NEB&W Guide to Bowser Steam Locomotive Models

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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.


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.

Freight Locos

(These have a two-wheel lead truck.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

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.

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.

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