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

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Amazing detail from Oscar Andresen, part 3

As noted earlier in this series (back in 2009! Starts here), Oscar Andresen was a Boston engraver and pioneer in American OO. His work was featured on the cover of the second issue of Model Railroader magazine in 1934 (more here) and he offered his early models commercially under the name Rockhaven Models, which was a name associated with his personal layout.

Recently I was able in a trade obtain three Andresen models – two nearly complete and one in parts – which has allowed an even closer look at his craftsmanship. My three are all etched zinc, two passenger cars and a stock car.

We will begin with the big Rock-Haven coach. Which brings up a first question. If you bought these sides from him, what was he thinking, how was the purchaser to letter them for a different road? Or letter them at all? This quote from the May, 1935 issue of Model Railroader gives about all the clues we have for why he did this (for more from this article, including photos, see here).

What do you say if we board a special train on the Mohawk Valley for a tour of inspection? We are sure to forget the passage of time, and so we will naturally stop at the car shops to watch the construction of many types of cars. The strangest site of all is to see the riveters at work, “Wonder of wonders.” They make no noise. The process used not only permits rivets without noise but at the same time raises all lettering above the car surface. All around the shops and other factories at Mohawk Valley there is no sign of a depression, with work going forward at full blast.

And there we are. My guess is the raised lettering gave you a guide to hand letter over them for whatever the underlying lettering was. Still though, the question would be: is this actually a car intended for his own layout? Did he originally design them for his layout but later decide to sell them to others? It is an interesting question.

This car has been partially assembled, the zinc sides have been soldered to brass strips and integrated with wood parts. Building the car to this point took someone some effort. The zinc parts have crisp details to be sure and are just thick enough to not have the feeling of being fragile to the touch. The ends are separate parts and the doors are separate but soldered to the sides.

This is seen more clearly in the set of loose sides for the Pullman. These have been soldered on the back to square brass rods, and one of the doors has come off (as has one of the rods). Again, fine detail and the lettering is raised from the surface. They came to me with a group of Nason parts and it seems a prior owner was looking to build this car up as well. The only notable, non-Nason or S-C part with the sides was a big piece of zinc to apparently use as floor stock.

The last car is a great item too, a stock car that matches the stock car seen in a 1934 article (see here), it just lacks doors.

Looking at it closer there are a number of interesting things to note. One is the entire car is zinc and brass. The roof is actually hollow, with the visible top area showing etched rivet details. The sides have square brass members applied to them, and they are of a thick zinc with again rivet details etched in. The ends as well are etched with brass members applied. The floor is solid zinc.

There are no doors and the underside is totally lacking in detail. I am somewhat on the fence about working on this car further, it is such an amazing rare/early item. It will be difficult to clean the ends for painting for example. If I go forward with it I have a pair of bent/warped S-C stock car sides and those can donate doors to this model.

Continuing that thought, how do the cars compare? The Andresen car is slightly shorter (40’ instead of 42’) and as seen in the final photo the design is different in several ways.

The other missing parts are not too hard to find/fabricate, but it is notable that the model was set up to have trucks sitting on or attached to pins protruding from the floor. I can work something out I am sure.

Also the couplers on the model are a real curiosity, as they appear to be sort of a link and pin coupler, not a commercial design. Looking at the available Andresen photos, the front coupler of the steeple cab loco seen in this article seems to be the same design! So maybe this car is actually from his layout? That would make the car even more notable.

What to letter it for is also a good question. I will go slow on this but would love to see it reach a more complete state such as Andresen would have hoped for when he produced the parts so long ago.

As to the passenger cars, I am considering assembling the Rock-Haven car a little further (but not paint it) and to use the six wheel trucks I have from Howard Winther on the model (seen in this article, at the end). Of all the cars I have this one seems the only one worthy of riding on that set of early, handmade trucks, becoming a very unique model with parts on it by two different pioneers of American OO.

Return to beginning of Amazing Detail series

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