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

Saturday, November 10, 2018

A closer look at a 1934 PRR model by Howard Winther

Regular readers will know there is a series of articles in this website on early models by OO pioneer Howard Winther. A group of these models are now in the collection at the TCA museum, more here. I also wrote an article on these early models that was published in the TCA Quarterly, more here.

Recently I spotted on eBay, hidden in a lot containing OO freight cars of no great value, this model. Howard Winther made three of these Pennsylvania R50-b express refrigerator cars in 1934, and I wrote about two of them that the sons of Howard Winther had sent me photos of here. To review, the November, 1934 issue of The Model Railroader in their regular column “Along the Division” reports that “The Hasbrouck shops of the OO gauge Penn-Erie System have recently completed three all-metal Pennsylvania R50-b express refrigerator cars. All work, excepting the wheels, was done in the company shops.”

In the prior article I had photos of cars number 2731 and 2732, which so far as I know are presently in the TCA museum collection. The car I purchased and is seen here is car number 2730. How this car came to be sold by a dealer on eBay I don’t know. It is possible it was separated years ago from the other Winther models.

An article from 1934 reports other of his freight cars were built up from tinplate with brass strips, and this model is all metal for sure. How he achieved the shape required for the roof of the car is a good question. It was not easy, I think, I would guess he at least made a wood form to use to help shape the curve. The doors are made from small bits of brass, the body is all soldered together.

The trucks are a wonder to look at closely. The side frames are die cast. The time required just to make the trucks boggles my mind, as he would have created the dies to cast the sideframes, I’m thinking cut from metal. They are cast in something similar to linotype, and use a brass bolster and clip to hold them together. The wheels were commercial and are insulated for two rail operation. The flanges are similar to current NMRA standards. But the gauge is somewhat under. Even with that, the wheel treads are wider than standards and the car operates fine on my layout.

The underside is plain and roof are plain, and there is no brake detail. The bottom of the car is not painted, the silver you see is the tinplate material the car is built from. The couplers are his personal style, which in spite of the age will couple automatically with Kadee couplers. That was not his goal, of course, back in 1934, but it is a testament to his craftsmanship and his design. When it got to me both couplers were bent; one I simply bent to get back into shape matching the photos I had, and the other required more extensive rebuilding including soldering the knuckle back together.

To close the lettering also deserves mention. It is all done by hand and very neatly. Decals? Not an option for him in 1934.

I don’t run PRR models normally, but I do recognize the value of this model, documented to be by a leading early advocate of American OO. I’m glad I spotted it, and I’m happy to own it for now.

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