'O' Scale - First with Accurately Scaled Rail Since 1963

History of Right-O’-Way
As told by Gene LaVancil and Louis R. Cross

The following is the history of Right-O’-Way. Most, if not all, are statements, from documents written by the previous owners. They were Gene LaVancil and Louis R. Cross. Some of the documentation may be redundant but I wanted to capture everything they wrote, within reason.

First from Gene in 1986;

In 1960 I was planning a large O gauge layout and vowed I would never again use the gross .172 rail. At that time the only rails available, in the US, were .172 for O gauge, .125 for S and .100 for HO. None of these sections were accurately scaled down and none of the model railroad manufacturers were interested in producing a scale rail.

Eventually, I found a domestic mill that would draw rail to close tolerances. The first .148 nickel silver and steel rails were delivered in early September 1963. Via the grapevine other O gaugers heard about the rail and I found myself “in business”.

A few months later the first ¼” scale .125 and .100 rails were delivered. So, for the first time O gaugers had a choice of three accurately scaled rails. Any type of operation could now roll on appropriate rails; heavy main line, branch, sidings, yards, traction, narrow gauge, etc. The rail was available.

So that, briefly, is the history of Right-O’-Way. It has been a pleasant experience dealing with you fellows these past twenty-three years and I hope your use of Right-O’-Way products has enhanced your pleasure and satisfaction with your layouts.

A little later Gene wrote the following;

Thanks for your inquiry regarding Right-O’-Way products.

We were the first to offer accurately profiled rails and track hardware. We introduced O gauge .148 rail in 1963, ¼” scale .125 and .100 in 1964. We also introduced .081-.083 in 1964.

Since then we have offered detailed investment cast (lost wax) frogs and points, canted and flat tie plates, rail braces and our unique (pat. Pending) prototype appearance rail joiners cast in nickel silver. Our FLEX-RIGHT track (no longer available) is the finest available. Compare it with all other ready tracks on the market.

This is from Lou;

"On June 6, 1963 in Los Angeles, California, Gene LaVancil founded Right-O’-Way. The first items available were .148 and .125 steel rail to be followed, shortly thereafter, by numerous frogs, guard rails and switch points of various sizes.

Most of the patterns were made by Oscar Neubert III, as well as, in later years, Dave Waddington, John Pautz, Dennis Mashburn, Steve Grabowski, and the last by John Houlihan.

Gene turned over the business to me when he became too ill to continue the day to day operations. Upon his passing, he willed it to me."

This from Lou in late 1989;

"I ran R-O-W for Gene from April 4 to August 15, 1989 when I took over as Gene felt he would not be in a position, health wise, to resume his duties."

Lou also wrote the following as a tribute to his customers and an ad he wanted published in 2003. It was ROW’s 40 year anniversary.

Thanks to all of you, mostly my friends, for supporting Right-O’-Way these past 40 years. The company was founded by Gene LaVancil in 1963. He did all the groundwork along with adding to the line in the 25 years of his tenure. When Gene’s health failed, I ran the line for him until he passed away. Gene generously left the business to me. As Gene said to me, when he could no longer carry on, "What I will miss the most is talking with all of the fellows."

He was correct, for that has been the real reward for me. Half of the fun with this hobby, are the friendships one makes.

Again, my thanks to you all,

Lou Cross

Sadly, our friend Lou passed away in mid-December 2015. He probably had more friends in this hobby than anyone. He truly had no enemies. I think about him often and, I’m sure, there are many more like me. He tried his best to make me a better person….and it actually worked, somewhat.

Upon his passing I was honored with Lou leaving Right-O’-Way to me. It is, in fact, one of the greatest honors of my life. He loved the line and often told me when times got a little tight, an order would come in or a check would arrive and he would be okay.

I plan on honoring Lou by continuing his business in a method that would meet with his approval. Time will tell but please, wish me luck, and please understand, I’m not Lou. He will never be replaced but I’ll do my best to do things as he would.

Jay Criswell

Clovis, California
This page updated Tue 22 Dec 2020
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