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

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.

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