, by W. K. Walthers. It was published in 1939 and has text that is extremely relevant to understanding not only this device but also later electronic versions that are sometimes seen on OO models, as the vast majority of OO gaugers active and building layouts after WWII operated their OO models by Direct Current. Walthers explains,
The most satisfactory type of commercial rectifier is one which uses copper oxide as an electrolyte for rectification. These rectifiers are built up of copper wafers which have a layer of copper oxide baked on one face. Such a combination offers a low resistance path between copper and oxide and a high resistance path from oxide to copper. Hence, current will pass only in one direction (the leakage current is so low as to be negligible).

These treated copper disks are stacked together on insulated bolts. Since each disk has a certain carrying capacity and permissible voltage drop, the number of disks in a stack will depend on the voltage required and the number of stacks connected in parallel on the current needed. The arrangement of disks is similar to batteries connected in series multiple. Leads are attached to the disks for A. C. and D. C. connections. The A. C. will flow only one way through the disk and so we obtain a pulsating current equal to the cycles of A. C. applied.
There is a bit more in this section but how this is useful to the OO gauger of the time comes up a couple pages later, after the discussion of motors.
In the smaller gauges, especially HO, D. C. power is nearly universal and is used with permanent magnet motors which reverse or changing direction of the power supply, no relays being needed. Bridge rectifiers are also used with ordinary O gauge series wound motors to give the same ease and simplicity of control.
In a more modern, toy train context the relays he speaks for A. C. would be an E-unit reverser.

When OO was developed essentially it was designed to a point around the smallest O scale motors then available, so initially most operators were running them on A. C. But D. C. operation really simplifies things and was the type of operation initially offered by Scale-Craft in their earliest production run of their 4-6-0. But recognizing market forces they had to back up and offer their Universal motor with options to wire it for manual reverse for A. C. or a rectifier for automatic reversing on D. C.

This was touched on in a prior post but to review, by 1941 Scale-Craft also marketed a bridge rectifier. This wiring diagram for the “reversing rectifier” is presented on page 91 of the catalog, and the catalog description states
The use of the bridge rectifier for polarity reserving with direct current is the latest development in remote control practice. It is trouble proof, simple, and cheap to install. These little rectifying units are placed between the motor field and line; they preserve a constant direction of field current, regardless of line reversals. The result is, that a line reversal reverses the motor—the same as with a permanent magnet outfit. It must be remembered, however, that the bridge rectifier cannot be used with alternating current. It is made for direct current only, and will be burned out in a few moments if used with an alternating current.
Time moved on. Bill Chapin showed me several models he had modified to use a modern electronic rectifier from Radio Shack that ran great with the original Scale-Craft motor. It is something I have struggled with actually a bit periodically. It would simplify for example the 0-6-0 rebuild I have mentioned in a couple posts to use the original motor, but it is attractive as well to just install a new D. C. motor for improved operation.

In any event, if you see a stack rectifier on a locomotive it is set up for D. C. operation and if you see something electronic hooked up to a vintage motor it probably also is a rectifier for D. C. operation, not an E-unit A. C. reverser.

UPDATE: See this article for more on how to upgrade a Scale-Craft Universal motor for DC operation with a modern rectifier.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Three More American OO Tank Cars

I finally finished the last three tank cars of the “tank car project” from late summer.

First we have this pair of Orient tank cars. The one on the left is Scale-Craft and the one on the right Lionel but built up from parts, the dome top being from a HO car. They came out nicely I think, and it gave me a good chance to use the Microscale Orient tank car decals I have been using on many types of cars and locomotives on a couple tank cars. Also I like the pairing, S-C and Lionel, the same car but not the same.

The older time car in the second photo has more of a story that I have related in part previously. This body was sent me by Bill Johann back in 1995. He had seen an article on early ACF tank cars produced 1907-12 in the November, 1994 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, and noted that this HO body that he had on hand was actually about right for this car in OO. He enclosed with it a Xerox of the article with plans blown up to OO and a Selley frame.

I think what really caught his eye is one of the photos in the article shows an Orient tank car of this model in service. The Kansas City, Mexico, and Orient merged into the ATSF in 1928, but I model it as though it lasted into the late 50s at least and that it had a proper eastern terminus in Kansas City (in the United States the Orient operated from Wichita to near the Mexican border).

Anyway, the job to build the car was a bit involved but I think it came out nicely as a good representation of an older time tank car. I decided to letter it for Union Tank Line instead of Orient; the Orient decals were not going to work out well on the car. Still, I like to think Bill would have been pleased how it came out. As it is a special car I mounted it on the modified North Yard Sn3 trucks, which have a great look on this car.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

One Vintage Approach to Re-motoring an S-C 4-6-0

The first Scale-Craft locomotive I ever owned was this 4-6-0 rebuilt by David Sacks. He was an active OO gauger, originally was involved with the North Jersey group and then later lived in California. When I bought this from him in 1982 he sent this photo as a post card with the following note: “Your choo-choo + cars shipped today – Dec. 29. Pic shows your loco.”

As purchased it looked exactly like this. Greenbrook #18 was a rebuilt Scale-Craft 4-6-0. Basically he did four things to it besides the paint job:

1. Changed the motor over to a large DC permag motor.
2. "Streamlined" the body with brass side panels and a lot of glue, in the process also adding more weight and physically gluing the body to the frame!
3. Switched the loco over to use the tender from a Nason 2-8-0.
4. Changed the wheelsets in the pilot truck of the engine to smaller diameter wheels.

On the plus side the engine ran when purchased on DC! The other work on the model however was in ways a little crude. I stripped off all the paint and glue and brass panels and weights, restored the mounting of the body to be with screws, and the front truck I rebuilt with RP-25 contour wheelsets. The finished product is the engine in this post.

I still have the side panels, which I have put in this close up photo, but I want to focus in for our purposes today on the motor conversion.

I have no idea the maker of the motor on this model. What I will say though is to do this you would have to sacrifice the original motor for a portion of the drive shaft, the part that is visible coming out of the gear box. He then drilled a hole through the shaft to add the wire needed to make it mate up with the universal coupling on the motor shaft.

The model itself still runs well. Rather noisy! But well. Prior to taking this photo I had it pulling a dozen average to free rolling OO cars around the layout.

Speaking of layouts, his layout must have been pretty large. You can pick up a few things about it from the photo, and that he was still active making equipment such as the converted HO hopper.

Finally, I mentioned in the previous post in passing an S-C 0-6-0 in my collection. It does not run and what has had me stumped on this for years is how to manage the motor situation. As I would like to run the model I would really rather convert it over to a large DC motor instead of using the existing Scale-Craft motor. More on that model another day.

UPDATE 2011: One thing I did not notice until recently is that this model was originally shipped out with the S-C DC motor instead of their later AC/DC universal motor. The way to tell is that the gear tower is angled instead of having a horizontal drive shaft to the motor. I have an early motor on hand and I am not that pleased with how this model runs; be watching for another update on setting this back up with the original motor type.

UPDATE 2011 #2--it has a new motor now!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Some Nason 4-6-4 Parts

One significant OO model to this point only mentioned in passing in my initial overview of Nason is their sand cast bronze Hudson. One recent purchase was a pair of Nason 4-6-4 tender trucks, and I have had this frame for some years as well.

On the locomotive parts you can clearly see the “circle N” logo cast in the parts; click on the photos for a larger view. The tender trucks are insulated for two rail operation.

As I write this post there actually is a Nason 4-6-4 nicely built up for sale on eBay that will close soon. I write this knowing that there must be several people watching it that have also already figured out it is a Nason Hudson and it should sell for more than I can afford. Also, I should mention that I have no relationship to that seller, who seems to have a number of classic OO items in the pipeline, the items with photographs in front of a yellow background.

