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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Excessive Dimensions Load and Reports

Up today we have not only a very nice OO gauge model but also the paperwork that goes with it. The model and forms are from William Gilbert. Gilbert worked in the railroad industry and one of his duties was to clear oversized or extra heavy loads, and as a model railroader he also enjoyed accurately modeling these loads.

The flat car itself is converted from an AHM HO car. Gilbert split the car down the middle to widen it to OO and added a new deck and bolsters. It is riding on Schorr trucks and has decal lettering. The load is what makes the car unique. The shovel arm is marked “Banner U.S.A.” and the (kitbashed) model looks well proportioned for OO.  (And yes, two of the tie downs are broken and I forgot to dust it off better for the photo...).

The car has three pieces of related paperwork with it. First up is the car card and waybill for the car from his freelanced Grand Island Railroad, which shows that the car was to be spotted at the Marion Crane Co. for loading of a new power shovel. The back of the car card having other useful notes, including that it is an AHM HO conversion and the note “H/W 5202.”

The more interesting paperwork is the H/W 5202 form, the excessive dimensions load report. This you will need to click on for a better view to read the fine print. From his background I believe that this is based on prototype paperwork in use in 1952, the date he chose, and various details can be easily gleaned by anyone interested in prototypical operations. (See also UPDATE at end).

This final scan is of the same paperwork for a larger load, a fabricated tank supported by two flat cars, the model having been featured and described in this earlier article. This form shows greater restrictions including a general speed restriction and more.

Both of these loads look great and these cars periodically run on the layout, very fine cars. And yes, my crew will need to protect those clearances!

UPDATE: A prototype form that follows closely the same design as these forms may be seen here (scroll down). The topic is outside my expertise but this form seems to have been in use at least since the 1960s.

Friday, April 26, 2013

American OO in 1946, Part IV: Transportation Models, Eastern, and More

A number of smaller makers were active in the OO market in 1946. Of all the models out in American OO in 1946 among the most vigorously advertised would have to be those of Transportation Models. They advertised steadily in The Model Railroader, this ad from March (full of fine print) being representative; “Hundreds of orders.”

Those orders would have been direct orders and also orders from shops that wanted to get post-war kits on the shelves. Their models are seen in the advertisements of mail order places as well. Clearly they were shipping product, and a good bit of it. They must have had a large supply of Graceline comprestic parts to work with and clearly realized that there was a market thirsting for new products after the war.

The contents of a typical Transportation Models kit may be seen in this article. The boxes marketed these kits to the youth market which must have sounded like a good idea at the time but I don’t think youth were really looking for kits in OO Scale. And while I hate to be so direct I think if a youth actually purchased one of these kits they would quickly find them to not be that good; not real easy to build, castings that were inconsistent quality, trucks that were very fussy to assemble, etc.

They perhaps recognized that, too, when in their June MR advertisement they emphasized that their die castings were in a new, less brittle alloy. “Clearly reproduces the fine detail in the former Graceline OO dies.”  The second scan here being of their August MR advertisement, which emphasized the quality of their line. Also, by late in the year they were selling their trucks built up, which was a good idea as they have so many small parts. I have a couple of the empty boxes for these, so they must have shipped and sold a few to eager OO gaugers of the time.

I would also note that while the boxes of their kits mention a line of passenger cars, I see no evidence in 1946 that they actually shipped out any passenger cars. I will be looking at this question as the series continues.

Eastern started tipping their hand that a line was coming, with their very first advertisement running in the March 1946 issue of Model Railroader. In the July issue of MR they presented the first car of their new line, a reefer kit, and their boxcars were first advertised in the October MR. These cars utilize a number of parts that are identical to those sold by Famoco, and sources indicate that the wood parts were made for Eastern by Westbrook (which, again, appear to be identical to Famoco parts). These were good kits and were "Truly a fine addition on any pike." For more on Eastern see this article.

