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Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Difference of Decades II -- Pierre Bourassa, a Brief Look

One of the last “OOldtimers” in the American OO gauge community is Pierre Bourassa. I have been in touch with him lately by E-mail; he will be 93 in just a few days. I have never met him in person but I have enjoyed knowing him by mail for many years now. He recently sent me two photos I would like to share.

His layout was featured in the March, 1956 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman, “The road of the reds and greens - Pierre Bourassa's OO Gauge layout.” This first photo was taken on his layout not long before it was acquired by the late Dr. Donald S. Fraley Jr. and moved to Pittsburgh in 2001. I LOVE this photo of a modified Lionel 4-6-4 with a Schorr RS-2 and the town and the big curve with the long train of hoppers. This is inspirational OO modeling of a type not seen today, perhaps never to be seen again. And for train collectors out there, yes, the layout went to same Donald Fraley who edited Lionel Trains, Standard of the World, 1900-1943; he was an OO enthusiast.

Pierre sent me this specific photo because some years ago I purchased that very 4-6-4 from him and it runs on my layout today [2010--see update], as do a number of other cars purchased from him. This Hudson has a can motor, smoke unit, and Nason drivers and is pretty ideal for my layout where I posed it in a similar view. I run this locomotive and many of the cars regularly, and actually have purchased several more cars that certainly Pierre made on eBay as well. If I were to pick just one as the best of the cars I have from Pierre it would be the modern gondola seen in this article; Pierre enjoys modern models too.

The final photo is of another 4-6-4, this one by Nason as built by Pierre. Canadian Pacific number 2817 has a DC71 motor and smoke unit and was a favorite locomotive of his. He gave it as a gift to the late Ed Morlok and this particular one he would actually like to track down again. It is not certain if it passed through the Morlok auction or not but if you have seen it Pierre would love to hear from you; contact me if you have information on the whereabouts of this handsome engine.

I actually for three years, before we moved to Arizona, lived only a few hours away from Pierre and could have seen his layout. I never was able to as our two children were literally in diapers and the time was just too limited then. The layout must still be in storage somewhere, but I don’t know where it is at this point and if it will ever run again. I do know that Pierre still runs a few trains on a shelf layout. I wish I had seen it when I had the chance but at least we all can enjoy these photos from a great OO layout. Thank you Pierre for sharing, and best wishes to him as he enters his 93rd year.

UPDATE 2012. With sadness I report that I have learned that Pierre passed on in January this year. He was 94 and one of the last living "OOldtimers." It is a term I believe coined by Temple Nieter, and my working definition is any OO gauge enthusiast that got into the scale when OO was popular (most often before WWII) and stuck with it for a lifetime. Pierre was part of once very active but now gone Canadian group of American OO gaugers, and certainly Pierre was the last person living who had their OO gauge layout featured in the model railroad press.

In relation to the models seen above, Pierre really wanted to track down that Nason Hudson but it did not turn up. The widow of Ed Morlok was able to track down another Nason Hudson and gave it to Pierre, but it really did not suit him to work on at his age and lacked a tender. I offered to trade him that Hudson for the Lionel Hudson in the photos in this article, and it made it up to his retirement home for his final display and enjoyment. And I got the Nason Hudson running very well, seen in this article.

He loved building models and worked on this layout from 1948-2001, this photo being from the RMC feature article. All I know of his career is best summarized in this quote from the 1956 article.
Pierre Bourassa is in the watch business and is often on the road. Much of his rolling stock construction is done in hotels and he carries his modeling  materials in special cases. New projects are always underway.
I could go on quite a bit (and this issue of RMC is well worth finding, the cover features another OO layout and Newton Guerin) but to close for now, I would add this about Pierre. People throw this term around very casually but everything I have heard or experienced would say he was a true gentleman. He will be missed.

UPDATE 2013: I also recently learned that Pierre was the focus of the "Collector Consist" article by Keith Wills that was published in the November, 1991 issue of RMC. He reports that "Pierre bought his first model in 1947, a Scale-Craft cattle car, sold by a Westmount hardware store.... For Pierre, modeling in OO meant traveling to the U.S. on specific buying trips to places like St. Albans, Vermont, or on vacations to Portland, Maine, where he could find stores selling kits. Ads placed in RMC helped establish a network of contacts in Canada and the U.S., through which he made friends and exchanged information and models." To that I would add I know he was personal friends with many active in our scale including such figures as Fred Schorr. This is an article worth tracking down for more.

Continue in Difference of Decades series

1 comment:

Phil R. said...

Happy Birthday Pierre!!