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

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Three Vintage Nason Heavyweights in a New Corner

Back in December I was touching up painting on a group of four pre-war Nason heavyweight passenger cars. Now the group is done, and they look great in the new corner.

As noted in the “Layout Tour” article of a few years ago, portions of my layout date back to 1978. After years of procrastination I finally got the scenery to this point in the last couple weeks, spurred on partially just because it needed done (!) but also as I had an idea to experiment with producing a video as well.

Finishing the scene (and it could use more work) involved making some decisions mostly then following through. The station is for the fictional Kansas location of South Cottonwood, the business in the Quonset hut is "Nieter" at present, and the service station is Clyde's Service. Click on either photo for a closer view. I did not want to make the scene too crowded, a flaw sometimes seen on layouts. I will go back and work more on the road at some point soon, it is too gray and I did not put in crossings at all.

The other reason I wanted to pose these cars here is because the view is similar to the view in the most recent post on the Oscar Andresen layout. His 1936 article featured a new corner on his layout, and this is the new corner on my layout.

As to the cars, these three cars are all 60’ cars (roughly, all are actually a bit different) and will likely see a lot of service on the layout. Left to right they are an RPO, the PRR coach, and a shortened (by a prior owner) Pullman. I love the vintage look of these cars, they were a good product that was introduced before Lionel or Scale-Craft had produced any OO, and they operate great on my curves. Expect to see them again in the future.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Video--American OO Today, Episode I: Pre-War Sampler

This past few weeks a goal has been to finally finish to some level the scenery on the final corner of the layout.  With that goal met and a new camcorder the result is the video below, which features some common pre-war OO gauge equipment on the layout. Check it out!

I plan to do more of these in the coming months. I wish the video quality was a bit higher and I will get better with the narration as more are produced. Except for the two essentially stock Lionel models all the rest I rebuilt pretty extensively.

I did not put in outtakes but one aside, the motor mounting screws all worked out leaving the locomotive inoperable just before I shot the video above! I did actually get the moment on tape. Three screws later I had it running again. This particular model has been run quite a lot over the years and is not one I run often now. I have another S-C 4-6-0 and a S-C 4-4-2 in the shop to be set up with vintage S-C DC motors, I am hoping they will be better runners and for sure they are lower mileage.

Finally, look to see photos of the new scenery soon. There is more to do but the layout is looking better than ever for sure.

Continue to Episode II

Monday, January 17, 2011

American OO in 1936, part II: Andresen, Winther, the NYSME Show, and Setting Standards

Turning to the February, 1936 issue of The Model Railroader we find two photos of an addition to the Mohawk Valley layout of Oscar Andresen. This layout had been featured in some depth in the May, 1935 issue, as related in this prior article in this series. This 1936 update was on “a new corner just completed” on the layout. The main body of the article offers these details.
In both pictures the M. U. unit can be seen which furnishes passenger service between Echo Notch and Rock Haven. This belongs to the Echo Line, another unit of the system, and is the only means of passenger service between the points named. This unit runs at speeds of about 60 to 70 m. p. h., maintaining a schedule of 52.2 m. p. h. average from terminal to terminal.
The Mohawk Valley System is a OO gauge line, with exceptionally detailed cars made by a photo-chemical process similar to photo-engraving. The scenery is a clever combination of painted background and actual buildings in the foreground.
Especially in the first photo the retouching done by Andresen to the photo is pretty visible, especially the track on the left. In the second photo (click on it for a closer view) we have a last look at other equipment already seen, in particular the steeple cab electric freight motor. I say a last look because, so far as I can tell, these are the last photos published of his early layout.

Another major early name in American OO is Howard Winther and we hear from him again in the same February issue but not specifically in relation to OO. His article is titled “Two-Rail System Locomotives” and it has to do with insulating drivers and arranging for current collection. In short, “The easiest way of insulating the wheels is to us a Bakelite bushing around the axle, similar to the method described for car wheels” but he also presents how they can also be insulated at the rim. The article addresses drivers for O and OO gauges, with no mention of HO. As with the Andresen article this would appear to be the last published article by Howard Winther but in both cases I know that their names will turn up from time to time in later issues.