The Nason Hudson is a pre-war product with a lot of sand cast bronze parts. The model was introduced in 1936. Hugh Nason and his partners must have been very unhappy when Lionel copied them with their die cast Hudson in 1938. It was introduced as three-rail but was produced in two-rail as well. Pricing depended on when and how you purchased the kit. In the final Nason catalog (1940) a kit that contained only the 58 rough castings of the locomotive would set you back $18, while a complete, machined kit for the locomotive ran $34 for three rail and $38 for two rail. It was also available in sections, with the tender being section 6 that sold for $7. In short a complete kit for the locomotive in a form I would feel comfortable trying to assemble ran something over $40. And the most deluxe OO gauge outfit Lionel sold with a 4-6-4, four cars, and track listed for $42.25 in 1940. The math was not good for Nason.

For that reason, to my mind anyway a Nason Hudson should be more valuable than any Lionel Hudson as it is much more rare, especially one built up well. I will update after this post what the one now on eBay sold for. UPDATE: It sold for $180. I think the buyer got a good deal on that.

A final note for the day would be it has been interesting watching auctions these days. A nicely built up Scale-Craft 0-6-0 with a scratchbuilt tender sold for a song at $51 while an S-C 4-6-2 really got some bidder interest, selling for nearly $450. I suspect part of the reason is I have posted articles on the 4-6-2 but have not yet posted anything specific on the 0-6-0. I have several posts underway that will come sooner than the 0-6-0 post (I own one) but I will try to keep posts on models such as this, not yet covered, coming out. And if there are models you are wondering about feel free to contact me, I will try to work them in sooner rather than later.

UPDATE: A photo of a Nason 4-6-4 in action may be seen here (scroll down).

UPDATE II: Photos and descriptions of a nearly complete set of castings for this model may be found in this article.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Schorr OO Passenger Trucks and New Information on Fred Schorr

A source very knowledgeable on Schorr OO production recently contacted me and confirmed that one other item I have is Schorr, these great sprung and equalized passenger trucks for streamlined passenger cars. They are brass and very free rolling. I have been saving two pair of these for use on Zuhr car rebuilds I have in progress.

When I bought them on eBay a few years ago I thought they must be Schorr RDC trucks as Schorr produced no other passenger equipment. However, when I later was able to purchase a RDC I realized right away these are not the same trucks, so I was a bit stumped except that they are marked Japan, as clearly visible in the second photo.

The history of Schorr OO production is something I have been trying to piece together for years and years. This past week I certainly increased what I know about Fred Schorr thanks to being contacted by Ed Schorr, his son. He specifically first contacted me in fact to add this passenger truck to the full list of Schorr products found in this previous post.

From Ed I learned a number of things about his father and about his OO production. Fred Schorr was born in 1902 and died in 1976 and according to Ed “was a die-hard 00'er till the end.” He got started working in American OO around 1938. He worked for Pennsylvania Power & Light for 53 years and retired as Chief Systems Operator. His personal road was the Yorkville and Western, a name he registered with the NMRA in 1942. I actually own one Yorkville and Western locomotive, seen in the third photo, purchased from Bud Spice just a couple years after the passing of Fred Schorr, a model I describe further in this post.

Ed confirmed that the OO line was very much a labor of love for his father. One question I had is how many models were made?
As to the production runs, I know there were 2 runs on the Bettendorf and archbar trucks. I don't know how many total pairs (a lot!). I think there were roughly 50 pieces of each of the locomotives but can't be sure. The rarest one was the #3 RDC car, the baggage mail. I know there were only 25 of those made. There were also a few unassembled kits for the RDC that somebody wanted to build themselves.
As to other production, according to Ed
He would have also imported a B&O dock side switcher and the Ma and Pa 10-wheeler but could not get enough guys interested. He did however have a handful, maybe 5, PRR A-3 class 0-4-0s made.
That last model would be one to treasure if you have an example, it must be one of the rarest of items ever commercially produced in American OO and another that I was completely unaware of.

For anyone interested in American OO today a complete set of Schorr OO products would be an amazing thing to see. It is all fairly rare and certainly desirable; I would be much more interested in owning a set of all of these than a set of everything Lionel produced. One wonders where all the Schorr models are today; they only rarely show up on eBay. It is to be hoped that most are in good hands, if not in the hands of OO gaugers in the hands of collectors of early brass models.

