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

Sunday, October 30, 2011

1939, the Peak Year: Part III, Scale-Craft

1939 was such a big year for the OO line of Scale-Models, Inc. of Chicago (marketed as Scale-Craft) that it is almost hard to know where to start. But as with previous article in this series, on Nason, their catalog is a good place to begin.

This catalog is the one I would call their 1939 catalog as, inside the cover, it states that it is copyright 1939. That said, based on other advertisements I am thinking this catalog came out at roughly mid-year and certainly later than the Nason catalog. And it is much more substantial, 75 pages in a magazine format covering their O and OO gauge products.

On page one the catalog opens with an editorial on “The Fascinating New Hobby.” 1939 was a time frame where our hobby was truly new. The editorial is unsigned but would seem to be by owner Elliott Donnelley, who wrote that
…over fifty thousand men have learned the secret of enjoying their spare time and adding to the pleasure of living. They have accomplished this through the medium of America’s fastest growing hobby – Model Railroading. They can now lay aside the cares and worries at the end of the day and enter another life in a world of their own making.
Right up at the front of the catalog it has a long section devoted to the hobby of model railroading and the choice between O and OO gauges. These two photos show the comparative sizes of the two scales and over a number of pages you can glean various notes on topics including--
  • Cost: “An average ‘OO’ gauge layout is about one-half the cost of an ‘O’ gauge.”
  • Tools: “…the ‘OO’ Scale-Craft locomotives and cars, for the most part, have been constructed in such a way that there is practically no drilling or soldering to do, and it really is a matter of assembly work and painting, which the exception of the refrigerator and stock cars, and one or two of the locomotives.”
  • Why OO: “Two years ago we selected the ‘OO’ gauge as our standard small gauge…. This selection was the result of intense study and experiment with trial systems built in the ‘HO’ and ‘OO’ gauges. We found that … the slight increase in size afforded by the ‘OO’ scale allowed us to use 7-pole armature motors three times more efficient than the best ‘HO’ motor….”
  • Who OO is for: “The ‘OO’ gauge equipment is ideal for the man with limited space and time.”
  • How long to assemble: “Our ‘OO’ gauge locomotives require from 15 to 20 hours for assembly…. [Car] kits require from 3 to 6 hours to assemble.”
  • Power pickup: “The 2-rail system has been perfected for the ‘OO’ gauge … all our kits and parts in this size are made for 2-rail operation.”
  • Minimum radius: 26”
The full OO line as of the date of the catalog included (in order featured in catalog)
The links above take you to more information on those models, most of which have been featured multiple times in American OO Today. Scale-Craft also had a newsletter, Blow-Smoke. It had two issues in 1939; this link will take you to notes on the first one and read on to the next issue from there. The fall issue has news on their new line of structure kits, which would tend to date the catalog as being in print prior to that date.

Finally, we turn to magazine coverage of Scale-Craft. Their advertising was inconsistent and may reflect on uncertainties of marketing and sales overall. My favorite ad from the year is this full page ad from the October, 1939 issue of The Model Railroader, and it brings up a few final items to note on the year for S-C.

The first thing is the 4-8-4, new for 1939, clearly out does anything that any other maker had out. It was a big, impressive model and as they note, at that time it was “…truly, the finest engine model ever built.” After describing the model pretty fully they note that the “New 12-volt AC motor is standard equipment along with two-rail insulation.” But when they note the price of $39.50 they also note that the kit is “complete for three or two-rail operation.” So they recognized the three rail market and also that their original 24 volt DC motor was a bit out of step with that market. But you could still get the DC motor in any model according to the catalog, for $2 extra.

In short though Scale-Craft was going strong and putting a lot of product out on the market including in particular five different locomotive models. When we return to this series on 1939 the topic will be the other big OO manufacturer, Lionel.

Continue to Part IV of the 1939 Series

No comments: