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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Four Nason Passenger Cars

Regular readers know I periodically feature projects underway and for what will probably be the last post of 2010 I have this progress photo of a set of four Nason passenger cars.

The cars are all the later style Nason cars with stamped brass sides. This post shows the sides off the cars and this one shows the coach prior to assembly. With enough time last week to tackle something that would take some time I got the sides all pinned back on. Each car had unique challenges in terms of assembly and truck and coupler mounting as all had been previously built by other builders; undoubtedly each of those builders could have set up a similar photo on some cold winters night. During re-assembly I was able to re-use about 80% of the original pins (having saved them carefully initially with each car body). I painted the sides and the bodies (roof/ends/floor) separately with spray paint. The painting underway in the photo is I had touched up the pins and had begun to paint the trucks.

Speaking of trucks, the four wheel trucks came together pretty well (one has Famoco wheelsets and the other S-C) but the six wheel Nason trucks really took some effort to the point of questioning why go to all this effort? The finished product looks and rolls great with upgraded wheelsets but I will say that among the Nason trucks the bolster heights vary and they are overall higher than any other brand of truck. Basically you ideally mount them directly to the floor with no bolster and only a thin washer to be at the right height but they took more tweaking than that. I only had three pair of usable Nason trucks as well, so the RPO got a good pair of trusty Scale-Craft trucks which suited better the mounting that had been done by a prior owner.

The Pullman (closest to the camera) has dummy Scale-Craft couplers which allow for lots of swing and the others have Kadee long shank couplers. I had them all running well around the layout prior to this photo and they will be a sharp set of cars when the decals are done. I also have a string of Zuhr streamline passenger cars nearly to the same point now, more on those in 2011.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

American OO in 1935 III: The Oscar Andresen Layout and a Change for The Modelmaker

Oscar Andresen was one of the most visible early American OO gauge enthusiasts and manufacturers. His layout was featured in The Modelmaker in 1934 and twice in early issues of The Model Railroader, specifically in the May 1935 and February 1936 issues.

The May 1935 article gives us a pretty good view into his layout and was the cover story. This first photo was the cover photo of the issue. As noted in this earlier article with a before and after comparison taken from this same issue, he was not only a photo engraver and model railroader but also a painter. Thus in an era long before Photoshop the images in this article are all re-touched, with various details added. Even with that element these photos are quite interesting today. Keeping in mind this was way back in an era when toy trains really looked like toys these were amazing small scale models. The article begins,
The OO gauge system of Oscar Andresen, Shade St., Lexington, Mass., is slowly taking shape, and the photographs with this article will give an idea of the scenic completeness of the portions already finished. The total space available is only 10’ 6” x 12’ 9”. This allows for very little straightaway. There are two windows and one door.
The article goes on to describe that the layout has a double track mainline with 12 switches and varies from a width of 3 ½” to 2’. The cover photo was of “Mohawk Valley, a country town with a small commercial station. The main industry is the Mohawk Valley car shops.” The second photo is of a station made of plywood. “The general design follows an actual suburban station near Boston, with an arched driveway for the numerous taxis which come and go continually (No depression here!).”

There was also a smaller town scene, not depicted in the article but described, called Rock Haven. This final photo is another view of Mohawk Valley. You can see again retouched elements, for example the gondola on the left is brought into focus with the paintbrush, the right side is totally painted in, and the birds and such are in new positions. The figures he notes “are all made by the same process as the car sides, a method of transferring an exact image with raised portions to a metal surface.” As he was also a manufacturer (this ad ran later in the same issue) this following text is especially interesting.
The Mohawk Valley car shops have been working overtime turning out cars, not only for the Mohawk Valley, but also for other roads in the vicinity. A new observation car was built for the M.V. just before the holidays and more recently a caboose was delivered. The Rock Haven had a sand type gondola built for it…. At the present time work is going forward on a body for an M.U. unit.
A prior article series looked specifically at the early, photoengraved models produced by Andresen, but more recently I received from a reader several more photos of his products. The first one is of a set of reefer sides and the second a view of a group of models. Note the raised lettering. Near the end of the article he offers
What do you say if we board a special train on the Mohawk Valley for a tour of inspection? We are sure to forget the passage of time, and so we will naturally stop at the car shops to watch the construction of many types of cars. The strangest site of all is to see the riveters at work, “Wonder of wonders.” They make no noise. The process used not only permits rivets without noise but at the same time raises all lettering above the car surface. All around the shops and other factories at Mohawk Valley there is no sign of a depression, with work going forward at full blast.
Again, I go back to thinking of what toy trains looked like in 1935 and what these models looked like and the comparison is very striking. Andresen was way ahead of the curve. Returning to the layout, there he was also pretty ahead of the curve with an around the walls plan of the general type that we associate with more modern layout design. OO had some serious model makers who also ran their trains.

Speaking of model makers, this issue also has a note on a “consolidation just completed between the publishing interests” of A. C. Kalmbach and the Modelmaker Corp. In short The Modelmaker was taken over by the publishers of The Model Railroader. All model railroad content would be in The Model Railroader and The Modelmaker would continue publication but with a focus on “Working models of all types, including large scale live steam railroading.”

When we return to this series on 1935 the focus will be on a letter from another OO pioneer, Howard Winther and other new products on the market.

Continue to Part IV

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hawk OO Boxcar and Gondola

One firm to produce a line of OO gauge freight car kits the early 1940s was Hawk. General information on Hawk OO (and a photo of an un-built gondola kit) may be found here, but the focus today is on what I think to be their best two OO models.

First we have this boxcar, a recent eBay find. I have profiled this model before and it seems to be one that modelers liked to modify, this one being tricked out with double doors and steel ends. It was available with either this body or a solid block body.

The new car is no exception. The builder has replaced the door and also look at the ends (click on any photo for a close up). The stock version would have a plain end. This model now has a brass overlay with rivet details appropriate to imitate an early type of steel end.

From the bottom it shows the classic Hawk frame. It was never set up with trucks so far as I can tell. I plan to mount a good pair after I tweak details a bit and paint and letter the car, hopefully sometime soon but there are many projects underway.

The same could be said for this gondola, another eBay find early this year. As noted in the earlier article, this is a sulfur gondola of ATSF prototype. This is also an example of a car that was never set up for trucks but was close to finished (maybe 70%) and will make a nice car.

Why these are their best two cars is because they are models of wood prototype cars nicely designed with good quality wood parts. I will over time rebuild a couple of the steel cars too but I don’t have much hope that they will turn out as nicely as these as they lack rivet details with plain sides.

UPDATE: The finished versions of these cars are seen in this article.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vintage OO Layout Photos I: Bourassa

One thing I have been accumulating in recent years are a few vintage American OO layout photos. I have posted a couple of these already (for example here and here) but with this series I will be posting them more formally in a series format. To kick things off we have two photos from the layout of Pierre Bourassa in 1965. Click on either photo for a larger view.

