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

Saturday, February 18, 2012

American OO for 1940: Part I, Nason

To start this look at 1940, we have this advertisement from Nason Railways that was published in the January, 1940 issue of The Model Craftsman.

Note that a big point of the ad is to promote that they have new resources, facilities, and management, and also they highlight that they have “…prompt Service, quick delivery, and guaranteed high quality.” Those may have not been the norm for them in 1939. Nothing kills a company quicker than poor service and inconsistent quality.

The first major OO manufacturer and one of the big three of the pre-war era, 1940 was their last big year. As the 1940 Nason catalog was their last catalog it will be the major focus of this article.

Based on magazine advertisements I would date this catalog to the middle of 1940. This particular copy came to me from the late David Sacks years ago. Inside the cover it notes that this is their sixth anniversary catalog and has an interesting drawing, promoting OO gauge with an owl and slogan. That image may be seen in the Nason 101 article.

The foreword of the slick paper, twenty page catalog makes clearer their situation and hopes for OO gauge going forward.
REORGANIZATION and the placing of our company on a firm financial basis has caused a necessary delay in the appearance of our catalogue.
The QUALITY IDEAL of Nason Railways will be kept intact and in fact, everything possible to make Nason Products the finest obtainable will certainly be done. In addition, we are better prepared than ever before to give prompt service. Since Nason Railways is owned by the employees, every member is only too anxious to have more and more satisfied customers.
Double O gauge (OO) is, in our opinion the logical gauge for those who do not have room for the larger and more expensive sizes. It gives full realism, full scale characteristics, a wealth of detail and the possibility of real efficient motors which start slowly and pick up to full speeds. Its cost is well within reason.
Several new items have been added to our catalogue which we are certain will be of interest to our customers, and several new ones are under study. We have added a Locomotive where almost all the work has been done for you. We have kept the weight of rolling stock very low – as low as it is possible to still give you sturdiness, scale characteristics and detail. We have added a few cars of aluminum of slightly greater weight for those who need an occasional heavier car to balance a train. These cars make beautiful models. Our new track together with switches either built up or in kits will be found not only convenient, but we believe will give the most satisfactory results possible as well as having great beauty and realism.
Turning to the catalog itself, every car or locomotive listed in my Nason 101 article was listed, with two of the items listed there still being considered in development. The aluminum cars mentioned above were actually some of their earliest models but must have been out of production for a period of time. The “Locomotive where almost all the work has been done for you” is their 4-4-2. It was available from Nason starting in the later part of 1939 and had originally been produced by Star-Continental. Priced at $25 for three-rail and $29 for two-rail, in the catalog they say “the Atlantic is a redesign of the Pennsylvania E-6 and embodies a simplified method of assembly.” In short everything was drilled and tapped, and there were “only five simple soldering operations” needed. It would have been easier to build than any of the other locomotive kits they offered to be sure.

One curiosity is the diesel advertised as available in 1939 and described in my article on Nason in 1939 is listed as still being in development, as seen in the photo presented above. On that same page two other models are listed that give a sense of where they were looking as to new products. Sadly, neither the streamlined passenger cars nor the 2-8-2 were ever produced. As always, click on the photos for a better view.

Finally, only one new Nason model was produced after this catalog and it has been featured in a prior article, their gondola. It hit the market not long after the catalog went to press and was reviewed briefly in the October 1940 issues of The Model Railroader, The Model Craftsman, and Miniature Railroading! All were trying I believe to help out their long time advertiser. It is a unique and rarely seen item, from the end of Nason production.

Overall, while Nason put their best face forward the sense you get is they probably were not making much money and for sure they were fighting an uphill battle against HO. HO had a lot of new and affordable items hitting the market at this time that were advertised heavily, but OO gauge not so much. Not to mention if you were a Model Craftsman reader you would have to fight your way through all the gas car articles and advertisements to even notice much of anything on OO gauge.

When we return to this series the topic will be the 1940 OO lines of Scale-Craft and Lionel.

Continue to Part II of 1940 Series

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On the 1939 Blow-Smoke photos of the Scale-Craft Train Sets

Very recently, thanks actually to a tip (thank you!) I was able to purchase a complete set of the Scale-Craft Blow-Smoke newsletters. The first issue dates to May of 1938 and the last was published in the Spring of 1941. As now I had originals to scan I updated most of the articles in my Blow-Smoke series (it starts here) but was particularly taken by these two images which I would like to highlight.

These are photos published in volume 2, No. 2 of Blow-Smoke, for the Fall of 1939. I had only seen them previously in Xerox so to see them now, especially the scanned version blown up a bit larger on a computer, is quite interesting. Click on either photo for that larger view.

The first thing that just jumps out even more clearly is these are both pre-photoshop image manipulations. Basically each photo is at least two photos. One photo is of the OO set being illustrated running on S-C track. Inside of that is a smaller image of the set boxes and track and such. It is actually a bit jarring to me even now as really it looks kind of like a OO set and a N gauge set, the scale relationship is very odd. But those models most certainly are all Scale-Craft OO models, even if it feels uncomfortable to me to look at the kit parts (tank car and passenger car) and then look at the finished car in the background (!) so much larger. It must have taken some skill to produce these promotional images back in that day.

