Article initially published by Louis H. Hertz in 2006.
(Text Reprinted From The Fall 1958 Standard Gauge Association Journal with illustrations added and photo captions by Jim Kelly)
The Boucher "Washington Express," shown here in the 1929 catalog deluxe two page center spread, was to be delivered "exactly as illustrated above." However, the cars were never manufactured!
Interest in Boucher, the only manufacturer ever to catalog a six-wheel drive standard gauge locomotive, continues apace, and it seems an appropriate time to bring our data on this line up to date in the light of recent research and developments.
The Bassett-Lowke-built Boucher No. 1 Gauge Live Steamer
Boucher made only steam type locomotives, their standard gauge line (they had earlier sold a No. 1 gauge live steam Pacific made for them by Bassett-Lowke, as well as Voltamp No. 2 gauge products) consisted of but three numbers and three wheel arrangements: the No. 2100 4-4-0; the No. 2222 4-6-0; and the No. 2500 4-6-2. The numbers and models were all carry-overs from the Voltamp line which they acquired in 1923 and which they thereupon changed from No. 2 gauge, two rail to Standard gauge, three rail.
Boucher copyrighted an elaborate catalog of boats and trains in 1922, but this copyright date cannot be used to identify the catalogs for we know now there were several subsequent issues of this catalog, all in black and white and with a blue cover, and all bearing the same 1922 copyright date. The catalog containing the live steam 4-6-2 and listing the cars in both No. 1 and No. 2 gauge is 1922, but later versions of the catalog run up to 1927, and can be dated by the "Effective" date given for the train set prices. Incidentally, some later versions of the same catalog contain boats only.
A color catalog, designate as "Catalog R" and containing only trains has long been dated as 1924 by a statement in the introduction to the effect that "a year ago" Boucher bought out the Voltamp company (incidentally, a misstatement, for Boucher never bought out Voltamp, only the train line.) Likely this catalog is 1924, but it is disconcerting and confusing to find the exact same text, including "a year ago" in other catalogs which contain dated price lists as late as 1927. Oddly, the type is not merely carried over, but completely reset, but with the same wording.
Voltamp embossed cast iron driver and insulated hub on a Boucher 2500 Pacific
Boucher acquired many Voltamp parts and continued to make use of many units carrying the Voltamp name, such as driving wheels and painted car bodies. Even the wheels are no clues as to whether some freight cars are really Voltamp or Boucher, as Boucher used up many Voltamp wheels with insulated hubs. In fact, only some of the very last freight cars can positively be identified as Boucher, as they carry the new stamped steel wheels (in the old cast iron truck frames) instead of the older cast wheels.
Just prior to Would War II, Boucher cleaned out a lot of old train parts and sold them to one of the experimenters' bargain stores that dot Canal Street in New York. These parts were stocked in small counter bins and included many Voltamp parts that had never been used in the makeup of the Boucher train line, such as the old high bell hangers and cast side frames for the motor trucks used on Voltamp eight wheel electric outline locomotives and trolley cars. All of these parts have, of course, long since been sold out.
The old Voltamp designed eight wheel passenger cars were discontinued after 1928 (although some left-over stock was cataloged again in the early 1930s,) and a new line of cars introduced in 1928, the famous and beautiful twelve wheel Blue Comet cars, finished in blue with a cream window line.
Top: Boucher Design Blue Comet
Middle: Boucher Voltamp Design Passenger Cars
Bottom: Boucher Voltamp Design Freights
(Photo: Toy Train Treasury, Vol. 1, Iron Horse Productions, Frank C., Hare et. al., Pittsburgh: 1974. Used by permission.)
The Blue Comet set consisted of a combination car, Pullman, and observation, each 20" long. Oddly, this series was never illustrated by Boucher. Instead, they showed in 1929 and subsequent catalogs one to four samples of cars of the old Voltamp type, but lengthened somewhat and mounted on American Flyer six wheel trucks.
These cars were never manufactured. It was only recently that Al Roth informed me that these samples had actually been made up by Voltamp prior to 1923 and originally had special cast iron six wheel trucks. Boucher merely replaced these No. 2 gauge trucks with American Flyer six wheel Standard gauge trucks for their catalog illustrations.
Boucher's Blue Comet cars were mounted on stamped six wheel trucks of their own design and manufacture, the same truck also being used on the later twelve wheel tenders for the 4-6-2 and 4-6-0 locomotives. Many fans consider Boucher's Blue Comet cars the best proportioned and most realistic of all Standard gauge passenger cars. Certainly they must be rated close to the top in any comparison.
It should be absolutely emphasized that once Boucher had their Blue Comet cars, these cars were regularly delivered in every Boucher train set (despite the catalog statement under a picture showing the samples that the set was "Exactly as Illustrated Above." The set with the 4-4-0 carried a combination car and a Pullman; the set with the 4-6-0 a combination car, Pullman, and observation, and the sets with the 4-6-2s a combination car, two Pullmans, and an observation. In some cases the locomotives with these sets were finished in blue with black trim; in some cases they were all black.
Boucher No. 2500 De Luxe Locomotive
Only the four car set with the revised 4-6-2 "No. 2500 De Luxe Model" truly makes up the "Boucher Blue Comet" train. Other sets with blue locomotives and/or blue cars are not properly described as "Blue Comet" sets, just as the Lionel 1932 set with a 392E locomotive and Blue Comet cars is not one of their "Blue Comet" sets.
The 4-4-0 is known with the tender lettered "Altman Special" as made for the New York department store of that name. A remote control introduced in 1929 was fitted to the 4-6-2 and 4-6-0 but not, seemingly, to the 4-4-0. The later 4-6-2s and 4-6-0s were equipped with new and longer twelve wheel tenders. The revised 4-6-2 was sufficiently redesigned to provide an essentially different appearance to the older Pacific, but much of the essential detail and construction were the same. Originally cataloged only in blue, black, and cream, the last Boucher catalog to offer trains (1934) lists it optionally in this color scheme and in all black, and at that date specifies a hand reverse in place of the remote control used somewhat earlier. It is possible, therefore, theoretically to be correct in terminology, contradictory as it may seem, to describe a late Boucher 4-6-2 in black as "a black Blue Comet." Here the reference is, of course, to the structural design and not to the color. Probably a better and more suitable description would be "a black 2500 de luxe model." It would appear that Boucher tried to designate the train only, not the locomotive alone, as the "Blue Comet."
Some confusion exists in connection with the Boucher motors due to the fact that all Boucher motors had two field coils with the armature place between them. Later Boucher Pacifics had two motors of this type; in other words, two two-field motors, or four field coils in all. The earlier 4-6-2s, and al of the 4-4-0s and 4-6-0s had two fields, but not two motors.
Interesting, realistic, eye-catching and in some ways even somewhat overpowering in size, scarce and desirable, Boucher trains continue to form an ever-more interesting chapter in the history of model railroad equipment. A frequently asked question concerns the correct pronunciation of the name, Boucher. The "r" is not sounded. It is not "Boo-cher" or "Bow-cher' but, rather, "Boo-shay."