Exacta also had a new line out that included models in HO, OO, S, and O scales. The first advertising describing the line is found in the April issue of MR. The initial product was a line of “moulded” copper streamline cars. The new line was reviewed in the July issue of MR, where we learn,
The detail incorporated in these electroplated car sides is abundant and has eye appeal. Considerable third dimension is obtained with this process, and the copper sides and ends can be soldered together without difficulty. Windows and door openings are outlined but not punched out. Detailed plans and instructions are included.
My overview of Exacta is here (with notes on their 1946 catalog), these have been built up into beautiful cars that are only rarely seen. A gallery of photos of the HO version of the streamliner may be seen here in the HOSeeker site. They also listed a caboose and other freight and passenger cars, none of which I have ever actually seen in OO. Hopefully some are out there.

Pre-war OO manufacturer Famoco was back with a motor, the first photo of which I see in the Polks advertisement for April. They also had out a track layer that is seen in this ad in the October issue. They have two ads in this issue actually, the first Famoco advertisements seen in years. The product itself is, notably, available for HO, OO, S, and O gauges; Famoco was branching out. And, curiously, I don’t see advertising that would indicate that they had their pre-war products out at this time, but they were coming back soon. More on Famoco here.

Also it should be noted that the great Midlin track was back in production, having expanded their plant, and Tru-Scale was also advertising and shipping products. I should note briefly also there were some new structure kits and accessories on the market, but most are HO-OO products, such as this Windsor Model Railways icing plant for example, as advertised in the April issue of MR. This and other lines of HO-OO (and OO) structures are briefly described here.

To close for now, I did not note any Bessey advertisements, but I do have a copy of their 1947 catalog, so I suspect they had the same OO products available still in 1946. More on the Bessey 1947 catalog here.

When the series returns we have OO layouts and more to look at.

Continue reading in 1946 series

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Difference of Decades III: More Bourassa

It always catches my eye to see cars that I have in my collection in vintage photos.

In some recently received materials were a group of photos from Pierre Bourassa showing five cars I would like to highlight. First up has to be this very nice photo, which he captioned “The old Boy!” That locomotive must be out there somewhere today, it is I believe a Johann 2-8-2 and is a beauty. Right behind it is a pulpwood flat and a gondola lettered for the FEC. And it is a very nice portrait of their maker. As always, click on the photo for a better view.

Pierre is no longer with us but the pulpwood flat is alive and well in Arizona. It is scratchbuilt from plastic with a real wood load that is removable. I upgraded it slightly a few years ago, putting it on a set of roller bearing trucks, and have two more similar cars also built by Pierre (a view of this flat and another may be seen here). Just to the right is another FEC gondola built by Pierre from plastic and wood (I believe using a Picard body), not the same car but a cousin of the one in the vintage photo. It is a nice mate to the rock gondola I purchased from Pierre years ago, seen in this article (updated with another vintage photo from his layout). As he explains in a quote there, Florida was a vacation destination he enjoyed.

This third photo is dated April, 1991. It shows a glimpse of his shop and a group of cars he had for sale. I believe that I ended up with at four of these cars. Starting way over at the left, I may have that caboose and gondola too, but the photo is too vague to tell. I do have three and probably four of the boxcars however, starting with the green one and working over. You got a good glimpse of them in the second photo, as well.

They are all Eastern boxcars (more on Eastern here) that have been painted and lettered with decals, three for Canadian roads. They came from the factory with printed sides that are very hard to match. Plus for someone with a large layout like Pierre, you need more variety, and painting these cars is a very practical solution. All are running on Schorr trucks today and have Kadee couplers, most with extra brake details. The THB car was painted over Scale-Rail sides for the Cotton Belt if you look closely. The CP boxcar I am thinking was partially restored by a subsequent owner and that restoration left the patched paint scheme. But it could actually just be another car in the same paint scheme, Pierre must have had more than one of such a common Canadian car.

It is a treat to run them together now in the same order as in the photo. I did have to do a bit of restoration on two of the boxcars to get them in condition to run and more could/will be done to fix minor cosmetic issues (paint chips to touch up, mostly). But these operate great and I enjoy as well that I can connect them directly to Pierre and his layout.

