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

Sunday, September 26, 2010

1934, A Tale of Two Bound Volumes, part 2: The Oscar Andresen OO Layout and a Bit of Confusion about HO and OO

Moving on to March of 1934, in The Modelmaker we find not only four OO advertisements (Nieter Models, Oscar Andresen, Nason, and H. Dalrymple) but also the first published feature article on the early OO layout of Oscar Andresen. This was more than a year before the layout was featured in The Model Railroader, being featured in their May 1935 and February 1936 issues.

Illustrated with this photo (click on it to see a larger version) and with a plan for a small, portable layout (but not the layout illustrated in the photo) Andresen began,
You often hear this remark, “I do not have a space large enough for a general railroad layout.” The man who feels that way should get acquainted with “OO” gauge. Here is a size that will appeal to the most fastidious person because of its smallness, and yet remarkable accuracy of details are obtainable. A system is this scale requires just a little more than half the space used for “O” gauge and make a model railroad practical for those who are not blessed with an old fashioned attic or cellar. The illustration is from a photograph of my railroad. I have christened it “The Mowhawk Valley” and hope later to have other mythically names branch lines feeding into it.

This picture shows an area of 1 ft. 2 in., by 3 ft. 6 in. and gives a fair idea of the number of railroad cars that can be placed in a small space. The Passenger stock is of the largest type (84 ft.) These cars have been made almost entirely by hand, the truck frames being the only parts that were cast. Due to the photo-chemical process I use, I have been able to construct quite a variety of cars.
Speaking of those cars, a reader recently sent in a photo of an example of one of the long gondola cars just like the one in the layout photo but not built up. Etched in brass this is a rare early item to be sure!

UPDATE: For more on the Andresen layout in 1935 see this article.

Returning to The Model Railroader, in the March issue we find a neat aside about Temple Nieter promoting OO gauge under the heading “Nieter Has It in the Bag.”
Reading over H. T. Nieter’s article on OO gauge in the last issue recalls to mind the day last summer when he visited us. He brought a little black bag, about a foot long, and carried it right up to the attic when we went to see the “Gulch Route” [the layout of A. C. Kalmbach]. When we wondered why he didn’t leave the bag downstairs with his coat and hat, he opened it, and, lo, out came a whole railroad—track, trolley wire, a semaphore, and an M.U. car! And it worked. Thus were we introduced to the “Lake Line,” a travelling railroad if ever there was one.
In the case of the April issue of Model Railroader we however find confusion. It is probably not what younger people today would call “epic fail” but still it clearly shows that the small gauges were not well known and the editors were still sorting it all out. The cover story is on the Diminutive and Obstinate R.R. of George Stock. The text begins,
My always diminutive and sometimes obstinate OO gauge railroad, the “Diminutive and Obstinate,” runs from Carbuncle Heights, through Neurasthenia, to Bilgewater Junction.

The track, 115 feet of it, is 5/8” gauge[.] It is of a brass section soldered to tin ties every 3 inches. The intermediate ties are light cardboard. The third rail is the outside type, consisting of 26 gauge hard brass wire soldered to the heads of ½” brass escutcheon pins placed every 3 inches. This system is very efficient as it allows a locomotive to start on any section of a switch and move off again without any hesitation.
As he continues I think what is interesting is apparently Stock himself called his layout OO gauge. We would think of it today as being HO but even then it is not modern HO. According to the published track plan it is “OO” gauge but 5/8” track gauge and built to a scale of 1/8” = 1’ 0”. In the text he notes that his motors are all DC with permanent magnets operating at six volts. One locomotive was “built around an English motor” and two were built around Bing motors. Which gets at what was certainly an advantage for HO at that point in time; there were actually some supplies out there of foreign manufacture, even if OO was more visible in the hobby press over here.

In the April issue of The Model Railroader for example Mantua had their OO motors advertised and Nieter also advertised. There was also another note from Nieter on page three that described the motor setup in his MU cars; he used a spring on the drive shaft to allow the needed flexibility for curves.

