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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Graceline Troop Sleeper and an Unusual Hopper

John Svensson sent in this photo recently of a pair of unusual cars on his OO layout, a modified Graceline troop sleeper and an unusual hopper. He purchased them from Bill Gilbert.

Graceline (main article here) had a large OO line before WWII and continued production through the war but in that time frame ultimately produced some models as “comprestic” kits that were sides only. The troop sleeper was produced in that time frame. This one was nicely built up as NYC express car converted from a troop sleeper.

The other car is a scratchbuilt Erie horizontal braced hopper, which Svennsson notes was “used also by their sub the NYS&W. I actually have a photo of a yard full of these in Blossburg, PA circa 1930s.” A quick search online turned up little on this type of car (a HO version is here), they are a rarity and there really can’t be many of them in American OO in particular.

This photo also gives a glimpse of his OO layout. I am looking forward to seeing more of it as the scenery makes progress. Thanks to John again for sharing.

UPDATE: See this article for more on the Graceline troop sleeper.

Friday, March 25, 2011

OO in 1933-34 Extra: A 4-6-4 and More from The Model Craftsman

Recently I received five more early issues of The Model Craftsman from 1933-34 and was pleasantly surprised to see fairly extensive coverage of OO gauge in four of the issues.

The Model Craftsman began publication in March of 1933. Volume II of their publication begins with the September, 1933 issue. On page 21 of this issue is found an article with the title “The Apartment Railroad” by Charles G. Cunningham. When I first looked the issue over I actually went right by the article but on second reading I saw that this article was actually part two of a series on building an OO gauge NYC 4-6-4! This installment focuses on building the frame and setting up the motor, as seen in this illustration from the article. It reads as if he is writing from experience.

I have been looking at OO history for a while; have run into lots of references to small manufacturers. However, in this issue is also found an advertisement from a manufacturer I have never previously heard of, Kingsbridge Scale Model Shop. My guess is they are selling parts to build the locomotive in the series of articles by Cunningham but it is also possible that they are selling some parts related to the then defunct Thuillgrim line or of their own manufacture.

Moving to the October issue of MC we have not one but two articles related to OO. The first is by E. E. Thorp on building an OO gauge double span rolling lift bridge. Thorp is listed with the editorial staff as a boats advisor and he has another article boat related article in the same issue. Reading it I have to think why a double span rolling lift bridge?? It is not exactly the first project anyone would do in a pretty new scale and I suspect it may relate to the NYSME layout. More on that in a minute.

The second OO article is part three of the series on building the OO 4-6-4 locomotive, this time focusing on the drive and wheels. This installment begins as follows, giving no indication as to where or how you obtain the driver castings (Kingsbridge?) and with the assumption that anyone building OO locomotives has ready access to a lathe.
These driving wheels are a bronze French sand casting that will require little machining as there is no hard crust to take off…. When you center them in the chuck do not remove any metal. Use a fine tool and take LIGHT cuts or you will bend the spokes out of position.
Moving ahead, the next issue I have with OO coverage is the January, 1934 issue. In this we have again not one but two articles on OO, both by Charles G. Cunningham. The first is on wheel standards for OO gauge and includes this illustration. From this article we can glean several things.

1. People were out there following his OO series. “To the many of you that have been building the Hudson locomotive, (and my editor, the genial soul, says there are many) I have scribbled this article.”

2. He is a fan of hump yards and is an operator. “As for a switching locomotive I use a small industrial locomotive that pulls eight cars and staggers around with eleven. She is a 0 4 0 and gets around any curve I can get a freight car on.”

3. He is active in the New York Society of Model Engineers. “The writer has often noted that at the New York Society of Model Engineers when two trains are running on parallel tracks and abreast each other they will come to a stop if they both have the same voltage motors. This is due to voltage starvation.” The standards here should represent the practices of the NYSME.

This issue also includes part four of his series on building a NYC 4-6-4, with a focus on building up the boiler. He began though by noting again the buzz out there about OO and his practical approach to building. “From the many letters I have received you seem to like the idea that I have used flat stock instead of castings whenever possible.”

