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

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Red TOFC Car

The last intermodal car in this short series is a red TOFC car. There were four of them in the OO SIG Inventory, the other three being similar but of a slightly different design.

These are in fact scratchbuilt. The first photo shows one of these cars with a full sized OO trailer (kitbashed from a toy I believe) and the second photo shows one under construction, primed for painting. The construction photo was sent me by Bill Johann back in 1991, along with a photo of a completed car of the same type, car number 367, with a trailer of the same type. I think he sent it to me at the time because I was a younger guy and maybe could be enticed to get interested in more modern equipment. At the time though I was very focused on the 40’s-50’s period and I did not follow up on this. Now, I actually have three distinct groups of equipment; transition era, 1920s era, and “modern” 1980s era.

These cars are short units that run great on the 26” radius curves of my layout. I am going to have to put together a good, 1980s era locomotive sometime soon to pull these.

One additional red car needs more work and is still not usable but between well cars and spine cars and other TOFC cars I have a total of ten units that will operate together and they really are a pleasure to run, they look so much like the trains we see still see today out in the west.

The next couple weeks I will be pretty tied up and will have a limited ability to post (or ready the Inventory) but be watching for more on that as soon as practical.

UPDATE: I learned from Pierre Bourassa that he made the trailer in the photo. It was made in a different manner than the others with the cars which are marked as being by Bill Johann.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Two OO Scale Well Cars and a Spine Car

Listed in the OO Inventory of the OO SIG for years have been several container and TOFC cars. As lately I have been getting more interested in modern equipment for OO, so my main request from the inventory was this group of cars. They recently arrived (with the rest of the inventory—see the most recent issue of The OO Road) and as I started getting things organized I made it a first project to also work on these cars.

These cars were built by Bill Johann. I am not sure if I can call them scratchbuilt or kitbashed. Scratchbashed? He basically took HO models and rebuilt them quite extensively to the extent that they are really close to OO and are sized to hold full scale OO truck trailers and containers that he also scratchbuilt for the most part.

The first two cars in our brief overview of a set of five cars are these two well cars. This type of car holds containers stacked two high.

I found a couple photos of these specific models in The OO Road (Johann was editor for some years) but so far as I can tell no specific article was written about them. There is a photo in Vol. 5, No. 1 but the best photo of this pair is in Vol. 15, No. 3 (August, 2001), which shows both of these cars in action.

Also in Vol. 6 No. 2 there is a photo that compares the HO version and his OO modification. I am not sure what exactly his basis model was, but the comparison model is only lightly modified for OO, and these containers were modified only to look like OO from the side. A side note being that the lightly modified car is an orphan car, a “one of” in the SIG inventory. If someone else has the rest of the set contact me, you should have this car.

The two well cars are actually also orphans; they should have originally been part of a larger set. Fortunately however I discovered that they can be run with three other TOFC spine cars that are also orphan cars as a five unit set with only slightly modifying a spine car. Perhaps someone else is running the other cars of both these sets now? I have to hope so.

The spine cars are a type that will hold trailers or containers. The last photo is of a representative car from the set with a container load. Note that the container is scratchbuilt and sized accurately for OO.

Almost all of these cars were damaged when they arrived in Arizona which was in part a function of their being somewhat fragile as plastic models converted to OO. Repaired they run great! I really love these cars; they are honestly much better cars than I thought they might be from merely reading the inventory listings.

The last post in this short series will be on another type of Johann TOFC car that fills out the train well.

UPDATE: A few more details on the spine cars. Each one seems to be made from two HO cars. The two frames are spliced together with top and bottom members added to give the frame the correct length and more bulk. The wheel wells for the trucks are spliced together from HO parts to be long enough. The car ends are built up a bit as well. Effort was taken to build them up so they really don't look like HO cars on OO trucks, they really have more mass. With the big containers and trucks trailers (40' to 45') riding on them they are unmistakably OO.

Also note that 20' and 40' containers are easily available today from the UK for their OO market. Of the containers and trucks with these Johann cars only one container, a 20 footer, was a commercial item, the rest were scratchbuilt.

UPDATE II: The spine cars are based on Front Range cars, as noted later in this post.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Crated Loads on a Revell Flat Car

One car I only recently learned was considered back in the day to be a good car to convert to OO was the Revell flat car.