As to Ed Schorr, he is retired and has for many years been very active in Sn3! He sent several photos of his models and layout set on the RGS over Lizard Head Pass, and has also been very active in recent years as a custom builder in Sn3. I thank him very much for sharing his memories and shedding much light on the great, classic models imported and produced by his father.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Two Dome Tank Car

I have been slowly finishing the “tank car project” from the summer and the latest car finished is this two dome tank car.

The decals are old Walthers HO decals that worked out great; Deep Rock was a gas retailer in the area of my layout and had a number of similar three dome tank cars, such as the one in this photo.

The car itself is freelanced, as noted in the original post, and is based on a Tyco HO body. I was trying with it to imitate the look of vintage OO but with mostly modern parts. It matches classic OO models pretty well and runs great on the layout.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

More OO Express Reefer Trucks

Keeping on the recent topic of express reefers, these cars were both recent eBay purchases. This one I can’t easily ID but is probably based on a Picard body.

It is in a bit rough shape but it has several interesting things to note. Click on the photo for a larger view. One is the mixture of decals and hand lettering, not quite as sharp as the factory Graceline sides in this earlier post. The car is weighted inside with sand, something I have seen before and something I would certainly never do. Another interesting thing are the trucks. They are modified Scale-Craft passenger trucks that have been changed over to 33” freight car wheelsets. It seems either to have been a conversion a number of different modelers did to create an express reefer truck back in the day or it is something I just happen to have found four pair of on cars in my collection.

With the above car in the same lot was this second car. This is in even rougher shape, probably based on Picard (the frame member is Picard), lettered for a modeler’s personal road (the Spring Valley), but interestingly has one complete and one broken truck that are clearly homemade copies of Scale-Craft trucks, shown in this bottom view. The side frames are roughly cast in a lead alloy and the bolster is plastic. The one with wheels has Scale-Craft freight car wheelsets, one broken due to rough handling. I don’t think these trucks ever worked very well but they are certainly interesting and vintage.

One other interesting thing to note are the couplers on this car. I have not seen these before; they are made from sheet brass and are at this point a mystery item for me but do appear to be a manufactured item. Anyone have any ideas?

This will end this short series on express reefers. Looking at them more I realize several mid-western roads similar to my Orient had express reefers, and it may not be too long before I get itching to rebuild a junker for the Orient.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

A Norfolk & Ohio Express Reefer

Today we have three nice photos of yet another car from the Norfolk & Ohio layout of Carl Appel, currently in the collection of Dick G., an express reefer. This car from the Norfolk & Ohio is a great example of an OO gauge express reefer. Click on any photo for a larger view.

Dick wondered who the maker was. If I had to guess I would think this car could be based on a Graceline kit but tweaked pretty good. The Graceline cars in the previous post do not have the frame casting and could be Selley castings. It could be scratch built or based on Picard in some manner.

The trucks deserve some special comment as well. They are standard Scale-Craft side frames but mounted on a different bolster of brass and with different wheelsets (perhaps Famoco). Dick described them as follows:
The trucks on this reefer are unusual. The bolsters are made from 1/4" square brass. The Scale-Craft passenger car side frames are attached to the brass bolsters with a single small screw. The axles are steel with insulated brass wheels....

I think it would be interesting to see what tools Carl used to make these brass bolsters. They look to be of professional quality.
This car was a runner; Appel modified things to suit his layout. As the wheelsets look to be insulated on one side. I tried once to use Famoco wheelsets in a pair of Scale-Craft passenger trucks; they rolled great but from experience I know that he needed a bolster that was not as flexible as the stock Scale-Craft bolster or he was looking at shorting. So my guess is he wanted to use the upgrade wheelsets on this N&O car and to do so had to make the bolster less flexible; using the tools of a jeweler he fabricated new bolsters. A fine vintage piece.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Two Graceline Express Reefers.

Some years ago I lucked into the purchase of a number of classic Graceline OO cars in a lot purchase, including these two express reefers. These are classic Graceline with the factory hand lettered sides, great vintage pieces.

