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

Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Nieter Molds

The one lot that I really wanted from the Morlok auction was the Nieter molds. Some time back I posted on my memories of Temple Nieter and his teaching me how to cast my own parts back when I was in high school. For years I have basically left the molds I made resting in a box and for almost the same number of years these molds from Temple Nieter have done the same.

This first photo is of their new home in Arizona, organized into three containers. I can’t tell you an exact number of how many molds I have but there are over 100 molds the collection and of those I believe that about 80% are still usable. I have his 1980 list of what he had available (which he offered to other OO gaugers at the time at nominal cost) and most of the molds seem to be here and more. It will take time to fully inventory what is in the collection.

The second photo gives a good idea of what the molds look like. This particular mold was selected to illustrate as it is not only the largest mold and one of the last made, but also it is ironically of the Limco MP54 car featured a few posts ago. So a few of these are for sure out there! Note the part in the mold, left there to help the mold retain its shape, and also note that the mold inside is rather black. This may be from a mold release (graphite? Must re-check my notes from him) but I am inclined to think it is a result of the metal alloy Temple used for the castings. He used scrap Linotype. The melting point on this alloy is fairly high and in my past experiments with castings I never had good luck with it, probably in part because I may not have got it hot enough.

As to the future use of these molds, with their age I am reluctant to use Linotype again because of the melting point. I have a good supply of Cerrobend which has a lower melting point and will start with that sometime when I have a bit of time. I will also start with one of the less important molds, some of which are of Sn3 or HO parts usable in OO for example. The big Limco sides will certainly wait; I suspect that they will be pretty difficult to cast actually, as to fill these gravity castings well the metal has to remain liquid until all the air is vented out which is tricky. You can see that his last casting in the Limco car side mold was actually unsuccessful.

Plastic resins are another possibility. I tried these in the past as well and never got a good part out of any of my molds. The tough part is getting all the air out. I may experiment with making a device to spin the castings or vibrate the castings. That might actually work for the Limco side molds for example. There are also side molds for the very rare Graceline hopper as well that it may be possible to reproduce in this manner.

One final item I would like to note that will tie together this with the previous two posts. Back in 1978 I sent Temple an Eastern freight car frame. He marked it “Nieter for Ericson 4 Feb 1978,” made a mold of it, and sent the original back with several copies. Another copy that he cast was actually in one of the Famoco kits mentioned yesterday and in the molds I easily found the mold he made to make those parts. Thus, in the final photo we reunite the original part with the Nieter mold and the last copy that he cast, which for me personally at least is a very interesting thing to see together after 30 plus years.

I am happy to have these molds now and as I get to the point of making parts I will post on them further.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Famoco OO Box Car, B&O Sentinel

Another surprise in my purchases from the Morlok auction was this very nicely built up Famoco boxcar. It was in a Famoco box (surprise!) and needed absolutely no adjustment to put right on the layout, coupler height and wheelsets were all spot on standards.

I have posted on the history of Famoco in general previously so I don’t have a lot more to add to that. This specific car is one of the nicest Famoco cars I have seen built up, and this looks to be all original other than the Kadee couplers.

In the bottom view you can see the easiest way to ID a Famoco car; the frame is clearly marked Famoco. The frame is not a single casting; one casting is used for each half. Click on the photo for a larger view. Also it is worth mentioning here again that Famoco and Eastern OO box and refrigerator cars share perhaps 75% of the same parts and their production runs overlapped.

Among the Famoco kits in the lots I purchased were a couple with hand-written notes in them in the hand of Temple Nieter. He had apparently purchased these kits from someone who had taken out some of the parts and Temple substituted other similar parts. Some of these kits are duplicate kits for me and will be put on eBay over time, after I have a chance to inventory them for parts to be complete and all original as much as possible.

My final post (for now) on what I purchased from the Morlok auction tomorrow.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Eastern OO Gondola

In a prior post on Eastern I have a photo of an Eastern OO gondola kit. While I was interested to have a built up car, I only had that one sample kit and I am always reluctant to build up a kit, preferring to keep one of any kit I come across in the archive.

I played it fairly safe with what I bid on by phone from the Morlok auction. My box of purchases arrived and it was like Christmas but better as it was all OO! Mainly I purchased kits and one other lot of special interest to me which I will post about on Sunday. Most of the kits were still kits but a few were built up cars in kit boxes and others were partially built. Among the last two categories were this Eastern gondola and three started gondola kits.

