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

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dr. Edward K. Morlok

Today I learned some sad news, of the passing on April 18 of Ed Morlok. He was 68, an Emeritus Professor at the University of Pennsylvania in Systems Engineering (the photo below is linked from his Penn website), and a significant figure in American OO.

I first met Ed, by mail, in the summer of 1982. At that time I was an undergraduate in college and was working developing a checklist of American OO. I sent him an early copy (I got his address from Temple Nieter) and he replied with a number of notes. He was fairly new to OO in that time frame and in that first letter mentioned the idea of writing an article together on the history of American OO, which we started not long after. I did the typing on my dad’s Apple IIe. I found tonight the last of the draft versions before publication, which was dated January 5, 1986.

It was a period of a lot of work in OO for Ed, as he was the founding editor of The OO Road (1985-90) and the two part TCA Quarterly series we wrote was published in their October, 1986 and April, 1987 issues, this being a scan of the beginning of part II. He also published at least one other article in the Quarterly, which I wrote about in this post, and I stayed at his home once in the late 1980s as well. I was glad to have known him.

His obituary in the Philadelphia Inquirer notes clearly his interest in American OO. A highlight:
At Penn he taught engineering economics, logistics, and manufacturing, and supervised numerous doctoral students. He was the author of four books, including a standard textbook, and for 13 years served as editor of McGraw-Hill Cos.' series on transportation.

"He was above all things a gentleman, even when so sick," his wife, Patricia Campbell Morlok, said yesterday. "He'd always stand up to greet visitors."

Diagnosed with cancer in 2000, he "fought it valiantly," she said, "and was always optimistic."

He took special interest in the history of the Leiper Railroad, a horse-drawn rail line begun in 1809 to haul quarry stone through Swarthmore; it was among the world's earliest railroads.

But his greatest hobby was model trains of the OO gauge. "He never thought you could have enough," his wife said. "The largest room on the third floor of our house was filled floor to ceiling with locomotives and train cars."
Not that long ago I last heard from Ed, by E-mail. He had good days and bad but maintained an optimistic attitude. His passing is sad news for OO, and certainly heartfelt condolences go to his family.

UPDATE: See this article for more, including a photo I took of Ed at his workbench when I visited him.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Running Lionel OO on DC

I run my layout on DC. I have made no use of Lionel OO locomotives other than the one I own that was re-powered by a prior owner (and also picked up Nason drivers). Dick G. however wrote with news that he got his Lionel locomotive to run on DC. I will let him tell the rest of the story.
I have a OO3 Lionel 2-rail locomotive with a whistle in the tender. My dad bought it used, and gave it to me for Christmas when I was a boy in the late 1940s. This is the reason I'm interested in OO gauge. I also have the original Lionel instructions for it. There is a wiring schematic and explanation in the instructions.

The drivers on the left side of the locomotive pick up current from the left rail. The tender wheels on the right side pick up current from the right rail, and transfer it to the locomotive through the banana plug in the locomotive cab. There is a chrome plated spring jumper bar on the bottom of the tender that touches contacts on both truck assemblies. The screw holding the jumper bar in place supplies power from the jumper bar through the screw to the whistle motor.

For my experiment, I removed the jumper bar, and reinstalled the screw. With the jumper bar removed, no power is transmitted to the whistle motor. Also with the jumper bar removed, only the front tender truck picks up power from the right rail, and transfers it to the locomotive through the banana plug.

I clipped wires from my DC power supply to the ends of the rails on my test track. The locomotive and tender began to move with about 8.5V. DC. At 10V. DC, the locomotive and tender ran at moderate speed. The instructions say that about 8V. are needed to move the locomotive and tender, and up to 14V. are required when it is pulling cars. I ran the locomotive and tender a number of times in each direction.

When I pressed the reverse direction button on my DC power supply, the locomotive stopped. When I pressed the reverse direction button again, the locomotive ran in the opposite direction. It is the "E" unit (reversing mechanism) under the boiler in the locomotive that is actually reversing the direction of travel. When I interrupted the current once, the "E" unit indexed to a neutral position. When I interrupted the current a second time, the "E" unit indexed again and reversed the direction of travel. This is how the "E" unit works on AC.

I also tried backing out the thumb screw under the cab roof. I think it disables the "E" unit or reversing unit. (With the thumb screw screwed in, a point on the end of the thumb screw touches two contacts on wires.) The schematic calls the thumb screw the "E" unit switch. With the thumb screw backed out, the locomotive wouldn't do anything on DC. I can't explain why at this point.