The other very interesting article for me in this issue is the nearly full page report on the NYSME show by Robert LeMassena. LeMassena went on to write quite a number of articles for Trains magazine but early on he was an OO gauger and he reported that
The 1936 edition of the New York Society of Model Engineers Exhibition was a huge success, to your correspondent’s way of thinking. The lure of model railroading and models of boats and engines was sufficient to insure capacity crowds every day of the two weeks duration of the show.
Instead of “standing room only” the sign read “elbow room only”. There were 16 commercial exhibitors, and from the looks of things business was definitely good.
As to the other attractions, “The center of attraction was of course the Union Connecting RR., the club layout in O gauge.” But there was also an OO gauge line which seems to have fallen on hard times. "The OO gauge Little Island RR. was not running and looked as if it had been abandoned. There was quite a bit of OO gauge stock on display in the cases." After descriptions of O and larger scale models we get to OO.
OO gauge was represented by a Pennsy P-5 and GG-1, a N. Y. C. J-1, and Erie S-1, a good number of Pullmans, and quite a number of freight cars. HO gauge wasn’t even in the picture. The Erie OO S-1 was the best steam locomotive in the little line and the GG-1 was a slick model of the real electric.
“HO gauge wasn’t even in the picture.” There is a timing to this statement in relation to the New York location of the show and the launches of the Scale-Craft and Lionel OO lines that is probably significant. Also note the Erie S-1; it should be by Howard Winther, as noted in this earlier article. I will come back to this model in part III of the present 1936 series.

Among the manufacturers displaying was Nason Railways, who had a “C. & O. 4-6-2” on display, a model they never produced. LeMassena concluded after noting that Maerklin had a display of “HO gauge tinplate” that “From all aspects it looks like a big year for model railroaders and especially for OO and HO gauge.”

In The Model Craftsman in April we have a very different report on the same NYSME show. Under the odd title “Ho-Hum, The Show’s Over” the report begins,
Ho-Hum, say we all, but not from boredom. No sir, it is that nice tired feeling one experiences after a good, big meal. Not that we had anything thing to do with the success of the model show of the New York Society of Model Engineers, but we did have a good time and we enjoyed the fruits of its season. We enjoyed inspecting more amateur-built models than we have ever seen under one roof before. And we had the pleasure of meeting old and new friends from all over America; and some from Canada.
The illustration with the article includes of caricatures of various NYSME personalities, this one being their Chairman and OO pioneer Fred Grimke, who was “handicapped by a broken ankle.” Speaking of OO, the prize winners for OO (they called it 00 in the article—MR used OO) were a Hudson locomotive by Carl Groh, a Pullman by J. H. Manning, and a Algoma Valley caboose by Edward Hornsbury [sic].

Actually the name was misspelled; the caboose was by Edward B. Hansbury, Jr. It was featured later in an article in the November, 1937 issue of The Model Craftsman from where this photo is drawn. The car is made mainly of wood and Bristol board, the sides being scribed “with a slightly blunted point.” The article gives quite a few details including such items as the steps were “cut from a Flat Fifty cigarette tin.” While the article emphasizes the intricate detail, the car itself seems to me at least by any later standards pretty lightly built. The roof is “very heavy cardboard” so all in all unless the car was treated carefully and kept in a dry place it should not have survived to today. The trucks are Nason trucks and it is nicely lettered by hand. Hansbury wrote a series of similar articles which I will return to from time to time in this series.

Finally, at the end of the Model Craftsman report on the NYSME show there is a note about manufacturers meeting to talk about standards. They report that “Tentative standards were adopted but final decision was waived until comparisons could be made with their manufacturing designs.” Among the manufacturers in the conference were Hugh R. Nason and Frank Waldhorst of Nason Railways.

When we return to this series we will take a better look at the Winther Erie 2-8-4.

Continue to Part III

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Guy Williams on 4mm Scale Locomotive Construction

With the last post touching on British OO it is a good time to post on a British publication, Model Locomotive Construction in 4mm Scale by Guy Williams. My copy came to me via another American OO gauger and was originally given as a birthday present (by relatives, I believe) to the late Edward Morlok in probably the mid 1980s, inscribed inside “If you tell me you have this one too I’ll try again!”

As noted in an earlier post Williams was very active with the Pendon Museum and with EM (the 18mm gauge version of OO) from its beginnings, and I became familiar with him through another of his publications. This book, first published in 1979, is a compilation of a series of articles that first appeared in the Model Railway Constructor. In the introduction Williams notes
I started making model locos in 4mm in 1948 at the beginning of the nickel silver age, and since then I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to make a great many locos of all sorts and sizes…. I suppose that I should not have been driven to make the kind of models I do now, had it not been for my association with the Pendon Museum. Quite early on I met Roye England, who was looking for a class of model rarely seen, that which had all visible detail and which would continue to work, day-in and day-out. Trying to achieve this goal has led me to numerous conclusions concerning do’s and don’ts in model construction which I am very pleased to pass on.
The book is full of information on building locomotives, and a visit to the Pendon Museum should be on the bucket list of any true 4mm enthusiast. The video below is part of a series of videos on the museum that are on YouTube. They are all excellent and this particular one mentions Williams (about one minute in) and the locomotives used at the Pendon Museum specifically. Enjoy!

