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

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

1 comment:

C. R. Chinoy said...

You mention O scale models for the 1939 World's Fair built by Fred Icken. I lived in Altoona for the last 2 years, and can confirm that the streamlined steam locomotive from this group of World's Fair display models survives today in operational condition and has found its way back to the Altoona Assn. of Model Railroaders.