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

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Graceline Passenger Cars Coming Back Together

About twenty years ago these two cars came to me in a lot purchase. And they will come back together soon.

With the recent finishing of two Graceline freight cars I was digging in the Graceline parts and noted these bodies, without sides. Thinking that probably I would never find Graceline sides to use I dug in the J-C parts to see if there were sides that might work. I had these sides there, which I took to be modified J-C sides, tried them on the cars and realized this was the original plan here! The project the prior owner had was to use these sides which are in fact original Graceline sides on these bodies in parts. They were even nicely painted already.

The material used to make Graceline sides is very similar to J-C and the rivet patterns are very similar. What is different is the doors are not part of the sides, they are to be separately applied, and also the ends not only have end castings but also have bulkhead castings. Also for one more spotting feature, the roof stock is flat on the bottom, not hollowed up like J-C. (And the Pullman is shorter than the comparable J-C car, about 75' long).

Probably mostly from that same purchase are these Graceline parts, and after taking the photo I found a few more to use. Note the frame casting that will go on the Pullman, the steps, and the ends and bulkhead that will go on the combine. The only part I am lacking really are those side doors, I don't have enough and actually another Graceline car is missing a couple as well. I could attempt to cast some duplicates but the part is simple enough I think I will just fabricate similar doors from plastic.

In any case it is exciting to finally figure out what this project was and get it going forward. Graceline passenger cars are uncommon to be sure. I will note in closing I actually have boxed examples of both cars as kits so I will be able to get these very close to all original using those for reference.

UPDATE: The finished cars may be seen here.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Two Graceline Boxcars Running Again

One thing I enjoy is getting vintage cars running again. Today these two cars made their way off the workbench.

They are both pre-war Graceline cars, which are now obviously layout ready! The car further away from the camera is their wagon top boxcar. This particular one was seen in an article two years ago and has been sitting on the workbench waiting. I thought about a heavier rebuilding (with the caved in roof in particular) but opted to just get it set up for operation. Closer and in sharper focus is another Graceline boxcar, a wood car with a steel door. This one is painted for the CB&Q and was on the workbench as it had a door missing.

This side view shows the door I found and opted to use. I suspect it is a HO part but the right size and of similar design. In normal lighting the paint matches a bit better than in the photo. This view shows better the early Graceline trucks I used. These can be tuned up to operate (see this article) but can be touchy. The CB&Q car has wheelsets with very heavy flanges that actually bump on spike heads a bit but for sure it won't derail! The B&O car trucks are more like S-C wheelsets but are original Graceline as well. The trucks are fairly free rolling and do the job.

This final photo is a highlight focusing in on the hand painted lettering on the CB&Q car. In person you can easily see the guide lines used by the person who lettered these cars by hand at the Graceline factory. This article shows a couple more examples of these hand lettered cars, and if you focus in on it you can see for example that every "C" is just a bit different, etc. I should note, too, that the CB&Q herald on the other end of the car is printed on paper and glued on.

Neither car had Graceline couplers previously mounted and I am not a big fan of them either, so both now have Kadee couplers, attached simply with a screw. Mostly I run newer cars but the CB&Q car in particular has a charm with that hand lettering, I do enjoy getting these out from time to time.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

A Scale-Craft 0-6-0 for the Orient

Another project through the shops recently was this great Scale-Craft 0-6-0. This was the certainly the best option for a switcher in American OO, and this model turned out great.

The locomotive itself came to me nearly finished, unpainted and I believe it had never been run. It is nearly stock except that the builder had modified the smokebox and left off front end part that was to be in front of the stack. I filled the hole and got that all together. Originally it was to be set up for a working headlight, but the present headlight is a dummy. It is not very visible in the photo but I opted for a silver smokebox front which looks great with this freelanced model.

The tender I built up myself from parts on hand. The tender body itself was selected as it was a clean stock version but also, if you look very closely, it has a few holes drilled in the top, I believe to ventilate the area for the rectifier. Also note I added a rear facing light so the crew could see in both directions. The coal load is shiny, as I masked it before giving the decals their overspray of dullcote. From the top too you can see it is a husky model. The cab is a little oversize, I believe to accommodate the motor.

