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

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Help wanted, post-war American OO

Following up on the previous post, for my book project I am also looking for good photos and information on the following post-war items. 

  • Scale craft kits/instructions/models of any of these based on Boxcar, 50’ single door: 50’ 6” refrigerator car, 40’ 6” box car, 40’ 6” automobile car, 50’ 6” automobile car. Or these based on die cast coach/baggage: OOP-653, MU passenger car OOP-654, MU baggage car, OOP-655, MU combination car
  • Transportation models – any passenger car – I do not think these were produced
  • Eastern switches or figures
  • Exacta – freight cars in copper: 40’ gondola, Mill gondola, Hopper, Caboose, C&O C-10
  • Guild of the Iron Horse—any models beyond the PRR 4-4-2 and 4-6-2 (the other reported models in sheet and spun brass, which include a SP 2-8-2, B&A 2-8-4, NYC 2-8-4, SP P-13 4-6-2, PRR 4-8-2, and perhaps more, may only be pre-production samples). Don’t even need photos, just need to know if any are out there.
  • Cussewago Valley Railroad “OO” Gauge Scale Models (Myron P. Davis), photos of these models: 2-8-8-0, PRR HC-1, 4-8-8-4, UP “Big Boy.” 6-4-4-6, PRR S-1, and these cars: Tank car, triple dome, 19,000 gallon, Wrecking crane, 250 ton. Also any communications from Davis that reference the model we’ve been calling the “Streamlined caboose,” as that may not be how he visualized the model. 
  • Kemtron – examples of the no. 4 long and a no. 5 short arch bar truck, preferably with the packaging. Also any Scale-Craft item with Kemtron packaging (I’ve only found one part so far packaged this way).


To close, this photo is of that lone part, a late Scale-Craft 4-8-4 lead truck, packaged as Kemtron. Were there others? There are many small mysteries to explore still in working on the book. 

I'm still optimistic that I'll have this ready around the end of the year, any help on these postwar items or the prewar items in the previous post will be appreciated. 

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Help wanted, pre-war American OO

As has been mentioned in the site a couple times, I’m working on a book. The draft is now quite a ways along, but there are things I’m looking for either photos or additional information. The following is my list for the pre-war portion of the book, in the order that these items appear in the book draft. 

  • Nason combine and observation with brass sides, need photos
  • Limco – everything! Including die cast MP54 MU coach, the trailer for the MP54, the 64’ die cast coach, the WFE wood reefer, the boxcar, or the brass tank car 
  • Strombecker, photos of the 2-4-0, 4-4-0, 4-6-0, and boxcar 
  • Scale-Craft, the pre-war 4-8-4 with the sand cast frame, there are some detail differences to show compared to the post-war version, need a good photo
  • Hoffman’s flat car (Reading), caboose, boxcar (PRR X29), and boxcar (Reading double door)
  • Parmele & Sturges stock car, and any other model or info you have
  • Any examples of a Little Gem Models building
  • Graceline outside braced boxcar and steel caboose
  • Roland Haddaway track
  • Model Lumber Co. coach or combine
  • Yardmaster – any freight car, these were produced
  • Vanden-Boom, anything! Especially the caboose, reefers, and wreck train

On all of the above, I do have these covered to a point, but more information would be very helpful. Certainly most if not all of the above were actually produced, so they may exist in some corner of your collection. 

To highlight this point, this model just came to me today, an eBay purchase. It was posted for sale unobtrusively, but from the photos I could tell it was a very uncommon model, a Hoffman’s reefer. Note the distinctive trucks, and if you could see the frame and couplers those are very distinctive too. I could point you at where to find this information in the website, but I am excited that this info and much more will soon be easy to find with the American OO book finished. Plus, writing this article, I am very reminded that Blogger really has made the site hard to use on my end, the "Labels" function is broken, etc. So it is important to preserve the information developed for this resource in a more permanent manner, I'm glad I had time to get the book this far over the summer.

As to this specific model, I’m looking to finish it, and I have an unbuilt kit for the same model to use for comparison, to be sure it is 100% Hoffman’s.

I’ll soon follow up with a list of post-war items I’m looking for more on, and thank you in advance for any help.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

A quick look at Vanden Boom track (and other updates)


As the summer nears an end, I have been working furiously on the draft of a book on the history of American OO. While based on content from this website, it will be a very new product, making many new connections and presenting quite a bit of new information beyond that found online.

