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

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Watching OO Auctions at The Collectors Weekly, and a Record for Scale-Craft?

One site that makes watching OO auctions fairly easy is The Collectors Weekly. They have several different functions available which even though the results will be a bit muddied by British HO/OO results in the mix is always interesting to check.

For the top 40 current eBay OO scale auctions see

For the top 20 most watched eBay OO scale auctions see

And for the top 20 completed eBay OO scale auctions this past week see

There is a weekly E-mail version available and that is how I normally check these.

This past week was perhaps record breaking as the number one completed auction was this: “OO Gauge Scale Steamer 4-6-4 Boxed 2 Or 3 Rail Old Vg+ - $510 - (#390110705099).” This model is a rarity and it is heartwarming in a way to know that there are several of you out there knowledgeable and interested enough to bid this item up strongly! On the other hand, I may never be able to afford one! For those not familiar with this model, it is a 4-6-4t model from Scale-Craft and is a factory item, not a kitbash job. For more on this model and a photo of an example see this post, and congratulations to the winner of the auction this past week.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Champion Milk Express Reefer

In a prior post I had some good basic information on the OO products by Champion Model Company, but little on their Express Reefer. I believe this model to be an example.

It is in the collection of Ed Havens and he provided the photos. Actually, I am not certain it is Champion but the details would appear to match what I recall seeing at the home of Bill Chapin some years back. It took a little digging to find but I found my car side list from him which he typed up based on the actual cars and sides in his collection at that time. He had two different versions of the Champion GARE express reefer but they were lettered GARE 783 Wieland Dairy and GARE 710 Western Dairy. His list includes many other Champion, Nason, and Scale Rail sides. He only lists four styles of this model; the only other Champion OO express reefers listed are GPEX 755 Mars-Milky Way and SFCX 1000 Sheffield Milk.

I am still inclined to say this GARE 764 Dairymen's League car is Champion as there are so few other options and I also believe there must have been more than four versions of this car produced. According to Ed the car does not look to have decals and must have printed sides. So at the least this car has Champion sides. It has also picked up some Scale-Craft trucks.

The bottom view is somewhat inconclusive as well, except to say it is a rather plain underside. Click on the photos for larger views.

Digging around to find the Chapin list I got back in my letter archive. I really need to do more digging in this; there are many, many interesting things in those old letters, mostly from “OOldtimers” who have passed on. More on those another day.

UPDATE 2012: This Champion model was introduced in early 1942, see this article for more, which includes a scan of the original advertisement for these models.

UPDATE 2014: See this article for two more, recently rebuilt examples of the Champion milk express reefer. Comparing them, for sure the car above has upgraded doors at least and I wonder if it is simply a car nicely built up on a Picard body, the body that the Champion sides were intended to be on.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Super Scale diesel switchers

In the previous article there was a photo of a scene on the Norfolk and Ohio layout of Carl Appel which included a diesel switcher. That model is a Super Scale SW-1 and one that still exists today.

The model in this photo is also an OO gauge Super Scale SW-1 from the collection of William Chapin, one that I photographed a number of years ago. It is formed out of copper and brass.

UPDATE: See this article for a closer look at the NW-2 model., and the 2018 update below for more info

Super Scale Models of Glenview, IL introduced a line of "Copper Loco Parts" with an advertisement (seen below) in the April, 1948 issue of Model Railroader. The first released was the 600 HP switcher (along with a Baldwin slope back tender) in HO, OO, and O gauges. On the facing page to this ad their S gauge version was also featured in the separate spread of S gauge advertising seen in every issue of MR in this time frame. From the ad it would appear this initial offering was not quite the complete model. In catalog sheets dated 2.8/48 they also report a NYC 3 Power loco (GE) and a NYC T3 Terminal Electirc loco available in OO as well. On an introductory page owner Burnell Sanche noted
The SUPER SCALE policy is to produce selected prototype models in all gauges which best serve the purpose and pleasure to be gained from real scale model operation. Your comments and suggestions for future production or improvements in manufacture will find a warm welcome and a personal reply.
In 1949 they introduced a pair of OO guage E.M.C. diesel switchers which were certainly their best selling OO models (and perhaps the only ones sold in OO). According to their advertisement in the January, 1949 issue of Model Railroader; these more complete models were to be ready January 15. They referred to them as being either the 600 HP model or the 1000 HP model, which would translate as a SW-1 diesel (600 HP) or a NW-2 diesel (1000 HP), the latter of which was available as a cow or calf. The wording they used was they offered a “1000 HP Booster Loco” and a “2000 HP Two Unit Loco.” The SW-1 at that time ran $14.50 “less paint, decals, trucks” and the most deluxe NW-2 cow-calf combo would put you back $28.50.

