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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

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

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