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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nason Passenger Cars in the Shop

The topic of the previous post was “When to Rebuild.” Following up, I have been stripping some cars the past few days including in particular several pre-war Nason brass side passenger cars. The basic thing is as noted in the previous post some cars can be rebuilt and some can’t. I remember some years back an OO gauger I knew was busy trying to rebuild some J-C cars by stripping paint off the cardboard sides. To my mind that just had “bad idea” written all over it as the sides are the key to these cars. Paper side cars are really hard to do anything with unless you have new sides to use.

The key thing is you can actually get the brass sides off these Nason cars. It took some care but three of these four cars I had to pull all the pins out that held the sides on; none were glued on. With them free from the car stripping the paint off is a very easy matter. I intend to prep them as well as I can to smooth things out and paint them before they go back on the bodies. The bodies I am not however bothering to strip, they will paint over fine.

What we have top to bottom are a RPO, a coach, a modified Pullman, and a standard Pullman. The modified Pullman was in the SIG Inventory and was a project someone had started rebuilding but left incomplete. In terms of my layout I think that one will be a great car as 60’ cars really run better for me. The RPO was an eBay purchase from a Morlok seller. The Pullman at the bottom I have had for years and years and it was just begging to be rebuilt as it mostly had an iffy paint job and needed a few details tweaked. The last car to mention is the coach. That one I had a roof and sides for that came to me years ago as parts and I have had my eyes peeled for ends and other parts. On a J-C car that was in bad shape I spotted a Nason frame and an end, and I had another end in the parts box and other parts. I also have one unbuilt Nason kit for this same car and with that for reference I will be able to build not only the coach but also the group up to be nearly all original and a sharp group of cars.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

When to Rebuild Vintage Train Models?

It is one of those questions with no answer, of course, but this quote from an article on “Home Made Trains—Trash or Treasure?” in the April 2010 issue of the Train Collectors Quarterly hit a resonant tone for me. First the quote from author Alex Procyk:
I prefer something made with at least as much competence as I can muster myself and with some sense of style. The latter is the most intangible element. No one can define what makes a pleasing train to another individual, but “you know it when you see it.”
In terms of vintage OO models, for me there are items I see that I would not rebuild as they are from classic layouts or would be very difficult to rebuild. But still, when I see something made, to paraphrase the quote above, with less competence than I can muster myself, if it is in poor shape or in parts, and if I have an idea how to make it better and I would like to operate it (it being a piece of equipment that has caught my attention for whatever reason—inclusion in a passenger train, uncommon model, etc.) then I will tend to go ahead and work on it.

Mainly I want to leave the model in better shape than I found it when I am done. With a secondary goal being to actually finish the job! Take the model from not looking good and not operable to looking good (or at least decent and complete) and layout ready. A number of projects that I have on hand came to me in parts, I believe a prior owner was working on a rebuild and got bogged down and then lost interest or health problems took away the time they needed. Those models in particular, they are ones I do enjoy working over. I try to get a sense of where the project was going and do my best to turn it into a clean model but without huge heroics.

This all came to mind as a topic to write about as I am now in the process of stripping the paint off several vintage pieces that will be summer/fall projects. They are ones that will rebuild very well and will I believe look a lot better when they are done. I think on the whole the original builders would not have minded much; these are after all scale models that were meant to run on a layout, not meant to be random, orphan, near junker models.

Updated 2012/13. The caboose in the photo is described further in this article, and I have no plans to further rebuild this vintage model.

Also see: On Quick, Clean Paint Jobs for Vintage Model Railroad Equipment

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Passenger Train from the Green Brook, and I need a Break from Rebuilding Scale-Craft Trucks

After more or less tying up the project of organizing the SIG Inventory I moved on to trying to start what I hoped to be one of many summer projects, building/rebuilding a group of passenger cars (heavyweight and streamlined). Laying them out I knew I better go back into the Inventory and into these few passenger cars that I had pulled, as there was one more big truck project at hand.

