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

Friday, July 15, 2011

Thoughts on More than Three Years of American OO Today

In early April of 2008 I had an idea. There was very little online about American OO scale model trains. I had written some things about OO gauge already (including a two part TCA series written with the late Ed Morlok, published in the October, 1986 and April, 1987 issues of the Quarterly) and had been interested in the scale and gauge for years. Why not start a website? I was familiar with Blogger and set up a site called American OO Today. This photo was the first photo put up in the site, found in the second post made to the new site.

At first I worked on the site mostly just because it interested me and really, today, that is still my main motivation. The website is a hobby within a hobby and the writing and posting actually goes pretty quickly. As it was largely something I just did for fun I did not monitor statistics the first year, they did not matter to me that much. But in 2009 I got curious and was able to add stats, and since then have been following them periodically. Also an upgrade allowed me to add a custom top ten list, which may be seen on the right side of the site and features at present the top ten this week. How it varies from week to week is interesting to me and hopefully to readers as well.

The Stats in General

As the stats I have start a year into the life of the site I can say that things have been reasonably steady since then, always a good bit more than 2,000 page views a month, with the peak month coming in at almost 3,000 page views. The average day in other words has toward 100 page views, mostly from viewers in the United States. [UPDATE 2012--more like 150 a day at present]. Not bad for a website on a defunct model railroad gauge!

What are Readers Interested In Anyway?

Some are for sure interested in American OO. The number one article by far is the Lionel OO Gauge 101 article, which has led me to re-write it and edit it quite a number of times this past year as it gets so much traffic and is the main introductory article to American OO for collectors. If you have never read it but are a fan of American OO, you are in a minority.

Beyond that visitors clearly divide into two categories. A number of people are certainly looking for more information on American OO gauge model trains. Those would include people that read these articles from the all-time top ten as of the writing of this article:
That last one above, which is currently #10 all time, gives me some hope that really are some people out there interested to read about the history of American OO, and I will be continuing the history series soon with more from 1938.

However, half of the top ten articles posted to date are at least in part in the top ten due to Google searches for other things pointing them to pages in American OO Today. And at least that visit did introduce those people to OO; you always hope that seeds are being planted.
The Future

A few random thoughts come to mind.
  • The OO history series is just coming up to Lionel OO, so I will be beefing up that side of things as the next year progresses; the expanded Lionel info should please site visitors.
  • My bigger picture goal of highlighting OO that was out before Lionel has been fulfilled!
  • People other than me are buying stuff on eBay so someone is out there, and those people are buying more than just Lionel OO.
  • The Facebook fan page feed was spotty and then finally stopped working. It has been upgraded! If you use Facebook do become a fan, as every new article from American OO Today will show up on you FB wall within minutes of posting.
  • Is some manufacturer ever going to notice how expensive vintage Lionel track is? It seems like a no-brainer that money is to be made here selling NEW American OO track but maybe I am biased.
To Close…

First I can't close without a big thank you to all regular readers and to all who have contacted me with photos and articles and questions. Keep them coming, it keeps me going.

Some of my personal favorite articles are ones over these three years I have tagged with the “Deep Thoughts” tag. As I will be taking a break from posting for the rest of this month, if you want a bit more reading to tide you over check out any of the below that seem of interest. And thank you again for visiting American OO Today!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two Cabooses by Howard Winther

To end the recent series of photos we have for review two beautiful vintage American OO cabooses by Howard Winther. Both models must date to the mid to late 1930s.

First up is this Erie caboose. As we have four nice photos of this car, three of them I will leave small but click on any photo for a better view. This car was beautifully scratchbuilt, and judging from the photos I can’t spot any obvious commercial parts, although I would guess the wheelsets might have been purchased.

The trucks are of his home made design and the couplers are his home made couplers, as seen on other Winther cars already featured. It took some real skill and effort to build this car.

As an aside, in recent correspondence with Ted Winther he mentioned that the only power tools used by his father were a small lathe, a drill press, and a grinder. He actually had made his own dies for a number of the parts he cast. The skills he had are far beyond those of the average model railroader of today. Far beyond me for sure.

Back to these cars, the lettering, with the exception of what looks to be a printed Erie logo, was all done by hand, including the very small “safety first” lettering on the steps. Click on the photo twice to see it close up. Beautiful work, and a perfect match for his Erie Berkshire, which was featured in Model Railroader in 1936.

The other car featured today is this beautiful bobber caboose. These are only rarely seen in OO (there was no kit ever produced for this model) and this has to be one of the nicest around. The car looks again to be totally scratchbuilt with only the possible exception of wheelsets, and it should be another early one as it has his home made couplers. I certainly don’t see any obvious commercial parts and again it is neatly hand lettered.

I will have more Winther photos in the fall but with this post will need to take a bit of a break from American OO Today. I will have one final post later this week and then will take a break until August. Be looking for more then.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Nason Sand-Cast Pullman

Not long ago I featured a Nason Pullman of the second style they produced, the Easy-Built type with stamped brass sides. Today we have an example of their earlier, sand-cast version.

This type of car we have also featured in a prior article, with a group of photos of their line of sand-cast passenger cars from Dick Gresham. Today however these photos are from Dick Kuehnemund. These models were a part of the original Nason line in 1934 and sold initially for $9 a car, quite a sum for back in that day.

Turning to the photos, the model is sand-cast aluminum with a wood roof. This Pullman looks ready for a paint job, and the castings themselves look to have been clean and well made.

In the bottom view we see more details. The frame, although cast into the underbody, matches closely the casting used on the later version of the Pullman with the wood floor. There are several bronze and turned brass details visible and of course the trucks. In this case they are the two rail version of their six wheel truck, with the insulated middle piece and also the split axle wheelsets. Click on either photo for a closer view.

