Bruce Achor

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Bruce Achor was a Chicago banker. He was active in the live steam hobby starting in the mid-1930's. He built a 7-1/2" gauge, 1-1/2" scale track along with a Hudson and other equipment.

Chicago area live steamers Walter Johnston and Emory Ohlencamp built their equipment to 7-1/2" gauge so they could run on Mr. Achor’s home track.


The Hudson and train shown in this photo were built by Bruce Achor and completed in 1948. As of 2011 it was owned by Dick Parker. This photo was taken at the Elliot Donelley Railroad in Chicago, Ill on 11 September 1965.

Achor Railroad

by Stephen Booth

The Live Steamer, May-June 1950

Achor Railroad is a 7-1/2 inch gauge outdoor miniature railroad built to a scale of 1-1/2 inch to a foot. this short line is laid in a "U" shape around the residence of Mr. L.B. Achor, at 904 Bruce Avenue, Flossmoor, Illinois. Bruce Achor, with the help of his family and friends, built this pike for operating the fine 4-6-4 coal burner which he constructed.

Work on the locomotive was started in January 1939 and completed nine years later. It was in 1948 that the 200 foot main line was laid. A switch and a spur running into a small engine house were installed later. Details of track construction follow:

  • Rail: 8 pound steel
  • Ties: 2"x4"x18" Cedar drilled for spikes
  • Spikes: 5/16"x5/16"x2-1/2" steel railroad spikes
  • Ballast: dirt

Hudson No. 904, the pride of Achor Railroad, is a modern efficient piece of motive power. Among other equipment, she has Walschaert valve gear, front and throttle, mechanical lubricator, chime whistle and two injectors as well as an axle driven feed water pump on the tender, which keeps up the water level when the locomotive is moving. Up until the present time, air pressure for brakes has been supplied by storage tanks in a gondola. Charged to 120 pounds by a stationary compressor, they contain enough air for about one hour of normal use. Now Bruce has installed an air pump on a tender truck and has finished building a steam driven pump which will be mounted on the engine.

Here are some other pertinent facts about No. 904:

  • Length of engine and tender: 13' 0"
  • Weight in working order: 1800 pounds
  • Driver diameter: 9-7/8 inch
  • Cylinders: 2-3/4 inch by 3-1/2 inch
  • Steam pressure: 125 psi
  • Tubes: twenty 1-inch, four 1-1/4 inch
  • Starting tractive force: 200.9 pounds

Besides making refinements on No. 904, additional rolling stock, including a caboose, is now being built to supplement the two gondolas already in service. The newest car will be equipped with air brakes. In the planning stage is a "Diesel" which will be powered by a small gasoline engine driving through a war-surplus hydraulic transmission.

Whatever form this short line takes in future, you can be sure of one thing; It will provide the thrill of real railroading.

Scene at Mr. L.B. Achor's 7-1/2 inch gauge railroad at Flossmoor, Illinois, and shows his fine 4-6-4 locomotive No. 904. Bruce Achor is a Banker by profession, but a live-steamer in his own right and also has a fine 3-1/2 inch gauge Atlantic which he built some years ago when he first became interested in the hobby.

3/4 inch Atlantic

The following was posted on an eBay auction, November 2015:

This is an awesome estate acquisition. This fine 3.5 in. Ga. 3/4 scale reproduction of the B&O Atlantic 1467 4-4-2 was hand built during the great depression by hobby machinist Bruce Achor, a bank receiver in Rockford Illinois, who went on to become Vice President of the Livestock National Bank in Chicago. This incredible coal fired live steam engine took Mr. Achor 4 years to build, completed in 1934. Mr. Achor hand laid track on his property and named this line the “B L& B Railroad” after his 3 sons, Bob, Leonard and Bruce. This information is contained in documentation from an “American Banker” publication article dated August 10, 1961 which refers to this exact engine build, his B&O Atlantic 1467 (that provided this info here) as well as photos of the larger second build by Mr. Achor, a 1 ½ scale New York Central Hudson 4-6-4 that was the subject of the article. Included with this great treasure are many 1930’s and later dated photos during construction and completion of Mr. Achor riding this engine as well as with his children “B L & B” riding the rails on their property. The completely hand built, fully functioning assembly in order, consists of the engine measuring 38 inches in length, full function coal and water retaining tender with gear driven water feed pump, flat or riding car with brake, box car and caboose. All together this masterpiece measures out to an impressive 13 feet in length. The Copper boiler was fired and certified by Golden Gate Live Steamers, a live steam railroading club in Tilden Park, Oakland CA. passing inspection with flying colors when I acquired this magnificent engineering marvel in 2005. Although I tested the engine and tender to ensure proper operation when the boiler was certified, I have made ZERO alterations, repairs, or changes of any kind. This is truly in “as found”, originally built, original paint, completely operational and in my opinion, excellent condition.

Starting the Hudson

The Model Craftsman, September 1943

More From L.B. Achor

For the purpose of getting water into the boiler we have a big hand pump mounted on the tender, a mechanical pump running of the rear truck of the tender, and a steam feed-water pump mounted on the pilot. This little steam pump works very well, made from castings furnished by Langworthy, after the design of John Hermann of Belleview, N.J.

I have always used softened water, and apparently there is very little scale in the boiler--after these ten years of steaming!

Tender is about 24 inches long, and weighs empty 40 pounds; holds about three gallons water, and several pounds of coal.

Extensions to the throttle and reverse run to the back of tender, and control is from the flat car in rear of tender.

I have never had enough flat cars to really test the pulling power. I know it will pull six adults on the straight sections of track!

We have always called out railroad the "B.L. & B. R.R." -- named after my three sons.

The 3/4 inch scale Atlantic is the most flexible, and universal engine for really developing the most pleasure and use for the average Live Steamer! It is big and powerful enough to really ride behind with satisfaction, yet capable of being transported by automobile for runs on all your friends' tracks.

Through all the ten seasons of running there have never been any extensive repairs, in fact the engine was never disassembled, or the cylinder heads removed until the winter of 1941-42, when I did install new pistons and new valves. For the past two summers there have been no rings in the cylinders, and the piston valves have never had rings. (Some of my model friends said this "can't be down"--but it has!) This reminds me, in 1932 one of my famous friends, whose name you all know, said "cold-rolled grates will never stand up--they will burn out in a short time." Yet I have splendid proff of my grates being built up from 1/4 by 1/2 inch cold-rolled steel--and they have been used ten years--and you can scarcely tell they have ever been near a fire.

I have had many similar experiences proving several things could be done, after some "wise-guy" had said it couldn't. So my motto has long been, let the modelmaker build his own project the way HE wants to build it, encourage him in new experiments, and praise him for whatever he does. After all, we're all doing it for fun, diversion from the daily grind and a happy pastime, and all of us can learn some new trick from the other fellow.

I think Live Steam is the most fascinating hobby any one could find, and I have derived more real enjoyment through my many years playing with it, than any other form of recreation. There is some indescribable bond of fellowship which exists between Live Steamers, different from any other fraternity; men of all walks of life get on common ground when the discussion centers around a Live Steam locomotive.

Ever since my 3/4 inch Atlantic first ran under steam, I wanted to build another--an "Inch-&-A-Half"--a bigger and more powerful engine. In January 1939 I started making patters for my 1-1/2 inch Hudson; and now with over four years of pleasure in it, the running gears are almost completed--it has been running on air for over two years--and the big 10-3/4 inch OD steel boiler, which is about five feet long, is almost ready for the first test--Engine and tender will be over twelve feet long-- 7-1/2 inch gauge --the same as H.P. Shaw's at Bloomfield Hills, Mich., whose engines I have ridden behind several times. I'd like to tell you all about this project--if you'd care to hear some time.

Keep up the good work--it's a great field!

L.B. Achor
Flossmoor, ILL.


References