This example was built up by Bill Johann with two crated loads. A catalog page with this car listed may be found here in the HOSeeker site; it was produced in the late 1950s and marketed at the time as an “extra long” flat car. In OO it would measure 47.5 feet long and is 9.5 feet wide; the Revell car thus is actually almost the same size as a Scale-Craft flat and with rivet details! It is a car to keep your eyes peeled for.

There is a photo of a prototype car with the same markings and a very similar load on the last page of The OO Road for April of 1989, which included an article by Johann on TOFC and COFC cars. I will follow up this article the next few days with posts on each type of car.

UPDATE: This particular model I have updated with roller bearing trucks, for running with my 70's-80's equipment.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Schorr RS-2 to RSD-4 Conversion

Another model that recently passed through eBay was this modified Schorr RS-2 modified with six wheel trucks. Dick G. forwarded these great photos which give us a better look at this interesting model.

There is such a thing as a RSC-2 with six wheel trucks, but that would have a different style of truck with evenly spaced axles, the middle being unpowered on the prototype. What we have here is a slightly freelanced version of an Alco RSD-4 or RSD-5. The prototype versions of the RSD-4 and 5 are relatives of the RS-3 so elements of the body style are incorrect.

However, the main difference is the battery box near the short hood or rather lack thereof. I think we can all agree this is a handsome model and that the battery boxes are missing is not a big problem.

Where this model gets different is the drive. The original drive has been replaced with a Hobbytown drive, of which the part number 261 is very visible in the final photo (click for a larger view). Dick notes that
The center gearbox on the Hobbytown 261 power truck looks narrow enough to be used in HO gauge. There is about a 1/16" space between the gearbox and the wheels on each side. The side frames are plastic. They snap onto two metal tabs on the center gearbox.

Over on the HO Seeker site we find on the parts list that Hobbytown 261 is the part number for the gear box cap.

I would be inclined to think it is a modified HO drive rather than a drive marketed toward OO gauge. The overall look of this model is great however. Thank you again Dick for sharing.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Blow-Smoke Final Issue, part 3: The End

Volume 3, Number 1 for Spring, 1941 was the final issue of Blow-Smoke, but at the time that was certainly not the plan. Elliott Donnelley explains in his editorial their original publication schedule and their plans for future issues of Blow-Smoke.
After a lapse of five or six months we are again publishing another issue of Blow-Smoke. When Blow-Smoke was first conceived, the idea was to publish it every two months. That turned out to be impractical; then it was changed to quarterly publication, and finally to one that was published whenever I had time. Starting with this issue it will resume its appearance on the quarterly basis, under the direction of K. M. Boyd, our new advertising manager. From this day forward, all I’m going to do is sit back and raise Cain if it isn’t out on time.
Next Donnelly addresses preparation for war and the international crisis. He notes that delays in shipments in raw materials “may be common happenings as time rolls on.” But he continues, “Right now, we are pretty well supplied, and able to give quick delivery on all catalog items. If you are considering expanding your layout, or other improvements, I suggest that you get your orders in at an early date.”

The big news of the editorial was the name change of the company. While we just think of it as “Scale-Craft,” in reality the official name and corporate status changed several times before WWII, as the following clarifies.
Names change—with fast moving times and conditions. The modern manufacturer must move with the times or go backward. He cannot stand still; and so—we move forward again.

Our name “Scale-Models,” since we dropped the word “Inc.”, has been somewhat ambiguous and confusing. As a result, we have decided to operate in the future under the name “Scale-Craft & Company, (Not Inc.).” This will take effect immediately, and by fall we hope to be in full swing under our new nom de plume.
This issue has probably more text than any other issue of Blow-Smoke, and includes a two page spread under the name “Boomer Al.” In the section under the heading “What price small gauge?” we find an article advocating for OO but without directly saying that HO models were too delicate and lightly made. But you can figure that out from the text. An example:
If you’re a price buyer and want cheap cars, take the kind they hand you and don’t complain if they break apart when derailed. You paid for them, and they’re your babies. In the same breath—if you want small, cheap, low powered locomotives to pull your light cars—you can have them. But when you have motor trouble, don’t blame the dealer. He sold you just what you wanted.

The middle spread of the issue is the photo contest, mentioned in the previous post. The other OO winner was Jack Zimmerman, and his photo shows an S-C 4-6-0, an S-C die cast boxcar, and a Nason boxcar running on two rail track.

The last section I will mention is on the International Brotherhood of Scale Model Railroad Builders, described in this prior post. As a bonus for joining you can get for free an official Scale-Craft tie clasp, seen in this last scan. Anyone have one out there? You have to contact a dealer to get one; the last page lists over 60 authorized dealers.

