The company was founded in 1947 by Albert M. Mercer, K. Linwood Stauffer and Robert Faust, hobbyists who believed that
most of the model railroad equipment produced at that time lacked realism. Japan and Germany produced little due to the
recently ended World War II, while the main United States train model brands at that time, Lionel
Corp. and American Flyer, did not put as much authentic detail on their trains as their 'O' and
'S' gauges would have allowed.
Penn-Line was an American HO train manufacturer located in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. In the early years
of the company new locomotives were added to the line at a rate of about one a year. They were sold mainly as
build-it-yourself kits. The market for their products was clearly the serious model railroad enthusiast. Only one kit was
simple enough for a youngster to assemble. That was the Whitcomb Midget Diesel Switcher. The other kits competed in quality
and precision with anything on the HO market at that time. The line of HO locomotives consisted of a
Pennsylvania RR E6 Atlantic, H-9 Consolidation, I-1 Decapod, K-4 Pacific, L-1 Mikado, GG1 Electric, a T-1 4-4-4-4, all
Pennsylvania Railroad prototypes, and a Reading Streamlined 4-6-2 Crusader. The steam locomotive models utilized boilers
and frames that were entirely made of metal, thus they are heavy. As a result, they are generally good pullers. Loco models
were primarily sold in kit form, however, many assembled models have shown up in hobby stores from time to time, as shop
owners built a few for display purposes. Penn Line locomotives used Pittman motors.
The PRR E6 Atlantic sold for $29.50, the H-9 Consolidation was priced at $32.50, the PRR T-1 4-4-4-4 was $39.50 and
featured a twin drive mechanism with all drivers powered, the L-1 Mikado was $34.50 and the K-4 Pacific was list priced at
In the 1950's Penn Line issued many sets. These sets usually consisted of a pre-built loco, a half dozen or less cars,
and enough snap track to make a simple loop. Set #5805 was headed by an E-6 Atlantic 4-4-2 loco and came with a combine and
passenger coach. The cars were illuminated by Penn Line's 'Ever-Glow' lighting. This set sold for $44.50. Set #5806 was a
freight set headed by the K-4 Pacific 4-6-2 Loco. It sold for $54.95. Set #5807 was also headed by the K-4, but was a
passenger consist with a Combine and 2 coaches. It sold for $54.95. Set #5808 was a freight set headed by the I-1 Decapod
2-10-0. It was priced at $59.95.
A notable HO train set produced by Penn-Line was the Pennsylvania
streamline passenger set, pulled by a matching F-7 A&B diesel locomotive. Penn-line chose a tuscan red with a yellow single
stripe to decorate this set. It used the old Hobbyline/Varney passenger cars. The Hobbyline cars
were originally done in all silver with black lettering. In the early years passenger and freight cars were supplied to
Penn Line for their sets by Fleischmann. The Northern Pacific 60' passenger cars were produced
by Fleischmann for Penn Line in 1955 thru 1956. There were four die-cast cars, baggage, coach, diner and a Pullman.
They came in two sets, #5503 (A unit, baggage, diner and coach) and #5506 (A&B units, baggage, coach, diner and Pullman).
The Fleischmann cars were phased out by 1960 and that is when the switch to Varney/Hobbyline plastic passenger cars was made.
Varney also made the C&O hopper and Sinclair tank car. Eventually Penn Line manufactured one of their own freight cars. The
only freight rolling stock Penn Line produced itself were a series of metal flat cars, some with loads. The tooling for the
streamline and heavyweight standard passenger cars was obtained from the John English Company (Hobbyline) when it ceased
operations. They were first cataloged in 1957. Mantua provided Penn Line with box cars and gondolas.
Tyco produced the box cars, Wilson Reefer and gondolas for Penn Line from 1957 to 1963. Penn Line also utilized some
Athearn GP7 shells on their own power chassis to create their GP9's.
Penn Line's early contribution to model railroading was the use of printer's lead to cast the locomotives. This allowed
very fine detail in the castings, much greater detail than could be achieved from stampings. And while the larger 'O'
gauge and 'S' gauge had the potential for more detail, Penn Line's founders chose to use the smaller HO gauge. Their
thinking was that the potential for realism coming from more elaborate layouts made HO the best compromise. This was at a
time when HO gauge was far from the standard it is today. Penn Line produced about a half dozen different locomotives based
on prototypes from the Pennsylvania Railroad, hence the choice of the company name Penn Line. A cast metal GG-1 was a notable
part of the Penn Line. Production started in 1956. The GG-1 was not built to scale, it was made shorter
in order to navigate around 18" radius curves. These electric locos are hard to find today and sell
for very high prices at auctions when they do come up. When the NMRA (National Model Railroad Association) designed and
released their choice of a new common type HO coupler for American HO products, Penn-Line changed to this type coupler.
Penn Line, like Varney, utilized a zinc alloy for their car frames, the entire flat car bodies, and
sideframes on freight cars. There were impurities in the zinc alloy and as a consequence the truck side frames are often
found crumbling or as dust.
The Penn Line produced small 0-4-0 Whitcomb D2 Mini-Diesel Switcher Locomotive kit was very popular with hobbyists. In the
early 1960's, Penn Line entered the emerging slot car market. They attempted to bring the same realism that they had used in
model railroading to slot car racing. They produced a nicely detailed, but poorly powered Indianapolis-style set endorsed by
A. J. Foyt. Problems with this product caused Penn Line to declare bankruptcy in the fall of 1963.
Sol Kramer, then owner of Varney/Life Like obtained the dies for all of the Penn Line rolling stock,
diesels and the GG-1 at the Penn Line bankruptcy auction in 1963. Lew English of Bowser Mfg. got the
PRR steam engine dies. Most of the former Penn Line Pennsylvania Railroad die-cast steam locomotive kits were later produced
by Bowser Manufacturing, and were still available in 2011, except for the Reading Crusader. The Crusader was made in limited
quantities by Penn Line, as only a single manufacturing run was performed and this locomotive is very hard to find today.
These locomotives have sold for as much as $2,000 and are coveted by collectors.