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

Sunday, October 21, 2012

American OO for 1943, Part I: What Could you Buy New?

In short, everything you could buy new was either old stock from before the war or made of wood and paper. Overall, I am sure it was best to focus on what you could buy instead of what you could not buy. The following manufacturers were active and making products especially useful to those still working on their railroads.

E. H. Bessey had their line of OO boxcars and reefers available, but by June they advertised (in Model Railroader) that they were “closing out” the line of OO freight cars. The line continued in business, but selling primarily wood shapes including during the war wooden rail. More on Bessey here.

Champion car sides were available but not advertised extensively. More on Champion here.

J-C passenger car kits were available steadily at an affordable $1.95 each! Their ad in the April issue of The Model Craftsman mentions they have “new management, plenty of stock,” and another ad in MR emphasized that they were “not rationed.” More on J-C here.

Picard OO car bodies were easily available and would set you back four for $1, a great deal. In their April MR ad they state they have 84 different car bodies in their line of HO, OO, and O bodies, and by November the line had grown further with new gondola car bodies. More on Picard may be found here.

Scale-Craft advertised steadily but with content more along the lines of “buy war bonds” and on their post-war plans. Selley advertised every month, they were able to sell their full line from parts on hand. More on Scale-Craft here, and on Selley here.

The Tru-Scale ad in March of 1943 in Model Railroader states they have a “vast stock in all three gauges.” By June they were running this ad, which states they have plenty of roadbed but are running short of switches. These would have been made from brass rail which was not available for model railroad production. But then there was tragic news in MR in November! Under the headline “Tostado, Tru-Scale Proprietor, is Dead” we read,
Model railroaders of Southern California lost a good friend when, on Aug. 20, Jaurez (“Joe”) Tostado was killed by an automobile while crossing the street in front of his shop. Joe was the proprietor of Tru-Scale Models and the originator of Tru-Scale roadbed. He was a model railroader beyond the extent that he was connected with the hobby commercially.  
In the Fall of 1942 a layout was started in the three-car garage of Joe’s house. As OO had always been his favorite gauge, the layout was planned accordingly. The project took the form of a club with a few friends helping with the work, and every Tuesday evening much activity went on in the big garage. At the time of his death a great deal had been accomplished and the layout had reached a stage where all mainline track had been laid and much of the basic scenery was built.
The article continues that the members of the club had made a rental agreement for the garage and that work on the layout would continue. “The members hope to carry on the model railroad that took form in Joe Tostado’s mind several years ago and try to make it as good in its final form as Joe expected it to be.”

The article was very sad news but it explained a lot about why Tru-Scale made such a good product and in OO specifically. Also just learning the name and by extension the ethnicity of the owner was a surprise in a way; we tend to have stereotypes of what model railroad manufacturers and enthusiasts looked like back in 1943, and he did not fit that stereotype. A real loss for the hobby, but his product line went forward after his passing and some of the line (not the OO part) is still available today.

Finally, there was more available in OO than met the eye in the form of old stock. In particular the Model Railroad Equipment Corp. of New York City advertised in The Model Craftsman that they were “specialists in OO” and for example stated many times in advertising that they had a “large stock of OO kits” including “Two and three rail Nason and Lionel OO locos for immediate delivery,” and what must be J-C passenger car kits. And their big news in August was that they had purchased the entire inventory of Graceline, seen in this portion of their ad.

The January, 1944 issue of The Model Railroader sheds more light on this, as it states that Graceline owner John Devore was now working in an engineering department doing war work. But not to worry, it was not the end of Graceline, they will re-tool and actually have some models back in production in 1944. More on Graceline here.

And, of course, there was quite a bit of used OO out there too, available for example through dealers such as Leonard Blum of Cleveland or as listed in the "Readers' Exchange" advertising in Model Railroader. Enough OO was out there to keep things rolling.

When we return we turn to the topic of layouts in 1943.

Continue in 1943 Series

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