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

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.

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