Sometimes I unexpectedly found I had examples of a product that I was not even aware of it being a commercially produced item. Specifically, I recently sold some track, but saved some interesting pieces of track that were really well made by what I assumed to be some very fastidious modeler. I also had used a little of it when we lived in an apartment, and I thought maybe someday I or someone else might use it again as the basis for a simple shelf layout. I have eleven pieces, all completely unmarked as to the maker.

What I learned is that this track must be prewar Vanden Boom track. It matches their catalog illustrations perfectly. What they produced was in effect a line of sectional track laid on plywood, including double track curved and straight sections as seen in the photo. It has traditional OO rail in steel, and the wood ties are ballasted. It has also held up well with the long storage, probably because the plywood was given a good coat of shellac. And hopefully will see some future use still. Probably some reader also has some Vanden Boom track? Worth taking a look. 

I’ve still yet to locate an example of a Vanden Boom freight car, built or as a kit. More on those here, some were produced, and if you have anything I’d love a photo.
 
Updating on this website, I know from my office it appears broken, which was a huge shock a few weeks ago, but from home it works fine. I hope no fans of the site are having issues, it seems to be something with an upgraded firewall at my office that is blocking about half (!) of the photos in the site. This front page of the site has no photos at all when I look at it from my office! Which has also been a motivation to work to push the book over the finish line. Websites are nice, but eventually they break and go away, especially if hosted for free as is this one. Emphasized recently by the folks at Blogger, who changed the interface on my end very significantly.

As to the book, I’m trying to finish a draft of the complete text so that it can go to an editor, and hope to be done with that in the next two weeks! Although it will probably take a month. I’m really quite a ways along, over 200 pages in and another 100 to go, much of which has some rough text already in place. I have worked out a way to write this and avoid potential copyright issues, something that had the project stuck for a long while. A lot of the photos are ready for the book too, but I will need more. With luck though the book could be out by the end of this year, self-published but on Amazon (with my other music publications). I’m enjoying finding even after all these years more things I did not know, and I hope also that it is ultimately a good read. Be watching for more information on the book in the coming months. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

A quick look at the Nason PRR postal

I recently realized this model has never been featured in the site.

The Nason PRR postal was part of the line of “eazy-bilt” passenger cars introduced in 1936 with stamped brass sides. The design is somewhat uncommon, but this is a nice model to be on the lookout for, it is one of the few RPOs produced for the American OO market.

This example I rebuilt a few years ago from an eBay purchase. It is on Nason trucks and operates well.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

A closer look at the Nason 2-8-0 and 4-4-2

Two models that have been mentioned a number of times in this site are the Nason 2-8-0 and the Nason/Star-Continental 4-4-2, and both deserve another look.

Following the introduction of their PRR P5-A (1934) and 4-6-4 (1936) models, the next locomotive in their line was another classic, the Reading 2-8-0. The parts are very similar to the Hudson parts in manufacture, and often feature 300 series numbers cast in. The back cover of the November, 1937 issue of Model Craftsman is a full page ad featuring this new model which rather pins it down that it was introduced in 1937. This was a model Nason had hopes on for good sales!

What was great about this Reading prototype for the purposes of Nason and sand casting was the big firebox which allowed for room for a good sized motor. Plus also it was a freight engine, and this was the first steam road freight engine on the market in American OO. The model was supplied with the “Nason Super” motor, which operated on AC or DC, the latter requiring the use of a rectifier. The photos below show most of the parts for this important model.

This photo shows the Nason logo that is cast in and also an example of the parts numbers. Photos of another model in parts may be seen here.

The Nason 4-4-2 was originally produced in 1937 by Star-Continental Models of Brooklyn. It is a curious model, in that it is a freelance version of the PRR K-4 and K-5 Pacific, but built as an Atlantic. Star was active 1937-39, their 4-4-2 with sand cast boiler, sheet brass tender, and sand and die cast details being later manufactured by Nason Railways. The new product was reviewed in the the April, 1937 issue of Model Railroader.

According to the Star-Continental 1937 catalogue (their spelling) their only product was this locomotive, which was priced from a high of $49.50 for the model built up down to $25.00 for the “workshop set” which required a lathe to complete. So far as I can tell from the catalog their version of the model was sold only for three rail, although perhaps they added that as an option by 1939.

Other than that as a possible factor, the thing I have always wondered is how to tell apart an original Star-Continental 4-4-2 from the later Nason version (1939 and forward) of the same model? The catalogs don’t give many clues, and Nason used the same instructions (dated 1/16/37), just dropping in the name Nason. The answer may be the motor, which visually has a shorter steel frame visible than the Nason motor. For a look at that, see this post. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A closer look at Westbrook, the Nason PRR X-31 boxcar, and the Nason B&O flat

I am this summer working again on a draft of a book on American OO gauge. When you get going on a project like this, topics come up, and one had to do with The Westbrook Company of Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., and the Nason freight cars (and also Eastern and Famoco, although I’m not that far into the draft).

