To paraphrase Vane Jones, "Knowledge is of little value until shared with others."

Sunday, April 8, 2012

“One A Day” Car Building

The title of this post should be “One a Day” Car Building by Bill Hoffman as Seen & Recorded by Les Torrens. Bill Hoffman, for those who do not know him, lived on the west coast. His job required traveling a lot with many evenings spent in motel rooms. When Bill was on the road, he would fill his spare time building wooden models of trolleys in either 17/64” or ¼” scale.  Both of these are considered O scale.

Bill became very proficient in building models to the point where he could complete the model in almost one day’s time, if he worked undisturbed the entire day. He built the entire roster of the Sacramento Northern both North End and South End cars and locomotives. Then he started on the Pacific Electric and may have completed the roster.

One day I met Bill in All-Nation Hobby Shop in downtown Chicago. Unfortunately, the store is not longer in existence. I ask Bill if he would come to dinner at my home that night which he did. We were friends after this. He showed me how he built his models.

Bill was a master when it comes to scratch building a model. He made it look so simple.

In 1975 Vane Jones held the Tenth Anniversary Celebration of his magazine Traction and Models, As part of the Celebration, Vane had a contest for trolley models built by scrounging around for the material using in making the model. The award would be “The Scrounge Award”. Bill and I both entered models in the contest. I won! I had built a model by scrounging around more than Bill Hoffman had - WOW!.

My model started out as a LaBelle kit of an open platform combination car. The kit was built and almost finished when I decided to make it into an express car. The passenger windows were covered over and 2 different style of ends scratch built. One end was a 3-window without an end door. While the other end was a 2-window with an end door. The ends were different so I could practice scratch building each style.

The model ran in the express car configuration for a while before plastic snow plow castings were found. At this point the car was converted again. This time it would be a line car-snow plow.

In 1973 at Trolley Meet schedule in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Les Torrens recorded how Bill scratch built a model in one day. With the information collected Les produced and sold a booklet on what Bill had done. The name of the booklet was “One a Day” Car Build by Bill Hoffman as Seen & Recorded by Les Torrens.

I got a copy of the booklet. It’s great for anyone who is interested in scratch building a model. Several years after obtaining the booklet, I discovered my booklet was missing a page. A letter was written to Les to find out if I could either obtain the missing page or another booklet.

A couple of months past before a note was received from Les’s widow. I did not know Les had passed away. In the note Les’s widow told me the booklet did not sell very well. There were many booklets left in the house. In cleaning-up the house after Les’s death, she had tossed out all the remaining booklets. She hinted she did not want anything to do with the booklet.

To find the missing page, I started to ask around if anyone had a copy of the booklet and if I could copy the missing page. Carl Lantz who lives in my “neck to the woods” came to my rescue. Thank you, Carl!

I now have a complete copy of Les Torrens’s booklet on how Bill Hoffman scratch built his models. Over the past few years copies of the booklet have been given out to other modelers.

Bill built his models in wood. There is no reason the same techniques cannot be utilized in building models of styrene. Both Evergreen Scale Products and Plastruct have styrene in strips and building shapes.

Below are copies of the pages of the booklet for you to use. I don’t think there is anyone to complain of copyright infringement. You show be able to print each page.


There are 15 pages to the booklet. Due to the large number of photos, the booklet will be split over 2 posts.

1 comment:

  1. Great timing, Ed! I've been thinking about finding plans for the AE&C/CA&E 10-28 Niles or the 30-58 Stephenson cars to try my hand at scratchbuilding in styrene. I was planning to follow the LaBelle style of construction, this booklet comes along at an auspicious time for me. Thank you! Ken Ford