I have considered putting up some American OO videos of my own; when I have something ready I will post more about it then.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

American OO in 1936, part I: The Battle of the Gauges and notes on the Reidmere Mechanism

In the January, 1936 issue of The Model Railroader we find a letter to the editor from Spanner in Boston under the heading “Still Going – HO versus OO Gauge.” Spanner directs his comments toward Howard Winther. The Winther OO layout was featured in the July, 1934 issue and Winther had replied to a letter from Spanner in the November, 1935 issue, quoted in this article. Spanner had a reply for Winther and began
I was very interested to hear that Howard Winther builds his OO cars of wood and cardboard (November issue Railway Postoffice), but he must admit it is only recently that the OO trade have started putting out car kits in these materials. I really believe that OO will benefit materially by this, even if it means one up for HO.
That you could make cars from wood and cardboard was perceived to be an advantage of HO in those early years. Looking in the November, 1934 Railway Postoffice column in MR for example we see a letter from HO enthusiast James Dechert who notes under the heading “HO Not a Jewelers’ Gauge” that one of the advantages of HO was
…the entire practicability of constructing rolling-stock from the easily handled materials of wood and cardboard, instead of metal. Cars made from these are wonderfully strong and no one who has ever seen a finished one in all its war-paint would ever guess from what it was made, or how easy to build it really is, or how inexpensive. A set of equalized truck parts with wheels for $1.25, ply-wood floor, balsa roof, artist’s cardboard and stripwood body suitably scribed, a little wire for couplings, ladder-rungs, brake-shaft, etc, a little paint, some very pleasurable labor, and there you are – a very realistic and usable freight car at a cost of around $1.50.
…the construction methods possible in HO and OO should prove a boon if they will only adopt them….
In any event Spanner continues in his January 1936 letter that
As for locomotives, Mr. Winther must be congratulated for the performance of his but does one have to have 12 years’ experience to attain these results? I never yet have seen a OO locomotive that had the hauling qualities it should have in comparison to an HO one. Neither are they as flexible in operation. Even my worm driven engine starts up without the slightest jerk and as for the reduction geared jobs, once under way the controller has to be brought back a notch or two, for reduced speed, proving their wide range in hauling capacity.
In conclusion I would say that I certainly would like to see a OO American locomotive fitted with a Super Reidmere mechanism and compare it with one fitted with the usual OO motor. I’ll bet the results would be surprising.
The Reidmere drive he refers to was made by the English firm of Stewart-Reidpath. I got curious about this as S. R. Jagger of Boston also advertised in this same issue of Model Railroader a finished 0-6-0 locomotive for “HO or British OO” fitted with a Reidmere mechanism. A few details about Stewart-Reidpath may be found in this article, but thanks to reader Andy E. I have even more on the Reidmere drive from a period publication.

The source is a British publication, Indoor Model Railways by E. W. Twining, published in 1937. Chapter five is a review of motors and mechanisms and the first one reviewed is the Reidmere. Of it Twining wrote
The REIDMERE mechanism, by Messrs. Steward-Reidpath, Ltd., of Herne Bay, Kent, is shown in the photographs Fig. 30 and in the scale drawing Fig. 31. As will be seen the motor is of the permanent-magnet-field type ….
The armature revolves at high speed, of course, and a reduction gear between the armature spindle and the driving axle of the engine is necessary as it is in all electrically driven models. In the Reidmere unit this reduction is obtained by a train of spur-gearing, the toothed wheels being indicated by dotted lines in Fig. 31.
…The gauge of the track on which these mechanisms are intended to run is 16 ½ mm. to 1 ft., i.e., H0. It can, of course, be used in 00 scale by lengthening the axles for 19 mm gauge.
It is very interesting to me to see he saw HO as running on 16.5 mm gauge and OO as 19 mm gauge back in 1937 in England, and also it is notable that this mechanism could also be used in OO. It was a mechanism that was available in the USA in that time frame and is something to keep your eyes open for among more likely vintage HO models than OO but it could have been used in OO. Andy E. noted in to me that he has “several of these and they work very well, at least once you have recharged the permanent magnet. Like most pre-war motors using soft iron magnets, these lose their power.”

