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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Boxcar Week II: An Outside Braced Boxcar by Winther

Today we have another boxcar by OO pioneer Howard Winther, in this case an outside braced car. This car was built in 1946 as in the side view it pretty clearly states “BLT H.W. 3-46.”

As with the car in the previous post, this scratchbuilt car only shows visible evidence of two commercial parts; Nason Andrews trucks and an Eastern brake cylinder casting. Eastern introduced their line of OO scale freight cars in 1946 and that casting is unique to the line. Winther lived right in the area where Eastern was based so it is possible that he got the casting right as it was available or potentially he added it to the car later.

Back to the car at hand, check out that hand lettering. It is a detail that will always make early scale models such as this stand out from the crowd. On a similar car by Winther seen in a spread in Model Railroader in 1938 the boxcar there is lettered with decals, but he had the ability to do the hand lettering and chose to on this car.

I did a quick look online and could not turn up a photo of any similar NYSW boxcar. This car certainly looks right though and I see plenty of photos of similar cars from Eastern roads.

Be looking for one more boxcar later this week and click on any of the photos for a better view.

Continue to Part III

Monday, June 27, 2011

Boxcar Week I: A Steel Boxcar from 1939

Today for review we have a wonderful vintage item decorated for the home road of American OO pioneer Howard Winther.

Bergen & Essex boxcar 456 dates to 1939. As in the model was built that year; in the photos it is clear that it is marked NEW H.W. 4-39. There are only two obvious commercial parts, the Scale-Craft trucks and the Nason brake cylinder.

I believe this is scratchbuilt but it is very close to the proportions of a Nason boxcar. The doors are very nice and look from the photos to not be die cast but rather the ribs were pressed into a flat sheet of brass. Note also the very nicely done hand pressed rivet detail of the car sides and the perfect, smooth paint job.

The lettering is all by hand except for the logos which look to be printed. Note the handmade couplers as well, described in prior articles.

Who would not want one of these in a train on their layout? Click on either photo for a better view. Thanks again to the Winther family for these photos.

Continue to Part II

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Not the Typical Cab Unit, a Vintage Curiosity

This is an oddball little American OO model that someone took some effort to build, a freelanced F or E unit. Click on any photo for a larger view.

Schorr sold an F-3 and Davis produced an E-7 in American OO. But this model is scratchbuilt. From the side it on first glace looks like an F unit but then look at those portholes and the six wheel trucks! I think the idea of the builder was actually to make a shorty, slant nose E-unit.

Or perhaps it is a variation on the very early (1937) EMC TA locomotive. It looks more like the TA than any other prototype I see but it had four wheel trucks instead of six.

Looking at the top the roof the details are minimal but don’t feature the fans seen on F units but instead a set of stacks. On an early E unit there would be two sets, this one only however has one set.

The body is clearly made of a heavy brass stock but the roof looks to be wood.

Finishing it out, we have a bottom view. The drive is clearly scratchbuilt and note only the outer four sets of wheels are geared. The sideframes look like they are based on maybe Nason tender trucks.

These photos are from Dick Kuehnemund; I will be featuring other interesting models from his collection the next few weeks.

UPDATE: A very similar model of a freelanced version of a FT locomotive may be seen in this article; that model was operating on the layout of George Jones, and my guess is the above model is also by Jones.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Nason P5A and Reefer Running Again

Preparing to make the video yesterday I ended up quickly working on two more models that fit with the theme, an early Nason reefer and also a surprise, a cameo appearance by a Nason P5A!

The reefer only needed a bit of touch up paint and new wheelsets to get it layout ready to roll among vintage cars I might run. It is now on Nason trucks with Scale-Craft wheelsets. I wanted a little color in the video and it is a type of Nason car that was on many early layouts to be sure. One quirk of this particular car when it came to me, which I did not change, is it has an O scale K type brake cylinder, just visible in the photo.

For quite some time an article here (mostly by Ed Havens) on the Nason P5A locomotive (introduced in 1934, the first commercially successful OO locomotive) has often shown up in the top ten articles in American OO Today. That is actually due mostly to searches unrelated to American OO but still, thinking over the concept I had for the video I had to get the model down off the shelf, it would be perfect to include.

