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

Saturday, December 15, 2012

American OO on Hold in1944: Part III, Layouts and More

Starting the year out with a bang, three different OO layouts were seen in the January, 1944 issues of The Model Craftsman and The Model Railroader.

Turning first to MC, first up is a familiar figure, H. L. “Red” Adams. His article is on the topic of track and scene building, but includes the first published track plan for his new layout and six photos, of which these four give the flavor (as always, click on the photo for a better view). The new layout he wrote depicted “a single track main line located along the Cascade Line of the Espee. This line has heavy traffic both freight and passenger, uses heavy power and hauls long trains.” He reported that he in the past year he had nearly completed the layout. The article itself is geared toward how he laid the track and constructed the scenery. Although not listed as such in this issue, it is also notable that later in the year he was listed as an Associate Editor for The Model Craftsman.

A few pages later in the same issue we find this layout built by L. and Ruby Johnston of Vallejo, CA. It was the sixth contest winner featured from the MC railroad layout contest. The article begins “The Little Journey & Return R.R. was started eighteen months ago. Up to that time I was in O gauge, but the lack of space to build and operate true to scale, caused me to switch to ‘OO.’” Johnston reports also that “The running rails were bought from the Scale-Craft people” and the motive power was two NYC 4-6-4 locomotives and also a “2-8-2 Converted N.Y.C.” The scale of the photo is too small to pick out much else with certainty, but that the locomotives are Lionel is a safe guess.

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Turning to MR, their January issue features an article on scenic backdrops by Richard Houghton. The focus is not on OO gauge, but this photo clearly shows a portion of his OO layout. I wish the detail were better, but pretty clearly visible is a Scale-Craft 4-6-0. Another photo of the layout is seen in the February issue that contains the conclusion of article. His layout had been previously featured in MR in 1940, another view may be seen here.

If that were not enough OO coverage to begin the year, in February MR featured an article on the third prize winner in their layout contest, an OO gauge layout by Mel Kirch. The view published (below) is mostly scenic and “the entire layout was built in 12 weeks, working nights and Sundays.” He had started out in O gauge but “O gauge was too expensive and also too large.” He continues, “OO gauge two-rail looked good, so I bought a flat-car kit and a few feet of track for a trial. Just the thing! From then on my wife and I assembled car kits and house kits….” Soon also he purchased “a Lionel Hudson, a lot of Midlin track, and two switches.” Quite a bit of work went into the layout to be sure, and “the trestle, made from a kit of 222 pieces, is quite an attraction.” The reefer behind the locomotive looks to be a Nason model.

Moving forward to May, in The Model Craftsman we learn that Howard Winther won first prize for locos at NYSME show for his Erie 4-6-0 #67. Is it the model seen in this article?

So far in this article we have seen four different OO layouts in print, which brings up the question of how many people were active in American OO gauge in 1944. The Model Railroader published their Annual Poll results in June 44, and there were 409 actual respondents that were OO gaugers out of 5,105 total. That translates out to only 8.0% but it was still a pretty substantial number of people. Assuming that well less than half of the people active in OO at the time responded there must have been thousands of active OO gauge enthusiasts in 1944.

A long-running feature in MR was their “Along the Division” column, with news items from various model railroaders. One listing that caught my eye was in the September, 44 issue where Bud Spice is mentioned, his OO layout having two Lionel locomotives and 26 cars. Bud Spice will be heard from again, as he among other products later produced the best OO wheelsets ever made! Check the link for more.

The OO layout of the New York Society of Model Engineers has been mentioned a number of times earlier in this series. Due to a move they tore it down, but for a time the layout lived on. According to the October issue of MR the Niagara Falls Model RR. Club “took over the OO layout” of the NYSME when they moved last spring.

Speaking of clubs, they also had club listings in the November, 44 issue of MR, and to my eye the most notable was the North Jersey Midland Club of Irvington, NJ. Newton Guerin is listed as the contact person. The North Jersey group was the largest and most active OO club in the post-war era. I have more on the group here for those who wish to look ahead.

Much more could be reported, but for now there is only one more segment of the series on 1944, be watching for that soon.

Continue Reading in 1944 Series

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