As mentioned in part one, I actually only pretty recently came in possession of the 1934 bound volumes of The Modelmaker and The Model Railroader referenced here and have only a few loose, early copies of The Model Craftsman, the first one being March of 1934. In it I see no OO advertising but there is an article on “Scenery for ‘OO’ Gauge” by William O. Hillary. It is pretty generic, primarily on making tunnel portals. The text says OO is slightly larger than half of O gauge but later with the plan in the article it is stated that it is that it is full size for OO but ½ full size for O. This would mean that the plan is 1/8” scale, not 4 mm. Maybe it was seen as being close enough for small scale work. We will hear more from Hillary in the future.

One final topic I should return to is that of H. Dalrymple, mentioned in the first paragraph of this installment. An early OO dealer and maybe manufacturer he advertised in The Modelmaker in April for example “Electric Motors for ‘O’ and ‘OO’ gauge. Exceptionally powerful, compact and inexpensive.” Howell Dalrymple was located in Brooklyn. Active from 1934-35, he listed "OO gauge kits, parts, and motors" in later advertisements. He is one of those figures I know of in early OO history but know little about; any further info from readers would be appreciated.

When we return to this series we will hear more from pioneer OO gauger Howard Winthur.

Continue to Part III.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

1934, A Tale of Two Bound Volumes, part 1: The First Model Railroader OO Feature and a Survey from Nason

1934 was a big year for model railroading in general as not only were two existing magazines carrying a good focus on the hobby (The Modelmaker and The Model Craftsman) but also there was a new magazine on the block, The Model Railroader (in this era always “the”). I have bound copies of the year for The Modelmaker and The Model Railroader (and three [UPDATE: eight] 1934 issues of The Model Craftsman), enough to give a good overview of the status of OO in the world of model railroading in 1934.

January starts a little slow; there is no mention of OO in either of the bound volumes except in The Model Railroader to tease their cover story for February, the OO MU car models by Temple Nieter. This I have written about in prior articles (part 1 of that series is here) and this article was a great boost to visibility for American OO.

There is a side story yet to be told however—actually The Modelmaker also featured the Nieter cars in their February issue! What was published was in the form of a long letter to the editor where Nieter describes his MU cars in some detail. In the March issue they published a clarification -- the letter from Nieter had been written a year previously (!), and comparing the letter with The Model Railroader article you can see the evolution of his models, with the big picture being Nieter was working hard to promote American OO as we will see in future parts of this series on 1934. In his letter in February in The Modelmaker he wrote,
It is about time to make known my kind of modelmaking. I was attracted to the 4mm. scale after discovering the Bing HO toy stuff and making inquiries. These led to the OO scale as a more practical size, partly because of the available rail. Not wanting to go through a long locomotive building period which would have to be followed by car building before anything could be displayed I fell into multiple-unit ways of thinking.

…I have … an MU truck running. It uses the Bing motor, 6 to 8 volts d.c. …. Overhead contact wire, with pantographs will be used ….

Following the prototype, a unit is made of one motor car and one trailer. The motor car will have a motor on each truck, and will carry the reverser and speed control notching apparatus, while in the trailer will be the remote control contactors. This last has not been tried yet, and will not be described until a satisfactory result is obtained…. I may be manufacturing the complete device by the fall….
The February issue of The Modelmaker also included this half page ad for Nason which is an interesting one as not only is it their first OO specific advertisement (their first ad [from 1933] is here) it was also done up as a survey. It is a very interesting list and shows some of what they were thinking people might want to buy in OO gauge. Click on the image for a better view. Note the categories to vote for: completely finished models, machined kits, unmachined kits, and blueprints. Based on what they subsequently produced it is safe to say the market for blueprints was not there (as Thuillgrim must have figured out back in 1931-32) and the market for built up models was not there either in those depression years.

The other thing to note before moving on from the January and February issues of The Modelmaker and The Model Railroader is that HO is not mentioned at all so far as I can tell except in the letter from Nieter where he refers to “the Bing HO toy stuff.” It was a great time for American OO; they were the cutting edge small scale train and seem to be small scale of choice. But that would be changing soon.

