Our O gauge "Fallen Flags"

Posted by Bob Keller
on Monday, June 22, 2020

 

 

Gone but not forgotten 

Was rattled when the news came out that MTH will probably ride into the sunset next year. I started to write a eulogy, but decided I'll wait and see what happens. But this event got me remembering some of the names that have come along - and departed - in the last 25 years. And the list below isn't all of them by a any means.

I can’t motivate myself to write an obituary of MTH Electric Trains quite yet. Check back in 2021. But the potential demise of this company evokes memories of other firms who have entered the market, sold assorted products, and passed on. I went back through the review and product databases that I used to maintain, and was surprised at how many fairly well established firms, as well as home businesses came, left a mark, and then “poof” departed the battlefield. 

There are a lot if these O gauge “Fallen Flags”This is a pretty pruned down list, but I’ll bet there are a few here that you’ll see and think “Oh, yeah. I forgot those guys!

Ace Trains: British O gauge three-rail trains. Terrific quality in the prewar style. Have not heard from or read anything about them in years. In America, British three rail trains are a novelty and Ace helped introduce a few more members to the British outline train fraternity.

Arduk Engineering: their main claim to fame was a good repro if a Lionel test bench. It wasn’t cheap, but if you needed one you needed one. Their name still pops up when someone spies one of their test benches on eBay.

Bowser: Known more for HO than O, they made a line if very nice metal cast figures as well as a RoadRailer. I believe that tooling went to Weaver.

Burns Electronics: A small outfit that made track-related electronic gizmos to allow your conventional trains operate more effectively.

Chicago Line Toy Company: As far as I remember, they only made one item - a very nice die-cast street lamp in the vintage style. I bought a few when I still lived in Seattle. Very, very nice.

Kramer Products: I guess they might be best remembers for making metal cast football and baseball players, but they later made some neat animated scenes to install on your layout.

Mainline Industries: only one product from them, but it was a monster. It was a 600 watt transformer! The joke was that it could probably be used to weld with.

Marx/Ameritrains. Modern Marx trains was a niche market single-handedly created by Jim and Debbie Flynn. When they wanted to retire, they sold the business and the brand became AmeriTrains. I saw a few products under that banner, but production was slim. I don’t know if the new owner lost interest or if market forces after 9/11 were what killed the O gauge tin market.

Moondog Express: Sorely missed by anyone who used their products. Their main item was cut rubber streets. We used them in several layouts and I think I have a handful of sections installed on my layout.

Pecos River Brass (2000) A small outfit dabbling in brass and other products. I think they may have been primarily two-rail, but they made a three-rail Santa Fe Hudson, some very nice boxcars, and we’re developing a line of buildings.

Phoenix Trains (1994) Brief existence, but they made some high quality passenger cars. Their name usually pops up when a set is found on eBay.

Right of Way Industries: RoW made some great locomotives and had some advanced models in the planning stage, As it was explained to me, they were a casualty of dealing with a foreign production source that oversold its capability to make timely products.

Scott’s Odds and Ends: Not a manufacturer, but a retailer. Scott’s ads always had the darnedest stuff in them. Quite often, I didn’t know I needed it until I saw it!

SGL Lines RDG 4-6-2 (2003) Nice brass product, but I think SGL over estimated the market for high end Reading Pacifics. I believe there were some matching passenger cars in the works, but I don’t think they ever came to pass.

UMD Industrial Rail: I know that the Industrial Rail brand’s Home is now at Atlas Model RR Co., but United Model Distributors took quite a chance when they jumped into the O gauge waters with a line of new traditionally sized rolling stock for the new operator. The firm saw an opportunity to get affordable O gauge gear into shops that might not have been train stores - but which already sold products which UMD distributed.

Weaver Models: I can say that the demise of K-Line really didn’t surprise me, Weaver’s wrapping it up, however, was a stunner. The firm let overseas sources do what they did best, while still offering made (and decorated) in America rolling stock. It struck me as a well managed shop - and it was. But the market never seemed to recover after 9/11 and dealing with overseas manufacturers was a challenge. Weaver owner Joe Hayter suggested to me it just wasn’t fun anymore. The closure was orderly and access to the tooling overseas was divided, and the tooling in the US went to Lionel. Sad to see it go.

In spite of the news about MTH, I’m not a gloomy Gus. The O gauge market has never had this good a group of train makers, as well as gents and ladies who have made the buildings, figures, and lights, signals, and electronic do dads that make this so much fun! Get out and support them!

Disclaimer – some of these might still be in business...I'm just going my not receiving any product inform from them, or seeing their names on ads in various magazined.

 

 

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