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

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

1937, a Big Year for OO: Part III, Grimke, Winther, and 10.3% of the Market!

A first note in this installment would be that NYSME chair F. D. Grimke was specifically mentioned in an article on the history of model railroading in the February issue of The Model Railroader. OO is mentioned several times, with the specific note that Grimke “introduced OO gauge,” further noting that “F. D. Grimke worked out the American OO gauge, changing the gauge to 19.0 mm to fit the British scale of 4.0 mm to the foot, and built very complete American type locomotive models in this size.” Our longer, introductory article on Grimke is here.

Turning to The Model Craftsman, in the May issue, in the letters to the editor a reader could get the impression that OO was on the way out. One letter compares HO and O gauges with no reference to OO and another reader in Detroit writes
I have written to the suppliers of “OO” equipment who advertise in MODEL CRAFTSMAN, but so far, have received only one company’s catalogue. This has made me somewhat hesitant about building a system in OO gauge, as has the fact that there seems to be some agitation against “OO” in this district.

Have you any idea as to the consensus of opinion regarding the future of “OO”? And is there a possibility of its gradually passing out of the picture, due to the increasing rise in popularity of “HO.”

I have been in favor of “OO” because it offers a greater opportunity for finer detailing, then, too, the size difference seems to me to have a possibility of being a better “picture” in the completed layout.

However, if “OO” is on the way out, and I only have one or two sources of supply for “OO” equipment, then “HO” is naturally the logical gauge for me to use….

I have been advised that the dealers in model railway equipment do not want two small gauges, but would prefer concentrating on “HO.” This seems to bode ill for “00.” Yet I am wondering about the enthusiasts who have built and are building in “00.” Likewise, I am wondering about the expense that companies have undoubtedly gone to in producing such things as the N. Y. C. Hudson Locomotive….
Good questions! The May issue of MC also reports the prize winners for 1937 at the NYSME show, and the winner in the category “Smaller than O gauge” was Howard Winther for this beautiful model of an Erie 2-8-4 locomotive, here seen as it looks today. For more on this model see this article. On the same page of MC advertising may be found for the Nason Hudson and the Star Atlantic.

The June issue of The Model Railroader has the results of a survey of readers. While reporting that “OO Gauge Gains,” which it did rising from 2.1% in 1936 to 10.3%, the real story was that by comparison HO had 33.9% of the market in 1937. These numbers were not good for OO.

The survey itself is a bit flawed as it is really geared toward the title of the article, “1937 Prototype Favorites.” As they report in the lead line, the Pacific type locomotive, box car, and coach are the winners. There were 70 actual voters from the OO community. More can be gleaned from the survey results but I think one of the most significant figures was the overall average weekly hobby budget of those answering the survey: $2.36.

Between the survey and the letter to the editor cited earlier the picture we are left with is that some felt that we did not need two small scales and HO was in the lead at least in part because it was smaller and cheaper.

There is for sure overall more OO coverage in The Model Craftsman than in The Model Railroader. For example the September issue of MC has two articles on building OO equipment. The first is by Frank Waldhorst (a partner in Nason) on scratch building an “All-Gage” Pullman Observation (the scale drawings are clearly based on the Nason instructions) and the second by R. E. Goode on building a neat wood sheathed SP box car. Within a few years Graceline and E. H. Bessey would bring out very similar models of this same type of car. Finally, Hobby Craft Stores of New York was a dedicated OO advertiser of Nason products and we will give them the last word in this installment, with the top portion of their advertisement on the back cover of this issue.

When we return to this series it will be for the launch of what would become the largest OO manufacturer.

Continue in 1937 Series

No comments: