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

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Graceline Hopper

One thing I try to have an eye out for on eBay is for uncommon vintage items. In the period when there was a flurry of sales after the Morlok auction (but as I recall not a Morlok item) I was able to purchase this Graceline hopper.

It does have a bit different look than the comparable Lionel and Scale-Craft models. My general post on Graceline is here, and from that we can tell this model is the “53 Quad hopper--decals for GN, SP, NYC, Rock Island, CB&Q, PRR, Milwaukee, C&NW, Santa Fe.” [See UPDATE 2017 at end for more on the prototype car.]

This particular car picked up a different set of decals and I feel sure the builder ran it a lot as after a bit of damage was repaired it ran well on the layout. The trucks are part of the story. These are the original late-Graceline castings for trucks but with different wheelsets. One truck has modified Lionel wheelsets and the other I can’t tell what the wheelsets are which is saying a lot. I think they may be earlier production Graceline wheelsets but with the flanges reworked a bit on a lathe. By this point in Graceline production they shipped out a type of plastic wheelset that I find really does not cut it on the layout. I have more on those wheelsets here.

I was also able more recently to buy a kit (sans instructions, unfortunately) for this model of the same vintage. You can see from the kit that it has metal ends but paper sides and is built around a wood block that fills the bottom 2/3 of the hopper interior. With a load you can’t see that and it allows for enough support for the thin sides up near the top.

This same kit was (probably) also later manufactured by Transportation Models. Based on what I have seen of other Transportation Models kits it should be exactly the same except that Transportation Models shipped them in a different box and with different trucks. Their trucks were closer to scale (the Graceline trucks on the car in the photo are close to S scale, really) but Transportation trucks had a lot of small parts and I have never seen an operational car that used them. I should build up a pair and give them a good try sometime to see how they operate in real life. More on Transportation Models in general may be found here.

I doubt that Graceline or Transportation Models sold a lot of these quad hoppers but it is a nice car. I do hope to touch up the scars on the sides and as I said it runs well now, a nice vintage find.

UPDATE 2017: 70-ton quad hoppers were not common cars on prototype roads. The only one I have found information about online with the same spacing of the side panels was a car type used by the Reading. There were two classes of these cars, the Reading HTl built in 1922 and the HTn built 1924-25, 4,000 cars total. More info and good prototype photos here and here. Worth mentioning too, these prototype cars were rebuilt in many ways, including as covered hoppers.

BUT: Then, checking the venerable 1944 version of the Model Railroader Cyclopedia what do I find but exactly the Graceline hopper, on page 126. The Linn Westcott drawings offer that the model is a Chicago and North Western prototype in a series numbered from 60001-60999, and that they were on "2 level Dalman" trucks. They call it the "C&NW four-hopper car." Curiously, I simply can't find any other reference to this class or type of C&NW car, and I'm thinking there are a lot of C&NW fans out there? Also, another curiosity, many of the drawings in this book are keyed to articles in Model Railroader, but this one apparently not.

The car could also be built up into a model that is very similar (other than the side panel spacing) to an early 70-ton triple hopper such as was designed by the USRA and built by several roads including the C&O, New York Central, P&LE, PMcK&Y and Virginian. I have six sets of body parts that only have enough hopper bays to be triple hoppers, I'm thinking they may be parts from a Transportation models version of the car.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Schorr 2-8-0 Camelback

Those readers with some knowledge of models produced in American OO on reading the title will think something like “Fred Schorr imported from Japan a brass 4-6-0 camelback; a Schorr 2-8-0 camelback sounds like some kind of kitbash job based on that model.” Oh contraire! A photo of a stock version may be found in this prior post, and this is not at all based on parts from that model.

This great 2-8-0 is actually based on a Nason 2-8-0 frame and tender. The boiler is scratchbuilt and was scratchbuilt by Fred Shorr himself; it is lettered for his road the Yorkville and Western. Looking at the overall view you can tell right away this is a great model. Note the engineer in the cab and the overall proportions which look to be very authentic to a prototype, probably CNJ. See this illustration for example.