If the tender does not contain a whistle, no modifications would be necessary to run the locomotive on DC. If the tender has a whistle motor, you have to disconnect the whistle motor to get the locomotive to run on DC without the whistle blowing continuously.

I also have a new Lionel motor. Some time ago, I tried running it on DC. As I recall, when I reversed the direction of the DC current, the motor ran in the same direction. You need a bridge rectifier or a reversing switch to reverse the direction of the motor as you have discovered.

Tonight I looked over the original Lionel instructions. I never noticed this before. It says "Lionel 'OO' gauge trains operate on low voltage alternating current (A.C.) or direct current (D.C.). ... Storage batteries may be used with non-whistling outfits if house current is not available. Two six-volt batteries connected in series will deliver 12 volts which will be ample for the operation of the outfit. No. 91 Rheostat will be required for speed control."

Now I don't understand why guys that are smarter than I am remove the Lionel motor and "E" unit (reversing mechanism) and install a permanent magnet DC motor. I almost bought a modified Lionel locomotive so that I could run it on DC.
As to why modify a Lionel locomotive with a new drive, that is a good question. Perhaps the original motor was damaged, perhaps it was just the natural inclination to modify things to try to make them better. In the case of my example, it runs smoothly but the pulling power is so poor I need to think about re-powering it again. This is an interesting topic and I will have to keep an eye out, maybe eventually I can find a deal on a two rail, non-whistle tender Lionel 4-6-4 for use on the layout. [UPDATE: My first re-motored 4-6-4 was traded, but I have another example running very well, described further here.]

UPDATE: Dick G. had two more notes. One was that it was helpful to know that the the Lionel OO whistle motor operates on DC provided by the Lionel 167X whistle controller and he also adds that
The whistle motor lead wire has a connector on the end with a threaded hole. This threaded hole acts as a retainer or nut for the screw that holds the jumper bar in place. I pushed the whistle motor lead wire connector aside to disconnect the whistle motor. Then I installed a #2-56 nut in place of the whistle motor lead wire connector, and reinstalled the jumper bar and original #2-56 screw. Now the whistle motor is disconnected. This is all that is necessary to convert a Lionel OO tender with a whistle motor so that the locomotive and tender will run on either AC or DC.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Blow-Smoke, part 4--the S-C 4-6-4T and “Why Have a Hobby”

Volume 1 Number 5 of the Scale-Craft Blow-Smoke newsletter (November, 1938) featured another new locomotive in their OO line and an interesting editorial by Scale-Craft owner Elliott Donnelley on the topic of hobbies.

First, the locomotive, which is a somewhat rare item today and quite an interesting model, the 4-6-4T. The model in the photo is in the collection of Dick Gresham. The description of the brand new model is quite interesting and lays out details of the model well.

This brand new Scale-Craft “OO” Gauge 4-6-4 Tank Locomotive is the happy answer to that oft repeated prayer for a short-coupled locomotive of sufficient power to handle trains over short radius curves on layouts without room for turntables. This highly interesting little power unit was taken from the Central R.R. of New Jersey’s suburban locomotives, handling runs out of New York. It is the design of one of our own men at the shop, who is a model railroader of long experience. We were deeply impressed by its performance when it rolled over our layout for the first time! We decided to make it available in kit form to the model public; it was a sure winner--as we all saw it. The instant response from our many patrons in the form of orders has proven the wisdom of our decision.

The job is built up from our standard 10 wheeler casting, and all additional brass stampings and machined parts for the tender are furnished….

Strict adherence to any one prototype has not been the rule in the preparation of this unit. It might be termed a free-lance in the true sense of the word, but this fact renders it suitable for any layout. There is such a general similarity between tankers, that slight variations in external details are lost in the general view. This latest addition to the Scale-Craft line is getting an enthusiastic reception from our patrons, and we look forward to a heavy run on our supply of kits.
It sold as a complete kit for $21.50 or in two sections for $11.75 per section and at least as initially produced used their DC motor. I would be interested to know if this changed during production of this model, which was discontinued during WWII.

As noted in an earlier post, Scale-Craft owner Elliott Donnelley (1903-1975) was a son of R. R. Donnelley, was very involved with the large commercial printing firm R. R. Donnelley and Sons, and had a number of interests besides trains including for example his work with Trout Unlimited and more. He is described in this short biography as being a man of “boundless energy and devotion to a range of concerns” and he lays out an interesting argument for the value of hobbies in his lead editorial in this issue of Blow-Smoke, “Why Have a Hobby”. Some portions are in italics in the quotes below, and the italics are original to the editorial. Donnelley wrote,
Whether you realize it or not, you are missing a lot of the fun in life unless you have at least one hobby.

