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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Vintage OO Layout Photos II: Schorr Diesels

Continuing this series (part I here), today we have two photos of OO diesels (mostly) on the layout of Fred Schorr, of OO brass import fame.

The first photo shows models set up on three levels which first points out that he must have had a pretty large layout with multiple tracks visible on the upper and lower level. Starting up top we have an ABA set of sand cast Schorr F-3s (more info here), on the bottom we have another AB pair on a passenger train led by a S-C baggage car, and in the middle we have two Super-Scale diesel switchers (more here). Number 20 looks larger than number 12 to the extent that I would almost wonder if 20 is the S Scale version instead of the OO version? Note especially the cabs. Click on the photo for a closer view.

Up at the front too we can see two Scale-Craft flat cars and get a sense of the trackwork which is nicely hand laid on Tru-Scale roadbed. I have not written much to date about Tru-Scale but have a bit more here and it was a popular choice among operators.

The second photo shows essentially the same scene (note the backdrop) but from a bit different angle, with possibly the same AB pair of F-3s on a passenger train and a scratchbuilt or perhaps kitbashed 4-4-0 model on an older time passenger train. On the lower level, not very in focus, there seem to be at least two Hawk boxcars among those in the yard.

I have more from the layout of Fred Schorr thanks to his son Ed, and I have other unpublished photos from the layouts of Bourassa, Moale, and others, be looking for this series to continue periodically.

Continue to Part III

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nason Hudson 38 Pulling Tonnage Again!

In a trade not long ago I received this Nason Hudson locomotive. A classic pre-war model (introduced two years before the comparable Lionel OO Hudson) this one was built up nicely but I could do nothing but bench test it as it lacked a tender. But in recent weeks I put a tender together from parts and this engine is a beauty.

First off, here it is. The number on the cab is 38 and it is painted what I at first took to be grimy black, but actually it is more of a gray color. Real glass is in the cab windows and a crew in the cab. Normally, to rebuild something for my Orient, I would strip a model. But this one really seemed too nice to strip.

That Kadee coupler mounted on a spring mounting up front is just one evidence of the craftsmanship of this model. Looking in the back you would see that this Hudson has a big Pittman DC motor but also note the four prong plug visible at the back of the model. This locomotive was fitted with an electronic sound system of some sort and has contacts under the locomotive that would generate the chuffing noise.

And there was no tender.

I did figure out which pin on the plug would make the engine run (and 12 volt DC, perfect for my layout) so a key thing was making a female receptacle to mount on the tender. And of course I would have to put together a tender!

While I have a kit for a Nason Hudson tender (see this article for photos) I decided to leave that with an unbuilt Nason Hudson kit and build up a tender from parts. The body is a Lionel tender body that had been modified a bit by a prior owner. I had to make a floor and add trucks and other details. The trucks are Scale-Craft tender trucks (for their 4-8-4) with NWSL wheels, and the coupler end beam is modified from an Eastern part. In short my main goal was to make a working tender without too much heroic effort and see how the model actually ran.

Note that the tender is painted grimy black. It is a little darker than the locomotive but I can live with that, it is close but different enough to know it is not original to the model.

The locomotive runs great on my layout -- one of the very best locomotives I own -- but only clockwise! Facing the opposite direction the lead truck derails constantly, something about the geometry of my 28” radius curves and clearances on the model itself. Years ago I chose 28” as it was the maximum I could fit in the space my layout originally occupied and was bigger than the 26” radius suggested as a minimum by Scale-Craft back in the day. If I rebuild the layout I would go for 36” radius. Perhaps someday.

I still have a bit of quandary how to letter the tender and it may stay blank for a while. My Orient is possible but all my other steam models are black. It is tempting to letter it for the “Beaver River” like the Nason Hudson photo in the Nason catalog; anyone looking at the model should be able to tell very quickly that it is not the same model as in the photo, Lionel tender body and all, just a model inspired by it.

One last thing to note is the original tender for this model must be out there somewhere. It should be really easy to spot, a sand cast Nason Hudson tender with a sound system unit and speaker in it, painted gray, and with a four pin female connector on it.

If you have it, be in touch! This locomotive runs great now but really should be reunited with the original tender, and it would be that much better with the sound system fired up if it still works. Maybe we can work out a trade.