The prime subject of this first photo is a beautifully kitbashed (Scale-Craft based) 4-8-2. Pierre had a large Canadian OO layout and at that time was one of several OO gaugers with large layouts in Canada. Starting up at the front the track looks to be laid on fiber tie strip and the turnout must be something larger than #6. The turntable is a beauty and seven of the roundhouse stalls look to have locomotives in them. The work car to the right is riding on an interesting pair of trucks, possibly based on On3 sideframes but with OO size wheelsets. Note also the figures and details in this realistic scene.

This second photo focuses in on a nicely finished Kemtron GP-7. The location, judging from other photos of the same layout, is just to the right of the roundhouse scene. That is one sharp engine!

Besides the other details in the scene note the coupler on the Geep; it is a HO style horn/hook coupler. I see them in other photos in this group. Pierre must have been experimenting with them for automatic coupling. However, for sure he later moved on to Kadee couplers. Most active OO gaugers with layouts did use these in that time frame and following; all but the oldest versions are compatible with S-C and Lionel couplers (manually only) which is another bonus. The November, 2010 issue of Model Railroader gives the basics on these, that the original Kadee coupler (with the straight pin from the knuckle) was introduced in 1953 and the improved version with the magnetic style trip pin was introduced in 1960. I have both types on cars but the latter style is the standard for the modern OO operator.

Pierre is 93 and I hear from him mainly by snail mail, which is how he sent me these photos. I do thank him for sharing these.

Continue to Vintage OO Photos part II

Sunday, December 5, 2010

American OO in 1935 II: “The ‘OO’ Gauge” by Hugh Richard Nason

Two names tower above all others in the early history of American OO: F. D. Grimke and Hugh Richard Nason. Hugh Nason was owner of Nason Railways, the first major OO manufacturer. They had their OO line in production by 1934 and were the largest manufacturer that was solely dedicated to manufacture of American OO gauge train models.

Stepping back a bit, it is sobering in a way to know that there were active OO gaugers alive that actually knew Hugh Nason not that long ago. It would be quite interesting to talk to them about Nason the man as actually I have literally no details on his life other than he was in the 1930s certainly a New Yorker and very enthusiastic about American OO gauge.

Among the issues of The Model Craftsman I own from 1935 I have the four issue run of May, June, July-August, and September and in each of these we find an installment of a series of articles on OO gauge by Hugh Nason. The first installment is titled “Beginning the ‘00’ Gauge” (numbers instead of letters) and includes the first two photos in this present article to illustrate the size of OO models. He states that
In this article I will endeavor to give the generalities of 00 Gauge railroading, and the manner in which to get started. In further articles we will deal with each type of equipment and how to build them to be durable, serviceable, and still a true copy of the original at the most economical means of construction.
He suggests starting working on track first. It is clear that he was assuming that operation would definitely be by outside third rail. Track standards were presented clearly, suggesting a minimum radius of no less than 2’ 4”. He ends the article as follows:
In the foregoing we have given the general outline of 00 gauge, and in the photos a view of the rolling stock, a Pullman and other equipment. It is well to remember that in 00 gauge there is no more precision work than found in larger scales. Motive units are now built, and motors and parts are available to build the most detailed motor unit which looks and runs as much like the real jobs as in any other scale yet built. Do not get the wrong opinion that because it is smaller accurate reproduction is not possible, for you can see for yourself that it is.
Speaking of those parts that are available, Nason Railways had a small ad in this same issue listing “Built-up and Cast Car Kits – Locomotive Kits – Cast Locomotive & Car Shed Kit – Cast Station Kit – Track Supplies and Miscellaneous Parts.”

In the June, 1935 issue the topic is building from scratch a Pullman. This time the title of the article is “The ‘OO’ Gauge” (letters this time instead of numbers) and Nason began,
Enthusiasm seems to want the 12 section Pullman sleeping car as the first piece of rolling stock on their proposed system. Somehow it feels a vote above the other classes of passenger rolling stock, although if one checks the percentage of Pullmans against coaches, one would find them in the minority.
Nason Railways already sold a kit for this model in sand cast aluminum but this article covers how to scratchbuild a model from wood and Bristol board, with scale drawings provided. For example, “Roof molding can be purchased ready to fit into place and file the ends; however Fig. 1 shows the method of building it up from three pieces of wood, preferably straight grained white pine” and “Use a white coated bristol board for the car sides, as this has sufficient strength when backed up with a full length of mica to make a substantial side.” While noting many times that certain parts “can be procured,” he patiently explains how to make every part from scratch, including trucks which were to be built up from brass!

In the July-August issue the topic is building a flat car from wood. “The main floor section, on which we scribe the lines to represent the floor boards, is a piece of cigar box wood, which, when shaped and cleared of the paper, should measure 7-1/16” long, by 1-5/16” wide.” It would have been a light car being made with a wood frame and sides as well. The only metal parts were a cast brake wheel, a turned brake cylinder, and the trucks. “The trucks can be purchased kits, or can be made quite readily if you are handy in working in brass.” Right! Those were different times.

The final installment I have is in the September issue which is on the topic of making a 50 ton steel boxcar very much like the sand cast model they sold but this time made from wood and Bristol board. Scale drawings are included and also this photo of his MKT boxcar. The photo is small but it appears to be riding on sand cast Nason trucks.

Of course any of these models could have been built in HO or O by the same methods, but the idea was to push the new scale of American OO specifically. And Nason was a regular advertiser in The Model Craftsman, so there may have been some agreement there as well for all we know today.

A 1935 Nason catalog was sold on eBay a couple years ago but I did not win. If any reader out there has a copy I would love to see a Xerox but I suspect that this final image, of the Hobby Craft Stores advertisement in the September 1935 issue of The Model Craftsman, inside the front cover, shows most of what Nason had out then. Click on the photo for more details and also a nice sharp photo of the P-5A. That model was being advertised at a steep discount and also note the freight trucks, unmachined, for 98 cents a pair. Click on the image for a better view of the prices.

Nason was the leading firm in OO to be sure in 1935. When we return to this series we will take another look at the OO layout of Oscar Andresen as of 1935.

Continue to Part III of 1935 series

Friday, December 3, 2010

The A.H.M. Alco 1000 Switcher

Back now a couple years ago an article was posted in American OO Today that included how to convert the HO A.H.M. Alco switcher to OO. Last week my only purchase at the train show was another of these vintage models, a model worth taking a bit more of a look at.

The short version is this model is very close to OO in most dimensions and is also simple to convert to operation in American OO. This image is reproduced from the A.H.M. 1979 catalog. The full page with this image may be found on the HOSeeker website here, and the index page for the catalog is here. In the catalog it states that the "Alco 1000 Yard Switcher" is
An unaging switcher which is still being used today. A.H.M.’s model includes features such as operating headlight, gear drive, RP-25 wheelsets, and operating couplers at both ends.
The model itself is of an Alco model S-2 switcher, in particular according to the Model Railroader Cyclopedia, Vol. 2, Diesel Locomotives of a model produced 1943-44 with horizontal shutter slats on the radiator. It was their best selling model of switcher with 1502 units produced between 1940 and 1950.