While I have posted a couple times on express reefer models previously (for example here and here), this post will be the first on a short series on express reefers, and with it I think a good place to start is background on this type of car. Back in the day clearly the biggest group of OO gauge modelers were located in the northeast United States. One type of car that saw much service still in that era and that area were express reefers, most frequently used in milk service. The Wikipedia article on refrigerator cars has a good concise overview of express reefers.
Standard refrigerated transport is often utilized for good with less than 14 days of refrigerated "shelf life": avocados, cut flowers, green leafy vegetables, lettuce, mangos, meat products, mushrooms, peaches and nectarines, pineapples and papayas, sweet cherries, and tomatoes. "Express" reefers are typically employed in the transport of special perishables: commodities with a refrigerated shelf life of less than 7 days such as human blood, fish, green onions, milk, strawberries, and certain pharmaceuticals.

The earliest express-service refrigerator cars entered service around 1890, shortly after the first express train routes were established in North America. The cars did not come into general use until the early 20th century. Most units designed for express service are larger than their standard counterparts, and are typically constructed more along the lines of baggage cars than freight equipment. Cars must be equipped with speed-rated trucks and brakes, and — if they are to be run ahead of the passenger car consist — must also incorporate an air line for pneumatic braking, a communication signal air line, and a steam line for train heating. Express units were typically painted in passenger car colors, such as Pullman green.

The first purpose-built express reefer emerged from the Erie Railroad's Susquehanna Shops on August 1, 1886. By 1927 some 2,218 express cars traveled America's rails, and three years later that number was 3,264. In 1940 private rail lines began to build and operate their own reefers, the Railway Express Agency (REA) being by far the largest. In 1948 the REA roster (which would continue to expand into the 1950s) numbered approximately 1,800 cars, many of which were World War II "troop sleepers" modified for express refrigerated transport. By 1965, due to a decline in refrigerated traffic, many express reefers were leased to railroads for use as bulk mail carriers.
These two cars have modified Scale-Craft passenger trucks (castings modified and 33” wheelsets), as described in this previous post.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Hallmark Lionel OO Gauge F-3

Here is a model I have had in my mind to purchase for years, and I finally started searching and found a good deal on one on eBay. As you can see from the first photo, the Hallmark Lionel OO gauge F-3 looks great!

The model is not HO scale, as many would today probably think on first glance at this model. Ed Morlok wrote a two part article on converting this model to an operating OO gauge model that appeared in the November, 2000 and February 2001 issues of The OO Road. He introduced this model as follows:
In May of 1999 Hallmark Card shops began offering a OO gauge reproduction of the famous Lionel O gauge F3 A-A diesel in the New York Central lightning stripe paint scheme. This two-unit locomotive is 60% of the size of the O gauge model. Thus it is almost exactly to OO scale and is exactly OO gauge. But it is an unpowered model, sold only with a display case. The locomotive is very handsome, and looks great with OO scale items. The only major discrepancy is that it is about 9 [scale] inches too low, not very noticeable. In my opinion, this negative feature is far outweighed by its handsome appearance and excellent painting and lettering. Of course, it has the detail level of the original Lionel product, but this matches the level of detail of most manufactured OO items.

Powering is not difficult if one uses underfloor units. I also powered one using an Athearn frame and motor, and that was a very tedious job. It also results in the loss of Lionel’s characteristic swiveling pilot, which is part of the charm or appeal of Lionel to collectors, I’m sure. The Hallmark case can be used to display other models or this loco.
The rest of the Morlok articles deal with the nuts and bolts of making these models operable. There are a few options as to how to do this but the underfloor units such as he describes would certainly make the easiest and best running conversion. He used Tenshodo HO power trucks, 35mm wheelbase with 10.5 mm wheels.

In the photo of the underside of the model you can see better what you are up against. The models will roll, sort of, on my layout as they are but would certainly need working over to use as operating models.

These next photos compare the Hallmark model to the Schorr F-3. The Hallmark model really is, as Morlok worded it, very handsome, but it is also clearly semi-scale. It is close—it is wide enough for sure, but it is not tall enough over the rails. The overall length of the models is nearly the same, the Hallmark model being only a couple millimeters shorter in length.

