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

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Building SD40s and also a U23B in American OO, Part II: Progress report

Back some nine months ago I had an article (more here) on starting a project that used a pair of 3D printed EMD cabs as part of kitbashing an approximation of the EMD SD40 prototypes. With further background being that there are a few 3D printed parts for American OO 1:76 scale on Shapeways (more here). 

In addition, I also purchased through Shapeways a GE cab to use to make an approximation of a U23B. As I have not described that model at all yet (other than teasing it in part I), a few details are in order. It was a conversion proposed years ago in The OO Road by Bill Johann as a relatively simple “good enough” conversion. The hood and visible portion of frame are taken from a vintage Athearn (“blue box”) GE U33C body. Some details are off, of course, but are similar to the correct details for the U23B. The hood itself is OO width, so the key issues were to shorten it slightly in length and to additionally raise the height to match the cab.

The original frame (lower part of body casting, actually, not the metal Athearn frame) was saved and widened, and a drive was no concern as I planned from the start to build it as a dummy.

The trucks are ones I had on hand, modified originally to use on a Schorr F-3, but then I obtained a pair of Schorr trucks for it, so they were available for this model. These are actually the unpowered rear trucks from TYCO GP20 models (!), widened to OO and with new wheelsets. They are the correct length for OO, and I worked out a way to use the original mounting. I also used the fuel tanks from a couple of these models, spliced together for length, they are a little small but believable. For those wondering, some prototype U23B models were built with EMD trucks, trade in trucks from F-3’s and the like, it is a nice look.

The SD40s on the other hand are built on the visible parts of the frames and the drives from two Athearn SD45T-2 models. The length worked out nicely to give convincing porches in relation to the hood used in the kitbash and the 3D printed cabs, without modifying the frame. The frames/hoods on these models come off and on using the same lugs as the original models. Couplers are underset shank Kadee couplers and are a bit low….

The solution on that will be to mount the rear U23B coupler low to match the SD40s and mount the front coupler at the correct height, it will run as the trailing unit. As to mounting the hood on the U23B model I will work out a way that the hood is held on the frame with screws rather than gluing it on as I did with the SD40 models.

While they look pretty good, big picture there are some significant compromises on all three models. One special bummer is that the 3D cabs have some rough surfaces. I was hoping after the bath in Bestine (needed to prep for painting) that they would be smoother, but really they are about the same. I will try to be optimistic that the paint will help level out the rougher side surfaces but realize it will only help so much. I think this may simply be a consequence of the cabs all being scaled up from models developed for smaller scales, although perhaps they were not printed well either.

In any case I have the drives setup now for the SD40s and one body mounted on the frame as of this writing. Compared to the scale drawing the major dimensions are pretty much there, but a lot of specific details are off.

The three Diesels are a big project but good ones for this fall which has been busy for me. I do a few small things on them one day and then puzzle over them and then a few more small things another day. There are still details to sort out, but I think I pretty much have the issues planned out. They will all have for example a modified, “modern” paint scheme for my Orient that is driven by needing to paint the cab with a different type of paint than my standard paint I use on plastic.

The next big thing to do is add handrails, I need them on before painting.

As already noted, there are a lot of compromises on these models. Back to the handrails, for example, with all the other things that are a bit off I don’t see a big reason to not just use the original HO handrails. So I will, modifying the end handrails to have the chained off opening in the middle compared to the original Athearn design. It is visually more important that they just match on all three models rather than being exactly correct.

I hope these models come out well but as of this moment I am not real sure of the result, the compromises have me a little worried but hoping still for “good enough.” They should match the modern cars I have from Johann pretty well at least, so that part is good. I will get them done and do my best, I have been pleasantly surprised before. But the next projects after these will be restoration projects, which may be more the direction I head for the thrust of future work. Knowing though that I might get the bug to keep upping my game as a craftsman and do more with 3D parts. Who knows?

In any case, the trio of modern Diesels are getting close and should be finished sometime during the blocks of time for working on models during the holidays. I do look forward to running these, more then!

