Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Santa on cover of the December 1949 issue of Model Railroader

Everyone loves to play with model trains!

Some spot-color red has been added to this black-and-white cover photograph of Santa Claus playing with the controls.1 Here's a rundown of some of the other interesting tidbits in this December 1949 issue of Model Railroader.

1. There is a how-to article by one of the most famous model builders of all-time, John Whitby Allen. This note from the editor on the first page summarizes Allen's contribution:
"Every photograph we publish of John Allen's startlingly lifelike HO gauge Gorre & Daphetid railroad scenery provokes dozens of letters asking 'How does he do it?' so we asked John to do something about it. He responded with a step-by-step camera record of the building of Mt. Alexander, an impressive mountain on the Devil's Gulch & Helengon, the narrow gauge feeder to the G&D. Captions with the photos give you the lowdown on materials and technique."
2. In the letters to the editor (a feature titled "Railway Postoffice"), R.E. Denzler of Nutley, New Jersey, describes a unique vehicle used by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Here's an excerpt of the letter and the photo that accompanied it:
"You may be interested in the enclosed snapshot of a most peculiar 'locomotive.' The Pennsylvania RR has two of them. They are used exclusively around the streets in and bounding the six city blocks occupied by Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Co. at Exchange Pl., Jersey City. ... One of these locomotives can pull five or six cars. And that's not all! They have an air whistle and sport a commercial motor vehicle license plate. They're about 20 ft. long, have a speed about 10 m.p.h., and are about 25 years old. The darn things can pull a car straight or around a 40 ft. radius, uncouple, run around it, and push it in the rest of the way with all the freedom of a reversible trolley bus."
3. The magazine has a section called Trackside Photos. Readers could submit photos of their layouts and would receive a minimum of $5 from the magazine if their photograph was published. One published photo includes this caption:
"Over 6000 hours of work is represented in this railroad built by inmates of the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pa., during their spare time. The layout is 7x20 ft. in size and is set up on five tables. There are 78 buildings, no two alike in construction. Since government funds are not available for this type of inmate project, all equipment was purchased by the employees of the institution. Notice the completely equipped engine terminal in the foreground."
Prison was so much nicer in the late 1940s, I guess. I wonder if the inmates got to keep the $5 paid by the magazine.

As an aside, inmates who have been housed at Lewisburg over the years include Jimmy Hoffa, Henry Hill, Whitey Bulger, John Gotti and Alger Hiss.

4. In another section filled with reader contributions, Mrs. Fred List provided this crafty idea for making a railroad layout more festive:
"Now's the time for that community Christmas tree in front of your model village hall or in the station garden. I've made these trees by wrapping cardboard into a cone shape, painting it dark green, and coating it with glue. While the tree is tacky, I sprinkle green wool yarn or flock over it. When the glue has dried, I punch holes in the cone and press wads of colored cellophane into them, fastening them inside with Scotch tape. The tree is then placed over a white bulb projecting through the base."

Finally, it seems like building model railroads was an even more expensive hobby six decades ago than it is today. Check out some of these 1949 prices from this issue's advertisements.
  • No. 2333 Lionel Super-Power, Super-Duper Twin Diesel, $42.50 (the equivalent of about $400 today!)
  • Lionel operating cattle car, $14.50
  • Three-rail minitoy trolley, $19.95
  • American Flyer Semaphore Man, $8.50
  • HO Gauge Mantua Pacific 4-6-2, $49.50
  • HO Gauge Mantua goat2, $24.50
  • Lionel operating water tower, $7.50
  • Lionel lamp post, $3.00
  • Electronpack (power pack designed for HO), $14.95
  • Pennsy 0-4-0 Yardbird by John English & Co., $22.95

1. Hmmm. Where have we seen that before? Check out this November post and scroll to the bottom.
2. I have no idea what a Mantua goat is.

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