Where were H0 scale models firstly produced?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by TEP 60, Oct 19, 2007.

  1. TEP 60

    TEP 60 Member

    I have been informed, that first H0 scale models were just produced by European producers- however, the "classic" H0 scale definition is still 3.5 mm to foot- so where were first H0 models actually produced- in Europe or America?
  2. rlundy90

    rlundy90 Member

    Trix and Marklin were the first to produce HO an OO in Europe and a few years later Bing and American Flyer produced HO in America according to a book I own. Ron.
  3. jeffrey-wimberl

    jeffrey-wimberl Active Member

    [​IMG]I agree.
  4. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    What orginally existed as sub-O (actually 0) gauge trains were OO (really 00 and considered approximate 1/75 scale at the time) tinplate toy trains produced in Europe around the teens. British and American HO scale was born out of adopting a size of one-half British O gauge (7mm) scale models. The first 3.5mm "HO scale" representations were thus European tinplate mechanisms with modeler-built, mostly crude and more-or-less semi-scale, superstructures.

    In the United States, initially, mechanisms and track were purchased from overseas manufacturers by a few daring, foward thinking individuals who also totally scratchbuilt their own locos and rolling stock, like their British counterparts. Probably the very first HO scale "layout" on this side of the pond was the Marysport & Diddystown, built in the mid 1920's by Hugh G. Boutell.

    In 1929 the first reasonably accurate representaions of complete American locomotives in HO scale began to appear. The great custom builder, George Stock, had produced a credible PRR Pacific, while E.P.Alexander offered 4-4-0 steam and 0-4-4 electric Pennsy locomotives, both of whom were then importing various parts for their models from England.

    At the same time, "Uncle" Eric LaNal (aka Alan Lake Rice) had personally built a rather good (for the period) 4-6-0 Reading camelback for his own layout. LaNal, a prolific writer in the early days of the HO hobby, was perhaps more than anyone else, responsible for the flowering of American HO scale.

    For some really entertaining reading, (and to see alternatives of where the hobby could have gone) see what you can locate regarding the great HO vs OO "war" that broke out in U.S. in print around 1934. (likewise, the 1/4-inch vs. 17/64ths battles in O gauge in the 1950's)

  5. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    The thought of HO was a joke to many "serious" modelers of that day..After all how can anybody model in such a tiny scale? Its a novelty train that will fade away was the thought by many.

    CNJ999,HO was also push along by MR as well as Bill Walthers and Gordon Varney.
  6. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    HO : referred to disdainfully as "the watchmakers scale" by its detractors in the '30's.

  7. Bones

    Bones Member

    Can you imagine their thoughts on N - 1:160, Z - 1:220, and Oh My!! T -1:450?
  8. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    Quite honestly....NO!

    At the time, HO was horrendously difficult to ever get to operate. Just as with O gauge, scale locomotives back then, it was a time of outside third rail power. The tolerances necessary in HO would give a machinist nightmares! If your third rail bench was ever-so-slightly too low, the locomotive's contact slider would short out against the running rail; a minute amount too high and it could short every revolution against the main drive rod (early sliders were usually placed between the wheels). Eric LaNal stated that even a single human hair on the tracks would usually stop an HO engine dead. Motors were unreliable and if your loco made it more than twice around a (small) layout without halting, it was considered outstanding! Likewise, recall that "power supplies" were often old 6v car batteries run through "transformers" to control speed (2-rail 12v DC power didn't come into its own until after the war).

    Little wonder then, that although HO had become the dominant scale by 1940, Model Railroader magazine indicated that there were probably less than 10,000 HO modeler railroaders in the entire country. I'd speculate that Gilbert's introduction of its relatively inexpensive, RTR, HO NYC Hudson in '38 (RTR was essentially unheard off before that time, except in the case of the custom builders...whose prices rivaled today's loco costs!), was largely responsible for the hobby really taking off.