Unfortunately for A.H.M. and for Model Power who later sold the same model, the scale drawings in the Model Railroader Cyclopedia tell the story of a model that is overscale for HO. For example the body should be 41'-6" over the end sills and this model is 151 mm long which puts it at 37'-9" in OO and over 43' in HO. That does not really tell the story though as also the walkways are too narrow all the way around and the body itself is quite close to OO in length. The trucks have a wheelbase that is correct for OO as well with OO sideframes. The only dimensions that appear to be correct for HO are the width of the model and wheelset diameter. From the side it is certainly very close to OO and the hood is as well in width. The cab roof however has a “rounder” profile than the prototype, this being due to the model being essentially OO height but HO width.

As I noted in the earlier article it is a pretty simple model to convert to OO operation as really all you need to do is widen the wheels out on the existing axles, split the sideframe casting in the middle so that it can be remounted wide enough to fit, and remove the HO couplers and work out body mounting at the correct height for Kadee couplers. And it looks good with OO models.

This has been produced with at least two drives over the years. The old standard one is in the back in the photo, with a motor that is built into the truck with a vertical shaft. The later version  has a can motor mounted horizontally. I suspect that the back version is on the A.H.M. version of this model and the front on Model Power version of this model, but the changeover could have happened before or after the change of maker. Either version can be converted to OO. Of the two the later drive is the better setup, but the gearing is a bit high, the pulling power a bit low, and only two axles are picking up power.

The second type of drive can be rebuilt fairly easily with Athearn drive parts like I did with the A.H.M. SW-1 in this earlier article (also seen here) and that would be my plan for OO operation of this model. The gearing is better and also you gain eight week pickup. Run them in multiple for more pulling power. For a more advanced project you could also work out an RS-1 from the body parts; this is a project I would also like to tackle someday.

The A.H.M./Model Power Alco 1000 is an option for the OO operator who is an Alco fan and should be noted clearly as a model that can be rebuilt for operation in American OO.

UPDATE: See this article for a pair of these I updated with Athearn drive parts.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lionel OO Gauge: A Cover Story in Classic Toy Trains

I recently noted that there had been a forum discussion wondering what year American OO was featured in Classic Toy Trains. Lionel OO gauge was the cover story of their September, 1993 issue, seen here.

It is a great introductory article with great photos in particular of most everything Lionel made. To cut right to the chase, if you are interested in Lionel OO you need this article and back issues of CTT are not particularly hard to purchase. There are probably little things that could be revised, but on the whole again the text is pretty solid (author John A. Grams makes reference to the two part TCA Quarterly series which I wrote with the late Ed Morlok that was published in their October, 1986 and April, 1987 issues, so he did his homework) and it put out the topic of American OO to a broader audience. And did I mention the great photos? It is a must have article for photos of great examples of Lionel OO. For more information on the Lionel OO line see also this article.

It would be wonderful to see American OO featured as a cover story again. The other recent cover story on OO (recent being a relative term) was “The OO Scale Saint Anne” which was featured in the May, 1979 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, a cover story that I wrote about in this article. For me personally this was a very influential article, saying to me that I could make a go at model railroading in this scale. And here I am today.

As to this specific article, regular readers of American OO Today might note one flaw, the idea that it was "too little, too early." Nason had American OO in production by 1934 and Scale Craft was offering American OO gauge train sets in 1937, so in respects Lionel was not too early, they were playing catch up. They clearly wanted in on the scale  model market and thought OO the better bet than HO.

Not so many people are getting into OO these days and a part of it for sure is limited contact with the scale. At the most recent TCA meet that I could get to, the biggest annual one in Arizona, I only saw one American OO item, a lone, orphan Lionel tender. Only a well-read collector would even know what it was if they happened to notice it on the table priced at $65. I love though this short video on YouTube from the Milwaukee Trainfest in 2008 of a 1938 Lionel set in action, it gets the word out in a very real way. I have had ideas toward book drafts and have also several possible CTT or TCA type articles in mind, and I would encourage readers out there to think big too, like in the Milwaukee video. Of course I am biased; I got bit by the OO bug years ago and think it is great stuff, but it is up to all of us to keep spreading the word.

Friday, November 26, 2010

American OO in 1935 I: A Battle of Gauges, a Club Layout, and More Products on the Market

A first headline for 1935 is interest is rising in small scale model trains. I don’t quite have a complete view of the year in publications (I have only half of the issues of The Model Railroader) but I do have enough to paint the general picture of things pretty clearly.

The January issue of The Model Railroader is one that really helps set the context of the time. The opening editorial is on the topic of "Smaller Gauges Gaining in Popularity." There we read,
The smaller gauges, OO and HO, are rapidly growing in popularity, and nearly half the letters we receive concern them. Material on construction for these gauges has been sadly lacking, and we are trying to fill this lack, while at the same time not neglecting the more established gauges.
The possibility which OO and HO offer of realistic railroading in one-fourth the space it would require to do the same thing in O gauge is the chief advantage. But most model railroaders are discouraged before they start by what would seem to be difficulties of building to such small scales....
Difficulty is encountered, if we are to judge by the questions asked us, in choosing between HO and OO....
The difference between the two gauges and scales in this country seems, so far, to be not only in size but in methods. We can't see any reason why the same methods should not be applicable to both. The HO gaugers use largely those easily workable materials, cardboard and balsa wood, and build up their stock. O gauge methods have been transplanted to OO with nearly the same variety of parts and kits available.
For OO the standard series wound motors of the Mantua Co., Woodbury Heights, N. J., are the favorite. They can be used on A.C. or D.C., 6 volt, and control is left nearly the same as the standard O gauge practice. Most HO gaugers are using English drive units, which have permanent magnet fields and run only on D.C.
The editorial continues with names of manufacturers and such but the the central text on the topic starts a few pages later in the article "OO or HO Gauge -- Which?" The case for OO is made by a name familiar to American OO enthusiasts today, H. T. Nieter, which he summarized at the conclusion of his section as follows:
In recapitulation, then, OO is presented as superior to HO in convenience of dimensioning, in accuracy of scaling, and for ready availability of parts and materials. Notwithstanding the excellent results individuals have attained, on the whole HO has not the characteristics of convenience which are basic with OO. These considerations were influential in my own choice when both gauges were up for inspection some years ago; OO won, and I present the case for it just as it was built up then.
The response on the side of HO was by James F. Dechert. From his response I would draw these bullets:
  • OO requires 1/7 more space
  • HO is very popular in England and has many more suppliers
  • HO is much less expensive, OO manufacturers "continue to insist on building in metal and the HO world uses lighter materials"
  • DC operation
Overall price was for sure part of what made HO hit a wider market in those lean years. Later in this issue I note two references to the NYSME having an OO gauge layout, and the issue also has a small ad for Nason Railways.The February issue of The Model Railroader featured an article on track by Eric LaNal showing how HO track could be laid more inexpensively than OO track.

Turning to The Model Craftsman, their February issue has a feature article plugging the upcoming Seventh Annual Show of the New York Society of Model Engineers. The second paragraph reads,
Starting with the smallest track, the center table in the main room will have a complete 00-gauge system and this rolling stock will be in continuous operation during the Show. This almost microscopic scale has made great strides in the last few years. Both the locomotives and cars are now fully equal in performance to those in the larger scales.
This illustration is given of the room and paints the clear picture that if you go to their popular annual show you will see OO gauge on display. Click on it for a better view.