One neat feature is the smoke unit; it started in working the first time I set it on the rails, as did the lights. The locomotive did not however run the first time it was set on the rails and I had to go in and oil the motor and drivers to free up the drive train. Once I did that the engine ran beautifully. It is geared slow and has a big Pittmann motor. I don’t know how many cars it will pull but the longest train my layout will accommodate is around a dozen cars and that is not a problem for it at all.

The tender body is Nason (from their 4-4-2 model) but has been raised up a bit and is on a new frame. Looking at the bottom we get to the other big surprise for me of this engine; it is equipped with a sound unit. It is a PFM system so actually on my layout, without a PFM base unit, the sound is more like radio static than chuffing but still even then it is certainly a break from the ordinary non-sound locomotives I had ever run before. Also note the tender trucks; they are based on I believe On3 sideframes and bolster with OO size wheelsets.

As to running it on the layout, I really like this engine! It runs very smoothly at a slow speed and takes my curves easily. It is wonderful to run with other vintage items. I have two cabooses that were built by Pierre Bourassa for his road that have no railroad name, just a car number and they look very nice with locomotives of any road such as this one. Again, I am very happy to have this great engine and it will see service on the layout to be sure.

UPDATE: This great vintage OO model may be seen in operation in this video.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vintage Rail Standards for OO

While rail sizes today are commonly referred to by “code” (which I will come back to) prior to that the NMRA set a series of alphabetical standards for rails. An article in the December, 1945 issue of Model Railroader reviews these early standards. Titled “N.M.R.A. Engineering Committee Defines Standard Scale Model Rail Sections” the article notes that in the prewar era
…there were some 50 different model rail sections manufactured. In the interests of standardization and production economy the N.M.R.A. suggested that rail nomenclature be changed so that there would be a single series of model rail sections running from the largest to the smallest, and that the table be published correlating these sizes with correct scale in each gauge. In the smaller gauges where even the smallest rail was oversize for the largest common prototype section of 132 lbs., footnotes to the table designated that certain sections were commonly used in these gauges.
The table shows the following actual sizes:

Section Code Height
A .245”
B .172”
C .158”
D .125”
E .115”
F .100”

The letters are not used today but instead we refer to the height as a “code.” For example, code 100 rail is the standard used the common brands of HO track with representing a rail size of approximately 152 lbs which would be the largest prototype size and was only rarely used in reality. Also note in 1945 there were apparently no rails smaller than .100” manufactured.

Back to OO, the sizes that would be used in this system are D, E, and F. A lot of OO rail back in the day was similar to this D section which was close to the 152 lbs type of rail. See for example this photo, which is a close up of the rail supplied on Scale-Craft sectional track compared to a modern code 100 rail. The rail section used by S-C was overly wide, as explained by the below.
On the standards ballot this year is a proposal to set up a new section corresponding very closely to the present D section except that the head will be substantially narrower making a rail more truly in scale proportions to prototype running rails.

The present D section was originally intended as a third rail for O gauge but has been widely used for running rail in OO gauge. The new rail will be equally satisfactory and of better appearance in OO gauge….
The D section was noted in the chart as being "commonly used in OO." But OO gaugers themselves were moving toward the F/code 100 rail section, which was similar to the rail used by Mantua and Midlin for their OO track products and represented a very prototypical 132 lbs. rail type typical of heavy mainline rail. I use code 100 on my layout; it works great for everything, even Lionel if you take care to get the spike heads down well.

Friday, August 20, 2010

“OO” Railway Notes: F. D. Grimke and his Series on OO Gauge, 1931-32. Part IV: Building a Tender

November of 1931 finds us the final part of the series on building an OO gauge locomotive in The Modelmaker. To recap briefly, this series by Grimke was the first published series on American OO in any publication and was from an era when small scale models (smaller than O) were a true novelty. Grimke with a partner had formed a firm called Thuillgrim that was the first American OO manufacturer and pretty much defined the gauge and scale. The tender described in this post is I believe in fact the tender that would have been shipped out with their 4-6-4 kit, the first locomotive marketed in American OO--a full seven years before Lionel came out with their version of the same model, which had by that time also been produced in sand cast bronze by Nason.

