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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Four Nason Passenger Cars

Regular readers know I periodically feature projects underway and for what will probably be the last post of 2010 I have this progress photo of a set of four Nason passenger cars.

The cars are all the later style Nason cars with stamped brass sides. This post shows the sides off the cars and this one shows the coach prior to assembly. With enough time last week to tackle something that would take some time I got the sides all pinned back on. Each car had unique challenges in terms of assembly and truck and coupler mounting as all had been previously built by other builders; undoubtedly each of those builders could have set up a similar photo on some cold winters night. During re-assembly I was able to re-use about 80% of the original pins (having saved them carefully initially with each car body). I painted the sides and the bodies (roof/ends/floor) separately with spray paint. The painting underway in the photo is I had touched up the pins and had begun to paint the trucks.

Speaking of trucks, the four wheel trucks came together pretty well (one has Famoco wheelsets and the other S-C) but the six wheel Nason trucks really took some effort to the point of questioning why go to all this effort? The finished product looks and rolls great with upgraded wheelsets but I will say that among the Nason trucks the bolster heights vary and they are overall higher than any other brand of truck. Basically you ideally mount them directly to the floor with no bolster and only a thin washer to be at the right height but they took more tweaking than that. I only had three pair of usable Nason trucks as well, so the RPO got a good pair of trusty Scale-Craft trucks which suited better the mounting that had been done by a prior owner.

The Pullman (closest to the camera) has dummy Scale-Craft couplers which allow for lots of swing and the others have Kadee long shank couplers. I had them all running well around the layout prior to this photo and they will be a sharp set of cars when the decals are done. I also have a string of Zuhr streamline passenger cars nearly to the same point now, more on those in 2011.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

American OO in 1935 III: The Oscar Andresen Layout and a Change for The Modelmaker

Oscar Andresen was one of the most visible early American OO gauge enthusiasts and manufacturers. His layout was featured in The Modelmaker in 1934 and twice in early issues of The Model Railroader, specifically in the May 1935 and February 1936 issues.

The May 1935 article gives us a pretty good view into his layout and was the cover story. This first photo was the cover photo of the issue. As noted in this earlier article with a before and after comparison taken from this same issue, he was not only a photo engraver and model railroader but also a painter. Thus in an era long before Photoshop the images in this article are all re-touched, with various details added. Even with that element these photos are quite interesting today. Keeping in mind this was way back in an era when toy trains really looked like toys these were amazing small scale models. The article begins,
The OO gauge system of Oscar Andresen, Shade St., Lexington, Mass., is slowly taking shape, and the photographs with this article will give an idea of the scenic completeness of the portions already finished. The total space available is only 10’ 6” x 12’ 9”. This allows for very little straightaway. There are two windows and one door.
The article goes on to describe that the layout has a double track mainline with 12 switches and varies from a width of 3 ½” to 2’. The cover photo was of “Mohawk Valley, a country town with a small commercial station. The main industry is the Mohawk Valley car shops.” The second photo is of a station made of plywood. “The general design follows an actual suburban station near Boston, with an arched driveway for the numerous taxis which come and go continually (No depression here!).”

There was also a smaller town scene, not depicted in the article but described, called Rock Haven. This final photo is another view of Mohawk Valley. You can see again retouched elements, for example the gondola on the left is brought into focus with the paintbrush, the right side is totally painted in, and the birds and such are in new positions. The figures he notes “are all made by the same process as the car sides, a method of transferring an exact image with raised portions to a metal surface.” As he was also a manufacturer (this ad ran later in the same issue) this following text is especially interesting.
The Mohawk Valley car shops have been working overtime turning out cars, not only for the Mohawk Valley, but also for other roads in the vicinity. A new observation car was built for the M.V. just before the holidays and more recently a caboose was delivered. The Rock Haven had a sand type gondola built for it…. At the present time work is going forward on a body for an M.U. unit.
A prior article series looked specifically at the early, photoengraved models produced by Andresen, but more recently I received from a reader several more photos of his products. The first one is of a set of reefer sides and the second a view of a group of models. Note the raised lettering. Near the end of the article he offers
What do you say if we board a special train on the Mohawk Valley for a tour of inspection? We are sure to forget the passage of time, and so we will naturally stop at the car shops to watch the construction of many types of cars. The strangest site of all is to see the riveters at work, “Wonder of wonders.” They make no noise. The process used not only permits rivets without noise but at the same time raises all lettering above the car surface. All around the shops and other factories at Mohawk Valley there is no sign of a depression, with work going forward at full blast.
Again, I go back to thinking of what toy trains looked like in 1935 and what these models looked like and the comparison is very striking. Andresen was way ahead of the curve. Returning to the layout, there he was also pretty ahead of the curve with an around the walls plan of the general type that we associate with more modern layout design. OO had some serious model makers who also ran their trains.

