by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Originally published on:
IntroductionThis review is a trek down the track of nostalgia. It is also one of my vintage kit celebrations. Wm. K. Walthers Inc. has been making model railroad kits since the early 1930s. Many of those models were made to be whimsical. Two whimsical models are The Oscar and The Piker. "Back in the day" model railroaders had to frequently assemble their rolling stock from craftsman kits.
For you, noble Microferoequinologist, I present this walk down memory lane: an oldie but goodie, a 'public service announcement' or an educational review to just fill in the gaps, any of those are my reason for eclectic model reviews.
In the mid-1970s, before my first airbrush, I would head to Stan Walter's Stan's United Paints and Model Trains shop. Flipping through the thick Walther catalogue was a frequent pastime and The Oscar always had a certain appeal. Stan was not only a really good guy, he was also a Walthers dealer and eventually I saved a then princely sum of $7.50 and ordered an Oscar kit.
I built the model to the best of my young abilities and brush-painted it mainly with Polly S (Remember them?) acrylic (actually a latex) paints. (Japanese Army Green and Japanese Navy Green aircraft colors!) Walther's Goo was the glue of choice (CA, or "superglue" was not yet widely available) and while it held the parts together, it could not hide the gaps and my mis-alignment of parts. Over the decades Oscar fell into disrepair and languished on the rip track. But I managed to keep almost all of the parts that broke off in the box, so I packed it away for another day.
Recently I rediscovered my Oscar. Judging it to be restorable I carefully parted the pieces, removed the Goo, stripped the paint, and began cleaning up the parts. What you see in these photos is the model as it is today, patiently awaiting me to make time to rebuilt this Seussian shanty.
The Oscar kitLil' Oscar is a multi-media kit. The floor and roof are wood. The ends are cast metal. Each side panel is stamped metal. The trucks are plastic with metal wheels. Interior structure and furnishings are of card, paper, wood, and metal castings. Exterior parts are stamped metal, wood, cast metal, paper and plastic. Acetate strips provide window glazing.
Walthers included a great decal sheet. It featured zillions of heralds, expertly printed as Walthers was known for, in a fine gold.
DetailFrom rails up, the truck looks like an ordinary three-axle heavyweight passenger truck. (One can only surmise if that would offer a good ride or not in real life.) It has good molded-on detail, although it is a bit heavy compared to today's moldings. The truck is simply screwed into the milled wood "frame".
That frame/floor has no detail. A bolster is included to mount the truck on. Cast metal steps and stamped short ladders are also included, as are metal grab irons.
End castings are simple yet crisply cast pieces. The doors are recessed and the windows are open. They and the sides have sufficient contouring and rivet detail. None of the pieces have any interior detail, although, except for perhaps paneling and an emergency brake valve, there really would not be any.
The roof is a milled heavyweight style. The ends have to be sanded to a round contour. Cast vents are supplied, as are four castings roof beading.
Inside are the real details. The car is partitioned with cardstock walls. They have printed detail like pots, pans, stoves and sinks, maps, and a shower. The shower has the whimsical and obligatory - for the era - surprised naked woman clutching a towel. Those images are printed as line art, requiring the modeler to color it in with paint/dye/ink. The card is supported by a trio of wood blocks used to form showers, kitchen appliances, and closets.
Cast metal chairs, toilets and a sink are included, as are three milled wood booth seats. Oddly, no table was included.
Outside on the ends are a diaphragm with vinyl covering, and a covered open vestibule platform area. Cast metal (over-scale thick) railing is provided to corral it in. The ceiling edges can be detailed with a scalloped awning of paper.
Details not included by Walthers are the air brake system and appliances, nor any cut bars.
Instructions and decalsWalthers included a one-page instruction sheet with steps printed on both sides. Line art is used. The steps are well illustrated and supported with text.
Walthers included a great decal sheet. It featured zillions of heralds and railroad companies (some whimsical), crisply printed as Walthers was known for, in a fine gold. The photo shows that even 40 years later the film has not yellowed. That film is one big sheet and each decal must be cut out. The film is also a bit thick. It appears that I named my Oscar The Superintendent's Car.
AssemblyOscar is assembled rail-up as described above. After the interior is completed, the sides and ends are attached, followed by the roof. I recall the fit was fairly good although the ends needed some filing and fitting. Then the exterior details such as the ladders and grabs, vents, etc..
ConclusionBeing a craftsman model, my Oscar was the pride of my pike for a long time. Even when youthful mishandling damaged it, I thought is was unique and sturdy enough for a rebuild. It took about 20 years of reuniting all the pieces but I finally have almost 100%. You can see that I have tried to clean off excess epoxy and Goo, stripped the paint and primed the metal, and have readied it for rebuilding. I don't know what I can do about the original cardstock walls as some are damaged by warping and moisture. Perhaps some clever reinforcing? Or maybe I will recreate them with styrene and hand painting.
I like my Oscar and was very happy decades ago when Walthers created a factory assembled one with metal and injection-molded parts, inside and out. (See the photos at the bottom.) It can be opened up to add detail and lighting into. Yet I intend to restore my original. One day you may see photos of my layout with two Oscars ("Oscari"?) rolling along.
If you can find an original Oscar kit, I think you will be happy to build it. I am looking for another!