Following shortly on the release of their sand-cast boxcar, the Nason "Eazy-Bilt" (easy-built in early advertising) kits with printed card sides/ends and sand and die cast details became available in late 1935. They are first mentioned in the Nason advertisement in the October, 1935 issue of Model Craftsman and were absolutely a game changer and a first in the American OO market. Featured in the photo below is the PRR X-31 automobile car kit. At one point I thought it was a later addition to the line, but clearly it was introduced as part of this same line of cars in late 1935. (A completed car may be seen in this article).

During much or most of the production run, these boxcar and reefer kits were sold as kits in two small green boxes, which were sold separately. The car body construction kit for $1 contained printed sides and ends, the wood body, a wood frame, a brass brake cylinder, and couplers. The Hardware kit for $2 (later reduced to $1.90) contained assembled trucks, cast doors or ice hatches, a sand cast frame, stamped ladders ("where used on the prototype"), cast end sill, brake wheel, grab irons and steps, etc. It was a great system for the time that allowed for purchase of a relatively simple model at a more reasonable cost than the sand-cast model, or you could purchase it in sections if that suited your budget better. Both sections were available purchased together as a complete kit, and were eventually packaged as complete kits in one box. Plus some details seem to have changed slightly over the years, and you could always build your car from the body kit and non-Nason hardware, which all adds up to you can see a lot of variety in these models as actually constructed.

As I was writing into this section of the book draft there was a lingering question that I had. I had seen it mentioned numerous times about sides being made for OO manufacturers by Westbrook. With a bit of comparison to models and info found online, and also a portion of the Westbrook 1938 catalog (thank you out there!), clearly Westbrook produced all the freight cars for Nason other than the sand-cast boxcar. For one, their 1938 catalog actually states that they manufacture OO gauge freight cars for Nason, but also there is a “tell” present on many of the printed sides, the “W” code.

The first Westbrook advertising I have located so far is in the February, 1935 issue of Model Craftsman. Subsequent advertising shows they sold the same boxcar and reefer kits with the same printed sides in O gauge, with the body kit also priced at $1, which was a great deal for those days.

Going ahead a few months, I spotted a Westbrook ad in the January, 1937 issue of Model Craftsman featuring their new O gauge C&NW flat car. What do you know, it has the same car numbers and looks identical to the OO gauge Nason C&NW flat car! I have yet to see a full Westbrook catalog, but I suspect strongly they also offered in O gauge a B&O flat car, as Nason also offered that. It was offered as a complete kit in one box only starting in, you guessed it, 1937. (A completed car may be seen in this article).

This is a close up of the sides, showing the “W” code (in this case W.F.-4) and also note the wording, these were made for Nason Railways, not by Nason. You will also find these W codes on the sides of the Nason gondola, some of the Nason reefer sides, and also the freight car sides of models sold by Famoco and Eastern. Westbrook had quite a large impact on the OO market through their collaborations with these firms, a most interesting footnote on the history of manufacturing in American OO.

[Several elements UPDATED]

Sunday, June 7, 2020

A Graceline/Transportation Models gondola, and a friend

Both of these gondolas are recent completions/restorations, eBay purchases, and both are riding on Graceline trucks.

Updating this post slightly, as originally posted I stated the car in the front is a Graceline car, but actually it is Transportation Models, the successor firm. They are essentially identical models, but apparently Graceline when they left the market sold the dies for making their castings to Selley, and sold the residual wood and cardstock parts to Transportation models. The Transportation models version has a wood frame, and different metal parts.

In either case these are not common and I am pretty pleased how it came out in terms of look and with the NYC decals. I used Eastern ladders on it and tweaked a few missing details. Graceline sprung trucks are a bear to fix, but I have a group of them set up to use on appropriate cars, and this was one. The only big issues remaining are it needs a load (what you see inside the car is the top of the wood block body that the pressed card sides/ends are glued on to) and as originally built up the car tips to one side. The original builder did not put the truck screw holes in square. Noting however that the car also needed a huge stack of washers to be at the correct height, I glued on wood extensions to the bolster and redrilled the holes. It is rolling properly down the line now. The load eventually will probably just be a sandpaper insert, I'm still exploring options.

