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

Sunday, September 25, 2011

OO in 1938, more than Lionel: Part V, A Story Involving Lawyers and Other Problems in American OO

I wrote with Ed Morlok a pair of articles on the history of American OO that were published in the October, 1986 and April, 1987 issues of the Train Collector’s Quarterly. In writing the series I had a lot of the same sources as Ed, but he had more. In particular there is a point where our article and others like it talk about the launch of the Lionel OO line and Scale-Craft. The underlying source that is cited is volume 3 of Lionel: A Collector’s Guide and History by McComas and Tuohy; Ed had a copy of this book and I finally broke down and purchased one of my own after writing part III of this present series.

This particular volume is on standard gauge but with sections on OO and HO that are well worth reading. McComas and Tuohy were not OO gaugers and the OO chapter frankly opens roughly, placing Nason in Philadelphia (it was in the New York City area), misspelling Famoco as “Famco,” and listing two lines that were not OO manufacturers at all (Star Lines and Amity). But after that we come to some great information, as obviously McComas and Tuohy had contacted Scale-Craft founder Elliott Donnelley directly and he had responded with some great, first hand information on the launch of his OO line and the Lionel OO line.

Donnelley states that he went into OO instead of HO because he found “a good motor on the market that fit nicely into my OO models” and he could not find a good motor that was small enough to use in HO. As to Lionel OO and a story that involves lawyers, McComas and Tuohy report it as follows.
…Donnelley always maintained that Lionel’s first cars were, as they say in the design business, “knock-offs.” Donnelley said Lionel merely assembled some of Scalecraft’s models, put Lionel decals on them, and offered them as samples to stores while they were having dies made of Scalecraft parts.

“Lionel’s freight cars were the same as mine,” Donnelley said a short time before his death in 1976. “As a matter of fact, the first samples they sent out were actually my cars.

“I happened to be walking down Fifth Avenue in New York and I looked into F.A.O. Schwartz’s window and they had a big display of Lionel OO gauge. I went in to see the buyer whom I had been trying to sell for a long time and he started to tell me what a wonderful line Lionel had.

“I said, ‘That’s fine, but those are all my cars in the window.’

“He said, ‘What do you mean your cars? Those are Lionel’s.’

“I said, ‘Come on with me.’

“So he came down with me to the window and I took the cars out and every car said ‘Scale-craft’ on the bottom. Lionel couldn’t get their line out for Christmas, so they used mine as samples to sell from and then made their cars almost exactly like mine.

“I had the patent on the miniature truck suspensions that I was using on my OO freight cars. Lionel not only copied the suspension but copied the cars. And they did it without my permission, so my lawyers contacted Lionel and told them about the infringement.

“From that time on Lionel paid me a royalty.”
Wow! What a scene. So, the “1938” Lionel models were not out on the market until early 1939 and his point about Lionel using Scale-Craft cars in their display is only confirmed by what I reported in part III -- that the OO freight cars illustrated in the Lionel 1938 catalog are in fact all Scale-Craft models decorated as Lionel Lines. In this article I have included views of the catalog photo of the box car, the Scale-Craft version here (early, with the trucks further in from the ends) and finally the Lionel version. It is pretty easy to see that the Scale-Craft car matches the one in the catalog photo; compare the rivet patterns, number of side panels, the ends, truck shape, etc. I believe the car in the Lionel catalog was shortened slightly, the bottom of the side casting being removed. The side ladder is a replacement and the roof walk was modified as well, but the end ladder visible in the catalog was not modified and matches the S-C car.

Also I would note that the track in the Lionel catalog is certainly not the production version of their track. In my photos here the S-C car is on S-C track and the Lionel car on Lionel track for comparison.

Other problems in OO are more mundane with no lawyers involved but as significant. I have already quoted Louis Hertz in his column in Model Craftsman for October, 1938 as stating that “HO is many times more popular than OO.” Besides popularity itself, one issue all makers had to sort out was that of track standards. MC for April of 1938 has notes on a meeting where S-C and Nason were present and wheel standards were set. Lionel went their own way with what we would think of as toy train flange and track standards, while modern NMRA standards are fairly close to what Scale-Craft was using back then. I hardly have any Lionel track--no curves or turnouts--but I have always wondered how well Scale-Craft models actually track on Lionel track, especially their turnouts. Thoughts from readers? I would suspect from my experiences as an operator using modern standards that Nason would be very touchy on Lionel track as Nason is touchy on my track. And of course the NMRA set a standard of 3’ for radius for OO but S-C and Lionel broke that right away.