UPDATE: I opted for the Union Pacific. I tossed around a lot of options but the things that tipped things in favor of UP were I have a couple of UP heavywieght passenger cars and also the lettering on the locomotive is a yellowish off-white. Of course, the UP did not have a 4-6-4 that was number 38 but at the least the engine is running again and looking good.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Remotoring my Original Scale-Craft 4-6-0

Back in 2008 I had a brief article on my original Scale-Craft 4-6-0. I had purchased it from David Sacks when I was in high school and it came to me looking terrible but running OK with a replacement motor. This article describes the two main motors you will see with this model (very late S-C had Pittman motors) and in another article I looked at how Sacks had re-motored the model. There are photos there but in short he hacked a Scale-Craft DC motor and gearbox up to leave only the gearbox and a portion of the drive shaft, and connected to that a DC motor of uncertain origin. The way to tell that it should have had the Scale-Craft DC motor is that the gearbox is inclined at an angle and also the weight was not cut to fit around the later Universal motor. Also it has most of the weight that should be under the DC motor still as well, a weight that would be left off if using the later motor.

This 4-6-0 may be seen running, badly, with the Sacks motor in the first of my videos. That motor and gearbox were on their last legs which was a big bummer as I wanted to run this model. However, I recently put one of the original DC motor/gearbox combos into a 4-4-2 model (on video here) and was very recently able to purchase yet another of the original motor/gearbox combos.

It took a bit of effort to tune up the motor but I am pleased to say this model now runs as smooth and quiet as the 4-4-2 and pulls well. This photo is of the visible, cab end of the motor, where the wires attach. Scale-Craft had a great little model out in the form of this 4-6-0 when it was introduced in 1937. I can’t imagine that anything else out in 1937 in HO or OO ran any better.

To describe this motor a bit more (also seen in this post), I have described to friends it as sort of a big Pittman motor but actually the design is pretty different. The magnet is split on two sides of the motor and the brushes are on the end away from the gearbox. It is not too hard to figure out but very different than any DC motor I have ever had to work on.

I have two more of these motors but they are the version with no built in gearbox. I also however have two DC style gearboxes that were “liberated” from the original DC motor by prior owners. I hope to get at least one more of these operational and in a model. It will be a challenge, though.

A final point is that this is a 24 volt motor, but at 12 volts it runs plenty fast for a 4-6-0 on a local freight and I have no worries about overloading it. But this may get at why it seems to not have been a popular motor with later OO gaugers, the top speed is relatively low. I always think it feels like it is running about 1/2 throttle when it is actually full throttle. Nevertheless, I am happy to have this model running well again, a sentimental favorite of mine that should log many more miles around the layout.

UPDATE: It runs even better in "large scale" mode on my power pack.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Two Flat Car Frames and a TOFC flat

One of my quests these past several years has been for a Nason flat car. I think I saw one sell on eBay not long ago but I did not win it. I did however win recently with some parts this bronze frame, which is certainly the correct frame for the Nason flat.

That frame is sitting in the photo on the remnants of somebody’s flat car project. This one is scratch built from brass, soldered together nicely.

What to do with that frame has been a question I have pondered for a few months. It is supposed to be a heavy duty flat car and probably I should just build it out that way, but one option I was pondering was to build it into a freelanced modern car similar to the TOFC flat behind it, made by the late Bill Johann, seen here with a scratchbuilt 1/76 scale UPS trailer on it. I featured another of these great modern American OO cars a few years ago in an article, but this one is of slightly different design.

His car is based on a Norfolk Southern 50’ prototype, rebuilt as I understand it on retired boxcar frames for TOFC service in the mid-1980s (more info here). I will keep pondering my options for the parts for now, but eventually both of the projects will be rolling down the rails as well.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Disassembling Lionel OO Tender Trucks

As has been noted elsewhere in this site, I don’t actually own that much Lionel OO, something I kind of hate to admit. I have quite a bit of interesting stuff but I did not come to OO from the Lionel collecting side of things. I have only ever owned two Lionel Hudsons and one of them I later traded off for a Nason Hudson locomotive (only). Also, both of the Lionel Hudsons I have owned were modified and converted to DC operation by prior owners. The one I still own came to me as a non-operating junker with a heavy coat of blue paint, a new can motor mounted in the tender (!), and some damage from storage. It had been owned by David Sacks.

