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Author Topic: Old Timers' Reminiscing  (Read 32863 times)
ebtnut

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« Reply #120 on: May 08, 2012, 01:14:14 PM »

Back in 60's and 70's the received wisdom on brass locos was about like this:  The best consistent runners came from PFM United.  The PFM Tenshodo models were well-detailed, but often ran with a fair amount of gear noise.  Most of the Akane models ran pretty well, but lacked some of the detailing of the PFM offerings. 

Models from Gem were all over the map, both as to detailing and running characteristics.  The EBT Mike I bought back then came with a Mantua open-frame motor that stuck out the back of the cab.  The gear ratio was not matched to the loco, so it ran way too fast.  I finally replaced the motor with a Faulhaber micro-motor with a 3.45 to 1 gearhead mated to the original worm, and it now runs very well.  However, the detailing left a lot to be desired. 

Balboa models were also a hit-and-miss.  Some ran very well; others needed a fair amount to TLC. 

As for that orange caboose, no it wasn't cast as one piece.  It was NWSL's first venture with the Koreans when they first tried to break into the brass building business.  They were so bad that NWSL marketed them as the "Disaster Series".  Virtually nothing was assembled straight, and the orange paint was sometimes enhanced with paintbrush bristles and a fingerprint.

The early plastic Sharks were brought in by Model Power, and were very nice runners.  I think they were made in Yougoslavia.





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Desertdweller

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« Reply #121 on: May 08, 2012, 01:58:22 PM »

Thanks.
My memory sometimes gets hazy after 40+ years.  I thought those things were cast.

"Disaster Series"!  At least it was attempt to salvage something.

I've seen some cabooses that have been through wrecks.  They didn't have many straight corners either.

Les
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CNE Runner


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« Reply #122 on: May 08, 2012, 04:16:16 PM »

A fellow vendor, at the Birmingham train show last Saturday, was selling a milk crate full of old car kits. Names such as Silver Streak, Mainline, Varney and others were represented. A young fellow was looking through the kits and remarked; "What are all these pieces of printed paper for?" The vendor explained that they were to be glued on the car sides to represent the prototype car - since the car 'body' consisted of a block of bare wood. There was a moment of silence and the chap spoke up again; "What are the pieces of paper for?" Needless to say he didn't buy one of the kits.

Probably because of this thread, I decided to look through some of these vintage kits. Wow...how far things have progressed. Some of the kits seemed to be from the war years (uh, that's World War 2 for you young folks), and were made entirely of wood and had paper/cardstock printed overlays. There were no trucks nor couplers as the builder was supposed to supply them (common when metal was rationed for the war effort). Some of the later kits (probably from the early-to-mid 1950s) did include trucks and X2F couplers (although many of the truck frames were made of zamac and had serious corrosion). Paper side overlays were still evident in these kits with such things as gussets being represented by print...not 3D.

Later kits were made of metal and more closely resembled the prototype (I refer to Varney and Ulrich). By 'resembled' I mean barely - as they wouldn't hold a candle to today's kits. I guess to a limited degree, the standards were necessarily lower back then.

On a different note for all you who like to reminisce: You have to 'plunk down' the $200 for the Model Railroader DVD of 75 years of back issues. I just received mine and am only into the late 1930s. Having said that, it is amazing how the advanced modelers of the day could scratchbuild some of their locomotives - using the materials of the day. Check those old issues out and see what you think.

Ray
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"Keeping my hand on the throttle...and my eyes on the rail"
Johnson Bar Jeff

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« Reply #123 on: May 08, 2012, 04:22:47 PM »

Probably because of this thread, I decided to look through some of these vintage kits. Wow...how far things have progressed. Some of the kits seemed to be from the war years (uh, that's World War 2 for you young folks), and were made entirely of wood and had paper/cardstock printed overlays. There were no trucks nor couplers as the builder was supposed to supply them (common when metal was rationed for the war effort). Some of the later kits (probably from the early-to-mid 1950s) did include trucks and X2F couplers (although many of the truck frames were made of zamac and had serious corrosion). Paper side overlays were still evident in these kits with such things as gussets being represented by print...not 3D.

Later kits were made of metal and more closely resembled the prototype (I refer to Varney and Ulrich). By 'resembled' I mean barely - as they wouldn't hold a candle to today's kits. I guess to a limited degree, the standards were necessarily lower back then.

Those kits ought to be in some museum of model railroading somewhere.
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2-8-8-4

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« Reply #124 on: May 08, 2012, 05:40:06 PM »

There are toy train museums like the one near Strasburg, PA, that have all sorts of old trains--including the later Tyco stuff in them.

However, there are plenty of people sitting on inventory of those old wood and metal kits even now--most guys never assemble them.