A letter to the editor from a dentist in Cleveland, published in The Model Craftsman in August of 1938, presents an overview of the problem pretty clearly for the OO gauger of the time. (And it is a bit of a fun quiz of American OO knowledge to follow which lines are being referred to).
This is no complaint of your magazine, but it is a complaint to manufacturers. After assembling various kits in O gauge and discovering that I have no space large enough to make a real track layout, I switched to OO gauge. I had completed an engine and some cars from a Mt. Vernon, N. Y., manufacturer, then I saw cars made in Chicago that looked good. When these arrived, the couplers were all wrong as to size and height above the rail. Then an engine from Brooklyn, N. Y. was ordered, and the couplers here were different from the other two.

Now I notice that the Chicago concern is making locomotives, but these have a D. C. motor using 24 volts and two rails. My engines operate either on A. C. or D. C. but with a maximum of 12 volts. It would be impossible for me to use such an engine and how do I know another motor will fit in?

Today I see from MODEL CRAFTSMAN that a tinplate manufacturer has a new OO-gauge engine and I’ll bet his standards for couplers, motors, and voltages are different from the rest.

What good is the Association of Model Railroad Manufacturers if they agree on the height, width and spacing of rail only? Why cannot the makers of OO gauge get together on the couplers and operating voltages? It would be for their own good, for as it is now, a purchaser can use the equipment of only one concern unless he redesigns all the parts himself.
Indeed. There is another letter in the November, 1938 issue of MC that complains about the lack of passenger cars in OO. That problem would be addressed soon enough, but clearly HO already had the edge for variety and price and there were some things to sort out in the OO market.

1939 is next; be watching for a new series on American OO gauge in 1939 to start in a month or so.

Return to beginning of 1938 series.
Continue to the 1939 series.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hoffman’s OO Gondola and Refrigerator Cars

In the installment of the 1938 series posted yesterday the original Hoffman’s advertisement may be seen (with a photo of a built up gondola car), and I noted there that I had three examples of these OO kits produced by the Philadelphia firm of Hoffmann’s.

First we have the boxes. They were complete kits as shipped out, with trucks and paint. These kits today are all lacking their original trucks but all still have their original bottles of paint. I only have one set of the bottles out in the photos below, but most of them are probably still usable and have liquid inside. And as always, click on any of the photos for a better view.

This is the Reading gondola kit. This car would really stand out from the crowd, if you have one built up. The sides are printed cardboard and in this case are a bit stained. There are more loose parts in the box (nails and such, plus wood strip for the vertical posts on the sides) but these die case sprung couplers and brake cylinder seen in this photo are unique parts not duplicated in any other line. Also note the frame, which is different than the frame with the reefer kits I have.

Next up is the ARLX reefer. This one lacks the frame but has more small parts in the box not seen here. The sides are again unique and not copied from the products of another OO line. Also note the wood body is set up differently than that of other OO lines.

Finally we get to the FGEX reefer. This one, like the other reefer, has an empty folder that would have contained a pair of trucks. Note the frame too; it is different than the frame with the Gondola. One of these built up should be pretty easy to spot; there are a number of unique details.

This last scan is of the instruction sheet for the reefer. It is clear enough to get the job done but you would have to have been a fine craftsman to make one of these really look sharp. I don’t have the gondola instruction sheet.

In my earlier post on Hoffman's there is another kit seen, this one with the trucks which I report there are sprung trucks. It would be interesting to see a better photo of these but it would appear that their trucks would have been the first type of sprung truck offered in American OO. I wonder it the trucks in this article are actually Hoffman's? They do closely resemble the ones in the photo in my earlier post.

If you have more examples of Hoffman I would be happy to post more information on this uncommon and early American OO line.

