Saturday, January 31, 2015

S2 Turbine: Real-Life Flop, Model train Success

In their attempts to find new applications of steam power, the Pennsylvania Railroad tried new concepts. The T1, Q2 and J1 were among the engines hoped to extend the life of steam. Another radical ideas was the use of a steam turbine to propel a locomotive. The S2 Turbine was highly touted as the wave of the future for steam-powered locomotion.

Lionel, American Flyer and Marx were just emerging from their wartime hiatus. All three were entusiastic to resume toy production. They also wanted to have the kind of new models that would dazzle potential customers. Lionel seized on the S2 turbine and had one ready to sell by 1946. That was the first of the #671 types. During the 1950s, Lionel produced other versions of its 671, along with the O27 model 2020 and followed by 681 and 682. Obviously, the S2 turbine was a big seller for Lionel. It was reissued again years later, as were versions by Williams and MTH.

You might bet the impression that the S2 turbine was a great success. As far as Lionel was concerned, it was. Things were not so rosy for the Pennsylvania Railroad. At high speed, the steam turbine was wonderful. The problem was at low speed and idling. The S2 gluttonously consumed coal. Since trains spend a lot of time at low speed and stopped in yards and stations, the S2 was just too expensive to justify its advantages. The turbine-powered locomotive was a flop. A dud. A clunker. It was eventually scrapped. And though the Pennsy used steam well into the 1950s, diesel had the upper hand.

Most folks who run classic O gauge have an S2 or two lurking around the train room. I have two: a 671 and a 2020. Despite its O27 designation, by the way, the 2020 is the same size and pretty much the same everything else as the 671. For O gaugers, the S2 is one of the iconic pieces that define the hobby.

From 2001 to 2011, I participated in a train display at Ocean Grove, NJ, during their Victorian Holiday festival in the middle of December. Several locomotives were popular with the visitors. The little bright blue plastic Jersey Central steamers from the early MPC era were a hit, as this is central NJ. The folks also liked the Railking Chessie F3 and the Marx M10000 (cherry red with only two units, no less) and tinplate Marx steamer with its consist of tin NYC passenger cars. The one locomotive which awed them was the S2. Its size and heft and the "clank-clank" of its drive bar enthused young and old alike. Though it flubbed for the Pennsy, the S2 was still an O gauge winner after all these years.

Here is a book touting Pennsylvania Railroad motive power:

(671, 681, 682 and 2020 are Lionel model numbers, usually printed on the cab beneath the engineer’s window. The Pennsy designation of the locomotive was S2 and gave it the road number 6200)

Promotional Locomotive and Car Books from Classic Railroads, 1939 to 1958

Here are some original resources from railroads and the AAR that you may find entertaining. Those who run steam and diesel will like most, as they cover the era from 1939 to 1958. You can probably find the prototype of your favorite Lionel, Marx, Williams, MTH and K-line trains here. 1944 version 1958 version 1954 version

Friday, January 30, 2015

Army Uniform Standards: Official versus Reality

The nature of armies is such that the uniforms and equipment are not up to the latest official standards. A habit of many armies throughout history was to not issue new gear until they had used up existing stores. A good example is by way of the French and British in the Napoleonic Wars. If they had a sword that was named the "1815 pattern", you might think they had them in time for the Battle of Waterloo. Actually, the 1815 pattern might not have reached the men until a few years later. The army would issue all the remaining earlier pattern swords first.

Check out the US Army at the beginning of World War II. Official Army photographs show men wearing the "new" M1 steel helmet in 1940. Indeed, the helmet was officially accepted as THE Army Helmert in 1940, replacing the British-style "brodie". Official means poop. Look at films or photos of the soldiers and marines at Bataan or Wake Island or even on the ground for the Battle of Midway. There is not an M1 helmet to be seen anywhere. They all have the wide-brimmed brodie. It took a while for new gear to reach the troops. In fact, most US troops had a variety of gear. The old khaki-color, OD #9, was replaced first by OD #3 and then OD #7. That is, officially. Yet come 1945 they were issuing gear in all three colors.