This model was a part of what appears to have been two series of OO gauge models that were marketed by Hallmark. As stated by Morlok, they are 60% size models of O gauge toy trains. The other models in the series are as a result more toy-like and not very usable as scale models in OO gauge.

According to the flyer packed with the model I purchased, the 2333 NYC F-3A-A was third in the series, released in the spring of 1999, and had a list price of $100. The series was started in 1998. The Hallmark - Lionel Lines 726 Berkshire steam locomotive was first in the Great American Railways 20th century series listing at $120, and the Lionel 2332 Pennsylvania GG-1 was second in the 20th century series listing at $95. Also available at that time was the first model in the Norfolk and Western Train Series, the Lionel 746 Norfolk and Western 4-8-4 which listed at $90. It was priced lower as it did not include a display case. Also based on what I see for sale on eBay, there was a fourth model in the 20th century series, the Hallmark - Lionel Lines 671 Turbine Steam locomotive, and at least one more model in the Norfolk & Western Train Series as well, the Hallmark Great American Railways Lionel 3356 horse car. The later, according to eBay listings, sold for $30 originally. These other models, while interesting collectibles and OO gauge, are not particularly models you might want to convert to operation as they are clearly miniature models of semi-scale toy trains (although, based on the photo in the flyer, you could perhaps think about converting the 4-8-4 to an operating model--but it would certainly be a huge job).

I should mention the track that comes mounted on the base. It is as Ed Morlok noted clearly OO gauge and is similar to Lionel OO three rail sectional track, as illustrated in this photo.

All of these show up on eBay with a variety of ways to list the models. Most sellers seem to think they are approximately HO scale. Also all appear to have been produced in limited edition runs of 29,500 each. My pair are number 20703 in the F3 run. If that makes them rare or not in the world of Hallmark collecting I am not sure but they seem to be common enough so that there is usually one on sale as a BIN item and if you spend a few weeks specifically trying to find one they will come up for auction on eBay. I would say they are not so rare that you could not modify one for operation if you wanted.

The prize in the Hallmark OO line for us I think is still the AA F-3’s. This pair I am not planning to try to power any time soon; it is actually going in my office in the nifty display case seen in this final photo. Every OO gauge enthusiast should have one of these.

UPDATE: I saw a Hallmark-Lionel 726 Berkshire and a 2332 Pennsylvania GG-1 at a recent meet, and they do give very much the visual impression of being smaller than OO; the F-3s however do really visually impact as being OO gauge models.

UPDATE II: I modified one to operate, more on that here

Friday, November 13, 2009

More on Scale-Rail Industries Sides

Following up on a previous post on Scale-Rail Industries, I recently purchased a few more examples of these sides on eBay.

Click on the photo for a larger view and to see all the car numbers. I don’t know with certainty if this is the complete line of these sides, but this is the same number of car sides and the same car numbers as on a list put together by the late William Chapin. Their line of HO sides was similar but not identical to the OO line.

I like these sides a lot, the printing is sharp and the embossed rivet details are convincing. The only problem is matching the paint. A few years ago I worked up a paint chart with every type of Floquil paint that I could easily purchase, with different coatings applied to the samples. The color of the sides themselves varies but among the closest matches to these sides are Floquil 110175 Southern freight car brown and Poly Scale 404079 oxide red with no additional coating.

I look forward to working over several cars with these sides and the closely matching paint; with careful paint work they should come out pretty sharp. The car in the photo in the earlier post linked above would be a good starting point; it is a car I built years ago from parts marred by two paint jobs with paint that did not match well.

UPDATE: See this article for examples of both of the ATSF cars built up. The top left side is for one side of the car with the map and the other is Scout.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Schorr Drive for the Davis E-7

The best running locomotive on my roster is certainly my Davis E-7A which I have running on parts of a pair of modified Athearn PA-1 drive units, as shown here. Dick Gresham provided some interesting photos of a period drive for this model.

Before going to them, also check out this drive, which is completely different and is also a period drive.