I have a truck driver friend who must have at least 50 of those old wooden kits brand new in the box.  Who knows when or if he'll ever assemble them--most guys just don't ever get around to it.

To me, those old kits are actually quite common, as I've seen plenty of them here in PA.

Regarding brass models--most of the ones I've ever bought do indeed run pretty well--but I stick to 1980's or later vintage, with a few exceptions for Westside or PFM models--especially the ones built by Micro Cast Mizuno in Japan.  The issue with brass is that I can no longer afford those high quality models--so I stick to plastic.

John

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ebtnut

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« Reply #125 on: May 09, 2012, 12:51:51 PM »

Most craftsman-style kits did not include trucks and couplers.  In the case of trucks, it was likely two things - It would up the cost of the kit (a set of Central Valley trucks might cost almost as much as the kit) and modeler's preferences for what type of trucks they use.  Second, there was no standard coupler (still isn't, actually) so it was a waste to put something in that most likely wasn't going to be used by the modeler.  Some old Varney kits came with cast metal dummy couplers as a default.  The X2f "horn-hook" coupler gained some traction becuase it was easy to cast in plastic and assemble into the model.  And as noted previously in this thread, there were quite a few coupler choices out there  - Mantua or Baker loop and hooks; Devore and Roundhouse working knuckles; the horn-hooks; the original pre-magnetic Kadee's.
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2-8-8-4

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« Reply #126 on: May 09, 2012, 01:28:00 PM »

The more I read here, the more it seems we simply take for granted today--we've forgotten how far we've come.
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Johnson Bar Jeff

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« Reply #127 on: May 09, 2012, 03:23:12 PM »

However, there are plenty of people sitting on inventory of those old wood and metal kits even now--most guys never assemble them.

I have a truck driver friend who must have at least 50 of those old wooden kits brand new in the box.  Who knows when or if he'll ever assemble them--most guys just don't ever get around to it.

To me, those old kits are actually quite common, as I've seen plenty of them here in PA.

Must be your circle of acquaintances. I've lived all but one of my 54 years in Pennsylvania and I've never seen a one of those kits, only read about them.  Wink
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Johnson Bar Jeff

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« Reply #128 on: May 09, 2012, 03:32:55 PM »

The X2f "horn-hook" coupler gained some traction becuase it was easy to cast in plastic and assemble into the model.

Wouldn't you say a little more than "some traction"? Surely horn-hooks were "industry standard" in ready-to-run for close to 40 years, weren't they? I mean, not that they "set the standard" but that every manufacturer used them. Every RTR locomotive and car that was bought for me as a child in the Sixties came with them, and even every MDC-Roundhouse kit that I bought for myself in the Seventies and Eighties came with them, too.

And then when I wasn't looking, all of the sudden knuckle couplers became the "industry standard."  Grin
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Doneldon

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« Reply #129 on: May 09, 2012, 03:38:35 PM »

Surely horn-hooks were "industry standard" in ready-to-run for close to 40 years, weren't they?

J-J-

Yes, they certainly were the effective industry standard, even as they were reviled for their
appearance and barely adequate performance. They weren't very durable, either.
                                                                                                                              -- D
 
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Desertdweller

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« Reply #130 on: May 09, 2012, 06:30:20 PM »

Yeah, horn-hook couplers.

From what I've read, they were a result of an industry-wide need for a common coupler in HO scale that would be cheap enough to include in both kits and ready-to-run equipment.  Someone in the NMRA designed the thing, and made it available to use without a fee to manufacturers.

Prior to this, there was no standardized coupler, although there were several competing designs.  Rolling stock either came with a proprietary coupler made by the manufacturer, or with no couplers at all.  Buyers would have to buy the couplers of their choice and install them.  Sounds like a mess!

The horn-hook couplers had their appearance and operational limitations, but the big problem with them was, although the operating and appearance were standardized, their construction wasn't.  Different manufacturers used various materials to build them, and various means to spring them.  So horn-hook couplers made by different builders did not necessarily work well together.

A basic probem was that they depended on spring action in a horizontal plane to operate.  This made them disposed to causing derailments when backing up.  They were also difficult to adjust for differences in height.

By the 1960's, even though horn-hooks were the industry standard, few model railroads featured in magazines made use of them.  Most used the KayDee couplers.  These worked well if installed and adjusted correctly, used magnetic uncoupling, and, best of all, looked like actual couplers.

KayDee had a tight lock (no pun intended) on its patents.  Their couplers sold at a premium price in a market without competition.  The flood gates opened when the patents expired.

KayDee couplers are still produced, and they are still top-quality.  But there are lots of competing brands now that operate well and will mate with KayDee.  KayDee offers a great variety of couplers, including conversion kits for specific locomotives, and trucks.  A former KayDee division, MicroTrains, offers pretty much the same selection in N-scale.