The last issue I will cover in this article is from February, 1934. This has again several items related to OO gauge but we get also into the land of confusing articles. At least one is for sure about what we would call a HO layout today and the article on building a coal chute says it is OO but it was built for an American prototype layout in England so it is hard to say. W. K. Walthers in an article on track design states that OO is an English gauge but lists it as 19mm gauge which is American OO. But there is also an article that is advance notice on the upcoming 6th NYSME show which notes that “a complete ‘00’ gauge track has been added.” Later in the issue in the club news section there is a note on the NYSME that gives more details on the OO group within the NYSME and is a great place to close this article.
The railroad division of this organization is busy completing an enlarged and more complicated railroad system. During the last year there has sprung up within this organization a group of “00” gauge enthusiasts. It cannot be denied that there is a definite fascination about this lilliputian railroad—and yet of sufficient size to permit the regular operation of a fine model system.
Continue to 1934 Series

Thursday, March 24, 2011

American OO in 1936, Part VI: Some Good Press but HO is Winning the Battle

To close out the year of 1936 for OO we have good news and bad news. The good news is some good press in The Model Railroader in the form of a two part article “Adventures in OO Gauge” by Robert LeMassena.

LeMassena relates to open that he was working in O gauge at the time he started college in 1932 but over time it was just not the right size. He sold all his O gauge equipment in 1935 with the idea of getting into HO or OO gauge. He shared that
Since I knew absolutely nothing about either HO or OO gauge, I read every article on them in The Model Railroader and in The Modelmaker. I got numerous catalogs and studied them minutely. And when I had finished the research, I decided that I would go to work in OO, but combining the methods of both to suit my taste. I decided not to follow anyone’s methods of this or that, but to invent my own ways based on what all of those before me had done. As an aid I had three years of mechanical engineering at Stevens and am now adding a fourth. I obtained lots of help from my professors, who aided me considerably in choice of materials and in the design of mechanical details.
For his box and flat cars he decided that wood and cardboard construction was the better method, with part one of the article focusing on the topic of how to build those cars. Part two focuses on the trackwork and the electrical side of things. LeMassena opted for two rail distribution over three rail. To insulate the wheelsets he opted for using Bakelite rod for the axles.

Also in this issue of MR they went to an effort to point out that they were “not an HO magazine,” the underlying point being that some perceived that they might be an HO magazine. Why would that be?

The November and December issues of The Model Craftsman give a clue and relate to the bad news of 1936 for OO gauge. MC arranged their advertising by scale and it is obvious that there are twice as many HO advertisements as there are for OO; the scan with this article is of the group of OO ads in the December issue. And really in both magazines HO has more coverage overall. If you go to the Model Railroad Magazine Index and search HO and OO in the time frame 1933-1936 you will see the same result, about twice as much on HO as on OO. The advertising is the real kicker though: money talks.

To close I have one final random item. Their OO line was still nearly a year away but Scale-Models, Inc. (Scale-Craft) in their advertisement in the December 36 issue of The Model Craftsman noted that “SCALE-CRAFT Train Models are NOT TOYS—They are perfectly scaled replicas of the most famous American trains.” Big things were coming in the scale model train world in 1937; more on that year soon.

Return to beginning of 1936 Series

Continue to 1937 Series

The NYSME OO Layout in 1935 and Other Updates

Recently a group of vintage magazines were added to the collection, and that has filled in a few new details for me about OO in the 1930s. I have at least one new article on the way relating to late 33/34 in OO and there have been several updates to existing articles, in particular a major update to part I of the 1935 series. Besides some great quotes from The Model Railroader relating to the battle of the gauges we also find this illustration below.