Continue to Part II.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An OO Gauge FM H16-66 Diesel Conversion, Part I

I like to feature in American OO Today articles on history and collecting and articles on projects readers could construct themselves. Today we have the latter, the beginnings of a FM H16-66 conversion project. [And see the UPDATES at the end for the finished model.]

Here is what it looks like to begin; click on the photo for a larger view. The model is based on a HO Athearn FM H24-66 model. When I purchased it the work on the drive to convert it to OO was done, a purchase from the Morlok auction, I believe done by Bill Johann. I was going to use the drive to power a Schorr RS-2 to make it an approximation of an Alco RSC-2 (with trucks that would have been a bit off). However, the body and frame of my particular Schorr model had been modified to accept a drive that was appropriate for a Kemtron GP-7. So I put that drive to work in a GP-7 and planned to use the Athearn drive in the RS but was having trouble working it out, it needed body modifications. But then unexpectedly a pair of Schorr RS-2 dummy trucks came to me mounted on a passenger car! I decided it was a sign; that RS-2 will become a dummy model on those original trucks. [UPDATE: The finished RS-2 model is here]. Which got me to looking at the Athearn FM body again as a possible OO conversion.

This is a model that several OOldtimers modified for OO; one was among the junker engines seen in this article for example. The reason this engine was modified is made clear in the "Extra Issue" of The OO Road in 1993 which has an OO scale drawing of the FM H16-66. It is interesting to compare this drawing to the HO H24-66, as at a major detail level there are only a few big differences. While specific details are off, the hoods are actually within about six scale inches of the correct height (above the walkway) and length! That saves a lot of work (if you can accept the door details and such being a bit off). The major items wrong are after that are:
  1. Walkways too narrow/overall width of model too narrow (but the hoods are the correct width for OO)
  2. Frame not "heavy" enough (height--the extra height needed is in the frame area)
  3. Trucks undersize
  4. Cab undersized, mostly in width, with windows that are too small.
Two of those are relatively easy to address, that of the cab and frame. And the drive as mentioned is ready to go. To get an idea of how to do the drive modifications, way back in this article I show a bottom view of a similar Athearn drive conversion, and in this article I show the drive I worked up for my E-7 from Athearn parts. If you do the conversion be sure to have a newer version of the drive for this model.

So the next step was to put couplers on the model. To get them higher I used Kadee #47 underset shank couplers that I had on hand. The result is the couplers are still a little low for OO. I will address this more later [UPDATE: the mounting was re-worked], but with a little looking though I found a car with slightly low couplers and the result is I got the engine rolling for testing as seen in the first photo.

The boxcars in the photo give perspective as to how the model looks in OO; the boxcars are from left to right Scale-Craft, Lionel, and Picard. I plan to modify the cab and frame area so that from the side in particular it should look quite close to being accurate for OO. It has flywheels and runs beautifully, and will be a model I will try to bring to completion in the coming months.

UPDATE: I added a scan of the page referenced above of The OO Road to show the comparison of the body styles.

UPDATE II: I took a long break from the project. For a time I ran the converted drive with a body of the same model modified somewhat by the late David Sacks for his Greenbrook line. As noted in the article, the drive with the model was shot and it was interesting to see it run as Greenbrook with his cabooses in tow. However, the body was really not in very good shape either, with damage at the bottom of the sides and bad decals and heavy paint! So ultimately (2012) I made a decision to modify that body and the body in the photo at the top of this page, combining them both with a cab modified from a Tyco GP-20. A HO EMD cab being roughly the same overall size as an OO FM cab.

So looking at the photo before painting the model it is best to visualize the body modifications like a cake. The top layer of the hood is from newer model, cut downward so that it would have a bit more height. The next layer is the top area of the frame area from the Sacks model, stripped of paint and cut off flat. The bottom layer is the rest of the newer frame, with plenty of putty connecting the parts as needed. It matches out the overall "big picture" dimensions of an OO scale FM H16-66 very well. The cab in particular I think makes the model pop, and the engine even with no paint looks great pushing around the dummy RS-2 mentioned earlier in this article.

It will be painted soon! Be watching for a final update.