For more on Pierre Bourassa, see this article.

Continue reading Difference of Decades series

Saturday, April 20, 2013

On Using Pre-War Scale-Craft Decals

In the past year I obtained several examples of vintage Scale-Craft decals, introducing the topic about a year ago in this article. Even as I initially looked at them I thought some should still be usable, especially the last type that was produced by Walthers for Scale-Craft.

Also fitting into this story is I got interested to rebuild a pair of cars that are seen in this article. The story there is years ago I purchased an engine and some cars from David Sacks, and he sent along a photo of the engine in service but with some other cars on his layout. Those cars ended up in storage for many years in an unfavorable location but eventually those cars also made their way to Arizona as a donation to the OO SIG. They caught my interest, I had a connection through that photo, and they were saved. But really were not in very good shape, as the photos there show.

The Lionel boxcar I stripped and re-lettered in a PRR lettering scheme that would be an accurate one for the car (one of several) but different than the scheme Lionel used. But the gray wood boxcar would need a bit heavier rebuild. I got going on it slowly and decided to not get real heroic, just make it into a clean car.

The original decals were flaking off badly, and the car overall looked kind of terrible. In flaking off the decals I could see there was ANOTHER set of decals under the gray paint, the car had been boxcar red originally. It had no proper frame either and the roof ribs were pretty terrible in a way, as they are cut down O scale roof ribs I believe.

But again, I decided not to be too aggressive. I put on new wood doors (made from plastic) and a Nason frame on it, cleaned off the old decals and attempted to restore the sides. When painted again it came out looking rather nice in a vintage way, but I had to decide on decals.

In the first photo is seen the finished project. I found a very similar B&M paint scheme on a similar car online, and it came out pretty well.

The decals are from the set seen in the second photo. These were chosen as among the Walthers era sets I have it was in probably the worst shape. The B&M decals all worked fairly well but required a LONG soaking time of close to 15 minutes to let go. The reporting marks also required a long soaking time and half of them fell apart before I could get them on the car. They also required quite a bit of decal setting solution to get them to snuggle down, but they did, as seen in the photos, snuggle down -- mostly. Modern decals would have done better, but they came out pretty well all things considered.

I was excited that I could actually use the old set and the car, while not perfect, has a nice vintage look, and a much better vintage look than when it came to me after the years of poor storage.

Since I mentioned the PRR boxcar that was also part of this project, to close here is that car as well. That car also had a very heavy/peeling paint job and flaking decals. It had actually been painted twice by Sacks, the sides at one point were painted yellow and then he painted over the entire car with boxcar red. I stripped it off as well as I could and the car looks very nice running in a train, makes one wish that Lionel had offered a few more paint schemes on that car....

See this article for more general tips on using vintage decals. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Collector Consist and American (and Canadian) OO

Among recent materials received were a number of articles clipped from magazines. Among those were a group of “Collector Consist” articles from Railroad Model Craftsman on topics related to American OO by Keith Wills.

First, an admission, I have not subscribed to RMC for a number of years. RMC was actually the first magazine I purchased and I subscribed for a time, but presently I tend to buy copies of RMC randomly during the year (mostly in the summer, when I have more hobby time). I need probably to re-think my purchasing habits. There was a long period in the 80s and 90s in particular where I rarely purchased RMC, and that is the time frame of these articles by Wills related to American OO.

I believe I saw the first of these as it rings a bell a bit for me. “Whither OO – A look at a vanished scale” was published in the June, 1986 issue. Having then very recently completed the articles I wrote with Ed Morlok that were published just months later in the TCA Quarterly (see here for a bit more on those) I think I may have initially been a little critical of what Wills wrote. With the passing of years I look at that same Wills article and think it really is a pretty good effort. There are some minor problems, but I can triangulate what his sources would have been, and above all he was not an OO gauger, just someone interested in the history of model railroading. That he wrote the article at all was a start! He certainly understood the big picture, was interested in learning more, and there was more to come from him on American OO.

