History of Penn Line from 1947 to 1963 - Thank You Frank Dill
1961 to Present
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
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
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
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
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
mechanism add placed
Light Mike add placed
Gauge deck detail kit for turntable
Bought Delaware Valley Car Company (N scale freight cars)
Clam Shell H-21 & H-22 Hopper molds
Ho deck detail kit for turntables introduced
new tooling for the mechanism for the HO trolley cars
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
07-2001 Aero Train
loco tooling was reworked by Boyer Machine.
versions of Bachmann mechanism kits for K4, Consolidation and J.
tooling for can motor and gear boxes for Dockside and PRR A-5
Discontinued custom brass casting for other customers.
09-2001 Tooling for
GLa Hopper finished.
started for the N Scale PRR H-21 Hopper.
Purchased Stewart Hobbies
2008 Introduced "Executive Line" RTR
diesels with sound
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.