And much more than just fun. Most people look upon a hobby as a sort of aimless amusement--a means of killing time. It is a great deal more than that. A hobby may be, and usually is, a world of fun to the hobbyist: but you miss the point almost entirely if you do not realize that it is also a form of recreation, and antidote to the grind of daily work, a relief to strained nerves, a form of self-discipline and of self-culture, and, often, a means of bringing devotees of the same hobby together in lasting friendships.

When a physician finds a patient with worn and frazzled nerves, with health impaired by too constant attention to an exacting business, what does he prescribe? Very likely, he will recommend a rest and a change of scene--a temporary break with the routine which has proved so wearing. And the wise doctor also knows that in prescribing a change of scene he is only doing what the patient would have done for himself had he been an ardent rider of some hobby.

Hobbies are most helpful when they tap deep-seated interests….
After a long discussion of the hobby of model railroading specifically he concludes,
It is said that once the miniature railroad bug bites one of its happy victims, he never is quite the same again. But what of it? Did you ever hear of a model railroad enthusiast who had a nervous breakdown? No, and you never will!
Continue in the Blow-Smoke series 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A OO Gauge Heavyweight Passenger Train

This is a busy period for me professionally; it will slow down in a month, but time is a bit limited now. As much as I like writing about American OO trains, I do like working on and running trains more. My most recent project has been getting a passenger train running.

For years and years I have almost always ran freight trains. Sure, I have had passenger cars but never really tweaked them out to run reliably. This photo is the first two cars in the four car train I now have running well. Click on the photo for a larger view.

First is a Scale-Craft baggage. This was purchased years ago from Dave Sacks. When I got it the car was in rough shape and painted blue. Paint stripper and a good paint job do miracles on these cars! But it still took some work to get it really to run right, I had to work on the wheelsets and also had to install longer shank couplers, as noted in this post.

The second car is a Famoco combine. This I built up from a kit some years ago as well. The kit was given to me by Temple Nieter. This car looked good but was too tall. I had to spend a while working on the truck mounting to get it to the correct height. This car has Famoco wheelsets in S-C trucks, the wheelsets being the originals with the kit; the sideframes of one of the trucks disintegrated years ago, as seen in this post.

Just visible is the third car, which is an S-C coach also from Dave Sacks. He had modified/modernized the windows and it also had an odd paint job. This car I plan to work over more this summer with a new S-C cast roof, to match the one on the baggage car.

Out of sight is the final car in the train, a J-C Pullman, a purchase from a few years back that also needed some work on the trucks to track well on the layout.

The result of the work is that full passenger trains roll on the rails of the Orient again! I hope to get more passenger cars in shape this summer.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Exacta Scale Models

Exacta Scale Models, Inc. of Portland, Oregon introduced their OO line in 1946 and was according to advertisement and catalog "successors to Baker-Scott Railway Model Sides." What I have seen of their products impresses me.

The first cars of theirs that I saw built up were a set of their fluted side streamliners, which were built by Jerry White. Currently [2009] in the collection of Ed Morlok, this is the observation car. The streamline car sides and roof were made from one piece of copper with an aluminum round end on the observation.

They produced an extensive line that was available in HO, OO, S, and O gauges. The earliest advertisement I have found is in the April, 1946 issue of Model Railroader. They describe the car sides in their 1946 catalog as being made of "moulded" copper with “infinite detail.” The 1946 catalog lists the following sides:

100 Standard coach
102 PRR coach
104 Club car
200 Pullman
201 Pullman
202 Staggered window roomette
500 RPO
501 Baggage
600 Interurban, heavy, pass-bagg
601 Interurban

The standard, heavyweight passenger cars listed above were sold as sides only. To use them you would have to combine their parts with wood parts you supplied (from perhaps a J-C kit). Matching car ends were available from Exacta.

Exacta also produced a complete train of nine (!) fluted side streamline cars, including the round end observation in the photo at the beginning of this article. The full list of these cars is in the image linked above from the HOSeeker site. The page that links to Exacta information on the HOSeeker site is here.