Moving on to the March and April issues of The Model Craftsman, in March we find a small Nason ad focusing on rail. April has a classified advertisement from the OO Gauge Model Co. and also advertisements are to be found from Nason for their (sand cast) passenger car kits—Pullman, Coach, Coach Baggage, and Diner—priced between $5 and $6.50 and Fixen for their line of 16 figures for “H0 and 00.”

The April 1935 issue of The Model Railroader has more for us. On page 104 we see a slightly larger ad from Nason on their “New … Built up Type Passenger car Kits” and also an ad from another individual I had never heard of before looking at this issue, Melvin Fenberg. My guess is he was a custom builder but note the location of Los Angeles and also what is offered (freight cars—box, reefer, caboose, and hopper) and the prices (high--$7.50-$8.75).

A few pages later we also see this advertisement by Raymond Willey of Chicago, which was in the February issue. I profiled him briefly in a prior article; he worked closely with H. L. “Red” Adams and also obviously had some plans for OO production at that time. The bigger picture being that OO activity was spreading across the country, it was not as centered on a few individuals in the New York City area.

Inside the back cover of this issue finally we get this photo which is a gem, of as it says there “A passenger train pulled by a OO gauge Atlantic” by Howard Winther. Looks like a sharp model (a side view may be seen in this article) and you can also get a sense of his layout as well; it looks like there is an upper level with a reefer on the tracks above the baggage car. Click on the photo for a larger image view.

When this series returns the topic will be the start of a series of articles by one of the most central figures to the development of American OO, Hugh Nason.

[Updated 2011]

Continue to Part II

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Scale-Craft Pullman Observation

I love this newly built Scale-Craft Pullman Observation car. I will let the builder describe it.
I have been building a collection of old, wood kits to be put away for the grand kids to be opened in the future--with the idea of them seeing what went into building these things in "the old days." Most of the equipment is HO scale, but I've done a couple of OO scale for the fun of it. This kit came with trucks but no decals. It's been a real challenge, and I cannot believe the Scale Craft people actually thought their kits would be successfully built by anyone who didn't have a shop of some kind back in 1940 and after the war in 1946. But then the general philosophy with most kit manufacturers seemed to be to give the buyer an ideal picture of the finished product along with a similar written description and then see what the poor souls could do with the stuff they put into the box! Fortunately I was able to deal with most of the curves they threw at me with this one.
Beautiful work. Back in those days it was not easy to be a model railroader, something I have been appreciating more as I have been working through the current project to document OO through the years; the series starts here. Thank you to Art W. for sharing the photo and allowing me to share his note on American OO Today.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Nason Hudson Kit

I was able to recently obtain most of a set of castings for a Nason Hudson. For a long while I only had a few parts of this classic OO model, introduced in 1936 (two years before the Lionel Hudson) and produced until WWII.

It has been very interesting to hold this vintage set of sand-cast bronze castings in my hands. On one hand, they really are art! But on the other hand you would have to be a serious home machinist to build this model then or now from these castings.

What I appear to have is, to use the terminology of the 1939 catalog, is casting kit “A” for the locomotive and also section 6 of the full “eazy-to-build” version which is the tender. Starting with the locomotive,
This kit contains all castings (58) as listed for building the Hudson locomotive. No machine work has been done. A lathe is required to machine the drive and trailing wheels. Detailed drawings and construction notes are included…. $18.00
I have 30 of the 58 parts mentioned above but the only significant parts missing are the drivers and the pilot. Many of the parts are marked with 200 series numbers (I have parts with 300 series numbers in my collection as well; these are for the 2-8-0). Under the heading “Specifications” we learn among other things that the locomotive weighs approximately 2 ½ pounds and other highlights including:
BOILER – One-piece cast bronze with all details including running boards, stack, steam and sand domes, feedwater heater, air tanks and turret. The bronze casting facilitates soldering.
CAB – Bronze, cast in five pieces in order to get maximum detail.
MAIN ENGINE FRAME – Two-piece bronze casting. This type of casting together with the 3/16” steel axles insure excellent bearings.
Check out this close up of the trailing truck wheelsets. There is no way I am ever going to try to make those into working wheelsets! At least not before I own a serious lathe and have lots of time on my hands to learn how to use it well.

The tender is a nearly complete set of parts for
SECTION 6 – This section completes the locomotive. All the material to build the tender. Tank and frame as fine castings as you ever have seen. Tender steps, ladders, water scoop, air-brake cylinder, and material for coal. Parts to assemble fully equalized, six wheel tender trucks (no dummies) and paint for the entire locomotive…. $7.00
Elsewhere we read of these parts,
TENDER TANK – Cast bronze in one-piece with exception of front deck which is a separate casting.
TENDER FRAME – Cast bronze with excellent detail.
As I noted in the earlier post on this model,
Hugh Nason and his partners must have been very unhappy when Lionel copied them with their die cast Hudson in 1938. It was introduced as three-rail but was produced in two-rail as well. Pricing depended on when and how you purchased the kit. In the final Nason catalog (1940) a kit that contained only the 58 rough castings of the locomotive would set you back $18, while a complete, machined kit for the locomotive ran $34 for three rail and $38 for two rail. It was also available in sections, with the tender being section 6 that sold for $7. In short a complete kit for the locomotive in a form I would feel comfortable trying to assemble ran something over $40. And the most deluxe OO gauge outfit Lionel sold with a 4-6-4, four cars, and track listed for $42.25 in 1940. The math was not good for Nason.
For sure I think this is a model that the serious Lionel OO collector should own, along with the Nason sand cast boxcar and the Scale-Craft cars that are of the same type but predate the Lionel OO versions (tank/hopper/caboose). It really puts a face on the models Lionel must have looked at in putting together their die cast OO outfit in 1938.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

1934 Series Bonus: Scratchbuilt OO Gauge Trucks

Before moving on to 1935 in the series on OO history, I was very recently able to purchase five more issues of The Model Craftsman from 1934, which shed a bit more light on the situation for the OO gaugers of that day.

The earliest of the issues just obtained is the April issue and it in we find an extended report on the 1934 New York Society of Model Engineers show, complete with many photos of manufacturer displays. For example, "The Mantua Toy & Novelty Company had a display of their 00-gauge and 0-gauge motors, specially designed for this work." Also Fixen had a display (which is seen in a photo as well) of "Standard and 0-gauge materials that showed switches and track for replacing the regular tin variety. They also had motors and car bodies for multiple unit trains." And also in this issue Nieter was advertising his OO gauge MU cars and parts.

In the May/June issue (there were only ten issues published that year, July/August were also combined) Fixen had an ad that notes "00 wheels on axle 60c 4 pair. Soon in production." These wheels would have been very handy to build the trucks featured in the November 1934 issue and illustrated below.

The article was by William O. Hillary and is part two of his article "Construction of a 00-Gauge Refrigerator Car" that was featured in this previous post. He begins,
The trucks for the 00-Gauge freight car are quite simple to construct, but it is advisable to purchase the finished wheels, which come complete on the axle.
The side frames are made out of sheet metal 1/16" thick. The design should be drawn out and then marked on the surface of the metal with a fine centre punch. Then drill and file out the open holes. Use a fine rat-tail file to finish the interior corners. 
The axle boxes should then be made out of 1/8" square brass and sweat soldered onto the side frames. Then drill the holes for the axles on the inside of the frames, being sure that those holes are not drilled through the axleboxes. Use a drill that is slightly larger than the axle ends. These should run freely.... 
The cross piece, which connects the two frames together, is made out of 1/8" square brass, and is fastened to the side frames with shouldered bolts. ... The frames should be loose on the crosspiece in order that the wheels can take up the inequalities in the track. The holes in the side frames should be made to fit snugly over the shoulder of the bolts.
His article concludes by explaining how to drill the center hole in the crosspiece to attach the trucks to the car and also has notes on painting the trucks. To see some very similar trucks on a car, look at the trucks in this article by Howard Winther, especially the caboose. They should be made by a similar method, with the bolt heads exposed on the outside, and look different than the trucks he described in his 1933 article on the topic of trucks.

In spite of Hillary saying that these were "quite simple to construct," making a pair of trucks from scratch from two types of brass stock (1/16" sheet and 1/8" square) could not have been easy. If you have a car riding on trucks of this general type you can be pretty sure that they are very early trucks.

Also, looking at the big picture of this, trucks were a big concern of early OO gaugers. Of all the early articles on American OO this is perhaps the only topic to have two articles published. The availability of commercial trucks for OO gauge use would get better in 1935, more on that soon.

Return to the beginning of the 1934 series.

Continue to 1935 series.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Strombecker OO Railroad Models

Back in the article on American OO Train Sets that has been posted for some time (one of the most popular in the site) I noted that one company and actually the first company to offer OO scale train sets (of a sort) was the Strombek-Becker Mfg. Co. (Strombecker) of Moline, IL.

The instructions for the 2-8-2 are dated 1936, which should be the date of the introduction of these prewar products. In the prior article I note that,
These prewar sets were un-powered wood and paper kits--static models--for a freight train, but the cars could be converted for model railroad use. They were built to 5/32"=1' scale but were marketed as OO. Versions were offered that included either a 2-8-2, tender, gondola, boxcar, and caboose or a 2-8-2, tender, NYC MDT reefer, and caboose.
One final note: Actually, the Lionel 1940 and 41 catalogs also say that their models are built to the scale of 5/32”=1’, the scale of the Strombecker models. Technically OO is 4mm to one foot, but the difference is small, and in those pre-war days it probably was better marketing to use the English measurement rather than metric.
Strombecker itself dated back to 1911, and they made quite a variety of models over many years. This article gives good coverage of their overall line of wood models which included airplanes and military models in addition to trains, and this article covers their later slot car production.

The photos in this article were taken some years back of models in the collection of William Chapin. The line of Strombecker railroad models included the two trains already noted (One version of the freight train included the 2-8-2, tender, gondola, boxcar, caboose and another was the 1922L Freight train which included the 2-8-2, tender, NYC MDT reefer, caboose) and also these locomotives:
  • 1875C 2-4-0, "J. W. Bowker"
  • 1922H 2-8-2, D.L.&W.
  • 1929 2-8-8-2, GN, with 12 wheel Vanderbilt tender
  • 1861C 4-4-0, "Wm. Crooks," GN
  • 1869C 4-6-0, "Ross Winan's" camelback, B&O
  • 1937A 4-8-4, SP Daylight
The freight cars, to describe them more fully, included:
  • 1922T Modern freight cars--gondola, boxcar, caboose
  • Boxcar (also listed in literature as an automobile car)
  • Gondola, PRR 290148
  • Reefer, wood, MDT 5555
  • Caboose, PRR 477618
An article on the railroad models produced by Strombecker was published in the April, 1983 issue of The Train Collectors Quarterly. In the article it is noted of the prewar models that
The majority of these were issued in “O” scale (1/4”) or “OO” scale (5/32”). The two definite exceptions were the 3/16” Hudson, and the 1/8” (slightly smaller than “HO”) rocket.
Reflecting on these in light of the series of articles produced recently on the early history of American OO the choice of 5/32” scale is interesting over modern HO or 1/8” scale (1/96). First, OO was seen by Strombecker at that time as the small scale of choice. Also, while normally we think of OO being 4 mm scale, Lionel literature would later also say that their models were 5/32” scale. This is in reality very close to 1/76, being only fractionally smaller. The tolerances are loose enough on these wood models that I am sure the difference would not at all be notable.

I have never seen one of the freight cars converted to scale use but I have been told the conversion has been done. They were a part of the landscape for OO gaugers of the time, perhaps were a part of why Scale-Craft took the plunge into OO, and certainly served to promote OO as a size for railroad models in general.

UPDATE: From the 1940 series I would add this image, a portion of a great advertisement on the back cover of the February issue of The Model Builder. This is the bottom portion of the ad (full image here), which features three of their OO scale items. The text is a bit hard to read (click on the photo for a better view) but clearly all these models were sold as OO scale models.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

OO in The Modelmaker, 1925-30. Part IV: 1930 and the First American OO Gauge 4 mm Scale Product

1930 is the year one would have to point to as the first year of American OO existing as a scale and gauge clearly separate from any other.

In the January, 1930 issue of The Modelmaker we find a report on the second annual exhibition of the New York Society of Model Engineers, which had been held in December of 1929. In it the name of F. D. Grimke comes up several times as he was an officer but in particular we have this note.
Mr. F. D. Grimke, made quite a display with an old model hull of three masted sailing ship; Ship weathervane; Reading ¾” scale Atlantic type Locomotive; “OO” gauge Locomotive and passenger car; Gondola; and 39” model steam power boat.
What the OO models were we can only speculate, but in continued coverage of the exhibition in the following issue it is noted that a Mr. M. Brownstein displayed “’OO’ Gauge Railroad Equipment and Rolling Stock.”

The March issue contains a significant development in the form of the first advertisement for the Mantua “Midjet Motor.” This I reported on in this article and I would repeat again that this motor can’t be underestimated as having a strong role in development of 4 mm American OO, as this motor would fit in a 4 mm scale locomotive but not in a 3.5 mm scale locomotive.

Grimke advertised his services as a modelmaker in the June issue and offered for sale assembly drawings for a locomotive (the “Hudson-Lafayette Locomotive”) but the scale is not specified. He had a similar ad in the July issue (later ads specify that this model is 2 1/2” gauge) but on the same page is a much more exciting ad for our purposes, as it is the first advertisement for a 4 mm scale OO product. The ad by H. Thuilliez, reproduced here, is for a blueprint of the PRR type D78B Dining Car. Also of big interest is he states that “Construction set with die cast trucks will be ready shortly.” The advertisement actually does not say that this is a 4 mm scale product but later advertising confirms this is American OO gauge 4 mm scale.