In the first photo we have the built up car and two of the started cars. This car is not often seen as it is post war and also when it is seen it is not necessarily in good shape. It is a pretty easy model to spot with the Eastern frame.

This particular car is pretty solid other than the cardboard sides have warped a bit. It did not take much effort to get it layout worthy. It was on Schorr trucks but I changed it over to be on a good pair of Eastern/Famoco trucks from another car that came in the lot. That car is sort of a sad story actually [see UPDATE], someone had spent a lot of effort to scratchbuild a hopper car from balsa wood and it is not very salvageable due to being partially crushed in storage. I will save it, maybe there is a way, but the trucks were a great pair and match this car perfectly. I prefer to run cars if possible on the brand of trucks that are the same as the car.

Back to gondolas, the second photo is of this same Eastern car in a view to compare it to a brass Schorr gondola, which was also in one of the boxes from Morlok and is a great example of the car. This also needed very little work to ready it for layout use again (coupler height only). The Schorr car is finer in detail (a Japanese brass import--more here) and this is pretty easy to see in the photo.

More tomorrow from the Morlok auction.

UPDATE: Since I mentioned that hopper, a photo of it as well. It was built of balsa wood with Eastern roof ribs, ladders, and end sills. There is no reasonable way to restore this. The other side is in better shape but also damaged. It speaks to the importance of careful storage, with a side point being don't scratchbuild cars from balsa wood.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Lessons Learned from Norfolk and Ohio Hoppers

Following up on my post on the Norfolk and Ohio hopper cars I purchased in the fall off eBay, I have picked up a few lessons working on these classic Scale-Craft cars from a classic layout to bring them to the point of all being operable again.

As I mentioned with this same photo in the first post, all five cars had added details in the brake equipment, including remounted brake wheels, air tanks and valves, and the air pipes that connect not only these parts but also represent the hoses between cars. As the cars are black this is difficult to photograph but pretty visible in real life. It is a bit easier to see if you click on the photo for a close up.

Also in this photo you can see one of the couplers. One car in the set of five had dummy couplers for unknown reasons that were not actually compatible with any OO coupler I have ever seen; they are smaller and were I believe made for HO. I can think of two possibilities. One is that they could have been put on by a seller to prep the item for sale. The other is he used them on some cars because they were closer to scale. This car would have to be mid-train between transition cars if that is the case. In either case, I had couplers from an estate purchase that matched the old style Kadee couplers on the other cars so the oddball car was converted to use those for operation with its current mates. And I can believe Carl Appel was a jeweler putting them on! Modern Kadee couplers are much easier to work with.

On one car an intermediate owner between Appel and myself for sure had switched out the trucks. It was the car with Schorr trucks. They looked great but the car was in fact inoperable as set up and clearly used to have Scale Craft trucks when it was in operation, based on the way the paint was scraped on the bottom up where the wheelsets can scrape off paint in handling. So that car I restored operation with a good pair of Scale-Craft trucks that matched the look of the others closely.

Speaking of the trucks on the other cars, all the wheelsets were in gauge (which makes perfect sense as he was an operator!) and they were all weathered in the same manner as the cars they were on.

He clearly used custom decals as he had a lot of cars to letter on his big layout, as seen in this photo which is also a repeat from my prior post. Three of the cars I purchased have complete decals and two are missing some on one side. He did not seal the decals with something like Testors Dullcote. Lifting decals is a problem seen on a lot of vintage cars that have been exposed to improper storage, especially high humidity.

Finally, I was hoping that he might have painted the cars with Floquil Engine Black. Unfortunately, he did not and I was not able to easily match the paint, and the weathering complicates things further. I have enjoyed running these five classic, vintage cars for the past few weeks but for now I am going to leave all the chips unfilled and store the cars carefully. At some point I would like to buy a whole lot of different black paints (as I have done with box car reds) and see where the closest match is, if I can get the match really close I would love to restore them a bit further.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Red Adams on Scenery, and also Scenic Progress

In spite of a busy schedule right now I am making some scenic progress on the layout. This area is the last area to get scenery roughed in, as it took a long time to make some decisions. With those now made, grass and roads will follow soon. It always surprises me how quickly this can actually go down when you make a few decisions and get going.

Besides the 1937 issues of Model Craftsman mentioned in the previous post, I also recently purchased some from 1943. Red Adams wrote a series of articles on OO in this time frame for Model Craftsman, and in the March 1943 issue we find a more general article, “What’s a Pike Without Scenery!”

