I am the former owner of Arbour Models 1969 - 1983. There has been much speculation over the years regarding the metals used in the production of our kits. Perhaps I can finally set the story straight.
We purchased the masters of the Allegheny H-8 from a bankrupt Winton Models. These kits were produced in the lost wax brass casting method. We considered continuing with this method for production but the model railroading market at that time (early '70's) did not warrant a need for a brass loco kit. The method of manufacture would have created a kit that would have had to retail for over $500. At that time $500 would purchase a beautifully made, R-T-R brass loco such as a Hallmark from Bobbie Hall.
After 2 years of testing and over 50 build up samples both in lost wax and in white metal, the decision was made to produce these kits in a zinc-cadmium compound called Nye-600. This metal was nothing like the early zinc-cadmium attempts from the 1930's. The formulas had been strengthened and the material was widely utilized in the jewelry fabrication industry. (Avon was one of our largest clients)
The first H-8 made from new masters and molds (our molding process was a centrifugal spin casting method) was unveiled at the 1974 NMRA Convention in San Diego, although the model was only static. We were trying to gauge interest in the MRR Community for a loco of this size. It was very well received.
The following year in Dayton we unveiled a working test loco on a Peerless reversing track and the crowds packed our booth. From there about six months later the first H-8, Kit #101-100 was sold to a Michael Cipley of Camillus, New York. Michael built the kit and had the kit running on his layout until the day he passed away in 2006.
We were a small family business with roots in the printing industry from the early 1700's. Our founder, Holme Martin loved model railroading and started Arbour Models as a division. We went on to produce the following locos, Allegheny 2-6-6-6, Sierra 4-6-0, Sylvania 2-6-0, PRR 0-4-0, PRR 0-4-0T, 2-8-4 Berkshires (both C&O and NPR), and a PRR 2-10-4 Texas. In development when we sold the casting business off in 1983 was a C&O 0-8-0, a PRR 0-6-0 and a S1 electric. (as a side note our first kit produced was a wooden replica of a Reed Parlor Car and Loco floor train from 1865)
We sold the business to a small startup company called Architectural Models and never really heard what they did with the line. Lee English at Bowser now owns the old molds and masters and to the best of my knowledge has no plans to produce any of these kits.
For all of you NaySayers out there, we had our share of problems. Such as casting the valve gear instead of having it stamped. Plastic centered drivers that we had nickel plated for electrical pickup. Yes, these were all not the best of design ideas. But in our defense we were trying to deliver a low cost, craftsmen style kit. Master dies at the time would have run into the 10's of thousands of dollars. So we utilized what dies we had for the best in cost effectivness.
These kits were for modelers that had many years of building experience. If we were ever asked at a show how much experience you needed we would state the following, "These are not shake the box kits. Each of these kits will take over 100 hours of assembly time. We suggest that you have built at least a dozen loco kits such as Bowser, MDC, Keystone, etc. before you attempt our kits. There is a fair amount of "work", drilling, tapping, filing, truing, etc needed to assemble our kits." These disclaimers even appeared in the Walthers catalog as well as in literature that came swith every kit.
But even with all of these warnings, then and to this day, we would receive comments how first time modelers would buy one of these kits and end up throwing their arms in disgust and call the kit "garbage". Nine out of ten time this was due to their lack of modeling skills, not poor kits. We heard from many of these modelers while we were in business and we always honored our return policy. (Except the one time when a modeler stated that the metal was to soft to solder and that his soldering iron kept melting the castings. He returned the kit with photos of the modeler trying to solder the pieces with an "iron style" solderer. The type of iron that you heat in a furnace and use on sheet metal!) We still refunded his money.
We also heard from over 1500 very satisfied craftsperson's modelers how these locos were the best running kit models on their layouts!
I still own all of the original show models and they run to this day over 35 years later! (A few years ago we had one H-8 pulling over 100 hoppers!) I am also in the process of writing a history of Arbour Models as well as near to launching a new Arbour Models line of N-scale scenic detailing pieces.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.