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Varney Trains

A Varney 2-8-2 Mikado in HO gauge


Varney was a United States manufacturer of model railroad equipment.

Varney HO scale Old-Lady 2-8-0 Consolidation Steam Locomotive & Tender in Southern Railway Livery The company was founded by Gordon Varney in 1936 in Chicago, IL. Varney's main significance to the model railroad community was his early advocacy of the HO gauge and the development of a reliable V-1 6 volt motor small enough to power the locomotives of this gauge, and to pull a nice sized consist. Varney's catalogs were vivid, informative and contained editorials and fascinating exploded views that clearly show an understanding of the mind of model railroaders that still rings true today.

Varney 0-4-0T Dockside Lil Joe tank loco in HO gauge In 1936 Varney began manufacturing his HO kits made of paper and wood. The box cars had paper sides which were photographically reproduced from pictures he took in the Los Angeles railroad yards. These early freight cars, including reefers, were pre-printed and sold with the slogan "No paint needed." One of his employees was Bob Lindsay who created the first two locomotives. Varney offered the 4-6-2 Pacific and the 2-8-0 Consolidation in the late 30's, early 40's. Early sales and distribution was all done via mail order. The majority of the products manufactured were kits. The loco kits were diecast, sheet metal and brass, while the rolling stock kits were wood & metal. HO scale was just beginning when these famous locomotives made their appearance. The Pacific had the USRA boiler style and was patterned after the Southern Pacific prototype. The Consolidation was designed after the Reading 2-8-0. Soon the 2-8-2 Mikado followed, and other models were added to the line. These trains were high quality, and this is attested to by the fact that original models are still in operation today.

Varney 'O' gauge 4-6-0 kit from 1947 Varney was one of the earliest manufacturers to use plastic and made their first plastic kit as early as 1940, using a plastic called 'Tenite'. Tenite was an Varney HO scale 4-6-0 Casey Jones loco and tender #227 Richmond Fedricksburg & Potomoc RR injection molded acetate most often used for tool handles and control knobs of all sorts. Apart from locomotives and carriages Varney also made a series of HO-scale car and truck models. The vehicles were solid and had no interiors. Some were made of clear plastic. The models had black wheels and were sold both as ready-made painted models and as kits. There was also a brief endeavor to make and market ship and airplane kits, but sales were poor, and Varney wound up selling these molds to O-Lin.

Another Varney innovation was embossed aluminum car sides. In 1941, Varney car kits sold for $1.25. During the war, production of model trains ceased while the shop produced military parts. After the war, Varney resumed production with updated versions of many of the pre-war model train kits. The stamped steel version of the Varney boxcar was introduced in 1949. 1950 was a banner year for HO, as Varney introduced the first plastic-bodied, injection molded freight cars. Varney, along with Mantua Metal Products, was one of the premier manufacturers of HO gauge trains in the period between 1945 and 1955, offering an extensive line of locomotives and rolling stock. Varney's first postwar locomotive was a die-cast version of the prewar Baltimore and Ohio RR 'Little Joe' 0-4-0 tank Dockside switcher. It was a very popular seller and featured a Pittman DC-60 motor, and could be detailed using a valve gear kit from Central Valley Mfg.

Varney HO gauge 2-8-2 Super Mikado 1788K and Vanderbilt styleoil tender made 1949-1951 Other Varney steam locomotives of this era included a Reading RR-based heavy 2-8-0 Consolidation, a Southern Pacific-based P-7 Pacific 4-6-2, a freelance 4-6-4 Hudson, a freelance streamlined Pacific and Hudson, a freelance 4-8-4 Northern, a Southern Pacific-based 2-8-2 Mikado, a freelance 2-8-2 Mikado and a very similar 2-8-4 Berkshire utilizing the same superstructure casting. Varney also offered a bronze or aluminum superstructure casting for a 2-8-8-4 Yellowstone articulated, which when combined with appropriate Varney parts, made an impressive model. The tenders for all of these locomotives were sold separately. Choices included a Vanderbilt tender with 6-wheel trucks, two long-distance style coal tenders, a wood and cardstock tender for the streamlined Hudson/Pacific, and a die cast slope back tender that could be used with the Dockside Switcher. A 1947 Varney price list indicates that a #1913-K-4 kit could be purchased for $27.50.

Varney 2-8-8-4 articulated Yellowstone in HO gauge In 1947 Gordon Varney released an 'O' Scale 4-6-0 steam loco in kit form under the Varney name. This tooling was later sold to General Models Corp. and then acquired by All-Nation Hobbies of Chicago in 1950. In June of 1948, Varney issued the Hollywood And Western refrigerator car after deciding that there was a market for private owner car models. That car kit, along with the Firewater & Kicking Horse boxcar were the first recorded mass-produced private owner cars ever made available to the public in HO scale. Bob Lindsay, who was mentioned earlier as a locomotive designer for Varney, began his own business in 1948. He produced Lindsay motors and power trucks. He also produced some HO die-cast metal diesel bodies.