This new advertiser seems to have prompted a full editorial on OO in the foreword to this issue. It opens noting that
Small railways systems like “OO” gauge have been much in favor in many countries, but up to the present have been almost unknown in the United States, owing to the difficulty of obtaining the necessary materials to build the locomotives and rolling stock, and for the construction of the track, signals and depots.
The editorial continues by explaining the size advantage for those living in apartments, etc. The end of the editorial gets down to some of the latest developments.
The writer was recently shown a finished Pullman car built to “OO” Gauge. It was certainly a very excellent piece of work. The builder is preparing to put on the market this Fall complete sets of materials and supplies necessary for the equipment of a complete “OO” System. We feel sure the many of our readers will be interested in his products, which will be first class in every particular.
One notable thing absent from this editorial is defining exactly what OO is. However, in September foreword/editorial we learn
The four most popular scales used in the U. S. (we are considering the question from the scale model standpoint) are “OO” – 4 mm; “O” or ¼” scale, 1 ¼” gauge; ½” scale, 2 ½” gauge; ¾” scale, 3 ½” gauge.

If you are strong in finances and have ample ground to lay out a garden railway system, we would suggest ½” scale 2 ½” gauge, or better still ¾” scale with 3 ½” gauge.

If you wish to have an in door railway and have a large attic, or a spacious cellar we would suggest ¼” scale, 1 ¼” gauge. If, however, you only have a small room “OO” would be ideal for the purpose.
The editorial still left the gauge of OO hanging, as they only defined the scale. Thuilliez and Grimke probably also noticed this omission and made the answer to this question very clear in the first advertisement for their new venture, Thuillgrim Models. This final image is of this first advertisement, found in the October, 1930 issue. Nothing new is listed compared to the products listed in their individual ads mentioned already, but in the ad it is crystal clear that they saw OO as 4 mm scale running on ¾” gauge track which finally defined the scale and gauge as different than 3.5 mm scale or 1/8” scale running on 5/8" gauge track.

As they say the rest is history! American OO was off and running. To keep following the story of the early years continue into this series on 1931.

Return to the beginning of the 1925-30 series

Sunday, October 31, 2010

More Trucks of Mystery [Hoffman's]

I spotted a couple items I wanted in a recent eBay lot and with them got a few items I was not as interested in, including this car with these trucks.

The car itself is pretty much a garden variety, standard early Scale-Craft reefer with the sand cast doors and hatches, lettered for the Santa Fe and with chipping decals. The really unusual thing were these trucks. Take a look; they appear to be die cast and are sprung. Side on they look similar in ways to Scale-Craft trucks but the details are different. Visually for me they are right on the fence between being a manufactured item and perhaps a prototype of an item put together by a skilled modeler with an eye to either personal use or sales. That they are on a pre-war car may say they are pre-war or it may say that they got put on this car later. The standard S-C truck screws are used to attach them but with a bunch of extra washers, which would imply that originally the car had S-C trucks.

The wheelsets are gone and no wonder, there is at present way too much play between the bolster and the side frames. This maybe again points to the skilled modeler theory. This truck bolster has the round section in the middle and the other is square at that point but otherwise identical.

If they are manufactured items I don’t have the slightest idea of the manufacturer [But see UPDATE at end]. What is sort of sad as well is I don’t believe there is anyone reading this article that will have any idea either. Some things we can figure out with some effort and luck but if this is a manufactured item then this for sure is a low production, oddball item by probably a very minor maker and from the detail level pretty early on.

If anyone else even has a pair of these on a car I would be curious to hear from you.

UPDATE: My thinking now is these are Hoffman's trucks, sold with their kits introduced in 1938. More on Hoffman's here. They appear to have produced the first sprung trucks ever marketed in American OO.

UPDATE II: See this article for another Hoffmans truck, one that looks to be complete and original.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

OO in The Modelmaker, 1925-30. Part III: OO that is not really OO, 1928-29

As noted in the previous segment of this article, scale and gauge nomenclature was not clear or settled in the early years of our hobby, and there were not many products out yet either. 1928-29 is an interesting case study in this. In January of 1928 there is for example an item on rail.
Mr. C. Holt writes that he has had an active demand for his brass rail, which he has in three sizes suitable for gauges from “OO” to 3 ¼”. We have seen samples of this rail, and can recommend it as first class.
The Modelmaker tended to plug their advertisers and Holt was one. Curiously, though, in his ad in the very next issue there is no mention of OO rail, just O and ½ inch scale rail.

In the March issue a reader wrote in expressing an interest “in model locomotives for small gauges” looking specifically for “scale drawings of an ‘OO’ steam locomotive, American Type.” Later in that same issue we hear again from F. D. Grimke. It is in a report on the February, 1928 meeting of the New York Society of Model Engineers, where were learn that he had “exhibited some ‘OO’ commercial clockwork and electric locomotives and cars which he had repainted.” Finally, at the end of this issue is an ad for the American Model Railway Company of E. P. Alexander that includes two items of interest: “Two OO gauge prints: P. R. R. P54 coach and 70-P tender” each of which sold for 35 cents. These should be HO scale based on what we learned of his early models in part II of this series.

In terms of OO the rest of 1928 is pretty slow. We do see one item in the August issue, brief, from a person in Peoria interested in OO and O gauges model railroads.

Things pick up again in January of 1929 with this ad from E. P. Alexander/American Model Railway Company. It seems that they have a special shipment of OO gauge but it is clearly 5/8” gauge and also clearly of British manufacture. An expert in early British HO/OO could probably guess pretty closely what it is, but suffice to say for our purposes these models are not American OO gauge.

In the March issue we read of the annual show of the New York Society of Model Engineers. This time around Grimke displayed a number of 1/8” scale models including a passenger coach, a G. W. R. dining car, and a 1/8” scale switch. So at that point he was working in a smaller scale than American OO. But he was also working on things other than trains, and this photo shows Grimke at the far left with his power boat in July of 1929.

To conclude the year, in the December issue E. P. Alexander also advertised “Many OO Gauge items” in his full page advertisement for American Model Railways. Again, these I would think to be probably British HO/OO 5/8” gauge.

It would not be until 1930 that we see specific mention of American OO 4mm scale, which will be the final topic of this series.

Continue in 1925-30 series

Sunday, October 24, 2010

An OO Gauge PRR P70 Coach

The article on the 1927 3.5 mm OO (HO) models of E. P. Alexander featured a photo of his HO scale (he called it OO) PRR P70 coach. Today I would like to feature an early 4 mm OO model of the same car that is nearly through the paint shop here in Arizona. It is the Nason Railways OO kit for a PRR P70 coach, introduced in 1936, with brass sides.

This particular example has a bit of a story. The sides and the roof were in a lot purchased over fifteen years ago ("before" may be seen here, scroll down) and little by little I have put together the parts needed to complete the car. The prior owner must have been working on rebuilding it and did not finish the project; the sides were actually lettered for the Green Brook of David Sacks but the paint job was quite damaged and my purchase was not from Sacks. It would have matched the RPO in this post.

