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

Saturday, September 28, 2013

American OO for 1948: Part IV, H. R. Treat and Other Notes

One of the more visible OO gauge enthusiasts in 1948 was H. R. Treat of Teaneck, NJ. Magazines seem to have been looking for good photos and he was taking them and sending them in! For we find,

  • MC February -- a Lionel 4-6-4 on a bridge
  • MC April -- circus combine model
  • MR May -- circus baggage car
  • MC September -- article on building a dining-lounge-observation

There had been views of his models published in 1947 and would be even more views of his models in both magazines in future years, so this is a good point to jump ahead a little in our narrative. In MR in February of 1949, under the heading “Track Plan of the Month” there is an article on his layout with a number of interesting details. Turning there first, the layout is mostly nestled in one end of a large room (20’ x 30’) with a single track looping around nearly three walls. The curves are super-elevated and 36” radius, with one section of 2.75% grade on the mainline. The layout ran on 12 volts DC and was divided into four cabs, but also “a d.p.d.t. switch tucked away under the benchwork enables AC operation when required for unconverted foreign locomotives, a feature not found on many roads.” This type of setup allowed for running Lionel locomotives for example on the layout, and is a feature that I have pondered adding to my layout. Finally,
Operation consists of making up and running fast mail, coach or Pullman passenger trains, peddler freight and switcher runs, plus the usual engine terminal maneuvering. It is possible to run long trains on the B&T – six- to 8-car passengers and up to 25-car freights.
This photo (from the September MC article) is captioned “The main yards of the Barbaraton and Theapolis Railroad,” and in it you can see a Lionel Hudson (probably converted to DC operation, as it is decorated for his road) and also another locomotive that I would guess to be a Scale-Craft 0-6-0. The earlier photo in this article is of a Lionel Hudson "carrying the Fast Mail" on a bridge, the latter described in the caption as being “designed for Cooper E-60 loading.” It is a layout I could have enjoyed and was in ways ahead of its time with around the wall design. Besides having an interest in sharing them I think part of what got his photos published was that he had, as he states in the September article, “a yen for the unusual.”

Moving on to a few more random items, one item worth mentioning is in the May issue of MR is found a report on the annual NYSME show -- Howard Winther won OO loco prize for his Erie Berkshire. But it was not a new model, if the same one already seen in print as far back as 1936. 

With the big slowdown of products some people were moving on to other scales. In MC in August Edmund Collins is mentioned as a “clearing house for the narrow gaugers” and he had moved on to On3. He had a scratchbuilt OO locomotive on the cover of MR in 1941. The article itself has one other item of note for the OO gauger, the On model locomotive is built on a Nason 2-8-0 drive.  And in another case of moving on, Richard Houghton authored a long series on building an S gauge layout that was published in MR. A 1946 view of his OO layout may be seen here and an earlier view of his OO layout in 1940 is in this article.

With that I will conclude this look at 1948. Things were really slowing down, and in terms of being a commercially viable scale American OO was at best on life support; not enough product was moving for a real manufacturer to make money. But there were some very enthusiastic followers of the scale who soldiered on, and as the series continues a focus will be those individuals, their layouts, their products.

Return to beginning of 1948 Series

Continue to 1949 Series

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Difference of Decades IV: Caboose 58 and More

Up today is another "difference of decades" photo, this one again from the layout of Pierre Bourassa. In those days before the Internet he was a great letter writer and sent many photos out. This photo came to me second hand but has at least two and probably four items in it that I own today.

The photo is dated 2-11-89 and is of his layout. As always, click on the photo for a better view. Taking in the overall look at it, there are six cabooses visible and ten locomotives visible. Looking at the locomotives first, working our way across there are four Schorr RS-2 models in the group, three more modern diesels kitbashed from HO models, a Kemtron GP-7, and a pair of Schorr F-3's. The cabooses in the back are more difficult to ID but I think there are three Schorr cabooses and two are Scale-Craft. There are also two passenger cars that are hard to ID and then the freight cars up front. The gondola is definitely Schorr, the 50' boxcar is Scale-Craft, and then we get to those great outside braced boxcars and caboose 58.

