I know virtually nothing about Clark A. Benson or his Custom Services business.  All I really know is that in the late 1980’s, while living in Chicagoland, I made an impulse purchase of 8 new/OB O scale length, extruded aluminum passenger car KITS at one of the Dekalb County Fairgrounds monthly train shows that I regularly attended with a couple of buddies.  This was at a time when Jerry Williams was just introducing his first O Scale brass steam locomotives and there was very little O scale sized passenger cars widely available, at least to my knowledge.

For 30 or so years I’ve done nothing with them, but got them out recently to photograph to sell or consider doing something with them.  This thread is primarily a photographic tour tracing the lineage of these cars from their LIONEL extrusions Mr. Benson apparently utilized along with LIONEL’s plastic vestibule and plain car ends.  Perhaps it's a footnote in the evolution of the O scale length passenger cars that have proven to be so popular since Mr. Benson, and others', initial efforts.

The packaging of the kits is similar to LIONEL’s PW aluminum cars' cardboard liners:

Balls, Benson 012

 Balls, Benson 016

These are photos of the car ends and extrusions that are representative of the 8 Benson cars I have.  The LIONEL PW, "wide-channel," disassembled cars are on the right in the photos.

Clark Benson cars 001Clark Benson cars 003Clark Benson cars 004

 Instead of the sheetmetal frame LIONEL used, Benson cars use a Masonite (?) pressed board floor/frame and used clear plastic “window” strips in lieu of silhouette strips:

Clark Benson cars 005

 Of the 8 cars, there are: 3 offset vista domes; two “Coaches;” a “Parlor” car; a Sleeper car; and, a scale 70’ baggage car.  This is one of two dome cars that came with massive, lead cast vista domes.

Clark Benson dome 002

 Balls, Benson 033

A third dome (with incomplete milling) has cast brass dome ends but nothing else to form a vista dome:

Clark Benson cars 015

Benson parts 3

The baggage car measures 18” and is otherwise the same extrusion as the other 7.  The doors are fixed closed and have the same clear plastic “window” material.

Clark Benson cars 020

The two “coaches” are identical except that one has cut-outs for the trucks and the other does not:

Balls, Benson 043

 The Parlor and Sleeper cars:

Clark Benson cars 024Clark Benson cars 029

The "set" came with no observation car per se, but it did include a couple of cast pieces that could be used (by someone with skills) to create a blunt end obs car:

Benson parts 4

If you can supply more information on Clark Benson's O scale aluminum products, please do so (with photos if available).  Also, I've included many more photos as thumbnails since this post is long enough scroll-wise.

 

 

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Last edited by Pingman
Original Post

Back in the olden days you provided your own trucks and couplers.

I always wondered why Clark didn't choose the Lionel baggage car dies for his extrusions.  There never was a Budd prototype with a lower full length letterboard.  Mac Shops got it close, then K-Line and GGD got it almost perfect.

But in 1980, Clark's were as close as you could get.  Good luck on your proposed sale!

Pingman posted:

These are photos of the car ends and extrusions that are representative of the 8 Benson cars I have.  The LIONEL PW, "wide-channel," disassembled cars are on the right in the photos.

Clark Benson cars 001Clark Benson cars 003Clark Benson cars 004

 

 

Looks like his extrusions are much crisper than the Lionel die. 

I knew Clark Benson back when I was young - my dad was an avid O scaler, Clark was a real gentleman. Having just done an extrusion die for standard gauge cars, I know it's a lot of work producing cars like this. The good thing about extrusions, you just cut off the length you need, then punch the windows (and cut out for the dome). Then everything else fits into the slots inside the extrusion.

 

Jim Waterman

About the time I bought these, I learned of a guy in NJ who made letterboards.  This was before email and he did not accept phone calls, so I had to use snail mail to "talk" to him.

I had him make up 10 "SOUTHERN" nameplates for use on LIONEL wide channel 15" cars, but never did use them.  They might work on these Benson cars.  I did place one name plate on a car to check the proportions; it isn't laying flat and it's a bit crooked:

SOUTHERN NAMEPLATE 6

Because the extrusions are the same as LIONEL's, the Benson shells will accept LIONEL frames, as well as interiors in place of the Masonite.  But, as noted, the extrusions are not scale and they would require a fair $$$$ investment to become rail-worthy just to provide trucks and couplers.

They'll go back in storage while other projects get completed. 

Thanks to all who replied.

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Last edited by Pingman

They are scale cross section, and if you ignore the lower letterboard, the corrugations seem quite accurate.  Clark supplied Lionel plastic ends for mine.  I quickly dumped it when Mac started extruding better Budd cars.

Great history lesson and cool stuff.

I wonder why one of the cars does not have the opening for the trucks. Was this set incomplete somehow, or did it get past quality inspection?

Last edited by RoyBoy
RoyBoy posted:

Great history lesson and cool stuff.

I wonder why one of the cars does not have the opening for the trucks.Was this set incomplete somehow, or did it get past quality inspection?

Roy, I don't know the answer.  And, I hope someone who is familiar with Benson's product can answer the question.

My guess is that the absence of cut-outs was intentional since the cars, w/o cut-outs, still received the Masonite "frame" and clear plastic "windows," and plastic car ends  And, of course, were packaged and sold.

Also, at least some prototypes were delivered fully skirted, so perhaps these seemingly incomplete Benson cars were intended to represent those prototypes.

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OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
330-757-3020

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