All in all, this car is a retro beauty. Nason actually offered this car as an option right up to WWII but always at a higher price than the Easy-Built version. Certainly a classic model to keep your eyes peeled for.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A MOW Combine by Winther

Today we have from the layout of OO pioneer Howard Winther this MOW (maintenance of way) car lettered for his home road.

The car itself looks to be totally scratchbuilt. The wheelsets might be commercial but I believe the trucks are homemade (I know of no obvious commercial match, and he clearly did make the trucks on other cars in this series) and it has his personal style of couplers as well. There are no obvious commercial parts to be sure. Click on either photo for a better view.

The paint job is not as sharp as on other models of his we have seen in this series. My guess is that it may actually be a car that was painted differently originally and then painted over into its present paint scheme. Note there is for example a bit of paint that overran onto the windows. This, in a way, is very typical of MOW cars as they would be cars that are older and downgraded from regular service, they would have had many layers of paint by the time they reached the end of their service life.

But also note again the neat hand lettering. The design of the car is very 19th century (note especially the roof) and would be of a type that could be seen in work train service in the 1930s or 40s, the era that he would have built this car. Thanks again to the Winther family for sharing these photos.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A WM 4-6-6-4 from M. P. Davis

Earlier this week we featured a big PRR 4-4-4-4 in American OO. Today we have photos from Dick Kuehnemund of another big engine, a 4-6-6-4. It was manufactured in limited quantities by Myron P. Davis.

In a price list seen in the TCA article also cited in this prior article a WM engine is mentioned and also seen in a photograph; this is an example of that same model but the boiler is built up further than the one that was owned by the late Donald Fraley.

As noted in yet prior another article, this Western Maryland M2 4-6-6-4 was part of a line of OO gauge models that included in particular a number of big steamers. Here is the full list of big steam Davis offered:

  • 2-8-8-0, PRR HC-1
  • 2-8-8-2, C&O #1527
  • 4-4-4-4, PRR T-1
  • 4-6-6-4, WM M2
  • 4-8-8-4, UP “Big Boy”
  • 6-4-4-6, PRR S-1
  • 6-8-6, PRR S-2

This particular example is obviously lacking the front drivers and a tender and a number of other major details. The boiler is a big bronze casting and must weigh a ton. This engine project could be completed but it would be quite a job. And even if completed what minimum radius would it operate on? I would think something bigger than 36 inches. But even at that, this model, just like it is, is pretty impressive. And a complete and operational example, if one exists, should be able to pull like crazy.

To close, the question that follows the above discussion is how many of these did he make? Who knows [see UPDATE], but some more of them for sure are knocking around out there in collections where people think they are maybe S gauge instead of OO.

It just does not seem possible such big models were ever sold in OO but they were; those guys who stuck it out in OO after WWII were a dedicated bunch.

Thanks again to Dick K. for these photos. And a note generally, if you have models you would like to see featured in American OO Today do be in touch, I like very much to cover items such as this that I don’t own and are only rarely seen.

UPDATE: The TCA article was also reprinted in the June 2011 issue of The OO Road. Also, on the topic of how many were produced, I did find in some paperwork a M.P. Davis foundry receipt for a run of 18 castings of a part (for this model), and that is a good guess as to the size of the runs he was looking at for these models.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The M. P. Davis OO scale PRR T-1

Today we have photos of a big engine produced by Myron P. Davis. Davis developed a series of large OO locomotives in the post-war era, and in an extended article in 2009 I noted this reference:
In the January 1996 issue [of Train Collectors Quarterly] there is a great article I had never noted by the late Donald S. Fraley titled “The Unfinished Locomotives,” which may be accessed here in full if you are a TCA member and logged in (on pages 8-11). As I am trying to do now, Dr. Fraley was trying to sort out historical details of American OO gauge production and unusual models, and these are pretty unique models.
This example, from the collection of Dick Kuehnemund, is either one of the models seen in that article or a twin to it. It is an American OO gauge PRR T-1, not at all an engine or type of model the average OO collector would guess was ever produced commercially. Yet it was. Click on any of the photos for a closer view.

Before looking at the model specifically there is the question of why he brought these models to limited production at all. Davis is said to have been a silent partner in Nason Railways and built this and the other big locomotives as prototype models for possible post-war production that never materialized. However, they do not seem to be one of prototypes, other models are out there as he sold them on a limited basis himself under the name Cussewago Valley Railroad “OO” Gauge Scale Models. The sales flyer may be seen in the TCA article, and not long ago one of the big boilers, for a UP Big Boy, passed through eBay.

As to this specific model, the photos speak for themselves pretty well. Big bronze castings dominate. The locomotive and tender look pretty complete and must have been quite a project to develop and produce. I don’t know the minimum radius but it would have to be pretty big with that long, fixed wheelbase. Everything looks to be made specifically for this model, not recycled from other older OO production. Model work not likely to be seen in American OO again.

Be looking for another of these big models later this week, also in the collection of Dick K., a WM 4-6-6-4.

UPDATE: Also I would note here, I now have the orphan nose section of one of these models. It looks great on my desk in my office but if you have the rest of one of these let me know!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Boxcar Week III: A Vintage PRR Double Door Boxcar by Winther

To finish out “boxcar week” we have yet another boxcar from the layout of American OO pioneer Howard Winther.

This is a double door PRR car. The first notable thing compared to the cars in the previous two posts (here and here) is it has decal lettering. The body could be based on Picard but it also could be totally scratch built, he was capable of it. The car has a very nicely done rivet overlay on the sides and roof. The doors to me don’t look like commercial items and are neatly made; the only clearly visible commercial items in the photo are the Scale-Craft trucks, with the ladders looking to possibly be Eastern castings.

Thanks again to the Winther family for sharing this photo.

Back to part I