As already noted, Super Scale produced these same models in HO, S, and O gauges, and over in the HO Seeker site we find this instruction sheet. (The link is to a full size image). These are the HO instructions but the OO instructions must be basically identical as would be the S instructions.

Besides these locomotives (and perhaps the tender in the 1948 advertisement) there were no other OO products from Super Scale. These are a rarity! You were on your own for a drive, but the HO instructions make reference to a Lindsay drive which simplified things.

I would in closing note that at one time I saw an example of the OO SW-1 listed on eBay and purchased it ... but it was actually the S gauge version! But at least I was able to re-list it at a profit.

For photos of two great examples of this model built up visit the following pages:
The above updated 2013

UPDATE 2018: Thanks to Drew on the Facebook group we have these two final and most helpful images of paperwork from the Ed Morlok collection. Click on either one for a better view.

First we have this OO gauge sales flyer. It shows all of the versions clearly, and is dated January, 1949. It clarifies that the hood and cab are etched copper; looking at the models visually I was not clear if they were etched or stamped out.

And finally we have the instructions for the SW-1. Here it shows that the hood and cab came flat and needed to be bent into shape by the modeler, although I wonder if they were actually shipped bent to shape. The instructions state that they are for HO, OO, and O scale versions of the model.

In any case, this is a desirable model to my mind, and not very common. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A piece of the Norfolk & Ohio

Perhaps the most famous, classic American OO gauge layout was the Norfolk & Ohio of Carl Appel. The photo below is a portion of one of the photos that was published in the second feature article on his layout, which may be found in the November, 1958 issue of Model Railroader.

I highlight this portion in this post not for the interesting locomotives (a Super Scale SW-1 switcher and a M. P. Davis E-7) or the sweeping curves built with Midlin track or for the realistic scenery. But since I brought up the topic, first look at all of those things. Even from just this part of this one photo you know this was a great layout, as I have talked about in prior posts. [And those locomotives are pretty rare!] But instead of those elements I highlight this photo for the string of hopper cars.

Various pieces of equipment from this layout have made it to eBay in recent years, and very recently I was able to win a pair of auctions that included five of his Scale-Craft hoppers lettered for the Norfolk and Ohio. Of the five one still has a load that matches the loaded cars in the photo so it will serve as the best example for examination.

A first general point would be condition. All of the cars look to have been handled roughly in storage at some point, as in thrown in a box with no padding. As a result they have all picked up a lot of paint chips. The decals are complete on three of the cars which I would rate as restorable. They were obviously custom printed for him and include the data needed for the car ends.

Another thing that jumps out right away is they are weathered. Weathering was not nearly so common to do back in the day as it is today and this specifically relates in the case of Appel to him building an operating layout with a prototypical look. He was not a collector!

It is a little hard to see in this photo but another notable thing is four of the cars have Kadee couplers with the trip pins cut off, this being an example. He also upgraded the cars with brake hoses and brake details. The detail parts used are plastic, HO scale parts of two different types. He also added brass brake wheels to all of the cars. It is similar to a Scale-Craft brake wheel but I believe is actually an HO part by some other manufacturer.

In the final photo the car is posed in a position similar to that seen in the photo in MR. It is a little hard to see but the load has collapsed into the car.

Three of the other hoppers are very similar to this one. The other is also similar but was upgraded to Schorr trucks. That car is also one where the decals are falling off; it was obviously made in a different batch, and he did not seal the decals as he did on the car featured in this post. One of them also has dummy couplers of a type I have never seen, I believe a HO dummy coupler.

While I hope that I have not now created a huge bidding war on future lots, I am very happy to have this little piece of the Norfolk & Ohio in my home and I hope to gently restore the three best of these hoppers in the near future. Only one car was operationally up to specs as received.

UPDATE: More on getting these cars layout ready here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Review: The Scale-Craft 4-8-4

One classic OO gauge model I have not yet posted on is the Scale-Craft 4-8-4. This excellent die-cast model of the C&NW class H 4-8-4 was produced 1939-42 with the model number K1988 and listed from 1947-54 with the model number OOL620.

One reason I have not written about it yet is it was produced with two different types of frames and I am not totally in a position to document when the transition occurred. However, Scale-Craft greatly reduced the number of bronze castings in models after the war and I believe the new frame was supposed to come to production in 1947 based on catalog descriptions (the Hollywood catalog is from 1947). Another reason I have not posted about it is I don’t have a complete model, just a bit over half of the parts for a late production locomotive, the major parts of which are seen in the photo. Click on it for a larger view.

