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Penn Line Model Trains

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Penn Line HO scale Pennsylvania RR 4-4-2 Atlantic E6 Loco & Tender #6092 Penn-Line was an American HO train manufacturer located in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. 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 HO Scale Reading Crusader 4-6-2 streamlined locomotive circa 1947

Penn Line HO scale Pennsylvania RR 2-8-0 Consolidation H-9 Loco & Tender #7346 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.

Penn Line HO scale Pennsylvania RR 4-6-2 Pacific K-4 Loco & Tender 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. This meant that purchasers were required to follow a detailed set of instructions to put all the parts together, and they had to remove flashing from the die-cast parts using a file, scraper or knife. The market for these Penn Line 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 early line of HO locomotives consisted of a Pennsylvania RR E6 Atlantic, H-9 Consolidation, I-1 Decapod, K-4 Pacific, L-1 Mikado, GG-1 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 die-cast metal, thus they are heavy. As a result, they are generally good pullers. Loco models were primarily sold in kit form, however, many assembled versions of the model kits have shown up in hobby stores from time to time, as shop owners built a few for display purposes. Penn Line locomotives used Pittman electric motors and operated on 12 volt DC current over 2-rail track. 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 $34.50. In the mid 1950's Penn Line added F-7 diesel locomotives with plastic shells, and in the late 1950's GP9 diesels with plastic shells were also added to the roster. The GP9's can be found in Baltimore & Ohio, Great Northern, Santa Fe, Union Pacific and Wabash road names.

Penn Line HO scale PRR 2-8-2 L-1 Mikado Locomotive

Penn Line HO scale L-1 2-10-0 Decapod with long haul 12-wheel tender By the mid-1950's Penn Line knew that the market demanded complete train sets and ready-to-run trains. In order to compete, in 1955 they beagn to issue complete sets of ready-to-run trains. These sets usually consisted of a pre-built loco, a half dozen or less cars, and enough snap track to make a simple loop. Because Penn Line did not have its own tooling to produce the freight and passenger cars for the sets, in the early years they utilized cars and accessories from other manufacturers. Eventually, some freights were self-developed and combined with the 3rd party cars in the sets, and passenger car tooling was acquired. The train sets were generally repackaged every year and offered in multiple combinations of several different road names. Penn Line locomotive models were still made available individually as both kits and finished models.

Penn Line HO by Fleischmann #420 A.R.T. Wabash reefer circa 1955 Penn Line HO by Fleischmann Monon #400 box car circa 1955 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 and 1956. These streamlined cars featured interior illumination. There were four die-cast cars, mail/baggage, coach, club car and a Pullman. They came in two sets, #5503 (F-7A unit, #520 mail/baggage car, #540 club car and #530 coach) and #5506 (F-7 A&B units, #520 mail/baggage, #530 coach, #540 club car and #550 Pullman sleeper). The F-7 locomotive was from Athearn. These same F-7 diesels headed up 2 freight sets as well, in 1955. Later on, Penn Line just used Athearn one-piece plastic F-7 shells mounted on Penn Line die-cast metal frames and drives with the electric motor mounted over the rear truck. The F-7 B unit was fitted with an operating diesel horn and remote controller. The Fleischmann-supplied freight cars were the #400 Monon 'The Hoosier Line' box car, #420 Wabash ART reefer, and #440 Western Maryland gondola. 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 for Penn Line.

Penn Line HO Cast Metal Passenger Cars Produced by Fleischmann
Penn Line HO by Fleischmann cast metal #520 Northern Pacific mail/baggage car circa 1955 Penn Line HO by Fleischmann cast metal #530 Northern Pacific Passenger Coach circa 1955 Penn Line HO by Fleischmann cast metal #540 Northern Pacific club car circa 1955 Penn Line HO by Fleischmann cast metal #550 Northern Pacific Pullman car circa 1955

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. Several sets were produced featuring these cars, pulled by all of the different Penn Line locomotives through 1963. All cars came with interior illumination. The heavyweight standard passenger car lineup consisted of a #362 baggage car, #365 combine, #366 diner, #360 coach, #361 Pullman and #369 observation car. The streamliner cars were available in #372 baggage car, #373 baggage/mail car, #370 coach, #380 vista dome, #382 vista dome diner, #387 full dome and #375 observation car. Santa Fe, Great Northern, New Haven, Southern Pacific, Baltimore & Ohio, Milwaukee Road, Pennsylvania RR, and Denver & Rio Grande were the eight available road names for both passenger car styles.

