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Guys,

I’ve heard lots of interesting anecdotes about a number of giants in our hobby, making it is what it is today.  Bill Wolfer is one such fellow whom I know very little about other than he lived in Philadelphia, was a huge PRR enthusiast and super-detailed certain Custom Brass runs, significantly improving them.  I’d enjoy reading whatever vignettes you feel comfortable sharing.

Tia

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On Sep. 5, 1973, I went to his house at 704 Pecan Dr. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and bought 1 of his E-44 electrics unpainted for $370.   He had been charging $410 for the painted version, but had already stopped making them.  He told me that he made 50, 2 pilot modes, and 4 runs of 12 at a time.  Why 12?  Some of the ready made parts were sold by the dozen.   Unless specified by the purchase, the painted versions were given different low numbers, and my choice of PRR 4444 had not been used.  On Jul. 5, 2020, I bought PC 4431 from Trainz for $525.66 including tax and shipping.  Who was the original owner?

His next loco was the ex-Great Northern electric in its Pennsylvania RR FF-2 configuration, estimated at about $710.  After that, he contemplated a GG-1 "as it should be made".

He had an 0-scale layout that was designed to come apart in section when he moved somewhere else, which probably happened by 1982.

I remember another visitor in early 1974 trying to arrange a trade of a Joe Fisher passenger car and a Central Locomotive Works GP Diesel, saying that they were worth about the same.   Bill refused, explaining that he was a businessman or dealer, and had to make a profit on every transaction.

I met Bill in Philadelphia out at his house around 1977. I was new to O-scale and was a little overcome by the amount of equipment he had for sale. All I had at the time was an A-B-A set of ALCo passenger units from Bob Smith that were in the process of assembly. I didn't buy anything from Bill that afternoon, but we became friends and over subsequent years I did acquire one of his GG1's, an FF-2, and an E-44, along with a set of B&O passenger cars. Later on, Bill moved to California and on one memorable occasion I met up with him and his old friend John (?) at an O-Scale West meet in the Bay Area, where I had driven from Arizona. I offered them a ride back to Los Angeles (not sure how they got to the meet to begin with) and we had a great trip, stopping at Anderson's for their special pea soup at Bill's insistence. We spent the night there and then went on to Los Angeles the next day via Tehachapi Loop, ultimately making our way over to Long Beach to visit the Queen Mary. Bill had been a detective on the Philadelphia police force, if I'm not mistaken. He and John had all sorts of stories about serving together in Europe during WWII -- I guess some of the stories were even true (many of them involved eating excellent meals in France). I remember the sectional layout, which had a lot of PRR equipment, of course. Bill had a device for rolling Pullman-style corrugations into sheet metal for passenger car sides, which Bill then finished with wood roofs and floors (at least, that was the construction method for my B&O cars). I had been living in Baltimore when I met Bill (hence my B&O interest), but had no place for a layout until some years later. Bill was a great character and I really enjoyed my acquaintance with him. Bill's vertical motor drive with Delrin chain to adjacent axles was also used on the GN Y-1 that Custom Brass imported. I feel lucky to have met and been friends with Bill (and also men like Bob Smith, Ed Duddy, Doug Cockerham,  John Smith, John Clemons, and Mr. Crissi [?] who owned The Electric Shop and produced some beautiful kits for NYC electrics). All these guys greatly enriched my experience with O-scale trains.

Last edited by B Smith
@B Smith posted:

I feel lucky to have met and been friends with Bill (and also men like Bob Smith, Ed Duddy, Doug Cockerham,  John Smith, John Clemons, and Mr. Crissi [?] who owned The Electric Shop and produced some beautiful kits for NYC electrics). All these guys greatly enriched my experience with O-scale trains.

If you take the time to look in the "O Scale Hall of Fame", you will find many of the names Mr. Smith mentions.

Simon

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