Short version; the trucks on a lot of these cars were in terrible shape. Rust/corrosion/bad bolsters/bad wheelsets/bad mounting/odd modifications/etc. Most of the six wheel trucks Sacks had removed the middle wheelsets from, and a number did not roll at all. I decided the best course of action was to take them all off the cars and break them down into parts. This meant about 8 pair of 6 wheel and 5 pair of 4 wheel trucks that I was donating to the cause. I estimated (correctly) that I would have just about the number of wheelsets to get them all rolling. I ended up salvaging four pair of 6 wheel trucks out of it as some sideframes were beyond use without heroics and rebuilding every 4 wheel truck I have. Probably a third of them he had modified the side frames in various ways and with the lack of good bolsters those will probably never roll on a layout again.

I had already worked over two matching cars as described this prior post (both of which needed more rebuilding, it turned out), a S-C Pullman and a Nason RPO. To those were added five S-C cars; two baggage cars, two “coaches” (more in a minute), and a combine. All were on 6 wheel trucks but a number I had to convert to four wheel trucks to make the best use of parts at hand.

The baggage cars above need little comment; they are pretty stock. He did add a couple crates that are not that visible as interior details. I like the two tone paint job.

The “coaches” were both modified in the windows department to update the look. The cafĂ© car is on six wheel trucks and has an interior, not very visible in the photo, and the coach at one time had an interior but it was removed long before it arrived in Arizona.

The combine below is I think the most interesting car of the group. My first copy of the Scale-Craft Round Lake catalog was from Sacks and one deal they offered in it was an extra body to make a combine, a factory offer of parts for kitbashing the combine in other words. Sacks had marked that page and cut out half of one of the photos to visualize the conversion and obviously also did the conversion. It does look nice, even if it is probably the dirtiest of the group.

As to the cars in general I did clean the roofs with moist paper towels and q-tips but otherwise I have not done anything heroic to clean them further. They run great together if I leave the RPO out of the train (I will probably give up on the Nason trucks at some point, they are really touchy) and it is a nice closely matched set of cars to be able to run. Also, that they are mostly 60’ cars is a plus, they operate better on the layout.

As to trucks and the title of this post, I really should not complain as it is like a big puzzle. While I think I arrived at the best solution for the puzzle I really have torn down and rebuilt more S-C trucks than I hope to at one time for a long time. I have Schorr and Kemtron trucks lined up for the streamlined cars in progress, and for the heavyweights I am tempted to try four wheel Sn3 conversion trucks instead of S-C just to see how they work out. For sure they will roll better. More on that at some future date.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Modern PFE Reefer in American OO

Among items that came in the OO Inventory was this great modern (1960s) era reefer.

This side view is a good overall shot of the car which is clearly fully to scale for American OO and not a conversion from HO. The car itself is made mostly of wood and is probably built on a vintage Picard body. As I have four photos in this post I will leave them small; click on any one for a larger view.

The bottom view photo came out better than normal for me of a mostly black surface. Note the vintage Scale-Craft brake cylinder, which is not of the style that would appear on this car (or any other car, actually; it is just a rough representation of a K type brake cylinder), and the date of construction, 1-79. The trucks are the last version of the Johann roller bearing conversion truck, they must have been added later.

The car ends are vintage as well; they are Famoco die cast ends. Like the brake cylinder, it is not really correct for the car but it is a pretty effective stand-in and this car looks quite good on the layout.

Finally, we have a photo take by Bill Johann of a similar car on a railfan trip to the Tehachapi loop. In the Inventory were a number of photos taken by Bill Johann and others, many of them of OO subjects including vintage layout photos. These I will periodically post as time allows.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Brass 2-6-2 in OO

eBay sales related to the Morlok auction seem to have slowed down but toward the end this great little 2-6-2 came up for sale which I was very pleased to win for a very reasonable price. I knew exactly what it was because it was in a list of models that Ed had tagged as being overscale for HO. Thus, his description:
International Model Products (IMP)

This firm produced many HO gauge locos in the 1950s that were oversized for HO scale.