I have quoted him in another post and I really do enjoy his unique writing style. This article follows up on his layout since the time frame of the earlier article I quoted, which was published in 1939. Jumping to his second paragraph in this 1943 article,
As you remember, I used to have a very simple OO gauge layout down in my basement, utilizing an 8 1/2‘ x 14’ space. It was merely a double-track oval with turntable, roundhouse, a couple small storage tracks for cars and a few switches. It endeavored to depict a small division point on the Mohave Desert and allowed change of engines, water-stop and other simple servicing of transcontinental trains. As far as the actual railroad went it was very elementary stuff, no fancy panel board or track diagram, but I could control all my train movements, I did get it practically finished within a year’s time, and the scenery was complete. This scenery was of course the simplest there is to construct, just the usual wood fibre plaster over screen wire, painted, and then small bits of Christmas tree glued around in different spots to simulate the cactus. This was quite effective, as lots of visitors would give it the once over and holler, “Gee, so that’s where Rommel hides his tank force, hey.”

Now I ain’t goin’ to describe any more about this layout, as it has gone into the ash-can. I had to move (yeh, I paid the rent O.K., but he sold the building) so was lucky to buy a small shack out here in the woods of Beverly Hills, and be my own boss, me and Uncle Sam, that is for another few years, anyhow. The old woman decided that I had to do extensive interior decorating for her before I started on the layout again, so I don it to keep peace in the fambly—for a short while anyhow. I finally got her work done and started on the new system, on which I hung the non-de-plumb of Beverly Western Railway. ‘Course the job ain’t done yet by a long ways, but I have the main line open to traffic, even though it ain’t ballasted yet, have eight switches working and can at least see ‘em roll now. However it still ain’t a railroad, cause it ain’t got scenery yet! Next time you come up, I may have it all set and will describe it in detail, but now I’d like to delve into the wonder of wonders—a TREE!
The remainder of the article is, as you might guess, on making trees but there are four photos of a finished portion of the layout with equipment including an observation car, one of his 4-6-2 locomotives, and the above photo which shows a caboose with his Beverly Western logo. H. L. “Red” (Herb/Herbert) Adams wrote over 30 articles under a couple different variations of his name between 1939 and 45, it is a name to keep your eye peeled for.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Early OO Manufacturer: LIMCO

One recent eBay purchase was the full year of 1937 of Model Craftsman. In the first issue, January, I hit pay dirt and found a very clear, small ad for LIMCO, the Long Island Scale Model Company.

The subtitle of this post is, “have you seen this model?” I have never seen one, but I bet someone out there has one that they have wondered, “what is this?” This photo is from the advertisement of their PRR MU coach. The photo is small but you can clearly see the drive shaft drives the left truck. The ad copy reads,
An Exact Scale Die Cast Reproduction of the P.R.R. 64 Foot Motor Cars
The complete, powered kit sold for $19.75 and a trailer was also offered along with a 64’ “Die Cast Steam Coach” and “our new fully equalized and sprung, roller bearing type, passenger trucks.”

These were all produced at least to the point of a pilot model or three. Any out there?

Limco also produced a catalog of which I have a Xerox in my files. From that we learn that you could purchase a finished car of this MP54 MU coach for $41.50. They at that time produced a reefer with printed card sides for WFE, wood body, cast details, and equalized Arch bar trucks This car, if any are out there, is extremely rare. Other later advertising I have seen indicates that they offered also a box car and a tank car of uncertain construction details [see UPDATE for the tank car].

This pair of trucks should be the Limco design, it is equalized and arch bar, and very rarely seen. The one on the right (painted) is upright, and the other truck is turned over. The sideframes and bolster are die cast separately and held together with screws. This particular truck has late Scale-Craft wheelsets in it.

In addition to those kits they offered other parts. Besides track materials and 6 wheel passenger trucks that were die cast, the list below indicates that they must have had at least a plan to produce a steam locomotive:

Air pump, bronze
Booster, bronze
Boiler, cast aluminum
Cylinders, bronze
Deck plate and air pump bracket
Drivers, bronze, machined or unmachined
Pilot, bronze
Smoke box front, bronze
Tender truck frames, bronze
Trailer truck pivot bar, bronze
Valve gear bracket

So far as I can tell Limco was active from about 1936-38. Maybe we don’t need to resort to milk cartons to find what Limco is out there still but if you have any treasure it and I would love to hear more about it.

UPDATE: More on the tank car in this article, with photos. And also a reproduction of the side of one of the MU cars may be seen here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What is a Vintage Model Railroad Car?

