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

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wheelset conversion table for OO

There are three primary sizes we need in American OO: 33” for freight cars, 36” for passenger, and 40-42” for diesel locomotives (depending on the manufacturer and model). Short of custom orders of wheelsets or foreign sources the best options are using wheelsets marketed for On3 or converting HO wheelsets to OO.

From On3 these sizes (marketed by NWSL, for example) have the most promise.
  • 20” converts to 31.7”
  • 24” converts to 38”
  • 26" converts to 41.1”
From HO these would be the sizes we might make use of:
  • 36” converts to 31.5”
  • [UPDATE: Several makers produce 38" wheelsets, these scale out just a bit over 33" in OO, this size would be ideal for freight trucks in OO with modification if the treads are standard width.]
  • 40” converts to 34.9”
In a recent discussion on the OO list a supplier that is new to me was mentioned, Reboxx. On the plus side they offer wheelsets in a variety of axle lengths, the longest length axles are the easiest to convert to use in OO in for example Sn3 side frames as in this post [the Evergreen tubing bolster mentioned in the update makes for a really easy conversion]. But on the negative side, the Reboxx sets are of a narrow wheel width so I am concerned that they may not operate well on my track. [UPDATE: They don't work on my track.]

Worth mentioning as well is the NWSL Flea drive is available with On3 components that will work perfectly in OO. This I will have to look into more. The photo above illustrates NWSL and Scale-Craft wheelsets.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Santa Fe SW-1

Thinking of what to post about this week my thoughts turned to the locomotives I actually have running on the layout right now.

The rear locomotive I have posted about before, it is a modified AHM HO SW-1. This model is from the side over scale for HO, probably around 1/80 scale. It passes in OO as plausible and the truck wheelbase is also correct so it makes potentially for a quick conversion. The Orient SW-1 has however a modified drive using Athearn parts and eight wheel pick up.

The front locomotive is essentially the same model, the body being perhaps the Model Power version of it, made up from parts of actually two locomotives purchased at swap meets. The drive is more or less the stock drive with four wheel pick up. In the prior post it had a C&NW body but I also had a Santa Fe shell and have more interest in the Santa Fe so it was switched over a while back.

As a pair this pair runs well, they just are not all that powerful. Three standard, classic OO cars will over tax the pair, but lighter, free rolling cars, especially Schorr, do well--I can run as many as five or six cars which is plenty for a local freight.

The Santa Fe did not own and SW-1s and I may repaint this model. Or I may leave it be just because I like the Santa Fe. The pair looks great pulling classic and modern cars, and this model is a great option for the modern OO operator.

UPDATE: A few months after this post I burned out the original motor on the Santa Fe locomotive. The heavy service of pulling vintage OO gauge cars is not what these models were designed for, and it not running the same speed as the other SW-1 in the photo did not help. But the Athearn drive parts do help these models out a lot in OO operation. As to this one, it will either be rebuilt or disappear into the parts supply when this SW-8 is built up.

UPDATE 12/2014: Working on something else I decided to replace the motor. A quick fix; was tearing down another of these models (damaged/train show find) to use for the front truck and sideframes on another model. Good to see it running and complete again.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A pair of Lionel 0044 box cars and modified trucks

Exhibit A is this pair of Lionel 0044 box cars. This model is the detailed, two rail version of this car, marketed 1939-42, also offered in kit form as 0044K.

The car in the back I have had for years, the one in the front a recent purchase. I don’t have many Lionel cars so I was interested to compare them.

One of the more obvious differences is the rear car has black ladders. So far as I can tell this is correct for a factory painted version. The car illustrated in Lionel Trains: Standard of the World, 1900-1943 is painted the same way. This one has had some rough handling and under the paint chips you can see a layer of yellow paint, so presumably this was first painted in the 1938 colors and repainted before shipment from Lionel in Tuscan red.

The front car does not have black ladders. Also the paint does not match the color of the rear car. It was painted nicely but I am inclined to think it was built up from a 0044 kit back in the day.

The rear car looks to be all original except for picking up a few washers to get it to the correct height and also to eliminate the droopy couplers. The front car however when purchased was on these odd trucks. They are a bit of a tribute to the ingenuity of some builder who converted a pair of three rail Lionel trucks to two rail operation using parts at hand. They built up a new bolster from something like sheet Bakelite and metal pins, and they modified the axles by cutting them in half and putting them back together with Bakelite tube sub-axles, in the same manner as Scale-Craft/Nason/Graceline.

I put a pair of standard Lionel trucks on the car in the top photo but with replacement wheel sets and added washers as needed to get the height and the couplers up to specs. The car runs great on the layout now.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Nason 2-8-0

This model is a true OO classic, the Nason 2-8-0. This particular one was a recent purchase by Herb L., who shared these photos. Click on any photo for a larger view.

My collection of catalogs and magazines is not complete but the back cover of the November, 1937 issue of Model Craftsman is a full page ad for this new model which rather pins it down that it was introduced in 1937. The Nason 2-8-0 was produced until WWII, and for a brief period after WWII Nason still sold the drivers for this model. The ad for this in the March, 1938 issue of Model Craftsman begins,

Thousands have demanded an “OO” freight locomotive that could be used on a variety of roads. The Consolidation is the answer and we’ve spent a full year designing and building it for you….

