NEB&W Guide to Varney Steam Locomotive Models

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Varney made a slew of cast-metal locos, pretty much all freelanced, or at least not any specific prototype claimed. Varney was located in Hollywood, CA and some of their locos have a Southern Pacific flair. They did produce a B&O switcher based on a specific prototype as well as an NP articulated. This switcher and their Consolidation/Ten-wheeler (with a common superstructure), now is available from Bowser, the only model(s) of these to still be available. (It appears that the 0-4-0 is also available from Life-Like, which seems strange that both companies would inherit this model.) Also see Bowser and Life-Like.

  • Little Joe Dockside 0-4-0 - I think originally the model was cast metal, then re-issued in plastic. The plastic version I believe is now available from Life-Like. I think the metal version went to Bowser and then they retooled it in plastic. (It seems strange the same model from the same dies would be offered by two separate manufacturers concurrently.)
    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 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.

At first, the Varney model lacked the valve gear. By the mid-50's, they had added this.

  • 0-8-0 Switcher - It appears this is the Varney heavy Consolidation, minus a lead truck and given a footboard pilot instead of a normal boiler-tube pilot. The tender on this was a short slope-backed one. The prototype often converted their 2-8-0's to switchers in a like manner when 2-8-2's and other more powerful freight engines were purchased.



  • 2-8-0 Consolidation - Very heavy looking loco with a wide firebox, the better to fit the early primitive large motors. At first glance, I would guess this is based on the Reading's Consolidations, the same prototype as the Bachmann model. It has the wide Wooten firebox of an anthracite burning loco and thus could be used to represent a D&H single cab loco. Or with some more work, it could be made into a camelback. Bachmann built 25 of these in 1923 and at the time they represented the heaviest Consolidations. The drivers were 61-1/2 inches in diameter. (Most Consols had 63-inch drivers but for modeling purposes, this is indistinguishable. Don't know the size of the Varney drivers.)



  • Old Lady 2-8-0 - This was the Varney Ten-wheeler superstructure on a Consolidation mechanism. It is now available from Bowser.



  • 2-8-2 Mikado - Varney came out with three Mikado versions. The first was a heavy looking loco with an Elesco feedwater heater giving a sort of Neanderthal brutish brow look. The model might have been inspired by the New York Central's H10b locos.



  • 2-8-2 Mikado - Next version had a slanted cab front. Actually, I thought this was their Berkshire model with a single axle trailing truck, but there were differences, including the air pumps mounted on the pilot deck on the Berkshire instead a jog on the left-hand running boards to fit them on the fireman's side on the Mikado.



  • 2-8-2 Mikado - Yet another version used the Pacific superstructure.



  • 2-8-4 Berkshire - I wondered if this was inspired by a CNW logo. (The review in Model Railroader thought it looked like the L&N Berkshire, except the model only had 63 inch drivers, not the almost standard 69 inch drivers on most Berkshires. The CNW had 63 inch drivers.)

Alco built 12 of these Berkshires for the Chicago & Northwestern in 1927.

Baldwin built 14 Berkshires for the L&N in '42, nos. 1950-1963, class M-1. Two years later, they ordered another 6 from Baldwin, nos. 1964-1969 and extended the range they could be used by extensive upgrading of rail weight, clearances, briges to accommodate these heavy locos. And another 22 were orderd from Lima in 1949, nos. 1970-1991. Unlike the spoked drivers of the Baldwin locos and Buckeye tender trucks, the Lima built locos had Boxpok drivers and Commonwealth tender trucks. No. 1991 was the second-to-last steam loco Lima built for a U.S. road, followed by an NKP 2-8-4.



  • 2-8-8-4 Yellowstone - This model is apparently based on the Northern Pacific's locos. When the kit was produced in 1938, it was declared by Model Railroader to represent the first "stock model" articulated ever.



  • Casey Jones 4-6-0 - 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. This model is now available from Bowser.

The basic model did not include outside valve gear. At one point, Varney offered a "deluxe" version (as above) that included Walshaerts valve gear, as well as a separate kit for the this.

  • Ten-Wheeler 4-6-0 - Found a 1969 ad for a new ready-to-run loco, which of course they had to call Casey Jones. (Poor Mr. Jones was rotating in his grave.) The loco came decorated for PRR or D&RGW, although a note right in the ad said the Austria-built model was of a German prototype. They also said the flanges were very close to RP-25 and claimed the loco run so slow you could count the spokes.
  • 4-6-2 Pacific - Varney produced this model c. 1938. I suspect this is based on a SP loco, particularly due to the Vanderbilt tender.



  • Streamlined 4-6-2 Pacific - Varney produced this model c. 1939. Not sure what it was based on, if anything. Could be a streamlined PRR K4, or a Lehigh Valley loco.



  • 4-8-4 Mountain