Bill Brower

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Ken Shattock writes:

Another prolific builder of locomotives at GGLS in the 1950's was William "Bill" Brower, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley. Bill would turn out approximately one new locomotive per year. He always said that the leftover material in his scrap box from building an engine was the "start" of yet another locomotive. He built the Lion-Titfield Thunderbolt; the Stourbridge Lion; Thatcher Perkins from the B&O; a Mastodon type too, and so many others. Most were in 3/4, 1-inch or 1 1/2-inch scale.

Bill Brower built a number of Semaphore signals for the club's elevated track that were electrically controlled by the position of a train in the block. They were really neat during the many years they were in operation at Redwood Park and to this very day, were the ONLY block signals that the club ever used on the elevated track. When the club moved to Tilden Park in Berkeley in 1971, all of these neat signals somehow disappeared. They have never been seen since.

Bill Brower also built a special "track cleaning car" with rotary brushes for the elevated track at Redwood Park. He named it "LA COSA"!! And he would drag it around behind a train. The solvent drips down from the tank with the rotary brushes following. "La Cosa" (translated) is "The Thing" !!!

The late GGLS member "Bill Brower" with the club's track cleaning car: "LA COSA". Note one of Bill's signals towards the right of the photo. Photo provided by Ken Shattock.

As his regular vocation in life, Bill was a master machinist. For many years he was in charge of the Physics Department machine shop at the University of California at Berkeley.

See Bill's Dynamometer car.

"Grant" Loco

A Grant Loco Built in 6 Months

by Harry L. Dixon

The Miniature Locomotive, September-October 1953

BillBrower Grant 1953.jpg

A reproduction of the "Grant", an engine that was built in 1873, has been made in 3/4 inch scale by William Brower, a member of the Golden Gate Live Steamers Inc, Oakland, California.

This little 4-4-0 locomotive was started in July 1952 and finished in December, 1952, complete in every detail including the paint job. It was under steam and running within six months. Any Live Steamer who has seen Mr. Brower's shop as I have can appreciate how this feat was accomplished. His shop is the most complete layout I've ever visited, and can be considered what most miniature builders would dream of owning.

In addition to this Mr. Brower is a master machinist as his regular vocation. He is in charge of the Physics department machine shop at the University of California at Berkely. The pictures tell most of the story as to the beautiful workmanship of the engine. However, here are some of the more intimate details: Cylinders are 1 inch bore with 1-4/10 inch stroke, using slide valves. Incidentally, this engine was made from scratch as Bill produced all of his own patterns and had castings made. The drivers are a little less than 4 inches in diameter and the boiler is made from 3/32 inch copper with superheater elements and is coal fired. The water pumps are working units, the bore being 1/8 inch diameter with 1-4/10 inch stroke, operated from the crosshead.

Another interesting feature is that the sand dome serves as a steam cylinder oil reservoir, with the oil being piped down to a mechanical lubricator. Bill has named the engine after his wife, "Marion", which lettering appears on the the tender. I have personally driven this engine and can say it performs as finely as it looks.

BillBrower Grant 1953-2.jpg

Orinda Valley

by Harry Dixon

The Miniature Locomotive, November-December 1954

Bill Brower, a Live Steamer who loves to build the old timers is going to have one of his dreams come true at last. He has bought a home in Orinda, California, where he can lay out a railroad of his own. The former home was in the Berkeley hills and Bill has no love for a Shay engine. Bill, by chance would you be calling your new railroad "The Orinda Valley Lines?"

1.5" Scale

Tyler Virga posted the following photos and description of 1.5 inch scale equipment built by Bill Brower.

  • 7 ½” Gauge 4-8-0 American style locomotive
  • Coal fired
  • 2 crosshead pumps with one injector
  • Built by Bill Brower in 1952-1953
  • Ran on Sacramento valley live steamers for many years