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Lee Lines Trains

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Lee Lines Standard gauge 4-8-4 Southern Pacific Daylight GS-4 Locomotive & Tender Lee Lines was a small upstart manufacturing firm based in Miami, Florida that operated from 1975 to 1982 and was founded by Dana Lee Barlow. In 1976, Lee Lines got into the streamliner game when they advertised a massive GS-4 Daylight 4-8-4 locomotive and tender in Standard gauge initially priced at $500. This was the lone offering from the Lee Lines catalog. The first GS-4 was delivered in spring 1977. The locomotive was available in a number of paint schemes including Southern Pacific Daylight, Southern Pacific Freight (black), Western Pacific, Amtrak, Pennsylvania RR and a Bicentennial American Freedom Train. A number of matching streamlined passenger car sets were produced to go with the locos. These extruded aluminum cars were offered as a three-car set with extra cars available. John A. Daniel designed the streamlined passenger cars that shipped with the Lee Lines GS-4. These were priced at $850 for a GS-4 loco and 3 passenger car set.

Lee Lines Standard gauge 4-8-4 SP Daylight GS-4 Locomotive & Tender The Lee Lines GS-4 was a 4-8-4 Northern type loco with twin motors designed to run on tinplate 3-rail track. It came ready to run with twin KTM dual shafted motors. One powered the front driver, the other, the back driver and they were connected by a universal joint between the motors. The double worm drive was so powerful the locomotive could pull a Standard gauge #408E loco by Lionel. At over 37" long and 6" tall it was the largest Standard gauge locomotive ever built. Its cast aluminum boiler and tender body had a total engine and tender weight of over 17 pounds. This 4-8-4 was the first commercially available steam-type loco with 8-wheel drive built to navigate standard 42" track curves. It was available in AC or DC versions, and was equipped with a manual forward and reverse switch and a bridge rectifier.

Cleverly made from just 5 pieces of sand cast aluminum, machined, drilled and tapped to fit together, the loco body was rough, but it fit well with the model toy trains it was meant to run with, standard gauge tinplate production from the 1920's and 30's. Same for the tender, all aluminum castings, except for the baseplate which was sheet metal. It was the largest standard gauge locomotive ever mass produced up until that time. Other materials found in the loco were metal, wood and fiberboard. No plastic was utilized. Production was very limited. The Daylight version was available with three matching cars, but the American Freedom Train version had none.

Lee Lines Standard gauge 4-8-4 SP Daylight GS-4 American Freedom Train Locomotive & Tender The Lee Lines GS-4 was not built to exact scale. It had over 600 simulated rivets and more than 3' of handrails. All 8 drive wheels were nickel rimmed. The loco featured brightly detailed valve gear, cast side rods, twin motors, double worm drive, a cast/aluminum tender body and locomotive boiler. Each hand built loco was serialized. Barlow used a number of parts from Model Engineering Works (MEW) for the piston rod, lead/trailing truck wheels and some of the valve gear.

Lee Lines had ambitious plans for the future that included Standard gauge streamlined passenger cars of extruded aluminum construction similar to Lionel's 'O' gauge #2500 series cars of ribbed sided extruded aluminum construction, as well as a GG-1 loco, a N&W J series loco, F-3 diesels, a B&O Dockside switcher, a box car, caboose, a Subway set, and a limited production run of the UP Big Boy loco. Lee Lines had big hopes to produce many interesting items but the GS-4 was the only one to see the light of day. Only 50 SP Daylight GS-4 Streamlined Standard gauge locomotives were produced by Dana Barlow's Lee Lines. And roughly half as many streamlined passenger cars were made. A single Subway Set in #1 gauge, 1.777 (G gauge) also existed. Dana Barlow eventually gave up on building Standard gauge products and became more involved with G gauge manufacturing, calling his company G Action Models.

Lee Lines #1 (G) gauge prototype 3-car subway set

In 2016, after almost 40 years of sitting idle, Jim Waterman of New Jersey, purchased the Lee Lines tooling and parts. This included the original patterns for the GS-4 engine castings and the extrusion dies for the passenger car roofs and ribbed sides in 6 styles, as well as 150 electric motors. Also included was the original pattern for the Subway car sides and some resin cast ends. He subsequently built some GS-4's and passenger cars using the parts left over from Lee Lines original production. A total of 11 engines and 60 streamlined passenger cars were built in SP Daylight, American Freedom Train, and N&W, along with a couple of specials and offered for sale in matching sets to a few lucky customers. Waterman added a Dallee 12 amp reversing unit to the GS4's. A N&W J was developed using 3-D printing for a bullet nose and modifications to the GS-4 casting. Streamlined passenger cars were built in the original 22" length as well as 30" long models.

Lee Lines Standard gauge 4-8-4 Norfolk & Western J with dual tenders and streamlined passenger car developed by Jim Waterman circa 2017 Plans were to build additional cars, as original castings for another 40 were on hand. And should there be interest among collectors and operators, to produce additional castings and products. If there was interest, production of small single digit quantities to ensure good quality would continue. A SkyTop tail for a prototypical parlor car was in development as well, again using 3-D printing. Waterman also had 5 sets of boilers and tenders for a near scale version of the locomotive, and planned to build those with larger drivers and a better drive system. These castings were about 3 inches longer overall than the production aluminum Lee Lines engine and had finer detail. Apparently Dana Barlow intended to build these up, possibly for G scale, and never did.

Lee Lines Standard gauge Southern Pacific Daylight Streamlined Passenger Cars
Lee Lines Standard gauge Southern Pacific Daylight Streamlined Passenger Cars

Waterman will be building a small run of Standard gauge GG-1 locomotives in 2019. These will be similar in size to those made by Bob Hendrichs and his Gold Standard Engineering around 1974. The GG-1's will be about 30" long with 1.8" diameter drive wheels that are CNC machined and chemically blackened. The shell will be cast aluminum based on a 3D print that has already been completed. The locos will have heavy can motors, Boston gears, and aluminum machined frames with an electronic reverse. Jim expects to make 6 of the GG-1's to start and then see what the demand is from there.

In 2018 Jim Waterman acquired, and began to produce the Standard gauge J. E. Harmon Challenger locomotive and the large Harmon 28" aluminum smooth side passenger cars. These parts and tooling were acquired from Bob Thon of Roberts Lines. Jim states that he has also built up a 4-6-2 Pacific in Southern paint using the Harmon parts. Bob Thon had made a few Pacific/Hudsons from these parts previously. Lee Lines has delivered cars in Pennsylvania, B&O, Southern, Milwaukee Hiawatha and Great Northern Empire Builder schemes. The new cars are somewhat lighter than the originals which were very heavy. Water-jet cut aluminum panels are being utilized for the cars sides. This method facilitates extreme precision and the ability to design new ones using a CAD program.

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