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Craftsman Product Review

Bowser "Executive Line" HO scale Baldwin VO-1000 Diesel Switcher

Bowser’s new ready-to-run model of the Baldwin VO-1000 diesel switcher is a well-done model of an interesting prototype. As part of their Executive Line, the VO-1000 comes with most details already installed and with factory installed DCC and sound.

Bowser "Executive Line" Baldwin VO-1000
Diesel Switcher in HO scale

by Gary Quale/photos by George Riley


Bowser Manufacturing Co.
P.O. Box 322
Montoursville, PA 17754
(732) 225-2100

Available Road Names
- Pacific Electric w/trolley poles
- U.S. Steel
- Western Pacific
- P&BR/Bethlehem Steel
- Southern Pacific w/trolley poles
- Lehigh Valley
- Great Northern

HO scale
MSRP - $149.95
MSRP - DCC/sound $259.95

Baldwin introduced the VO-1000 in 1939, and by the time production stopped in July 1946, they had manufactured a total of 548 units of this design. Early units had a distinctive pointed nose on the long hood with a circular radiator grill and the headlight recessed in the nose above the grill. Later production had a less pronounced shallow “v” shape to the nose, and a larger rectangular radiator grill that pushed the headlight up to a position partially raised above the top of the long hood. The later basic body went through two phases, first with the same curved trim on the side of the step to the cab along the long hood as on the earliest units, and second without this trim but with four additional louvers above the long hood side access doors nearest the cab. VO-1000’s came with a variety of stack configurations, usually four short stacks, or four taller ones, or a single fatter stack near the cab. The VO-1000’s came with either Baldwin Batz trucks or with standard AAR type-A switcher trucks.

Baldwin VO-1000

Western Pacifc engine No. 581 returns to the yard after a morning of switching at the Port of Stockton, California, in May 1973. Photo by Steve Schmollinger

Baldwin built their own diesel engines based on the design of the De La Vergne four-cycle marine engine. These engines had very large cylinders with a 12 ¾” bore and 15 ½” stroke, for a whopping 1979 cu. in. cylinder displacement. This is almost four times the cylinder displacement of the EMD 567 engine used during the same period with its 8 ½” bore and 10” stroke. As a result, the 1000 HP, 8 cylinder VO engine ran at only 625 rpm, compared to 800 rpm for the EMD 567. These big cylinders operating at just over 10 revolutions per second gave Baldwin locomotives a very distinctive sound, sometimes described as a “burble”. This engine, coupled to the Westinghouse electrical equipment used by Baldwin, also resulted in a durable locomotive noted for its ability to lug heavy loads.

The sample reviewed came painted and lettered as US Steel #131. The Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Co. ordered 4 VO-1000’s from Baldwin in 1946. They were initially numbered 800-803 and were used at the TCI&RR steel mill at Pratt City, AL (near Birmingham), which became the TC&I Division of the US Steel Fairfield Works. TCI&RR 800 to 803 were built in June and July of 1946 as Baldwin construction numbers 72230, 72231, 72789 & 72790, respectively. These were the last units Baldwin built with the 8 cylinder VO engine. US Steel renumbered the units in reverse order to numbers 133 to 130, making the sample reviewed the penultimate VO-1000. By the mid 1960’s, all 4 units had been repowered with EMD 12 cylinder 567 engines.

Bowser Baldwin VO-1000

The Bowser VO-1000 is basically a re-release of the older Stewart model. The chassis and drive, and the superstructure appear to be very similar to the Stewart model. Bowser factory installs many of the details, including MU hoses, air hoses, brass windshield wipers, body grab irons. The biggest external change is that Bowser now has done the research as to the specific details appropriate to each prototype and installs these for the purchaser. On our sample, they have installed just two short stacks, and added a number plate in front of the long hood radiator grill. The purchaser is required to add the end handrails and coupler lift levers. On our sample, the paint had reduced the size of the holes on the ends of the body, and we had to ream them out slightly with a small drill in a pin vice in order to install these components. We found it easier to install the handrails first, then the coupler lift, and finally tuck the coupler lift under the tabs at the bases of the end handrail posts. The purchaser also has to install the cab window shades, which are made for blackened etched sheet metal, and are easily installed in a pair of holes above the cab side windows.

Bowser Baldwin VO-1000

The other change is the inclusion of factory installed DCC and sound. Bowser has installed a 1” by ½” speaker and baffle above the truck at the front end of the long hood. They have preserved the cab interior detail module above the other truck. To accommodate these changes, the model does away with the headlight contact wipers on the Stewart model that allowed the super structure to be completely removed from the chassis, and instead uses four permanent wire connections. The sound quality is excellent, and nicely represents the unique sounds of the Baldwin VO engine. The factory settings seemed to favor the diesel sounds a little too much, so that they tended to drown out the horn and bell, but these can be adjusted. We have had some difficulty in the past programming SoundTraxx sound decoders with some DCC systems, and had to purchase the SoundTraxx PTB-100 Programming Track Booster. We did not encounter any problems with the Tsunami decoder in the Bowser Executive Line model, and by following the instructions provided, were able to reset CVs without the use of the PTB-100.

Bowser includes a four-page folder with basic information about the Tsunami sound decoder. They do not provide the very useful exploded parts diagram that was included with the older Stewart models. The purchaser thus has no guidance on how to remove the superstructure in order properly lubricate the model. The trick is to look for the four rectangular tabs that extend below the long hood and cab and interlock with the die cast chassis. They are located just outboard of the truck pivots. These need to be pressed inward while prying the metal chassis out from beneath the running boards.

The Executive Line Baldwin’s drive train uses a can motor, turned brass flywheels, and Stewart style AAR type-A trucks with nickel silver wheels with RP25 flanges. All 8 wheels are powered and used for electrical pickup. In the conventional DC mode, our sample’s sound system came on at 7.0 volts, and the unit started to move at 7.6 volts. It ran smoothly at just under 5 smph. At 12 volts speed was reasonable 42 smph and current draw 0.1 amp. At 16 volts speed was 102 smph and current draw 0.2 amps. At 12 volts with the wheels slipping current draw was 0.2 amps. Using a Digitrax DCC system with the factory decoder settings, our sample ran at 1.5 smph at speed step 1, and 102 smph at step 99.


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