While the Graceline car came to me unpainted, this second car came to me painted and essentially finished – but with no lettering. I did tweak a few things and put on a fresh coat of gloss black. I think the builder may have struggled to find decals that would work, otherwise they could have finished the car. I struggled too but finally spotted these decals, both cars being lettered from the same set of Microscale decals actually intended for USRA hoppers. But with searching for gondola photos online I think I arrived at two pretty accurate schemes.

This car itself is scratchbuilt. The frame is a mystery. I can tell you what it is not: it is not Selley, Nason, or Hoffman's. It is a little large to be a HO cast frame and it seems to be of a harder material than soft metal so it is a mystery, as is the brake cylinder casting. The ribs are very clunky looking, but also reflect some nice craftsmanship being built up from wood and cardstock with pressed rivet details. In any case, the black paint scheme helps the look of the car (hiding the somewhat clunky details) as do the nice sharp decals. The early 20th century vintage of the assumed prototype car seemed suited to my eye to the oversized Graceline Andrews trucks, and this car is a good operator for when I run vintage style cars.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

A NW-2 from the WCS, part 2: Trucks and a frame insert

As mentioned in part one, this engine came to me with no drive, just sideframes. It was as if someone before me was trying to put in a new drive or repair on old one and got stuck.

I was able to find two wheelsets for the non-drive truck and work out a mounting for it. With that set, my idea was to take an Athearn drive truck and work over a portion of a frame to work.

The 4 wheel road Diesel trucks are the correct wheelbase for any OO switch engine. I had a few larger NWSL wheelsets around, and those were used to match the non-drive truck with correct size wheels.

The frame portion is from a GP unit of some sort, cut down to fit. I need to get it to nestle in just a bit further, but the height is really close to correct. Once I am satisfied there I’ll work on mounting a motor and connecting it to the drive truck. I can use the original screw holes (from the original drive) to attach the frame insert, a nice bonus. Won’t be long until WCS 2417 is rolling again!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

GE 80 ton models by Bill Johann

I was sent three photos by Bill Johann some years ago of his scratchbuilt GE 80 ton switchers. More on the prototype here.

He built three of these models. The construction photos are dated in April of 1993, and the in service photo, which I’m presenting first, is from December of 1997. Check out also all those hoses and such, and the Midlin track, it was the best looking of all the OO track lines.

So far as I can tell he only mentioned these models briefly and in passing on the on the first page of the May 1994 issue of The OO Road. There we read that the “80 Ton triplets, [were] built last year for road switching….” The focus of the short article is on how he had more recently taken two of the HO Davenport models (by Mantua – with the side rods) and combined the bodies with an Athearn switcher chassis to make yet another smaller Diesel of similar design.

The 80 ton models were scratchbuilt from styrene. The first construction photo shows a model with incomplete handrails, so we can also see his process a bit further there. Painting before installing handrails was a smart move.

My guess was that he used something like an Athearn GP7 (blue box) frame and drive, and chose the model as it suited the length of the stock frame and 8 wheel drive. Perhaps adjusted the prototype design a bit to fit. The body details are simple, but effective.

Fortunately, two of these engines are now in a collection in the east, and I’m told by owner Drew M. that they run great!

This photo from Drew confirms the construction date and also the drive setup, which is a stock Athearn frame and drive modified for 19mm gauge.

This final side view is of one of the engines today. The truck sideframes have been modified to resemble EMD Flexicoil trucks rather than the correct GE design, but suit the model all the same.

I know I really like the way Athearn blue-box era drives work on 19mm OO gauge locomotives, I’ve got at this point more than a dozen models running with those drives, and more under construction. I describe the basics of the conversion here.


Friday, May 15, 2020

2 wood freight cars that came out nicely

Some models I obtain mainly thinking it is cheap, I’ll do a quick rebuild and try to sell it. Then the project takes a good turn and comes out better than expected. That is the case with this gondola and boxcar.

To the gondola first, it is pre-war Hawk sulfur gondola (an overview of Hawk OO may be found here). It is not an old time car, it is contemporary to the pre-war era -- the wood construction of the prototype cars was due to the load type, and Hawk likely picked the design as it suited wood kit construction. I knew already that the AT&SF had examples of these, but looking around online I found similar cars for the T&NO, and I had decals that would suit the model. I actually did three of these cars as T&NO, the two others of this will likely make it to eBay before this one. It’s on Eastern/Famoco trucks which seemed to suit this particular model as built by the original builder. Each of the 3 of these just rebuilt required a different truck setup, the original Hawk frame being really too thick at the bolsters.