A lot of model railroaders had converted to KayDee or MicroTrains couplers before the competitive couplers were on the market.  It was an expensive conversion if you had a lot of equipment, but worth it.
A lot of clubs also required these couplers on equipment used on club railroads.

Les
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Johnson Bar Jeff

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« Reply #131 on: May 10, 2012, 11:06:31 AM »

KayDee had a tight lock (no pun intended) on its patents.  Their couplers sold at a premium price in a market without competition.  The flood gates opened when the patents expired.

Thanks, Les. So maybe that at least partly explains the industry switch?
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jward


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« Reply #132 on: May 10, 2012, 11:44:29 AM »

if i remember correctly, mchenry was the first kadee knockoff on the market, and bachmann was the first to offer knuckle couplers on their rolling stock.

we called the x2f couplers "decil hooks" and converted to kadees as fast as possible. as an interim solution, we had severalo "conversion" cars with an x2f on one end and a kadee on the other.

making the knuckle coupler, based on the kadee design, the standard in HO is one of the best things that has happened to the hobby.
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Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA
Woody Elmore

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« Reply #133 on: May 10, 2012, 12:32:55 PM »

When I was in college I had zero funds but I found a hobby shop willing to sell me HO kits for very little. I think I have built one of every kind of HO kit (well, except Red Ball.) My favorites were Silver Streak and the Ambroid series of cars. I once bought a Mainline Models door and a half box car. The wood in the kit didn't match the plans and the plans were close to HO scale but not exact. I managed to build the thing - I remember using staples for grab irons rather than try to form the soft green florist wire that came with the kit. The staples were oversize but looked great when painted.


There was a company in Manhattan who sold via mail order (AHC - America's Hobby Center). They used to sell HO trucks in little white boxes - I don't remember the price but it was something like two pair for a dollar. They were Athearn trucks and were sprung. Who remembers the Athearn car kits where you had to assemble the trucks? They used to supply rubber inserts in place of springs. I converted many a pair to springs.

It is true that the hobby has come a long way. Speaking of brass I agree that the PFM imports made by United and Tenshodo were the best to buy. I had problems with Westside locos - cold soldered parts would come loose. The worst were imported by Empire Midland and Hallmark. These models were being made in Korea, not Japan.

My favorite all time PFM engine was my United USRA mike. It ran like a top and never had a problem. The worst engine I ever had was a Hallmark ATSF doodle bug (M-190?) Not only did the trucks fall apart but the thing had one of those Tyco slant motors. I junked the Hallmark mechanism and mounted a Hobbytown truck with a can motor. The doodlebug then ran nicely - except that, from time to time, parts would fall off!

Like the old song said "Those were the days my friend..."

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Desertdweller

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« Reply #134 on: May 10, 2012, 12:50:09 PM »

Yes.  I think that explains the switch.

Consider the viewpoint of the manufacturer.  You produce models equipped with horn-hook couplers because to equip them with KayDee couplers would put you at a price disadvantage to your competitors.  You have to figure the cost of the horn-hooks into the price of your product.  Yet, you know that most of your customers are discarding the horn-hooks and replacing them with KayDees.  So, they are paying for couplers they don't want, then paying again for couplers they do want.  So, if you can sell your products with KayDee-compatible couplers you can save your customers money in their actual cost of having the product ready to use.  Even if you have to
charge a little more for your products.

All you need is a lower-priced source of KayDee-compatible couplers.  And when they became available, the switch was on!

I recall McHenry being the first brand of KayDee-compatible couplers in HO.

The same thing happened in N-scale.  The Rapido coupler was made available to other N-scale manufacturers
without a fee in an effort to establish an industry standard.  This was even more successful than the horn-hook had been in HO, because the Rapido coupler was adapted world-wide.  

It was also more successful than the horn-hook because it performed better.  Its movement was in a vertical rather than in a horizontal plane, so it was less liable to cause derailments when backing up.  And the construction and materials used were more standardized than the horn-hook.  Almost all Rapido couplers involved a T-shank, with a copper or steel spring pushing on it from behind.  The Rapido coupler also looked somewhat more like a knuckle coupler than did a horn-hook, although it was grossly oversized for N-scale.

The situation for manufacturers in N-scale was the same as that faced by HO manufacturers.  People were buying their products and throwing away the couplers.

N-scale knuckle couplers were also made by KayDee.  Before these were introduced, some frustrated N-scalers were using KayDee HOn3 couplers, which were close to N-scale in size.

KayDee brought out a line of N-scale freight cars that came equipped with their knuckle couplers, or could be had with Rapido couplers at a slightly lower price.

A restructuring of the company established Micro-Trains as a separate company.  The Micro-Trains company sold only N-scale at first, then added Z-scale.  The Micro-Trains N-scale couplers are identical to the KayDee N-scale ones.

Les
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