With that we reach the end of the series of posts from the Scale-Craft Blow-Smoke newsletter. It was a good effort toward marketing the line, and a valuable part of the history of Scale-Craft.

Return to beginning of Blow-Smoke series

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Blow-Smoke Final Issue, part 2: A Photo Contest, and the QP Bar

Another interesting item in this final, Spring, 1941 issue of Blow-Smoke is a two-page spread of winners of their photo contest. There were three first prize winners in OO, and the below photo covers in my opinion the best two of them. Click on the photo for a bigger view.

While the lower photo is notable with SC 4-8-4, 4-6-4t, and 4-6-2 models visible, the upper photo has several obvious non-S-C models (Bessey boxcar and Mantua 4-4-0) and also especially the Maxwell/S-C building kit. In this case it is a beautifully built up version of the Gold Nugget Dance Hall.

Scale-Craft had acquired the Maxwell line of structure kits back in 1939, as noted in this post quoting from a prior issue of Blow-Smoke. Having my eyes open during the first flurry of eBay activity after the Morlok auction I was able to purchase this boxed example of a similar kit from the line, in this case a kit for the QP Bar.

The box is sealed still on one end and looks to have never have been fully unpacked at any point in time. This first photo shows the end that is sealed. Note that the model is clearly marked as being OO Gauge, not HO/OO.

It was packed up as we can see in this second photo with shredded paper of some sort. The words on the paper relate to electrical voltages and such.

Underneath all the packing this is what you get. A lot of small pieces of wood and also wood printed in a brick pattern.

Inside the box on one end was this envelope full of envelopes. Paint, glue, etc. Maxwell was actually a hardware store, as seen on the envelope.

The instructions and plans were on the bottom level of the box and could be carefully removed. First we have these big plans. They say they are for the HO gauge QP Bar and are copyrighted 1940, Maxwell Hardware Co.

Finally we get to the actual instructions. Good luck with building the kit! They are mimeographed and not exactly the most detailed. The built up version of a similar kit in the Scale-Craft photo contest is even more impressive knowing how vague the plans and directions are.

This kit of mine will go back in the box as near to the way I found it as I can. It is certainly an interesting and rare find that there can’t be a lot of around.

Continue in Blow-Smoke series

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blow-Smoke Final Issue, part 1: The New Steel Side Scale-Craft Passenger Cars

Nine issues of the Blow-Smoke newsletter were produced between 1938 and 1941. The last issue of the Scale-Craft Blow-Smoke newsletter was the Spring 1941 issue, of which this is the cover. I will break my coverage of this last issue into three parts, this being the first.

A recent post featured a Scale-Craft Pullman and in yet another prior post I outlined that there were only a few makes of metal sided passenger cars. The only ones in steel were these three cars from Scale-Craft, featured in the photo below.

These new cars were the big news in OO. They have a different look than their die cast coach and baggage as the cast cars have rivet details and are shorter in length. The copy read as follows.
Here they are, three new, steel side passenger cars that will bear handling as well as running. A Pullman, a Diner, and an Observation Lounge Car. All three with Terne plate sides, die-cast ends, stamped brass vestibule steps, and choice of monitor or air-conditioned roofs at no extra charge. Highly developed, cast underframes, sturdy wooden floors, and faithfully accurate detailing on letterboard and window sill beading. Everything in realism, strength, and runny balance has been built into these new passenger units. They are receiving an enthusiastic welcome along the line, and we can truthfully say we have spared no expense in bringing out this line of cars.

They are light enough to be easy on motive power, strong enough to bear the rigors of layout operation, and close enough to the prototypes without being flimsy and non-practical. They are real passenger units—build one, and prove it to yourself.
Actually, they were not new models, as they were listed in their 1940 catalog. But they were something to keep getting the news out about.

I was curious about what exactly Terne plate is, and learned from the Wikipedia that it is a type of tinplate process.
Terne is used to coat sheet steel to inhibit corrosion. It is the one of the cheapest alloys suitable for this, and the tin content is kept at a minimum while still adhering to a hot-dipped iron sheet, to minimize the cost.

Terne metal must be painted. If the paint is maintained, terne metal can last 90 years or more.
These cars were in production for only a short time before the war but returned after the war and are seen fairly commonly. The sides lack rivet detail as seen on paper side cars such as those by J-C but on the positive side if a car needs new paint and decals you can relatively easily completely rebuild one of these Scale-Craft metal cars. With paper side cars you are pretty much out of luck. Also the metal sided cars will hold up much better if you want to have a removable roof.

