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

Thursday, January 30, 2014

American OO in 1950. Part II: The S-C Round Lake Catalog

The biggest OO publication of the year was the new Scale-Craft Model Railroad Data Book (catalog). With an address of Round Lake, Illinois, the catalog as noted in part I was to ship out by March of 1950. In addition to this catalog there is a price list dated September 25, 1950, keyed to the catalog pages, which seems to be the final price list produced by Scale-Craft. Catalogs and price lists shipped out 1951 and later are the same publications but with rubber stamps that only OO equipment was available and a street address in Lake Forest, IL.

But that jumps ahead a little in the story and this catalog is worth a very close look. It is 52 pages long in a handy 6” x 9” format. The opening comments, likely written by owner Elliott Donnelley, set the tone.
Scale-Craft has a new lease on life. What is past is past. We only hope that our old friends will “forgive our sins” and our new friends will never have cause for complaints that cannot be adjusted.
We still have great faith in O and OO gauges and we intend to do everything in our power to further the popularity of these two gauges.
Our new policy of carrying on business will strictly be on the mail order basis – factory to consumer. We feel that we can serve the model railroad fraternity far better if we have direct contact with you as a customer rather than going through an intermediary. In the past this has been proven out a great many times. Mistakes, unfortunately, do happen. Whenever we have been able to get the gist of the trouble first-hand, we have always been able to straighten it out with the least amount of fuss to the satisfaction of everyone concerned.
Since the war, we realize that a great many Scale-Craft parts have gone out into the hands of our customers which are not as they should have been. If you have any such parts, please drop us a line and tell us about them. We are sure we can straighten out your trouble. 
A number of things can be read between the lines there, and there is yet more front text to read over. I found the section “Choose Your Gauge” to be interesting in the context of the times, particularly this illustration of the comparative size of O, OO, and HO gauges with the HO model blacked out (and a bit underscale). The text mentions “five scales in common use in the United States and Canada,” which would be TT, HO, OO, S, and O. “Each has its own appeal.”

Moving on to OO products, there are several NEW items, not listed in any prior Scale-Craft catalog and jumping ahead on them too, I am not convinced that they were actually produced. But here they are listed in the catalog and also the price list. I think what we are looking at is the list of models Donnelley had hoped to add to the line right after the war but did not quite make it to production and maybe did not quite make it into production in 1950 either. All could easily be mocked up today from parts still, and I would guess that is all the catalog photos really are as well. But I put this out as a challenge to readers, look over your kit box collection, do you have any of these models?

The 50’ foot, single door boxcar is seen fairly commonly and was a model introduced in 1946. But as I note in the Scale-Craft 101 article the following models are listed in the Round Lake catalog:
  • Three other variations of this car with stamped brass sides (50-foot double door and 40-foot single or double door) were cataloged but perhaps never made [speculation also is that the original box car dies were damaged]
  • A 50-foot steel reefer that was probably never made, based on the 50-foot boxcar (link above)
  • Die cast MU cars which were based on the die cast passenger cars (illustrated in the Round Lake catalog but perhaps never produced either)
  • And an orphan item, a new four-wheel passenger truck (friction bearing) that I would speculate might have been intended for an express reefer model.
That last truck is not common but is seen, I have several examples of it. But going back to the boxcars, steel reefer, and MU cars, they are all listed in the March catalog and in the September price list. One scenario I have in mind is this. Say you ordered the 50’ 6” automobile car. Whoever filled the order might have shipped you a 50’ single door boxcar and an extra set of doors and guides. Or you ordered the MU cars; you just needed a few extra parts in the die-cast passenger car kit to build it. Speculation, I know, but at this point I do question if any of the models below were actually sent out in marked kit boxes, or if any of them actually had instruction sheets produced.
  • OOF-626, 50’ 6” refrigerator car
  • OOF-630, 40’ 6” box car
  • OOF-628, 40’ 6” automobile car
  • OOF-625, 50’ 6” automobile car
  • OOP-653, MU passenger car
  • OOP-654, MU baggage car
  • OOP-655, MU combination car
The catalog notes that “An extra baggage car casting must be used to make the Combination Car Kit. This is listed below.” That being the OOP-2057 extra baggage car body casting plus one door support and two doors.

