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Thread: Model Railroading in the 50s and 60s.

  1. #1
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    Default Model Railroading in the 50s and 60s.

    Along with my posts about: How many articles John Allen wrote in Model Railroader, Did you build a layout when you were a kid, Sentimental Journey: DC power Packs, Upgrading old freight Equipment, etc... I think I have shown that I enjoy taking looks back to what was available, how things where done and who was doing them, when I started in this hobby. This thread will be simple observations about the hobby back in those times, from the use of Model Railroader's Digital Archives. I am looking through all the issues published since April of 1950, the year and month I was born. As of today's date, January 28th, 2017, I am through March of 1959. It is slow going, as I'm finding so much interesting stuff. I'm doing this, not because I feel that these where better times than today; but, because doing so is giving me a deeper sense of the history of the hobby! It is very enjoyable to me, to see things as they came about, who were the big players back when, what was available and mostly just appreciating the fact that people would simply make things that were not available at the time!

    By all means if you have comments to make, chime right in!

    First of all, the hobby of HO model Railroading wasn't dominated by companies such as Athearn and Roundhouse yet; however, Roundhouse's 0-6-0 switcher had been on the market for quite a few years already and certainly was available in April of 1950. Surprisingly, Ulrich was producing die cast metal kits, ther kits were not cast resin as they are today. Lionel advertised O-27 equipment in Model Railroader back then. One of the largest manufacturers at this time was Tru-Scale! They made milled basswood track/road bed and had many other model railroad items. Silver Streak was a division of Tru-Scale back then. It was just as likely you would see cover shots with Al Kalmbach; or, Lynn Westcott along with other notable Model Railroading folks. O gauge was more prevalent than HO back in this era and advertisements for TT equipment were fairly regular. What surprises me most is modelers would determine that they needed a 4-6-0 for their "Busted Flatts RR" and get busy making one from what ever material was available (mostly brass). That modeler railroaders where innovative and resourceful far beyond how we are today is demonstrated on almost every page of the magazine! Varney, along with Tru-Scale maybe would have been considered "Big Players". Bowser and John English where around and producing locomotives as was Penn Line.
    Last edited by NP2626; 01-28-2017 at 02:32 PM.
    Mark D.

    Opinions given are my own and not meant to ruffle any feathers.
    Northern Pacific, really terrific!

  2. #2
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    I wonder how many people actually subscribe to the Model Railroader All Time Digital Archive?

    In fact, I wonder if I am the only one?

    Do you remember LePages Glue?
    Mark D.

    Opinions given are my own and not meant to ruffle any feathers.
    Northern Pacific, really terrific!

  3. Default

    Mark - I do not subscribe, as I don't have much spare time since I retired. Go figure! I actually still use some LePage products, but normally not on modeling projects.
    You are, with your searches, in the midst of an era that includes some articles written by a man I met a couple of times in Dallas, Bill McClanahan. My dad took me to see his "Texas & Rio Grande Western" layout several times, as he knew him well. We first met him together at Hall's Hobby House, run by the late great Bobbye Hall. I was about ten years old at the time (1962). You had to climb a narrow staircase into his attic to see it. It was that layout that got me hooked into HO, although I didn't actually start modeling for 20 years after. He also wrote a book about model railroading scenery in the 50's I think, but I don't remember the title. In real life, he was a sports writer and cartoonist for "The Dallas Morning News".

    Willie

  4. Default Model Railroading in the 50s and 60s.

    About a year ago, I was given a gift from an older fellow who I operated on a layout with regularly. It was his entire collection of MRR mags from 1950 to the present, all in pristine condition.

    I cannot put them down!!!!! The ones from the early 50's are my favorite. I am completely obsessed/fascinated with anything from John Armstrong... he was a genius.

    Edit: I'm 40


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by SNE; 01-28-2017 at 06:53 AM.

  5. #5

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    I remember that the late 1950's HO was becoming to be more reliable, and more kits were being introduced all the time. Varney, and Bowser both made die cast kits, with motors that just sucked! North West Short Line solved that, with better gear boxes and motors. Cal-Scale, Kemtron, Precision Scale and Bowser produced lost wax castings of the various Stesm loco appliances and detail parts. Kemtron even produced a brass Mogul kit! Athearn was king of plastic diesels, and their blue box kits were the staple of most all model railroaders. Champ made lots of decals too. The big improvement in HO was getting away from brass track. By the late 1960's, experimenters were making momentum controllers. Modern improvements in manufacturing made products better. N scale didn't really catch on until the mid 1970's. Kaydee couplers in N scale helped out. The late 60's also saw the ramping up of smaller manufacturers like Westerfields, and C&F making resin kits of lesser known rolling stock. Several plastics companies were making plastic and cast buildings like DPM. Woodland scenics expanded their scenery products, structures, and castings.

