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Lobaugh Scale Model Trains

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Lobaugh 'O' scale Brass 0-6-0 Switcher loco and tender for outside 3rd rail operation Lobaugh Model Trains began business in 1931, founded by Rollin J. Lobaugh (1895 - 1965), in San Francisco, California. Rollin J. Lobaugh initially founded his company Pacific Screw & Bolt in 1922 to machine and mill screws, nuts and bolts. The company was known for being the first west coast based plant to employ screw machines. When the market for the machined screw products was diminished, Lobaugh decided to mill and sell the 'O' scale (1/4" to the foot) and 7/16" scale (for 2-1/8" Standard gauge track) model train parts that were distributed as kits and ready-to-run factory assembled scale models. Locomotives were designed for 2-rail electric operation, but could be converted for 3-rail. The company built a reputation for providing high quality clean cut punched sheet metal parts, sharp bronze castings, and fine scale turnings of small detail parts. The train models produced were not toys. They were scaled down replicas of real steam locomotives that operated on prototypical railroads from that era. Lobaugh pioneered features in scale modeling such as individually sprung bearings, an enclosed gearbox, lost-wax castings and a two rail pick-up that utilized the engine for one contact and the tender for the other. The business was located at 1179 Howard Street in San Francisco.

Lobaugh 'O' scale 2-8-2 New York Central Mikado loco and 12-wheel tender for 3-rail The 1935 catalog was illustrated and carried 1/4" scale freight and passenger car parts, construction kits, finished cars, finished locomotives, parts and construction kits for track materials, track-side accessories, the 7/16" scale track and car parts and the hexagon screws and nuts. It was 40 pages long and cost $.25 a copy (refundable with a first order). Hobbyists could purchase all sorts of pressed metal parts, such as box car braces, gondola braces, stake pockets, ladders, box car steps, reefer door hinges, and brake wheels. The company also produced brass rail, rail joiners, tie plates and spikes that were purchased by hobbyists for both electric as well as live-steam layouts and basement railroads. The painstaking 'Lost Wax' casting process was employed for the manufacture of many Lobaugh parts.

Lobaugh 'O' scale 2-rail pre-war 4-8-2 Mountain Steam loco and 12-wheel tender The first locomotives were a Rock Island 2-8-2 Mikado, an SP 4-8-2 Mountain, and an 0-6-0 SP switcher that appeared in 1937. The switcher model was actually in 17/64 scale, which is just slightly larger than 'O' scale. Lobaugh locomotives were constructed of heavy brass sheeting, cast red-art bronze frames and were fitted with cast iron drive wheels. Brass tube boilers included full rivet details and frames were available fully machined or un-machined.

Lobaugh 'O' scale brass 1950's 4-6-6-4 Challenger steam locomotive and 14-wheel tender

In 1939 Rollin J. Lobaugh offered an 'O' scale model of the 4-6-6-4 articulated UP Challenger locomotive built and designed using the actual prototype blueprints, but reduced to 1/48th the size. This was a big engine (31.5" long) that could run on 4 foot radius curves. The loco featured a #4 K&D motor that powered all 12 driving wheels. Each driver was sprung, and the advertising materials touted that the loco could pull as many as 38 cars over a 3% grade, with virtually unlimited pulling power on level track. It was priced in the 1939 catalogue at $162.50 for a complete kit or assembled ready-to-run for $225. This was a pretty hefty price for a model train in 1939. Lobaugh justified his prices based on the level of effort that went into the development of this model. Engineering staff conducted detailed research in the design phases and determined that using a 23:1 gear ratio would provide the smoothest starts and highest torque at low speeds under full load, without impairing the high, free rolling top speed of this locomotive model.

Lobaugh 'O' scale 4-8-4 Northern Loco and 14-wheel tender circa 1938-41

Lobaugh supplied rolling stock and motive power, including one of its 4-6-6-4 Challengers for the operating 2-rail Santa Fe layout built by Minton Cronkhite and displayed at the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair held on Treasure Island (also known as the Golden Gate International Exposition). Another famous layout that was designed and built by Minton Cronkhite in 1939 was the 50-by-60-foot 'O' scale 'Museum & Santa Fe Railway' housed for over 60 years at the Museum of Science and Industry in Jackson Park in Chicago. Lobaugh Scale Models of California built about 30 of the freight cars that ran on this layout. The cars all had Bakelite wheels and non-operating couplers, and every car was lettered for the ATSF.