UPDATE: See this article for another Hoffmans truck.

Friday, September 23, 2011

OO in 1938, more than Lionel: Part IV, More Makers Jump In

To start on a down note, the July issue of The Model Railroader reports that the pioneer OO firms of Rockhaven Models and The OO Gauge Model Co. are out of business. But quite a few new products are going on the market in American OO gauge; more than filling any void those firms might have left.

First up we have Mantua. They were of course primarily a HO firm but they advertised their new “ready laid” track on back cover of MR for August of 1938, this image being a portion of the advertisement. A type of early flex track, it was available 18” long straight and flexible sections in HO and in OO gauges. To see a photo of some of this track see this prior article. It is a product only aimed at the two-rail OO market.

Our next new line is from Hoffmann’s of Philadelphia. They introduced their new line of OO cars in the September, 1938 issue of MR. The line included a Reading gondola, a Reading flat, FGEX and ARLX reefers, and was expanded in their ad in the October issue to include a caboose. I have a brief, older article on the topic here that I hope to expand in the near future as I now own boxed kits for the reefers and the gondola. In short though these kits are completely original kits with printed sides and were not duplicated by other makers later. UPDATE: More on Hoffman's here.

While we are in the September issue of MR, also in I note the new S-C 4-6-2 model in OO (with a full page ad and photo) and in October S-C has out a new reefer and Nason rolled out a new gas-electric! This model had been out a little while, actually, as it was advertised in the April-May 1938 issue of Miniature Railroading as well. Also, while on the topic of Nason, by June they offered their entire line for two or three rail operation, so it would be compatible with S-C products.

Turning to The Model Craftsman, their September issue has this very interesting photo of a model by Ted Menten. Why it is so interesting is he was the owner of Famoco and this is a model they later produced, their Roundhouse Goat; this model looks very much like the production version and is set up for three rail operation from an outside third rail. If this model was actually in production yet I don’t know but later, in December issue of MC we do find that the initial, bronze version of their GG-1 is available. Thus, Famoco was certainly in the OO market by the end of 1938 and we will be hearing more from then in 1939.

Our final new line of note this year is Page Model Co. of Hasbrouck Heights, NJ. This is a firm I have long been curious about and it took literally years to finally track down an advertisement. The line is referenced in other advertising in the October issue of MC and in December they ran this ad; click on it to see all the details of the new line. So far as I can tell these box cars and reefers are outwardly the same as the Nason Easy-Built cars (with the same sides) but have a solid block body. My guess at this time is it was an attempt to put out a lower cost version of the Nason line and perhaps also to attempt to give an impression of things really picking up in OO, with a "new" line of OO entering the market. I have a bit more on Page here (updated tonight, as well), and this is a line that I certainly still have a few questions about.

With that I have one more article to post on 1938 with some specific notes on the launch of the Lionel OO line, be looking for more soon.

Continue in 1938 Series

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vintage OO Layout Photos III: Moale Trolleys in Color

As noted in another article on the Moale trolleys, in materials received from the OO SIG were a group of photos of his layout, including the four photos featured today. Edward S. Moale was a naval commander and trolley enthusiast, and he built up a large collection of American OO scale trolley models and also layouts to operate them upon.

This first photo is an overview of what must be a good chunk of the layout. I should note that Blogger recently updated the "click on the photo" function. On some older articles it does not work correctly (I am trying to update them as I notice it), but on new ones such as this where the optics are not great you can pick out a lot more detail if you click on the photo for a closer view. How many trolleys do you see?

The second photo shows another corner of the attic layout room, this area with a farm and a commercial backdrop for a countryside feel. Note that three tracks are visible and the models operate from the overhead wire. The closer car is more what I would think of as a city trolley and the rear cars are interurbans.

The third and fourth photos are dated January, 1958 on the mounting. We can see more of the overhead but also note that the closest track has a center third rail (Lionel style) and we can see the roof of a box car in the lower right corner. Oh, and do you see the elephant?

The last photo is actually the sharpest but features a British model, obviously converted to run on 19mm gauge track and probably from center third rail. This is another angle on the same scene as in the first photo and we can see that the depot is for the town of Henrietta. About ten trolley models are visible in this photo as well.