Almost all the other articles below I don’t believe I have ever seen, and I am indebted to William Gilbert for clipping them and sharing them with me now. Of those that are focused on OO, these three below are all very much worth tracking down for the photos and text:
  • Canadian double O (November, 1991)
  • bOOm years (July, 1997)
  • Variations on a theme (March, 1999)
The first article focuses on the late Pierre Bourassa. The first photo above is a color view in my collection of the same locomotive that leads off the Wills article, a Nason Hudson that he built up in 1950. Read more here about Pierre and that locomotive here, and then also note in the same article this great gem of a photo of an early model by Temple Nieter! Nieter was an enthusiastic supporter of American OO, with an article published in the second issue of The Model Railroader (read more about that here) and was very encouraging to me as I got started in OO gauge many years later (more on that here).

Next up is “bOOm years,” which is on the topic of a variety of the early OO makers with nice scans of early Nason, Star, and Limco models. This Nason scan he dates to ca. 1935, and I can confirm that is in fact the 1935 Nason catalog. I love that screaming cover and the P5A. OO was a scale on the move!

The last of the articles focused on Scale-Craft OO, their 1937 catalog (more here), and on OO info in their Blow-Smoke newsletter, which Wills must also have had access to (more here). The title relates to how they took the 4-6-0 castings and used them to expand the line in 1938, a tactic also employed by Varney and Mantua in HO. And Wills brings in some insight that I would not have thought of, as I now realize that I am pretty used to seeing Canadian OO models...
Scale-Craft took that idea and expanded upon the basic Ten-wheeler to make others. In its July/August Blow Smoke consumer newsletter [more here], it announced a new Atlantic using the same boiler and tender castings. A photo showed it with a tilted Milwaukee logo, while copy said that this type of locomotive could be found in use on practically every railroad in the U.S. and Canada. Scale-Craft’s repeated references to Canada and its use of Canadian road names was unusual when it seems so few companies recognized potential sales there. Other than an occasional boxcar with one or two major Canadian road liveries, such products were rare. It appears Scale-Craft was more aware of that market than others and hoped to gain sales from across the border with such mentions.
There are others that Gilbert clipped from RMC that are not just on OO, but OO is mentioned:
  • On Hold – World War II restrictions (October, 1986)
  • Our Scale Heritage – early scale Hudsons (January, 1988)
  • Budds eternal (November, 1993)
  • JC: Just Classic (May, 1994)
  • The weeding out decade (January, 1995)
  • Snapshots: 1954-1958 (October, 1996)
  • The big sale (June, 1997)
  • Fin-de-siecle, Part II (October, 1999)
  • Fin-de-siecle, Part III (November, 1999)
  • Westbrook (September, 2006)
  • Crème de la crème (March, 2008)
I am fairly sure I had seen the article on Budds before; Schorr was the only maker to sell a full length Budd RDC in that time frame, this being a photo of the model in my collection. (A bit more on this model here--it is a Japanese brass import). The other articles are new to me, and undoubtedly there are more that touch on the topic of American OO.

Reading these articles I got interested to learn more about Wills, and found that he was featured on a recent podcast:
Unfortunately, this episode (number 31) I can’t seem to download anywhere. Hopefully it will come back online, as more recent episodes I can easily download. But at least they do offer this bit of text which puts Wills in context for us as well,
For the past 30 years, Keith Wills has served up that reminder monthly, as the author of the Collector Consist column for Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. Keith joins Jim to talk about his column and his lifetime appreciation for the model trains of the past.
Thanks again to Bill Gilbert as well for sharing these, and I have more from the files from him which I will get to in the coming months.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Top Nine Articles -- First Five Years of American OO Today

First, I want to thank anyone reading this for your support for American OO Today. Today marks the fifth anniversary of this site, launched on April 12, 2008 with this short article.  Since then the site has grown to include well over 500 articles on a variety of topics, and the articles below are the “top nine” over these five years. Why nine? That is the way they come up in the overall stats most easily available to me. It is an interesting list, one I invite readers to check through.

