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Miscellaneous

A Short History of Penn Line - Thank You Frank Dill

Company History
1961 to Present

Thirty five years ago, May 1, 1961, Bowser was purchased by Lewis and Shirlee English and moved from Redlands, CA to their basement in Muncy, PA. The original Bowser Manufacturing Co first advertised in the model railroad magazines in November 1948. At that time, the company had only one engine, the Mountain, which had a cast brass boiler that is no longer available. It was sometime later that Bowser (Redlands) developed the NYC K-11 and the UP Challenger. The molds were made by K. Wenzlaff who introduced himself at the MRIA Show in Pasadena, CA in 1985 These two locomotives are still current production.

In 1963 Penn Line was sold at bankruptcy sale and we purchased the tooling and inventory for their prototype steam locomotives, the E-6, H-9, I-1, K-4, L-1, and T-1. These also went into our basement in Muncy. The original Penn Line Company first advertised in June 1947.

With the whole English family working part-time on these engines, we were still unable to get them all ready at once, so in 1965 we decided to work full time on Bowser and moved to Montoursville, PA. which is next to Williamsport, the largest city in our vicinity. By then our two daughters were away from home so the family work force was reduced, but even with hired help we had trouble getting everything done.

To further complicate production, Felix Bass offered us the Pennsylvania Scale Models line of trolleys and we could not let that opportunity go by, so we added the HO Brill, IRR and PCC trolleys to our Bowser line. Later we had dies made for the LVT Liberty Belle and a free-lance Jewett Combine.

But help was on its way. In 1976 both sons, Lewis K. English Jr. and Lee K. English, came to work with us. Lew Jr. took over the office management and wholesale operations and now we carry over 70 model railroading related lines for sale to dealers. Lee became the manager of the production department. Somewhat later Lew's wife, Bea, became our Credit Manager.

Of course all locomotives and trolleys require electric motors which were originally supplied by Pittman. After a while Pittman advised they no longer wanted to make hobby motors but offered us the tooling so that we could make them ourselves. That was really a break as we could now be assured of a controlled supply of the popular DC-71 motor and so upgraded all our engines to use that powerful motor. Even the NYC K-11 boiler has been revised to accept the DC-71.

In the Pittman tooling, we found we had acquired dies for the Pittman O Gauge Brill trolley which we now pro-duce. Later we had a die made for an O Gauge Birney 4-wheel trolley which we have also made for several years.

Along the way we acquired Selley Finishing Touches, formerly in Winter Haven, FL; the tooling for some of the Varney steam locomotives and the Penn Line GG-1. The Varney tooling included the Casey Jones, Old Lady, Dockside, box cars, reefers and most of the Aero Train. Since the Dockside body is plastic, it is being offered by English's Model Railroad Supply a division of Bowser.

We made an improvement in our production by build-ing another building and purchasing a die casting machine so we could do all our own zinc casting. Doing our own die casting has been a large step forward and has encouraged us to add other locomotives to our line. The Big Boy, which is a combination of two Challenger boilers, was the first. The USRA Mountain was next. From the USRA boiler we have designed a free-lance Northern and a USRA 2-10-2. The PRR M-1 and M-1a were introduced late in 1986. The E-6, G-5, H-9, I-1, K-4, and L-1 have all been converted from lead to zinc. The PRR A-5 was introduced in February 1992. Since Lew Sr. is a train collector and we do our own zinc casting, we decided to make restoration wheels for Lionel Standard Gauge and O Gauge locomotives. Surprisingly these have been very popular. We didn't realize there were so many engines needing repairs.

Several years ago we also added turntables which were designed for us by Charles Farmer of Elmira, NY. These are popular with model railroaders no matter what scale. We have N, HO, S, O, Standard or LGB, and have bridges from 8" long to 32" long.

In June 1985 we purchased Cal Scale from Mr. John Anderson and Mr. Harry Parker in Fresno, CA and moved it to Montoursville. We are in full production with this line of lost-wax brass castings. Cal Scale also came with thousands of patterns to make many steam engine parts that were used on the Japanese imports and never marketed separately. We have found a pattern maker and are adding diesel detailing parts to the Cal Scale line.

In 1987 we decided to adapt some of our mechanism kits to a few of the Bachmann steam engine boilers. Under the name of English's Model Railroad Supply we now offer Bowser-made mechanisms for the 2-8-0 Consolidation, 4-8-4 Class J, 4-8-4 Niagara, 4-8-4 Northern/Overland and 4-8-4 GS-4 made by Bachmann or Lionel and the PRR K4.