With traffic still up after the Morlok auction (yesterday was one of the peak days ever) it seems like a good time to address a topic on my mind for a while, the topic of what is a vintage car?

Most OO gauge equipment you will see on the market is in fact vintage. Some of the last OOld-timers active in the scale did make a fair number of more modern models which I find interesting too, but I think you would be hard pressed to call the scratchbuilt OO Railbox car by Bill Johann in this post vintage. Then again, I think you would call the reefer in the front in the photo in this post vintage even though it was built about the same year by the same builder as were both of these scratchbuilt and not-vintage pulpwood flats. So what is Vintage?

In short it should be old--built years ago usually, at least started “back in the day”--and it should be in good shape. A vintage car should have the original decals--maybe yellowed a bit--or printed paper sides. It might have dummy couplers or could have Kadee. It should have vintage trucks, and for older models they could be mounted too far in, a bit toy-like but original to the car. If appropriate I like to see the same brand of trucks on the car as the car itself. Finally, the model could possibly be lightly restored (especially paint chips filled in) but should not have been upgraded significantly with modern parts beyond couplers.

I guess what I am getting at is for me the word vintage conveys not only that it is old but also that it is in good shape and display/operation worthy. Junkers of common models badly in need of a repaint or with damaged paper sides are just that, junkers that need rebuilding. I have included in this post a photo of two models as an example of this. Both are vintage Scale-Craft, one a great vintage item to my mind and the other interesting but a little borderline for value due to condition issues.

The model in the front I have had for many years, it was in fact among the first cars I purchased. It is an early version of the reefer with the sand cast doors and hatches. This car I did touch up the paint a little, especially the roof ribs as they were damaged slightly in storage at some point. The car was originally painted with Floquil paint I believe, as modern Floquil matched perfectly. The trucks are mounted in the original location back too far from the ends as well, giving it even more of that vintage look. I put Kadee couplers on it but otherwise it is as stock as stock can be. I run this car on the layout fairly often.

The back model is an early production example of the die cast box car that left the Scale-Craft factory about the same year. It also has the original version of the frame with the trucks mounted in too far. On the plus side it has an interesting paint scheme that was executed pretty well, but on the negative it shows water damage. The steel parts on the trucks have actually rusted, the decals are starting to lift, and the paint job has started going south with the water damage and plain old fading. It still is an interesting car I plan to hold on to but I don’t know if it has layout running in its future again, it is no simple restoration.

Part of where this post is coming from is I know there are people right now getting started in American OO because it is vintage, old, and unusual, and really the prices are not that high compared to other trains you could collect. Personally I totally agree with you on all those points, I applaud your interest. To go a little further, I would much rather put the $$ into OO trains than say electronic items, those will all be junk in ten years and with the OO you still have something of value, probably more value every year and still cool and unusual.

One final related topic to note would be something I have seen in several recent listings on eBay. Sometimes items are listed in the HO section rather than OO or are listed as HO/OO. While some building kits were in fact marketed as HO/OO, so far as I know no equipment ever was. Some HO models are overscale for HO and saw some use in OO which adds a bit to the confusion. The main group of American OO conversions from HO you will ever see were converted by OOld-timers in their later years and are mostly modern (1970s and forward) cars and locomotives.

I have a few of these models. On one hand I really like the ones that the builder went to a bit of effort to convert to scale out for OO and the ones I have all operate great on the layout. But on the other hand if it is just a straight, stock HO plastic model that is not overscale for HO to some degree that has simply been mounted on OO trucks, while it may be a good car to run when you have young children visiting the layout (which is when I run cars of this type) that car does not appeal to me much and probably does not appeal to any vintage collector either. Will these old HO conversions someday be considered vintage? Yet another question to ponder.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Famoco Roundhouse Goat

One model that was featured in the Hobby Craft Stores advertisement inside the back cover of the April, 1939 issue of Model Craftsman was the Famoco 0-4-0T. They called it the “Roundhouse Goat.”

I don’t recall ever seeing one of these in the flesh (see UPDATE III!) but I understand that several may have gone through the Morlok auction so there may be some on eBay soon. The ad copy with this photo gives a good description of the model.
Another famous engine for your OO layout, the Jersey Central 0-4-0 switcher. This kit contains COMPLETELY FINISHED PARTS. All sheet-metal units stamped and formed. Wheels and motor assembled on chassis. Boiler and domes are solid brass turnings, assembled ready to paint. No tedious filing. Permanent-Magnet motor. Complete assembly kit, $19.50, or in two sections @ $11.00 each.
I also have a Famoco catalog copy of similar vintage. The text there says this is a Central of New Jersey switcher (using also the term “Roundhouse Goat”) with a 6 volt DC Permanent Magnet motor and proudly states that “This is a very powerful model and on test has pulled 32 freight cars without effort.” That I would love to see, and I know I would pay more than $20 if one came up for sale! A unique classic model to watch for.

