Category: Hobby

Red Ball model railroad kits

Image: Red Ball kit components.

Marvel Dale Newton “launched Red Ball Ltd. in 1939. Early catalogs list his address as 2303 Hyde Park Blvd, LA. The company was the ‘M. Dale Newton Company’ and it appears that ‘Red Ball HO Trains’ was the brand name of the product.”

“…Newton did not invent HO scale but he was certainly in the group of pioneering manufacturers. He knew a good thing and how to improve on it when he saw it. The early kits were rolling stock with printed cardboard sides, wood frames and metal or plastic parts and cast metal trucks.”

“Although the detail castings were among the best in the industry, Red Ball was famous for the car sides. It is easy to dismiss a ‘cardboard’ part as being simplistic and inaccurate. Nothing could be further from the truth. M. Dale Newton’s expertise in the printing field must have driven his passion for quality.”

Excerpts and image from .

See the link for a detailed history of the company and many more photos.

Railroad Boosters trolley trip



The Railroad Boosters (now Pacific Railroad Society) were southern California railfans who sometimes chartered trips on trolleys and trains. The video at the link is from a 1939 trip they took from Los Angeles to points north of San Bernardino on the Pacific Electric red cars. At 5:32 you can see where tank cars were filled with Arrowhead water near the famous Arrowhead Hotel.

This is a silent amateur movie that offers a glimpse into the greater L.A. area. A few seconds are blank (6:10 to 6:20) followed by seemingly random shots of trolleys that may or may not have been part of this trip. In the comments section of the youtube link there are some mentions of locations seen.

This film was saved and made available by Periscope Film LLC. Learn more about them and how to support their work at .


Ham radio operator


Image: from an auction posting on

Amateur radio has a long and storied history. By 1939 it was a well-accepted hobby to the point that operators often had postcards printed with their call letters and related radio information. When they would reach a far-away listener, each would send a postcard to the other with the details. In this example, Howard D. Childers of Los Angeles, California was able to communicate with David L. McClelland in Masontown, Pennsylvania. It wasn’t unusual for the hams to display the cards they received on the walls around their radio set like wallpaper.

Learn about the history of amateur radio here:

“RCVR” at the lower right of the front of the postcard means radio receiver. “Sky Buddy” was a brand of receiver made by Hallicrafters. Learn more about it here:

“XMTR” means transmitter. Chances are it was assembled by the operator from a variety of components. It might have looked something like this: .

The term “ham” was originally a negative term describing one or more operators doing things that prevented others from using the airways. For a more-detailed explanation, go to then click on “Why are Amateur Radio Operators called ‘Hams’?”.

Bill Atwood, model engine designer


Image: from cover of Engine Collectors Journal, issue #144, via .

In 1938 “…he became interested in the race cars at the rail track of Tommy and Harry Dooling in nearby Culver City. Watching the Doolings and Dan Bunch running their Dennymite and Brown Jr. powered racers, he thought to himself, ‘I can do better than that!’ In his home shop he built a 10cc engine which he installed in a Bunch car and proceeded to amaze the car buffs. By 1939 he had improved this design and was selling some completed engines, as well as casting sets. These engines were the Crown Champion series.”

Excerpt from . Learn more about Bill Atwood at the link and here: .

Atwood was born in Riverside and lived in the greater Los Angeles area until his death in 1978. He had a notable 50-year history of designing and building model engines.