Being first, Grimke had to figure out how to make it work, and this part of the series in particular gives some great insights. He begins by noting
The Tender, after having built the locomotive, will prove to be comparatively simple and easy to construct. Prior to beginning a description of the construction, a word is necessary to describe the use of the blueprints for the tender.
This drawing is in the article (click on it for a better view) but it is only one of a series of blueprints that Thuillgrim was marketing, I believe with an eye to marketing models of all of them. To continue,
It was found out, that for all the different type of steam locomotives, actually three different types of tenders would be all that is necessary. The three types are as follows: six wheel, large four wheel and small four wheel. For purposes of distinction we have made the following classifications A, B, C, D, and E.
Grimke goes on to explain about type B having a water scoop etc. In any event, each type had four “prints” available that included underbody details but also “The Last Print shows the drum type reversing switch, and collector.” Moving on to trucks,
The truck are of the six wheel type. The middle pair of wheels are dummy, and are formed by the sides of the brass channel which is used as a stretcher plate.
This would be a good spotting feature to use if you find a Thuillgrim tender truck. Another feature is the frame.
The Tender Underframe is a heavy die casting. This weight is necessary to keep the tender on the track when moving at scale speed. It will be necessary to smooth up the sides and ends.
Details like this really scream the idea that this is not an article on scratchbuilding this model; it is an article on building their kit. It was three rail and assumed outside third rail operation. Note the following.
The Collector is made in the same manner as the locomotive collector.

The Collector is insulated by a fibre strip, which is bolted to the underframe by the 2-56 screws previously mentioned. The bolt which holds the collector to the fibre strip also serves to hold the water scoop.
The prints also provided templates. Note:
If the templates are used, there will be no difficulty encountered in cutting and shaping the sheet brass. This brass is the same gauge as was used to make the cab, etc. If the body is carefully fitted together, it will just fit on the underbody.
Mention is also made in the text of a “train control box.” This was a manual reverser that was located in the tender. On this they explain that
The Reverse switch can be of any conventional type. We recommend the drum type, with a vertical control handle. (This will project slightly above the “coal”). Briefly this reverse switch is the equivalent of a double pole double throw knife switch, which changes the relationship of the armature leads to the field lead and the ground.
Also in the electrical category we also learn what voltage they intended their model to operate at. “It is recommended that a track voltage of 24 volts be employed, because some of the locomotives will be six volts, some ten volts and others fifteen.”

Finally, after touching on painting we learn what they recommended for coal back in 1931.
The “Coal” is the well known roofing slate, painted black. A hole is cut so as to allow the reverse control handle to project thru it.
So there we have it, our 4-6-4 is done! Their ad in the December 1931 issue indicates that the final section, section 7, was ready for this model which again I think must have been produced but in no great quantity. There is only one more part in our series of articles on this important early series on OO gauge, and when we return it will be on the topic of freight cars.

Continue in 1931-32 series

Monday, August 16, 2010

Photos of Great Lionel OO Models

Recently the on the OO Yahoo group and also on Facebook links were posted to a great album of photos of Lionel OO models. The below is an example from the album of something I have never seen, a tank car still in the factory wrapping.

The photos are among the best Lionel OO photos I have ever seen and the condition of the set is stunning. My main post on the topic of Lionel OO sets is here, and the set featured in the album looks to be a version of the below, introduced in 1939, with some extra equipment and track. From my earlier post,
The most expensive of the new sets was the 0090W at a price of $42.25, the super-detailed two-rail outfit. For your money you got the 003 locomotive with 003W tender, 0044 box car, 0045 oil car, 0046 coal car, and 0047 caboose, eleven pieces of 0031 curved track and one piece of 0034 connection track (no straight track), and a whistling controller.
Again the photos are beautiful, and thanks to the owner for sharing these online.

