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 N Trolleys: Philip Lehr's Models


Less than ten years after the introduction of the Arnold company's successful 1:160 scale N-gauge "Rapido" model railroad trains, Philip Lehr of the U.S. surprised the model railway world with his accurate and highly detailed N-scale trolley models. He scratchbuilt these at a time when people did not think power drives could be made small enough to make any sort of operating model smaller than a main line locomotive.

Lehr's trolley models were first publicized in the October 1971 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. A follow-up article in December 1974 described his growing fleet and the layout he built to operate them. When Western Railcraft brought out craftsman-level etched brass interurban carbody kits in the mid-1970s, Lehr was an early adopter of them. He wrote a thorough review in the October 1976 RMC issue, illustrating it with his own completed model (see North Shore combine #253 below) and details on modifications that he added.

Philip Lehr pieced together his own powered chassis designs using available motors, gears (including HO slot car gears), wheelsets, and bits of brass channel, tubing and sheet. Not only was he skilled mechanically, but he also built incredibly good body shells to complete his models. His models featured homemade working sprung trolley poles and underbody details including truss rods, electrical equipment, air tanks, brake equipment and rigging. He even found space to add seats, passengers and crewmen in any remaining interior space.

Thanks to Alex Procyk, we are able to present here color photos of Philip's outstanding and inspirational work. Alex had the good fortune to purchase three of Lehr's pioneering traction models when they were eventually sold, and he thought to preserve pictures of additional models that he was not able to purchase. - R. D. Kerr

GE Steeplecab Electric Locomotive- Sacramento Northern #358

Philip Lehr-SN GE 45-ton steeplecab 358

The December 1971 Railroad Model Craftsman magazine article on Philip Lehr's models reported that this 45-ton General Electric steeplecab was his first attempt at N-scale traction modeling. It was an ambitious one, with a fabricated brass body and chassis, Kemtron HOn3 truck sideframes, and a motor taken from an Eheim HO operating trolley bus. It could run under pole, pantograph, or conventional two-rail power.

Niles Interurban- Morris County #9

Philip Lehr-Green Niles 9-side Philip Lehr-Green Niles 9-end

This classic paired arch-window interurban was the first of Philip Lehr's scratchbuilt trolleys to appear in print, in an October 1971 Railroad Model Craftsman magazine. Made of wood, it uses Northeastern basswood scribed siding and is painted green with red trim and gold lettering for "Morris County." The appropriate-looking truck sideframes that Lehr used came from Arnold Rapido's old-time passenger coach. They were grafted onto homemade trucks which used Con-Cor wheelsets. (Alex Procyk photos)

Interurban- Fairmount Electric #55

Philip Lehr-Red Interurban 55-side Philip Lehr-Red Interurban 55-end
Philip Lehr-Red Interurban 55-underside

This red paired-window interurban appeared in the December 1971 Railroad Model Craftsman. Like Niles #9 it uses Northeastern scribed siding. It is lettered in gold for Philip Lehr's "Fairmount Electric Co." model trolley company. The underside photo reveals the amazing underbody details including truss rods, electrical control boxes, bank of resistor grids, air tanks, and brake cylinder with levers and rigging. (Alex Procyk photos)

Interurban- Freight Motor (E-L #342)

Philip Lehr-Freight Motor EL 342-side Philip Lehr-Freight Motor EL 342-end

The double-door freight motor shown here also appeared in the December 1971 RMC article, although without the number and Erie-Lackawanna Railroad logo which seem to have been added later. This model makes use of Northeastern scribed siding, too. It is finished in yellow with rich dark red doors and trim. The article states that it originally used an Arnold Rapido DB V-100 German diesel locomotive chassis and could pull 12 freight cars up an 8% grade. When Alex Procyk acquired it, it was unpowered. He added Miniatures by Eric trolley poles and tried using a chemical blackener on them, with less than satisfactory results. (Alex Procyk photos)

Interurban- North Shore Merchandise Car (Built from Western Railcraft N-401 Kit)

Philip Lehr-Western Railcraft N-401 CNSM Freight Motor

When Western Railcraft released its interurban trolley kits made of brass etchings and wood, Philip Lehr built and motorized a number of them. Some of his completed models were used in Railroad Model Craftsman magazine to accompany its review of the craftsman kits. Pictured here is Lehr's model built from Western Railcraft's N-401 Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee "merchandise" trolley kit. It has his signature Arnold old-time passenger coach truck sideframes.

Interurban- North Shore Coach #737 (Built from Western Railcraft N-402 Kit)

Philip Lehr-Western Railcraft N-402 CNSM Coach 737

This is Philip Lehr's completed model built from Western Railcraft's Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee interurban coach kit N-402. It, too, rides on trucks with Arnold old-time passenger coach truck sideframes.

Interurban- North Shore Combine #253 (Built from Western Railcraft N-403 Kit)

Philip Lehr-Western Railcraft N-403 CNSM Combine 253

Philip Lehr built up Western Railcraft's Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee interurban combine kit N-403. Seats can be spotted inside the model. This model appeared in the October 1976 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.

B-W Steeplecab- CA&E #3003 (Built from Western Railcraft N-405 Kit)

Philip Lehr-Western Railcraft N-405 CAE B-W Steeplecab 3003

Instead of finishing his completed Western Railcraft N-405 kit as the intended Pacific Electric steeplecab, Philip Lehr painted it instead as similar Baldwin-Westinghouse locomotive #3003 of the Chicago Aurora and Elgin.

Interurban- Pacific Electric #1202 (Built from Western Railcraft N-406 Kit)

Philip Lehr-Western Railcraft N-406 PE Coach 1202

Here is Philip Lehr's completed Western Railcraft kit N-406 for a Pacific Electric "San Berdoo" interurban coach, which he numbered 1202. Seats, passengers and motorman at the controls are clearly visible in the interior. (Note that the downward kinks in the trolley poles seen on a number of these models are probably the result of subsequent storage or packing for mailing.)

Interurban- North Shore 400-Series Parlor-Observation

Philip Lehr-CNSM 400 Series Parlor-Observation

Philip Lehr built this unnumbered model of a Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee 400-series parlor-observation trolley. Whether it was scratchbuilt, kitbashed or made some other way is unclear at this point. Note the window size and spacing, plus the rivet detail.

Interurban- CA&E Coach #432

Philip Lehr-CAE Coach 432

This is Philip Lehr's N-scale model of Chicago Aurora and Elgin's coach #432. Its origin (scratchbuilt, kitbashed or other) is unclear at this point. Note the rivet detail.

Interurban- Observation Trolley #202

Philip Lehr-Red Interurban 202 Observation

Here is wooden interurban trolley #202, built by Philip Lehr. It is a private or inspection car apparently built with Northeastern scribed siding, featuring large deep windows on the front end, individual odd-spaced arch windows along the sides (indicative of multiple rooms inside), and an open observation platform on the back end.

Images are used here for non-commercial illustrative purposes only.
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