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

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!