Alan Mueller, Rebuilding the Mantua General

Retail model locomotives for the American Civil War period (1861-1865) are almost non-existent for the HO scale modeler. Many modelers purchase the long discontinued General 4-4-0 locomotive produced by Mantua. The General was manufactured virtually unchanged from 1953 until 2001 under both the Mantua and TYCO names. With such a long production run, many used locomotives can be found at any time on E-bay or at swap meets.

Typical Mantua General
Typical Mantua General

The General was built in December of 1855 in Paterson, New Jersey by Rodgers, Ketchum & Grosvenor Locomotive and Machine Works.  The locomotive was hijacked on April 12, 1862 during the Civil War by Andrews’ Raiders at Big Shanty (now known as the city of Kennesaw) in what was later referred to as the Great Locomotive Chase.

General after the burning of Atlanta
The General after the burning of Atlanta. The original smoke box, outside frame and strap iron pilot are clearly visible.

The Mantua model is a close replica to how the General looks today, but not how it looked prior to and during the American Civil War (ACW).  The General went through many rebuilds and equipment upgrades through its long career. The locomotive was made famous for “The Great Locomotive Chase” during the war. The locomotive was badly damaged during

  • Sherman’s burning of Atlanta. The locomotive had to be completely overhauled to put it back in service. Several other upgrades were made over time including changing fuel types from wood to coal to oil.
The General in 1962 on the old line for the 100 year anniversary
The General in 1962 on the old line for the 100 year anniversary

ACW modelers have become accustomed to rebuilding the Mantua General into earlier versions and using it as a basis for other period locomotives. Recently Alan Mueller took it upon himself to not only take the rebuild to a level of near perfection but also document the process and publish a book so other modelers could achieve similar results. Alan’s book takes the reader step by step through the entire rebuild process. The instructions include information to make either a Union or Confederate locomotive. This allows the reader to recreate virtually any locomotive from the period.

Alan Mueller's Book
Alan Mueller’s Book

The Mantua General was originally designed with the motor in the tender and a plastic shaft that went from the tender through the locomotive cab to the drive mechanism under the firebox. Alan’s rebuild keeps this arrangement but replaces the old motor and drive shaft assembly with a can motor and thin shaft that becomes virtually invisible to the naked eye.

Drive Shaft
Drive Shaft

As small as the Mantua General is, Alan has also managed to put DCC and sound into the locomotive. With the new motor in the tender, he has managed to squeeze out enough space for a micro-tsunami and speaker with enclosure. While on a visit to his home, we put one of the locomotives through its paces on his ACW layout. The locomotive ran very smooth at very low speeds and the sound was superb.

Motor, DCC Controller and Speaker in the tender
Motor, DCC Controller and Speaker in the tender

The final finish and detail of these locomotives is excellent. The images presented here are a small portion of Alan’s work. Note that with some extra details and modifications to the boiler, the Mantua General can be made to look like several locomotive types from the period.

W. W. Wright
W. W. Wright
The McClellan
The McClellan
The Lady Davis
The Lady Davis (Note the straight boiler)
The Lexington
The Lexington
The Cameron
The Cameron (outside frame, extra steam dome and tilted steam chests represent an 1850’s locomotive)

Alan continues to work toward even better models. Alan is working with people like David M. Hoffman to create high quality replacement parts for the Mantua General. Some of these items include:

  • Builders Plates
  • High Quality Driver Sets
  • Brass Tender Shells
  • Spoked 26″ wheel sets
Builder Plates
Builder Plates
High Quality Driver Sets
High Quality Driver Sets
Brass Tender Shell
Brass Tender Shell
26" HO wheel set cast in white bronze
26″ HO wheel set cast in white bronze

If you wish to purchase one of Alan’s books or want to contact Alan about the new products being developed, more information is available on the Yahoo Civil War RR Group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Civil_War_RRs/.

When I last visited Alan, he was working on his ACW layout and was building the base scenery. Recent photos show he is progressing steadily and working at the same level of detail as his locomotives. Hopefully, I will be able to visit again soon and see the progress in person.

2 Comments

  1. Allen, Very nice article and superb job on the models. Do you have any info on installing and or replacing the smoke units in the versions of the General that did accept a smoke unit in the stack? I can’t seem to locate a replacement unit that will fit. Thanks for any advice you can offer. Mike Kunkel

Leave a Reply