I opted to strip the sides of the coach (see this post) and over the years I have been able to assemble a set of nearly all of the other original Nason parts needed to complete the car. I had to work up a floor spliced from two floors but there will be (besides couplers) actually only two non-Nason parts on the car body itself, the two raw metal steps visible in the bottom photo. They nearly match the original Nason castings and are I believe vintage Selley parts. The other parts are all Nason and perfectly match the parts in an unbuilt kit in my collection. The trucks to be used are also original Nason trucks but rebuilt with Famoco wheelsets.

Soon I will have the car fully painted and assembled, one of a matched set of four Nason cars I have underway, all of which will be as close to all original as I can make them.

Update. The car nearly finished is here and  the finished car may be seen here.

Friday, October 22, 2010

OO in The Modelmaker, 1925-30. Part II: the Early OO (HO) Models of E. P. Alexander

As a preliminary note one central thing should be pointed out clearly; there are no references at all to HO before 1931 in The Modelmaker! The scales smaller than O were always called OO. F.D. Grimke tried to set the record straight later on HO and OO in articles in April 1931 and May 1933, but even as late as the early issues of The Model Railroader in 1934 there was some confusion out there about scale nomenclature. In short it is a bit confusing for the modern reader to sort out, but the fact is that the first "OO" models featured in The Modelmaker were certainly actually HO.

In March of 1927 we find the first listing for OO parts in the form of not one but two classified advertisements by E. Alexander of New Rochelle, N.Y. The first:
Ready for Delivery “00” Gauge parts, cylinders, wheels, domes, chimneys, passenger and freight trucks, finished cars and locomotives built to order, etc. Send 2 cent stamp for list.
And the second:
Model Railway Supplies, “00,”, “0” and 1 gauge finished locomotive parts, freight and passenger trucks. Separate list for each gauge. Write enclosing 2 cent stamp.
Edwin P. Alexander (1905-1981) was posthumously inducted into the O Scale Hall of Fame in 2000; an overview of his model railroad work may be found here. In short he was very enthusiastic about model railroading for many years. In the previous issue, in February of 1927, he had an article on an automatic block signal system that was designed for use in No. 1 gauge, and in the next issue we find an even more interesting feature article. Due to the significance of this article I will quote it below in full, with the illustration (which may be clicked on for a larger view).

By E. P. Alexander

The Pennsylvania P70 coach illustrated is correctly built to scale being 11 1/8” long (280 mm) and 1 3/8” wide (35 mm). The prototype is 80 ft. by 10 ft.

The construction is fairly simple. The floor is one piece of wood as is the roof which is correctly shaped. The ends are also of wood with pieces of rubber shaped to represent the vestibules. The sides are of fiber board having the windows cut out with a very sharp knife. The doors and window frames are slightly recessed by peeling out a little of the board. Cutting out the windows will be found to be the hardest part of the entire construction. Mica was used for glazing. Ventilators are small round head screws and washers, heads being filed down.

Underbody details are battery boxes (wood) and air reservoirs made from brass tubing held with staples. Steps (the only other difficult part if they are made to scale) are built up from sheet brass and wooden blocks. Air and steam pipes are wire with a small blob of solder on the ends to represent the connection. Trucks were English type modified to simulate American type.

The car is finished in lacquers and lined and lettered in oil colors. It will just negotiate the standard curves but when more are built, they will be shortened somewhat.
The one main thing to note is that this car, while he called it “00” in the title of the article with two zeros, was from the dimensions given clearly modern HO, 3.5 mm. scale.

In the October, 1927 issue we find another article by Alexander, this one on a PRR DD-1 electric locomotive in OO (double O this time) scale which was clearly designated as “3.5 MM Scale.” At the end of the description he notes
The model has been commended by various railroad officials of the Pennsylvania Railroad and was mentioned in the Philadelphia Public Ledger. I suppose the novelty of such a small size working model explains much of the interest shown in it.
At the end of this issue we find this advertisement, his first full advertisement for his firm The American Model Railway Company. Note especially the sales of passenger car roof and floor sections and also box car body sections in wood. These are listed as OO but from the articles these are clearly early HO products and perhaps the first American products ever marketed in any scale smaller than O.

It would be quite interesting to actually see his 14 page catalog to know what exactly was for sale. I suspect much of it was imported from England. Whatever he sold it was a start. Small scale models had been featured in the leading model railroad related journal in the United States of that day and a line of products was for sale.

When we continue the focus will be on OO products in The Modelmaker from 1928-29, all of which appear to be 5/8” gauge.

Continue to Part III.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

OO in The Modelmaker, 1925-30. Part I: The First Mention of OO

When I started writing what has turned into a fairly substantial series of articles on OO by the years I began actually not with a big series in mind but really just a look at the OO series by F. D. Grimke that was published in The Modelmaker in 1931-32. But OO was in fact seen in the United States before 1931, and this new series on OO in The Modelmaker between 1925 and 1930 takes us back to the very roots of OO and HO the United States, a story that it will be seen to be is as much about early HO as much as it is about OO.

The Modelmaker began publication in January of 1924 and was aimed at “those interested in making working models.” Initially bi-monthly, it was not until the May, 1924 issue that I see anything on model railroading. In the Foreword to that issue you can tell they must have been getting some inquiries on the topic, including this item from Grimke. The editors were very familiar with him as he had a series of articles in the first three issues of the magazine on building this ½ H.P. marine steam engine.
Mr. F. D. Grimke has shown some samples of a very ingenious rail chair he has designed. Its application is very simple yet effective. The cost for the steel dies is considerable so before putting this work in hand he would like to hear from prospective customers. Address him c/o THE MODELMAKER.
No gauge or scale is specified, they are likely not OO rail chairs, but it shows even back then he was interested in more than building marine engines for power boats from scratch. This photo of the Grimke marine engine is from the cover of the March, 1924 issue.

In any event, after that issue the hobby of model railroading was featured regularly in The Modelmaker but OO would not show up mentioned in print until December of 1925, in the form of a review of the contents of the November, 1925 issue of Model Railway News, a British publication. It is a one sentence item, which must have been the title of an article: “A Reversing Clockwork Locomotive Gauge ‘OO’ Scale 4 mm.” The following issues in 1926 have similar mentions of British OO articles.

And thus it began. When we return to this series we will look at the first American prototype “OO” (HO) models to be featured in articles in The Modelmaker, built by E. P. Alexander.

Continue to Part II.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

More Early American OO Freight Trucks

I figured out within a few days actually the maker of the truck sideframes in this earlier article, so today I have two more mysteries that I think won’t be so easy to solve. They both came to me very recently in purchases of parts. Click on the photo for a larger view.

The trucks on the right look really early. Size wise they are similar to Nason but they are much rougher looking than I have ever seen. The bolster was with these parts in the lot they came in and seems to match. They look to me to be aluminum castings. My guess is either they actually are very early parts by a low production, early maker (possibly even Nason or maybe Page) or they are home made. In either case they could still be rebuilt to use on the layout and seem to have seen layout use back in the day.

On the left is most of a pair of sand cast bronze trucks of a leaf spring, arch bar design. It is a type most often seen on cabooses. I don’t know of an OO maker that produced such an item but here we are and these sure look like early OO parts with the detail level we associate with the typical sand cast bronze casting. Note also that the wheelsets in the truck when it got to me were not insulated; they were for three rail use.

