NEB&W Guide to Bowser Steam Locomotive Models

From NEB&W Railroad Heritage Website
Jump to: navigation, search
Loco Models Table of Contents
Locos Table of Contents
Stock Table of Contents

Cast-metal kits, very hard to assemble. (I'm terrible at making things work so don't go by my experiences. However, one of our members, Al Wood, excels at this. And even he has been unable to assemble the Bowser K-11 kit.) With few exceptions, these are the former Penn Line loco kits of Pennsy prototypes. The exceptions are some of the former Varney kits. Their NYC K-11 Pacific and USRA Mountain, I believe, are the only kits originated by Bowser.

Max Robin said that virtually all of the Bowser steam models, including the NYC K-11s, can be made to run extremely smoothly with a minimum amount of work. He said the biggest issue with their kits is making sure the drivers are all quartered identically and that the rod holes and wheel faces are burr free. ("Yes, Mrs. Lincoln, but besides that, how was the play?")

Bowser has recently begun to offer their locos ready-to-run. Have no experience with the running qualities of these. Eddystone Locomotive will also custom build these for you, the complete kit or just the mechanism.


  • 0-4-0 Saddletank Switcher - I believe this is a reworking of the Varney model, the famous "Little Joe Dockside". (Clearly the Dockside, but most Varney plastic rolling stock wound up under Life-Like, and LL also has a plastic version, so not sure of the legacy of the model.)
    The prototypes were four rather heavy saddletank locos (nos. 96-99) were built by Baldwin for the B&O in 1912. They were nicknamed as such because they were intended for the very sharp curves along the Baltimore dockside. In 1921, two (nos. 96 and 98) were converted to regular type locos with tenders. (AHM at one point offered the rebuilt tender-equipped version.)
The overall wheel base was 7 feet long and the weight on the drivers was 120,000 pounds, or 60,000 pounds on each. The driver diameter was not the typical switcher 51 inches but was only 48 inches. I was surprised to find out that these locos burned oil, not coal, at least at the end.
I understand there were plans of these in the Jan. '39 Model Railroader and probably Varney got his inspiration from these rather any prototype preference. One thing that helped to make this so popular at the time was that the saddletank tank completely covered the boiler. Early HO loco kits were hampered by the large size of the motors then available and this prototype offered the largest cross section for any steam switcher.

  • PRR A5 0-4-0 Switcher - According to Bowser, 47 of these were home-built, starting in 1916. Bowser make brand new molds for this model as this is a not a former Penn Line kit. The prototype had 50-inch drivers and a 7 ft. 3 in. long wheelbase (basically the same as the B&O Dockside). This class of switchers had the most up-to-date features including piston valves and Walschaerts valve gear, essentially a modernized version of earlier PRR 0-4-0's. Thus I guess you could backdate the model with slide valves and inside valve gear if you wanted.

  • PRR B6 0-6-0 Switcher - The first B6 class switchers, I believe, were built in 1902, and built through 1924. Driver diameter was 56 inches, which is a little bigger than the typical 51 inch diameter of most switchers.

Freight Locos

(These have a two-wheel lead truck.)

  • PRR H9 2-8-0 Consolidation - Along with the nearly identical H8 and H10, these Consolidations were the largest class on the PRR. The first H9 was built by Baldwin in 1913 (don't known the date on the H8). If I understand the Bowser website, some 1,206 Consolidations were built between 1907 and '16. The H9's rode on 62-inch diameter drivers, basically the standard size for 20th century 2-8-0's.

  • Old Lady 2-8-0 - This is the former Varney ten-wheeler superstructure on a consolidation mechanism. I think since Bowser acquired it, the mechanism is from the H9 kit. I think the ten-wheeler is modeled after the SP's T-28 class, which were built by Baldwin and Brocks c. 1907-1911. Some of the T-28's burned coal and had a regular tender and some burned oil, with a Vanderbilt tender. Both prototypes (2-8-0 and 4-6-0), I believe, had 63 inch drivers.

  • PRR L1 2-8-2 Mikado - The first L1 was built in 1913, with 574 more built by the PRR, Baldwin, and Lima. The L1 used the K4 4-6-2 boiler with as many parts standard between the two designs. Despite the freight service sized drivers (62 inches), the last L1, no. 520, was used to pull a passenger train (in 1957).
In the 1940's, a bunch of the L1's were sold to other roads:
  • ATSF, 1945. Three locos.
  • C&I, 1941. Two locos.
  • DT&I, 1948. Two locos.
  • International, 1948. Two locos.
  • LNE, 1941. Four locos. (This specific version available from Eddystone.)