Looking from the bottom, you can see some of the wires which go to a modern rectifier (more here) and note also that I used Nason trucks for better pick up. The model runs very well with the big motor and the original S-C drive and the rectifier. The only thing to note really is that it draws a lot of current and with a few laps around the layout the tender body begins to feel warm.

Whenever I get around to shooting another video this model will be featured. It is most interesting to me to see this vintage model run, makes me wish I had a large yard to give it a workout! Perhaps someday ….

1949 and American OO. Part IV, Layouts

A common thread among those that would remain active in American OO after the war is that many if not most had layouts. A lot of time had been invested in laying track, tweaking cars for operation, etc. And reality was that, if you wanted to, there was little to stop you from building a layout in the minority scale of American OO.

In the 1948 series some coverage was given of the layout of H. R. Treat, but I will note here that Model Railroader in February of 1949 is where you can find his track plan.  The feature article of the year is found in the June issue of MR, on the layout of Rowland King. King was destined to be a true OOldtimer, as if you want to look ahead there is a photo of his large layout in the last article by Temple Nieter, published in MR in November of 1984!

The beginnings of his Jersey Coast & Western were a laid out in the 1949 article. It was started in December of 1939. Of the original layout he wrote,
Rolling stock consisted of a Lionel Hudson loco, box car, tank car, hopper, and caboose. It ran on Nason rail laid on top of a 4 x 8 ft. plywood table. The road grew fast during the next two years. More track was laid. More rolling stock was added, mostly freight cars….
The JC was just a Christmastime pike in those days, and the rails took a beating each December when the road again went into business. Every fall a new layout was drawn up and built on the same 8 x 10 ft. plywood platform. By 1944 the platform looked like a piece of camouflaging from the war. The innumerable holes for wiring and fastening down track boards, as well as all the different colors that had been applied to it, gave the plywood a weird appearance.
The author finally acquired a permanent place for the JC&W in the fall of 1944 in the attic of his father’s home….
He continues to describe the space and the layout. It was an insulated space about 15 x 24 with an extension on one side – the track plan is in the article. “It wasn’t until June, 1946, that rail was acquired to build freight yards,” and the text details the troubles building the mountain range, etc. Then we get to this very interesting text, about his one locomotive!
The JC&W operates on A.C. from a Lionel Type V Trainmaster transformer. The board of directors would like to change over to D.C. Its members feel that the Hudson is getting old and noisy and might possibly operate smoother on D.C. 
The 4-6-4 has been in the backshops only once for a major overhauling. In 1941 its reversing unit went haywire, and the loco had to be sent back to the factory…. So far, the Hudson has to do all the work. Some board members want another Hudson, some a Ten-Wheeler. However, all agree that Wayne yards need an 0-6-0 switcher. The versatile 4-6-4, used both as a roundhouse goat and fast passenger power, has to go to the backshops once a month for a thorough grease job on its worm and gear.
The Jersey Coast & Western will probably never be finished, for new ideas are always cropping up about changing something.
But it is all in the hobby – and what a hobby for the father of three daughters! 
The photos above are two of the four views found in the MR article. It was a very nice layout, neatly built with a lot of kit built cars. The end of a train with three hoppers may be seen in both photos.

The other layout seen this year is that of Pierre Bourassa. His name is familiar to those who have read much on this website (a brief bio is here), and the November issue of RMC has two photos which are probably the first published views of his layout. From the caption, this photo “shows a Lionel Hudson with a Vanderbilt Tender on a Westchester turntable …. Since these photos were taken, this section of the layout has been given a complete scenic treatment.”

People who had built layouts like this would drive the OO market for the next 20 plus years. In particular New Jersey became a hotbed of OO activity. The club directory published in the March issue of Model Railroader does not show a lot of OO activity except for New Jersey, where four OO clubs are listed. The story of American OO is far from over, as is told clearly with this last image, which could be subtitled “when Pierre met Rowland.” Found among things I received from Bourassa, Pierre almost certainly visited Rowland King in 1981 and brought home this pass and tickets as a souvenir of the visit.

