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Bowser PCC Trolley
This latest PCC model from Bowser is a solid example of the new generation of streetcar and transit models that have recently been released to the model railroad market. Two exceptional features of the model that need to be highlighted are the 30 degree windshield, which has never been done on a mass produced PCC model before and the correct floor height.

Review: F-Line PCC Trolley in HO scale by Bowser

by George Riley /photos by the author

Originally designed to provide a consistent standard industry streetcar by the Presidents Conference Committee in the 1930s, the PCC car proved to be far from "standard." While outward appearances make it easy to identify the PCC car plan, operators had a choice of five different widths, several standard as well as custom body lengths, either a single ended or double ended arrangement, a variety of seating configurations, two different specified electrical component manufacturers, two car builders and various second party component suppliers. Adding to this mix a thirteen year production run that was punctuated by a major world war and its inherent material shortages as well as the running changes with production modifications one would expect to occur during this cycle makes it impossible to truly capture in miniature a "standard" PCC streetcar.

Bowser PCC Trolley

Bowser has carefully chosen to build a model based on a 1945 post-war prototype design that should make most streetcar modelers happy. The prototype cars were delivered in 1947-1948 to Philadelphia Transportation Co. as part of a 210 car order. These cars were 46' 5" long by 96" wide and featured a rear end using a 1936 Clark/1940 Cincinnati design. As with all postwar orders, these cars featured small side windows with a row of "standee" windows running above these lower windows. Another postwar upgrade enhanced the motorman's night vision by canting the windshield inward 30 degrees. These cars would serve with PTC and later SEPTA until their retirement from service in Philadelphia in the 1990s having been in operation for over 40 years.

Bowser PCC Trolley

Fourteen of these Philadelphia cars would be reconditioned and join the San Francisco Muni F-Line fleet in 1995. The F-line in addition to providing viable street car service is a rolling, living history museum that features restored streetcars from around the world in its daily operations. It is a unique partnership between Muni and the all-volunteer Market Street Railway organization.

The rebuilt cars would receive a second trolley pole to allow backing movements with out back poling and new paint schemes. Rather than repainting the cars in a standard transit scheme, it was decided to paint each car in the individual historical colors used by various past streetcar operations in the United States. This decision has allowed Bowser to produce thirteen highly accurate models in a variety of colorful and correct paint decorations. Each model’s paint scheme has been captured flawlessly by the manufacturer with a smooth finish, clean masking lines and opaque lettering.


Bowser Manufacturing
1302 Jordon Ave, P.O. Box 322
Montoursville, PA 17754

F-Line PCC Trolley
HO scale
MSRP: $124.95

Available Paint Schemes:
Philadelphia (silver)
Kansas City
Newark Public Service
Pacific Electric
Baltimore (yellow/gray)
Philadelphia (cream/green)
Boston Elevated
Chicago Transit Authority
Los Angeles Railway
San Francisco (cream/green "wings")
San Francisco (cream/green)

The overall design of Bowser’s PCC model follows conventional lines. The car features a finely detailed injection molded chassis and body shell with clear flush inserted windows. The overall dimensions closely match the prototype’s measurements. A horizontally mounted motor with fly wheel drives a single truck through a vertical gear tower. The model runs smoothly and is quiet over the entire operating range with speeds beginning at less than three scale miles per hour. The top end, as is the case of most models, exceeds the prototype’s fifty mph top speed, however, a turn of the throttle will dampen any excess speed. All of the wheels pick up current from the rail head and this is distributed to the motor and LED lighting array through a circuit board mounted under the roof and just out of sight of the windows. White LEDs illuminate the various forward lights with red LEDs bringing up the rear. The board also features an eight pin DCC plug for plug and play installation of a DCC decoder in addition to having contact points for operating trolley poles should on wish to replace the acetal resin non-operating poles provided on the model with live poles.

This latest PCC model from Bowser is a solid example of the new generation of streetcar and transit models that have recently been released to the model railroad market. Two exceptional features of the model that need to be highlighted are the 30 degree windshield, which has never been done on a mass produced PCC model before and the correct floor height. The car nestles down over the track in the same manner as does its prototype. With thirteen paint schemes as well as undecorated available, traction enthusiasts should be able to find a PCC car that is right for their system.

TCS M4t Decoder for Bowser PCC
Control realistic lighting effects on your Bowser F-Line PCC with the new M4T decoder from Train Control Systems.

Review: TCS M4T Decoder for the Bowser F-Line PCC

by Riley O’Connor/photos by Riley O’Connor

Train Control Systems has introduced the M4T decoder to control the Bowser Executive Line PCC cars.  The Bowser Executive Line PCC accurately represents the F-Line cars of San Francisco, including the dash and brake lamps.  Produced as a joint effort of TCS and Custom Traxx, the new M4T decoder is an adaptation of the TCS M4, which offers both reliable slow speed control and full operation of the Bowser PCC’s features.  Installation of the M4T uses the standard 8-pin medium socket.  Once in place, the M4T controls:

F0 – Headlight
F1 – Interior lights
F3 – Brake lights
F6 – Automated stop / start


Custom Traxx
P.O. Box 641175
West Los Angeles, CA 90064-1175

TCS M4T Decoder
MSRP: $39.95

In operation, the brake lights of the PCC will come on as the car decelerates.  A very nice feature of the M4T is the automated stopping operation; pressing F6 will cause a running car to come to a stop without touching the throttle settings.  When the car is stopped in this way, the brake lights remain bright, neatly replicating the action of the real car.  Pressing F6 again will result in the brake lights going dim and the car slowly accelerating back to its original speed; a very nice feature.  Initially, I did encounter a problem until I discovered that the decoder was in the F6 "Stop" position.  Opening the throttle and pressing F6 promptly got the car underway.

Custom Traxx advises that another decoder is in development for other PCC cars that do not have the F-Line brake lights, such as the new Con-Cor PCC car.  Presumably, traction modelers will adapt this decoder for other cars, too. The M4T decoder is Manufactured by Train Control Systems and is available from Custom Traxx.



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