Notes culled from postings on "PRR-Talk"

Date: 06 Jun 97 18:01:23 UT
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Bowser isn't bad, with two caveats
1) You probably want to repower it with a can motor
2) You absolutely want to superdetail it

Q: They offer it with an "old style" vs. a "modern" front end. Which would be appropriate for 1943?

Old style - the new style solid pilot is post ww2.

Q: Is there adequate room inside for a DCC decoder?

Yes, in the tender, but you will ABSOLUTELY need to repower.

Q: Is the "super detail kit" difficult to install? (I'm all thumbs!)

Yes and no - you need to work slowly, and carefully. Don't get frustrated, work with lots of light, and the right tools (a good dremel, a pin vice with straight pin to place small amount s of acc, forcepts, etc) I would glue most of the parts rather than soldering (use ACC). Al Westerfield has a great video on assembling his kits, and he shows how to use ACC.

Q: Any other thoughts?

I haven't built any of their kits start to finish yet, but having used many parts to superdetail a Mantua 2-6-6-2, I know they are pretty nice. Assembling valve gear is supposed to be a pain, but I loved it - work carefully, use nail punch on a batr of steel or iron to do the rivets, and the results are great!

Date: 06 Jun 97 18:51:48 UT
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I have two superdetailed Bowser (actually Penn Line) K4s. I did both of mine in the modern post war configuration with CalScale and Bowser parts rather thasn using the packaged suoperdetail kit. This is mostly because they were done so ling ago the superdetail kit was not offered. I am thrilled with them. When superdetailed they look very good. AND THEY PULL! I don't know what effect on power the can motor would have, butr with the original DC71 I have hauled 20 car trains up 2.5% grades on the club layout without breaking into a sweat (well, maybe a little condensed steam).

I don't believe IHC makes a K4. If you mean the Bachmann, I don't any of those but the word that I have heard is they look beautiful but can't pull their own tender!

The Bowser tender is primarily an L1 tender. I have seen one rare foto of a K4 with that tender, and it was taken around 1920. Its an old style tender as indicated by the visible side sills. The Kiesel(sp?) tenders built for the K4s did not have that. The Bachmann tender is a PRR 110P84 (I think). This is the most common tender to run behind a K4. Unfortunatly Bachman will not sell parts, including the tender.

For my K4s I kitbashed a nearly correct tender by slicing two segments out of the shell of a Bowswer long distance tender - the one they offer with the I1. This is probably not a good idea for a novice at craftsman kits with you paculiar arrangement of fingers. But don't let that keep you from building a Bowser K4. You will be very happy with the resulting engin and can always go back later and build the correct tender when you confidence, experience asnd thumbs are up to it.

BTW do you plan to paint the cars in the Lowey 2-tone scheme? If so you are a brave man. Tell me how you do it.

Date: 07 Jun 97 17:27:41 UT
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Fear not, I am into my 4th decade and assembled my first Bowser kit (L1) at age 13. Valve gear is not as bad as some think. My problem was I could not determine the insulated side of one of the drivers by looking at it. I learned real fast that they all have to go on the same side.

You can use the Bowser motor with standard power supply. The standard gearing is a little noisy, but it will pull a brick down your layout.

What satisfies you in the hobby makes the difference. If you build to satisfy others I wish you well. (can't be done) I have Bowser N5 and N5C Cabins. They fit my family man's purse and look reasonably like the real thing. If someone else does not like it, there is room for their outlook in the hobby too. Thats the good part, flexibility. Some folks don't even bother with much scenery for instance because they like to build rolling stock and run it rather than do the scenery thing. Remember the great model builder Mel Thornburgh who built models for MR projects in the early fifties and for the B&O museum? He ran his stuff at home on British prototype track because it appealed to him!

I still have a box full of Tyco cabooses that I plan to hack up to turn the roof around to center the cupola so that I can make a poor man's N8 cabin. I still feed a family of five on one income. That cut and paste N8 will look good to me. (some just like to use any equipment, as long as it is lettered for their favorite road) I have no desire to make the cover of MR. I just want to have a little fun. It sounds like you have great plans to model some fun yourself.

Date: 08 Jun 97 15:20:34 UT
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I agree with Harry. I built my first Bowser (acutally a lead body Penn Line) E-6 at about age 13 or 14. I assembled the valve gear and everything else. I used the engine for years on Christmas layouts and it pulled a 4 coach passenger train very well, even up a steep grade (dont know the angle now - too long ago). The engine was run with the motor that came with the kit, and it WAS relatively noisy. I began superdetailing this engine about 2 years ago, and when Accurate Lighting announced a can-type motor for the E-6 I purchased one. It is much quieter, and operates better at slow speeds.