I have a few more Moale photos, in black and white, and will return to them at a future date in this series.

UPDATE: The final installment (Part IV) of vintage Moale photos is here, with text by Commander Moale on his trolley and interurban models. (Link below continues the vintage photos series!).

Continue reading Vintage Photos Series

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Two American OO Stock Cars

When you think of stock cars in American OO you think of the classic Scale-Craft die cast model and the … hmmm. Really the only options back in the day were Scale-Craft (a photo of one may be found in this article) or scratch build one yourself. My first stock car, in fact, was scratch built and still sees service on the layout. Bill Gilbert explored two different options for stock cars in these sharp models below.

The D&RGW car in the back is beautifully scratch built from wood with working doors. The only commercial parts obvious are the Schorr trucks and also the frame is a standard Scale-Craft boxcar frame, most likely chosen for weight, with AB type brake details. The car came to me with a cattle load but all of the cattle had come loose, I believe in shipping; at present they are grazing elsewhere.

The car in the front is according to the card with the model an AHM conversion from HO. HO conversions at times sort of scream “HO conversion” to the viewer – in fact, I recently converted a couple of old HO conversions I did back to HO -- but in this case the car works very well. It scales out at 36’ long so it is a bit shorter than the D&RGW car in length. But it matches it in height and width and does not appear to have been modified further. This would be a car to keep your eyes peeled for at the train shows; it is a very effective conversion and would break that monotony of Scale-Craft stock cars. He repainted the model and lettered it for the NYC, and again it is on Schorr trucks.

Both cars operate great on the layout. I will have more from a group of cars from Bill Gilbert soon, and frankly I have no shortage of possible topics for short articles and will try to post a bit more frequently the next few months, as time allows.

UPDATE: Curious about the AHM car, I stumbled on to more information about this model online in an article on stock cars in the Santa Fe Railway Historical Society website. In it we learn that AHM has produced "at least five different stock cars" and this one is the 40' Double Deck, model 5275. From the article,
These were made by AHM in the 60s, then released by Model Power and now by Roco. The early AHM had separate ladders but the later productions have cast on ladders. They are very common at swap meets and on ebay. The prototype is NYC 28000-28499 (Lot 757-S) convertible stock cars rebuilt from USRA SS box cars in 1947. The model has the deck lifting mechanism on both sides of the car; the prototype only had this on the left side of the car. It is also 15" too wide. A second group of cars, NYC 27200-27399 (Lot 766-S) were converted to fixed double deck cars in 1948. AHM offered this car in just about every scheme except NYC.

An excellent kitbashing article by William Sharpe appeared in the March 1997 RMC. The Warbonnet, 4/2001, shows how to use this car for the basis of an ATSF SK-Z.
I will be looking for more of these. Not only will they work as is in OO but you could salvage the ends off and use them on other kitbashing projects.

UPDATE II: But John S. adds "the AHM HO Stock Car does come in NYC decals ... to a degree. It is model #5275F, lettered for NYC as a “NISX” car but in the 1960’s NYC Jade Green color. I don’t think the NYC was running very many stock cars by that time and whether they bothered to repaint them…doubtful, but the model does exist."

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Lionel OO Gauge Hudson for the Santa Fe

Back a few articles ago I was working over the tender trucks for a two-rail Lionel 4-6-4 that came to me in a very sad state. It had been on the roster of the Greenbrook of the late David Sacks but had been stored in an unfavorable location which left the paint and decals in poor shape, and also he had modified the model to the extent that the motor was in the tender, and the universals he had used were brittle and unusable after storage.

This is what the entire locomotive looks like now. It still has a lot of that Lionel OO look, but it has been modified in several ways. All significant modifications to this 004 two rail Hudson were done by Sacks, who among other things had rather heavily painted the engine blue. I stripped the blue off the boiler and tender (protecting the original 004 stamp in the cab, though) so those areas have a nice sharp finish. The boiler front is also now painted in the appropriate color for ATSF and it has a number plate added.

