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

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Star-Continental 4-4-2 motor and frame

An important pioneer maker of American OO locomotives was Star-Continental Models of Brooklyn, NY. Active 1937-39, their 4-4-2 with sand cast boiler, sheet brass tender, and sand and die cast details was later manufactured by Nason (and Guild). The model is not quite a PRR E-6--it is actually a freelance version of PRR K-4/K-5 Pacific, but built as an Atlantic. This ad is from the May 1937 issue of Model Railroader and it was reviewed in April as follows:

A new OO gauge locomotive kit is offered by Star-Continental Models, Box 20-R1, Ridgewood Sta., Brooklyn. It is a redesign of the Pennsylavania E-6 Atlantic, and the kit is a good honest value.

The boiler is cast; most small parts and fittings are die cast or stamped. It is not a super-detail job as it stands, but the parts are good, the chassis is mechanically sound, and there is no reason why the individual builder cannot add as much detail as he desires or is able. The die cast air compressor and power reverse gear are excellent. Front drivers are sprung; both pairs of drivers can be removed from the bottom of the frame.
I have a copy of the Star-Continental 1937 catalogue (their spelling). Their only product was this locomotive, which was priced from a high of $49.50 for the model built up down to $25.00 for the “workshop set” which required a lathe to complete. So far as I can tell from the catalog this model was sold only for three rail. Other than that as a factor, the thing I have always wondered is how to tell apart an original Star-Continental 4-4-2 from the later Nason version of the same model? The catalogs don’t give many clues. The answer may be the motor.

Dick Gresham provided these two photos. He also has a copy of the 1937 Star-Continental catalog and notes,
This motor matches the "motor assembly" sketch in their 1937 catalogue. There are three threaded mounting holes in the bottom of the motor that match three holes in the 4-4-2 frame. I'm fairly certain that this is an original motor. It looks like it was designed especially for the 4-4-2. I would think Nason used the same motor when they began selling the 4-4-2 after Star-Continental went out of business. Nason's Sixth Anniversary Catalog (1940) catalog lists a 3-pole motor complete with worm for the Atlantic 4-4-2.
Dick originally tested the motor after a bit of repair as follows:

I hooked up my American Flyer power supply that I used to run my Lionel OO train when I was a kid. It puts out 7 - 14 V. AC. I applied about 7V to the motor. It started, ran very fast and smoothly. I was thrilled. This motor is 65 to 70 years old. I tried running it several more times. It ran fast and smoothly each time. The motor looks crude compared to the 7-pole Scale-Craft AC-DC motor.
In a follow-up message he also noted,
I tried to run this motor again today. The Star-Continental catalog says that it runs on 8V DC or 10V AC. I got the motor to run on DC for several seconds numerous times before shorting out. It doesn't seem to run smoothly on DC. I haven't figured out why it shorts out. It runs fine on 8.5V AC. Sometimes I have to manually twist the armature to get it started. I think this is a characteristic of a 3-pole motor. A 7-pole motor will start with the armature in any position, which is probably why Scale-Craft sold 7-pole motors.

I (John) also have a Nason/Star 4-4-2 frame and this motor in this photo. I had taken it to be the correct motor for the frame. It does fit the two mounting holes that are present on the frame but with slots, not threaded holes. My thought is that this is the Nason motor that was supplied with this model after they ran out of original Star motors. I have several motors of this type, three and seven pole.

Someday I hope to get this frame running. I actually have a Star or Nason 4-4-2 that was converted to a 4-6-0 through the use of a Scale-Craft drive, seen in this previous post. Someday I may convert it back to a 4-4-2 but that is a project for a long time from now. That engine is not running presently due to a shot gearbox so in that sense it would be an improvement, but this frame has major issues to fix where the rear driver would fit. Dick also has parts for several more 4-4-2s and notes
Two of the three Star-Continentals that I have are 3-rail, and one is 2-rail. The 3-rail versions had pick up shoes for an outside third rail. I think I have enough parts to assemble a 2-rail version with the original motor and tender! I set it aside for a rainy-day project.
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