UPDATE I: Faster than I ever expected (I put up this post actually because I was putting a duplicate copy of that issue of Model Craftsman up on eBay and spotted that nice photo and description) I was sent photos of two of these models which were in fact purchased from the Morlok auction. I will leave the photos small to save space in the post but click on the images for a closer view. The New York Central locomotive looks to me to be essentially stock and the Yorkville and Western version may have been modified somewhat. In both cases note the view of the drive gear. Also of note in the collection with these engines was a third model that had a modified cab to use with a tender.

UPDATE II: For a photo from 1938 of what is probably a pre-production version of this model see this article.

UPDATE III: For a closer look at this model see this article. 

Monday, January 11, 2010

Post-Morlok Auction eBay Action and the Top Ten for 2009

The American OO action is heating up at eBay right now, with I believe as of this moment around 30 items from the Morlok auction on Saturday already up on sale just two days later. I see items including a number of the Moale trolleys, a Johann 2-8-2, a Schorr RS-2, a Nason gas-electric, other locomotives and freight cars, and a number of rare building kits such as the example below, which is a beautifully built up version of the Maxwell/S-C Gold Nugget Dance Hall (more here). Now is certainly the time to get to watching, I believe the number of rarely seen items up on eBay in the coming weeks will be unprecedented.

I have heard from a couple sources at the auction that the attendees were a mixture of those actually knowledgeable in OO and those who were dealers with an eye for the unusual being worth something. If you are reading this after the auction and are from the latter category, welcome to the world of American OO! Many of the items you may have purchased at the Morlok auction are actually described somewhere in this site, and hopefully the OO bug will bring a bit more new blood into the gauge, including maybe you.

While I know there are a fair number of regular readers out there (thank you!), site statistics show that 57% of the traffic arriving at American OO Today comes from search engines and this past week has been a peak week. With that in mind and as a service to those new to OO gauge, the top ten landing pages in the site during the year 2009 were the following, in order from 1-10 with the top post being strongly number one for the year. Click through to see the full articles. Enjoy!

UPDATE: The prices of all the sales through lot 522 at the Morlok auction (I am told there were actually over 600 lots) are now posted. Quite a few bargains were had, but I am also told some of the lots look better on paper than they actually were.

ALSO: Some more brief thoughts on Ed Morlok and a photo here. (This article also updated with photo).

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Custom OO by Superior Models/Jerry White

In the previous post I mentioned that the OO scale item that sold for the highest dollar amount at the 1991 Miller auction was a custom built 2-8-8-2 locomotive and tender by Jerry White.

I have personally only seen one model built by Jerry white, this Exacta streamliner described further in this previous post. I did not see it in the list at the Morlok auction but it must have been sold to a lucky buyer, an unremarked treasure in a box. Click on the photo for a close up view of this gem. It is on Schorr trucks and has full interior details.

Jerry White was over the years a manufacturer and custom builder of model trains and especially locomotives and passenger cars. I have seen a few of his advertisements, and as an example this is a scan of his ad in the February 1948 issue of Model Railroader.

As stated in the advertisement text he worked in all gauges, but it seems that today he is best remembered for his work in O scale. In recognition of this, he was inducted into the O Scale Hall of Fame in 1997. White was born in 1914. He was very active in the NMRA and was Master Model Railroader #139. As a custom builder he sold models in TT, HO, OO, S, and O scales. By the 1960s he was basically specializing in O and On3.

On his retirement White sold his business to Rod Miler, who continues to custom build. In his site he has this bio of Jerry White, which I will in conclusion due to its significance quote in full. His OO models are ones to treasure.

Jerry White grew up in Keene, NH, which was serviced by the Boston and Maine railroad. While he was a high school student in the mid-1930's he built his first model, the B&M railcar that provided local passenger service. The engineer was so impressed he bought it from Jerry. Thus started Jerry's career in railroad model building.

After graduation he developed and manufactured 2-8-0 and a 4-6-0 O scale locomotive kits.

Attempts at sharing equipment with other modelers led to his strong interest in standards in order to facilitate inter-operability. He was an early member of the NMRA in order to support its standards efforts. He served as technical chairman of the NMRA for four years, and is an NMRA Master Model Railroader.