Moving past that though, these photos have a real "wow" factor and other than a few still images from a movie (seen in this article) are the only images we have of these extremely rare sets, offered in passenger and freight versions. With the die-cast models and sectional track on a metal base they were quite a product when introduced in 1937!

For more details on these sets see this article on Vintage American OO Train Sets, which was updated tonight as well.

As a final note, some years before the launch of this website there was a website where they had one of these sets listed for sale at a high price. I did not think to print it out but the site had a quirky title something like "Tom Turkey OO." I believe there probably are examples out there of these sets that were clearly on the market for several years. For sure one to keep eyes peeled for.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Yardmaster Lines OO Gauge Body Kits

In March of 1940 we find in The Model Railroader this advertisement for a new line of OO gauge body kits. They are by Yardmaster Lines and distributed by The Spot Hobby Shops in Baltimore.

This is, so far as I can tell, the only advertisement for Yardmaster Lines ever, and to start right out I have never seen one of these kits. However, there were some listed in the lots that sold at the Morlok auction a few years ago (I bid online on them but did not win), so I believe that these were actually produced.

The ad itself states the details of the line pretty well (click on the ad for a bigger view). Without seeing an example of these cars it is difficult to say if they recycled parts of some other line or were an absolutely unique product.

The only other published reference I have found from the period is in the classified advertising in the November, 1940 issue of The Model Railroader, where we read that there is a “40% Discount Sale on Yardmaster OO body kits. Originally $1, now 60c. Individual sides and ends, 15c per pair.” They were still for sale from the same source, Spot Hobby Shops.

With that I throw this out to readers—anyone have an example of a Yardmaster Lines OO kit? Someone must! I would love to hear from you with a photo or two.

UPDATE I: Is the third car in this article built from a Yardmaster kit?

UPDATE II (2013): In a group of OO paper items came this example of the Yardmaster (Yard Master) refrigerator car instruction sheet. Click on the image for a better view. From it we can glean that these cars are all wood and card. The body would seem to be a solid wood block. This sentence is interesting, as it seems they assume you will use cast ice hatches that would have been purchased separately: "If you do not intend using cast ice hatches, use the ones supplied with the kit, cut out and cement in place." The underframe is wood. I still think there is a pretty good chance the car linked in UPDATE I is Yardmaster.

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Vintage OO Streamlined Car

Back a couple years ago I had an article on a vintage streamlined train that I had recently made operational. That train came to mind as I was recently reviewing magazines from 1940, in particular an article in the April, 1940 issue of The Model Craftsman by H. L. “Red” Adams. A prolific writer of the time and early OO manufacturer who has been mentioned a number of times in American OO Today, Adams was a fan of passenger trains.

In the April, 1940 article Adams opens by noting that “Up to a few months ago, being of a somewhat conservative nature, I had confined my passenger car building to the conventional steel type cars now in general use.” But he had recently constructed two cars of an earlier vintage design. He continued,
Both of these cars turned out all right, but I decided to forsake the past for the present. I built a strictly modern Pullman streamlined roomette, such as used on the Century and Broadway Limiteds for the past year….
For you men that want the ultra-modern cars that are steadily increasing in numbers on our main lines, here’s the method I used:
First of all, procure your wooden parts, which are a roof, a floor, a pair of ends, and the small pieces of quarter-round molding which carry the streamlined effect under the body. If you use wooden sides, as I did, have them cut at this same time….
I had all these parts cut to my drawing specifications by a model company in my city [Chicago] for a very reasonable figure. It would be wise to have all the wood parts cut for whatever number of cars you eventually intend to own, as the charges are primarily for “setting up” the machines, and the cost of five or six cars is little more than the cost for a single car.
There are a number of other details in the description. One is that he likes 1/32” pine for his car sides and also that he uses real glass for the windows. The photo of the finished car in the article confirms also the paint scheme described in the article, with a “dull black” roof.

What caught my eye was how much the car in his photo looks like the car seen here on my layout. The only major, visible difference is that it has had O-gauge size stainless steel fluting added to the sides. This car and the three companion cars, seen in the earlier article, all are of the same construction described in my earlier article on them. They are nicely built up with full interior details, with wood sides and glass windows.

What I have long wondered is if these cars are examples of the Newark Electric streamliner. This advertisement in the August, 1940 issue of The Model Craftsman gives the two most relevant details as they are 1. in Chicago and 2. the wood parts for these cars were “Made exclusively for NEWARK by a reliable scale-model car manufacturer." The car kits included “all the wood parts necessary to build a complete car.” So far as I can tell this was the only wooden streamlined car offered commercially in American OO.

If the set of cars I have (postal, diner, Pullman, and observation) is Newark or not I don’t know, but it is an interesting theory anyway that this train of mine might be an example. The parts are well made and consistent with what I would think a “reliable scale-model car manufacturer” might produce, with parts perhaps made from the same cutters used to make the parts for the car in the Adams article.

The Newark Electric streamlined passenger cars were advertised in HO, OO, and O gauges; there must be a few around somewhere still today. If anyone can add to the history of these cars feel free to comment.

UPDATE: I should have also noted that after the war Exacta produced a fluted side streamline train and Zuhr a smooth side train, both in metal, with the Zuhr cars being seen fairly commonly. Check the links for more information on these.