Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Straco Express Layout, Part 52 - Nomura Milwaukee Road Flashing Light Diesel

Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

Recently I found -- and purchased -- three Nomura train sets in rapid succession. Individually, each one provided some additional information about Nomura's manufacturing processes and marketing. And collectively, they provided even more. This and the next two Straco Display Layout posts covers these three sets, with some cross-referencing between them.
Part 51 - Nomura Santa Fe Flashing Light Set
Part 52 - Nomura Milwaukee Road Flashing Light Diesel
Part 53 - Nomura/Rosko Flashing Light Train Set

The second of my three purchases was a Nomura Milwaukee Road F3 with flashing lights. As I noted in an earlier post (see Part 36 - Milwaukee Mystery) it's something of a curiosity. The set was apparently made for G.B.C., an importer based in Skokie, Il, using railroad livery that was common to the area.

The packaging is virtually identical to that of the Nomura
Santa Fe flashing light set.
I do have photos of the complete set, which I could compare to the Santa Fe flashing light (FL) set I recently purchased (see Part 51). Both came in a square box, denoting illumination. And both have the same cardboard figure set, as well as the same track and power pack.

I now own two-thirds of the Milwaukee Road set.
The Santa Fe locomotive was in near-mint condition, so I was reluctant to remove the shell to examine the light mechanism. This Milwaukee Road locomotive, though, was in rougher shape. So off came the shell, and I was able to look at this mechanism in detail.

The flashing light mechanism. Underneath the chassis is a
belt drive that connects the powered axle to the light's mount.
It's an ingenious setup. The motor stands on its end, its power gear pointing up. Two gears attached to shafts mesh with that gear. One shaft connects to an axle gear, providing the motive power for the train. The second shaft also descends through the bottom of the chassis. In an enclosure, the shaft drives the light beacon through a belt drive. The drive turns the shaft that the light's mounted on, rotating it.

Here's a short video showing this mechanism in action.


The original belt drive had long since dry rotted, so I had to remove the cover to replace it with a rubber band. And I made an interesting discovery. The flanged wheel of the light beacon was made of recycled metal! I've seen this happen before (see Recycling in Postwar Japan). It's a logical place to reuse lithographed tinplate. With the cover on, it's one piece no one will ever see.

Why is that flange so brightly colored on the inside? It's made of  recycled
lithographed tinplate from something else. 
I'm still missing the Milwaukee Road boxcar that came with this set. Perhaps I'll find one someday. But for now, I'm content to own a Nomura F3 with a different paint scheme -- and the one-of-a-kind gondola car (my research suggests it was only made for this regional set).


Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

Vehicles:
  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $238.35

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Straco Express Layout, Part 51 - Nomura Santa Fe Flashing Light Set

Read all the installments of the Straco Express layout project here.

Recently I found -- and purchased -- three Nomura train sets in rapid succession. Individually, each one provided some additional information about Nomura's manufacturing processes and marketing. And collectively, they provided even more. This and the next two Straco Display Layout posts covers these three sets, with some cross-referencing between them.

Part 51 - Nomura Santa Fe Flashing Light Set
Part 52 - Nomura Milwaukee Road Flashing Light Diesel
Part 53 - Nomura/Rosko Flashing Light Train Set

The first of the three sets I purchased was an almost complete example of the Santa Fe train set with flashing lights. The set apparently was never really played with. The engine and rolling stock are in exceptional shape, and all of the cardboard punch-out figures are still attached to the sheet they came in. The only thing missing are two yellow cardboard spacers that centered the power pack in the box.

This set is mostly intact. All that's missing are
two cardboard spacers that fit on either
side of the power pack.
Nomura used two different boxes for their tinplate HO train sets. The non-illuminated sets came in a rectangular box, while the lighted sets came in a square box (as did this one). "Illuminated" is a relative term, in this case.

The tiny bulb mounted in the locomotive is designed to draw very little power (the whole train's designed to be powered by 2 "D" cell batteries). It glowed just enough to be seen (don't try to run this train in the dark). The bulb lights up the side inserts and the green and red plastic shells on the roof (sort of). The box art uses a great deal of artistic license in this area. (see Part 52 for a demo of the flashing light feature).