They also advertised several freight cars, none of which I have ever seen. Their advertisement in the September, 1946 issue of Model Railroader features a prototype photo of their all-metal caboose, built to plans supplied by the Magor Car Corp. as “used on so many railroads.” The advertisement continued
90% correct detail. Recessed doors and windows. Kit includes sides, top, cupola, ends of molded copper; underframe of aluminum, wood moldings for top.
The OO version of the caboose sold for $7, and it was also produced in HO, S, and O gauges. Besides this C&O C-10 caboose, they also advertised a 40’ gondola, a mill gondola, and a hopper. Advertising for the caboose from 1947 may be seen in this article.

Personally, I think the "90%" correct detail mentioned prominently in their advertising was a bit of a blunder, who wants a car that is 90% correct? What they wanted to communicate was the rivet detail was 90% correct, as opposed to other makers where the rivets were more representational than correct. In any event, these don't look like they would be easy to build at all and I strongly suspect more of their products were shipped out in gauges other than OO. Exacta is rare in any scale, and these are certainly cars to keep your eyes peeled for.

I should also note, if you have a smooth side OO streamliner with aluminum sides, it is an example of the Zuhr streamliner. More info here.

UPDATE 2013: This scan is of their first advertisement in the April, 1946 issue of MR. A brief review of these sides appeared in the July, 1946 issue of Model Railroader. Their "Trade Topics" column reported that
The detail incorporated in these electroplated car sides is abundant and has eye appeal. Considerable third dimension is obtained with the process, and the copper sides and ends can be soldered together without difficulty. Windows and door openings are outlined but are not supplied punched out. Detailed plans and instructions are included.
Later advertising mentions that the windows are punched out, which would be something modelers would very much want to have done at the factory.

By June of 1947 they advertised only HO and O models. Of the extensive list above how much was actually produced is a good question. All I know that was produced for sure is their Budd streamliner seen in the photo at the beginning of this article. But see next UPDATE!

UPDATE 2015: Yes, I now have a set of the #201 Pullman sides/ends! They were produced and are nicely made, see this article for more.

UPDATE 2016: And note the link and photo of cars built with almost certainly their baggage car sides.

For more see:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Beautiful Picard-Based Composite Hopper in OO

Here is a really nice looking car owned by Ed Havens. He wonders who made it.

First, so far as I can tell no maker produced a composite hopper in OO, so this model must be either scratchbuilt or kitbashed. Click on any photo for a larger version.

One thought I had at first was perhaps this was rebuilt from a Gracelilne hopper. These had pressed cardboard sides and are I believe pretty rare. The ends were die cast as a unit. This car has die cast end sills but not ends. The end sill parts could easily be Selley.

I believe based on what I see in the photos that it is Picard. Their hopper kits were very basic, as seen in this prior post. It looks like a good builder either replaced the sides with scribed stock or cut the boards into the sides that came with the car by hand.

The result is again a stunning, vintage car of a design hardly seen built up in American OO.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Choosing the right model railroad scale

One of the first things to decide in building a model railroad is the scale, or gauge, you want to use. Two of the most interesting gauges in use today in the United States and Canada are “OO” (1/76) and “TT” (1/120). Each has certain advantages.

“TT” uses ½” gauge and is very good when operating space is limited. It lacks detail, however.

The “OO” uses a ¾” gauge. The American “OO” must not be confused with the English. The English use the same size track as the “HO,” but increase the size of their models slightly—whereas the American “OO” uses ¾” gauge. This gauge can truly be called an American and Canadian gauge because it was first used on this side of the Atlantic. It originated because early model railroaders, in search of a smaller gauge than the standard or “O,” found that more detail and smoother operation could be obtained by slightly increasing the English “HO” size.

The advantages of “OO” gauge are manifold. First in importance is the amount of detail that can be obtained. There is hardly a part on the exterior of the modern locomotive or car that cannot be duplicated on the “OO” gauge size. Another advantage of “OO” gauge is that a great many manufacturers produced this size equipment and as a result the model railroader can obtain car kits in greater variety and for practically any model he desires to follow.

[OK, this post is actually the April fool’s post for 2009. However, it is closely based on the text in the 1937 Scale-Craft catalog, which compared HO, OO, and O gauges. The models in the photo are an OO gauge Scale-Craft 4-6-0 and a HP Products TT gauge 0-6-0 that I rebuilt (I have a very limited number of TT models). Also we have OO, HO, TT, and N scale box cars lined up for a size comparison. As always, click on the photos for a larger view. TT really is an interesting size with as much or more produced in terms of variety than in American OO, but in the post WWII era, and it is still produced today in the former Eastern Europe. TT has less collector interest—there was no major maker comparable to Lionel in TT. For more information on TT gauge check out or