8-9. Layout Tour [2008] and 1939, the Peak Year: Part V, Famoco, Graceline, and JC

We start with a tie; these two have exactly the same number of page views as of today. One thing I puzzle over when I look at the stats is why certain articles rank so high. In this case the layout tour article certainly comes up in searches for layout tours or something similar in Google. The 1939 series article I am not as clear why it comes up but perhaps it relates to image searches. For sure all of the articles in this list have some decent page rank within Google, as there are a number of older articles on the site that have hardly any page views in comparison to these. (This knowledge also helps me tweak what content I put forward; I have adjusted content somewhat in relation to my perception of reader interests).

7. Scale-Craft and Lionel sectional track for OO gauge

The popularity of this article relates mostly to Lionel OO track, but I am glad with it to also open the eyes of collectors to the early Scale-Craft track, which on the whole has held up as a good product but is not as widely recognized (and hardly ever seen for sale).

6. How to bench test a Scale-Craft Universal motor

This one gets at how to understand those old-style universal (AC/DC) motors that were common on pre-war models. This article is useful for collectors outside of OO and comes up in searches, and I would acknowledge again Dick Gresham for his text which was very helpful to me and continues to be helpful to others.

5. 1939 Bonus: Lionel OO Layouts in The Model Builder

This article I think is popular in relation to searches for Lionel layout plans, not OO, but still I am glad that readers find it and get to know a bit more about OO. And the layout plan will actually work in O gauge, the track geometry is the same.

4. A Mantua/Tyco 4-6-0, and other Mantua OO

This article appeals to people who are searching for information on the fairly common Mantua/Tyco 4-6-0, an overscale HO model very usable in OO. But it also introduces more about the OO line produced by Mantua before WWII and spreads the word on OO with a different group of people.

3. 75 years of the Nason P5A

Most of the text of this one is by Ed Havens and actually it is that text and the photos linked which is what makes this article rank so high in the site. I enjoy this article, honestly, as the text really is text I could not have written and it highlights to a wider Internet audience this classic OO model. And I would say again, this model is one the serious OO collector will want to own, it was the first commercially successful OO locomotive.

2. Vintage American OO Train Sets

Speaking of serious OO collectors, the sets by Lionel are the draw for this article, but regular readers also know by now that I really enjoy setting context and making connections in these articles. So in this case we also get a look at the very early OO sets by Scale-Craft and Strombecker, models I am glad to introduce in the article to anyone starting out in working with vintage American OO models.

1. Lionel OO Gauge 101

And of course that is the number one article, actually by far the number one article on the site, found by people looking for basic information on Lionel OO! As long as people are collecting pre-war model trains there will be interest in Lionel OO.

And that is the rundown. As searches are a big reason why people get to this website, the top search keywords are:

  1. american oo
  2. lionel oo gauge
  3. americanoo.blogspot
  4. lionel oo
  5. american oo today
  6. american oo gauge
  7. lionel 00 gauge
  8. oo scale trains
  9. lionel trains oo gauge

Note that most searches confirm that people are mostly using “OO” as letters rather than “00” as numbers to refer to our scale.

I have enjoyed working on this site and plan to keep going with it. Looking ahead, in the big picture my goal I hope to achieve in about five years is produce an E-book on the history of American OO, based on text of the history series currently going into the site and my American OO Checklist draft. It will take me several more years to complete the history series, and I am discovering new things all the time. Thank you again for your support and keep spreading the word that American OO is not dead yet! And if you use Facebook become a fan.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

American OO in 1946, Part III: Nason Struggles Along

With their OO production dating back to 1934, on the plus side it is great to see Nason Railways advertising steadily all year. I don’t have the complete year of Model Craftsman but do have the complete year of Model Railroader, and it would seem that the MR and MC advertising was identical. By month the year began as follows:

  • January: “Deliveries of brass rail will commence March 15”
  • February: “Bronze castings are trickling in. P5A drivers now available....”
  • March: Drills and taps
  • April: Drills and taps
  • May: “new ‘OO’ trucks are coming”
  • June: Trucks “are advancing” toward production