Where this leads is my present project is trying to get both of these Hudson models running, the Nason and Lionel versions. I have a tender coming together for the Nason model (a modified Lionel tender, actually, more another time) and another tender coming together for the Lionel. The one for the Nason Hudson will have Scale-Craft trucks which I am very familiar and comfortable with but the other has Lionel tender trucks. These I had to figure out how to take apart by trial and error.

Back in 1938 the task Lionel had was to make a tender truck that was rugged and would be trouble free to operate. The main casting is a single casting that includes the side frames and bolster in one unit. The wheelset axles are much larger than on their freight cars and fit into slots that are open on the bottom which have covers held on by pins. They look to have a slight hex head but are, again, just pins.

In my case the trucks were somewhat water damaged and this did not help the pins come out easily. Using pliers you have to pull and twist the pins at the same time as while they are not threaded there is a pattern to them that requires a turn.

With the parts apart I then gave the side frames and wheels a good scrubbing. They are a lot cleaner and should still give good service on this model with a bit more cleaning. Also note I will repaint the sideframes, I am not into the blue steam locomotive thing. The bodies have been fully stripped of the blue paint.

The second photo is of a trailing truck for the Lionel Hudson which has the same type of pin/cover mount. This one still needs cleaning.

While the original replacement drive was executed badly (with plenty of glue holding the motor in place) I am going to see if I can make this model work with the same basic tender drive rebuilt somewhat with better universals from Athearn drives. In principle it should work fine (needing only a long drive shaft from the tender to the drivers) and the model seems to have been run a good bit in this form by the prior owner. I’ll have more on this model as the project progresses.

UPDATE: Finished model here

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Review: NWSL [Oso Railworks] 20” On3 Wheelsets

The past seven weeks I had to put OO projects on hold with commitments away from home, but before I left I ordered two packs of NWSL (now Oso Railworks) 20” On3 wheelsets for trial.

When I was briefly home in the middle of those weeks I found the wheelsets had arrived. These are their 7801-4 wheelsets, made of nickel plated brass with their 110 tread. As noted in a prior article on wheelsets for use in American OO, in OO these scale out to 31.7" wheelsets, just a bit under the 33" standard for freight.

They look fantastic! They are exactly on standards for American OO gauge (On3 and American OO have the same track standards) and these will work great in reproduction Lionel Amercian OO trucks as in the photo and in other applications. They would be especially good used in tender trucks where you need electrical pickup.

With that out of the way, I was expecting to write a quick review of how great they were to point them out to readers of American OO Today and that would be it. Then, while writing this review, I got back on the Oso Railworks website and was going to bite the bullet and order several more packages, but I was astounded to find that the price had, with the passing of only a few weeks, more than doubled! My invoice of July 7 confirms that I purchased two packages of these at $8.95 for a package of four, but now the price is $17.95 for a package of four. [But see UPDATE! There are two different On3 20" wheelsets available, the other is actually still $8.95].

I am all for companies charging what they need to, profits must be made, but basically they have priced me out of their market. As I can modify most any HO 36” wheelset and get what I need for freight trucks, I will use alternate wheelsets except for perhaps a few special applications. But other than the negative of the price going up a lot this summer, they remain a great product, one to keep in mind for some specific instances, especially for tender trucks.

UPDATE. It is possible, too, that I was just confused by their website! As John S. pointed out to me actually NWSL sells two different models of On3 20" wheelsets. This one sells for $8.95 a package of four at present (link here) and is exactly what I had purchased earlier in the summer.

It really is a great product, and wheelsets are a topic that it seems is almost always on my mind. This past week for example I was working my way through the usable wheelsets box to free up more Ultimate wheelsets (the best ever sold in OO!) to use in reproduction Lionel trucks. What that translates into is I finished converting all the S-C trucks that had been upgraded either by me or by others to Ultimate wheelsets back to running on S-C (or actually sometimes I am sure Graceline) wheelsets (plus also fixing up some other trucks).

The wheelset question is a great big puzzle at times for the modern OO gauger, and I am very glad to have the NWSL wheelsets back on the table as an option. I will be purchasing more soon.