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Acme model locomotives-1933

by Keith Wills I

n researching Acme Model Locomo- tives of Hamden, Ohio, knowing it only by a 5″×7″ folder, I found the firm offered what appeared to have been a generic Hudson and a C&O F- 19 Pacific. There was also a mention of a Mikado and Pennsy P5A 4-C-4 elec- tric outline locomotive (designed by Bill Lenoir) and represented by line drawings. The Hudson, Pacific and Mikado were priced at $75.00 with Ick- en a.c.. motors. The P5A could have been bought with two motors. Acme sold seven passenger and six freight car kits, plus other modeling materials. I’d read a construction article that had been written about the P5A in a July, 1933, issue of The Model Maker, an early hobby magazine. This was still the era of O gauge/O scale, both inter- changeable terms, as the NMRA had yet to be formed to set standards for compatible scale models. Wheel treads and flanges could have been any size and often were. Couplers, however, would take decades to sort out. Wanting to see a better picture of the

P5A, I wrote to RMC’s office asking if the particular issue with the construc- tion article was on file. It was. The only image was a line drawing made April 10, 1933, and no photo. Drat! It was also on a spread across the gutter in a bound volume. A much better copy is provided here courtesy of the NMRA’s Kalmbach Memorial Library. (Thank you!) The article’s instructions were very basic when one considers how much prototype and helpful information one receives in today’s kits or assembled models with some final work to be com- pleted. They also speak of work for which the modern hobbyist is rarely equipped to do, meaning having the machine tools and expertise required. Author Roy E. Robbins had earlier written an article about the Hudson and the tools necessary to build it and saw no reason to mention them again, as they were the same. While extolling the new P5A as the last word in mod- ern prototype electric power (the GG1 was to arrive two years later), he felt its simplicity over more complex steam locomotives with all their rods and valve gear made this one best for mod-


elers with limited mechanical experi- ence. To finish the main drivers and leading and trailing truck wheels to the correct size meant turning them on a lathe. Such work was simpler, of course, without worrying about the crank pins required on steamer drivers. It appears the kit had two price levels,

for Mr. Robbins mentioned the wheels came finished or as rough castings, hence the need for a lathe for the latter. The less work involved meant a higher kit price, while one paid less for doing it oneself. This was the Great Depression, after all, when a loaf of bread was seven cents and a decent wage was $15.00 to $20.00 a week. A penny saved here and there added up. He stressed how impor- tant it was to do careful work, which “should be the motto of all model builders to build each and every part and do all as precisely as possible” (a mantra worth adopting). And, he also stated how important it was to check and double check the drawings. The frame’s two main bronze cast-

ings needed cleaning with a file, squar- ing of all working surfaces, locating main drive wheel centers, idler gear centers and marking holes for them to be drilled and tapped. He continued saying the motor, transmission, gear, etc., were to be installed before the frames were completely assembled. The cab consisted of “five nicely de- tailed aluminum castings ... assembled by means of drilling and tapping holes to the correct sizes and screwing them to- gether, and to the main frame.” Steps and pilots also needed to be drilled, tapped and screwed to the frame. Con- ventional outside third-rail shoes (before 1935 NMRA standards for two-rail d.c. operation) were to be added, and if more realism was preferred, its pantographs could have been made to receive over- head power. After running in, it was ready for painting in “Pennsylvania R.R. color for this class of locomotive or any color to suit the requirements of the model line for which it is being built.” In that day and age, we didn’t care how authentic we were or were not, of- ten not, as long as we had something to put on the rails and run. In a sense, the early 1930’s represented our stone age

of scale model building and operation. This isn’t to say people didn’t care. Modelers just did not have the re- sources to do better. We were really just a few steps above tinplate. Infor- mation in Mr. Robbins’ brief article said little more than indicated here. Following Robbins’ article was a page with the information “Where to see Railroad Exhibits at the World’s Fair,” i.e., Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress Exposition which had three large operating ¹/₄″ scale layouts where many hobbyists had a chance to see more than perhaps they had ever thought about. I was familiar with the layouts, but there was more in the Travel and Transport Building than suspected. While the list is incomplete, it makes interesting reading, nonethe- less. The first layout mentioned was Chesapeake & Ohio’s, designed by Ed Alexander with two of its latest loco- motives and rolling stock, primarily C&O’s F-19 which I believe Fred Icken was also involved in producing Both cataloged it with the same road num- ber along with a 2-10-4 Texas type powered by Icken’s superior motors. The Illinois Central layout had its latest locomotives and rolling stock, along with a complete signal system and speed control. The road exited the Fair in 1934, the second year, and Amer- ican Flyer filled the vacated space with a large open, rectangular tinplate lay- out for boys to enter and run its latest model trains. A Flyer catalog photo showed it filled with boys surrounded by a crowd of children and parents. The Pennsylvania’s exhibit showed its latest equipment, gas electric cars, old time locos, and up-to-date rolling stock. An operating K4 provided by Scale Craft was prominently featured. It’s also interesting to note that for the second year of the Fair all locomotives were required to be re-motored with Icken’s, seeing the long, grueling hours they were required to run. Other roads had static models. Rock

Island’s was a passenger locomotive. The B&O displayed old and new loco- motives (Mel Thornburgh’s models or full size is unclear). New York Central had models of the Century and Storm


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