Here are some of those are today. Caboose 58 is a Nason model that has been kitbashed and may be seen in two more views in this article. The roof is removable and it has lights, a very nice model. The outside braced car I don't think Pierre built. It is scratchbuilt and has Scale-Craft doors. It came to me on Scale-Craft trucks too but it was such a nice car I upgraded it with Schorr trucks. In the back are two Schorr F-3 models. I can't be sure these are the same ones as in the 1989 photo but they might be and certainly are very similar. They don't run now and are a bit worse for the wear of years than the freight cars. Those I am still pondering, they are right on that edge, condition wise, between models I would restore as is and models I would think about stripping and repainting--they look better in the photo than they are in reality. No rush anyway for now. These I think Pierre built up and in particular the windshields are a difficult feature to add and are nicely made from I believe real glass.

So where are the other items now from the first photo? Who knows, but I hope they are still out there and being enjoyed.

Friday, September 20, 2013

American OO for 1948: Part III, Smaller Makers Keep Things Rolling

While a fairly slow year, there were two significant, new items in OO for 1948.

First up alphabetically is Eastern; their new gondola car (more here) was a bright spot in the OO world for 1948. A steady advertiser in MR, they ran a teaser ad on the new car in the March issue and introduced the new product in the April issue. This was a good product (the best gondola kit offered in OO—all the different cars are discussed in this article), and their small line of freight cars would be on the market for years and years. My overview of Eastern production is here.

The other new item for 1948 was the SW-1 model by Super Scale, first advertised in the April issue of MR as seen in this article. This was available in multiple scales; multiple views of an example of this copper (brass) model in OO scale as built up by Carl Appel may be seen in this article. (With one of those views below as well). I have a copy Super Scale of price sheets dated 2/8/48, and besides the "EMC 600 HP Diesel" (the SW-1) they also list three more models being available in OO, models I have never seen and possibly not produced, but who knows? The three models are a Baldwin sloping back tender, a NYC 3 Power loco (GE) and a NYC T3 Terminal Electirc loco. Perhaps there are examples out there?

Moving on to other firms, the Famoco GG-1 listed pretty often in advertising for sale by mail order firms. Among their last advertisements is one featuring their Famoco Flash newsletter and discount prices for kits in the May issue of MR. The flyer itself may be seen in this article, and actually the prices are more like close-out prices in reality. The last direct advertisement ran by Famoco related to OO was in the July 1948 issue of MR. Looking ahead, by 1950 they were a HO manufacturer and out of the OO market, although some items still show up in listings that I take by then to be old stock.

Another classic OO line was Picard. They advertised little but the line was still available. The line was fading into model railroad history, though, and I believe their last advertisement may be found in the November, 1948 issue of MR. See this article for more on the firm.

It also should be noted there was plenty of track material on the market to build a layout of any size easily. Tru-Scale, Midlin, Mac Johnston, and Bob Peare “Trackmaster” had products on the market. New in 1948 were the Trackmaster products for OO, described more here. OO switches in particular, they I believe had some crossover market in the time as On3 was becoming a player in the hobby and the track guage was (and is) the same as OO.

Finally, Jerry White advertised custom building in all scales including OO. This article has a scan one of his ads from 1948 and he clearly did make some great models in OO around this timeframe (such as seen in this article).

UPDATE: Mentioned above is Mac Johnston, and this is his OO product. The points are marked with his logo and also his name, making clear which turnouts were his handiwork.

To close this look at 1948 the series will continue with a look at some models by H. R. Treat with other final notes on the year.

Continue in 1948 Series

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Update: Scale-Craft 0-6-0 Running Again

Back over three years ago I posted a brief article on the Scale-Craft OO 0-6-0 model, and the example used to illustrate the article was one I had been stalled with for rebuilding for some years.

But today it is running again! A big piece of the puzzle was finding the Oreland 4-6-0 in this article, which has the late style Scale-Craft motor wired to a modern rectifier. It took some time but I did figure out how to duplicate the installation, with the rectifier in the tender. The tender with the engine is the original tender. In the earlier article there is a stand-in with the locomotive, but in digging in the parts supply I noted that this tender was also number 78 and must have come to me with this engine. It had been shortened and the job was done neatly.

The Morris and Essex was a real railroad but this version was the freelance OO gauge road of George Crowley, who was very active in the North Jersey group, as was the builder of the Oreland engine Newton Guerin. The 0-6-0 model itself was given me by Bill Johann and he must have obtained it from Crowley or through another of his old New Jersey friends.