Milwaukee 2-6-2 loco and tender. This engine and tender are exactly 00 scale, based on comparison to plans in MR. Mine is converted to 00, by widening the locomotive wheels on the axles, and replacing the HO tender trucks with Schorr 00 arch bar trucks.
The engine today is exactly as described. One bad thing happened over the years though; the drivers deteriorated over on the insulated side. It looks like swelling and humidity did the job, causing the rim of every driver to crack. Which is a bit of a bummer as I grew up in a town with a very similar ATSF 2-6-2 in the park, engine 1015, this type of locomotive would really suit my layout.

As to the Milwaukee, I did find this interesting document online, “Milwaukee Road 100 Years of Locomotive Progress.” The link is to the images page, and this image is linked from the site as well. Ed was correct that the IMP model was one that we could use in OO with a bit of work.

Ed had more on this in an article in the December, 2004 issue of The OO Road. I have other projects in line first, but at some point I would really love to get this vintage brass model running on new drivers.

Monday, June 21, 2010

More on Scale-Craft Track

I don’t pretend to know the history of all types of track in all scales but when Scale-Craft introduced their OO sectional track 1937 scale two rail track was certainly not a common item in any scale. I was recently able to buy some of this vintage track and this damaged piece gives a few insights into how the track was made.

I had a longer post on this topic back in 2008 but the first thing to review is the base of this track is sheet metal. Thus, the track and rails needs to be completely insulated from the base. The way they did this was through the use of a “sandwich” of layers. The top layer is the rail. The rails are attached to the next layer which is in the form of tie plates visually. There are tabs that go up and hold the rail and also tabs that go down through holes in the base. The next layer down is the ties stock which is cardboard and next yet the base of the track. Not visible is the very bottom layer under the track, which is also the cardboard material. The tie plate layer has tabs that fit down and clamp over the bottom layer in such a way that it holds everything together with the tabs not touching the base.

As to how the track works to run trains I have not used it yet but it looks like it would work fine. The gauge of the track checks out with my modern NMRA OO/On3 track gauge very well. This is in contrast to Lionel three rail track that is actually over gauge by a bit.

I think this piece can be fixed and it is a good alternate to Lionel track if you can find it.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Outside Braced Caboose

A last Green Brook post for now is on this caboose. It is an interesting scratchbuilt model on Schorr trucks.

On the plus side it needed very little work to return to operable condition, and while it could use a bit more restoration in the big scheme of these Sacks cars it is in pretty good shape. Also on the plus side is it has a nicely formed brass roof and sides. But on the negative side the roof is a hair wide, the cupola is I think a bit overscale (I don't want to measure it...), and there are no horizontal board details on the sides.

In any event the car runs great with the train of hoppers in the previous article. For now I will hang on to this car but at some point it may be donated to the OO Inventory.

UPDATE: One additional note on this car, and this applies to a lot of the old OO items out there; this would be very difficult to really rebuild, it was not put together with the idea of it ever being taken apart.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Unit Train of Hoppers from the Green Brook

In our recent family trip to Kansas/Nebraska/Colorado we kept count and saw over 50 moving trains, and probably 1/3 of them were coal trains. As my son has since then been mentioning coal cars it seemed like an ideal time to invest a few hours and get a whole train of hoppers running again that had been built by David Sacks for his layout perhaps 50 years ago and came to me with the cars described in this post. It took a few hours spread over several days to get them in shape.

