Charlie Cole

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From Coles Power Models Catalog No 21

Charles A. Cole, Sr


Charles A. Cole, Sr. (Charley) founded Coles' Power Models in 1928. He was born an only child in Ventura on November 29, 1890. He attended grammar and high school in Ventura and graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Electrical Engineering in 1914. Serving in World War I as a Second Lieutenant, he married Lillian Horn, the "girl next door" in 1919. They had twin daughters, Betty and May, and a son, Charles A. Jr.

Charley was interested in anything mechanical for as long as he could remember, making a small steam engine from a tin can and other miscellaneous scraps when he was very young, around ten. In 1920 he made a steam boat about 5 feet long, powered by a small steam engine; a short time later, a two-cycle gasoline engine. He had been reading Model Engineer Magazine published in England which ran articles about steam locomotives. He became fascinated with the idea of making a "Fort Pacific", 1 inch gauge steam locomotive. He got the casting and drawings and successfully completed the locomotive. After making the three models, he felt that he was knowledgeable enough to open a mail order business, selling models and model supplies.

Charley had been a customer of Bassett-Lowke, an English firm who supplied steam locomotive stationary engines, fittings, etc. This firm sent their customers notes advising that Bassett-Lowke would be in Minneapolis, Minnesota for a Rotary Convention. Charley, being a member of Ventura Rotary, decided this was the chance to meet Bassett-Lowke and arranged to go to Minneapolis to the Convention. He was able to contact Bassett-Lowke at that time and arrange to do business with him. Having accomplished this, he was ready to print his first catalog.

He decided to make a Case 65 traction engine in 1 inch scale. He contacted the Case Company in 1938. They cooperated by loaning him their full size drawings for same. He was successful in scaling the Case to 1 inch, making drawings and patterns for it. He located a foundry to make the castings and has been selling drawings and castings for the model since that time. This was the first American Model Traction engine castings on the market.

In the early days, Charley stocked a lot of "O" gauge railway and ship fittings, but discontinued these when the local hobby shops became popular and these items became readily available there.

During his career of trying to make a living by selling models and supplies, he found time to create some new items. He was never satisfied with things they way there were, but was continuously trying to make things better and more interesting for the model maker. While a large majority was watching T.V., reading or participating in many of the other things that keep most men busy, Charley was in his basement drawing, dreaming and eventually coming up with something that you men would enjoy. Some of the new items he developed were:

  • a simplified "O" guage six-wheel truck
  • Case steam traction engine
  • Holt "75" Caterpillar gasoline engine
  • "Truscale" pipe fittings and water gauge
  • "All American" pressure steam gauge
  • "American La France" fire engine
  • Worhtington Duplex water pump
  • model taper thread taps and dies

Charley officially retired from Coles' Power Models by making a gift of it to his children in 1962. Since that time, he was always here to offer advise, encouragement and help any way when needed. He was one of the few people who was willing to sacrifice to do what he truly wanted to do with his life, in spite of the hardships of the business. He was happiest when at his drawing board or lathe in his basement workshop which he was able to do for many hours after his retirement.

Betty Cole

Elizabeth Ann "Betty" Cole, 85, of Ventura, died Friday, Dec. 12, 2008, after a lengthy illness. She was born Sept. 13, 1923, in Mountain View, Ark., and had been a Ventura County resident 63 years, coming from Blytheville, Ark. Betty was part owner and manager of Cole's Power Models.

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