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

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]

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