UPDATE: Continue to Part II and the finished model

Friday, September 17, 2010

Photos of Early Limco OO

Thanks to a reader we now have confirmed sightings of Limco cars! Click on any of the photos for a larger view.

This first model is their PRR MU car with the blueprint instructions, which was the first die cast model produced in OO dating to 1936, with die cast sides and ends. More on this model may be found in this post.

The second photo is of a close up of the drive on this model. It is not completely clear in the photo but the owner describes the drive as a “ring and pinion” set-up.

Next we come to the Limco tank car. As noted in a recent post this was the first tank car produced in OO and was introduced 1937. It has die cast domes and ends and a brass body.

This is an end of this same model. The owner believes he has a pair of the correct trucks as well that would match the trucks in the advertisement seen in this post.

Very interesting early models! Thank you for sharing.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

American OO in 1933, part II: More on OO from F. D. Grimke and the Emergence of HO

The Modelmaker was an interesting publication. It was an established publication and as 1933 began the only one of its type. But it was not really a model railroad publication; it was, as the cover stated, “for those interested in making working models” which included boats, airplanes, and live steam models. The exact, actual interests of the editors are not clear to me as a reader but I don’t think they were particularly knowledgeable with respect to HO and OO gauges.

For one, everything smaller than O was called OO. This is confusing when reading these old issues today. Fred Grimke had tried to set the editors straight back in April of 1931 but they don’t seem to have paid attention.

The cover story of the March, 1933 issue of The Modelmaker was the OO gauge model railway of Mr. Edward Beal. It was British prototype and was built to 4mm scale. Illustrated with several photos including this one, the article begins,
This is to be a “propaganda” article. I understand from an American friend that the four-millimetre scale has not yet found any measure of acceptance among enthusiasts in the United States. My only conclusion is that no one has yet taken the trouble to place its claims before the model railroader.
You can almost hear Grimke saying OUCH still to that. Didn’t he write a whole series on OO in 1931-2 that was published in The Modelmaker! Didn’t his firm Thuillgrim advertise American OO products for nearly two years! Furthermore, he had already laid out for them clearly in prior publications that HO and OO were different. As actually was also laid out by Mr. Beal in his article except that he does not explain about the gauge difference, as he was building what we would call HO/OO models (OO bodies on HO gauge track). Beal wrote,
If I were beginning again I would probably espouse HO, as I know from experience that the smaller the scale the better, working conditions being granted. But it is true that OO gives somewhat more scope for motor mechanisms and consequently for increased hauling power.
The article has a number of photos of what was a very nice early layout [more information on Beale may be found here] but I think the text got Grimke working on a new article on OO. Titled “’OO’ Model Railway” and published in the May issue, Grimke lays out the basics of the early days of British OO when he begins,
Attached hereto, please find the results and comments arising from queries, questions, &c., upon what basis the “OO” Model Railroad was developed.
My authority for these notes are Volumes 1 and 2 of the Model Railway News and Model Railways by H. Greenly.
In 1922 and 1923 and some time previous, the need was felt for a gauge and scale smaller than the “O” Gauge. Accordingly, Mr. Greenly, in collaboration with several others, presented to the Model World a model railroad built to a scale of 4mm per foot and operating on a 5/8” gauge track.
Grimke goes on to explain that HO had a scale of 3.5mm to the foot and a track gauge of 5/8” or 16.5mm and OO had a scale of 4mm to the foot and a track gauge of ¾” or 19mm. This article was followed up by another article in the June issue where he lays down the idea that the 1/8” scale that some used for HO was incorrect with 5/8” gauge track; that if models were to be built to 1/8” scale the gauge should be 37/64”. As we know that did not catch on.

I should while am here mention that on the second page of this second article there is a short note that “Mr. Temple Nieter … is building a very complete ‘OO’ gauge railway system on 4mm scale, ¾” track.” Temple Nieter has been mentioned a number of times in articles in American OO Today, and I believe this is the first published mention of him being active in OO.

Still, the editors seem confused. Photos of “OO” models by George D. Stock appear in the July issue but these surely must be HO models, based on the fact that he was a very prominent early HO gauge enthusiast. In the same issue we see references to 3.5mm scale models by Alan Lake Rice, another early HO enthusiast, so there is progress there I guess. In the September issue a reader wrote in that he was building an “H-O” railway system, so finally the editors or proofreaders were getting it.