Writing this series and looking at the several years right after the war, I was getting a bit down. I feel as if I experienced some of what the OO gaugers of the time must have also felt. But now in 1949 things are turning around for OO, there were some great models produced in American OO in the 1950s and even 60s. In particular there were a number of interesting individuals active in the scale, and those individuals had no desire to switch scales! There still was a market to serve, and 1950 is the topic of the series when it returns.

Return to beginning of 1949 series

Continue to 1950 series

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Found: Examples of the Nason Flat Car and Gondola

After years of looking I was excited to recently purchase examples of two rare Nason cars, their flat car and their Gondola.

The flat car is the earlier of the two, having been introduced in 1937. The catalog photo shows the C&NW version of this model, but this example is the other version offered, for the B&O. In the photo the model is seen on top of the comparable Scale-Craft flat car, which was not introduced until 1939. The Nason model in a number of ways is more finely detailed. Note the rivet details and the more finely scaled stake pockets, for example. The printed lettering is very clean and on the same type of cardboard stock used for their box car and reefer sides.

Turning the models over, you can see the frame area is much more realistic on the Nason model as well. This is the bronze frame at work. Note that as sold to me this model has Scale-Craft trucks; I will convert it over to a set of proper Nason trucks soon. The couplers are Nason couplers, but cast in aluminum rather than the more commonly seen bronze.

Compared to the instructions the main detail missing is the deck. There should have been a “black scored material” supplied with the kit; the builder opted to leave it off, simply painting the (flat) deck (the wooden frame of the car) black. They also opted not to put on the brake cylinder, which I may opt to add.

The other model to feature is the gondola. This model was mentioned in their 1940 catalog as a model under development, and it was released in late 1940. It was not the first gondola produced, but it was quite a bit better looking model than the earlier (and quite rare) 1938 Hoffman gondola. In the photo my Nason gondola is seen with a Graceline gondola. This model was also introduced in 1940, and it and the very comparable gondola cars by Eastern (postwar) are seen here.

The Nason gondola has printed sides for two roads, PRR and B&O. The most notable feature is that the sides are printed and had alignment marks for the side ribs, which you can see in the photo as the marks are a bit wider than the ribs. These are brass and were attached top and bottom with pins. This particular gondola actually presently has Hoffman trucks on it, which will be replaced soon with a good set of Nason trucks. And note the Graceline car has Schorr trucks, much more finely scaled.

Looking from the top you can see the sides/ends, how thick they look with the wooden body and also the ribs and their pins. This was actually a mistake on the part of the builder, the instructions describe how the ribs were to be notched in on the top and then the top edge of the car covered with a “moulding” cut from “the tuscan red 3-ply cardboard.” Actually also the builder left off the brake platform and wheel, so both cars are missing a couple details. This car presently has Scale-Craft couplers, the underframe setup is complete, and this all in all is a nice example of a very rare model.

Speaking of underframes, I have several more Nason underframes for the flat car. With a complete, original car now in hand I am pondering using them for kitbashing projects, hoping to match the proportions of this car, perhaps using lengthened Tyco sides. A project for another day -- for now I am just happy to have tracked down examples of both of these rare cars.

UPDATE: Digging around in the Nason parts supply I discovered that I had an uncompleted model for the Nason flat. The first photo shows the bottom (click on either for a larger view) and the bronze frame and the original wood parts are very visible. Also note the builder followed the instructions and there is a screw that you would use a nut on to hold the trucks.

From the top you can also see the remnants of the "black scored material" that was to be the deck. The sides are gone and I think the builder was probably not pleased with the model. As to me, at some point I will add some sides and a top to what remains.

One other note being both of the cars featured above are now on proper Nason trucks with good wheelsets! Ready to make an appearance on the layout.

UPDATE II: For an example of flat car kit and more on the production of both of these models see this article.