In this closer view of the locomotive you can see more of the details. Parts of this model I did not strip and opted to paint over, and there is some visible rust on the side rods. I replaced the damaged original pilot with a reproduction part but reused his modified coupler mounting with a modified Scale-Craft coupler. The big challenge for me was mechanical, as his big modification was removing the original motor entirely and replacing it with a large, DC can motor.

To make it work he put the motor in the tender. His connection involved older style universals that had cracked with age and probably heat damage. My solution was to use modern Athearn HO drive parts. There is a fixed point at the back of the cab, at the center of the system I set up, and from there two sets of universals go out, one set to the back of the drive itself and the other set to the tender. The whole thing is set up in very nearly a straight line with the motor angled to match. It is a bit odd but the bottom line is this locomotive runs well on my layout, much like a HO diesel actually, and has very good pulling power.

The big can motor is an operational plus for DC operation and I think the reason Sacks did his conversion. I opted to hide the motor with an oil tender top. The cover, while freelanced and built specifically to hide the motor, does a lot toward making the locomotive have more of a Santa Fe look. The real 3450 is in a museum in California and looks a bit different. Still the model is pretty effective as it is and I have really enjoyed running it with freight trains the past couple weeks (imagining it is a 4-8-4 or similar freight engine – for sure I am not the first OO gauger to imagine the same thing).

I won’t be doing this conversion to another model and frankly would not recommend it, but I certainly am glad to have what was a fairly hopeless looking junker in poor condition running well and earning its keep on my layout. That the drive still works well and that this model is as attractive as it is speaks to the quality of the original 1938 Lionel product.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

OO in 1938, more than Lionel: Part III, Lionel Enters the OO Market, and a Catalog Deception

You knew it was coming: the launch of the Lionel OO line. The Model Railroader for June, 1938, has the scoop, but only a very brief item in "Trade Topics" that reads as follows. “OO Gauge: Lionel follows up its O gauge Hudson with a OO Hudson and cars.” This is right after a listing of what is new in HO that is four times longer (!) and announces the entrance of Gilbert American Flyer into HO with their Hudson. The battle was on!

The Model Craftsman has much more extensive coverage in their July issue, reported by Louis Hertz in his “Along the Tinplate Track” column. He opens by describing the new Gilbert American Flyer HO Hudson, where he notes that
In the HO-gauge “Tru Model” Hudson, Gilbert has produced a neat little scaled model with twenty-to-one gear reduction and a sequence reverse. The entire system is two rail, wheels being of Bakelite. There are a number of cars and accessories available as well as all types of track sections.
Then on page 35 we arrive at Lionel, this photo being the first published photo of the new OO line. Of this Hertz wrote
Lionel has gone into OO gauge! This is the first bit of startling news on their new line! After carefully considering both HO and OO, Lionel chose American OO, ¾” gauge, and are putting out the first mass-production line ever attempted in that size track by an established tinplate manufacturer. Lionel’s OO line consists of a wonderful super detail 4mm. scale, 4-6-4 locomotive, and four die cast freight cars. The engine is a wonderful piece of craftsmanship and, without a doubt one of the finest small-gauge models ever made anywhere. It has all the detail of the big O-gauge No. 700EW but reduced in size. The model has a worm drive, built in whistle, and a sequence reverse. She operates on 12 volts AC or DC. The locomotive is also available in assembly-kit form.
There is a complete series of track and switches available in center third rail, roadbed type. Lionel chose inside third rail as the safest and surest method of supplying current to the train. Remember what we have written about the superiority of inside third rail over outside in this department? Well, Lionel, after thirty-eight years of making trains, still finds this the better method of the two after intensive research into the matter. Inside third rail, which Lionel’s president, Mr. J. L. Cowen introduced into this country years ago, still remains supreme in this firm’s opinion!
He goes on from there to describe the rest of what is new in their line in O and Standard gauges.

