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

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Caboose Trucks for American OO

Yesterday morning I got curious, what was the article 5 years ago today? It was one on a great truck project I had inherited (more here), on some Sn3.5 arch bar trucks from New Zealand that another OO gauger had purchased to use in American OO. The trucks are by North Yard; their website is here.

What had got me stalled then was I did not have a drill press and there were so many holes to drill (and tap) in lost wax castings. And actually, the earlier article did not say this, but I had another type of truck from the same firm, the truck you see here that is a close stand-in for a leaf spring Bettendorf truck. The spring hanger is narrow and a couple details are bit different than North American practices, but then again these look a LOT better than Scale-Craft trucks! This car being by Scale-Craft; it was my very first OO scale caboose.

I now have two pair of these together and rolling with parts for a third, seen in the second photo. Not shown are the wheelsets and the bearing inserts. These roll great! I believe these were used on a class of tank car in New Zealand, and due to a quirk of gauges and scales are just about dead on for American OO.

What really had me stalled originally was no I had no drill press. I subsequently obtained a stand for my Dremel tool that is a good imitation, and I made a jig to help hold the side frames when drilling.

The last photo is a close up of a finished truck, but this one on a Lionel caboose. While everything is set up I will try to finish all the North Yard trucks on hand. I will run out of the North Yard bolsters but have some others scoped out that I can modify to work, and I may be short a few screws but should get all the remaining pair running in the next month or so.

Building up the first two pair of these was a great quick break and it is good to see my modeling skills going up a bit over time as well. I have a specific caboose project in mind for the final set of these parts; perhaps having them will get that project moving along soon as well.

UPDATE: I got all of the North Yard trucks from this project together, including four pair of the arch bar trucks featured in the article 5 years ago. Now to build up some cars worthy of them!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

1953, OO Making a Comeback, Part II: Layouts, a Passenger Diesel, and a Mailing List

HO was dominating the market, but all in all 1953 was a very good year for American OO gaugers.

Kicking off the year for magazine coverage, actually the cover of the January issue of MR features an OO layout. The caption tells us that Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ OO gauger Bob Wood “grins happily as traffic moves over his OO gauge Ho-Ho-Kus & Western. The upper engine is a 2-8-4 which Bob built up using Nason drivers. The other loco is a Scale-Craft 4-8-4.” The locomotives are painted for his road. Other details to glean include that the hoppers are repainted Lionel models and the ATSF car down in the lower left corner has HO Mantua hook/loop couplers. I have seen these on enough cars to know they were popular in the OO gauge community before Kadee HO couplers effectively became the OO standard among operators.

In this issue is also found a photo of a full length dome car in OO by Robert Hopper, but I want to focus in on another OO item, the OO coverage in the “Bull Session” column. Readers of this website are familiar with the great layout that editor Ray L. Rhodes reported visiting, but read closely as there is also I believe a reference to a model that has not to this point been mentioned in print.
On a trip east recently I stopped in Allentown, Pa., to visit the OO gauge Norfolk & Ohio of Carl Appel. This pike was written up some years ago in MR as one of the outstanding scenic pikes of America [August, 1948 issue--see this article for more], and everything the article said about the terrific scenic work on this model road is true.
The cellar walls are masked with colored photo-murals, and when you stand there looking at it, you get the eerie sensation that the railroad is the right size, and you have suddenly become a giant towering over a real countryside. 
The main thing I wanted to report, however, is that Carl has the sweetest four-unit OO diesel you’d want. Each unit is a bronze casting, with bronze sideframes, powered by a DC-71 motor. These diesels are the work of Fred Schorr of 613 W. Diamond St., Hazelton, Pa. Also available is a passenger diesel and a switcher. And, incidentally, if you’re an OO gauger looking for sources of supply, try Gunnard Stark, 849 Summit Ave., Lake Forest, Ill., who is retailing parts and kits for the OO gauge Scale-Craft & Co. line.
The diesels mentioned are the Schorr F-3, the Super Scale switcher, and the “passenger diesel” is I believe the M. P. Davis E-7. All are post-war products but this is the first mention in print that references a passenger diesel or any model that I might guess to be by Davis. It makes sense too that it might be out by now, as the price list/catalog produced by Davis dates to 1954 and he owned the Nason residual by 1952 at the latest. This was one of his most common models; he must have had a good sized run cast. More on the Davis E-7 may be found here.