Could I get it to run quickly was the question. A lot of the projects I have around are actually models that others worked on and either got stuck or abandoned before completion. In this case some prior owner had got this P5A project to a bench test state with a new DC motor installed in the drive. The motor was in with leads but they had not worked out the pickup from the rails. Looking it over on getting it down from the shelf, the wheelsets all measured out pretty well with the standards gauge and also it was a two rail model (produced 1938 or later) so it had real potential for me. My main job was to make insulated mountings for the front and rear trucks and set them up to pick up power. And after a bit of adjustment this model does run well and even as a single motor version (double was offered as well) pulls like crazy. It is a noisy beast to be sure with all those spur gears in the drive and the bronze body but one that I will have to work over further at some point with more details and paint. And I have pantographs that I need to mount sometime soon.

It is as of now obviously unpainted and unfinished and, no, I don’t plan to decorate it for the Orient! This model is a real classic OO model not often seen in operation. Check the video to see and hear it go.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

American OO Today, Episode 4: Models Available in 1938

UPDATE: This video as will be quickly seen has gone corrupt, the video size ratio is wrong (elongated). It may still be viewed here, but I have hidden it from YouTube (end of update).

Lionel introduced their OO line in 1938. However, regular readers certainly know that they were not the first maker of American OO models. This short video features in operation a cross section of models that were on the market in 1938 by makers other than Lionel, in particular Scale-Craft and Nason, with one Lionel car as a bonus.

The Nason gas electric and Scale-Craft 4-4-2 that I have written about recently are featured, and there are a couple other surprises in this video, which I will describe tomorrow in a final post before slowing down a bit on the website. Enjoy! Finally, if you want to see a Lionel 1938 set in operation, there are at least two videos on YouTube already, check them out here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Scale-Craft 4-4-2 with a great drive

As mentioned in this recent article, I recently completed rebuilding a Scale-Craft 4-4-2. This model was introduced in 1938, and a photo of this particular model “before” may be found here.

The thing I was most impressed by is the motor, the original DC Scale-Craft motor. As I wrote in the 1937 series article a month ago,
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.
Now the model has decals. It does run great and it will be in the next video. Besides the brand new vintage motor and gearbox part of what helps it run well also is I worked up trucks from Nason side frames and NWSL wheelsets—great electrical contact is a great thing. Also note the tender, an eBay find, was modified by a prior owner. What they did was add a piece of Bakelite about 1/8” thick under the tender body. The result is a tender that looks a lot better than the stock tender, and at a distance and painted black you don't even notice the extra piece at the bottom.

As a final note, I have been working recently on two other S-C drives, two that I used to run on the layout fairly often. One engine in particular, one of the gears in the gearbox is on inspection completely shot and on the other engine the gearbox is clearly on the way out (that engine may be seen in operation in the first of the videos=very noisy). It is great to see how this classic model was really supposed to operate, and I want to get those other models as close to the same level as I can in the fall.

UPDATE: See this model in operation in this video.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Three OO Gauge Hawk Gondolas and a Hawk Boxcar

Four more cars from my recent push to finish some projects were a Hawk Boxcar and three Hawk Gondolas.

Information on Hawk OO in general may be found here. These first two cars may be found here before I worked them over, being fairly recent eBay finds. The gon was maybe 70% done and a bit damaged (several parts were broken off) and the boxcar more like 85% done with very nicely done metal ends.

To the gondola I added ladders based on Eastern ladders, Eastern brake valves, brake wheels, etc. and there are other additions to the boxcar such as door reinforcements and brake details. The boxcar also got Schorr trucks and a set of Champ HO decals that fit the car very well. For the gon I decided my home road the Orient was the best choice. The design is an uncommon one (an ATSF Sulfur gon) and it was best to go freelance.

Two more gons were also worked over. The other two were in the OO Inventory. I don’t know how long they had been there or who started them but seeing them and starting in on the first car I decided to build them up too to make a nice trio. They were perhaps 85% done when I started in on them and had coal loads by the original builder. They were detailed in the same manner as the car in the top photo but got vintage Kadee couplers to set them apart just a bit.

In retrospect I would think about remounting underset shank Kadee couplers to all the gondolas so that I could set them up lower on the trucks. They seem a bit tall (and high on the trucks) but I don’t know how tall the prototype cars are. For now will just think about it however. [Update: I did change the couplers and lower these cars on the trucks; the look was improved by the changes.]