Lobaugh 'O' scale 2-rail 2-8-4 Chicago & North Western RR Berkshire loco and tender circa 1939-41 Lobaugh 'O' scale 2-rail Pacific Coast Lines 2-8-4 Berkshire steam locomotive and tender circa 1939-41

Lobaugh 'O' Scale 4-4-0 steam loco, first offered in the 1941 catalog Between 1939 and 1941 the Lobaugh line was expanded further to include scale models of 4-6-6-4 Union Pacific, Delaware & Hudson and Northern Pacific Challengers, a 2-8-4 Chicago and North Western Berkshire, a 4-8-4 J3A Greenbrier, a Baltimore & Ohio 4-6-2 Pacific, a Boston and Maine 4-4-0, and a 4-8-2 Missouri Pacific Mountain. The Lobaugh Mountains are fairly rare, having only been produced for three years before WWII. They were also very expensive for the average 1938 model railroader costing $195 for a finished locomotive, and over $100 for a kit. By 1941 Lobaugh offered an astounding 11 locomotive kits ranging from the 4-4-0 to the 4-6-6-4 Challenger and just about every wheel arrangement in between. Lobaugh also produced a Suburban Tank, and a ten-wheeler. The 1941 catalog was 76 pages and announced the newly manufactured Baltimore & Ohio 4-6-2 Pacific's and the Delaware & Hudson 4-6-6-4. It is believed that in 1941 an 'O' scale 4-8-4 Southern Pacific Daylight GS-3 was planned and advertised, but was never actually produced, as none have ever been discovered. However, in 1941 Lobaugh did deliver the AC-8 Cab Forward around the time of the outbreak of WW2. There are very few of these models in existence as part production ceased during wartime, making them the rarest of all Lobaugh models (less than a dozen made).

Lobaugh 'O' Scale Kit-built 2-rail 40' Refrigerator Cars
Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built Pacific Fruit Express Composite Reefer #46106 Lobaugh 'O' scale 2-rail kit built #74765 Burlington Express Reefer and #25975 Illinois Central Reefer
Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built FDEX Fruit Growers 40' woodside reefer brass details Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built Kraft Cheese & Mayonnaise Hand painted Woodside Reefer circa 1938 Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built PFE Rebuilt Reefer
Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built brass Chicago & NW Reefer Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built brass A.R.T. American Refrigerator Transit Co. Reefer #23618

Lobaugh also made and distributed over 120 different freight car kits. One very unique item that was not produced by other manufacturers was the Lobaugh 65' mill gondola. Lobaugh Freight cars were available in ¼" or 17/64" scale. Prior to 1940 all cars had wood sides and roof. All wooden bodies supplied in the construction kits came seasoned, cut to size and pre-fitted. The early kits also included lacquer for painting the cars, and certain kits marked with an asterisk, included decalmanias for lettering. After 1940 they switched to steel sides for the majority of their freight car offerings. The later metal-sided cars came with silk screen lithography which produced clear, detailed and appealing box car and ice car sides. The Lobaugh catalogs proclaimed that, "all cars except tank cars could be built with the usual hand tools but the use of a drill press is recommended". The Lobaugh box cars and reefers somewhat resemble the original 'O' scale Athearn products but Lobaugh made his own parts so there are differences. The Lobaugh box car roofs are two piece and the frames include draft gear. The included trucks were fully assembeled and featured automatic couplers. For an extra cost, Lobaugh offered several options such as factory-built and finished with decals or finished and hand lettered freight car models. Lobaugh 'O' scale cars are sturdy and appear authentic for the 1930's-40's era they were actually built in. They don't have the exaggerated detail of late 20th and early 21st century Atlas, MTH or Lionel cars but the thin metal construction of the later offerings makes them seem more realistic.

Lobaugh 'O' Scale Kit-built 40' Box Cars
Lobaugh 'O' scale 2-rail kit-built Union Pacific Box Car #184458 Lobaugh 'O' scale 2-rail kit-built Chicago & North Western Box Car made of Brass & Wood #65287 Lobaugh 'O' scale 2-rail kit-built C&O Box Car #8343

The 1940 Lobaugh catalog informed potential buyers that the 10,000 gallon tank cars were entirely made of metal consisting of brass tubing with pressed metal ends that were formed and turned to fit the tube. Domes were made of cast bronze and the running boards were sheet brass. Complete painted and decorated models that were ready-to-run were priced at $14.75 each. Kit versions were listed at $7.75. The 1953 catalog listed 17 different tank car offerings. Some were listed as $22 built-up/$11 in kit form, while a platform dome version was a bit more costly at $23 built-up/$11.20 as a kit. Road names included Anchor, Barrett Tarvia, Cities Service, Crystal Car Lines, Conoco, Deep Rock, Pennsylvania, Philgas, Shell, Union Tank Line, Texaco and Warren. Pre-war tank cars had a row of rivets at each end, as did the Vanderbilt tender for the Mikado loco. The post-war era tube tank cars had no rivets. When Lobaugh began using wrappers for decoration, the tank car rivet detail became slightly more extensive.