Back to my rebuilding, the tender was set up for Scale-Craft "banana plugs" and I found two sets of these in my parts supply, enough for this engine and another 0-6-0 in the shops still. That engine was lacking a weight and a few other parts, so I made a good copy of the weight with Cerrobend (and actually used the copy on this M&E engine) and have a tender finished for that second 0-6-0 as well.

As to the tender trucks, eagle eyed readers who click on the photo for a better view will note that they are Nason trucks. On the Oreland engine Guerin used Nason "square bolster" trucks with bronze sideframes. I think they are definitely the way to go -- bronze for conductivity and also to solder the wires on directly -- and I have set up this tender and the other 0-6-0 tender with these trucks and eight wheel pick up. I am not sure what Crowley actually used on it, however. My sense of what happened to the model is it was probably finished with a rectifier (probably an old style stack rectifier) but then he or someone else stripped the electrical equipment and the trucks from the tender before it got to me. Perhaps Crowley wanted to do the same conversion but did not get to finish it.

It runs very nicely and was worth the effort. It has a very realistic speed range and is smooth and quiet. I did have to use some light oil to get things loosened up in the motor/gearbox and will be sure to go back with something a little heavier when it shows signs of drying out again. And in the big picture I am excited that I have finally "cracked the code" and can set these vintage motors up to run on DC. Be looking for more in the coming years.

Friday, September 13, 2013

1939 Lionel "OO" Advertisement from Railroad Magazine

Recently received from Dick Kuehnemund was a scan of an advertisement for Lionel OO that ran in Railroad Magazine. Note the fine print at the bottom to that effect.

The advertisement is not dated but is nearly identical to the one Lionel ran in the March, 1939 issue of The Model Craftsman. A highlight of part of that ad may be seen in this article [the "knee-action wheels"], where I also note that the same ad ran also on the back cover of April, 1939 issue of The Model Builder [link here].

In all three contexts this is a great ad. Engineered for experts, these were not toy trains! The new Lionel OO models were "built for scale roads -- like yours" and could "be equipped easily for outside 3rd rail or two-rail operation." Lionel was casting the net pretty wide to aim for some sales in the growing scale model train market, and I find it very interesting that in this initial advertising the idea of converting these models for outside third rail was put right out there. But that was the most common method in their part of the world, Nason Railways products to that date were all 3-rail (outside) and the NYSME OO layout was also outside third rail.

The highlight images are interesting choices but emphasize in different ways the quality of the product, these scans being snipped from an image of the version published in The Model Builder. The draw-bar pull illustration combines with the ad text (which emphasizes the 20-to-1 motor ratio and worm gear) to show this is a serious model that will run well for years! As to power again, I love this line, "Try it in a tug-of-war with any other model and you'll see!" That would be an interesting thing to set up today.

Finally the trucks. They were a lot better looking than what Scale-Craft had out and were certainly worth a look, the [more] accurate design certainly being something to crow about.

As they conclude in the ad, see the OO Hudson and you will be sold. "Pick it up. Examine it closely. It will win your instant admiration." Thank you Dick for sharing.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Comparison: Three OO Scale Steel Gondola Cars

Up today we have the three American OO steel gondola cars you are most likely to encounter, models by produced by Graceline (and later Transportation Models), Eastern, and Schorr.  All are unique and easy to identify.

First up we have the stack of three cars. The Eastern kit (top) was introduced in 1948. This car is outwardly similar, from the side, to the Graceline car (middle), but there are some very easy to spot differences. First off the Eastern car has a cast frame that says “Eastern” right on it, but beyond that the Eastern car is open top with heavy wooden parts in the sides. In contrast the Graceline car is built around a solid block of wood and has to be assembled with a load. Looking at the sides themselves too, Graceline used a material for their sides that is thinner than Eastern, the rivet patterns are different, and most importantly the Eastern sides are printed while Graceline had to be painted and decaled.

Then on the bottom of the stack is the Schorr car. It is completely different in terms of materials as it is brass and was imported from Japan. A beautiful model, it is light and will normally be found on a set of their great trucks.