Continue to Part III of series

Saturday, November 5, 2016

A look at the Schorr OO RDC, the Hobbytown HO RDC, and the probable actual maker of both

A recent “oops” purchase was the HO RDC seen below with my Schorr OO RDC.

It was listed as OO, the seller had other obvious OO models for sale (Nason!), and looking at it the model certainly looked just like the Schorr model, but with a drive applied to it very neatly. My example being unpowered that was a nice feature, and the price was right.

The model arrives. It took me several days to get down my OO model and then note that the new one was actually an HO model, one that looked like you took the Schorr model and scaled it down from OO to HO and put a drive on it. There was hardly any difference other than the size overall. I thought about returning it, but seeing the two together sold me on keeping it for a while, they are a neat pair. But other than being an early Japanese brass import what was the HO model? I got to digging on that and also looking at some recently received materials on Schorr imports.

To begin, the name of Fred Schorr will be familiar to regular readers, but for those not familiar he was a very enthusiastic OO gauger and imported a line of great American OO scale brass models from Japan after WWII. This article has an overview of his line. The RDC was first advertised in September of 1955, and the original ad may be seen in this article. 

The underlying brass model manufacturer Schorr worked with in Japan was Kyodo. The only part I know of that is actually marked as such in his models are the freight trucks, where Kyodo is stamped into the bolster, using the same logo as in this image I found on the Internet.

I have been in communication with Ed Schorr over the years (son of Fred Schorr), and recently he was cleaning and sent me this surprising photo. Of it he simply said it was “a photo of the guy in Japan that did the work on the brass OO equipment.”

You can actually glean quite a bit from the photo, it is worth clicking on for a closer view. Clearly the gentleman is working on a run of streamlined passenger cars of some sort. Note the big soldering iron and the generally Spartan setup of the shop. I am inclined to say they are HO models.

That brings us back to the HO RDC. With a little digging I found some basic info on the Hobbytown of Boston RDC in the HOSeeker site, and clearly this is an example of that model. According to them the model was available from 1956-58. From the Magazine Index at it would appear that this model was unfortunately not reviewed in the hobby press at the time.

What Hobbytown sold was a kit, but model came with a complete, painted brass body to which you added the drive, which they supplied parts for. This image is a portion of their ad that ran in the January, 1957 issue of  Model Railroader, showing the model and price. It is a little hard to tell if the ad is a photo of a model or a prototype photo, but other photos were found online to confirm, the model I bought is clearly a built up version of the Hobbytown RDC.

Taking a closer look, the OO and HO models are twins, there are basically no significant detail differences other than the bottom of the model, were the HO version was set up to accommodate the Hobbytown drive. The Schorr models were not powered.

I should mention as well, typically Schorr models were built to designs that had recently appeared as scale drawings in the hobby press. In this case, the underlying drawings appear in the January, 1952 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman. Both the Schorr and Hobbytown models follow these drawings closely, with the Hobbytown model having a slight edge on some detail placement. Yet, even then, that article has only side elevations and it looks like the builder imagined a few things relating to the ends and frame.

But even then the models are basically identical; the model maker handled the same construction details the same way (look at the steps, for example, and the roof), and the factory paint is also identical. It certainly is a plausible theory that Schorr approached Kyodo to make the OO model, and subsequently Hobbytown approached Kyodo to make the same model in HO to use with their drive parts, testing the waters so to speak toward putting their drives in imported brass bodies. Comparing the two models and production dates it is hard to come to any other conclusion really.

Certainly people don’t think of Hobbytown being an early HO brass importer, but with this model they did briefly experiment with Japanese brass, in the process producing a model that was clearly superior to the subsequently introduced Athearn HO model, having a better drive and being a full length model rather than a shorty model.

And with this article, too, it is an interesting to note and see a view of the actual makers of these brass models. It is a time long passed now, but the models live on and still are nice representations of their prototypes.