Not to be outdone, the February issue of RMC has a cover photo of the OO layout of Pierre Bourassa! His name is also familiar to regular readers of this site. The caption inside offers these details:
A small section of the 00 gauge pike operated by Pierre Bourassa of Montreal, Canada. Under construction since 1948, the road is based on Canadian prototype with over 600 feet of trackage, 110 freight and passenger cars, eight diesel and eight steam type locomotives. As Mr. Bourassa is a traveler in the watch business, most of the equipment was built up in hotel rooms, materials being carried in special cases. The various units were then put to use on the permanent layout illustrated.
Certainly the last two cars in the train are Scale-Craft, and those locomotives are beauties, the second model looking to be a Nason Hudson and very possibly the one seen in a color photo in this later article, which is also a good place to find out more about Pierre Bourassa.

Moving back to MR, their February issue has this photo of the layout of Carl Appel. It is an unusual photo in a way for the time, as it does not highlight any equipment, the focus is on the scene itself, on “…the way the track and scenery blend into the background, you can easily mistake this scene … for a real one in the great outdoors.” It really does convey the feeling of waiting trackside for a train to pull through.

In the March MR John Armstrong has great quote on OO gauge in an article on the design of an On3 layout. He calls OO an “excellent, if fading, gauge.”

But there were some people doing their best to not see it fade! Among the most important of those were Bill Johann and Fred Schorr. Years ago Johann gave me a hand written mailing list of over 300 names that he put together (that is his handwriting) with Schorr in 1953. The hotspot of OO gauge activity was New Jersey, with 46 names listed.

How this was used was to get the word out on new products like his 2-8-2. For example in a letter I have that is dated Jan. 5, 1954 Johann wrote to an OO gauger,
Sorry you did not get one of the original blurbs. I sent one, but it was to your [old address]….
Enclosed are a few. If you have any OO friends, pass them around….
And attached were five more of the flyers. I believe he sent flyers out to every single name on the mailing list and probably multiple copies! And Schorr sent out direct mail too and maybe M. P. Davis as well.

So things are rolling still in American OO. When the series returns the topic will be 1954-55.

Return to beginning of 1953 series

Continue to 1954-55 series

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Graceline Pullman and Combine, and Nason and Famoco Comparisons

A recent article featured these two cars in progress toward rebuilding, and they are now complete.

They are both Graceline cars. They came to me in a lot purchase years ago partially rebuilt, and as outlined in the earlier article I put the projects together using almost entirely vintage Graceline parts. The only things not Graceline are the trucks (Scale-Craft, the trucks on the Pullman being “special” as a prior owner had modified them for better 3D detail) and also on the Pullman two of the vestibule doors (on the side not visible) are modified J-C doors. Plus I added MHP diaphragms to the Pullman, I had a few extra pair around and this seemed like a car I would probably run often. As always, click on the photos for a better view.

Looking at the Pullman a bit more, this second photo is with a later style Nason car (Easy-Built type with brass sides). The Graceline Pullman is not full length; it measures 75 feet instead of 80 like the Nason car. Besides that, among the more notable features of the car are the pressed cardboard sides with the metal end doors. The Graceline passenger cars have more parts to them than any other brand of American OO passenger car for sure. I opted on this model and on the new combine to add windows and shades, which add a lot to the look of the model. I chose the name General Sherman out of the Pullman decals as it sounded the most imposing to me, fitting for a car that took so much effort to rebuild.

This last photo is a closer look at the combine and a comparison with the Famoco version. The Graceline model has more of a 3D look as the baggage doors are castings (reproductions, made in molds that were made by Temple Nieter and obtained from Ed Morlok) and also note the vestibule end. I opted to leave off the vestibule doors to get more of a “mixed train” look. This is an advantage to this specific model as it has cast ends and cast sub-ends with doors that are the inner walls of the car.

The Graceline combine is 75’ long and the Famoco is only 70’. That Famoco car has some real history for me, as I built it from a fresh kit in late high school, that kit having been given me by the late Temple Nieter (more on Temple here). It is one of the first three passenger cars I ever owned and was probably the first one of the three. Getting it out again I tweaked the trucks and now both cars are running well! I especially like seeing the Graceline combine running in a mixed train, the (open) vestibule is a great look.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

