This is the fourth installment of a multi-part series on early O scale heavyweight passenger cars. Previous editions covered Alexander, Crovan, and Lobaugh. Our subject for this fourth column is Walthers. This will be, with the announcement that O Scale Trains will transition to an annual format after the next issue, the last column on heavyweight passenger cars. Unfortunately, I did not get to many of the builders, including Egolf, Icken, J.C.Models (and its successor, All-Nation), Mi-Loco, Min-I-Scale, Pomona Valley, Rail Chief, Scale Model Railways, Scale-Craft, and Woodson. While none of these builders were dominant suppliers, several have distinctive designs or interesting niches in the market. Perhaps another outlet for their stories, and the broader story of vintage O scale, will be found.
W.K. Walthers was in the dedicated business of selling O scale equipment for more than 50 years, starting with their first catalog in 1932 and ending sometime after 1983, the date of their last known exclusive O catalog. Walthers carried a broad line of freight car, passenger car, gas electric, and traction kits, and, for a while, even a few locomotives. While both heavyweight and streamlined passenger cars were offered, the focus here is on the heavyweights. Walthers had a reputation for producing affordable kits that, when built, made mid-grade, journeyman models. This view undersells the passenger cars — especially the heavyweight cars — and their gas electric and traction cousins. Walthers heavyweight passenger cars had good detail and were modeled more or less to prototype. In the hands of a good modeler, they could (and can) be built into fine, occasionally eye-popping models.
ABOVE: The contents of a Walthers passenger car kit are familiar to many modelers.
Walthers offered far more passenger car varieties than any other manufacturer, with multiple selections for every car type, including postal cars, baggage cars, combi-nation cars, coaches, diners, sleepers, and solarium/observation cars. The quality of the cars and breadth of the product line allowed a skilled and dedicated modeler to build a complete and impressive passenger consist of reasonable (or better) prototype accuracy. This was, and still is, a boon to those modeling less-popular or regional railroads, for which models are not other-wise typically offered.
The cars are distinguished by their tinplate sides with paneled windows, wood roof and floor, wood center sill, and white-metal ends, steps, and detail parts. Trucks of white-metal construction were sold separately. For the first few years, starting with their 1935 introduction, the cars were offered with brass sides, separate window sash strips, aluminum underframe, bronze ends, and formed brass steps. The tinplate and white-metal configuration was adopted a few years before the war started and remained essentially unchanged until the end of the line.
ABOVE: This 10-section observation, catalog No. 9103, was introduced in 1970. It is the only tail-end sectional sleeper offered by Walthers. The builder of this model is not known, but his skills are evident.
A comprehensive list of all the different passenger cars offered by Walthers over the years would fill several pages. And the task of assembling this list from the catalogs, should one wish to undertake it, would be something of a challenge. Walthers produced a large number of different cars, but never all at the same time. Indexing the cars requires close inspection of the 35 or more catalogs issued over 50-plus years. A spot sampling of catalogs spanning this period yields more than 165 unique catalog numbers. This includes a few open platform cars and modernized heavyweights but does not include tinplate shorties…