Looking at them from the top you can see the differing effects of each car more clearly. The Eastern car has the heavy sides, the Graceline car has the very thin looking sides with a load, and the Schorr car is the best scaled of the bunch.

The last photo is from the “B” end. The ends are all quite different. I should note that the Eastern car in these photos has had Scale-Craft hopper ladders applied to it; the standard Eastern ladder was cast. If there is a reliable way to tell apart Graceline and Transportation models versions of this car, I am not aware of it, as Transportation Models recycled old Graceline parts in their kits and the other parts are similar. I could also note that Temple Nieter made a nice copy, in metal, of the Graceline cardboard car ends. These seem to be among his more common parts, and I have the mold he used to make the part.

All three cars run well and look good! As to the Graceline car, it was built by William Gilbert who at the time was Engineer of Track for the RF&P. They "still had two of these cars in company service to haul crossties from the treating plant .... That is why I had to paint and letter it when I found one."

To close, there were two more makers of steel gondola cars in OO, both pre-war and very rarely seen. The very first on the market was by Hoffman’s, and an example of this kit may be seen here. Then we get to what has to be one of the rarest Nason items, their steel gondola, the catalog photo of which may be seen here.  Also, Picard made a simple body kit for a steel gondola. Finally, I should note Hawk made a wood gondola of similar proportions, which may be seen in this article. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

American OO for 1948: Part II, Douglass Scale-Craft

The years 1947-49 would see a dramatic drop in advertising for OO gauge products, and the most widely advertised of those OO lines was Scale-Craft. In 1948 Douglass Scale-Craft ran no ads in Model Craftsman but they did advertise directly four times in Model Railroader:

  • January – OO power truck
  • February – OO 4-8-4 
  • March – O gauge car kits
  • April – Paint on sale, “to reduce our stocks”

No further advertising is to be found from Douglass Scale-Craft directly. Of the four ads, I think the 4-8-4 ad is the most interesting, it was their last full page ad and this model does not show up in dealer listings. It was to have been available by April of 1947, but it seems like only now was it actually ready. Maybe. This locomotive clearly has the new stamped steel frame, the big spotting feature to tell apart the pre-war and post-war versions (more here). The “welded steel” tender is a nice way of saying there is no rivet detail, but still it is a real nice model in “the ideal home gauge.” Eventually it was produced for sure, and if you want to jump ahead a bit, the new model was the subject of probably the last review (1950) of an OO gauge product published in Model Railroader. And note the price! $69.50 was a bit of a sum compared to the $39.75 the model listed for in the 1940 catalog, for example. The photo in this 1948 ad being based on the same photo as in pre-war advertising.

As already noted, dealers listed Scale-Craft items regularly, and this kept the line in front of the readers of both magazines. I think the Corr’s ad (located in Washington, D.C., “Nation’s Hobby Supply”) from the December issue of Model Craftsman probably reflects pretty accurately what they actually had on their shelves to sell. The scan is a small portion of a full-page ad, and note they don’t have any OO locomotives listed at all. Other dealers seem to have the 0-6-0 and 4-6-0 in stock, along with the flat, tank, and hopper cars as well. The box car sold in this time frame appears to be the 50’ car.

The common thread of dealer listings was that OO was only a fraction of all the items listed and OO was more expensive than HO. S-C I believe was struggling with slow sales, but not all the OO news was bad, as there were actually a few new products in the lines of smaller makers, the topic when this series continues.

Continue in 1948 Series

Friday, September 6, 2013

Trackmaster OO Switches

Working on the 1948 series I could see that a product worth briefly mentioning was the “Trackmaster” OO switches produced by Bob Peare of Clifton, NJ. His first advertising that I have spotted, for O gauge rail and switches, ran in the July, 1947 issue of MR, and his first ad mentioning OO was in MR in March 1948, with OO crossings.

The main thing to note is that soon he advertised that he sold products in all gauges, especially switches. This photo is of a pair of boxed examples of his OO switches. This is a No. 6 switch; top strapped and built up from standard OO brass rail. It looks like a good quality product and would certainly still be usable today.

These were on the market for years, and a note on later (mid-1950s) availability of this product may be seen here. In the time frame I think sales held up OK for products like this, as there were some very active builders in OO still, committed to building and expanding layouts, and maybe some crossover market too from those working in On3.