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

Friday, April 27, 2012

Scale-Craft OO Decals and Drawings 101

Regular readers know that I am fascinated by new bits of American OO history that come up. And those bits can be unexpected in origin, the recent arrival of some vintage Scale-Craft decals being a great example of this.

I have a few S-C kits but looking back in them now I only found one example of an early kit complete with decals and the drawings. I have included that drawing in this first scan of freight car lettering plans, the reefer. These drawings were shipped with the decals and cars, and I believe all date to the pre-war era.

Scale-Craft offered decals for as long as they made OO equipment, from 1937 into the early 1950s. At the end of production they were sold with standard Champion (HO/OO) decals. Originally though, the decals were specially made and shipped out in a smaller envelope, seen below. Decals in this small envelope can be dated to before 1940 from the Scale-Models, Inc. notation (with the full address on the following version of the envelope in Chicago). Also notable is this size of envelope is small enough to fit in their early style boxes. (More on S-C boxes here.)

The text of this first example (I believe the first style of packaging for their decals) emphasizes that these are “face down” decals. I have not tried to use these but they are not like the decals I have ever used before and are most likely unusable today. The adhesive surface is on the outside of the decal, and when you look at the decal it is a reverse image. You place it on the car rather like a dry transfer, but wet as it is a decal, if that makes sense.

This is what the Canadian National locomotive face down set looks like today on the decal side of the paper. On the reverse side of the paper the same basic thing is printed so that you have a way to place the decal. You slide the paper off after you place the decal. I had never even heard of this system before reading the envelopes. It may have worked OK when the decals are fresh but a bit of humidity in storage and they would be ruined. This system did not last.

Some of the decals I have in this size envelope are standard decals that are also clearly made before the move to Libertyville, such as this example. Of these that I have they mostly look usable, a testament to the change of decal type being a great move. These decals look just like the decals used today. I have other, similar envelopes with the full address but for face down decals; they must have had some residual stock of the older decals to work through. (See this article for all five types of envelopes)

In 1940 S-C moved their operations to Libertyville, IL. The decals made after that date in the prewar era are in a larger envelope and are marked “Designed and Manufactured by Wm. K. Walthers, Inc., for Scale-Craft & Co.” The envelope they are in won’t fit in the older, small style S-C boxes, which may have reflected a change in box style at that point (see this article for a bit more on that) or may have reflected that the decals were simply shipped separately. Of the sets of this type that I have now most are very likely still usable. Those I have tried to use needed a very long soaking time for the decals to release from the backing paper but still mostly worked fine after all the years in storage. A good product!

I also found the drawings shipped with the decals to be particularly fascinating paper items as they are clearly of S-C models. The two 4-6-0 models here for example are simplified but unmistakable in origin. As usual, click on any photo for a better view.

To close out this article we have two caboose drawings. Again, they are clearly Scale-Craft cabooses (note the window sizes compared to Lionel, for example) and reflect how they visualized the cars at their best. The car numbers I assume are representational only!

I will wait for the right projects before I attempt to make use of any of these (and then probably only the incomplete/partially used sets), but actual OO sized decals will be a great change of pace from cobbling  together HO sets.

UPDATES: See also:


Steve Neubaum said...

Do you have other sheets that show Scale-Craft's suggested letterings? Is it possible to compile a ZIP file of scans of them, for those of us interested in lettering cars with new decals the way Scale-Craft suggested?

John Ericson said...

I personally don't have any more that are not in this article. I would love to see more if a reader has any to share.

John Ericson said...

And see this article for all the drawings I have available: