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

Friday, November 23, 2012

Two Approaches to Troop Sleepers in American OO

According to the Wikipedia, “in late 1943 the U.S. Office of Defense Transportation contracted with the Pullman Company to build 2,400 troop sleepers, and with American Car and Foundry (ACF) to build 440 troop kitchen cars.” With these distinctive cars on the wartime rails there was also a desire to own these in model form, and at two different routes were taken to model them at the time.

The first tactic was to scratchbuild the model. Frequent Model Craftsman author H. L. “Red” Adams saw a good topic and was on it with an article that was published in their May, 1944 issue. His article gives a good overview of the prototype and of how he built his model. He begins,
Well, boys, here’s about the latest piece of rolling stock to be delivered to our busy railroads. At first you may be reminded of the old song, “you ain’t a goose, you ain’t a swan, you’re nothing but a swoose.” This particular car is also a “hybrid,” part freight car and part passenger, and goes under the nom-de-plume of “troop sleeper.” Before we build the model, maybe we should give the prototype the once-over. 
This car is built by the Pullman Standard Car Mfg. Co., for the Defense Plant Corporation, so you and I and all the rest of us own a couple square inches of it, purchased with our taxes and war bonds. As we all know the present war has thrown a terrific load of passenger and freight traffic on our excellent railroad systems. Possibly the hardest hit was the passenger division ….
Therefore, it was decided to use the 50 ft. steel box-car frame and body, put in windows and side doors, toilet facilities, bunks, lights, insulation, etc., use high-speed trucks, with the end doors and diaphragms for inter-car communication….
Well now we have given the prototype the once over, suppose we try our hand at building the model. Of course I built mine in OO gauge, for use on my own Beverly Western R.R., but the method is the same for HO or O gauge. 
As in building any of our models, there are two basic methods of construction; you can buy commercial kits and remodel them to your particular type, or you can start from scratch and make everything yourself from raw materials. I usually make all my own models entirely from raw material, if at all possible, and sketches accompanying this article will show sizes to cut your wood parts. However, I must confess that this time I bought a Picard 50 ft. wood box-car kit, and remodeled it to suit the prototype, using 1/16” thick pine sides and passenger car vestibule ends….
You could build up a nice train of these cars in a short time, say a dozen or so, and use them – along with baggage cars – for a “troop” train, adding flats and box cars, etc., if they happened to be moving their equipment along with them. These “troop sleepers,” however, are also used singly and collectively in regularly scheduled passenger trains, either right behind the baggage cars, or at the end of the train, depending on how soon they will be switched off that particular train.
What his article did not say was actually there was also kit offered for this model by Graceline. Graceline was a pre-war OO manufacturer who by 1943 had pulled their line from production. However, in 1944 they retooled their line to offer simplified, war-time kits in OO and also in O, which was a new product line for them. They had their new O gauge version of this car advertised prominently in the February, 1944 issue of The Model Railroader, and later that year had out an OO gauge version. This photo is of a built up example of this kit, for which they produced “troop trucks” as well. I am not certain the origin of this photo actually, but I think it was sent to me by the late Edward Morlok. It is clearly on a good sized OO layout [UPDATE: It is I believe the layout of Tony Cavanna, found a related photo from Ed Morlok] with Tru-Scale track and must date to sometime in the 1980s. The focus is soft but this example looks to be on Scale-Craft passenger trucks. Red Adams had opted to use Scale-Craft freight trucks on his car, hoping that "the Service men riding my railroad don't object too much."

This last scan is of the Graceline O gauge model in their initial advertisement, with a good photo of the model. According to their price list dated January 1, 1945, by that date only comprestic kits were available (with no wood parts), comprestic being the name for the cardboard material the sides were produced from. I also have the instructions that came with the troop sleeper, the drafting dated 1-10-44. The instructions are scaled for the O gauge car kit with wood parts, but a hand-written note on the instructions states “Measurements apply to O ga. only.” As this came to me with other OO items my guess is this instruction sheet might have been sent out with an OO version, that no OO version of the instructions was produced. If anyone has an OO version of the instructions I would love to hear from you.

Finally, for another view of one of these Graceline OO models built up beautifully as rebuilt as an express boxcar see this article, and this article has a master pattern for a troop sleeper end that it would seem perhaps Nason considered producing. This is a distinctive model, one to keep your eyes peeled for in American OO.

UPDATE: And I now own one! Photo and description here. 

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