The Germans had a problem, too. Army (Wehrmacht) standards for the uniforms were field grey tunic and stone grey trousers. In 1942, field grey trousers were officially supposed to replace stone grey. (Field gray at the time was a grey-green color; stone grey ranged from flat grey to a slightly bluish grey.) Only the Waffen SS had field gray trousers prior to mid-1942. The Army kept issuing stone grey trousers until they ran out. Some troops were wearing thme as late as 1944. And field grey changed as those producing dyes ran into shortages. Late-war field grey could range from a dark or medium grey to a greyish-brownish tint.

When I was in the Army (US, of course, early 70s), the newer nylon gear was authorized. We still got mostly the 1957 type canvas webbed gear, from ammo pouches to pack suspenders. Later, when I joined the National Guard, a lot of our equipment was up to ten years behind the regular Army.

The point is that soldiers are rarely equipped in the latest gear. They likely have at least a few of the older issue gear. The same goes for uniforms.

And remember another thing: uniforms and gear are prone to fading. It all depends on the dye lots and the time the equipment and uniforms have been worn. Fading and wear ought to be factors when painting miniature soldiers.

Prototypical Resources and Model Trains

The hobby of model railroading is made all the more enjoyable by a knowledge of the real railroads on which it is based. This attitude is more common in the smaller scales such as HO and N as well as two-rail O gauge.  Many of those who place high value on scale like to refer to the prototypes on which they base their model railways. Some go to an extreme with scale and prototype. These extreme types are known as "rivet counters." The ones who are obnoxious about it are known as "weenies."

I should note that the weenies are the ones who try to make the hobby miserable for everyone.

The other side of the equation is usually found in classic S gauge and 3-rail O and O27. Prototype takes a backseat to everything else. Scale is less an issue among the adherents of traditional Lionel, Marx and American Flyer.

However, those trains had to come from somewhere. There was a prototypical precedent somewhere.  The color schemes and model types all originated by way of a very real railroad item. Even the operating accessories are based on some real-world prototype. A little knowledge of real railroading and the real railroads can be a big boost. There is a lot of literature out there on almost every railroad that ever existed. The internet has thousands of railroad-oriented websites.

Knowledge of the history and operations of real railroads will enhance enjoyment of anyone from the river counter to the toy train speedster.

You can find prototypical resources of many kinds. Railroads of old spent a lot of effort promoting themselves to potential customers. They left behind a lot of literature, from schedules and posters to books on motive power and equipment. Take the time to look.  It's worth it.

Why Another Hobby Blog?

My presence on the net includes a couple of hobby sites. Among them are the All Gauge Page for model railroading, the Army Men Homepage for toy soldiers, Toy Soldier Art for my handcast and handpainted soldiers, and Milihistriot for the military historical stuff.  I have another blog related to spiritual matters, and so not appropriate for hobby discussions.

This is a big world with much to interest people, especially me. I am met with things of wonder on every side. History provides insight into things that have gone before. Science takes me to things that are known and others that are to be revealed. Oceanography, geology, physics, astronomy, astrophysics, seismology, vulcanology...there is so much to learn there! Spirituality takes me to the nature of the human spirit, matters of divinity and the meaning of it all. Life fascinated me, and so does creativity. There should be no wonder I also take joy in hobbies.

 I took time to brush up on science and bought several courses on physics, astronomy and history. Watching the best type of science shows on television, it became embarrassingly clear that there were gaps in my education. Things has changed and there was much to learn, so courses seemed logical.  A company called The Teaching Company made it practical for me. This attitude goes back to the ;ate 60s.  I had a great aunt who had been a schoolteacher in the days on single-room classrooms. Talk about multitasking! She was interested in everything.  Well into her eighties and blind from old age, she was still thrilled to learn and discuss everything from the Space program to her favorite baseball team. The old teacher believed that the worst thing was to stop learning. I agree.

The past two years have been difficult. My physical health was adversely affected. In spire of it, I have tried to keep myself busy. Things took a dive this Summer and my health deteriorated quickly. This past November, I had open heart surgery. That gets me at least another 20 years of living.

Hobbies are away to experience life and to create. Just as we must keep interested and teachable, so we must stay creative. Whether it is sculpting a military miniature, painting up a box of toy soldiers or running O27 trains. it is an expression of Life.