I don’t know enough about the marketing of toy trains in that day to know at what point that year the OO gauge line started hitting the market. My sense of the Hertz article is that if he actually held any Lionel OO in his hands before writing this first article on the line it was only the locomotive and the track, there is no real mention of the cars. Hertz does however have more to say about the new OO line in “Choice of Gauge” in his October column, where he notes
Regarding the choice between HO and OO gauges, we can see that HO is many times more popular than OO, but this fact should not deter fans who are appealed to by the features of tinplate OO from choosing that gauge. Never pick a gauge because the others are doing it. Use the gauge you like best. If you want two-rail, a larger range of equipment in domestic and foreign types, and permanent-magnet motors, then you will pick HO. If, on the other hand, remote-control whistle, inside-third-rail track for ease of operation and signaling, and other features common to present O-gauge trains appeal to you, then pick OO.
In this of course he is speaking of the new Lionel OO line, or “tinplate OO” as he calls it, not of the scale lines of Nason and Scale-Craft. And I love this line, “Never pick a gauge because the others are doing it.” Has me pegged there.

First appearing in the October issue of the magazine published by Lionel The Model Builder, in the November issues of The Model Railroader and The Model Craftsman we also see reprinted the first Lionel advertisement that features the OO line. Click on the image for a closer view but the principal quotes would be
The biggest little train ever made, 14 ½ inches of “OO” Gauge scale model perfection, duplicating every detail of its big “O” Gauge brother and ingeniously constructed so it will circle a track only 27 in. in diameter.
… driven by worm-gear motor, it’s a veritable power plant on wheels, as smooth in its performance as any engine ever made. “OO” Gauge scale model freight cars. True-to-scale, Bakelite-mounted, easily assembled “OO” track. Switches, Crossovers. In fact, everything you need to be a “OO” Gauge railroader.
Everything! You would need to send in ten cents for their new catalog to learn more, especially about the cars as they to this point have not specifically been mentioned anywhere in print. The new line is featured on pages 6 and 7 of the 1938 catalog, and it leads me to I believe a brand new theory of why we have not heard much about the freight cars to this point.

Besides the pre-production Lionel Lines schemes seen on all of the cars in the catalog, first take a close look at the trucks, for example on this boxcar. They caught my eye writing this article as they look a whole lot like Scale-Craft trucks, not Lionel trucks which were longer and more finely scaled.

Then I got looking closer and it is actually plain as day: all of the OO freight cars in the 1938 Lionel catalog are Scale-Craft freight cars!!! The rivet patterns and other details totally give this away. That is why the boxcar for example looks a bit oddly shaped; it is not a Lionel box car at all. It is early Scale-Craft decorated as Lionel Lines.

I had read that Lionel had used S-C models in pre-production display samples but I don’t believe that this issue with the 1938 catalog has been so clearly noted in any prior article on Lionel OO. But take the comparable S-C car and Lionel car and hold them up next to the photos in the 1938 catalog and compare for yourself. They are all Scale-Craft cars. It would have been very obvious to the folks at Scale-Craft back then and frankly combined with the catalog copy (“No one had ever attempted such a thing before!” etc.) this is deception of the worst sort. Taking the innovative products of another firm and using them to illustrate how you had been the innovator – a full year after they had their truly innovative OO line on the market. Sure, the tight curves and center third rail track were innovations for Lionel, and the Hudson was quite a model, but I must say this deception with the freight cars in the catalog really bothers me. But perhaps it just reflects on business attitudes of the day and their desire to get this line out quickly.

Lionel offered this photo of a close up of the hopper in the 1938 catalog, enlarged here for clarity, and my challenge to any reader again is take a Scale-Craft hopper and a Lionel hopper and hold them at this same angle. The hopper in the catalog photo is clearly on Scale-Craft trucks and has a Scale-Craft body, only slightly modified with an upright brake staff and different ladders. The two other close up photos in the 1938 catalog tell the same tale for the boxcar and tank car. I am not aware of this being noted in print previously and this may ultimately be why Lionel delayed on showcasing the freight cars earlier in the year; they were not ready to display or ship any product.

Certainly by the holiday season of 1938 they got the bugs out of their freight car production and got outfits on the shelves to fit their new “OO tinplate” niche. This last image is from the back cover of the November/December 1938 issue of The Model Builder and shows again the asking price of the new OO models. More information on their initial train set offerings may be found in this article. There was a demand for OO trains and other makers were working to meet that demand; those will be the focus of our next installment in this series.

