Carl Hoffman

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Don Carr posted on

The Hoffman Hudson came from the "original" Birch design. There is a reason for the quotation marks as I will explain. Frank Birch was also involved with the Josslin Hudson and all of the Hudson designs are intertwined somehow (Birch, Hoffman and Josslin) but here the story gets interesting.
Alick (Alex) Josslin was the second TSME president here in Toronto from 1934 -37. In 1933, the English magazine The Model Engineer first published an article about the Josslin Hudson. In the article it stated that Frank Birch would be the supplier of the castings for the Josslin Hudson.
Also, Chaski member Dick Morris sent me a copy of a catalogue produced by Frank Birch dated 1930 three years before the Josslin Hudson was first published which talked about a "New Hudson" type Locomotive in 3/4 inch scale just put on the market. Castings and drawings were stated to be available and prices were given for them.
I have had many conversations with Bruce Hoffman, Carl Hoffman's son and he has confirmed many times that all of the patterns Carl Hoffman used in the Hoffman Hudson came from Frank Birch and that they were all loose patterns (not put on matchplates which Carl had done). I am fortunate enough to have a few Hudson parts which are stamped Birch which are made from a hard polished brass or bronze. They look like they could be some of his loose patterns but don't show any use marks that they had ever been to a foundry. Some of the Hoffman Hudson matchplate patterns which I have examined are stamped Birch but many are not.
Bruce Hoffman also confirmed that before Carl Hoffman obtained the Birch patterns, Frank had marketed them on his own so there are an unknown number of Birch Hudsons out there somewhere.
What now gets interesting is this. The Hoffman and Josslin Hudson are two quite distinctly different designs. Everything that I have seen stamped Birch relates to the Hoffman design and is exactly as shown on the Hoffman prints many of which are initialed W. P. Levon.
However, on the Josslin Hudson there are completely different castings to the Hoffman Hudson, the cradle casting for example has every bump and rib orientation exactly as shown on the Josslin drawings. The name of Levon does not appear on the Josslin drawings but rather Josslin's design partner P.E. Hunt (Percy Eldon Hunt). I do know that both Josslin and Hunt were involved with LBSC and LBSC mentions both Josslin and Hunt in many of his articles published in the Model Engineer from the 1920's through the early 1950's- the story just keeps getting more involved.
Anyway, I have never been able to locate any of the patterns used to produce the castings for the Josslin Hudson but I have seen exactly the same castings on other 3/4" scale Hudson's or northern type locomotives here in Southern Ontario (and Montreal?). So, they must have been produced quite extensively by somebody (Birch?) at some point.
There is a 1959 photo of a Frank Birch Hudson in the Model Engineer in letters to the editor. The writer is Frank Birch and the letter says the locomotive was made by him. It does not look like a Hoffman Hudson but more like a Josslin Hudson.
So Frank Birch appears to have have his own design originally which was then marketed separately first to Josslin and then later to Hoffman? (the 2 designs are 30 years apart), or did he make more than one set of patterns; one set detailed for the Josslin Hudson and a more simple set for the Hoffman Hudson or are the Hoffman patterns the remainder of the Birch patterns which migrated elsewhere in that 30 year time interval? I don't know but would love to find the entire history.



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