    My first trains were American Flyer. They were fun in the early to mid 1960's but wasn't as 'scale' as I would have liked. Second try was with Auroras Postage Stamp trains. I also tried my hand at building an articulated engine from a kit! Arbour Models C&O H-8 2-6-6-6. NEVER got it to run well. I finally sold all of it off in the mid 1980's to get into RC airplanes. THEN...I got a job at a local hobby shop (To get a discount) where the HO scale trains got my attention. Ended up buying 8 of the Oriental Ltd "Powerhouse" series N&W Y3 2-8-8-2's. I added more details, repainted, added DCC and ran them on several layouts. When I bought my most recent house, it had a large loft, which became my first layout in years. With changes to my job situation I had no money to continue, so It's being torn down and sold off except for a few pieces of brass.

  6. #6

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    To your list of early manufacturers I would add Varney and Aristocraft. I have a number of their engines and rolling stock and find the detail, while not up to modern standards, quite acceptable.

  7. #7
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    I saw my first reference to Nickle Silver rail in the beginnings of 1959. Mantua was one of the big players by this time. America's Hobby center (AHC) got it's start in the 50s sometime, the first issue I've come across with two full page ads for AHC was in the December, 1953 issue. If you where a Lionel guy, Madison Hardware of N.Y. N.Y. was a mail order house you might do business with. Ambroid made many HO kits for the model railroader as well as their famous cements for both wood and plastic. In the later part of the 1950s Model Railroader started a series in every issue where the discussed the paint schemes for many diesel locomotives by railroad along with this series they also looked into steam engine equipment. By the late 1950s, Atlas had asserted itself as one of the premier producers of both sectional track and flexible HO Track. In fact other than hand laying, Tru-Scale track, Atlas was maybe the only producer of finished "Snap Track" in curves straight and Turnouts.
    Last edited by NP2626; 01-28-2017 at 03:00 PM.
    Mark D.

    Opinions given are my own and not meant to ruffle any feathers.
    Northern Pacific, really terrific!

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Central Minnesota, Park Rapids area.
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    Quote Originally Posted by santafewillie View Post
    Mark - I do not subscribe, as I don't have much spare time since I retired. Go figure! I actually still use some LePage products, but normally not on modeling projects.
    You are, with your searches, in the midst of an era that includes some articles written by a man I met a couple of times in Dallas, Bill McClanahan. My dad took me to see his "Texas & Rio Grande Western" layout several times, as he knew him well. We first met him together at Hall's Hobby House, run by the late great Bobbye Hall. I was about ten years old at the time (1962). You had to climb a narrow staircase into his attic to see it. It was that layout that got me hooked into HO, although I didn't actually start modeling for 20 years after. He also wrote a book about model railroading scenery in the 50's I think, but I don't remember the title. In real life, he was a sports writer and cartoonist for "The Dallas Morning News".

    Willie
    Willie, Bill McClanahan's book was entitled Scenery for Model Railroads, I still have a copy. He also did cartoons for Model Railroader that where done in the 1950s.
    Last edited by NP2626; 01-29-2017 at 04:24 AM.
    Mark D.

    Opinions given are my own and not meant to ruffle any feathers.
    Northern Pacific, really terrific!

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Location
    Central Minnesota, Park Rapids area.
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    Another fascinating thing I have seen in the pages of old Model Railroader magazines is designs of various structures by people who submitted a scratch building article to the magazine and that structure became a kit done by some manufacturer later on. An example, of which there are many, is Atlas' HO 702 Track Side Shanty kit. Everything that was included in the scratch building article was duplicated in the kit, even the two fellows out front playing checkers, at least my version of it had the figures when I purchased it back in the 1990s. Many of the water tank kits available today had their beginnings as a scratch building project in Model Railroader Magazine from the 50s and 60s; or even earlier! There is a wood Coal Mine Kit that I saw advertised over the years and was offered at one time and the same kit was offered by Faller, Model Power, Tyco and AHM. This kit was originally designed by Jack Work! Many of us know about John Allen's two stall "Gorre Engine House" that became a Kit by Revell, back in this same time period. Revell later modified the kit some, to become Superior Bakery.

    The list goes on and on as far as items that appeared as scratch building articles in Model Railroader Magazine and probably Railroad Model Craftsman that eventually became kits offered by various manufacturers, some where even offered by multiple manufacturers!
    Mark D.

    Opinions given are my own and not meant to ruffle any feathers.
    Northern Pacific, really terrific!

  10. #10

    Default

    I think the reason Model railroading is waning is the lack of skills and discipline of the youngsters. If they can't have it ASAP, they won't play. Same can be said for RC Model airplanes. Hardly anyone knows how to build a stick & Tissue rubber band powered airplane. I made a healthy side business of building Bowser steam engine kits. Most folks were afraid of getting in over their heads, afraid to actually LEARN something. I kept jacking up my price but they just kept on coming. i probably built 80 kits. Bowsers Challenger and Big Boy kits produced a VERY heavy loco that would pull everything. You just couldn't have any lightly built balsa wood bridges, and those engines would crush them! In the early 1990's Bowser offered a correct boiler/cab for their PRRR I1 2-10-0. Even Bowsers 0-4-0 docksider was a good puller when compared to the rest.

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