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.


Laurel Ackerman said...

My cousin found this post and forwarded it on to me; Temple Nieter was our grandfather. I was in touch with him throughout my childhood, with fairly regular visits to Evanston (from Boston) but didn't know him all that well, in fact. But the stories my mom and her siblings have are amazing, and his love for trains is legendary.

Just wanted to say that it's great to see some more of him and hear about his active participation in the model railroad community. Not surprising :)

John Ericson said...

Great to see your comment, be sure to check the whole series with the label "Nieter" for more. I never met him in person but do remember him fondly.

Wonderboy said...

Do you plan on making any of the castings from these molds available again? I would be interested in some of the framess, to be sure.