Continue in Blow-Smoke series

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A “Butter Dish” Milk Tank Car

Among the items donated to the OO SIG from the estate of David Sacks was this “butter dish” tank car. It was also the first car picked out from the new SIG Inventory site (see the current issue of The OO Road for details) and before it left Arizona I worked on it a bit and snapped this photo.

First, a brief note on this unusual type of car. While this one is freelanced and lettered for the fictional Bourne Curdled Milk, the car itself is prototypical; for more see this article on the prototypes. Only one car exists today, restored and in the Illinois Railway Museum. This photo is a great one of it.

This model is scratchbuilt. It suffered somewhat in storage; when it arrived in Arizona both trucks were broken. I was able however to put together a good pair of Famoco trucks from parts. The blue truck sideframe visible in the photo is original to the car.

There can’t be a lot of OO scale models of cars of this type around. May it roll more good miles at its new home.

Monday, May 10, 2010

An OO Scale Circus Stock Car

Two complete Cussewago Valley Railroad “OO” Gauge Scale Models 70" stock cars recently passed through eBay. In this post I described this car but the example was incomplete; the below car is complete. Click on any of the photos for a larger view.

To briefly review, Myron P. Davis produced a run of these cars and also a circus flat car made in the post-war era. According to Dick G. who provided these photos,
All the parts except for the coupler pockets are cast aluminum. The coupler pockets are stamped from some material that is not magnetic. They are not brass. The aluminum roof walk is composed of two pieces of unequal lengths. The longer piece is the same length as the roof walk on the aluminum box car.
These two cars match the circus flats in the earlier post. As Dick G. notes,
Both of the stock cars have Nason 3-rail freight trucks and stamped brass couplers. A couple of years ago, I bought 3 Cusawego 70' flat cars which also had the same style Nason 3-rail trucks and the same style stamped brass couplers.
The three-rail Nason trucks bring up the topic of operation. Dick G. adds that
It seems to me that these Cusawego stock cars & flat cars were run on track with an outside third rail after the war. If they were run on Lionel 3-rail track, I would think the cars would have Lionel or Scale-craft dummy couplers instead of the stamped brass couplers.
I think he is correct on the outside third rail operator theory. For sure there were good sized layouts still running with outside third rail then; the Saint Anne of Ed Costello ran into the late 70s just that way in fact.

An interesting car; thank you Dick for sharing.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Follow American OO Today on Facebook

For several months now there has been an American OO group on Facebook. At the suggestion of Phil R. I decided to also create a fan page for American OO Today.

If you make use of Facebook both of these have advantages and I would suggest joining both. The American OO group operates more like a traditional forum where members can exchange questions and notes, while the American OO Today page is set up so that if you are a fan (or, in the current Facebook terminology you "like" the page) you will receive on your Facebook main page an automatic RSS feed from every new post to American OO Today.

Setting up the page this morning I realized that I had not noted that in April American OO Today passed the two year mark. Think about how little was online about our scale just two years ago! The very first post, "What is American OO?" is here; I knew at the time that I had a lot to cover. The end of the post was, in reflection, sort of a mission statement for the site.
American OO was produced in large commercial quantities by Lionel and Scale-Craft, and in significant quantities by companies such as Famoco, Nason Railways, Kemtron, Schorr, and many other firms, primarily between 1935 and 1955. It is to the history and operation of these models today that this blog is directed.
Thank you for your support for this site and as always I welcome your photos and questions about American OO.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

NEWS! The New Worsley Works SW-8 in OO

You read it right: a new locomotive model is available in American OO! I believe that this is the first new locomotive model produced in our scale and gauge since the last runs of sand cast F-3 models from Ultimate in the late 1960s, and it is light years ahead in terms of design.

This beautiful switcher model was actually developed as a TT scale model by Worsley Works of England, but as it is an etched model it is just a matter of scaling the drawings up and it can be and now has been produced in American OO. This first photo is from the Worsley Works website of a body in the process of being built up from the TT scale etchings. The money quote they give in their website from a buyer of the TT model is this: "........the more I work on this etching, the more impressed I am with the design work. It has been amazingly easy to build this body kit and so far, I have soldered everything.” It can be built up into an accurate model of an EMD SW8, SW600, SW900, or SW1200. More photos are here.

