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

Thursday, January 1, 2009

More on Myron P. Davis and Big OO Steamers

I had a chance recently to look at a couple back issues of the Train Collectors Quarterly and in one hit the jackpot in terms of information on a OO manufacturer I have mentioned a few times already in this site, Myron P. Davis.

In the January 1996 issue there is a great article I had never noted by the late Donald S. Fraley titled “The Unfinished Locomotives,” which may be accessed here in full if you are a TCA member and logged in (on pages 8-11). As I am trying to do now, Dr. Fraley was trying to sort out historical details of American OO gauge production and unusual models, and these are pretty unique models.

Fraley first encountered the large, bronze locomotives of M. P. Davis in 1975, when he visited George Miller to photograph O and Standard gauge items for inclusion in Lionel Trains--Standard of the World--1900-1943. Fraley recalled that Miller told him “these locomotives were made by Myron P. Davis as pre-production samples for the Nason Company after World War II.”

Eventually the Lloyd Ralston Gallery in Fairfield, CT sold the Davis locomotives in the Miller collection at the large auction of his collection in 1991. I had seen photos of these locomotives in the book that was created for this auction, models also seen in photos in the TCA article, an AB set of E-7s, a PRR S-2 6-8-6, and five larger steamers including a UP Big Boy. This scan is of a photo in the auction book, of the UP Big Boy and a PRR S2 6-8-6. These particular models sold for $130 and $190 in the auction.

While these models were never produced by Nason (Nason went out of business not long after the end of World War II), also reproduced in the article are pages from a sales flyer dated July, 1954 put out by M. P. Davis for his own limited production and sales of these items. His firm was called Cussewago Valley Railroad “OO” Gauge Scale Models, with a street address in Yonkers, NY. On the flyer his name is given as Myron Park Davis, with the title of Chief Chemist and Metallurgist. In the flyer he states, “I have built the following locomotives and cars from the listed castings and to the best of my knowledge, no other castings for these locomotives and cars are available. They are to scale, 4mm to the foot, excellent detail--true to prototype.”

Some castings were sold for presumably all of these models. As I have stated in other posts, the E-7 castings seem to have been produced in the greatest quantity. My guess would be a run of something like 40-50 of each must have been produced of this model. I rebuilt a pair this past summer [photos here]; there are others around and operable.

Miller also had correspondence with Bud Spice from the 1970s that is quoted in the article. M. P. Davis must have been an interesting character.
Davis lived in Yonkers, N.Y. in a third floor apartment of an old gracious house on the hill. He, evidently, was the chief metallurgist for Otis Elevator for a lot of years. He had a hobby of photography in the days when the negatives were on glass plates and he had a collection of chorus girls in several cases. His widow called the room he kept his stuff his “den of iniquity” and would not go in it. He also had an extensive collection of old dolls in glass cases, plus his OO gauge material. It is difficult to put the story together…. All of the partially built up locomotives were in the “den of iniquity” above a work test track…. Besides the locomotives, I came away with a trunk full of patterns and match plate molding dies for the E7 A and B passenger diesels and the side frames for the trucks.
The late H. Temple Nieter also recalled a few more details on the early history of Nason and of Davis in a 1973 letter quoted in the article as well. Nieter got into OO very early and recalled the Nason
…P-5a electric locomotive[,] which was a 1935 purchase from [Hugh] Nason when he was living in Mt. Vernon, NY. Later, Nason and Ed Kelly joined [i.e., became business partners], but Kelly ran the train modeling. Finally, Myron Park Davis put some money and some sense into [the line] and took it over. Davis was retired when I got to know him by mail. He had been chief chemist and metallurgist for Otis Elevator Company and even though retired, he signed letter and price lists of OO as such, although without referring to Otis. He was a bit rambling in his last letter and is supposed to have been essentially senile upon death…. He died about 1960 [NOTE: According to TCA article, he passed in December of 1968]…. The “Cussewago Line” was taken, Davis wrote[,] from the river of that name at Meadville, PA, his boyhood home. It meant beautiful stream in the regional Indian language. Davis was a sort of legend in OO, even if he didn’t do a good letter writing campaign to try to save the lost cause.
One other note from the article; M. P. Davis was still selling castings for the Nason P-5a locomotive in 1954 and his flyer also included the full Kemtron OO line (the GP-7 and all the trucks), of which he also must have been a supplier.

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