Varney made AC Gilbert C&O F-3 in HO circa 1955 In 1955, the by then Miami, Florida based Varney Co. produced a whole new and varied line of HO trains, for the AC Gilbert Co, makers of the 'S' gauge American Flyer trains, called Gilbert HO. Varney provided A-B F-3 diesels and the first HO scale boxcars to ever be offered by Gilbert. They also provided stock, hopper, a cement car, oil tank cars, and a Reading style caboose. Even though Gilbert had HO gauge trains in its product line since 1938, the 4 year collaboration with Varney brought the highest quality and finest attempts at HO scale offerings. Varney's interest in helping Gilbert was somewhat personal, as Gordon Varney felt that by increasing Gilbert's sales of ready-to-run HO, his line of HO kits would also benefit from the increased market demand. Unfortunately, sales did not achieve the expected results.

Varney HO scale 2-8-4 Super Berkshire & Vanderbilt 12-wheel tender Varney 2-8-2 Super Mikado 1788K 1948-1951

Varney HO scale PRR #5796 GG-1 Electric Locomotive circa 1970 Gordon Varney sold the company in 1960 to Sol Kramer of Life-Like, and it was moved to Baltimore, MD. Around this time Varney/Hobbyline plastic passenger cars were supplied to Penn Line for their HO train sets. Varney also made the C&O hopper and Sinclair tank car for Penn Line. Gordon Varney died in 1965. The model trains continued to be produced under the Varney name until March 1970, when the branding was finally changed to 'Life-Like.' Around this time, Varney also put out a nice diecast HO GG-1 Electric made from tooling that Sol Kramer had acquired from Penn Line. In 1985, the Model Railroad Industry Association, Inc. named Gordon Varney a Pioneer of Model Railroading. Today, train collectors actively Varney HO scale #653 New Haven Yard Switcher Engine seek and prize the Varney products produced during the 10 year post war era. Some engines sell in the $500 range, which is unusual for HO gauge trains.

Today, versions of many former Varney products remain on the market in the Bowser Manufacturing and Life Like lines. This includes the Aerotrain in plastic that Gordon Varney created the molds for, and that Bowser has used over the years as a basis for its Aerotrain models in HO Scale. Bowser also still makes the Old Lady (2-8-0), Casey Jones (4-6-0), and Little Joe Docksider (0-4-0T) steam locos.

A Varney 2-8-2 Mikado in HO gauge Varney HO scale 0-4-0 Steam Switcher and 8-wheel Tender

Varney 40' Steel Box Cars
Varney HO Metal SL-SF Frisco Box Car #17774 Varney #1721 Union Pacific 307014 Metal body #1 Box Car Varney Buffalo Creek Railroad 40' single door Box Car Varney HO #71473 Pennsylvania RR 40' Box Car Varney Santa Fe Railroad 40' single door Box Car Varney HO Louisville & Nashville #97149 B-209 steel type Box Car Varney HO SOO Line #45398 40' single door Box Car Varney HO #3529 Great Northern B-206 steel type Box Car Varney HO Scale #81492 B & LE 40' Box Car Varney HO #22145 NC & ST L Dixieland 40' Freight Car Varney Firewater and Kicking Horse 40' Box Car in HO Varney HO scale Rock Island Route of the Rockets 40' Box Car #20061 Varney HO scale Santa Fe Shock Control 40' Box Car

Varney 40' Outside Braced Wood Box Cars
Varney HO scale #2465P Southern Pacific #31560 Outside Braced Wood Box Car Varney HO Scale Baltimore & Ohio #165917 Outside Braced Wood Box Car Varney HO Scale Virginian VGN 61550 40' Outside Braced Wood Box Car Varney AT&SF 40' AAR Outside Braced Wood Box Car with Kadee couplers

Varney 40' Stock Cars
Varney HO #140449 Atlantic Coast Line Stock Car Varney HO scale Alaska RR Stock Car circa 1960's Varney HO scale Missouri Pacific Lines Cattle Stock Car MP #52427 Varney HO scale Chicago & Northwestern Railroad 40' Stock Car Varney HO scale M-K-T The Katy Stock Car #502 Varney HO scale Soo Line Cattle Stock Car #29647 Varney HO scale 40' New York Central System Livestock car

Varney Reefers
Varney Private Owner Reefer Carnation Milk RW-3 Car Kit HO Scale Varney Liebmann Packing Company Railroad 40' reefer Varney HO Scale  #24248 ART American Refrigerator Transit 40' Reefer car Varney Metal HO Santa Fe El Capitan Reefer #8131

Link to Varney Catalogs on line.

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