Otherwise the rest of the year is pretty slow for OO in The Modelmaker. I don’t see any advertisements or other articles. But Grimke did have one last piece of news. In the December issue we read, “Owing to the death of the late Chairman, Mr. F. D. Grimke has been appointed to fill the office for the balance of the year.” Grimke would be Chairman of the New York Society of Model Engineers for many years following and in this prominent position remained an influential person in the development of American OO.

To conclude this look at 1933 I should mention that Model Craftsman started publication this same year, 1933. I don’t have any copies of Model Craftsman from their first year, and I suspect that if I did have the full run it would shed light on other early products. [UPDATE: I do have some now]. When I have access to those at some future point I will add on to this series. In particular I know there was a three part series "The Apartment Railroad: Building the NYC '5200' class" by Charles G. Cunningham that was in their August, September, and October 1933 issues. This series is tagged in the index of model railroad magazines as an OO gauge article. I will keep watching for these to come for sale at a reasonable price, but if a reader has access to Xerox these articles I would be especially interested to see them.

In 1934 a new magazine appeared, The Model Railroader, and I will turn to the topic of 1934 soon.

Return to beginning of 1933 series

Continue to 1933-34 bonus article

Sunday, September 12, 2010

American OO in 1933, part I: The First Nason Advertisement and Trucks and more by Howard Winther

As noted in the final installment of the article on the Grimke series on OO 1931-32, the year ended on a down note as his series on OO ends abruptly and Thuillgrim quit advertising their early OO products. There are no other articles or advertisements to be found in The Modelmaker related to OO for the rest of the year.

January of 1933 starts on an up note however as inside the front cover of this issue of The Modelmaker we find the first advertisement I have spotted for Nason. It is not, however, for an OO gauge product, it is for paint! And, judging from the text, it is a product they were aiming at O gaugers. But Hugh Nason had a firm going and soon enough it would be the leading early OO manufacturer.

The February 1933 issue of The Modelmaker has the first published article not by Grimke on OO gauge. It is by Howard Winther and is on the topic of “Small Gauge Car Trucks.” At this point in time so far as I can tell no manufacturer was actively selling OO gauge trucks, and Winther describes in this article how he makes his own from scratch. Most notably, in principle the trucks are of a design similar to that later adopted by Lionel, especially in terms of the method of attachment of the bolster.
This type of truck frame for small gauge cars was designed to eliminate screws and tapped holes and provide a flexible truck that is simple to construct and free from trouble in use.
As shown in the illustration, the main feature of the side frame is a cylindrical lug cast into the inner face of the frame. The bolster is a length of strip brass with the ends bent down, having a punched or drilled hole in each vertical leg. The lug in the frame fits into this hole. It is fastened by a U-shaped key which fits into shallow vertical grooves cut into the side of the lug.
The writer has made a number of trucks of this type for “OO” gauge cars. The frames are die-cast in a home-made mold…. To cut the grooves for the key, use a template the same thickness as the bolster, having a hole to fit over the lug, then with a few strokes of a hacksaw cut the grooves.
The drawing published with the article is at right. Winther notes that the key is made from spring brass wire and that “Several of these trucks have been in use for ten months and have proved to be trouble free.”

From this article we learn several things but the most important one really is that a few people were actually out there building Amercan OO models in 1932, as other 1933 sources confirm.

For example, the Fifth Annual Exhibition of the New York Society of Model Engineers was in February, 1933. According to the report on the event in the April issue of The Modelmaker two people exhibited OO gauge models, Mr. M. Brownstein who displayed a 0-6-0, a 4-4-4-4 electric locomotive and trackwork and Mr. H. Winther who displayed the following OO models: a 2-6-2 "Electric Freight Locomotive," an Erie 4-4-2, a PRR A5 switch engine, three box cars, one hopper car, and a refrigerator car.