  9. CNWman

    CNWman CNW Fan

    Didn't the fact that more familes moving to smaller homes around that time also play a role?
  10. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    Honestly, I don't think it influenced much. Around that time, 1938, you had very little choice in RTR scale model trains. Serious hobbyists had trouble accepting Lionel or Flyer O-gauge as realistic and O scale already built-up locos were unbelievably expensive. At the same time, kits for these required a great deal of rather precise work and lots of time to complete (and weren't cheap either!). RTR American motive power in OO-gauge was, as I recall, largely limited to Lionel's rather pricey J-class Hudson model (or kit). Scale-looking C-D gauge (S) really hadn't yet taken hold.

    In HO, you had some special-order, RTR, largely brass, models from Mantua but they they weren't cheap (2x-3x kit prices). If you weren't up to a lot of careful work, you could farm out your Varney or Mantua kit to one of a few guys who built your kits for you (some advertised in the back of MR), or you could go to a custom builder, just like for O-gauge. Examples of those cost about as much as some secondhand cars did at the time!

    When Gilbert introduced its reasonably good looking, fully painted and decorated, RTR Hudson at a very reasonable price in '38, it was quite remarkable. Mass produced, instead of run off in small batches of a few hundred like the other loco manufacturers, the Hudson could be sold for what many loco (no tender!) kits retailed for. For the first time, it allowed those without well equipped workshops and real model building talent to enter the hobby and get started running trains virtually right away.

    Just prior to our entering WWII, it was said that the majority of HO layouts included a Mantua Goat or a Varney Dockside for yard work and a Gilbert Hudson for mainline operations. This trend was re-enforced just after the war with the introduction of much higher quality loco kits by Mantua, Varney and MDC. An even greater impact came from Mantua's introduction of an ever expanding line of RTR HO locomotives (to be followed by PennLine, English, and others). In fact, MR claimed the number of hobbyists exploded from 16,000 in 1944 to 100,000 by around 1950!

  11. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Somewhere I heard that HO only passed O in popularity around 1950, and I thought "That seems a little late..."
  12. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    Since I don't know how to reproduce a tabulation on this site, below I'm listing the percentage difference between in number of hobbyists in the case of HO vs O between 1936 and 1949, published by Model Railroader magazine.

    1936 -12%
    1937 -16%
    1938 -12%
    1939 -1%
    1940 +12%
    1941 +7%
    1942 +13%
    1943 +13%
    1947 +21%
    1948 +40%
    1949 +47%
    (published March 1950)

  13. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    Marklin in Germany c. 1900 labelled their difference size/gauge of trains by numbers, IIRC 1,2,3,4 with No.1 Gauge (the size track LGB uses now) being the smallest. When they came up with a size smaller than No.1, their only choice was to go with No.0 ("zero" or "zed" in the UK), which came to be called "O" (like the letter) scale. This 1-1/4" gauge track worked out to represent a scale ratio of 1:43.55 or thereabouts, or 7 mm = 1 ft.

    The next logical step was to build models half as big..."Half O" which came to just be called "H.O." with a ratio of 1:87.1, or 3.5mm = 1 ft. This was fine for US and most European models, but in Britain the resulting HO models were too small for the then (1920's) smallest available electric motor, so they increased the size to 4mm = 1 ft. but still running on HO track, which became British "OO" scale.

    The trend towards smaller scales did have a lot to do with smaller space being available...huge Victorian houses giving way to smaller suburban houses. I remember when N first was becoming popular it was sometimes touted as the "Apartment Dweller's Train" because even someone in an apartment could build a layout in N.