Lobaugh 'O' Scale Kit-built Tank Cars
Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built brass Undecorated Crude Oil Tank Car Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built brass Jones & Laughlin Steel 3-dome Tank car Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built brass GATX Tank Car

The Lobaugh cupola caboose was offered as either a Santa Fe type with low cupola, or as an A.T.&S.F. type with high cupola and large tool box. These were also entirely made of sheet brass and steel, with complete details, including embossed rivets on the car body, and an underbody frame that was also nicely finished.

In addition to the freight kits, Lobaugh marketed two passenger car kits. A Pullman kit that came either hand lettered or decaled, and a Combination Baggage/Mail car. These were available as finished metal sides, pressed kits, finished board sides or mounting kits. The car ends were bronze sand castings and the sides were stamped steel. All the other major parts were wood. Lobaugh production was primarily the steam locomotives and freight cars. Rather than producing scale diesels and streamlined cars, Lobaugh opted to offer the Santa Fe AB EMD diesels and Budd type passenger cars made by the Pomona Valley Model Supply Co. of La Verne, CA. in the Lobaugh 1941 catalog.

Lobaugh 'O' scale Pullman built from Kit Lobaugh 'O' scale Pullman RTR version

Lobaugh offered a 'Warrantee of Fine Craftsmanship' stating, "Any purchaser of Lobaugh equipment who is not satisfied will, upon return of the equipment within thirty days, receive a refund of the full purchase price, plus a refund of all transportation costs paid by the purchaser. Rollin Lobaugh liked to boast that no one had ever taken him up on his offer. Lobaugh also touted itself in advertising materials and catalogues as "the aristocrat of 'O' gauge" and the "standard by which other model railroad equipment is judged". The Lobaugh logo emphasized 'Micrometer Precision'.

Lobaugh 'O' scale Southern Pacific AC-8 Cab Forward Loco and tender first made in 1941 After World War II train production was resumed, but initially in a limited fashion. The Baltimore and Ohio Pacific was converted to a more generic USRA design. The 0-6-0 SP switcher was re-made, now cast in lost wax 1/4 inch scale. The Berkshire and 4-4-0 were also kept in the product line, but all other models were dropped.

In 1953 the company moved to a newly built facility located at 930 Linden Avenue in South San Francisco. 1953 also witnessed the release of the Chesapeake & Ohio 4-8-4. Any model railroader visiting the west coast was invited to tour and inspect the new plant. By this time the company had 45 employees. Lobaugh 'O' scale model production reached its peak around the mid 1950's. The 1955 catalogue showed an increase of products offered in the line and was 32 pages long. It featured the UP 4-6-6-4 #3900 series Challenger now priced at $196 for a complete kit, the C & NW 2-8-4 Berkshire in kit form for $110.50, a C&O 4-8-4 Greenbrier priced at $146 for a complete kit, the SP 0-6-0 switcher for $77.50 in a complete kit, the New Haven 4-4-0 complete kit for $69.50, a Climax Logging loco complete kit for $97.50, and a USRA 4-6-2 Pacific offered with either a square ($98.50 complete kit) or Vanderbilt ($102.50 complete kit) tender. Lobaugh had developed and now offered their own 18 volt AC or 12 volt DC motors in 3 versions, all with 9 slot-balanced armatures, wound with Formex wire, featuring an enclosed brush design, and oversize Oilite bearings. Drive shafts were worm type and featured enclosed ball bearings. Traction driver axles were fitted with Bakelite gears on steel hubs. Rolling stock offered consisted of Milwaukee 50' steel sheathed auto box car kits for $11.25, Milwaukee 40' box car kits for $10, B&O Wagon Top box car kits for $11.40, 40' AAR box car kits for $10.25, a Santa Fe type caboose kit for $15.90, a Southern Pacific type caboose Lobaugh Brass 'O' Scale Climax Logging Steam Locomotive Kit kit also $15.90, a 50' flat car kit for $10.50, an H.J. Heinz tanker kit for $11.30, a logging flat kit at $4.50 (3 for $12.50), an AAR class GB Gondola kit for $10, a 65' Mill-type gondola kit at $13.50, a 50' steel reefer kit for $12, a 3-dome 20,000 gallon tank car kit for $13 and a single dome 12,400 gallon oil tanker kit for $11.50. The catalogue also featured several pages of individual parts such as locomotive valve gear, machined and insulated driver castings, spoked wheels, diesel locomotive wheels, crank pins, axles, bearings, running boards, cylinders, bells, generators, boiler assemblies, cab assemblies, guides, cross heads, collectors, headlights, drawbars, domes, caps, hoses, pilots, stacks, steps, trucks, etc., and the hexagon head screws, nuts and washers they were famous for. Lobaugh even offered 15 different 'O' gauge cast brass hand-painted railroad figures.

