How it all Started Original US TT Manufacturers
Gandy Dancer Tri-ang TT3, Europe The Latter Years, USA Rokal TT, Europe
How it all Started
To TTers, Hal Joyce is recognized as the man who invented TT Scale. Armed with a wealth of knowledge gained through his years in the automotive industry, Hal Joyce envisioned applying the accuracy and speed of heavy industry to model train manufacturing. He gave much thought to the idea of producing trains small enough to be carried in the suitcase of a traveler.
The actual development of TT scale was begun in 1941, but was interrupted by the onset of World War II; therefore, its actual birth was delayed until the war ended. Hal chose the scale of 1/10" to the foot, or 1:120, which was common to American engineering at the time. The track lacked 1/32nd of an inch of being half an inch wide. In 1945, Mr. Joyce formed H.P. Products, Co. and it was in the October, 1946 issue of Model Railroader magazine that the first advertisement appeared announcing the new TT gauge model trains. They were designed, engineered, manufactured and distributed by Hal Joyce, founder of the company, and shipped to every corner of the world. By the early 1950's H.P. Products had more than 20 different power units available for the TT hobbyist, either in kit form or assembled. These included everything from an 0-6-0 switch engine to a 2-8-8-2 Articulated to a pair of EMD E7 diesels.
It was during this period that many other manufacturers joined the TT bandwagon. The list included such names as Kemtron, Lindsay, Gandy Dancer, Star-Line, Jewel and Craftsman. TT track was manufactured by Atlas, Gem and H.P. Products. Numerous other companies produced structures, roadbed and detail parts.
TT scale became very popular in Europe in the 1950's. The public relations department of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad even had a portable TT scale layout. A major article on TT appeared in the September, 1954 edition of Popular Science Magazine.
By the early 1960's, OOO ( later renamed N scale) usurped TT's claim to the title of smallest scale. As N scale's popularity increased, TT waned and manufacturers phased out their TT products. Most people in the industry agree that the ready-to-run nature of N scale was a major factor in its success at the time. The H.P. Products line was sold in 1969. However, TT maintained its popularity in Europe, with Zeuke becoming the leading manufacturer.
In the 1970's, Zeuke was nationalized by the East German government, until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. Following German reunification, the company was turned over to businessman Carlo Parisel. Parisel modernized the manufacturing facilities and brought marketing expertise to the company, intending to market his product to the entire world. His efforts reminded the rest of the world not only that TT scale equipment was available, but that TT is a viable modeling scale. In Autumn, 1993 Berliner TT-Bahnen was sold to Tillig Trains and Track. In 1992 a complete line of high quality, ready-to-use TT track products was introduced.
A variety of track, turnouts, motive power, rolling stock and structures are now being produced in Europe and the United States to support TT scale, as many in the Model Railroad community have come to recognize that TT is truly the smallest practical scale, especially for the true kit and scratch builder.
What is important to know is that HP Products was the first, but Hal Joyce actively encourage other manufacturers to produce products to widen the appeal of the scale and gauge. Given that it now has world-wide appeal I would say that it was a successful effort on Hal's part.
Just for history's sake, it should be noted that TT was possible because of the smaller motors that were developed as a part of the war effort. The government funded a great number of development studies for miniature motors that ran on 12v and 24v DC (the common voltages of defense department systems on aircraft, ships, and tanks/vehicles). Thanks to them there was a very small Pittman style open frame three-pole motor in war surplus that Hal used for his first locomotives.
If you take a look at the early HP locos and the Mantua locomotives from the 1940s you will see some amazing similarities. Hal knew how to make TT so it was compatible with the mind-set of active modelers of the time.
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Last up-dated 06-15-08