Prior to World War II he worked for Rollin J. Lobaugh, one of the early manufacturers of O scale locomotives and rolling stock. After WW II he started Superior Models in Redwood City, CA, where he scratch built models of steam locomotives in TT, HO, OO, S, and O scale. He also scratch built some diesel locomotives, and many passenger cars including complete trains such as the Western Pacific's California Zephyr and the New York Central's Mercury.

In the 1950s Jerry designed and manufactured HO scale models of the PS-1 boxcar under the name of Kurtz Kraft. The bodies were injection molded, had separate free standing ladders, hand grabs, etc. The kits were available painted and lettered for several road names.

Over the years, he concentrated his model building activities on O scale, which was his personal favorite. He also developed a lively drive systems business as people who purchased imported brass locomotives discovered they left a lot to be desired in both smooth running and pulling power. Today an import locomotive with a Jerry White drive commands a premium price.

Jerry's locomotive building business and products were featured in an article in the September 1954 issue of Model Railroader magazine. In the February 1963 issue of Model Railroader magazine he was interviewed on the subject on locomotive performance. He also wrote an article on model locomotive gearing that was published in the August 1976 issue of the NMRA Bulletin.

Jerry presented clinics on model building, drive systems, and gearing at numerous NMRA and O Scale meets.

In 1995 Jerry retired to Napa, CA. Jerry passed away in October 2007.

The Other Big OO Auction

I understand that the Morlok auction yesterday (mentioned in the most recent two posts) was well attended and well populated with bidders! I pre-bid on just 13 items by phone, and as of this moment I am still waiting to formally hear if I won anything (the auction company was to let winners know formally by e-mail). Keeping my fingers crossed. [UPDATE: I did win five lots, including the one I most wanted to win! More on that another day.]

I only know of one other prior large auction that had a lot of OO gauge at it. It was part 2 of the auction of the George A. Miller collection. It was held April 5-6, 1991 by Lloyd Ralston Toys of Fairfield, Connecticut. Miller was a TCA founding member (#41) and collected more than OO, with a large number of rare and valuable toys (especially circus related) in the auction besides model and toy trains. It must have been quite an event. There were nearly 750 lots in the auction.

Besides publishing the magazine sized booklet on the auction of which this was the cover, they also later sent out results as in how much the lots all sold for. They are, as is probably typical of auctions, all over the map. The most expensive single lot was number 375A, “Lionel #2345 Western Pacific Screen-Top AA Locos” graded C-7 that sold for $3,800. The top five OO lots were:

1. Superior Models (Jerry White) 2-8-8-2 loco and tender. This was custom built in I believe the late 1940s and is lettered “Yukon.” $2,200.
2. Superior Models 2-8-2, another custom model, $1,100.
3. A 4-8-4 that is listed as Schorr (but is actually Scale-Craft, decorated for the Yorkville and Western of Fred Schorr) sold for $800.
4. A camelback 2-6-0 locomotive. It looks scratchbuilt and sold for $525.
5. A lot of 17 tank cars that sold for $500. The photos are very small but the three cars from this lot that I can see all look to be Scale-Craft.

And that was almost 20 years ago so you can imagine what the above would be in 2010 dollars. But to emphasize how over the map it was, a Schorr 2-8-0, a brass import described in the post directly below this one, sold for a mere $30! Or, stated differently, there were also some huge bargains! Lots that I can see easily selling on eBay today for hundreds of dollars sold for as little as $5. A Star-Continental 4-4-2 that looks just like the one photographed in their 1937 catalog (same lettering!) for example sold for only $20!

Besides all the M. P. Davis items (a lot of them! See this post for more info) one of the most interesting lots not yet mentioned to my eye was a lot of 8 Oscar Andresen etched cars that sold for $220; no photos, unfortunately, but extremely rare to be sure. Also I would note that besides locomotives from the layout of Fred Schorr there were also locomotives built by David Sacks and Pierre Bourassa, individuals who have been mentioned in prior posts in this blog.

Back in 1991 it was a bit different world for train sales. There still is a place for the traditional auction but with eBay and a younger generation of buyers, who knows, there may never be another large live OO auction again.

I have been in contact with a major buyer from the Morlok auction; I hope to post photos of some of the more interesting purchases soon, it sounds like he did very well yesterday.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Schorr 2-8-0

As promised in the post yesterday, I have photos from Dick G. of a Schorr Ma & Pa 2-8-0.