Speaking of model makers, this issue also has a note on a “consolidation just completed between the publishing interests” of A. C. Kalmbach and the Modelmaker Corp. In short The Modelmaker was taken over by the publishers of The Model Railroader. All model railroad content would be in The Model Railroader and The Modelmaker would continue publication but with a focus on “Working models of all types, including large scale live steam railroading.”

When we return to this series on 1935 the focus will be on a letter from another OO pioneer, Howard Winther and other new products on the market.

Continue to Part IV

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hawk OO Boxcar and Gondola

One firm to produce a line of OO gauge freight car kits the early 1940s was Hawk. General information on Hawk OO (and a photo of an un-built gondola kit) may be found here, but the focus today is on what I think to be their best two OO models.

First we have this boxcar, a recent eBay find. I have profiled this model before and it seems to be one that modelers liked to modify, this one being tricked out with double doors and steel ends. It was available with either this body or a solid block body.

The new car is no exception. The builder has replaced the door and also look at the ends (click on any photo for a close up). The stock version would have a plain end. This model now has a brass overlay with rivet details appropriate to imitate an early type of steel end.

From the bottom it shows the classic Hawk frame. It was never set up with trucks so far as I can tell. I plan to mount a good pair after I tweak details a bit and paint and letter the car, hopefully sometime soon but there are many projects underway.

The same could be said for this gondola, another eBay find early this year. As noted in the earlier article, this is a sulfur gondola of ATSF prototype. This is also an example of a car that was never set up for trucks but was close to finished (maybe 70%) and will make a nice car.

Why these are their best two cars is because they are models of wood prototype cars nicely designed with good quality wood parts. I will over time rebuild a couple of the steel cars too but I don’t have much hope that they will turn out as nicely as these as they lack rivet details with plain sides.

UPDATE: The finished versions of these cars are seen in this article.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Vintage OO Layout Photos I: Bourassa

One thing I have been accumulating in recent years are a few vintage American OO layout photos. I have posted a couple of these already (for example here and here) but with this series I will be posting them more formally in a series format. To kick things off we have two photos from the layout of Pierre Bourassa in 1965. Click on either photo for a larger view.

The prime subject of this first photo is a beautifully kitbashed (Scale-Craft based) 4-8-2. Pierre had a large Canadian OO layout and at that time was one of several OO gaugers with large layouts in Canada. Starting up at the front the track looks to be laid on fiber tie strip and the turnout must be something larger than #6. The turntable is a beauty and seven of the roundhouse stalls look to have locomotives in them. The work car to the right is riding on an interesting pair of trucks, possibly based on On3 sideframes but with OO size wheelsets. Note also the figures and details in this realistic scene.

This second photo focuses in on a nicely finished Kemtron GP-7. The location, judging from other photos of the same layout, is just to the right of the roundhouse scene. That is one sharp engine!

Besides the other details in the scene note the coupler on the Geep; it is a HO style horn/hook coupler. I see them in other photos in this group. Pierre must have been experimenting with them for automatic coupling. However, for sure he later moved on to Kadee couplers. Most active OO gaugers with layouts did use these in that time frame and following; all but the oldest versions are compatible with S-C and Lionel couplers (manually only) which is another bonus. The November, 2010 issue of Model Railroader gives the basics on these, that the original Kadee coupler (with the straight pin from the knuckle) was introduced in 1953 and the improved version with the magnetic style trip pin was introduced in 1960. I have both types on cars but the latter style is the standard for the modern OO operator.

