model train set on track

Goettmann Who? In-training

e*Train Issue: Apr 2016   |   Posted in: ,

By Rick Hemer                                                          Spring  2016

At a recent Terminus Chapter meet, T-C President Arno Baars found an early transformer with a red painted cast iron case manufactured by O.J. Goettmann of Pittsburgh, PA. Now, what was it?

Mr. Goettmann was a pioneer in the manufacture of low voltage transformers for electric toys and bells. According to Polk’s Business Directory for Pittsburgh & Allegheny Counties, Oscar J. Goettman first appears in 1905 as an employee of Holtzer-Cabot Electrical Company. From 1908 through 1928 he is listed as the owner of Goettmann Electrical Supply Co. In 1929 his name is listed without the company.

The following information is from the 1914 O.J. Goettmann catalog. Listed output voltages assume 110 volts input. Their were four different models suitable for toy trains catalogued: The Type D has four binding posts on top and depending on which posts are used, output 4, 6, 7, 11, 13 and 17 volts. The Type D.S. is similar but with an added regulating switch (step-type) to more easily control voltage. Both the Type D and Type D.S. are rated at 65 watts. The larger Type C and Type C.S. transformers are rated for 100 watts capacity and capable of higher output voltages, 20 and 23 volts respectively. They feature five binding posts with the difference between the two being the addition of a regulating switch on the Type C.S. to more easily adjust voltage. (Interestingly, the step-type regulator switch is opposite from most transformers, with power ‘off’ being to the right and by moving the lever counter-clockwise, the voltage increases.)    

Only the finest construction methods and materials of the day were used, including an enameled cast iron case outside and a “non-aging silicon alloy steel core” inside. All toy transformers were furnished with a detachable eight foot reinforced flexible cord and plug, a receptacle, two three amp fuse plugs and two flexible wires to connect to the track. The catalog also states that they are the originator of the safety fuse in-line to protect both the train and transformer.

The catalog itself is interesting as the cover reads “The Goettmann Low Voltage Transformers” and has a drawing of a Type C.S. transformer connected to an oval of track upon which sits an Ives #1125 steam loco pulling three #129/130 series passenger cars. The caption inside the track reads “MINIATURE RAILWAY”. The year and edition, 1914 Fourth Edition, are on page 1, toy transformers are listed on pages 6 thru 10. There are 24 numbered pages total plus the covers.  

Also worth noting, my research on the transformer was going slow, so I contacted TCA librarian Jan Athey. Jan was able to obtain a copy of the 1914 Fourth Edition Goettmann catalog from the Smithsonian Libraries. She also provided valuable information from the city of Pittsburgh historical records.

The National Toy Train Library in Strasburg, PA is a key benefit available to all TCA members and is open full time for browsing and research. If you can’t visit in person Jan Athey, librarian, and the Library Committee are available to assist you and welcome your questions. The library can be contacted  by phone at: 717-687-8976, e-mail: [email protected] or mail at: PO Box 248, Strasburg, PA 17579.

At the Library’s website members can search the Library’s online database which, although an ongoing project, at this time contains approximately 25,000 records of items in the collection. Research fees are: First ½ hour free, additional research $15-per hour for members; photocopies cost $0.25 per page plus postage. For latest fee schedule, go here.