Of those the one model that stands out a bit above the rest to me is the PRR A5. If he was scratchbuilding his own trucks he could certainly have also scratchbuilt this model, but this model was actually the first OO locomotive kit that I know was produced in enough quantity that a handful have survived until today. Two sold on eBay this year for good prices. Could Winther have displayed in 1933 an example of the PRR A5 produced by the OO Gauge Model Co.? Today there is no way to know.

[UPDATE: Actually, there is a way to know, see the comments on the linked article above.]

I will come back to Howard Winther in future articles as he was very active in OO gauge. When I return to this look at 1933 we will focus in on editorial confusion over the question of HO and OO gauges in The Modelmaker.

Continue to Part II

UPDATE: This article focuses on the 1934 layout of Howard Winther.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Who Produced the First OO Caboose?

Back a couple articles ago I noted that the Nason caboose, while it looks early and is from an early manufacturer, is actually not the first caboose produced in OO as it was introduced in 1939. The early-looking Graceline caboose also dates to 1939.

The earliest caboose model any of us are likely to own is actually the die cast Scale-Craft caboose. This is one of the most common, least expensive items today as this was available from late 1937 until well into the 1950s and over that run was changed very little, the only real change being different batches of wheelsets and truck bolsters. It, like the very similar Lionel caboose, is a model of the PRR N5 caboose; some good prototype info may be found here. Of the two, compared to prototype photos, the Lionel model looks more accurate, especially in respect to the size of the windows. In the photo here a S-C caboose is on the left and a Lionel caboose on the right.

Both of these models have been tweaked a bit and have racked up plenty of miles on my layout. In deference to that both have upgrade wheelsets, the S-C car having Ultimate and the Lionel car having wheelsets that used to be sold by English’s (Bowser). The S-C car is one of my first OO cars and was decorated for the Orient in the late 1970s! The Lionel car was worked up from a junker car a few years ago.

But this was not actually the first OO caboose model produced. The earliest was almost certainly the model produced by Oscar Andresen and marketed through his firm Rockhaven Models. This photo is of one that was in the collection of the late Edward Morlok. Note that it is etched brass and really quite amazing for its time, being manufactured probably around 1935-6.

But certainly very few of these were produced (this particular model is the only example I know to exist) and as I posed in the recent article on Nason cabooses, American OO was truly a scale for craftsmen until the game changing products introduced by Scale-Craft in 1937 and Lionel in 1938.

The new 1937 Scale-Craft OO line was the key game changer with not only the die cast locomotive and cars sold as sets but also their line of sectional track. This all certainly caught the attention of Lionel and spurred Nason into developing a range of new products, which we will be looking at more in future articles.

UPDATE: At least two of the Rockhaven caboose bodies exist still today, in a collection in the east. There may be more; certainly this is a rare and important model in our history to be on the lookout for.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The first American OO tank car

Lightning quiz--what manufacturer made the first OO gauge tank car? Lionel? No, theirs came out in 1938. Scale-Craft? No, it was not advertised until late 1937. The correct answer is Limco, The Long Island Scale Model Co.

1937 was a really big year for American OO. I have recently been reading through the year in Model Craftsman and Model Railroader and it has really put some things in perspective which I will be writing more about in future articles. Such as even though really early on OO had more press than HO (for example the Grimke series in 1931-32) by the time 1934 ended HO was probably already leading the market for small trains. But that did not mean there were not some people that had been bitten hard by the OO bug, especially in the area of New York City, and by 1937 several makers besides Nason were trying to reach this market, in particular Star-Continental with their new 4-4-2 model and Limco.

This advertisement appeared in the March, 1937 issue of Model Craftsman and is the largest of several different ads that Limco ran featuring this model. It is a car that should stand out in a collection today and certainly a few must have been sold. From the description here we can tell it had a die cast frame, dome, and ends that combined with a tank of brass with embossed rivet details, and it also included die cast trucks. "Easily assembled in a few hours. The Only tank car in OO Gauge."

A curiosity I have is with the die cast parts what needed drilling and machining?  The drilled and machined kit sold for $4.60 and the casting kit sold for $2.75. Not cheap when you consider that Nason  freight cars sold for only $1.00. But again, it was the only tank car model on the market in March of 1937.