Pierre is 93 and I hear from him mainly by snail mail, which is how he sent me these photos. I do thank him for sharing these.

Continue to Vintage OO Photos part II

Sunday, December 5, 2010

American OO in 1935 II: “The ‘OO’ Gauge” by Hugh Richard Nason

Two names tower above all others in the early history of American OO: F. D. Grimke and Hugh Richard Nason. Hugh Nason was owner of Nason Railways, the first major OO manufacturer. They had their OO line in production by 1934 and were the largest manufacturer that was solely dedicated to manufacture of American OO gauge train models.

Stepping back a bit, it is sobering in a way to know that there were active OO gaugers alive that actually knew Hugh Nason not that long ago. It would be quite interesting to talk to them about Nason the man as actually I have literally no details on his life other than he was in the 1930s certainly a New Yorker and very enthusiastic about American OO gauge.

Among the issues of The Model Craftsman I own from 1935 I have the four issue run of May, June, July-August, and September and in each of these we find an installment of a series of articles on OO gauge by Hugh Nason. The first installment is titled “Beginning the ‘00’ Gauge” (numbers instead of letters) and includes the first two photos in this present article to illustrate the size of OO models. He states that
In this article I will endeavor to give the generalities of 00 Gauge railroading, and the manner in which to get started. In further articles we will deal with each type of equipment and how to build them to be durable, serviceable, and still a true copy of the original at the most economical means of construction.
He suggests starting working on track first. It is clear that he was assuming that operation would definitely be by outside third rail. Track standards were presented clearly, suggesting a minimum radius of no less than 2’ 4”. He ends the article as follows:
In the foregoing we have given the general outline of 00 gauge, and in the photos a view of the rolling stock, a Pullman and other equipment. It is well to remember that in 00 gauge there is no more precision work than found in larger scales. Motive units are now built, and motors and parts are available to build the most detailed motor unit which looks and runs as much like the real jobs as in any other scale yet built. Do not get the wrong opinion that because it is smaller accurate reproduction is not possible, for you can see for yourself that it is.
Speaking of those parts that are available, Nason Railways had a small ad in this same issue listing “Built-up and Cast Car Kits – Locomotive Kits – Cast Locomotive & Car Shed Kit – Cast Station Kit – Track Supplies and Miscellaneous Parts.”

In the June, 1935 issue the topic is building from scratch a Pullman. This time the title of the article is “The ‘OO’ Gauge” (letters this time instead of numbers) and Nason began,
Enthusiasm seems to want the 12 section Pullman sleeping car as the first piece of rolling stock on their proposed system. Somehow it feels a vote above the other classes of passenger rolling stock, although if one checks the percentage of Pullmans against coaches, one would find them in the minority.
Nason Railways already sold a kit for this model in sand cast aluminum but this article covers how to scratchbuild a model from wood and Bristol board, with scale drawings provided. For example, “Roof molding can be purchased ready to fit into place and file the ends; however Fig. 1 shows the method of building it up from three pieces of wood, preferably straight grained white pine” and “Use a white coated bristol board for the car sides, as this has sufficient strength when backed up with a full length of mica to make a substantial side.” While noting many times that certain parts “can be procured,” he patiently explains how to make every part from scratch, including trucks which were to be built up from brass!

In the July-August issue the topic is building a flat car from wood. “The main floor section, on which we scribe the lines to represent the floor boards, is a piece of cigar box wood, which, when shaped and cleared of the paper, should measure 7-1/16” long, by 1-5/16” wide.” It would have been a light car being made with a wood frame and sides as well. The only metal parts were a cast brake wheel, a turned brake cylinder, and the trucks. “The trucks can be purchased kits, or can be made quite readily if you are handy in working in brass.” Right! Those were different times.

