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

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Oh! Oh! Here's OO, part 1

February of 2009 marks the 75th anniversary of an important feature article on OO, “Oh! Oh! Here's OO,” published in the February, 1934 issue--volume 1 number 2!--of Model Railroader. The article is by H. T. Nieter and was the cover story for the issue.

The first page of the article is reproduced legibly in the January, 1954 issue of MR but the rest of it I had not read until a couple members of the American OO Yahoo group very recently shared copies of the full article (many thanks to you both).

In part one of my series on Oscar Andresen, a 1982 letter from H. Temple Nieter laid out a lot of his background, and this background makes elements of the article, the original Model Railroader article on OO, much clearer. Nieter was a 1931 Dartmouth graduate in physics, and he went on to the Harvard Engineering School for graduate work. By the date of the article he had graduated and moved on to Muskegon, Michigan.

This is the lead photo (this is a scan of a Xerox copy), showing just how small the tiny OO gauge cars are! At least in 1934 they probably looked pretty tiny—you could hold it in just one hand! The article began,

MODELMAKERS greeted OO gauge some years ago with such an expression as the title suggests. It looked small to the quarter-inch modeler, and absolutely tiny to those engaged in the larger scales. Still, there was that ever-present interest in the little things, and by virtue of newcomers beginning in OO, and old timers shifting, the scale has become of some importance now. The best proof of that is the availability of the OO gauge parts from quite a number of sources. However, it is not so much in general as in particular that I wish to speak, for I am one of the 4 mm. builders.
He continues that he had been planning this model for two years. He notes that “while in Boston for a vacation from college, I fell in with a member of the Boston Association of Model Engineers.” This would have been Oscar Andresen. Curiously, Andresen is never specifically mentioned in the article, Nieter just states that parts for the car were “made for me in the East” by a “photo-chemical process … upon supplying the drawings.” Again, his 1982 letter gave much more detail on this.

Another note from the article is that the trucks were built up from many parts as were the pantographs. This scan is the montage presented on page three of the issue, showing both in some detail. Looking at this photo a little closer, check out the track. It looks pretty temporary with not nearly enough ties.

The motor was described in the article as a Mantua motor with a 12 to 1 gear reduction to the drive. All axles were powered and the model could pull three trailers. He intended originally for the models to be semi-permanently coupled in pairs due to his control scheme--more on that in part 2.

Finally he wrote in the article about the prototype and his layout. The prototypes for this car were the new MU cars on the Lackawanna. His layout was the Lake Line, which he had running “in fancy” from Muskegon, MI, to Chicago. He notes “The unfortunate disposition of the basement does not allow much adherence to the map, but the layout is hoped to be extensive if not true geographically.”

Ultimately Nieter made a set of four of these cars, and at least one of them still exists today. More on that in part 2.

Continue to Part 2 of "Oh, oh!" series

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