He actually has two examples; this one he took to be all original, and the other had a modified tender with a larger coal load to add weight. The four photos here are all of the unmodified model; click on any photo for a larger view.

Of them Dick G noted that there are other "minor differences between the two" as they have "different locomotive frames" and he further notes that
They are powered by a Pittman DC-71A? motor laying on its side in the tender. The tender had to be sized to accommodate the Pittman motor. The motor just barely fits inside the tender. Power is transmitted to the locomotive drive shaft by flexible tubing between the tender and locomotive. The locomotive drive shaft turns a worm gear mated to a ring gear on the third axle.

A previous owner cut out the top of one of the tenders exposing the Pittman motor possibly to make it easier to lubricate the motor. He changed the wiring making one tender truck pick up current from one rail, and the other tender truck pick up current from the other rail. He added a lead weight on top of the tender disguising it as a coal bunker.
I [John] have heard that this engine does not run that well, but this is a common problem with early Japanese brass imports and you just had to work with the model a bit. On the tender modification, it makes perfect sense that they would try weight it. On my Mantua/Tyco 4-6-0 conversion I ended up adding all the weight I could to the tender before it would track well on the layout, it has to do with making good electrical contact on the tender wheelsets. That engine may be seen here.

Comparing both, it and the Schorr engine would make a great pair. I would think to operate it you would want to add a universal to the drive connection between the engine and tender.

This post is probably a bit too late for someone at the Morlok auction to reference later today but I am fairly sure there are several for sale there among the lots listed. This is a model to watch for, an OO classic to be sure.

UPDATE: I now have one of these models and it has been rebuilt for operation. See this article for more. 

Friday, January 8, 2010

Five Locomotives from Morlok

As a follow-up before the Morlok auction this weekend, notes on five more locomotives I took photos of at his home in the late 1980s.

First up on the workbench we have a Schorr DL&W 4-6-0 camelback. There is a rundown of Schorr products in this post, and sometime soon I will post on the Ma & Pa 2-8-0, I have some photos on hand. For purposes of this post I will leave the photos small but click on any for a larger view.

The second photo is also on the workbench. This is a Guild SP 2-8-2. I mention the Guild of the Iron Horse in this post briefly, and this particular model may be seen in another view (with tender) in the second part of the article we wrote together in the April 1987 issue of the TCA Quarterly. Guild seems to have imported the models from Japan in the state seen here.

This third photo is also of a Guild engine, built up further by a prior owner and painted, a B&A 2-8-4. Now we are upstairs in his home. Note the big tender with Schorr trucks and also the HO scale engineer figure.

Finally, we are near another similar wall in the home for two last locomotives. In the back is a Lionel 4-6-4 that I suspect is a fine runner. It is lettered for the Saint Anne railroad, which was featured in Railroad Model Craftsman and I comment upon here. In the front we have what I only note on the photo as a "scratchbuilt 2-6-6-2." I wish I had a better view; I don't have any idea the builder but who would not want such a beautiful engine on display?

[One other random note, based on recent reading. There is a photo of a 4-6-6-4 kitbashed from two Lionel 4-6-4 models in the January, 1948 issue of Model Railroader, on page 60. Lettered for the Great Northern, it is not nearly as good looking as the above scratchbuilt articulated.]

At this point most of the photos I took during my all too brief visit with Ed have been posted to the blog. Good luck to all who can attend the auction tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Moale OO Traction Models

First, a news item already posted to the OO list; the OO portion of the collection of the late Ed Morlok is going to be auctioned this coming weekend by Maurer! The auction list is here

It is the largest auction of its type in some years. Looking at the list it says in bold "NO INTERNET BIDDING FOR THIS AUCTION" so I am totally out of luck way out west. Any of you near Spring City, PA need to try to be there on Saturday the 9th with many very interesting items in the list, probably a number of bargains. [But UPDATE: I am told you can place phone bids the previous night].

I know all the traction models on the list caught the eye of more than one person. I visited Ed in the late 1980s and he had a small layout and quite a few cars from a Commander Moale. At the time I took this photo of two of the cars. One is what I would call a city trolley and the other an interurban. Both are nicely scratch built. The trolley I can't make out the lettering and the interurban looks to be West Jersey and Seashore.