The final installment I have is in the September issue which is on the topic of making a 50 ton steel boxcar very much like the sand cast model they sold but this time made from wood and Bristol board. Scale drawings are included and also this photo of his MKT boxcar. The photo is small but it appears to be riding on sand cast Nason trucks.

Of course any of these models could have been built in HO or O by the same methods, but the idea was to push the new scale of American OO specifically. And Nason was a regular advertiser in The Model Craftsman, so there may have been some agreement there as well for all we know today.

A 1935 Nason catalog was sold on eBay a couple years ago but I did not win. If any reader out there has a copy I would love to see a Xerox but I suspect that this final image, of the Hobby Craft Stores advertisement in the September 1935 issue of The Model Craftsman, inside the front cover, shows most of what Nason had out then. Click on the photo for more details and also a nice sharp photo of the P-5A. That model was being advertised at a steep discount and also note the freight trucks, unmachined, for 98 cents a pair. Click on the image for a better view of the prices.

Nason was the leading firm in OO to be sure in 1935. When we return to this series we will take another look at the OO layout of Oscar Andresen as of 1935.

Continue to Part III of 1935 series

Friday, December 3, 2010

The A.H.M. Alco 1000 Switcher

Back now a couple years ago an article was posted in American OO Today that included how to convert the HO A.H.M. Alco switcher to OO. Last week my only purchase at the train show was another of these vintage models, a model worth taking a bit more of a look at.

The short version is this model is very close to OO in most dimensions and is also simple to convert to operation in American OO. This image is reproduced from the A.H.M. 1979 catalog. The full page with this image may be found on the HOSeeker website here, and the index page for the catalog is here. In the catalog it states that the "Alco 1000 Yard Switcher" is
An unaging switcher which is still being used today. A.H.M.’s model includes features such as operating headlight, gear drive, RP-25 wheelsets, and operating couplers at both ends.
The model itself is of an Alco model S-2 switcher, in particular according to the Model Railroader Cyclopedia, Vol. 2, Diesel Locomotives of a model produced 1943-44 with horizontal shutter slats on the radiator. It was their best selling model of switcher with 1502 units produced between 1940 and 1950.

Unfortunately for A.H.M. and for Model Power who later sold the same model, the scale drawings in the Model Railroader Cyclopedia tell the story of a model that is overscale for HO. For example the body should be 41'-6" over the end sills and this model is 151 mm long which puts it at 37'-9" in OO and over 43' in HO. That does not really tell the story though as also the walkways are too narrow all the way around and the body itself is quite close to OO in length. The trucks have a wheelbase that is correct for OO as well with OO sideframes. The only dimensions that appear to be correct for HO are the width of the model and wheelset diameter. From the side it is certainly very close to OO and the hood is as well in width. The cab roof however has a “rounder” profile than the prototype, this being due to the model being essentially OO height but HO width.

As I noted in the earlier article it is a pretty simple model to convert to OO operation as really all you need to do is widen the wheels out on the existing axles, split the sideframe casting in the middle so that it can be remounted wide enough to fit, and remove the HO couplers and work out body mounting at the correct height for Kadee couplers. And it looks good with OO models.

This has been produced with at least two drives over the years. The old standard one is in the back in the photo, with a motor that is built into the truck with a vertical shaft. The later version  has a can motor mounted horizontally. I suspect that the back version is on the A.H.M. version of this model and the front on Model Power version of this model, but the changeover could have happened before or after the change of maker. Either version can be converted to OO. Of the two the later drive is the better setup, but the gearing is a bit high, the pulling power a bit low, and only two axles are picking up power.

The second type of drive can be rebuilt fairly easily with Athearn drive parts like I did with the A.H.M. SW-1 in this earlier article (also seen here) and that would be my plan for OO operation of this model. The gearing is better and also you gain eight week pickup. Run them in multiple for more pulling power. For a more advanced project you could also work out an RS-1 from the body parts; this is a project I would also like to tackle someday.

The A.H.M./Model Power Alco 1000 is an option for the OO operator who is an Alco fan and should be noted clearly as a model that can be rebuilt for operation in American OO.

UPDATE: See this article for a pair of these I updated with Athearn drive parts.