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

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

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