As there are four types of hopper cars in this group I will go through them one by one. First we have three of these Schorr triple hoppers. They are lettered for the North Jersey. I would have to research it out a bit more, perhaps this was the home road of another modeler, but I am inclined to think Sacks built these and lettered them as “club cars” for the North Jersey Midland Model Railroad Association, one of two active round-robin clubs in that area in the post-war era of which he was an active member. I have more on the group here. The cars themselves were not decaled very well but this group of three has the best looking coal loads (although sand falls out when you tip the cars—sand was used for extra weight). All were a bit high on their trucks (coupler height too high) and one was on Lionel trucks. I switched it over to Schorr trucks. More on that in a minute.

This second car is also Schorr and one of a pair and is lettered for the Greenbrook as are all the rest. Lettering is somewhat minimal; I think mostly he wanted cars on the road and it was his layout, he could simplify things if he wished. One of these was also on Lionel trucks. Why put a Schorr car on Lionel trucks? I have seen odder things but I had Schorr trucks coming off other cars so it was switched over to Schorr trucks. Note the load on this car looks OK still but the other one of this pair has the other type of load which I will get to next.

This third car is Lionel. There were three of these and they were all on Schorr trucks. As there were good Lionel trucks available from other cars I switched them back to Lionel trucks, in the case of this car Lionel trucks taken off a junker Hawk car that was also in his residual that I will come back to at some later date. Two of the three Lionel cars have these overly tall loads with the big chunks of “coal.” I am not sure if the coal is a commercial product or not. It looks like someone took black plastic and ran it through a meat grinder and Sacks maybe used solvent as the adhesive! I hope he did the work outdoors! This particular one you can see was also at one point painted red and he repainted it (mostly) black.

The last car type is Scale-Craft. There were also three of these and these were in the worst shape. On the plus side they are the only ones with remnants of dimensional data (I don’t think the other cars ever had any) but on the negative side I did not know that Schorr trucks could rust out that badly to the point of being inoperable (they needed new springs, etc.), and about half of the trucks were to that point. No worries though, I had Schorr trucks I had shifted around from other cars. Then I hit another snag. Earlier I noted the cars were too high; all were set up for a higher coupler height than my standard. In lowering these cars I discovered yet again that not every car can be set up for every type of truck. So, in short, I converted them to use Scale-Craft trucks again, and fortunately he had used the S-C screws to hold on the Schorr trucks as those screws are in short supply. I worked over three pair from the parts supply and in particular made sure these were really square and rolled well with “fresh” bolsters and closely matched wheelsets. (Articles on tuning up S-C trucks are here and here). Also, on these S-C cars I will give Sacks credit as he also added HO brake details, so on these three even though condition was the worst after storage they were probably the nicest cars of the group when fresh from the shop.

So in total there are 11 cars in the train and they run great together again with the S-C cars taking the most effort on my part. All of the trucks had wheelsets in them that were spot in guage, a reflection of his running these cars a lot I am sure. I wish they were in a bit better shape but if you don’t look too critically it passes for weathering and it is a unit coal train in the eyes of a youngster for sure.

As to the topic of coupler height touched on a few times, I found that the S-C hoppers with fresh bolsters (of the most common style) and S-C dummy couplers in the standard mounting come out pretty much exactly at my standard height for cars with no washers. I had a bunch of spare washers for the parts supply after working over these cars. For more on setting cars up with trucks and couplers in general see this post. The Lionel cars needed a washer to bring them up to height and the Schorr cars several. As to the actual couplers, I don’t plan to change these cars to Kadee couplers. It is not real obvious from the photos but the couplers all appear to have been painted yellow for reasons I am not certain of.

Finally, what train is complete without a caboose? In that post linked up at the beginning of this article (here) is a photo of an extended Lionel caboose by Sacks. It was on S-C trucks that needed a lot of work and he had for reasons unclear to me made it so they were mounted way in from the ends as well which enhanced the odd look of the green trucks. As it is a Lionel car I opted for Lionel trucks again from the parts supply and had to rebuild the mounting areas somewhat to restore the original mounting locations. The result is a caboose that certainly matches the train and while dirty (the flash photograph makes it look a bit better than it is) it passes I think as weathered rather than merely the result of years of storage in a less than ideal location.

