Throwback Tuesday: 1935 H. Owen ATSF Ra-9 Reefer (1935, and Varney ATSF Bx-12 Boxcar (1936).

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I buy these 'oldies' whenever I find them at meets, bring them up into modern standards and run them. I've lost count of how many of these cars currently are running on my layout.  Walthers wood and metal, Laconia's, Red Ball, and others whose vintage are equally as old. My favorite, and still running after 40 plus years, is a Red Ball Carbon Black car. One of my first build, in 1968, when I was in high school. Like it so much, I bought another at a recent meet. These cars can be built to look well, and fit right into the vast fleet. Plus, they hold up well during operating sessions.

Denny Anspach <danspachmd@...>

Probably the very first American HO freight car kits (perhaps freight OR passenger) were those first advertised in 1935 by the late Howell Day under the name of H. Owen.  They were balsa blocks with silk screened paste or Bristol board sides.  

The very first HO kit that Gordon Varney produced was a line of wood frame boxcars and reefers, also with pasteboard and or Bristol board printed sides, the boxcars famously as printed rotograveure photographs (he stuck his head and camera out the window and recorded passing frieight cars that appealed to him).  

Attached below are photos of models of each in my inventory.

The H. Owen model from 1935 is of unknown date of build. It has much later -but also early- styrene Bettendorf T trucks and KD couplers.  It is very neatly built. Note that the ladders are printed on. 

The Varney box car model was actually built the year of production, 1936 by Boynton Green who was a young engineering faculty member at Stanford U at the time.  The sprung trucks are one of Dr. Green’s creations, wrought from Varney's cast lead trucks that were first produced either then or in the years soon after up to WWII. The ladders were punched brass.  Part of the running board is an aftermarket repair. Note that the sides depict even the shadows of the original photos.  One cannot argue prototype inaccuracies when the sides are direct photos! 

The H. Owen model was a serendipitous find in a flea market scrap box; the Varney model was a present to me by now Professor Dr. Green in the early 1950s.  I have other rolling stock of his, including a correspondence that he had with Al Kalmbach in the earliest Model Railroaders. 

I love these old car modelss, and immensely respect the fine modelers of the time who built them. I occasionally will salt a long string of fine prototype freight cars with one or more of these ancient models, and somehow, they seem to blend right in.  



Denny S. Anspach MD
Sacramento CA