UPDATE: Part V of this series on 1938 has more on the Lionel launch; in short, Scale-Craft had to get lawyers involved.

Continue in 1938 Series

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Bobber Caboose (and more) from the OO Niagara Valley

In a group of cars that came to me recently was this great bobber caboose.

As can be seen in the photos, the car is lettered for the Niagara Valley (no car number) and has a label on the bottom Fred E. Schorr, Millersburg, PA. I wrote his son Ed Schorr about the caboose, relaying a few key details, and heard back right away: “The history on the caboose is - my dad built the caboose for Jack Winsor of Burlington, Ontario, Canada. He was the brass hat of the Niagara Valley. They were good friends for many years. And yes, the trucks are a modified Scale Craft passenger trucks.”

Knowing the story makes the car even better. In that time frame, after WWII, there were a good number of American OO gauge modelers in Canada. So this car made its way from Pennsylvania up to Ontario and now has made its way to Arizona.

You can pick up a lot from the photos, but the element you can’t see in the photos and is actually hard to see in person is that the car has a full interior with tables, closets, etc. One of the chairs up in the cupola has come loose and there is no easy access the interior to fix that element. Also this car has lights! They flickered on the first time I set it on the rails with a train running. The lights help a great deal in seeing the interior details.

As noted there is no car number. It was presumably a gift and perhaps Winsor was to add his own car number. In any case it is a car I am happy to have, a rare gem among OO cars. For another vintage bobber caboose see this article and I will be coming back to more of the cars received from Bill Gilbert soon.

UPDATE: In items donated to the OO SIG were these two boxcars as well, both from the layout of Jack Winsor. They are worth a brief look.

In front note that the THB boxcar has his NVL logo as well. The body I think is Nason, but it has a nicely scratchbuilt frame and Eastern/Famoco doors. The car came to me with no trucks or couplers, which I added. Winsor got a little crazy with the decals ... click on the photo to see more clearly the car number and such.

Behind is a Swift refrigerator ... or is it a boxcar? It actually is a Picard body with an Eastern frame, with boxcar doors and lettered as a reefer. And each side has a different style of boxcar door ....

The THB car I will keep with the caboose, and the other car will go over to the OO inventory. I believe Winsor enjoyed the cars and they are, in fairness, nice vintage pieces.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

OO in 1938, more than Lionel: Part II, “See Our 1938 Line at the National Model Show”

With that text on the back cover of the February, 1938 issue of The Model Craftsman Nason Railways highlighted what you could see of their OO gauge line at the upcoming National Model Show in New York. Besides Nason, what else could you have seen at this important event?

The Model Craftsman for March, 1938 is the first to present a report and photos, in the form of a short article with nine photos (including this view of OO pioneer Hugh Nason with a 2-8-0), “written on the day after the opening.”

This event was a separate event from the annual show of the New York Society of Model Engineers and was put on by the Association of Model Railroad Manufacturers. OO manufacturers present included Nason, Scale-Craft, and Star-Continental. Lionel was there as well but they had no OO line out yet. In this article they note that “The OO-gauge display [layout at the manufacturers show] was built so it could be folded up and stored in a closet.” Also in this March issue I should note is found part II of their series “Building the All-Gauge Consolidation,” with this nice photo of the new Nason consolidation. Also in this issue is an article on an “easy and cheap” boxcar built in OO that looks suspiciously like early Nason or Page as well but is another all-gauge feature.

The April issue of Model Craftsman has a lot more on the show. But to begin the cover features a great photo of this
…OO-gauge, 4mm. scale model of the Southern Pacific Mountain type, complete in all details. The man in the photo is Ernie Horrocks of the Flatbush A.M.E. He did not build the engine. It came from the MODEL CRAFTSMAN Experimental Shop.
Careful with those pliers! Click on the photo for a better view of this scratchbuilt model.

Turning inside, we see a three page report on the New York show. Surrounded by photos of all the manufacturer booths first up in the report are all the prize winners (who in OO are all S-C and Nason kits!) and then some interesting statistics. Nearly 15,000 paid to attend the manufacturers show and there were 20,000 paid admissions to the NYSME show, which featured their operating O and OO layout. A lot of people were interested to check out the hobby of model railroading.