1953, OO Making a Comeback, Part I: New Products, Old Products

To start off with an impressive new product, the Kemtron GP-7 was introduced in 1953 and is first mentioned in print in the Model Railroader Trade Topics column in September. The item is about their large group of new products from Kemtron in O, OO, HO, and TT gauges, and begins as follows:
Rare is the case, indeed, that a manufacturer hides his light under a bushel basket; nevertheless we did come across such a case recently. After some persuasion, Mr. Levon Kemalyan of Kemtron arrived with a suitcase full of his company’s products. Some items have been in production for quite awhile, others are still in the planning stage. 
After several long looks at the products, it was decided to depart somewhat from the usual Trade Topics procedure by giving readers and over-all description of some of the products to be followed by itemized reviews of individual products in the standard Trade Topics style.
This scan is a portion of a larger picture and shows our main item of interest, the Kemtron GP-7. In the article the item on it reads “second row right: OO gauge (that’s right, OO) Electro-Motive GP-7 road-switcher.” Earlier they had noted “All models and parts are made from lost-wax brass castings with the exception of the diesel and tender bodies, which are made from photoengraved brass.” More on this great model may be found here.

Fred Schorr was out in front as a supplier trying to sell these kits. The F-3 instructions I have reflect his sales of the GP-7 model, which was first specifically mentioned in his ad the same month in RMC. However, actually he had been marketing the model already within his network of OO gauge connections and it was not a new item in September! In my files I found this highly interesting item. It is a combination of a printed item that must have been developed by Kemtron which was over stamped with more from Schorr. The original delivery date of this model was to be in February of 1953, and the photo here is of the pilot model under construction. It seems that a number of people already had the model on order with deposit through Fred Schorr, with delivery “on or about” February 1. So for sure this model was rolling on a number of OO layouts in 1953 and was known to be on the way I bet in late 1952! It was really a cutting edge model at the time, with a detail level far ahead of pretty much anything ever offered in OO previously.

While so far as I can tell not advertised in the hobby press, the Johann 2-8-2 was also introduced in 1953. The original sales flyer was dated October 20, 1953 and is quite interesting to look back on today. He starts,
Fellow OO Gauger:
This flyer is the first public announcement of a new OO loco. DON’T PASS OUT. For some months a light Mike, very similar to the World War I USRA type, has been in development, and the first section will be ready soon. This loco will not be one of the “one evening screwdriver” types. An ability to drill, tap, solder, rivet, and to use your head somewhat, will be in order. Accurate drilling (side rods) and milling (mainframe axle slots) has been done for you.
As most of us in OO know, mass production in our gauge is not feasible due to the high tooling costs as against low volume (in relation to the total number of model railroaders) of sales. This is unfortunate, but only too true. In working up this engine, my principles have been to purchase as many parts as possible, to use French sand castings in place of stampings (art bronze), and to eliminate as many expensive tools as proper design would allow. This makes limited, or job, production possible without getting into customizing, and thereby making the final price exorbitant.
It was to be sold in four sections. The first three sections built up the locomotive, and section 4 was a tender. Fifty of these locomotives were produced. A letter dated Jan. 5, 1954 from Johann states that the first section is “ready for immediate delivery and the 2nd section is almost ready,” so probably none of these were done and ready yet in 1953 but they were coming and another positive piece of OO gauge news. I have the complete blueprints; section one is dated 10-13-53 and the remaining sections have dates in January, July, and November of 1954. In the letter he notes “…the construction drawing is in progress. I spend quite a while on the drawing as I am building my own two (the original desire for two Mikes for myself started this whole affair) from the drawing and the resultant checking back and forth takes a while.” A built up example of this great model may be seen in this article.

A final new product to mention were the passenger car diaphragms by MHP. MHP (Monroe Hobby Products) had this product out in other scales in 1952 (HO, O, S) and appears to have added OO to the line in 1953. To quote the wording in their 1953 advertising, these were available in "all popular sizes." For more on this great product see this article.

Finally, Scale-Craft was still available, direct and through suppliers, but was advertised minimally by the latter. The OO market was small. Some of the ads mentioning S-C show hugely reduced prices.

The supplier most likely to mention Scale-Craft in their ads was E&H (Electronic & Hobbycraft) Stores. In MR in December they mention that their new catalog has “the most complete listing that we have yet seen” of OO. This is a scan of a Xerox of that one page of OO listings from their 1954 catalog, and as they say at the top of the page, “Yes – We still try to stock it.” A number of their most standard models were available, including the 4-8-4, the 4-6-0, and the 0-6-0 models. Noting also that they list other products as well, including the new Kemtron GP-7 and MHP diaphragms.

I mentioned that Johann had out a new product but no advertising. How did he actually market it to the OO gauge community? And how did that Kemtron item from Schorr seen above get circulated around months before anything appeared about the model in print? The answer to that and a look at some of the layout coverage in the hobby press when the series returns.

Continue reading in 1953 series