  • PRR I1 2-10-0 Decapod - These were the heaviest locos on the PRR, first built right after WWI. The driver diameter was 62 inches.
I believed the first one was built in 1916, thoroughly tested, and then 122 more built, for heavy traffic on the mountainous western division. In 1922, they ordered another 100 from Baldwin. (At the time, the PRR was moving about 11% of the entire freight traffic of the U.S., and of this, 6,700 cars a day over the Alleghenies.) Eventually the ones from Baldwin totaled 475, which together with the home-built ones, gave a grand total of 598.
According to the review in the July '96 Model Railroader, originally (1954) Penn Line used their K4 boiler on a Decapod mechanism. As of the review, Bowser had revamped the kit with a new heavier boiler, the correct scale 90 inches in diameter as opposed to the 84 inches of the K4. The review was impressed with such details as the crisp, to-scale rivets, scale thickness running boards, correct size cylinders, and other features of the kit. The review pointed out that the tender supplied with their kit was the short one as on the K4 and L1, but a long-haul tender was to be supplied in the next runs of the kit. The review pointed out most I1's used a 90F82 tender. (Have no idea of Pennsy tender nomenclature, don't want to know.)

  • PRR N2/USRA 2-10-2 - I believe this uses the same generic boiler as their USRA Mountain and Northern kits, see below. The PRR got 130 of the heavy version, one of the few exceptions to their standard style of locos.
Other roads that got the USRA heavy 2-10-2:
  • B&LE, five locos.
  • CB&Q, 10 locos.
  • Erie, 25 locos.
  • FW&DC (CB&Q subsidiary), five locos.

Passenger Locos

(These have a four-wheel lead truck.)

  • PRR E6 4-4-2 Atlantic - The first of this class was built in 1910. Drivers were 80 inches. In 1914, this Atlantic design was stretched to make the famous K4 4-6-2 Pacific, so I suspect production of the E6 ceased.

  • PRR T1 4-4-4-4 Duplex - Although the wheel arrangement designation indicates this was an articulated loco, it actually was a 4-8-4 Mountain with a second pair of cylinders between the second and third drivers. In other words, the frame was rigid. The idea being that a major problem of fast heavy steam was the pounding of the rotating parts on the rails. By using two sets of rods, cylinders, etc. for just two wheels each, the Duplex split these parts in half with corresponding weight reduction. Driver diameter was 80 inches. In the late '30's, an experimental version was built, with a 6 wheel lead and trailing truck. This engine was exhibited at the World's Fair in New York City in 1939 and '40. Two T1's were built in '42, nos. 6110 and 6111. Fifty more were built in '45, nos. 5500-5524 home-built and nos. 5525-5549 by Baldwin. The driver diameter was 80 inches. The theory behind this design sounds good but in practice, many maintenance and operating problems arose. These locos are also unique looking in being built streamlined (with the distinctive Pennsy sharknose, and with no unstreamlined versions.

  • PRR/LIRR G5 4-6-0 Ten-Wheeler - These were some 90 heavy Ten-wheelers built in 1923-'24 with 68-inch diameter drivers. The LI, a Pennsy subsidiary, got 31 of these.
Apparently the design of this loco was based on the E6 Atlantic, with a third driver used instead of the trailing truck. It had to be placed far enough back to clear the firebox. The Ten-wheeler's drivers were 12 inches less than the 80 inches of the Atlantic.
Apparently the low side tender that came with the kit is not close to any on the prototype, but the Bowser 150032 tender was said to be closer.

  • Casey Jones 4-6-0 - Former Varney kit. While the real Casey Jones's famous loco was also a ten-wheeler, it looked nothing like this model, which is about two decades too modern (c. 1910, not 1890). Apparently this is based on the SP Harriman style of locos, I think the T-28 class, the same as the prototype for the MDC ten-wheeler.

  • NYC K-11 4-6-2 Pacific - According to Steam Locomotives dot com, in 1946, the New York Central had 274 Hudsons and 368 Pacifics, of which 102 were K-11's. These locos were unusual in having only 69-inch drivers at a time when most Pacifics were in the 72-79-inch driver diameter. Basically the K-11 was not really a passenger engine so much as a fast freight loco or dual service loco.