When I first obtained examples of the cars offered in this set, (see  Collecting and Collecting Information Part 17) postulated that they were made before the ones I had owned as a child. I reasoned that the Mantua-style loop and hook couplers, being much more complex than the simple hook and slot had to be an earlier design. Most manufacturers strive for simplification with successive iterations of a product.

Unfortunately, the engine's light bulb doesn't work, but even if it did,  it would
be too faint to show up in this photograph.

The FL (left) has a set of plastic wheels, while the NL loco
(right) does not. That suggests the NL set was made earlier.
After examining this set, and comparing it with my own, I now believe that the flashing light sets were made after the simpler non-illuminated sets. Here's why:

1) A comparison of the locomotive trucks shows that the flashing light (FL) version uses plastic trucks as opposed to the non-illuminated (NL) one. Plastic was increasingly used in these toys as the 1960s progressed, becoming the material of choice by 1965.

2) A comparison of the tracks showed that the FL track uses plastic ties, while the NL track has fiberboard. This also suggests the FL set is newer.

3) Looking at the two locomotives, it's easy to see that the basic NL locomotive was modified to create the FL version. The cutouts in the shell were done after the lithography was applied. The slots for the rotating light mechanism are also missing from the NL version, suggesting they were added after the original stamper was made for that piece.

The die-cut cardboard figures and scenery were all intact. Nomura used
this sheet in other train sets they offered.

The NL track (left) uses fiberboard.
The FL track (right),uses plastic.
This also suggests the NL set is older.
So there was much to learn from this piece. And, as a bonus, it still had the original price tag. This set sold for $2.98 at Newberrys, sometime in the early 1960s. That price in today's dollars? $24.62 (I paid $32.98 for the set, only $8.36 about the adjusted retail price).

  Layout construction:
  • Pegboard: $4.95
  • Flathead Screws: $0.40
  • Molding: $2.49
  • SilClear: borrowed from a friend
  • Green Paint: leftover  from another project
  • Wood Screws: $3.60
  • Felt Pads: $1.99
Power Pack: $5.90
Small Houses: $3.00
Testor's Gray Paint for road: $1.29

Bandai Areo Station: $8.99
2 tinplate signs: $1.00
4 tinplate signs (with train) $5.99
Cragstan HO Light Tower $20.49
4 nesting houses $4.99
Tinplate gas station: $5.00

Vehicles:
  • Two Japanese toy cars: $2.00
  • A.W. Livestock truck: $4.99
  • Taxi: $2.99
  • Ambulance: $2.99
  • Two Japanese patriotic cars: $6.99
  • Haji three-wheel sedan $3.00
  • Haji three-wheel tanker $5.00
  • 1950's sedan $2.99
  • LineMar Police Car $9.00
  • LineMar Pepco Truck $8.50
  • LineMar Bond Bread Van $8.00
  • LineMar Fire Engine $4.95
  • LineMar Dump Truck $12.99
  • LineMar GE Courier Car $10.98
  • LineMar County School Bus $9.99
  • Nomura Red Sedan $5.00
  • Nomura Police Car $2.52
  • Nomura lumber truck $3.48
  • 6 Nomura vehicles $16.99
  • Orange Sedan $10.99
  • King Sedan $9.95
  • Indian Head logo sedan $4.99
  • Indian Head (?) convertible $18.00
  • Yellow/red Express truck $9.99
  • Red limousine FREE
Total Project Cost: $238.35

Monday, August 22, 2016

Diabelli Project 123 - Piece for String Orchestra

The Diabelli Project is about offering my weekly flash-composition sketches freely to all. Like Antonio Diabelli's theme, these sketches aren't great music. But perhaps (as in Diabelli's case) there's a Beethoven out there who can do great things with them.

This week I decided to go for something a little more ambitious. Although with only ten minutes allotted, music for larger forces can be a problem. If I was trying to write something along the lines of Thomas Tallis' "Spem in Alum" for 40 voices, I'd probably only get the first beat written before time ran out.

In this case, all I knew was I wanted something for larger forces, and I wanted to start with everyone in unison. Here's what happened:


As always, you can use any or all of the posted Diabelli Project sketches as you wish for free. Just be sure to share the results. I'm always curious to see what direction someone else can take this material.