Phil R. on the OO list thought that he had seen photos of cars by Moale in a late 1940s issue of Model Railroader and he was correct! I was able to track down a photo of two more of his cars in the October, 1947 issue of The Model Railroader, which I believe to be the earliest published photo of the cars. In the "Picture Parade" column under the heading "Juice Train" we read, "This neat OO gauge equipment was built by Commander Edward Moale, Army-Navy Club, Washington, D. C., for his Stone Hill RR., now in storage." In this photo you will find a very similar interurban (lettered differently) and a coach/baggage trailer on a layout with overhead wire.

The same builder most thoroughly covered in this article, found via the Model Train Magazine Index:

Over 60 "OO" Scale Cars
Traction & Models, October 1975 page 20

Especially now it would be really handy to track down a copy of that article. [UPDATE: Text from this article and related photos may be found here]. And good luck to any bidders who can attend the Morlok OO auction, it should be amazing.

UPDATE: A photo of the Moale trolley layout was also published in the "Your Nabors Pike" photo section in the February, 1956 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.There we learn that,
Cmdr. Edward S. Moale, U.S.N., Ret., started building his collection of OO gauge street car models in 1936. Today he has 62, all scratch built using blue prints he picked up in various cities in which he was stationed. The Moale layout has 5 scale miles of track, most of it trolley wire; some 3rd rail track for his SIRT and BMT cars. The careful visitor will notice a few discrepancies, such as running PRT and Panama cars on standard gauge track. The Cmdr. now lives in Washington, D.C.
UPDATE II: See this article for Part II of the story on the Moale trolley and interurban models.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Two Reasons to Keep Spreading the Word on American OO

Two of the reasons I started this site were to spread the word on American OO and to make it easier for people looking for solid information on the topic to find it. Recently I set up several Google Alerts relating to American OO and this past week two items came in that gave me a couple more reasons to keep the site going.

Over at the Model Trains Hub site on December 27 [update 2014: link dead] they posted an item on the book "Lionel: America’s Favorite Toy Trains." The post itself is just a notice about this book being available (it was published in 2000), but it quickly was commented upon in the form of a review of the book. The reviewer noted that while the book had strong points, Lionel OO and HO products must have been a major mystery to the authors and editors of this book. After noting a number of grammatical issues the comment notes,
Perhaps some readers will be willing to overlook the affronts upon the language from uncorrected typographical errors; however, they may be less willing to overlook factual errors in the history and description of Lionel’s products. During the discussion of Lionel’s brief post-war venture into HO scale trains, the Souters state that “Lionel came out with a strange three-rail HO gauge track that was anathema to its primary hobbyist market.” The fact is that Lionel never “came out with” any such track during the Post War or any other era. In the late Pre War Period, the company did catalog and sell both two and three-rail track in OO gauge for a brief time. American OO gauge track is wider than HO and is not compatible with it. The book is confusing not only two different track gauges but also two different time periods.
One would think above all that Lionel OO would be a topic that people writing a book on Lionel would have researched a bit? There are quite a few resources out there and if they had ever held some OO gauge equipment in their hands it would have clarified a lot of things. On the track specifically, there are a number of resources out there on the topic, including for example my post on the topic which may be found here. I keep wishing that some maker might notice that Lionel OO track in particular must actually be in some demand with the high prices it can sell for on eBay; perhaps some maker could actually produce this again for the collector market?

The second that came to my attention was from a British [?] site on electric train sets. Their December 30, 2009 post "00 model trains and the scale they use" [update 2014: link dead] starts out fairly promising with this brief history of the beginnings of British OO
The 00 model train scale is also known as the OO gauge and it’s the most popular standard gauge model railway track in the UK. The gauge is 16.5mm and has a scale of 1:76. This scale was first created by Bing in 1921. At that time I t [sic] was called the “the table railways” and ran on a 16.5mm track, with a scale of 4mm for one foot.

The next year in 1922, the first model locomotives were created but they were powered by clockwork. It was not until 1923 that the first electric powered locomotive was created.
But later falls apart totally when they get to American OO:
The 00 gauge was tried out in the USA but it did not prove to be very popular. The company that tired to introduce the 00 scale was called Lionel Corporation. There were also other companies that tired to launch this scale but the trains only stayed on the market until 1942. This was because the HO scale was so much more popular in America.
Yikes! Perhaps they can be forgiven more easily than the authors of the book on Lionel noted earlier, but in any event if you have read this site at all you know the above quote is a mess. [See this article for a brief history of American OO].

I like to think this site has made it easier to research and understand the topic of American OO. I will certainly keep plugging away on the topic, we have a ways to go.

[UPDATE 2014--and it is interesting to note that the sites that were linked above are both now off line.]