The boxcar has a scribed Picard body (an overview of Picard may be found here). I bought this one as it had an interesting cast frame, trucks, and also SC stamped brass boxcar doors, which I used on a different model – but also the 7’ steel door did not look right at all on this model, it really cried for a 6’ wood door. So I peeled off the remnant decals, made a door, did a quick touch up repaint (in real light it does not look as blotchy as it does with the flash). Again what really makes the car are the decals. This one is riding on trucks rebuilt from Sn3 parts, which visually suited the model I think – but also was a practical solution, as I needed trucks with very low bolsters to get the model to a correct height. Also I had to use the underset shank Kadees, so that the car was not too high. As originally built I don't think this car ever looked this good or operated as well as it does now.

I’m getting to the point I wish I had a bigger layout! But I do rotate my era and theme every month or so, it keeps things interesting.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Pondering Hoffman’s reefer kits and parts

One of the more obscure pre-war makers of American OO kits was Hoffman’s of Philadelphia. I have an overview of three of their kits in my collection here. 

I hardly build vintage kits anymore. I used sometimes, but so many things come to me in parts or in need of rebuilding that has become my focus. In the case of Hoffman’s, I’ve hoped to have one of their cars for years, but have never seen one for sale and honestly, I doubt many have held up at all as there are no wooden sides to support the printed card sides. And it would not surprise me if the overall actual run of these was just a few hundred kits, I was very lucky to find the ones I have.

There are some unique parts that would set them apart from other models if you have one of these. This first photo is a closer look at some of the small parts. The brake cylinder is very similar to a Nason one in size and shape, but a casting rather than a turning. I suspect the ice hatches supplied with the kits might actually be HO parts, but is a nice sharp casting. Finally, the coupler and end sill is a very unique set up, with the spring loaded coupler set up this way from the factory. How it worked in actual layout use I’m not sure, I would worry that the coupler might get droopy.

Besides parts found in kits I have, I have also spotted just a few loose in some various purchases. This second photo gives an overview of my two nearly complete reefer kits and what parts I had hoped someday to build up into a complete car. I have a roof, floor, ends, and frame (a very distinctive design) from a car that was built up (apparently rebuilt as a boxcar!), and also 5 usable trucks. (It is a unique design, see it closer here).

At least I thought I had an extra Hoffman’s roof and floor, but when I was getting ready to glue them together very recently I realized the body is certainly too long for the frame if you use the original ends. Comparing it with the kits, clearly this floor and roof are not Hoffman’s. Then I see a quirk of my kits: they both have two floor stock pieces and no roof! The instructions are a little vague but apparently the actual roof is two pieces of wood, one for each side. Oh, and the used ends I have must be from a different car, the gluing points don’t match the roof and floor piece at all, but are certainly original Hoffmann’s parts.

For the moment I think I’ll dig around and look for more original Hoffman’s parts or at least very close matches. If I go forward with this project I would cut down the floor and roof to match the virgin kit parts. As I have no spare Hoffman’s sides for this rebuilt model, my plan was to use the very similar Champion MDT reefer sides instead. But discovering that the floor and roof are not Hoffmann’s has put a bit of a damper on things, I might instead just strip the frame I had found and put it in the kit that lacks a frame and be done with it. Or maybe I should break down and build one of the kits, neither is absolutely complete, that might be the best project. Will see how I feel as the summer goes forward.   

Saturday, May 9, 2020

2 Scale-Craft boxcars … again … and some containers

Back a few years ago I posted about how I had made a pair of plug door boxcars from Scale-Craft boxcars. The reason to do so was I had a number of SC bodies but not enough SC doors. They may be seen as originally built in this post. Honestly, over time I’ve become less happy with how they look, they are kind of undersized to really look right as a plug door boxcar.

But the SC boxcars do have a reasonable look for a 1950s boxcar, sort of a poor man’s PS-1 boxcar with 7’ doors. In subsequent years, I have really kept my eyes peeled for Scale-Craft boxcar doors. I’ve actually bought junker non-SC cars on eBay just to pull the doors off (and rebuild with non-SC doors), and then finally struck gold with several pair in a parts purchase, so I have plenty of the doors around.

So a decision was made to convert the cars back to standard boxcars as you see here now. One of the cars bodies had the holes drilled in for the door guides, and the other did not. For the one with working doors, I had a spare set of the guides and was all about having the doors open! It’s a nice look. For the other car, I wanted also to try another thing, just mounting the doors on that car fixed in place. It is a better look, without the door guides, and I’ll be doing that on at least one more car soon. Click on the photo for a closer look.