However, an article also noted in the previous post in the January, 1989 issue of The OO Road (on the Stephans' Railroad Directory) pointed me to a review of the late production kit in the November, 1950 issue of Model Railroader. From it we learn,
Scale-Craft’s latest kit release is an amazingly faithful reproduction of the C&NW class H 4-8-4….

Die-cast parts include pilot, couplers, air pumps, cylinder block, smokebox front, boiler and cab, tender body, frame and truck frames, and loco pilot and trailing truck frames. Each piece is well detailed and carries only slight flash. Most of the drilling and tapping is done….

The frame is made up of two formed, drilled and tapped steel sides with brass spacers between. Driver axles 1, 2 and 4 are sprung….

The superstructure is complete except for the installation of handrails, headlight, number plate, ladder, cab back, grab irons, whistle and generator.

The locomotive is powered by a seven-pole universal motor. It drives the number 3 axle through a gear box mounted to the frame. A flexible rubber coupling connects the gear box and motor shafts. Reversing is by a hand-reversing switch located in the tender. A reversing rectifier could be installed in place of the hand-operated switch at very small cost.

Tender assembly is simple. Steps and couplers are held in place by screws, and the necessary loco-tender hookup wiring connections are soldered….

We think this is a fine kit. The care the manufacturer went to in producing the class H 4-8-4 is evident in the detailed, clean-cut, well-fitting parts. The headlight and bell bracket are overscale; otherwise the model is an exact replica of its prototype.
This is the photo from the review and I like very much that it appears to be the model built up in the review. They built it up with the tender reversing switch and note the sand cast Boxpok drivers.

As originally produced this model had a sand cast and machined bronze frame. Ownership of Scale-Craft after WW II changed from Elliott Donnelley to Doug Douglass and back to Elliott Donnelley. In a sense the statement in the review that this is “Scale-Craft’s latest kit release” is a little over stated, but on the other hand this model had been off the market since WWII (Douglass does not appear to have shipped out any of these, despite the catalog listing) so it was one OO gaugers were anxious to be able to buy again. Also of note, this may well be the last review ever published of any American OO model in any major model railroad publication.

This is a classic model to keep your eyes peeled for. Someday I do hope to complete this model. I don’t have a tender but will keep my eyes peeled for the big S-C tender on this model.

UPDATE: More info on the two versions of this model here.

UPDATE 2013. The text above was updated preparing for the 1950 series of history articles and I would also note I still don't have that model running but I do have most of the parts now (including a tender) and also an additional model in parts, projects for a future day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Nason OO gondola

Here is a car I have never seen but was for sure produced, the Nason gondola. This photo is from the Nason sixth edition (1940) catalog, where the only text is that the kit is under construction, i.e., not yet released but coming soon. It looks like a nice car but no other construction details are noted. Note also the outside third rail in the photo.

An article in the January, 1989 issue of The OO Road (on the Stephans' Railroad Directory) pointed me to a review of this car kit in the October, 1940 issue of Model Railroader. At that time the Trade Topics column was a review column and they note in this issue that
With this issue The Model Railroader has lost another advertiser because the publishers refused to alter or apologize for a Trade Topics writeup which did not suit the advertiser. We mention this to emphasize the editorial independence of this column of comment on model parts and kits.
With that, the first review up in this issue is of our elusive Nason gondola. Of it they note:
Here is a OO Gauge Pennsy gondola kit that is very complete. The wood framework is of good quality and cut to size, and the cardboard sides are painted and lettered. Embossed rivets are incorporated. Cast bronze truck side frames are used along with an aluminum underbody casting.
That is pretty much all there is to the review but it is enough to show 1. the car was produced and 2. what the car would look like if you have one.

But if that were not enough it was also reviewed briefly in the October 1940 issues of Miniature Railroading and The Model Craftsman! In Miniature Railroading we learn,
The Nason Railways, Inc., of Mt. Vernon, N.Y., have added a new Pennsylvania Gondola to their line. The car presents a realistic, attractive and sturdy appearance.... One of the kit's many features is the effective method of fastening the brass side ribs. Steel escutcheon pins are used through punched holes at the top and bottom of the ribs, making for extreme simplicity and durability. 
And in The Model Craftsman we see that same exact text and also the note that "This model, the manufacturer advises, is easy to build, yet difficult enough to require skill in construction."

I have never seen one listed for sale, and being introduced so late in Nason production it must be rather rare. I would be happy to post a follow-up with a photo of an example of this OO Classic if you have one.

UPDATE: This car was also produced in a version for the B&O in 1941. See this article for more.

UPDATE II: And now I own an example of this car. See this article for more. The car on the bottom of the stack is Graceline, and the Nason car has Hoffman trucks.

UPDATE III: And see this article for restored versions of the PRR and B&O versions of this model.