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

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A 1940 OO layout in Model Railroaders' Digest

Another magazine Bill Chapin pointed me toward was Model Railroaders’ Digest. It was published in a format similar to the early issues of Model Railroader. As of now all I have is an article from the April, 1940 issue, which gives a very interesting picture into what the layout of a very active OO gauger of the time would have looked like.

The article is “The Two Layouts of the St. L. I. R. R.” by Earle A Gardner. In partnership with Eldyn S. Graves he the same year would found GarGraves, still in business to this day and well known for their tinplate track products. The article describes his O and OO gauge layouts, with a focus on the OO layout.

Of special interest to us obviously is the OO layout and the very specific details the article offers on the equipment. Unfortunately, in the article there are no photos but from the track plan, reproduced here, you get a good sense of the layout.
The line is divided into two divisions. Two trains are regularly run at one time. One curve is 13 1/2” radius and is taken perfectly by all of our engines including Lionel Hudsons. On our Nason 4-4-2, quite a few changes had to be made in the understructure before it would handle this sharp radius and our Scalecraft Atlantic had to be converted into an 0-4-2 for switching use and for clearance on this small radius.

Believe it or not, one of our Lionel OO scale Hudsons has been equipped with ball bearings on the main motor drive shaft, which makes it far quieter in operation. In addition she has been fitted with auxiliary pick-up on the pilot trucks. This job has to be seen and heard to be appreciated. In rolling stock we now have 2 hoppers, 3 box, 2 tank and 2 caboose from Lionel, 1 stock, 1 flat, 3 reefers, 3 box, 1 baggage and 2 coaches from Scalecraft, and 1 combination and 1 coach from Graceline, both old style open end cars.

Normal operation calls for the Scalecraft passenger equipment hauled by a Lionel Hudson to connect with the O gauge…. Into Fineview comes the Nason 4-4-2 hauling the Graceline cars….
This layout would be such an interesting thing to see today!!! Two trains in operation, tight curves, classic models modified in various ways. Ball bearings?!? He was right on the cutting edge. There is one other detail clear from the article as well, that it was wired for two rail AC operation and that
All trackage used is Midlin. All switches are electrically operated using concealed mounted switch machines…. Transformer used is Lionel type V which handles this layout perfectly.
Midlin track was only introduced in 1939 as were a number of the models mentioned in the article. It was quite a time for OO gaugers and I look forward to reading more classic issues of Model Railroaders’ Digest. So far as I can tell it was a pre-war publication only, one to keep your eyes peeled for, it is not often seen.

As I mentioned GarGraves, I should add one other note. To this day they sell a type of OO gauge track. It is distinctly GarGraves with oversize ties and rails, two or three rail. The UPDATE: current listing is here. To see an example of this track go to the end of this article.


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Phil R. said...

It is interesting that the article mentions Midlin track. As Gargraves track utilizes a similer type of design with slotted wood ties and rail with a flange that sticks down into the slotted ties. The Midlin rail was solid but the Gargraves is tubular tinplate. Did they get this idea from the Midlin track that they used on this layout?