Compared to the detailed imported 'O' scale models of the 21st century many Lobaugh locomotives may seem crude, and they were in regard to fine details, but they were mechanical masterpieces. Many are still running today. Lobaugh produced models from 1931 through 1965, first under Rollin Lobaugh himself and then under Al Ellis, the chief engineer, builder and designer who took over the scale model train company in 1956. Ellis was credited with producing the modern Jabelmann Challenger, the Climax Logging Loco, the suburban tank, a Mogul, and the Chesapeake & Ohio Greenbrier.

Lobaugh 'O' scale Post War 2-8-2 Mikado Since then the Lobaugh line, inventory and original tooling has passed through many hands over the years, getting split here and there. An employee of Al Ellis named Jack Campbell purchased the scale model company in 1959. Campbell had been handling sales and shipping orders starting in 1958. Then in December 1982 the scale model business was acquired by Allen Drucker, owner of Allied Model Trains in Los Angeles. Later in 1983 Drucker sold the company to Jan Lorenzen and Vince Waterman who split it up. Two thirds of the parts and all of the dies except for the 4-4-0 Climax and Rollin Lobaugh's drill press went to Lorenzen of the Locomotive Workshop of Avon Lake, Ohio. Vince Waterman of Trackside Specialties of Trafford, Alabama retained the molds for the 4-4-0 Climax and the remaining third of parts including frames, drivers, lathe, and Rollin Lobaugh's drill press. However, in 1996 Vince sold the balance of parts back to Jan Lorenzen. Bob Stevenson of Stevenson Preservation Lines of Burlington, Illinois and Boone, Iowa bought all the dies and molds from Locomotive Workshop in 2001. This last company probably has the most extensive collection of parts and castings and has resurrected the Lobaugh SP Mikado kit, the Climax Logging engine kit, the SP S-12 0-6-0 switcher kit and the Vanderbilt tender kit.

Lobaugh 'O' scale 4-6-2 USRA Pacific unpainted brass loco There are serious Lobaugh collectors and operators in the hobby world today. 70+ year old Lobaugh trains and brass kits frequently show up on eBay for sale at very high prices. Scale railroading hobbyists tended to modify and render the scale kits to satisfy their own desires for modeling the railroad prototypes they favored, so there is great variance and customization in the features, heralds, paint schemes, etc. of the Lobaugh trains that do come on the market. Modelers who scratch-build locomotives utilize original Lobaugh locomotive boiler castings or cast parts that show up with drivers, trucks, couplers, cabs, pilots, brass fittings, tenders and motors originally made by other 'O' scale kit and parts manufacturers such as Varney, All-Nation, Scale-Craft, Atwater, Megow, Kadee, General Models Corp. and Walthers. More advanced model builders also tended to machine their own castings, when the ones needed for their custom prototypical builds were not readily available from vendors. These 'mixed breed' scale models tend not to be worth as much as a complete kit assembled from a single manufacturer, but they provide a degree of railroad realism not normally attainable otherwise.

Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built Texas & New Orleans Stock car Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built Brass Skeleton Log Car
Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built Santa Fe AT&SF brass 50' flat car R-T-R Lobaugh 'O' scale kit-built Brass 2-rail Pre-war Santa Fe #62456 AT&SF Gondola
Lobaugh 'O' Scale 2-rail Kit-built Brass Chesapeake & Ohio 50' Flat Car C&O #80415 Lobaugh 'O' scale kit-built Brass 2-rail Post-war MKT 40' gondola with dreadnaught ends

Rollin J. Lobaugh was elected to the 'O' Scale Hall of Fame in 1995 at the 'O' nationals in New Jersey. In 1996, he was enrolled in the Model Railroad Industry Association (MRIA) Hall of Fame and was posthumously awarded the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) Pioneer Award in 2013. Rollin J. Lobaugh was one of the pillars of the 'O' scale community. Lobaugh had collaborations with, at one time employed, or resold and acquired machined parts from many other 'O' scale pioneers such as Jerry White and Bill J. Lenoir. The Rollin J. Lobaugh Company founded by Rollin J. Lobaugh in 1922 still exists and operates today in South San Francisco, providing precision machining services using modern day CNC tools.

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