The second photo is from the Facebook American OO group site of a set of OO scale etchings that may be used to build up an identical locomotive in OO, posted by Phil R. This is such big news it deserves a big photo!

Referring back again to the built up TT model this really looks great and could be built up into a model that looks even better than the SW 1200RS model featured in the previous post.

There is the question of how to power it and I have a good idea how it could be done. A very nice drive can certainly be worked out from an Athearn HO GE road switcher drive. I know they made the drives for this in a couple different styles; what we want is the version with plastic sideframes and bearings inside. SW trucks are 8' wheelbase and the U-boat trucks are 9'4". What that means for us is HO U-boat trucks scale out really close in wheelbase to OO SW trucks.

You still need sideframes and I have a solution for that as well. The sideframes for the old AHM HO SW-1 are overscale and the wheelbase of these is a good match to the Athearn drive! I think that is the way to go; they are really close to dead on for OO.

For an even cheaper drive the AHM drive itself is workable enough mechanically and visually but you don't have 8 wheel pickup and the gearing is a bit high.

Depending on clearances it may be necessary to use the front truck off the AHM SW-1 and only power the back truck with the Athearn gearbox. I do think it worth the trouble having worked with both drives myself, the Athearn gearing is better and you get 8 wheel pickup (see this prior post on the SW-1 drive modifications for more).

Check with them for the price but the price I was quoted for the SW-8 etchings yesterday was very reasonable. Also, they take PayPal which will simplify payment for us on this side of the pond. For more on this model check their website.

UPDATE: For the current price see this page in the Worsley Works website, where they have also linked back to this article.

UPDATE II: My set of parts arrived, more info here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Canadian SW 1200RS, and Canadian OO Gaugers

One thing probably evident enough to regular readers is that with vintage OO models I find not only the models themselves interesting but also the people who made them of interest.

This particular model recently passed through eBay after the Morlok auction. It is based on a Super Scale NW-2 model but updated into an approximation of a model produced at the end of the run of that body style by EMD. The SW 1200RS according to the Model Railroader Cyclopedia of Diesel Locomotives is basically a SW 1200 “equipped for road service.” As such, “They have a large numberboard and headlight assembly at the front, Flexicoil trucks, and a large tank that partly surrounds the air reservoirs.” Canadian Pacific and Canadian National both owned examples.

This model looks generally similar to a Geep that I have and have been running on the layout a lot lately, it is on the mainline now! I bought it from Pierre B. and according to him this model came to him from Paul Grothé, who passed on seven or eight years ago. My Geep also has the crew and was similarly well made and detailed.

There used to be a fairly good sized group of Canadians in American OO gauge, but so far as I know their ranks are getting pretty thin. (UPDATE 2013: Sadly, with the passing of Pierre Bourassa, I am not aware of any active OO gauger in Canada.)

Back to this model, it is over the frame the same length as a Super Scale SW-1 but the hood is about 3/4" longer and has two exhaust stacks. According to Dick G. “it has a Pittman DC-71 motor & o-ring driving the front truck. The rear truck is powered with a flexible tube from the front truck.” These are Baker drive parts. Note how in the photo the builder worked over the trucks to resemble the Flexicoil road trucks. There are some details off a bit here and there but for sure the outline of the SW 1200RS is very clear. This is a very sharp model.

Thank you to Dick G. for sharing these photos of this excellent model.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Newton Guerin Rolls Again

I have touched several times in prior posts about post-war New Jersey being a hotbed for American OO. Two individuals that were very active in that area were David Sacks and Newton Guerin, both of whom were active in the North Jersey group (there were two round-robin clubs active in that time frame). As of 1947 the president was George Crowley and the treasurer Newt Guerin; more details may be found in this post.

Among the residual items from the estate of David Sacks was this Scale-Craft Pullman, the Newton Guerin. When it arrived in Arizona one truck was broken; both of the bolsters on one truck had disintegrated. I was able to salvage a couple workable ones from other trucks and get this car rolling again without too much work. This car is part of a long passenger train; I will progress on other cars from the train over the summer, but this one has now made several loops around the layout with no problems other than it could roll a little more freely.

Also among the items were the two containers also seen in the photo. They are actually HO containers but Sacks had custom decorated them for Guerin’s and Crowley’s shipping lines! It is a way to remember your friends for sure, and with the significance of these individuals in post-war American OO these are all interesting items to treasure.