Jumping ahead to the July issue, their smaller advertisement there proudly states that "Our New AAR TANK CARS are going fast. Have you ordered yours?" Limco also in this ad pushed their $4.95 die cast coach kit (which was a variation on the MP54 kit featured in this prior article--also see here to see the sides) and their Western Fruit Express reefer body kit which sold for $1.00 less trucks.

The last Limco ad I see in 1937 is in the September issue of Model Craftsman and so far as I can tell they never advertised in Model Railroader at all. November 1937 saw the introduction of the Scale-Craft OO line and it is possible Limco was already out of business. If they were not yet out of business, they would be soon as the Scale-Craft coach and tank car kits were certainly of a much higher level of quality and priced better.

Again, it should be pretty easy to spot one of these Limco tank cars if you have one. I would love to follow this article up with a photo of a built up model.

UPDATE: See this article for a photo.

Monday, September 6, 2010

RIP Model Train Magazine Index [Updated--it is back online]

One of the most very useful places on the entire Internet for finding things in back issues of magazines was the The Model Train Magazine Index. Now it is no more [but see the UPDATE, it is back!], as explained as follows at
To our readers:

The advancement in Internet browser technology has created an insurmountable problem for the Model Train Index, which has been a fixture on for many years.

The information in the Model Train Index and its integrated software originally were written in MS-DOS language 20 years ago by a train hobbyist on his PC as a personal project. It was not designed for the Internet and the software is unique to the index.

Kalmbach Publishing Co. purchased the index and its software many years ago. We created a website interface for the index and made the index a featured part of the website.

Today, the progression of technologies on the Internet and the antiquated software of the Model Train Index have intersected to the point that we can no longer offer the index to our website visitors because we can no longer keep the index free of viruses or other even more significant Internet security risks.

The index software cannot be rewritten to update its security level, nor is there any method of transferring the index text information to a more modern software platform since the design of the index software and the index text information are integral to each other.

Because of these issues, we have reluctantly removed the index from
The index had a few limitations (such as it did not start early enough to cover the earliest OO articles in The Modelmaker) and I completely understand the reasons stated by but still it was an awfully useful index and was something I referenced frequently for a variety of reasons.

My reason for referencing it this last time was to look for a scale drawing of a PRR N5 caboose so that I could see which classic OO model was closer to the prototype, the 1937 Scale-Craft or the 1938 Lionel tooling? I am thinking somewhere in all my magazines there must be a scale drawing and maybe even a full article on the topic of the N5 caboose? With no index I won’t be finding it any time soon.

MR still has a more limited index back to 1986 in their website and it pointed me to a review of a PRR N5C caboose in N scale. That did not do me a lot of good as it is a different model although it was cool that this review was actually online and easy to access. I will have to rely on photos for now to compare the S-C and Lionel cabooses, and this info on the N5 caboose is good in the Bowser website for those curious about the topic, which I will come back to.

It will be interesting to see if someone takes up the challenge to build a new online index, maybe not as fancy but with at least the index of each magazine as a page of searchable text. Thank you for having The Model Train Magazine Index while you could and for explaining the reasons for it is no more in the text that still holds the place. It was really useful while it lasted and it is to be hoped that something will take the place of it in the near future.

UPDATE: The index is back and better than ever! The only thing missing is The Modelmaker does not seem to be included in the index, but this is still an extremely valuable resource.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Pair of Modified Nason Cabooses

These sharp looking green cabooses were built by Pierre Bourassa and as mentioned a few articles ago have been getting good mileage in on my layout recently. They are both modified Nason models which are not very commonly seen and are both very good operators.

Number 70 has been lengthened and both have been modified for lights and removable roofs with partially detailed interiors. Focusing on the 70 first, the right end is where the additional siding was added nicely and also windows were blanked out for a different look. The 70 is on Nason trucks with the cast bolster. That is to say they were 3 rail trucks originally but have been upgraded with late production Scale-Craft wheelsets that are insulated on one side which provide the needed electrical pickup.

