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

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.

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