Oh, and speaking of Facebook, American OO could use a few more fans! Click on the badge over on the right hand side of this site for more information.

UPDATE 2012: The album is gone now but the photo above is the one I referenced in the text. Mint condition models are still out there!

Monday, August 9, 2010

“OO” Railway Notes: F. D. Grimke and his Series on OO Gauge, 1931-32. Part III: Building a NYC 4-6-4

The next installment in the series on OO gauge by Grimke is in the June, 1931 issue of The Modelmaker. This article gives insights into the first locomotive kit marketed in American OO, the Thuillgrim 4-6-4. The article opens,
This month, we actually begin the construction of a 4mm Scale Locomotive. The writer has worked in conjunction with the Thuillgrim Models in developing the locomotive.
With that teaser, let’s leave the article for a second and turn to inside the back cover where we find this advertisement. Thuillgrim had at this point readied section one of eight sections needed to construct a NYC 4-6-4 in 4mm scale. Ed Morlok told me that his understanding was that this model was never actually manufactured but if you follow the text of this series and the advertisements I am inclined to say that they must have made at least a handful of these models. I don’t know of any example in existence but one was on the cover of The Modelmaker back in March, 1931 so at least one complete model was out there back in the day (see this post for the photo). But perhaps Morlok had other information now lost to history.

As to the article itself, Grimke notes first of all that a decision was made “to use no material which could not be readily purchased in any large hardware store and also not to incorporate anything of foreign manufacture.”

The frame is built up from brass bar and channel. Grimke goes into some detail and includes this drawing. Click on it for a larger view. He notes that the frame extension will vary depending on the motor you use. This is when we get to the great quote about the Mantua Midjet Motor I referenced a few weeks ago,
The only motor worth considering, and one that can be easily adaptable, is the one manufactured by the Mantua Toy Co. The Senior or Midget can be used. For this type of locomotive the Senior motor is recommended. It will not be worth the trouble to adapt the motors of foreign manufacture.
Grimke then notes that the countershaft blocks, visible in the drawing, “will require the most accurate work.” These held the worm in place over the middle driver and would be another spotting feature if a model is found to exist today.

This drawing of a complete locomotive was also published in the first installment on the locomotive I believe to give a sense where the project is heading. There are drawings with every installment, and the Thuillgrim advertisement in every issue also notes that another section of their 4-6-4 model is for sale. Clearly they had the drawings covered for the instructions. As to an overview of what the following Modelmaker articles covered,
  • July: Wheels and trucks
  • August: Cylinders and third rail collectors (outside third rail was the only method proposed)
  • September: Installing the motor and wiring (AC)
  • October: Boiler and cab
The articles look pretty complete with great drawings of the parts but you would need to be a very skilled machinist to build a model from the instructions. Jumping all the way to the end of the October article, Grimke notes that
It will be seen that when the locomotive is completed, that no additional weight will be necessary in order to secure better adhesion. If all the work has been properly done, the locomotive is now ready for a “steam test.”
Reflecting on the text of the five parts of the series devoted to building a locomotive I am inclined to think that Thuillgrim must have made and sold several of their 4-6-4 models. They ran advertisements for over two years, so one would think that they must have sold something to pay for the advertising, and clearly they pushed the 4-6-4 model and each section being ready now and such in the middle of the advertising run. I certainly don’t own one but if you have a 4-6-4 that is mainly sheet brass and perhaps still has its Mantua Midjet motor it actually may not be the scratchbuilt model it looks like it might be--it could actually be Thuillgrim. That would be exciting to find, but of course it is very possible that none exist today. Those were the very earliest days of American OO when literally there were only a handful of models in existence, probably no operational layouts at all, and only one manufacturer, Thuillgrim.

When we return the next topic is building the tender for our locomotive.

Continue in 1931-32 series.