This was published in the February, 1935 issue of The Model Craftsman in a feature article plugging the upcoming Seventh Annual Show of the New York Society of Model Engineers. The second paragraph reads,
Starting with the smallest track, the center table in the main room will have a complete 00-gauge system and this rolling stock will be in continuous operation during the Show. This almost microscopic scale has made great strides in the last few years. Both the locomotives and cars are now fully equal in performance to those in the larger scales.
Click on it for a better view. Let's say you went to the NYSME show in 1935. Microscopic or not, you would certainly have noticed the OO layout shortly after walking in the door! It is a island type layout and it makes perfect sense that it would be called in later sources the Little Island Railroad. I hope to have more on this layout in the future.

Items like this get at also why I started the historical series of articles that is ongoing now. This layout being at such a visible location in such an important club in NYC certainly impacted the development American OO and was certainly a part of what led to the OO lines of Scale-Craft and Lionel. The average collector today, if they think of OO at all, thinks that it was a scale developed by Lionel. Readers of this site know that to not be the case, and the more I closely read these vintage sources the clearer it all becomes. Keep checking back as I work forward through the years.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Two Early Hopper Cars by Howard Winther

Among the photos I recently received of OO gauge equipment by Howard Winther (see here for more background) are photos of a pair of early hopper cars. Click on any photo for a larger view; they are all certainly worth a close look.

First up we have this Pennsylvania hopper. First up is this ¾ shot which shows not only his personal coupler style (more info in this article) but also just the general level of detail. The car looks to be wood with metal details, everything very nicely proportioned and riding on his homemade trucks.

The side view shows more detail. Note that the lettering is a combination of hand lettering and decals. I would think the decals were added later, and the car has a coal load just visible. Note also the hand painted built date and marking with it: “H.W. 3-36.”

Mention of Winther is found a couple months later in the May, 1936 issue of The Model Railroader.  In their "Along the Division" column we read that,
The OO gauge Bergen & Western of Howard Winther ... [of] Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., has added 10 freight cars. The line now has 4 engines and 26 cars. Two-rail distribution is used.
From that this car must have been part of that group of ten new cars. This car was rolling on his layout in 1936, more than a year before Scale-Craft introduced their die cast hopper car and some two years before Lionel entered the OO market.

The final photo is of another hopper, this one also scratchbuilt but of Western Maryland prototype. This one seems to be a little more recent in construction, with a few more details in the brake hardware, ramp operated hook and loop couplers, decal lettering, and Scale-Craft trucks. Note how the cars are similar yet distinct, based on different prototypes.

Thanks again to the Winther family for these great photos, which we will be visiting again soon.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Review: Newly Produced Paper Sides for OO

Any reader that follows OO on eBay has probably noted some printed car sides offered recently by a seller with the name cardboard_rr. These are not vintage items but rather are newly produced. I decided to check out a set, and at this point own six sets.

The first set purchased was this one. The color, as the seller noted in the listing, is a bit off, darker, compared to the prototype. The sides are nicely printed on thin white cardstock. But the really important element for me was is this side scaled correctly for OO?

At first I thought it under scale when I put it next to the typical OO reefer. Then I did some measuring and discovered that hmmmm, the issue is not that the sides are too small but the typical cars are a bit too big! Picard made several lengths of bodies for example and the most commonly seen size is 42’. These sides are for a 40’ car. Digging around I found a few possible cars for 40’ sides and I purchased the other sets in another lot. The seller described those PFE sides as being “weathered” and the color is closer to accurate for the prototype.

I will build up at least a couple of these using junker bodies in stock in the near future. I will follow up further with how they work out then.

The other final thing to randomly note is the seller sent these out to me with cool vintage stamps, not modern stamps. You may not get lucky in terms of stamps if you purchase these but I know I plan to save the envelopes.

UPDATE: The seller currently is listing as estorebooks. A set of four cars built up with similar sides from this seller may be seen in this article.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New: Brass parts for an OO SW-8, part II

Back almost a year ago I noted that a new etched body kit was available in OO for a SW-8 switcher, produced by Worsley Works in England. It is a re-scaling of a model they developed for TT gauge. I broke down and purchased two sets of these bodies, one to build up now and the other to hold onto for now. Some first impressions are in order.

