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

Saturday, April 19, 2014

American OO in 1951-52, part II: What Happened?

The early 1950s are interesting years to look at. Just ten years previously there was quite a lot on the market and for sure OO gaugers were a bit stunned how fast things “went south” for their favorite scale.

One overall point to make right off is how if you follow along in the magazines things really drop off quickly in terms of advertising and OO coverage these two years, to a point where many issues of magazines have no reference made to American OO at all. In the June 51 “At the Throttle” column in Model Railroader it is stated that “OO gauge … has endured a supply famine ever since the last war.” But really the issue was HO was so much more popular, and manufacturers figured out there really was no money to be made in American OO.

Bur certainly there were still some very dedicated American OO gauge enthusiasts working away on their layouts. The best OO photo of these two years of publications I think is this one, found in the April, 1951 issue of Model Railroader. I included the original caption with the scan of this photo of the engine terminal on the Norfolk & Ohio layout of Carl Appel; click on the photo for a better view. Another angle on this same scene may be seen here.

So if you were building a layout what could you buy?

Sources of OO included used items, old stock, and new production. While Scale-Craft was available as noted in part I, many people seem to be getting out of OO entirely, selling out and selling cheap. The ad seen in the scan ran in the Readers Exchange in MR, August 1952.

Some new products were coming, but were not on the market yet. So far the only bright spot really are the intermittent ads run by Schorr for their F-3.  By later in 1952 their advertising turned a bit of a corner, such as this ad in the December, 1952 issue of RMC. It does not make it clear exactly what they had for sale but clearly they had what you needed!

According to a 1955 letter from Myron P. Davis (cited more fully in the Nason Railways 101 article) the final Nason Railways owner Edward Kelly died in 1952. So by or around this date Myron P. Davis had purchased the residual of Nason and also Jerome B. Foster had purchased the patterns for the Nason 4-4-2 and was laying groundwork for his Guild of the Iron Horse production. To jump ahead for more on those two lines see:
The original sale of the Nason patterns to Foster must have occurred by about 1951. There is a very interesting item about this in the November, 1953 issue of Model Railroader. In the October issue there had been an editorial relating to dormant dies and kits and them hoping to bring former and future model railroad manufacturers together. Foster was an architect and must be the person mentioned in the quote below.
OUR OCTOBER ISSUE containing the editorial about inactive dies was hardly mailed before it stirred up some activity. Two years ago and eastern architect completed dies to produce a OO gauge Pennsylvania RR. 4-4-2. Then he became so busy at his profession that he couldn’t get production started. He read the editorial and decided to sell his dies so that someone else could produce the engine.…
With good luck all around, OO gauge might get a new manufacturer and a fine new engine.
I don’t know if there was a buyer or not at that point, but the engine did eventually make it to the market and things were in motion by 1951. In the big picture there was still a critical mass of people that had no interest to change scales with the trends of the time, and to serve that market besides the models hinted at above some great NEW models soon would come on the market from Kemtron, Johann, Schorr, and others. More on those models as the series continues.

Return to start of 1951-52 series

Continue to 1953 series

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