In May 1988 Cary Locomotive Works became the newest part of Bowser Mfg. Co. Because of health prob-lems Don and Dolores Stromberg decided to offer their business for sale and we felt it would fit right in with our production. All the small parts, bodies and boilers are available. The GP-9 has been discontinued. The other bodies in the Cary line are now made in zinc.

In 1990 we purchased Menzies from the D.J. Baker Co. Temporarily, we are not now in production of the 40' AAR box car, the 40' & 50' round roof box cars, and 40' reefer. That same year we also purchased a pad printing machine and paint booth.

With the pad printing and painting capabilities we are offering custom painted and lettered Athearn box cars through English's Model Railroad Supply.

In 1991 we purchased Arbor Models, but we have no immediate plans to produce this line.

In February of 1992, we finished the dummy Aero Train and have it available in five road names.

Also in 1991 we started construction of molds for the PRR N-5c (porthole) caboose. This was made available in June of 1992. We have also had molds made for the PRR H-21a 4 bay hopper car, which became available in June of 1993, and the PRR N-5 caboose, which became available in November of 1993. The molds for the PRR H-22a were completed in January of 1994 and became available in March 1994. The mold for the X-31 were completed in November of 1994. The molds for the X-32 were completed in March of 1995. The molds for the RoadRailer® were completed in August of 1995. The 53' Plate Wall highway trailer was also completed in August of 1995. The H-43 100 ton triple hopper was completed in October of 1995. We finished the tooling for the 70 Ton 2 bay Covered Hopper in 1998 and the F-30a Flat car and the GS gondola in 1998 also.  

In July of 1993 we had a new mold made for the PRR K-4 Pacific and the PRR L-1 Mikado. This boiler is now a zinc die casting. Also in November of 1993 we started the mold for a correct PRR I-1 Decapod boiler. It was finished in September 1995, 

In March of 1994, we finished the USRA Light Pacific Kit. This kit uses a Cary boiler with a Bowser mechanism. This is our first kit to include all the lost wax brass superdetail parts with the basic kit. Also, the boiler and tender are drilled for all of the superdetail parts. In October of 1995 we finished the USRA Light Mikado and a superdetail kit. Our future plans are for a USRA Heavy Pacific, USRA Heavy Mikado and USRA Heavy Decapod.

  • 07-1997   ACF 2 Bay coverd hopper add placed

  • 01-1998   Corgi mechanism add placed

  • 01-1998   USRA Light Mike add placed

  • 07-1998   O Gauge deck detail kit for turntable

  • 07-1999   Bought Delaware Valley Car Company (N scale freight cars)

  • 07-1999   Made Clam Shell H-21 & H-22 Hopper molds

  • 08-1999   New Ho deck detail kit for turntables introduced

  • 12-1999  Completed new tooling for the mechanism for the HO trolley cars

  • 12-1999  Completed tooling for the Clerestory Roof for the O trolleys

  • 03-2000  New tooling to make the Side Door Roadrailer.

  • 05-2000  New molds for PRR K-9 Stock Car

  • 05-2000  New molds for X-31f Turtle Roof Box Car

  • 08-2000  New molds for K-11 Stock Car

  • 09-2000  New N Scale N-5 Caboose tooling finished

  • 12-2000  New DC-71 motor born

  • 07-2001  Aero Train loco tooling was reworked by Boyer Machine. 

  • 08-2001  New versions of Bachmann mechanism kits for K4, Consolidation and J.

  • 08-2001  Made tooling for can motor and gear boxes for Dockside and PRR A-5

  • 09-2001  Discontinued custom brass casting for other customers.

  • 09-2001  Tooling for GLa Hopper finished. 

  • 09-2001  Tooling started for the N Scale PRR H-21 Hopper.  

  • 2004      Purchased Stewart Hobbies
    2008      Introduced "Executive Line" RTR diesels with sound



It is with the utmost sadness that we report that Lew English, Sr, co-founder of Bowser Manufacturing Company passed away on Feb  3, 2012. He was 93 years old. Lew is survived by his wife Shirlee, four children , Susan, Nancy, Lew Jr., and Lee, and ten grandchildren, and fourteen great great grand children and 3 great great great grandchildren. Lew was the inspiration for what is now the Bowser Manufacturing Company of Montoursville, PA. He was one of the pioneers in the model train business and  was  entered into the Model Railroading Hall of Fame just a few years ago. In 1961, Lew and Shirlee began the business in their basement
in their home in Muncy, Pennsylvania, when they purchased not only the name but several steam engine kits from Bill Bowser in Redlands, California. Lew will not only be missed by his family but by all of the  industry contacts that he made throughout his career. Bowser Manufacturing will continue under  the direction of Lee K. English, current Bowser CEO.