Speaking of the booths, as noted Lionel was there but seems to have only had O gauge models. “Visitors to this stand were impressed with the precision of the parts making up the Hudson engine.” Moving on, Scale Models, Inc. (Scale-Craft) had “a complete line of O and OO-gauge equipment.” Certainly they would have had plenty of copies of their great 1938 catalog, which featured color photos! More on that here. Nason had “a complete line of passenger and freight locomotives,” and Star-Continental had their new 4-4-2 model. “Visitors were impressed with the simplicity of assembling the component parts.”

Later in this same issue are also found these candid photos of Hugh Nason on the left and his business partner Frank Waldhorst at the manufacturers’ meeting, where they adopted standards, “A final answer to the knotty problem of uniformity in wheel dimensions.” Also present at this meeting which was Elliott Donnelley and Byron Schaffer of Scale-Craft; discussions seem to have focused on O gauge.

Turning to The Model Railroader, in their April issue they also had two reports on the shows in New York, one a signed report by Robert LeMassena and the other by “Onlooker.” LeMassena is pretty positive on the whole show. “In OO gauge Howard Winther, some of whose work is shown in the photo section of the February Model Railroader, displayed a new Erie 4-6-0 with two coaches,” featured in part I of this present series. He continues, “Because space requirements at the Society were not sufficient for proper manufacturer representation, the Association of Model Railroad Manufacturers sponsored a second show which ran concurrently several doors down the same side of the same street.” He fills in other details of interest to us, such as at the manufacturers show “A solid Scale-Craft train, an 0-6-0 switcher, an NYC Hudson, and a PRR P-5 were all going on the OO layout.” Keep in mind there were two different OO layouts; this photo below is of the OO gauge Union Dock & Terminal RR of the NYSME (with part of the O gauge layout visible as well on the left). According to LeMassena the NYSME layout had “short runs … made with a couple of locomotives and a few cars.” We will come back to the manufacturer’s layout in a minute.

Onlooker had a bit different take on things and pointed out a number of problems. One was that you had to pay an admission fee to both events and that when you went in there would not necessarily be a representative of each manufacturer at the show at any given time. Of the layouts he had these specific comments.
In regard to the layouts exhibited in the various gauges: It seems to me that they were too hurriedly put together. The O gauge layout could have been operated in a more interesting manner. It is poor salesmanship to operate an electric switch by hand, for instance. The OO gauge layout was only a demonstration for motive power and did not show the real possibilities of this gauge. The HO layout would have been better left out entirely, especially as Mantua had a really attractive operating line within a few feet of it.
The big picture though is, as noted by the Onlooker, “that there is a real and growing interest in this hobby of ours” and also I would add Lionel must have been chomping at the bit to get into OO with it being such a visible gauge at this show with so much new product featured by other firms.

Lionel started publishing a magazine, The Model Builder, in January of 1937. The first mention of OO (or HO) I see in this magazine (the complete run of which may be found at the Train Life website) is in an article on "Scale Comparisons" in the March/April 1938 issue. They took advertising and the first OO related advertisement I see is from you guessed it, Nason Railways, this ad at left is found in the July/August issue. I like the sentiment: "It is easy to build in 'OO' gauge." They ran a good year of advertisements in this publication.

Then in April of 1939 in The Model Builder they had a feature article on the new NYSME layout. The layout in the photo above had to be torn down with a new layout well underway in the article. But in the article they included this track plan, which is of the 1938 layout. In the article it reconfirms that on the 1938 layout "there was a subsidiary called the Union Dock and Terminal Railroad and operated as a narrow gauge division of the larger road. The dock and terminal line was '00' gauge." Looking at the plan you can easily see the perspective of the photo (the OO line being over on the right side), and that the 1938 and new 1939 layouts were featured in this magazine makes total sense as part of Lionel promoting their O and OO scale products.

To close, I would mention that Scale-Craft started publishing their Blow-Smoke newsletter in May of 1938. The beginning of that series is here.

When we return to this series we will have some big news (hinted at above) that will energize OO gauge even more.

Continue in 1938 Series