Bob Harpur was involved with a live steam manufacturer shortly after World War II, and is prominent in several photos in the catalogs of that era.
- I had just gotten out of the service. There were no jobs available. I went over to a company and talked to the owner, Martin Lewis, who had worked for my father. He put me to work running a lathe.
- In 1949 was the first time I met Walt (Disney). He and his daughter Sharon came down with Roger Broggie. They went through the facility and asked a lot of questions and saw what was going on. At that time I was building model railroad equipment for Seymour Johnson, the founder and chairman of Johnson Controls. He had an elaborate live steam layout at his estate in Goleta, near Santa Barbara. At one time, Walt told me he wanted to talk to Seymour about becoming one of the original investors in Disneyland, but that never happened.
Bob Harpur at the Los Angeles Live Steamers Golden Spike ceremony, 5 May 1957.
Bob Harpur unloading his 573 Mogul at Canton, Saint Paul and Pacific Railway. Photo by John Schuch.
- Bob Harpur's "Harpur Locomotive Works" was located in the Wilmington/San Pedro area of Los Angeles, in the area near the L.A. Harbor. Harpur's Works went under shortly after it built the loco's for the "Astro World" theme park in Texas. Gene Allen later took over the Mogul line. It was the Harpur Mogul that served as the basis for a number of Gene's later products..... 4-6-0, 2-8-0, etc. The Harpur Mogul was modeled after the Wabash 2-6-0.
- I had a conversation with Gene about this particular engine design (i.e. the Harpur/Allen Mogul). He got the design package from Bob Harpur. He went into the history that Bob built his design from a series ran in the Model Railroader back in the 1940's . A fellow by the name of Mel Thornburgh ran quite a few series on scratch building O scale locomotives. Gene said Bob took the series and multiplied all the dimensions by 6 to turn it into 1.5 scale! Of course it was not all that easy. He had to change it into a working steam powered model, but generally copied it all the way down to the actual cab number, 713!
- Harpur's design is not so much a version of the 573, but of Mel Thornburgh's model of the 573 from Model Railroader from January through June of 1959. That would include the sharp cornered domes and the fishbelly connecting rods.
- Bob Harpur was making the Wabash mogul back in the 1950's and 60's. When Bob wanted to move on to other things Gene Allen bought the patterns and plans from Harpur and took over the 1-1/2 inch scale line, and Allen Models was born. There are a few differences between a Harpur and an Allen. One is that most original Harpurs have a Riveted/Silver Soldered copper boiler. Harpurs have a straight shot gun stack, while Allens have a tapered stack which personally I find more attractive. Another one that is common among Harpurs and is sometimes seen on Allens is the great big single Kunkle Safety sticking out of the steam dome.
Harpur Locomotive Works published a catalog about 1965. The following photos were posted for an eBay auction of one of the catalogs 15 November 2018.
Bob joined Disney as an Imagineer in 1969, and lead the group that restored four steam locomotives purchased from United Railways of Yucatan for use at Walt Disney World Resort.
- Bob Harpur passed this week. Bob was into so many things doing a short bio would be difficult. A Disney Imagineer involved in all of the Disney parks world wide and accomplished live steam builder right to the end. His miniature railroad interests, Harpur Locomotive Works, associated with Bill Van Brocklin and Gene Allen are legendary. The legacy of the Harpur Mogul was passed to Gene many years ago and is now in the capable hands of Marty Knox.
- Bob was a true asset to the hobby, a friend and CStP&P member.