Again, a great train to see run as a unit again, you can almost imagine Sacks and his friends running trains in a basement in New Jersey back 50 years ago.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Front Range Roller Bearing Trucks in OO, and more on COFC/TOFC

Among the parts in the OO Inventory are a number of pair of roller bearing trucks with rotating bearing caps. Bill Johann described how he made these from HO Front Range parts in an article in the January, 1987 issue of The OO Road.

This photo is a good close up of one example. In sorting out the Inventory I discovered there were nearly a dozen pair of this type of truck, parts to make a number more pair of the same thing, and 4.5 pair of a very similar truck with a longer wheelbase and the same HO size freight wheelsets. All of them looked to have seen layout use but also all seem to have been taken off cars later and put in storage. The likely reason being they look too much like HO trucks. They have HO wheels and I don’t think Johann could overcome the wheel size issue in rebuilding these and came up with better modern trucks of two types, one based on a large Walthers (I believe) one piece casting with heavy side frames that could be filed for OO gauge wheelsets to fit (36” HO size being the stand in for OO wheelsets--"Morlok method") and his final design based on a multi-part truck of another make that became his standard (I have yet to track down the maker on this, more on that if I ever figure it out) that had custom NWSL wheelsets described in this post. There were parts to make exactly one more of these in the Inventory.

This second photo is another close up of the Front Range trucks on cars. The red TOFC flats had Scale-Craft trucks on them when they arrived. I initially changed them over to the roller bearing trucks with the one piece frames, of which there were some in the inventory rebuilt or waiting to be rebuilt and it would free up the S-C trucks for other vintage cars in the Inventory. In this earlier post the car is on these but the four complete pair of longer wheelbase rotating end cap trucks suit these cars really well so they have been switched over to them. The other car is on the shorter wheelbase trucks. On this car you can hardly see the trucks (an eBay purchase, built by Pierre Bourassa) so they are well suited to the car, and having the car on these trucks freed up yet another good pair of Scale-Craft trucks for a vintage car.

There are still nine complete pair of these working roller bearing trucks in the OO Inventory and parts for more. They suit some cars and roll pretty well but with the small wheels I can see why Johann moved on to better designs.

That same issue of The OO Road solved another mystery, actually, as well. The spine cars in this post are also modified Front Range products and as I guessed each unit is spliced together from two cars to obtain a nearly full scale OO model. There is a fuzzy photo of the cars when they were new to his layout on the last page of the issue along with three of the scratchbuilt red TOFC cars which are described as “NS type TOFC/COFC flats as converted from boxcars.”

UPDATE: The truck project has been claimed from the Inventory. May these trucks rack up more miles in OO.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The OO Inventory

A brief announcement for readers who are members of the American OO SIG (Special Interest Group) of the NMRA, I have completed a new version of the online listings of what is in the OO Inventory, combining what remained from the initial online version and also the remainder of the inventory that was started by the late Bill Johann in 1995 and more recently housed by Paul Magnussen, current editor of The OO Road.

For those that are not members, this is a perk of membership; you can request a number of items every year from the Inventory, which are items that have been donated to members of the OO SIG.

I am not posting a link to the site where the descriptions and photos of items available, and it is set to be hidden from search engines. The address was published in the most recent issue of The OO Road. If you are a member and need the link contact me privately and I will send it to you.

For more on the OO SIG, check this link.

Update 2013: Another major update has been completed. And I still shouldn't share the public link but I really would welcome any reader who is a SIG member to take a look and request something, I would love to see more of this go back out to members.

A Selley OO Scale Depressed Center Flat

One recent eBay purchase was this depressed center flat car. It caught my attention for several reasons.