Which led to a final “upgrade.” I had to remove some lettering on the left side of the cars, and this removal plus the newly painted parts left some slight variance in color. So I decided this would be a great pair of cars to weather, a very basic job with AIM weathering powders. The flash photo washes out the effect a bit, but it is a really refreshing look for what is on the layout, and I’m going to have to do some more weathering. These cars I will run as older cars in my 70s/80s sessions.

And a bonus. Up in the foreground, in soft focus, are some containers. The two red K-Line and the blue HanJin are recently painted/lettered models that came to me incomplete, built by Pierre Bourassa. They are a bit short in length at 17’ (they should be 20’— but the width and height are fine), and a little rough. Came to me one red, one blue, one yellow with no lettering. I could not find any prototype containers that are yellow, so I repainted that one red, and worked out simple lettering for both with alphabet sets. Not completely correct, but nice background models.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

3 brands of OO Switch kits

One topic I have not written about extensively is that of vintage track products in American OO. Track was an obvious concern of OO gaugers of the past, and they built many a layout with the products available to them.

Three brands of switch kits came up in some recent digging, Famoco, Tru-Scale, and UMPCO, which serve to illustrate the great, the good, and the bad of these products.

First I’ll mention that all of them are built with traditional OO rail. The height is that of modern Code 125 rail, but the profile is fatter. I have read that this type of rail was originally developed as O scale third rail, it is substantial stuff! It was widely used back in the day in steel and in brass (although I use modern Code 100 rail on my layout, and notably Mantua and Midlin produced track lines in OO in Code 100 rail, which is a more correct size). These kits all have brass rail.

The best of the three brands featured today is new to this site! So I’m happy to present to you UMPCO (Universal Model Products Co.), a post-war line. The box says they are located in Philadelphia, and the line is listed in the catalog of E&H Stores, also of Philadelphia. There we see listings for:


  • Turnout, brass, #6
  • Fibre tie strip
  • Spikes, off-set head


The instruction sheet indicates that they also sell WYE, #4, and #8 turnouts – but it is a generic instruction sheet, those may have been available in other scales or by special order. The box highlights that they sell precision and quality parts, and for sure this top strapped turnout kit is very usable today.

Also selling a good, solid product was Tru-Scale (overview here). This is their SK-8 switch kit which is set up to use with their roadbed. Why I rate it good only is the points have come unsoldered, broken at the little joint at the end near the frog, really a function of using too many small parts. It could be fixed certainly, but the UMPCO switch by comparison is more solidly put together. Also you have to manage all the gauging a bit more, as it is not strapped for installation.

The bad switch of the three is that produced by Famoco (overview here). Of all the parts in the box, I think really only the stock rails and maybe the tie strip are usable today -- and probably even when the product was brand new! It was a nice idea they had, the points and frog are die cast (!) in zinc (!!) or similar casting material. The castings look nice, anyway, but the big issue to my mind is that this material does not conduct electricity very well. The guard rails are also castings, but this time in brass or bronze, they could still be used but seem to my eye to be of an unusual design. On the whole, Famoco must have thought it to be an upgrade on the standard switch kits of other makers, it was different! But really this is not a great product.

The whole topic is a niche topic to be sure. I’ve written on two other brands of standard rail OO turnouts before, Scale-Craft and Trackmaster, more on those below:





Saturday, May 2, 2020

2 Vintage boxcars, before (and after) painting

With the nice weather and working from home, I’ve set up my shop in the garage for working on a group of vintage freight cars that came to me in various states at various times.

The truth of why a number of the projects were stalled, sometimes for years, is I just don’t like gluing on roof ribs. Step one was organizing my supply of mostly Eastern/Famoco ribs, I had a lot of them but loose, some not being very usable. Step two was bending, cutting, and gluing them on the cars. Still I think four more cars to go! Will keep pushing, hope to get them all done.

One pair that is done is this pair of boxcars. These, I’m almost ashamed to say how long I’ve owned these bodies but it is something like 25 years. They were part of a group of unfinished projects in a lot I purchased. Someone had a big idea to take Picard bodies and cut in the lines like a steel boxcar, and they had roof details, ends, and doors. Also the builder had done a nice job with sanding sealer, which would help them to look more like steel boxcars.

By the time they got to me, the roofs were falling off and everything needed help. I stripped them down to just bodies, sanded, sealed, and got to work. Besides the Eastern roof ribs you see on the cars Scale-Craft doors, Selley ends, and reproduction Nason frames. They have quite the retro look!