All in all I am happy with the set of cars and very happy with the boxcar. Nice additions to the layout.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

OO in 1938, more than Lionel: Part I, Models by Howard Winther

For this look at American OO in 1938 I would like to start with one element of the big picture--that being there were people building fine models and layouts in OO. In particular the February issue of The Model Railroader featured a full page of photos from the Bergen & Essex layout of Howard Winther. His layout had been featured already in The Model Maker and in The Model Railroader, his models are still in the family today (see this tag for more articles featuring them and scroll down), and today we have a great treat, photos of models as published in 1938 and the same models today.

First up is this Erie G-5 10 wheeler. According to Ted Winther, “I think it was his pride and joy.” Then or now this is an impressive scratchbuilt model. The photos really tell all, and click on any of them for a better view.

Next up is this scene with his 0-4-0 (which may be seen here today) and an outside braced C&NW boxcar. This car is riding on his home made trucks but has I believe a Nason brake cylinder visible and has decal lettering (the rest of the equipment featured today having been hand lettered).

The next photo in the MR spread, which I will skip, is of five of his locomotives all lined up (all scratchbuilt) and finally we have this view of his Atlantic locomotive and a combine. The combine as it exists today follows, yet another stunning vintage model. Very hard to believe this model is not only as old as it is but also that it is in such great condition.

But wait, we are not done with Winther for this issue as he also had an article in this same February, 1938 issue on how to make passenger car sides from Aluminum. This Erie RPO combine would seem to be made in with sides constructed in the manner he describes.

Finally, I believe Winther models are to be seen in a report in this same issue on the history of the layout of the New York Society of Model Engineers. There is a track plan of the original Little Island RR (ca. 1932-33) and three of the locomotive models next to it look to be Winther models.

When we return we will look at the New York show for 1938. But to close up this series for now, I won’t be able to post the next installment of this series for a few months and would add that I have enjoyed looking over 1938 to prepare this part of the series, there are a number of new products out and I am learning new things. New products were in fact coming out almost monthly. At the same time however the big picture is not so good--HO was where the action was at to be sure. But that did not stop some dedicated manufacturers and modelers from making a go for it in American OO.

Continue to Part II of 1938 Series

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Picard Quad Hopper in OO Gauge

Another rarity, at least in terms of seeing fully finished, operable models, is the Picard quad hoper. The main article on Picard is here, their boxcar bodies being by far the most commonly seen product.

This car was an eBay item that caught my eye not only as a rarity but also it was about 85% done with no decals applied so it would make a nice project, which was finished up this past week.

As built the car is very light so I added flat weights inside the hopper area. As to choosing PRR decals, they had similar cars and I had some scraps of a vintage O scale set that provided the basics I needed. It is still a bit freelanced in design/execution but certainly up to the standards of the 40s when this car was produced.

Finally, note the Kadee “straight pin” couplers. This early type I have a small supply of and like to use on vintage wood cars such as this. In terms of layout operation they work just as well as they did back in the 1950s when they were made.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Two Great Graceline Wood OO Cabooses

I touched on these cabooses briefly in the “Graceline 101” article but recently got both set up to run on the layout. These C&EI cabooses are favorites of mine, purchased years ago in a large lot. I have had them on display over the layout for years.

On one hand they are probably a bit over scale. I don’t want to measure them…. But then again, look at how neatly they were made and also the awesome hand lettering! I suspect it is custom, factory lettering, as this was an option Graceline offered. But then again maybe the owner did it themselves. Note the color of the paint used for lettering is slightly different on each car.

Wood cabooses are a rarity in general on OO layouts (the Nason wood caboose being the most commonly seen) and these are distinctive, especially the side door car. That I was able to get them working well on their original trucks was another nice bonus. They are a little heavy/big in design but roll freely and the type of wheelset on these operates fine on the layout.

In short these are outstanding vintage cars that must have been the pride and joy of some builder years. I am glad to be able to run them as well.

UPDATE: This is the original advertisement for this model, from the November, 1939 issue of The Model Railroader. Note the detail differences of this "cleverest caboose kit ever offered in OO." For more on the introduction Graceline in 1939 see this article. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Some Vintage Boxcars, Part II: Graceline, Hawk, and Nason

Continuing the look at some recently re-worked vintage cars, these three cars I will describe in the order of when they were introduced. Click on the photo for a larger view.