Moving on, also in this issue we see an ad from The Modelmaker Corp pushing their volume 7 for the “Series on OO Gauge.” They note that “Small gauge model railroaders, either HO or OO, will want this book.” I describe this series here; Grimke was ahead of the curve to be sure.

As to other products, in this issue we also find advertising for Rockhaven Models and from the “OO” Gauge Model Co. This latter firm certainly produced a few of their PRR A-5 0-4-0 switchers but the ad pushes two other models that from the advertisement would seem that they must have been made but none seem to be out there today. (Have one? Be in touch.)

When we return to the 1936 series we will hear again from Oscar Andresen and Howard Winther.

Continue to Part II of 1936 Series

Saturday, January 8, 2011

An Early OO Gauge Pennsylvania R50B Express Refrigerator

Eagle eye regular readers might have noticed that part one of the 1935 series is shorter than average for posts in the series. Actually, it was originally more than twice as long but I was able to figure out that I had misread some dates and had to cut some text. I thought I was looking at the January, 1935 issue of The Model Railroader but actually what I was sharing primarily in that post was from the January, 1936 issue. What happened was that my front cover is missing on the issue and inside the front cover it is dated wrong. They did it again with their February 1936 issue as well, inside the cover it is dated February 1935. [But UPDATE: I added in more to the article a few months later after locating more early magazine issues from 1935.]

Where this is heading is in the original text of part I of the 1935 series I made a reference back to the November, 1934 issue of The Model Railroader, for in that issue is found another reference to Howard Winther. In the regular column “Along the Division” it was reported that
The Hasbrouck shops of the OO gauge Penn-Erie System have recently completed three all-metal Pennsylvania R50-b express refrigerator cars. All work, excepting the wheels, was done in the company shops.
As noted in the previous article, I very recently received a number of photos of models by Howard Winther and these photos are of those OO models as they exist today. Up at the top of this article is car 2731 and next is car 2732. These are sharp cars even today and were made all the way back in 1934! Howard Winther was showing the way as to what could be done in 4mm scale.

Various details can be gleaned from the photos. They look to be very nicely hand lettered. The last photo highlights the trucks and couplers of one of these cars. First look at those trucks, which look to me to be scratchbuilt and are very sharp. Then take a look at the couplers. They are formed from sheet metal, made in an era when there were hardly any commercial manufacturers of OO gauge parts.

Memory is an interesting thing. I felt sure Temple Nieter had mentioned these couplers to me in a letter and having gone this far, why not check the letter archive? I actually found the reference in a letter from way back in November of 1977. The standard coupler Nieter used was a modified Scale-Craft coupler adapted for ramp type uncoupling, but
Before my filed SC type there was Howard Winthers’ made of 1/8 strips of tin-can sheet metal, shaped as a coupler, maybe from 1933! I knew him and adopted his style but quickly added the “hose” wire and the ramp idea on that kind.
This scan is of the little drawing in the margin of the letter by Nieter; clearly the same general type of coupler, although the couplers on the car may not have been made in exactly the same manner. Other notes from Nieter would indicate that they will couple (but not uncouple) automatically.

Certainly not long after this car was built Nason was producing a bronze coupler and Scale-Craft pretty much set the standard a few years later with their die cast couplers in 1937. Before that though we have what I will call the Winther style coupler. It is great to see these photos; thanks again to the Winther family for sharing these.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

American OO in 1935 IV: A Letter from Howard Winther, and Cars of Wood and Cardboard

One issue I don’t own of The Model Railroader for 1935 is the September issue. This would be interesting to see as in the November issue there is a letter from Howard Winther that reacts to a letter in the September issue from “Spanner.”

Howard Winther was a very enthusiastic early OO gauger who I have profiled briefly already, for his layout was featured in The Modelmaker and in The Model Railroader in 1934 as outlined in this earlier article. The articles included photos of several of his early models and I was very excited late last year to be contacted by one of his sons. The models still exist and remain in the family! I now have over 80 photos of models by Howard Winther; this article will highlight several models that were featured in the 1934 articles as they exist today (described more fully toward the end of this article) and in future posts we will look at more of them.

