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

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

American OO for 1945: Part I, January-May

As noted at the end of the 1944 series, WWII was thankfully drawing to a close. The Germans surrendered in May and the Japanese in August. With those dates in mind, this look at American OO in 1945 will be in three parts geared around those dates. First up is a look at the year to the end of May.

One item hinted at in the 1944 series is I have a copy of the catalog “effective January 1, 1945” from Graceline Model Railroads. It lists their products in O and OO gauge, all being either “comprestic kits” or die castings. We learn that “Comprestic is an embossed covering …. impregnated to insure against warping.” It looks like all of the car sides and major cast parts of the entire line (more here) was still available. The truck kits “include everything except wheels and axles.” But on the cover of the catalog is this hand written note: “poor service lead castings.” Graceline was on their last legs, but this ad from the January issue of Model Railroader puts a good face on their final production, with a nice review of the line to be found in Trade Topics in the same issue.

Moving on, in the February issue of The Model Craftsman we find this nice photo from part II of a series on building model locomotives by H. L. “Red” Adams. This part of the article focuses on motors and transmissions, and in particular this discussion of motors is of interest. From previous articles we have already seen that Adams was a fan of the original Scale-Craft 24 volt DC motor.
Personally, I have always favored a permag motor for my own OO gauge locomotives, mainly due to the fact that it has a great reserve of power to handle any train that the locomotive will start. Permag motors are also favored because of the remote reversing feature and the fact that they do not require any reverse switch or its attendant wires. Of course, I don’t mean to infer that a GOOD series-wound motor that operates on AC and DC isn’t good, if it has the capacity to handle your trains. But unless you add a rectifier or relay (or hand reverse switch) they can’t be reversed remotely. Then, too, my experience has been that these AC-DC motors appear to make more noise than permags. Now don’t get me wrong. I have seen some very good operation with these motors; in fact, most of our O gauge boys use this type of motor and it is very satisfactory.
I am thinking from that he was not a fan of the later Scale-Craft AC-DC universal motor. Certainly the strong trend in the hobby was to permag  motors at 12 volts in this time frame.

Turning to March, in MR in their Along the Division column they have an item on a club we will hear a lot from in the post war period.
The North Jersey Model Railroad Club, … Plainfield, N. J., claims to be the largest OO organization in America and is willing to defend that statement by taking on all comers. The roster includes 80 locomotives of every conceivable type and some 180 freight and passenger cars. The active membership list boasts of 16, with room for more. All prospective members are carefully examined to make certain they carry bona fide coal dust behind their ears and are real scale model railroaders.
For more on the North Jersey club see this article.

In the April issue of The Model Craftsman Red Adams is back, telling how to build a double deck sleeper! Curiously, there is no photo of a finished model, but the article has the plans in OO scale and his description follows how he would construct one. With this article and others that follow from Adams I get the sense that to a point his assignment was to fill space in the magazine. A similar article in June (on cement hoppers) is also of this more generic style, there is no indication that he really built the models, it just says how to based on his experience.

Things seem to have been slow in the hobby generally and it was clearly a tough time in the hobby industry. For more on this I would suggest following the long series of Walthers advertisements in Model Railroader, where they lay out a lot of the challenges they faced pretty clearly. Thankfully, the war was ending soon.

To close this installment, in April and May we have a couple of the most curious advertisements ever run in the model railroad press. I first noticed these two ads years ago and found them puzzling. They are certainly worthy of a closer look and ran in MR and MC. This scan is of the April ad in MR (the May ad is of another scene), which is a little large for the bed of my scanner but you get the gist certainly. Varney is in short trying to drum up support for taller rail in HO, what would have been in modern terms Code 120 instead of Code 100, which would solve the perceived problem of spike heads working up and causing derailments. The ad copy is visible if you click on the scan. What is really puzzling is the models are Scale-Craft OO gauge models, not HO! These are photos on the OO Birmingham & Glencoe layout of Sid Wells, who in a prior article was described as an “artist, ad-man, executive” by Temple Nieter. The same bridge is in the second photo in that article, and also is seen in this article as well! What possessed Varney to use OO models in their advertising I have no idea, but perhaps he was friends with Wells.  The idea to use larger rail in HO was not well received. Spike heads working loose is an extremely small problem, and HO rail was overscale enough already. What the public wanted was better track products.

Speaking of track, when we return to this series we have a huge OO gauge layout to visit on a military base and more.

Continue in 1945 Series

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