  • PRR K4 4-6-2 Pacific - To a Pennsy fan, the K4 pretty much represents the epitome of PRR power, much as a J3 Hudson would to a NYC fan. The first K4 was built in 1914 as a test engine, with a total of 425 locos built shortly thereafter through 1928. (According to Steam Locomotives dot com, the K4 was the largest class in the world.) The K4 was basically an enlarged PRR Atlantic 4-4-2 E6. Unfortunately for the rest of us, this model is hard to use for anything but a K4.
The K4 was superficially similar to the K2/3. Bruce Smith said the K2/3 had some readily spotted differences. He said these include a fabricated trailing truck with 56 inch wheels (50 inch wheel on K4), two window cab, two-foot shorter boiler than the K4 and a smaller firebox (especially noticeable in the length of the Belpaire section) than the K4. The K2/K3 also had a very distinctive step/valve gear hanger that formed almost a rectangle over the 1st and 2nd drivers. He said that Cary Locomotive Works sold a K2/3 boiler casting for backdating the Penn- line/Bowser K4.

  • USRA 4-6-2 Light Pacific - There were 81 light Pacifics built during WWI, which went to the ACL, B&O, and L&N. Close copies were later built for these three as well as the GTW and M&O, with the ACL getting the most (70 total of the original and clones), and the B&O a far second (45 total original and clones).

  • UP Challenger 4-6-6-4 - According to SteamLocomotives dot com, the UP came up with this wheel arrangement in 1936. Railroad officials watching a test run said "that is a challenge for any locomotive" and the next day, a memo went out saying the loco was to be called "Challenger". There were a total of 252 such locos built to this design, of which the UP got 105. Other roads include the Clinchfield (18 total, 12 new, 6 second-hand), D&H (40 locos), D&RGW (21), GN (two second-hand from the SP&S), NP (47), SP&S (two), WM (12), and WP (7). The AHM represents the UP prototypes. All but the D&H, Clinchfield and one of the classes of UP locos had a slanted front "sports model" cab, which would have been a useful variation to this model.

  • PRR M1/M1a 4-8-2 Mountain - The M1 was a single loco, no. 4700, built in 1923 using the Decapod boiler as a starting point. After two years of thorough testing, in '26, the PRR ordered 200 more, 175 locos from Baldwin, nos. 6800-6974, and 25 from Lima, nos. 6975-6999. These had 72-inch drivers. Eventually, the first loco, nos. 4700, was renumbered 6699.
    The M1a class followed, through 1930, of which 50 were built by Baldwin (nos. 6700-6749), 25 from Lima (nos. 6777-6799) and 25 home-built (nos. 6750-6774). Bowser makes a kit of both versions - the most noticeable difference is the much longer ("coast-to-coast") tender on the M1a kit. (The M1 had a single air compressor, the M1a had two and also a Worthington feedwater heater.
    The M1b class was created in 1946 from the M1b class, some 38 locos.

  • USRA 4-8-2 Mountain - While the other models might be crude by today's standards, at least they appear to be based on the stated prototype. This model might have the same overall proportions, it doesn't capture the look whatsoever (at least in my opinion). The cab in particular is totally bogus for a USRA-type cab. (Maybe it represents a USRA clone.) I'm not even sure if this is supposed to represent the Light or Heavy Mountain. The boiler casting has almost no details cast on, including no half-pipes cast on, making it a great start to superdetail it as you wish. The driver diameter is 69 inches. The tender is the one from the Varney Old Lady/Casey Jones.

  • 4-8-4 Northern - This appears to be the Bowser Mountain superstructure with a four wheel trailing truck (as the wheel spacing on the trailing truck looks cramped because the firebox really isn't long enough to justify a second set of wheels). Even though the domes and running boards are different in the two kits, these are separate parts. (In fact, the boiler casting has almost no details cast on, including no half-pipes cast on, making it a great start to superdetail it as you wish.) The driver diameter is 69 inches and the running boards are straight. This would be a great start for a Rutland Mountain. (The cab overhang is a little long in my opinion.)

  • UP Big Boy 4-8-8-4 - By many attributes, this class of locos were the biggest steam engines ever produced. Only the UP had ones like this. These locos were constructed in late 1941 (nos. 4000-4019), with five more built in '44 (nos. 4020-4024). Legend has it that the name came about when some unknown worker at Alco chalked "Big Boy" on the smokebox front. They stayed in service until 1962 and a large number (proportionately) were preserved.