Part of what stalls a project – or moves it forward – is the availability of decals. In one of my recent Tichy decal purchases (more here) I got two pair of nice “Frisco Fast Freight” boxcar decals that will go really well on the flat sides of these models.

I built one more of these cars up a few years ago with GN decals, it came out better than expected and led me to do these. I can’t find the article on that model on blog (if there is one), and I actually have two more of these very cars to still do from that original batch. A project for a year or two down the road.

UPDATE. And the finished cars. One thing not yet mentioned and you would notice seeing the actual cars, they look visually a bit underscale. The issue is that Picard bodies were sized so that you glue sides on them, and these were built with no sides so they are visually narrow. For all I know, this may be why the original builder abandoned the project and did not complete the cars.

On the plus side, I have several engines that are somewhat underscale too, and these look good with them, so they will get use! They are on Nason trucks with Ultimate wheelsets and operate very well.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

More modern covered hopper cars for OO

Back a few years ago I had a post on the modern hopper cars that Bill Johann put together from HO Tyco models (here). I’ve now constructed a couple more, with another coming in the shop.

The short version is this Tyco car is a pretty large (and cheap) HO hopper, with four bays, and the conversion is to remove a bay to give the visual impression in OO of a smallish 3-bay coverd hopper car. I followed the methods that Johann used, adding in styrene to build up the areas between the hoppers. I’m sure it is a bit undersized, but if it is all that you see on the layout the eye accepts the size as correct. They are both on the trucks that Bill Johann worked up from large HO roller bearing trucks (more here), I have a small supply of these for modern era cars.

And of course I repainted the models. The original paint was somewhat stubborn to strip, so it is slightly visible on the cars in real life (but not visible in the photos). I lettered one car for my MQS shortline and the other using part of a NOKL set, as they own similar cars. That set was HO and usually HO sets look OK on OO cars, but in this case the reporting marks and numbers look somewhat small, I may re-letter the car at some point.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

The Nason “All-Service Express” car

Not long ago I was able to acquire an example of a sand-cast aluminum model by Nason, one that they marketed as their “All-Service Express” car.

Of course, it is actually a type of baggage car, more specifically a PRR B60b Baggage Express car. These were rebuilt later with “porthole” windows and served many years in revenue service. For reference, this website has many drawings of PRR baggage cars, and the drawing of this specific car is here. 

The above linked drawing is a bit crude, but you can see how it matches the car as produced by Nason pretty closely. They introduced the series of sand cast passenger cars in 1934 (more here).

One curiosity of the model is that it was produced with an unusual version of a Commonwealth truck. These were used on the Erie, New Haven, and Boston & Maine – but not the PRR. Perhaps Nason selected this truck thinking it was a modern design (for 1934) and would see wider use that in actually did.

This model is complete and won’t need a lot of work to have ready for the layout. I’m still pondering it a bit, in particular deciding if I want to letter it for my Orient or the PRR. Sometimes it pays to just live with a model a while to see where inspiration leads. In any case though, this is certainly a model to keep your eyes peeled for.

In closing, I’d add that I have an extra frame, if you have other parts but are missing a frame do be in touch.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

A NW-2 from the WCS, part 1: a first look

Regular readers know I have a group of models built by James Trout. That he was quite a fine craftsman is an understatement, as he was in real life a Disney illustrator (more here).

This NW-2 very recently joined my group of Trout models. It is lettered for his personal road, the West Coast Southern, of which I have other models such as this gondola and this caboose.

In the photos here it is seen with a stock version of the Super-Scale NW-2 (more here), which is used as the basis for his model, and also a 3D printed Shapeways SW-7 (more here).

He modified his model and upgraded it in a number of ways. The most obvious and visually helpful modification was the cab. The Super-Scale cab has always seemed a bit off to me, and now it is clear why: It is not long enough, window shapes are off, and the back step is clunky. Trout fixed all those things by replacing the cab sides and modifying the ends. The front side really looks nice with the characteristic look of the NW-2 windows, which was a key modification.

There are other modifications to the body, but the other big change, only somewhat visible in the photos, is he completely redid the steps in brass. The detail is much finer and pleasing to the eye, with see through treads.

Also I should note the lettering, like most of his other models, was done by hand with his steady, artist hand.

As the model arrived it has sideframes but no other parts from the original drive. At first I was a little disappointed, but then I realized this was a blessing, as I can work out a new drive that would require only minimal changes to the frame, but otherwise the model will remain visually exactly as it is now.