The drive below is marked Schorr and what I notice right away is that it matches the drive on a Schorr F-3a that I have with the same floor stock and drive line based on Baker parts using an O ring belt. Three photos are below; click on any one for a larger view.

With the drive in the box were Lindsey HO PA-1 sideframes, so it may be that Fred Schorr thought the Davis sideframe castings way too heavy, as did I.

Dick also was able to purchase this Davis E-7a and E-7b pair. The drive fits the body perfectly. Note that while the two pair of Davis E-7s shown in the posts linked above are bronze, this pair below is aluminum. I take this to be a late production pair, from a second run of castings. The casting quality would seem to be a little less fine than the bronze version.

One final item, years ago I was led to believe that very few of these were produced. I still don’t think a lot were produced but certainly it is not as rare a model as I had thought. Thank you for sharing these great photos.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Norfolk & Ohio SW-1

In the photo in this prior post you can see a view of an EMD diesel switcher in action on the great Norfolk & Ohio layout of Carl Appel. In this post I describe the Super Scale SW-1. Today, a treat; Dick Gresham owns a Norfolk & Ohio SW-1, an eBay purchase from a few years back and perhaps the very model in the photo published in Model Railroader in 1958. It is clearly a Super Scale SW-1 with added details including a crew and also a can motor drive. The photos largely speak for themselves and are arranged below. Thanks again to Dick G. for sharing these photos, and click on any photo for a larger view.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Watching OO Auctions at The Collectors Weekly, and a Record for Scale-Craft?

One site that makes watching OO auctions fairly easy is The Collectors Weekly. They have several different functions available which even though the results will be a bit muddied by British HO/OO results in the mix is always interesting to check.

For the top 40 current eBay OO scale auctions see

For the top 20 most watched eBay OO scale auctions see

And for the top 20 completed eBay OO scale auctions this past week see

There is a weekly E-mail version available and that is how I normally check these.

This past week was perhaps record breaking as the number one completed auction was this: “OO Gauge Scale Steamer 4-6-4 Boxed 2 Or 3 Rail Old Vg+ - $510 - (#390110705099).” This model is a rarity and it is heartwarming in a way to know that there are several of you out there knowledgeable and interested enough to bid this item up strongly! On the other hand, I may never be able to afford one! For those not familiar with this model, it is a 4-6-4t model from Scale-Craft and is a factory item, not a kitbash job. For more on this model and a photo of an example see this post, and congratulations to the winner of the auction this past week.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Champion Milk Express Reefer

In a prior post I had some good basic information on the OO products by Champion Model Company, but little on their Express Reefer. I believe this model to be an example.

It is in the collection of Ed Havens and he provided the photos. Actually, I am not certain it is Champion but the details would appear to match what I recall seeing at the home of Bill Chapin some years back. It took a little digging to find but I found my car side list from him which he typed up based on the actual cars and sides in his collection at that time. He had two different versions of the Champion GARE express reefer but they were lettered GARE 783 Wieland Dairy and GARE 710 Western Dairy. His list includes many other Champion, Nason, and Scale Rail sides. He only lists four styles of this model; the only other Champion OO express reefers listed are GPEX 755 Mars-Milky Way and SFCX 1000 Sheffield Milk.

I am still inclined to say this GARE 764 Dairymen's League car is Champion as there are so few other options and I also believe there must have been more than four versions of this car produced. According to Ed the car does not look to have decals and must have printed sides. So at the least this car has Champion sides. It has also picked up some Scale-Craft trucks.

The bottom view is somewhat inconclusive as well, except to say it is a rather plain underside. Click on the photos for larger views.

Digging around to find the Chapin list I got back in my letter archive. I really need to do more digging in this; there are many, many interesting things in those old letters, mostly from “OOldtimers” who have passed on. More on those another day.

UPDATE 2012: This Champion model was introduced in early 1942, see this article for more, which includes a scan of the original advertisement for these models.

UPDATE 2014: See this article for two more, recently rebuilt examples of the Champion milk express reefer. Comparing them, for sure the car above has upgraded doors at least and I wonder if it is simply a car nicely built up on a Picard body, the body that the Champion sides were intended to be on.