Penn Line HO Heavyweight Standard Passenger Cars obtained from the John English Company (Hobbyline)
Penn Line HO scale Baltimore & Ohio RR Baggage Car #1059 Penn Line HO scale Baltimore & Ohio RR Diner #1366 Penn Line HO scale Baltimore & Ohio RR Coach #1357 Penn Line HO scale Baltimore & Ohio RR Pullman #1390 Penn Line HO scale Baltimore & Ohio RR Observation Car #1371

Besides Great Northern, early Penn Line F-7A unit diesels were available in Chicago Burlington & Quincy and Southern Pacific liveries. These early diesels had metal truck side frames. Additional road names Santa Fe, Baltimore & Ohio, The Milwaukee Road, New Haven, Pennsylvania Railroad, Rio Grande, and Union Pacific were added later, but these had plastic truck side frames. The powered F-7A locos sold in the early 1960's for $9.95 with a dummy offered for $3.50. Matching F-7B units were available from Penn Line in the same road names, power options, and pricing. A notable HO train set produced by Penn-Line in 1962 was the #6214 Pennsylvania streamline passenger set, pulled by matching F-7 A unit diesel locomotives. Penn-line chose a tuscan red with a yellow single stripe to decorate the locos. It used the acquired Hobbyline/Varney streamline passenger cars. The Hobbyline cars were in all silver with a gold stripe and black lettering.

Penn Line HO Streamlined Passenger Cars obtained from the John English Company (Hobbyline)
Penn Line HO gauge 66’ New Haven Concord Streamlined Observation car Cat. #375 made 1958-63 Penn Line HO gauge Baltimore & Ohio RR Clover Hollow 66' streamline passenger coach Cat. #370 made 1958-63 Penn Line HO scale Baltimore & Ohio RR Akron 66' Streamlined Vista Dome Dining Car Cat. #380 made 1961-63

Mantua provided Penn Line with box cars and gondolas for their sets. Tyco produced the box cars, Wilson Reefer and gondolas for Penn Line from 1957 to 1963. The Mantua/Tyco box cars produced for Penn Line came in Great Northern, Union Pacific, D&RGW Cookie Box, New Haven, Missouri Pacific Eagle with yellow door, Western Pacific Feather, and Main Central road names. Gondolas were decorated for the Pennsylvania RR, Wabash, Baltimore & Ohio, and Monon. These cars are all easily identified by the Penn Line logo on the car bottom. Eventually Penn Line manufactured one of their own freight cars. The only freight rolling stock Penn Line produced itself consisted of a series of metal flat cars, some with loads. Penn Line also utilized some Athearn GP7 shells on their own power chassis to create their GP9 diesels.

Penn Line HO 40' Steel Box Cars Supplied by Mantua/Tyco
Penn Line 40' box cars in HO

Penn Line HO In-house Produced Flat Cars
Penn Line HO Monon TOFC with Hinde & Dauch Trailer, B&O Standard flat car, Nickle Plate standard flat car and RDG MofW Searchlight car

Miscellaneous Penn Line HO Freight Cars
Penn Line HO Wabash and Pennsylvania RR gondolas supplied by Manyua/Tyco, B&O Hopper supplied by Varney and DRG Caboose

Penn line HO Southern Pacific F7A diesel Cat. #970 circa 1958 The 1959 Penn Line catalog offered set #5805 headed by an E-6 Atlantic 4-4-2 loco and came with a heavyweight standard 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 and featured a trailer on flat car, box car, flat car with wood load and caboose. It sold for $54.95. Set #5807 was also headed by the K-4, but was a passenger consist with a heavyweight standard combine and 2 coaches. It sold for $54.95. Set #5808 was a freight set headed by the I-1 Decapod 2-10-0 pulling a flat with pipes, box car, hopper, searchlight car and caboose. It was priced at $59.95. Two sets were offered that were headed up by a GP9 diesel that were offered in 5 different road names. One set was a 4-car freight train and the other was a 3-car passenger set consist of heavyweight standard cars, both priced at $19.95. Two different passenger trains pulled by F-7 A&B diesels were also offered. One set had 4 heavyweight standard cars and the other pulled 4 of the streamlined type cars. These sets were made in 5 road names each and sold for $24.95. There were also 3 different sets pulled by a GG-1 loco. These sets were 2 passenger consists and 1 freight train, each priced at $39.95.

Penn Line HO scale Southern Pacific RR GG-1 Electric Loco The 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. Other than the prototypical Pennsylvania RR herald, several fantasy versions were offered over the years including New Haven, Southern Pacific, and Great Northern. Catalog price for a Penn Line GG-1 in 1958 was $49.50. 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.

Penn Line HO scale 0-4-0 Whitcomb D2 Mini-Diesel Switcher Locomotive 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.

Penn Line HO Wabash GP-9 diesel from Athearn shell circa 1950's 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. Varney continued to sell the Penn Line-made F-7A and F-7B models, the GG-1 and the GP-9 until 1970. In spring 1970, Life-Like's branding took over Varney's line and these models continued to be offered. The F-7A tooling survived into contemporary times with Walthers offering entry-level trains under the Life-Like name. Lew English of Bowser Mfg. got the PRR steam engine dies in 1963. 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.

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