I’d love to get this running using the Athearn drive parts I have used numerous times now. I have WAY too many projects going, but this one is going to be pushed ahead a bit in the line, be watching for more in the coming months.

Continue to Part 2

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A complete Nason cast boxcar kit

Part of a recent purchase included – finally! – a complete example of the Nason cast boxcar kit. The article where I introduce this model is here. 

Also, I reproduced castings for this model in resin castings after finding some incomplete examples. Some finished models from that project are seen in this article, which is in the middle of that series of articles.

To the present kit (click on the photo for a closer view), I think first the box is interesting, as it has that Nason label pasted on (and it is a thin, flat box), but even more interesting is that blueprint. It was prepared in December of 1934 and updated twice in January 1935. So the model was introduced to the market in 1935. I’m particularly intrigued by the final step in the instructions, “Give car a coat of filler & paint & letter as desired.” The castings are aluminum and a little rough, the idea was to instead of sanding them down to use a filler to smooth things out a bit. I’ve tried the same thing with 3D printed models, it was not a cure-all, but Mr. Surfacer was helpful (more here). I'll have to pick up another couple cans of it sometime.

In any case, this was an exciting find, I’ve been looking for one of these for years. It certainly falls in the category of interesting and important models produced in the early years of our hobby, one to keep your eye peeled for.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

A string of vintage 50’ double door boxcars

One thing I can respect from the OOldtimers is that they could take a project and go! One example is this string of 50’ double door boxcars.

I don’t know who built them, but back in the 1990s (!) I purchased five of these in a lot. For years and years I’ve had them out displayed together on a shelf, as they reminded me of the strings of these I saw on yard tracks in my ATSF home town (a division point) in roughly the late 1970s, by then either retired or in storage.

I’m guessing the builder got inspired by the actual cars and also the decal sets (I think Champ HO/OO sets), as they are lettered in five different schemes – the prototype cars had a map on one side and on the other had advertising for one of the ATSF passenger trains. They are nicely built up, and the builder went to some effort to seal the body and decals really well. The sealer he used (varnish) has yellowed a bit, altering the color of the decals.

To the cars themselves, I think they are modified Picard bodies with Selley frame casting parts, ends, and doors (more on Selley here, and more on Picard here). Picard sides are flat, but the builder has cut lines to represent the panels of metal in the prototype cars.

The doors are worth some extra commentary. They are, compared to the prototype, too small. On the other hand, they are what I would think of as Nason doors like you see on the Nason 40’ double door boxcar (more here). Of course Nason was I believe actually buying doors from Selley. They have a nice vintage look anyway.

As I said, I’ve had these cars for years and years, but actually I’ve never operated them ever. Partially they looked nice up on the shelf. Also though, they are big models and to run all five I’d really need a bigger layout, the decals were yellowed, etc.

Then in some other recent purchase what became this final MKT car was obtained. This is a Hawk body (more on Hawk here), built up simply, but also with those same Nason/Selley doors. It was painted but in sad shape, so I worked it over a bit and repainted it. The very flat surface of the sides was ideal for the Tichy decals, completing this vintage piece.

This last MKT car is very operational, and it did finally inspire me to pull down the ATSF cars and roll a couple of them on the layout. It’s still a pretty neat set of five, and I’m now starting to do a second Hawk car for the MKT, but this time with bigger (prototypical sized!) doors, which should look nice.

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

A CN chop-nose geep

This handsome American OO model was built by Pierre Bourassa, and it is one of at least two of these CN GP9RM that he built.

His starting point for both models was the Kemtron GP7 (more here). I always think, if you are thinking to do a conversion like this you have to be ready to complete the project. In his case, he very much was.

CN 7052 came to me not in working order, but was not a huge project to get working again. The main issues were it needed a new belt for the Baker drive (more on those here) and the drive line was touchy to get set up. Lubed up and with clean wheels it runs quite well, with three lights wired in to good effect. 

What I really like as well is that as they were retired from the CN these engines made their way to short lines, such as my MQS. I’ve been enjoying running the model with my modern era equipment.

I have a number of photos of models from Pierre, and have several photos of this companion engine, CN 7053. It looks to have been rebuilt in the same manner. He built a whole series of modern engines in his later years, mostly from plastic. I own one other of these, a big CSX GE Dash 8-40C (more here), and hope to someday perhaps own a couple more of his creations. On the layout these days I mostly run either a late 50s era or a 80s era. Although probably slightly off my era for my road (the rebuilds date to the 1980s, so they would not have been sold off for some years), I will still make good use of CN 7052.