Making use of my parts supply I was able to set the caboose trucks up for two rail use with a vintage caboose. The wheelsets I used I believe are Famoco. I also spent some time setting up a pair of Nason 4 wheel passenger trucks that came to me with un-insulated wheelsets at the same time; one now has Famoco wheelsets and the other Scale-Craft. Both took some effort, the setup involving finding usable wheelsets with an axle either the correct length or just a bit long so that the bolster could be shimmed out with washers. To use the S-C wheelsets I had to change the truck over to a fresh pair of insulated bolsters. To offer a bit of general advice you have to work out as much play as possible not only so the wheelsets don't fall out (!) but also so that if they have a metal bolster the trucks don’t short out in two rail use. Ultimately the trouble is worth it as I got some great vintage trucks working for cars I hope to run on the layout (they roll great) but still it renews my respect for the craftsmanship of early OO gaugers and it speaks also to the idea that it was easier to make trucks that worked in three rail back at that time.

Returning to the photo, looking at the parts they also remind me that as much as you can try to study old catalogs and such there are questions that very likely the answers to are lost to history, such as who actually produced these trucks. Some mysteries out there maybe won’t be solved.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Updating and Upgrading American OO Today

One thing that I had begun to feel myself is that American OO Today is getting so large that it is getting hard to find information, especially initial information. This past week I have upgraded elements on the right side menu and also have updated several articles.

The single article with the most updating is certainly my initial article on Lionel OO Gauge. As I note there, that article was among the first ten on the site back in 2008 and as a result was high in search rankings for Lionel OO--and as such desperately needed a major upgrade. It has now been upgraded into a more fully fleshed out "101" type article on Lionel OO which I would invite regular readers to check out again.

As to the side menus, I have added a list of suggested articles and also there is the interesting, generated list of articles that are the highest traffic articles in the site based on their Google Analytics stats for the past month. Some of these I have observed have for many months remained high traffic, mostly because they hit on search engines, but hopefully also they will be of interest to regular readers who may have missed them. I also added a menu of recently updated articles. These will focus on articles that have had text updates recently, as I making an effort to upgrade and update some older posts that readers may have missed.

Working through these updates it points out to me a number of models yet to be covered in the site as well, so do keep checking back as the site grows week by week, there is still a lot to cover!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

1934, A Tale of Two Bound Volumes, part 5: The End of a Good Year

1934 was a good year for the hobby of model railroading in general, and reflecting that trend The Modelmaker was back in print in November with a good focus on model railroading. They noted in their Foreword to this issue
It is very regrettable that our financial condition made necessary a temporary suspension of the publication of The Modelmaker. We are glad, however, to have been able to make arrangements to resume with this issue. The December issue is already in the hands of the printer….
On the following page they had an important announcement.
We have come to the conclusion that in view of the fact that 90% of our business is at present mail order it is not essential that we maintain a New York office. We are accordingly moving on December 1st to … Bay Shore, N.Y.
And also on this same page they plug the purchase of back issues by noting
“OO” gauge fans will find an extremely valuable series of 9 articles contained in Volume 8. This series entitled “OO” Railway Notes was prepared for us by Mr. F. D. Grimke, present chairman of The New York Society of Model Engineers, as a result of very extensive experimental work in this field of model railroading.
Rather vindicates the significance of his 1931-32 series, one they seem to have actually cut short.

Moving over to Model Railroader, the best advertisement of the year was this small one (enlarged here for better reading) from Nason Railways. They had already advertised a number of times but finally in this ad they actually lay out what they had for sale in American OO in 1934; the cast aluminum passenger cars, the cast aluminum buildings, and their important P-5a model. This was the first commercially successful OO locomotive (photo here) and to my mind is a must have for any serious OO collector today. [And see UPDATE]

This same ad ran in the December issue, where we also see a trade topics item on another early OO manufacturer, Raymond Willey. But overall there is a bit of a push for HO from this point forward in Model Railroader, with for example an article in this issue by Eric LaNal on “The Nature of HO Gauge.” In it he states,
HO is just coming into its own. The experimental years are over, and you have all the pioneers’ mistakes to profit by. You can get all the supplies you need, and build a most elaborate railroad for far less than the cost of a single ready-made O gauge scale locomotive.
As to The Model Craftsman, I would note in the December issue that Temple Nieter had advertising listing OO M.U. cars, wheels, trucks, pantographs, and rails. He managed to promote OO in all three magazines that year which speaks again to his enthusiasm for the scale although in terms of products for sale he would never be a major maker.

All in all it was, as already noted, a good year for American OO, particularly with several feature articles on the new scale and the arrival of a serious and stable OO manufacturer in the form of Nason.

UPDATE: I should have noted as well a prior article on Fixen, which was a supplier that sold Nason and also a line of figures. I have their price sheet from December of 1934; more on this here.

UPDATE: The 1934 series continues with this article on the early OO trucks by William O. Hillary.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

1934, A Tale of Two Bound Volumes, part 4: Bad Times for The Modelmaker, and a “00-Gauge” Refrigerator.

Economic times were down and a sign of those was that The Modelmaker temporarily suspended publication after their July/August issue, not to return until November. So for this installment we turn to The Model Railroader and also The Model Craftsman.

After the OO coverage earlier in 1934 in The Model Railroader things slowed down a bit. One item that caught my eye was in the September issue, on the New York Society of Model Engineers. They met every Tuesday evening in the Knickerbocker Building in New York City, and in addition to a large ¼” scale layout they also had an OO layout. This is the first mention of this layout and as things lead up to the big product releases of 1937/38 having this OO layout in this prominent location by 1934 can’t be overlooked as a reason why Lionel in particular went into OO instead of HO.

Turning to The Model Craftsman, I only own three issues from the year. In the October issue they had an interesting article by William D. Hillary on “An 00-Gauge Refrigerator Car.”

Before looking at the article itself, I need to digress a bit. The title of this 1934 article has OO as 00, zero-zero in other words. In The Modelmaker and The Model Railroader they were pretty consistent that it always be OO gauge as in letters instead of numbers. I personally obviously am pretty comfortable calling it OO in print and advocate that use today, but actually "a large train collecting organization" in the United States consistently calls it 00 in their publications when the topic comes up. I am really not looking to pick a fight but it is a topic that someone back in TCA history must have been pretty wound up about. 00 was/is used commonly in Europe but it goes against the grain of almost everything published on the scale in the United States during the period it was most popular. I suspect that it was probably mostly a visual thing for American readers that OO won out over 00. In any event, for me when I do see a reference to 00 it does stand out a bit.

Hillary in the article tells how to scratchbuild a refrigerator car. “The method to be described demands a certain amount of care with regard to accuracy, as this gauge is too small for much leeway in this matter.” After this full size scale drawing (above) he goes into the practical aspects of building the car from wood and Bristol board, building an underbody of wood, scribing the sides by hand, etc. The last sentence has me interested to see the next issue, which I don’t own, “The construction of the trucks will be taken up next month.”

UPDATE: I own it now! More here.

When we return to this series on 1934 it will be to finish up what was a good year for American OO.

Continue in 1934 series.