First, it is a type of car you hardly see in American OO. I believe it is best to describe this as a Selley model but it is scratchbuilt as actually Selley only sold sides for this car, which these certainly are identical to as I own a pair that have never been built up into a car. However, some Selley parts are certainly Graceline based, so these may be the sides that would have been on a Graceline depressed center flat, a model I have never seen, and theoretically this could be a Graceline model. Anyone out there have one in kit form? UPDATE: More on the Graceline version here. This model is not Graceline I believe.

The car also caught my attention as it is on Schorr trucks and is lettered for the personal road of Fred Schorr, the Yorkville and Western. The General Electric signs are from a GE box of some sort, cut to fit the car next to the nice transformer load.

The car still needs a little cleaning/touch-up and the guy wires need redone but this is a nice example of an unusual item and will join my fleet of operational vintage cars.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Flat Car Comparison

The photo below is of three flat cars stacked up. All of them are the correct width for OO but two of them are actually HO models.

The bottom car in the stack is a Scale-Craft flat modified to the extent that it is on “Morlok method” modified HO trucks, which I like on these cars as they look better than stock S-C trucks and roll better as well. The truck modification is described here, and a photo and description of another stack of three flat cars showing the different mounting locations of early and late S-C flats is here.

Not long ago I posted about the Revell HO flat that was marketed years ago as an “extra long” flatcar. The Revel car in the middle is another example and came from the group of cars donated to the OO SIG from the estate of David Sacks. This one was in much worse shape than the one featured in the previous post. The one in the prior post is on Scale-Craft trucks but as such rides pretty high. This one I also mounted on modified Morlok method trucks so that I could achieve a lower, correct deck height.

The top car is Mantua/Tyco HO. This one again is the right width for OO but from the side has a bit more the look of a HO car with the smaller stake pockets in particular. I also described this car conversion here.

What got me going on this Revell flat as a quick project now was related to the huge project I am still working on but nearly done with, that of reorganizing the OO Inventory maintained by the OO SIG. There are some great items in it for sure but it has taken me a lot of time reorganizing it all. One goal has been making sure that as many cars as possible have working trucks appropriate to the car. This has included actually making more roller bearing trucks from parts in the Inventory combined with parts I had on hand and also repairing any obvious damage. I have also done some trading and added some new items to the Inventory from my own stock as part of refreshing what was there. Soon I will have to say “good enough” on the whole project and take pictures for the SIG Inventory blog, perhaps holding back a few items for a time until they can be repaired further.

The bottom line though is I have material on hand for quite a few good posts for the blog, some related to the Inventory and others related to recent purchases and projects. Time is still a bit limited for me but keep watching, I hope to have something up about twice a week for the duration of the summer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ties: Available Today

Over at the Facebook American OO Group page Phil R. posted a link to a new OO product at Track Emporium. It seems they are branching out in to 1/76 and have in production OO ties very reasonably priced. Their listing, with a photo linked from their site:
Ultimate 4mm Scale Wood Sleepers

Solid Wood sleepers and Turnout Timbers with a nearly perfect scaled down real grain.

Properly 4mm scale outline for 00, EM and P4

Sleepers 10" wide by 8ft 6 in long
(Nom. 0.129" wide, by 0.058" thick, by 1.338" long)

Turnout Timbers 12" wide by 15 ft long
(Nom 0.157" wide, by 0.058" thick, by 2.362" long)

Sold in packs of 100

Certainly a product to check out!

UPDATE: I received three packages of these, they really are great OO ties, if you are hand laying track these are the way to go.

Friday, June 4, 2010

OO Containers: Available Today

In working on the posts below it did not occur to me that, of course, full scale OO containers are available today from several sources in the UK. 1/76 modeling is alive and well there, if with one of three slightly different gauges of track than we use over here.

This photo for example is of a Dapol 40’ container, described more fully on this page.

Costs are very reasonable, details are great, and with being shipped internationally these containers are totally correct on our side of the pond and are seen most commonly shipped on double stack well cars. Cars to haul them on will need to be custom built or modified following the general methods of the Johann cars already highlighted, but certainly containers are available today for use in American OO.