First we have a Nason boxcar, their easy-built type of model with printed sides for NYC. This car is an eBay find that I worked over a bit (added door guides for example, left off by the original builder). The original builder had trouble matching the color of the sides but on the plus side upgraded the model with Selley cast ends and also Famoco/Eastern roof ribs. It is a great operating car and stands out from the crowd a bit with a smaller overall cross section than other brands. It is set up now for reliable operation on a good pair of Scale-Craft trucks.

Next we have a Graceline boxcar that has been seen before in an article on tuning up Graceline trucks. The follow up being I gave up on that specific pair of Graceline trucks (tread width issues) and the car is also now reliably rolling on S-C trucks. With decal lettering, this was once a reefer but a prior owner converted it to a boxcar.

Last we have a Hawk outside braced boxcar. I have more on this general type of car here, this particular one being an eBay purchase that had a bit of damage. I worked over a few issues (missing ribs and door guides) and mounted a pair of reproduction Lionel trucks on the car that matched it well I felt.

As I have noted elsewhere, not every type of car can ride on every type of truck. In the case of Hawk especially, they normally require a truck with a very low bolster height while Nason cars have a very high bolster height in mind. In the case of this Hawk car, a prior owner had filed down the bolster mounts on the frame which allowed these trucks to work. Still, the screws and mounts could have been done better so one truck has to be attached very loosely to allow the car to track well--a tip to remember as it is useful for many vintage OO cars.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Some Vintage Boxcars, Part I: Bessey and Graceline

With a fairly brief window of time open to work on train projects, these past few weeks I worked through a number of freight cars that have been on the sidelines not in condition to run on the layout, cars I wished to run. The first cars I want to feature are a group of five wood boxcars by E. H. Bessey and Graceline. As always, click on the photos for a larger view.

First up is this group of three interesting cars. They are all wood boxcars decorated for the Southern Pacific and are nominally of USRA designs of WWI era. The two cars in front are both by E. H. Bessey. These were wood kits but they had factory painted and printed sides. The car with the modified car number (on left) may be seen in this prior post before the recent work was done (it is on a Hawk frame), and the other was a more recent eBay find. In both cases I worked over the under frames and trucks and did other detail touch up. They both are on Schorr trucks at this time as well, which suited the existing truck mountings.

The car in the rear was in a bit rougher shape but is a fairly rare car, by Graceline. It may be seen in this article “before,” and I hope to feature their products more in coming months. (Overview here) The really notable thing about this car is that it has hand painted sides with a Southern Pacific emblem printed on paper. It was missing a roof walk and the original Graceline trucks were unusable so it is now on Scale-Craft trucks.

The second pair of cars are also Graceline products with the hand painted sides and printed logos. The Atlanta and West Point single door car is on reproduction Lionel trucks now and the Atlanta, Tennessee and Northern car is on a pair of original Graceline trucks, proving that they can be rebuilt sometimes! Also both of these I left with dummy couplers, the double door car having the original Graceline couplers which are larger than S-C or Lionel couplers but compatible.

If a car has no couplers in my rebuilding they come out of the shops with Kadee couplers. If they have workable vintage couplers and are in a category of oddball but interesting vintage cars such as these I often leave them be these days, with their dummy couplers. Every brand of vintage OO coupler seems pretty compatible with Kadee, with luck they will even couple automatically.

Tomorrow we will be back with more boxcars!

Continue to Part II

Friday, June 3, 2011

An American Flyer Gon Converted to OO

This is a car was featured in an article in The OO Road some years ago. I did this conversion way back in 1981-82, but came back to it this past week as I have been working on upgrading a number of cars for better operation and also getting other interesting, more recently acquired cars operable (I like to run trains!). In the case of this car, it had been on upgraded S-C trucks but as a non-vintage car and a personal favorite was switched to ride on Schorr trucks.

The conversion of the car itself was actually pretty straightforward and I would think about doing it again. Basically you have to reduce the length and height of the sides and narrow the car. In the case of this car I used  Graceline ends that had been cast by Temple Nieter but the original ends could be modified. To the new ends I added Eastern brake details and made a new floor with an Eastern frame. The sides were capped with strip styrene.

It looks a little different than any comparable OO gondola such as the more commonly seen Schorr and Eastern cars. I am very pleased with the look of it on the new trucks compared to the S-C trucks I used years ago. I look forward to running this car more again.