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Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Difference of Decades I: David Sacks

Back a few months ago I had a post where I had a photo which I will repeat below, of a locomotive and cars on the layout of David Sacks ca. 1980. At the time he sent it to me as had I purchased the locomotive in the photo and several other cars (as I recall a coach and baggage car and also some flat cars and a reefer), and he also threw in copies of the Nason 1940 catalog and the Scale-Craft Round Lake catalog which were very much appreciated at the time on my college student budget. I reference both often to this day.

The layout of David Sacks was a feature article in Railroad Model Craftsman in June of 1955, as described in another prior article in this site. At the time he was in New Jersey which was arguably the main hotbed of post-war OO activity with not one but two round robin clubs very active at the time. He was a member of the North Jersey group, described here.

Sacks moved to California in 1961. Jumping forward, he passed on over ten years ago. A relative of his knew that a regular reader of this blog was interested in trains and showed him a couple items as they wanted to clear them out of the home (from an outbuilding, I believe), and after some discussion the residual equipment from his layout made its way to my home this week, with the main stipulation being it not be turned around for resale and that anything I did not want would be given to the OO SIG for members of the SIG. To find out more on that you will have to join the SIG; more details will be in the next issue of The OO Road.

In terms of the value, it was all a bit picked over and had also been in storage for a long while in less than ideal conditions so nothing is at present of that high a value. I am saving two sets of items out of the group to try to lightly restore them as groups to operating condition (a long heavyweight Green Brook passenger train and a number of Green Brook coal hoppers), and also I am saving some of the items that are more generic and at the point of needing very heavy rebuilding, which I will rebuild over time. More on projects such as that in the future, but the cars in this second photo intrigued me a great deal.

Compare these cars with the cars in the first photo: all these cars are in the layout photo he sent me with the locomotive I purchased in 1982! They are a good case study in the difference a few decades can make. Click on the photo for a closer view.

Of these cars, the first one I noticed unpacking them was that green Tyco covered hopper car, a HO conversion. It is a pretty distinctive car. The trucks on this car actually have rusted axles and if the car was not plastic it would not look nearly so good now. Three of the cars were still operable and have already made a few tours around the layout after checking that the wheels were in gauge; the Lionel Erie decaled boxcar, the Picard based D&H boxcar, and the Picard based reefer with Champion sides. The final car of the group is the green reefer of origin TBD of which the decals are only about 60% left. One of the articles on Sacks states that he was a machinist by profession, and I have no doubt all of these cars ran well for him, but these cars suffer from heavy paint jobs, sketchy details, and now condition issues including fading, rust, peeling paint (see the boxcar roof), and decals lifting. I am sure he had fun with making the cars and running the trains, don’t get me wrong, and he clearly made a lot of cars, but based on what I see in this group many had quirky details such as reefer hatches on wood boxcar with steel doors and arch bar trucks as on the D&H car. For another example, one of the modern HO conversions was on Schorr arch bar trucks. Still, he liked them enough to keep them running on the layout into his last years so that is all worth something.

The third photo thus is of the currently layout worthy cars from this group on the layout with the engine I purchased from Sacks and rebuilt seen in the photo from Sacks. It is interesting seeing them all together after the passing of time.

Finding the above cars left me wondering, are any more of these cars that just made their way to Arizona visible in the photos in the 1955 RMC article? There are only two that are obvious and similar but probably are not actually the same cars. One is similar to a camp car on p. 14 of the RMC article but it was either rebuilt later or is only similar. The most distinctive one is the car in this last photo, which I would describe as an extended Lionel caboose. There is a caboose of the same style on p. 15 of the article, but this caboose is no. 8 and the one in RMC is no. 9. It could be the same car repainted and renumbered, but also could easily be a twin. It is a little crude in workmanship and the trucks need heavy work before this car rolls again but at the same time it is certainly an interesting vintage item and in terms of condition one of the best in the group. This one I want to keep for running with the Green Brook hopper cars for the coal unit train, it is the perfect mate for the train and very representative of David Sacks. [Update: The rebuilt model may be seen here].

Only one car in the whole group, a kitbashed HO caboose, had Kadee couplers. The Green Brook items I retain I will not plan to upgrade to Kadee couplers, as I will run the hoppers and passenger cars as a block. The other items, more in the category of heavy rebuilding, will be upgraded to the general level of operational standard I have, which includes Kadee couplers.

Periodically I will come back to items from David Sacks; there are some interesting items here and lessons to learn. I look forward to working over a number of these items in the coming years.

UPDATE: The wood boxcar and Lionel boxcar as restored may be seen here.

Continue in Difference of Decades series

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