In comments to one of the earlier articles Ted Winther offered this brief biography.
My dad had a relationship with trains that began with Ives, Lionel when he was 5. He graduated from Stevens Institute of Tech in NJ in 1930. His first job was with PRR in Altoona, PA where he was Asst Gang Foreman in the Mechanical Shop. You get the picture! In the thirties he worked for a guy by the name of Fred Icken who was a professional model maker and he built O scale equipment for the 1939 World's Fair layout. One of his box cars remains. He went to work for Nathan Eng. in NYC where he designed lubricators for USRA locos. Then to Symington-Wayne where he designed trucks and couplers and equipment for BART in SF. He has a number of patents from 1942 to 1961. Car accident in 1964 permanently disabled him - died in 1971. He was also an avid photographer - Kodak 110 format.
The Spanner letter that Winther reacts to must have been in favor of HO over OO. With that prelude, I think it worth reading the Winther letter in full; it is a window into a world long before E-mail.
To the Editor: 
As one of those who got his start in model railroading by using British parts back in 1923, I am quite in agreement with the first part of Spanner’s letter in the September issue. However, I take issue with his statement that OO gauge rolling stock is generally made of metal. Most of my own 25 cars, and too, the latest commercial kits, are of the wood and cardboard type. There is no real reason why there should be any difference in construction between OO and HO rolling stock.
But with locomotives, it’s a different matter. From 12 years’ experience in designing and building my own engines, I have found (along with many other builders) that it is good practice to weigh the engines to the limit, and the best way to do this is by heavy metal construction. Built according to this principle my OO gauge Atlantic will haul 21 cars, weighing 6 ½ lbs. behind the tender. The 0-4-0 switcher will take 11 freights up a 3 per cent grade.
I think that this is sufficient evidence that it takes heavy engines to pull trains, and also that the present OO gauge motors have all the power that any model railroad needs.
Howard Winther
Altoona, Pa.
While I don’t have a photo of the Atlantic today, it was featured in this post. Clearly he could not only build models but also photograph them.

Starting up at the top of this article the first model featured is his 0-4-0 model, also mentioned in the text of his 1935 letter. The pulling power was quite substantial for such a small model and probably also speaks to good trucks on the cars. Next we have a reefer which is still exactly as it appeared in the 1934 photo. Note the handmade trucks and also the couplers made from sheet metal. One footnote: In a letter to me years back Temple Nieter mentioned that he had early cars he built that were equipped with this same type of coupler by Howard Winther. I do not know if these were formally offered commercially or if they were simply an item that Winther shared a few extras of with other OO gaugers of the time, but I have had him on my list of manufacturers for years and years because of that note from Nieter. [See this article for more]. The third model is a caboose. It looks to me to be the same caboose as in the 1934 photo but it has been repainted and is on different trucks. Next we have an Erie Berkshire. It was seen under construction in MR in 1934. I will let Ted Winther fill in a few more details on this model.
… the drivers are sprung and the thing runs like the new stuff that has DCC. In the case with it is a little card from NYSME saying "First Place." The "builders plate" shows a hand-painted "1933". I always thought it was made later than that, but my father was not one to show incorrect information. I know he was offered big bucks for it back in the forties.
Going back to the 1935 Model Railroader letter, Winther mentions that wood and card freight cars were at that time available commercially in American OO. The very first advertisement I have located for the Nason “Easy – Built” freight cars (box car and reefer) is found in the November 1935 issue of The Model Craftsman. Click on the image for a closer view. Their December ad lists ten different versions of the car being available.

This final photo is of an early Nason (or perhaps Page) kit beautifully built up by Howard Winther with his custom trucks and couplers.
I will return with more photos of models by Howard Winther in the near future (and will also work these great photos into updates of other articles) but when the OO history series returns the topic will be a reply to Winther from Spanner in early 1936.

Also, I should note that my magazine collection for 1935 is the least complete of any year at this point; if I find more of interest in other issues as I fill in gaps I will update or add on to the 1935 series in the future. I see several other articles that should be of interest in the index of model railroad magazines, in particular the article "Little Island RR of the New York Society of Model Engineers" by Charles Small that appeared in the June, 1935 issue of The Model Railroader catches my attention. This was the first OO club layout built and speaks again to New York being the hotbed of OO activity. If a reader has access to this article I would be interested to read a copy, and I will keep watching for more 1935 issues to come up for sale on eBay.

In summary 1935 was a pretty good year for American OO but 1936 would be an even better year. More on that soon.

UPDATE: I missed in my survey of 1935 mention of the NYSME annual show. There is an article on this show in the April, 1935 issue of The Model Craftsman and two of the models in photos above were prize winners! Howard Winther won first award in OO for his 0-4-0 freelance switcher (also displaying 4-4-2, and 4-8-2 locomotive models) and his P.R.R. caboose won first award for freight equipment. A few more notes on this show may be found in this article.

Return to beginning of 1935 series

Continue to 1936 series