The parts for the model are spread out on sheets, as seen in this photo. Everything looks great in terms of scale and quality of etch in the brass stock. Some careful bending and soldering are in store for me sometime when I have a large block of time to devote to it!

There are small parts that will be needed for the body such as smoke stacks and lights and also a drive. I will certainly need to use parts from an AHM HO SW-1, which in other posts I have noted is overscale for HO and has OO trucks, and I hope to use drive parts liberated from an Athearn HO road diesel. It is not a beginner project and will certainly stretch my abilities but will I believe build up into a great model. More on that sometime in a future part III.

UPDATE: If you compare my set of etchings to the set in the first post you will note that I have a bit missing. I had wondered about that and a reader confirmed that the missing section shipped with earlier sets contains parts for an "English LMSR Brake Van."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

American OO Today Episode 2: Trains in Motion

After completing the first video a request was to see more trains in motion. Below is a new episode of the video series featuring two engines that run well.

I would add that other than the 2-8-0 camelback (described in this article) and the lone Lionel boxcar over in the siding in the view above all the other models I rebuilt completely. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

American OO in 1936, Part V: Products on the Upswing

If you were to pick up as a first issue of The Model Craftsman the June, 1936 issue you would have found nearly the entire Nason line at the time listed inside the front cover in the Hobby Craft Store advertisement and later in the issue this advertisement by Nason itself. Nason had a network of at least three dealers at that time for their line but felt it still important to specifically mention that OO gauge was ¾” between the rails.

The bigger news for us in retrospect in this same issue is found on page 49, a half page advertisement announcing that American Model Engineers, Inc, had changed hands and was now known as SCALE-MODELS, INC. The president of this O gauge line was now Elliott Donnelley and with a pledge for faster service and prompt delivery he notes that
Every Scale-Craft feature will be retained—manufacture to scale—fidelity of reproduction—excellence of materials—moderate prices. The greatest railroad line in America will be kept as before except that improvements will be continue to be made as in the past.
Not in the ad, but we all know, development of an OO line was in the picture either by that date or soon.

In 1936 another OO line did enter the field, LIMCO or the Long Island Scale Model Co. This is their first advertisement, in the July issue of The Model Craftsman, which curiously hides what exactly they have coming out. The signature item of their line was their die cast 64’ PRR MU coach, an example of which may be seen in this article. It is a very rare item today. Their ad in the August issue of The Model Craftsman has a lot more text and details of their MU car drive with fully equalized trucks, and hints at freight car production as well, which ultimately included a reefer, a box car, and a tank car, all very rare.

Looking at those two issues of The Model Craftsman it is interesting to note there is an article in the July issue on building an OO sand house and in the August issue a big article on HO by Eric La Nal that completely ignores OO.

The other big new item of 1936 was the Nason Hudson. The development of this model was hinted at in their 1936 catalog and it is first announced in the October issue of The Model Craftsman, but no ad with a photo of the model appeared until the December issue, reproduced here. Photos of a nearly complete kit may be found in this article. The model came just in time to keep OO going forward, as HO had a number of products coming in as well and for example in that same, December issue there are two articles to be found on building HO locomotives.

As Nason was the only company with locomotives in production at this point in time so their electrical setup was the 1936 default for American OO. The model initially was three rail with a AC/DC motor and was set up to be used with a hand reverse as well. More on bench testing this type of motor may be found here.

Another maker that I have not made note of yet was H. L. "Red" Adams. He was active working toward OO products and sold a limited number of  SP 4-6-2 models, the patterns of which he would sell to Scale-Craft. He was also a very prolific author in The Model Craftsman; I describe his early adventures in OO in more depth here.

Finally, another line came in with OO gauge production, Strombecker, discussed in this article. Certainly their OO sized wood models helped expose the scale to a wider audience and helped build the audience for OO. But HO, as already noted, was coming on strong and a battle was clearly underway. More on that battle will be noted in the final installment of this series on 1936.

Continue to conclusion of 1936 Series