    BTW re the comments of CNJ and Triplex, I suspect the fact that O scale seemed more common in say the fifties than it really was had something to do with the way the hobby was set up then. In the early days, model railroading was primarily a club activity, and many of these pioneering O scale clubs played important roles in creating the NMRA. They would have been more active in the NMRA, been featured more in MR, etc. compared to the early HO'ers who were usually building home layouts and perhaps were kinda flying below the radar...at least until John Allen came along.
  14. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    Stix,There was HO clubs form in the late 30s but,they was small and most closed shop during the war.After the war HO begin to grow and HO clubs sprun up everywhere..While there are older HO clubs I know 2 clubs that's been around for years..The Columbus(Oh) Model Railroad started in the late 40s above the O Scale club that was located in the Union Station building complex on North High Street.This club is now located in a office building at Buckeye Steel Castings on South Parson Ave.The Marion(Oh) MRR club has been around since 1950.This club still has the original layout complete with brass track!
  15. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    Correct up to a point. English hobbyists of the time (1930's) split into two distinct groups, the OO-scalers with their over-sized equipment done 4mm = 1 ft and British HO, which was 3.5mm to the foot. These two groups co-existed and still do (today accompanied by yet a third wing - Fine Scale). However, as I indicated earlier, there was a great debate here in the U.S. during the mid 1930's over HO vs. OO. Lionel went with OO but in the end HO/3.5mm scale won out and OO all but disappeared after the war.

    Re smaller homes supplanting older, larger ones after the war, this was indeed true. However, a great many of those older homes never had much of a basement or finished attic suitable to building a layout in. Odds are that the post-war folks were probably better off for layout space, in that sense with their newer homes generally had finished basements, uncluttered by dirt floors, coal bins and large, dirty heating systems!

    I agree that O-gauge was the more visible scale up through much of the 1950's. I can recall visiting quite a number of O-gauge club layouts here in the Northeast during that time period but can't honestly recollect a single HO group. At the time, HO was indeed much more of a home layout size, while O more favored club-sized layouts. Then too, with Lionel at its very peak in the mid 1950's, to the public, O was what they considered the size model trains should be and they were more likely to spend a modest admission fee to see layouts in that scale (i.e. supporting such clubs).

    Lots of interesting avenues that can be wandered down in such a discussion as this. Now how about American TT scale.....;-)

  16. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    There was another argument for the British OO scale on HO track -- wide wheels. A lot of British steam engines had the footplate (running board + frame) outside of the wheels and below the top of the wheel; some even had to have raised bits to allow the rods to swing. If they had used the full nearly 19mm gauge, the bits outside of the wheels would have been extra wide. So, they kept the outside of the wheels scale width, but put the flanged side far in.
  17. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    I wish we could go back to Mr. Märklin in 1900 and show him his companies Z Scale- I think he would have fainted!!

    As far as I understand, TT was the next step down from HO. I'm not too sure why it never took off. I think that N scale came not too long after and was more successful, as far as I know Piko in Germany make TT scale trains nowadays.
  18. CNJ999

    CNJ999 Member

    TT (Tabletop Trains, 1/120 scale) were (1) just too close to HO (1/87 scale) to have much of a chance at real popularity and (2) availability of locomotives and cars, to say nothing of support details (bridges, structures, etc.) and was always extremely limited. The equipment that was on the market was, in general, rather primative or crude kits. It was quickly relegated to the fate of being classified as a tiny scratchbuilder's scale.

    When N came along, about 25 years later, it avoided such pitfalls by being a decidedly different scale from HO and by having RTR equipment available from the start, as well as a rapidly growing, wide array of accessories. It didn't hurt either that when it appeared in America it had already clearly established its in Europe (most early N scale models sold over here were of European locos and rolling stock).

    If one looks into the matter carefully, it quickly becomes apparent that around 1940 there was a explosion in attempts at scale diversity. O had divided itself in the 1/4-inch and 17/64th camps, C-D (S) appeared on the scene in the midwest but was very limited and primitive at the outset, OO and HO were battling it out but the latter was gaining dominance very rapidly. Then there was TT, created for essentially the same reason that OO tinplate had been 30 years earlier - trains that could be operated in a very limited space. In the end, of all of these, only HO made really good sense from a size, operability and cost standpoint and in the course of about a generation came to totally dominate the hobby, with about a 70-75% market share.

  19. MadHatter

    MadHatter Charging at full tilt.

    Thanks CNJ999 for clearing up the TT Scale story.
  20. wjstix

    wjstix Member

    That's true - but on the other end of the spectrum, I know when I started in model railroading in 1971, no one would have believed the No.1 gauge boom that took place when LGB started making American narrow-gauge equipment!!

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