Number 58 is still the original length and the second photo gives a good comparison of the modified version and an original, unmodified model. This car is riding on a nice pair of either Eastern or Famoco trucks arranged for picking up power. I especially like the look of this car, to my eye the proportions look much better than the original Nason model with the cupola moved further off center and the window blanked out.

The stock model was also described in this prior article but a few more general notes are in order. While Nason was manufacturing American OO by 1934 and was the leading early firm, this caboose model was not introduced until 1939 and even then as the 1939 catalog notes was not available until February 28!

These cars are light and are mostly wood and cardboard with cast steps. The sides and ends are a die-cut pressed cardboard material. I have not seen one of these as a kit but the typical built up model seen can be a bit rough in terms of condition today as time can be hard on light wood and cardboard models.

Lately I have been reading a lot of early magazines and reflecting on the “big picture” of the early years of American OO. In relation to that I would conclude with one final question. What did OO gauge enthusiasts do for cabooses before Scale-Craft introduced theirs in 1937? I don’t know but I can tell you that so far as I can tell the only one marketed commercially before that date was the Andresen/Rockhaven model, which speaks to the early craftsmen who worked in the scale mostly making their own; this was truly a scale for craftsmen until the game changing products introduced by Scale-Craft in 1937 and Lionel in 1938. So while it looks like an older model, actually Nason was playing catch-up to get this caboose out in 1939--simply trying to keep up with the market. I will flesh this thought out in future articles.

UPDATE: Both of these cabooses have been updated just a bit with new wheel sets.

Friday, September 3, 2010

“OO” Railway Notes: F. D. Grimke and his Series on OO Gauge, 1931-32. Part V: Freight Cars

In the December, 1931 issue of The Modelmaker we find an article that ties up the part of the series on building an OO gauge Hudson which includes a full list of the 15 Thuillgrim drawings used in building the locomotive and also this very tantalizing text,
Next month, we will start to describe rolling stock for our railroad system, including both passenger and freight. Later on, we will take up the question of electric outline locomotives accurately working from a pantograph, Oil-electric Outline Locomotives, Signals, and automatic blocks and train control.
It seems they had big plans for OO and Grimke started in on the plans in the next two issues, January and February of 1932, with details on how to build a flat car and a gondola. He gives very specific dimensional data on the wood needed and such and gives these specific details on trucks. Remember, at this point in time Thuillgrim was the only OO manufacturer and they did not advertise trucks—something pretty essential in building a model railroad! But Thuillgrim listed in a number of late advertisements “Rail, Drawings, Locomotive Castings, etc.” The “etc.” should I believe have included trucks that look like these:
The trucks are made and assembled as previously described but with the following exception: The stretcher piece between the frames is not a section of brass channel. The frames have been modified by having a lug cast on the back. The stretcher is a piece of 1/16” brass 27mm long by 7mm wide. The stretcher is fastened to the frames by means of 0-80 flat head machine screws.
The drawings reproduced here (click on them for a larger view) were published with the February, 1932 continuation of the article. This particular article ends exactly as follows: “Next month, we will illustrate the Gondola type of car and continue the discussion of box cars.”

But sadly next month never came for this pioneering series on American OO, as at this point the series ends abruptly. It seems the editors decided there was just not a lot of interest in American OO gauge out there. The final Thuillgrim advertisement I have spotted is in the November, 1932 issue of The Modelmaker, and their line of locomotives in particular had little impact; I don’t know of any that definitely exist today. It was not until 1934 that the first commercially successful American OO locomotive was introduced, the Nason Railways P5A, and it was not until 1936 that they produced a big steam locomotive, their classic 4-6-4. More on that another day.

Frederic Drayton Grimke was ahead of the curve and ahead of his time but would be heard from again in the pages of The Modelmaker as an author and in other publications in relation to his being a longtime officer in the New York Society of Model Engineers. I will have more on those another day but in conclusion I would add that on reading this series of articles in The Modelmaker it is clear that Grimke truly was the father of American OO. He in this early series set all our major standards and laid the foundation for all that was to come from the firms that followed Thuillgrim, especially Nason, Scale-Craft, and Lionel. Be watching for upcoming articles focused on their earliest products.

Return to beginning of 1931-32 series.

Continue to 1933 series