I recently purchased the Bowser I-1, and am in the process of superdetailing it. I valve gear assembly is not difficult; you just have to pay attention to the diagrams that come with the kit, and have to have a little patience. I mounted and tried the motor that came with the kit. It is also relatively noisy. I ground out the frame and dropped the Accurate Lighting motor in and it works like a charm. We had a discussion about Bowser motors and tenders about a month or so back.

Remotoring is no big deal. Any railroading hobby shop worth its salt will have someone on the staff that can help if you are unsure about what to buy or how to install it.

Date: 08 Jun 97 15:29:11 UT
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Q: I was concerned that I got three responses indicating the need for specified a can motor. This is beyond my level of (current) expertise.

Why do you say this? How will you ever get to that "level of expertise" if you don't do it? I used to say the same thing, but now, I feel a thrill when I open a kit box, and the contents look like a flat car load - just a stack of lumber!!!! How did I learn? I just did it! My other favorite hobby, homebrewing, has a saying "Relax, don't worry, have a homebrew". Apply this in liberal doses! Here are some guidelines:

1) Make sure your wife (the gift giver) knows that this will be a learning experience (pressure to not screw up because it was a present will cause more worry than is healthy) I tell everyone who gives me RR stuff, not to expect it to look like the box, because I will modify it.

2) Read all of the instructions FIRST (this really does help). Read some articles and reviews (like the review last year of the Bowser I-1) for helpful hints. Also look at for some advice on buildoing these kits.

3) Gather all of the appropriate parts - order superdetail parts directly from Terminal Hobby, after checking their availability on the Walthers web site (

4) Gather all of the appropriate tools.

5) ALWAYS work with some photos of the real thing for inspiration (did that thingamajig really go there?)

6) Work slowly and carefully. Drill and test fit, glue, and let dry. Follow the This Old House motto - "measure twice, cut once". Don't try to do toooooo much at one sitting. Work in good light, with few distractions. Glue on three parts a night, and LET THEM DRY! Look at the loco the next morning and say "Wow, that looks good". Show off your progress to your spouse (mine always says "that looks very nice dear").

7) ADMIT mistakes. If the part don't look right to YOU - redo it. Holes can be pugged, defects filled, parts reordered. It doesn't have to be PERFECT the first time. DO NOT CONTINUE TO WORK IF YOU ARE FRUSTRATED! Take a break.

Q: Is repowering really necessary? I plan to pull 8-10 passenger cars, and I will have up to 3% grades (1" rise in roughly 3' of run).

Part of the reason that Bowser locos can pull down walls is their weight. This will be unaffected by repowering. If you want to use DCC, you MUST repower. The old motors just don't cut it. They also detract from the appearance of the loco with that big ugly worm gear. Several companies make repowering kits for Bowser locos (I'm not sure if one is available for the K4) and those will walk you through the process. If you can install a DCC receiver, you have more than enough skill to repower a loco.

Date: 17 Jun 97 14:08:58 UT
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1. Be VERY careful with steel wool! It will leave small steel shards everywhere and they ar death to the motor whose magnet will attract them! Keep the motor (and for that matter the gears) far from the area where the steel wool polishing is done.

2. I'd recommend a good gap-filling ACC glue.

3. We never did resolve the Red Roof issue. The Lines West suggest was just hearsay on my part and none of our experts either confirmed or denied that rumour.

4. By all means find your friend with the air brush, or take your time with the kit (superdetail it?) and drop a hint to your wife as to what you want for Christmas!

Date: 17 Jun 97 20:11:12 UT
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There is also bronze wool, obviously not magnetic but shards could cause short circuits. A better choice would be 3M artificial steel wool which is like those green scrubby pads for dishes but in a choice of grades. You ought to see if a green scrubby from the sink will work. If you need a rougher pad then go to the hardware store.

Date: 17 Jun 97 20:33:32 UT
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The 3-M "artificial steel wool" that Andy is referring to is called Scotch-Brite. It is used as hand and machine operated pads to remove gasket material from diesel engine parts and to prepare metal surfaces for assembly.

Scotch-Brite comes in various textures and sizes. Be careful if you get hold of any pads for power tools as they can round off edges of soft parts. For what they are designed for they are the next best thing to store sliced bread.