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Saturday, December 3, 2011

1939, the Peak Year: Part VI, Other OO Makers

Looking over magazine advertising of the year there were at least eight other firms actively serving the American OO market in 1939.

Alphabetically we start with Finco. One of the things you need to make a layout is track, and Finco of Philadelphia sold turnouts in HO and OO. The OO turnouts were in No. 6 and wye versions, “held in gauge by brass binders—easily removed.” The line advertised in The Model Railroader.

Next up is Hoffmans, who introduced their OO line in 1938. Their new items for 1939 included a PRR X29 boxcar and also an automobile box car, advertised in the April and May issues of The Model Railroader. The item to add though to my previous articles is that in a recent purchase I found one more orphan Hoffmans truck, seen in this photo. As noted in earlier articles, it was the first sprung truck offered commercially in OO. This particular example looks to be all original based on the patina and such. This particular truck does not track well at all, which may be part of why Hoffmans was soon out of the OO gauge market.

Couplers are also something you need, and an automatic coupler was something that would be especially desirable. Graceline, featured in the previous installment in this series, sold an automatic coupler in 1939 and another firm also introduced a coupler of the same general type, K&W of Cranston, RI. I have a photo of one of these on a car in this article and this advertisement is from the June, 1939 issue of The Model Railroader. The cars in the photo look to be HO models and it would seem the HO and OO couplers are identical. From what little experience I have with them they were likely a touchy design but they did get some use by OO gaugers back in that day. For a photo of one of these on a car see this article.

What layout would be complete without buildings? A steady advertiser in The Model Railroader, Little Gem Models of Dayton, OH had in their November, 1939 ad a line of “Quality buildings for fine layouts. 30 Stock Models from 15c up.” My inclination is from the ad that they must be HO-OO models (and they also sold models in O), but I welcome any further reader information on this line. I have a bit more here.

Mantua still had their line of OO track out, introduced in 1938. What was new was they added a turnout and also couplers to their OO line. These couplers were as they stated in their ad on the back cover of MR for November, 1939 “designed for the HO gauge, but will work as well on OO cars.” I have seen on a fair number of vintage OO models equipped with these hook and loop couplers and they were certainly a popular option in HO as well.

Speaking of track, next up alphabetically is a very important player in the OO track market, Midlin Models of Scotch Plains, NJ. They announced their line of “semi-assembled” OO track in the April, 1939 issue of The Model Railroader. There they note that
As with our popular HO track, this new OO gauge comes to you in three foot lengths with stained wooden ties assembled on one rail. We are using HO rail section as this is nearer scale size for OO gauge track….
Accuracy in construction is equaled by the accuracy in copying the detailed beauty of its prototype. Stained ties, oxidized rail, and real stone ballast lend much to the realism captured in this track. All how have seen our HO gauge have marveled at its true-to-life appearance.
These track kits have been featured previously in American OO Today and at least among post-war OO gaugers was widely considered to have been the best track ever produced in American OO. It is very easy to spot as it has a very distinctive rail with a fin on the bottom that fits into a groove in the ties. One thing I note in this first advertisement is that it was offered initially in 2-rail and 3-rail kits. The ad does not make it clear if it is center or outside third rail but 2-rail version quickly became the standard one.

In June they introduced OO switches and in November featured their new crossing with this nice advertisement. I have never seen these crossings either but they are on a plastic base.

In 1940 Railroad Magazine ran a short article on Midlin track with two good photos of the manufacturing process (including a photo of owner Fred Chemidlin) and text about the firm. I have featured this in a prior article but this quote is most relevant to our article today:
Fred J. Chemidlin of Scotch Plains, N.J., Grew Tired of Forcing Home Midget Track Spikes With Long-Nosed Pliers. So He Designed a New Type of Spikeless Track Assembly. Two Parallel Groves Are Cut to Gage Width in a Cross Grained Strip of Wood, and These Grooves Then Receive the Base Web of Specially Designed Rails.
To see examples of Classic OO layouts built with Midlin track see also this article on the OO Norfolk and Ohio of Carl Appel or this more recent layout by Bill Johann, one of my favorite articles in this site.

Another company with track on their mind was Pratts of Richmond Hill, NY. I believe the track gauge in this article is an example of their solid bronze track gauge advertised in The Model Craftsman in February of 1939. Primarily an O gauge maker, they called this a "2 in 1 type for lining up both running rails and third rail." It was available in HO, OO, and O gauges.

Finally we come to another big line, Skyline of Philadelphia. The first advertisement I have spotted for this Classic line of buildings is in the October, 1939 issue of The Model Railroader. They were “Made of fibre-like Tensilite” and available in two sizes, O and “HO & OO” gauges. This portion of their advertisement shows the HO/OO line as of that time. For a longer overview of this line of structures and photos and links to more see this article. UPDATE: This ad may also be seen in the October, 1939 issue of The Model Builder, which is online; the page with the complete ad is here.

UPDATE: Also I should mention the line of structure kits manufactured by Maxwell Hobby Shops of Oakland, CA. The copy of their catalog that I have is dated 1939, and the line was acquired by Scale-Craft in that year. For more see this article, with a photo of a kit and more found here.

One more installment is planned in this series on 1939, check back for that soon.

Continue in 1939 Series

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