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

Sunday, May 15, 2011

1937, a Big Year for OO: Part IV, the New Scale-Craft OO Line

Fans of American OO, you knew it was coming--the Scale-Craft OO line, produced by Scale-Models Inc. of Chicago. It was first introduced with this breathless advertisement in the November, 1937 issue of The Model Railroader. The same full page spread ran in The Model Craftsman in their December issue, prominently placed on page 1 of the issue. A lot of people would notice this advertisement, and the new line must have been known for a while by industry insiders. Click on the image for a closer view and take in the excitement!

There is a lot to glean from this spread, especially if you think over the context that has been set up here in this now long series of articles on OO by the years. Among them,
  • These are among the very first OO gauge products made in Chicago, the only predecessor manufacturers being Red Adams and Raymond Willey who were active around 1934-36 but seem to have sold very little product. Adams later reported that he sold out his toolings and designs to Scale-Craft in 1936, which would be the roots of parts of their OO line.
  • The only products really pushed in the advertisement are OO gauge “sets.” By this they mean either their passenger or their freight sets which included the 4-6-0 locomotive and two passenger cars or the 4-6-0 locomotive and the four freight cars plus a circle of track and four straight sections.
  • Nothing like this had ever been marketed in OO and so far as I can tell nothing like this had ever been marketed in scale model trains! Scale model train sets! With sectional track! This was absolutely the cutting edge.
  • These models “run on a perfected 2-rail system, with a 7 pole armature permanent magnet motor.” To this point no OO maker had offered 2 rail models (Nason was all three rail to this point) and DC operation with permanent magnet motors was an innovation in the OO world (but already used in HO). I will have a little more on how these new models ran at the end of this article.
  • The wheels on the freight cars are clearly shiny brass. I have long wondered if initial Scale-Craft production used the Bakelite wheelsets seen on some cars. I still think those Bakelite wheelsets are early but at least the first prototype models in the photos did have brass wheels so it is a mystery to stay on top of.
  • You need the catalog to learn more! Only 15 cents!
Model Craftsman in that December issue devoted more than a half page to the new Scale-Craft OO line in their “Good News” section with the photos seen here as well.
A new entry in the field of small-scale model railroading is announced with the news that Scale Models, Inc., prominent manufactures of 0 gauge equipment, are bringing out a line in 00 gauge. Among the novel features of the new models is the inclusion of complete train sets in both kit and finished form. This is the first time such outfits have ever been offered in the scale-model field. Track is assembled in sections that join together easily, making a portable layout easy to build.

Motive power is taken care of by a husky ten-wheeler of modern design. Shown in one of the pictures in this page, it is powered by a new motor of the permanent-magnet type. Its wheel arrangement makes it suitable for either passenger or freight hauling. All principal parts are clean die castings, and the assembly kits consist of finished units, ready to assemble, as shown in the photograph below. The cast underframe is drilled and machined, and driving wheels come already installed, insulated, and quartered.

No third rails are used, all units being designed on two-rail principle, with track, wheels, and trucks insulated. This gives exceptional realism.

The car kits are pressure die castings, beautifully detailed, and requiring a minimum of effort to assemble. All drilling has been done at the factory, and no soldering is necessary. Passenger cars are made with rounded roofs like air-conditioned prototypes.
Pretty modern!!! The Nason line was made in the manner of the O gauge models of the time but Scale-Craft was on the cutting edge of the newest technology.

I don’t have the complete 1937 catalog, just a Xerox of the full section on the OO gauge line and the introductory pages to the catalog. As you might guess they were pretty excited about the line there as well. They emphasized how the costs were much lower than O gauge, noting especially that “our Scale-Craft Construction Kit for a complete ‘OO’ Gauge Train, including built-up track, can be had for roughly the same price as the construction kit for an ‘O’ Gauge locomotive alone.”

One curiosity I would note is the side view of the locomotive, seen here (in a scan of a Xerox), clearly shows that there were rail wipers (“collectors”) installed under the cab. They may not have needed to pick up power from the tender at all. UPDATE: See this article for more on these electrical collectors used in the original production of this model.

Back to prices, the passenger and freight train kits listed at $48.50 and the assembled trains sold for $68. A kit for the locomotive would set you back $32.75 (finished for $45.00) and the cars ranged from the completed passenger cars at $6.75 down to the kits for the freight cars at $3.75 each. Not that cheap but the price point they felt they needed to hit. Decals, track, and various parts are listed for separate sale as well. They hit the ground running with a very complete line, with a note in all caps that switches would be ready approximately January 1, 1938.

One other brief note from the December issue of MR would be that Scale-Craft had an operating OO display  layout at a show in Los Angeles. They were putting in the new scale nation wide.

To close, I was able to buy one of the early Scale-Craft DC/permag motors with transmission mint in box on eBay a few years ago (box makred “1121 MOTOR MAY 1 1940”). I had been fiddling with an S-C 4-4-2 model for several years that I wanted to mount that motor in and just yesterday got it together and running. Oh my! It runs VERY well. While it is a 24 volt DC motor it runs fast enough at 12 volts for my layout and is smooth and quiet. The engine easily pulls the four car passenger trains I would run with it. It was easy to wire up and ran smoothly from the very first time I set it on the rails. When it is done I will have more on this model and will be sure that it gets in a video later as well. [UPDATE: The video is here.] I am very happy with the operation. Buyers who saw the new line demonstrated back in 1937 should have also been as well; the assembled models must have been eye popping for the day in look (being die cast with operating doors, etc.) and operation. And the competition knew they better seriously step it up.

It would take Lionel about a year to tool up and catch up with the innovations pioneered by Scale-Craft. When we return to conclude our look at 1937 we will see that Nason was up for the competition and positioned to develop their OO line further.

Continue in 1937 Series

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