The boiler, cab and tender are of extra clean bronze castings which give it necessary weight and strength. It is smooth and quiet in operation, still it has pulled 25 lbs. (freight cars weigh about 8 ozs.) on test.
The model sold in five sections or complete including paint for $29.95, but with this note: “Note: Two Rail Operation on any locomotive $4.00 extra.”

The model in the photo in the advertisement and in all subsequent Nason catalogs is set up for outside third rail. However, this model in the photos from Herb L. appears to be set up for two rail operation. I see no indication of third rail collectors and the tender trucks are clearly two rail Nason trucks with the square Bakelite bolster.

I also found in my collection a photocopy of the instruction sheet for this model. It looks like this is a pretty complete example except that it has clearly a new motor. The original motor was the “Nason Super” which operated on AC or DC; this is a DC motor from after WWII with the Nason worm mounted on it. This could be perceived as a negative for the purist (and undoubtedly the wide firebox design was chosen specifically to easily fit the Nason Super motor inside) but for a modern operator using DC it would be a plus. I have posted the instructions as a PDF to the OO Yahoo Group; if you are a member you may access them here.

There are a lot of notable details visible on the model itself but on the whole they speak for themselves, such as the blind middle drivers. It looks as if this model was being rebuilt by a prior owner who got it substantially to the point it could be made to run. The only note I would add on that topic is that I have found Nason wheelsets touchy on my turnouts [Mantua] compared to more modern wheelsets that work fine.

This is exactly the sort of model that gets me excited. Think of how many Lionel OO Hudsons are out there floating around. Then think about how many of these have you ever seen?

Returning to the early advertisement for this model, for a brief period of time Nason sprung for full page back cover ads on Model Craftsman. The ad on the back cover of the April, 1938 issue is essentially the same. In the context of S-C and Lionel jumping into OO then it is most interesting to read in the closing copy of the ad that Nason has a “Large quantity [of freight and passenger cars] in stock for immediate shipment. It’s waiting for you! Get yours NOW! We manufacture the most complete OO line. Four years with satisfied customers.”

This is an OO classic to keep your eyes peeled for.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Lionel OO UTLX tank car

Following up on the post on the five new tank cars, this is the finished version of one that is a mixture of Lionel and HO parts.

The tank body and ends were an e-Bay purchase a few years back. The frame is modified from an Athearn frame, and the dome is from a Tyco car. The trucks are a combination of reproduction Lionel parts and upgrade wheelsets. The decals are my last set of Champ UTLX decals. I know it may make a true Lionel OO collector cringe a bit, it is a mutt, but it will be a runner on the layout for sure. I like too that it is a bit lighter than the standard Lionel car, this is useful in the context of the trains I actually run.

This is off topic a bit but one other quick note for frequent readers, I will try to keep posting at least one time a week but right now I have to devote extra time to the launch of a new Internet project related to my teaching. It is called Horn Matters and I welcome you to check it out if you are curious about my real life work as a horn teacher and player.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Blow-Smoke, a Newsletter by Scale-Craft, Part V

Continuing our series on the Blow-Smoke newsletter put out by Scale-Craft, the next issue was Volume 2, Number 1 dated Spring, 1939. The only really OO specific item in this issue is that the Johnson tank car was on sale in OO and O gauges, the OO version selling as a kit for $2.15. The copy gushes,
You have seen the brilliant Johnson Tank Cars in the Scale-Craft Catalog—both “O” and “OO” Gauge—and you have no doubt admired them for their contrasting colors and striking design. We contend that these tankers cannot be seen to full advantage until you actually put them in with a string of your other rolling stock. They have zip and a snap that really shows up when they are rolling along the right of way. Silvery aluminum . . . white against black . . . bright orange—you can’t beat this color combination!

This is one of the most attractive tank car kits on the market, and it always adds a lot to any model railroad system. The car body is aluminum with black trimming. The underframe is black. The name “JOHNSON” is white on a black background, underscored with a brilliant orange panel. No description we could write would give you anything like the wallop you get from seeing the actual car.
Wow! I want one of these! Of course, the underlying idea behind the copy was to sell kits. This general topic was also behind the topics in the opening editorial by Donnelley. In order,

1. Customers were writing in wondering if they had missed the current issue of Blow-Smoke. No, while “we started out with the idea of about ten issues of it a year … it has not been possible.”

2. The big topic for them, launching a company in a new hobby and a new gauge, was the topic keeping at least a perception of variety and new items always on the way. He wrote,
When a model company like ours skips a couple of months in announcing new items, it is often rumored that stagnation is setting in. Such rumors are usually groundless, as the company in question is always developing new products throughout the entire year. … Do you realize that it takes from three months to a year to develop a new item and get it into production? Like any other modern manufacturing concern, we are constantly working on new ideas and equipment. Profiting by experiences of the past, we dare not mention a word about them until they are actually being manufactured. This is our rule, but we violated it when our new [O Gauge] couplers were announced shortly after their die was completed. Suddenly, and without warning, our new coupler die broke one evening!

… Our advertising instantly began to do us more harm than good, as we couldn’t fill our coupler orders. This die, after two months of hard work, has been repaired; we are again in production and hope that no more trouble is encountered.
3. Finally, the topic was that of decals or, as Scale-Craft called them at that time, “decalcomanias,” and shipping and handling charges. He wished to clear up in particular that paint and decals were included with each kit, which was a big selling point for cars such as the Johnson tank car.

There were three more issues of the Blow-Smoke newsletter produced, we will return with more soon.

Continue in Blow-Smoke series