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

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

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