First, a quick look at the new freight cars. All are based on the 50’ boxcar body stampings. In terms of catalog copy, I like the 50’ auto car the best, as clearly it was written by someone with connections to the printing industry.
We have added this car to our line because of the increasing popularity of the longer length car in actual railroad practice. Probably more newsprint rolls are transported in the 50’ 6” automobile cars than in any other type of car for two reasons. First that it is easier to get the rolls in and out of an automobile car because of the larger doorway, and secondly because of the fact that the cars can be loaded to get the lowest freight rate. There are only a very few railroads that do not have an extensive business in handling shipments of paper of one kind or the other. 
For me personally the steel boxcars and reefer that seem to have not been produced are no huge loss, they were not real well proportioned models, but the MU cars really look quite nice. From the catalog copy,
We are offering for the first time multiple unit equipment for the model railroad fan who desires overhead power operation…. The kits for the multiple unit equipment consist of detailed die cast bodies, wood roof, working pantographs and assembled power truck and one trailer truck….
It may be just that the market for this was so limited that very few were sold. The only example I have ever seen is found in a photo album (here) in the Yahoo American OO group. It is possible that someone attempted this as a kitbashing project, but it would seem to be an incomplete example of this extremely rare S-C model. There are 9 photos in the Yahoo album. The first photo here is the overall view and the second shows the power truck in the baggage area. Note that the trucks with the model have the four-wheel friction bearing passenger trucks, so it is possible as well that those trucks were intended to be used on the MU car models, although the catalog photo shows the old standard passenger truck with roller bearings.

It would not be that difficult to duplicate the equipment in the catalog photos with standard Scale-Craft parts today and might be worth the effort as a curiosity. This example may be one such attempt at this, but I would like to think it is actually the model advertised in the Round Lake catalog. Either way, this was an attractive model and one that I wish was more commonly seen.

Before closing, previously a letter from October, 1950 was highlighted from Elliott Donnelley. It is worth taking a look at, as it gives a glimpse of his present mindset with the company and also future plans which included a OO scale Hudson locomotive.

With that the series will move on when it returns to notes on other manufacturers active in American OO in 1950.

Continue reading 1950 Series

Thursday, January 9, 2014

American OO in 1950. Part I: Scale-Craft is Back!

Elliott Donnelley had owned Scale-Craft from 1936-46, selling the firm to Doug Douglass who moved the firm lock, stock, and barrel to California. Donnelley had pretty big plans for Scale-Craft when he sold it and Douglass had not followed through, mostly he seems to have sold models assembled from old stock and never got some key items back in production.

Donnelley could not have been pleased with this situation. I don’t know the negotiations but by very early 1950 Donnelley had purchased the company back and moved inventory and production to Round Lake, Illinois. The first ad from the new Scale-Craft is found in the March 1950 issue of Model Railroader, reproduced here. Written in the style of a telegram, we learn a number of key details. They were moving to a mail order model, with orders being directly to the factory. Elliott Donnelley is listed as president and N. Burton Barr as vice president, OO and some O was ready to ship, and the new catalog was to be ready for mailing March 1.

This was the beginning a great series of ads in Model Railroader to promote the line. Donnelley clearly felt there was a market for OO in particular and that others were dropping the ball. The April MR ad features the OO scale 4-8-4. This had been off the market since before the war but now “Delivery can be made immediately out of stock.” The model is listed at this time as being “powered by a 12-volt, 7-pole series-wound motor.” In May they do it again with an ad featuring the hopper in O and OO. “Before the war the Scale-Craft 55-ton was one of the most popular car kits.” Priced in OO at $4.50, this seems to have also been available during the Douglass Scale-Craft era so it never was out of production. In June the topic is stock cars in O and OO, and in July the topic was their OO gauge tank car.

This is a good time to note as well that the advertising by now made clear that they were Scale-Craft & Co., “not incorporated.” Why they did this I am not sure, but it does clarify they are a new legal entity compared to the past.

The August MR features again, on the inside back cover (an important location), the big OO 4-8-4.  The rest of the year Scale-Craft advertising focuses on O gauge models, but the November 1950 issue of Model Railroader also includes a review of Scale-craft 4-8-4. This is probably the last published review of any American OO gauge product; see this article for quotes and the illustration from that review.

To close for today there is this nice quote from Elliott Donnelley and photo in the December MR in the Model RR Equip Corp ad. The catalog was first advertised in December of 1949 (more here) but they were pushing it all year in 1950 advertising. This scan is half of the ad; I believe readers will easily recognize the names of the other industry leaders seen with Donnelley. This catalog really was a first and you have to wonder if it was an inspiration for the now familiar Walthers catalogs.

Next time the topic will be the Scale-Craft Round Lake Catalog.

Continue to Part II of 1950 series