A promising start, and for sure people were anxious to get some of their OO trucks after the war. The year continues,

  • July: Hope to have trucks “next month” and caboose kits are available now
  • August: Latest arrivals are box and reefer kits, ties, decals
  • September: Famoco motors (!), 2-rail Atlantic drivers 
  • October: Consolidation tender tanks, other parts
  • November: Gears and more consolidation parts
  • December: Consolidation and Hudson driver castings, rail

In the big picture the small monthly ads don’t paint a picture of a company doing well. Clarifying considerably their status I have in the files a letter and price sheet from December, 1946, this image being a scan of the beginning of the letter. It is a form letter that reads,

Dear Sir,

In response to your communication of Dec. 10 we are mailing a copy of our 1941 catalog, which is the only issue available now.

Some prices have changed and many items are unavailable at this time. Enclosed, please find list of items, available for immediate shipment. In addition to the items on the list, we have on hand, many small parts and castings and more are arriving every week. 

Therefore, if you are in need of any special, hard to get items, we suggest that you let us know what they are and perhaps we can supply you.

Trucks will be ready soon and we hope to have our complete line back on the shelves in the near future.

If we can be of any further assistance to you please do not hesitate to call on us.

We thank you for your inquiry, and look forward to serving you further with “OO” quality equipment.

Yours very truly
Edward V. Kelly

Still no trucks after all these months? Who is Edward Kelly? And where’s Hugh Nason? Hugh Nason in pre-war photos looks to be in probably his 50s (see here for example), and it would seem he is out of the picture with a new owner. Which is another element of why Nason Railways was having trouble getting things together in 1946.

To summarize briefly the price list with the letter, it included:

  • Rail, switches, ties, spikes
  • A rerailer kit
  • Model railroad paints, decals, lubricant, drills, taps, screws, scale rulers 
  • Box and reefer kits, less trucks and underframe ($1.40)
  • Caboose kits, less trucks ($1.50)
  • Reverse switches (I am thinking for an AC/DC motor such as the Famoco motor seen in the advertisement)
  • Driver castings for the Consolidation and Hudson locomotives (but notably not the P5A and Atlantic drivers that had been advertised)
  • Box and reefer aluminum underframes (“JUST ARRIVED”)
  • “Arch Type Roof Wood” (for passenger cars)

As you could purchase a few of their kits in 1946 it is a good time to feature this photo of three of their boxcars. The one on the left is a vintage car (seen also in this article) and the other two I built, the Union Pacific car completed very recently. That one has a bit of a story on my end as it is actually one of the first ten OO cars I ever owned. It started life as a junker reefer sent to me by Temple Nieter. I had an idea to convert it into a composite boxcar with wood sides and metal ends. I did some of the work toward that goal in the 1980s and got badly stalled. The car sat around for years. I finally made a command decision to just build it as a nice example of a boxcar and make use of vintage Nason sides and ends. The car came out pretty well, but I don’t think this is a product that people were really waiting to buy more of in 1946. What differentiates late Nason production from early of this kit I don’t know either, but there are clearly some obvious variations of their wood parts over the years, not to mention variations of truck wheelsets and such.

What Nason really needed to do in 1946 was bring out something new. Prototype models are known to exist for Nason locomotives that must date from this time frame, one sold on eBay not that long ago in fact, and I have a master pattern for a troop sleeper end that would seem to be Nason. The spoiler alert being they did not get any new item into production after the war. But that is a story to continue when we look at 1947 in a few months.

On the year there is one other interesting Nason side note in an On3 layout story in the October issue of Model Railroader. The builder had used Nason 2-8-0 drivers/frame to build first locomotives on his layout.  There are probably a few early On3 models floating around out there with Nason parts in the drive.

Nason was struggling a bit, but an optimist would be thinking from the advertising that they are trying to get some product out, and better things must be coming soon in OO gauge.  And there were other companies bringing out new products, who will be the focus of the next article in this series.

Continue in 1946 Series