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Dedicated to the S Gauge American Flyer Trains of A. C. Gilbert!

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York Modular Layouts

April 17th, 2019 · No Comments

York had many great train layouts on display. The Atlantic Coast S Gaugers had a great one in the White Hall. I really liked their use of an Erector Set Bridge. It really fits in when you are running American Flyer!

I was sorry to see the York Train Show end. My first show since 2011, and my first time camping right at the show. That is the way to go to the show! I had a great time, and spent way too much money. LOL

Chuck

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York Flyernut Meeting

April 11th, 2019 · No Comments

For many years a special event has taken place during the York Train Show, The Flyernut Meeting. Tonight’s meeting of about 100 Flyer enthusiasts was largely focused on variations of Circus cars, especially the flat car that carried the cages, the cages and the animals.

Having never owned a circus set, I had no idea that there was so much to know about them. A couple of the people presenting had recently purchased on eBay pre-production prototype flat cars, that were actually hand lettered. One gentlemen boosted that he owned about 40 different cages, that he has been collecting for about 10 years. I was reminded that this is a very diverse hobby, that even the smallest details you can make a career of studying them! A good time was had by all!

Chuck

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Life Changes and Toy Trains

April 8th, 2019 · No Comments

So my life has changed a lot in the last couple of years. Among these changes retirement, and some traveling, along with some other changes that were not so good. Now I still have most of my American Flyer / S stuff. I last attended the York Train Show in 2011. It seems there have been some changes since then! I picked up a Greenburg Price Guide and the TCA Museum as I passed through Strasburg last September. I did not look at it much until a couple of months ago. I was struck by how much the prices of the trains have dropped. I had noticed the same thing on eBay, with a lot of the Gilbert Flyer down by a third or more. Looking at the TCA Eastern Division website, it is apparent that York attendance has been steadily declining over the last few years. Indead many of my past S gauge friends made over the last 20 years have passed on. Sad, it would seem that the size of the toy train generation is shrinking, something I always expected. So I canceled my table at the train meet. Not worth taking my time to sell at such low prices. IMHO Also, there is not much S gauge stuff available in Orlando these days. I guess I will hold onto what I have, and buy some more! I am struck by how cheap even the new Lionel Flyer Bershire engines are, remembering what I had to give for the Mikados! Time to buy. LOL By the way, I would like to see more activity on this website. If you would like to contribute an article for the front page, please contact me at the email address at the bottom of this page. For now, I sit in Gettysburg getting ready to move into York tomorrow!

Chuck

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Merry Christmas From MyFlyerTrains.org!

December 23rd, 2017 · No Comments

As we celebrate this Christmas season there is nothing like an Erector Set or American Flyer Train to bring back our childhood memories. This set builds the Ferris Wheel, and many other models. The one that I opened Christmas morning 1955 was like this, but only built the airplane ride. This set has never been played with, and was an eBay purchase. The lady I bought it from said she got it from a man who said that as a child he had been intimidated by the large number of parts, so never took them loose. When I was a kid in the 1950s, you could go in a hobby shop, mine was called “The Hobby Hub” in Lansing Michigan. There while you were looking over the American Flyer Trains, you would see all these Erector Sets, sitting in a glass display cabinet, parts all in order. My set was ravaged a hour or so after I got up Christmas morning, and probably all the inserts hit the trash along with the wrapping paper. The next year I got my first AF freight set, but this year the Erector Set was my first Gilbert toy. Great Memories!

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Chuck Harrington

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American Flyer Railcar Loads Part 3 by Ben Swope

November 12th, 2015 · No Comments

For this final installment we will be loading a Tootsie Toy road grader. Other brands of road graders, other construction machinery or even military loads could also use this method. I happen to have a Tootsie Toy grader on hand and liked the way it looked sitting on a flatcar (granted, it is a bit oversized). Besides any shortcomings, this is something the guys at American Flyer could have done.

I found the grader’s wheel spacing was too wide to properly sit on a common AF plastic body flatcar. So an extended platform is required to contain the wheels. This platform will double as the grader’s wheel chocks and keep it secure to the car as it travels over your pike.

My platform was made from simple 0.10” brass sheet stock, obtained at a local hobby shop (K&S was the brand used and was easy to find). Two platforms were required, one for the front tires, and one slightly larger for the two-axle set of rear wheels of the grader.

Utilizing the factory molded holes and slots in the flatcar deck, I located three pairs of slots that the platforms could key into to keep the load centered and contained to the car. The engineering of the platform’s dimensions took these slots into consideration.

The length of the platform (front to back direction of the machine) was dictated by the size of the grader’s tires. The extreme outer edges of the wheel tread was the length of the platform. If the wheel is ¾ inch in diameter, make the platform length ¾ inch.

The width was made 1/4 inch wider than the outsides of the tires mounted on the grader’s axles (the width being the side to side direction of the machine). This extra width allows for the 1/8 inch on each side to be folded upwards to contain the wheels in a side to side motion.

Once this was done, make two cuts with shears near the four corners of the platform, and bend the brass upwards to form wheel chocks, limiting the wheels front-back motion. Soldered these chocks to the folded sides, making sort of a shallow pan the axle assemblies snugly sets into.

Once these steps were done, place the platforms with the road grader inserted atop the flatcar. Locate the molded slots in the flatcar deck were best to install downward tabs to key the platforms to the car.

The tabs created for the front axle were small pieces of brass angle stock. Dropping one leg of the brass angle through the platform slot leaves the bottom surface of the platform flat to sit on the flatcar without teetering.

The four rear platform tabs were simply cut and bent from the platform’s flat base, keying into two other pairs of flatcar slots.

After being satisfied with the assembly and fit of the load and to the flatcar, de-bur all the platform’s sharp edges with a file and sandpaper and wash with hot water and soap. Once dry, I painted it black. The black color paint matches the flatcar and allows the platform to disappear under the machine’s black wheels and yellow painted load.

Tootsie Toy road graders are a bit wide, but railroads haul high & wide loads quite often – so this is still a prototypical load. However if replicating this or other wide loads, you’ll want to check for proper clearance with your load for close clearances on your curved tracks, through tunnel portals and past the AF turnout switch housings.

This has been the third and final part of the AF Railcar Load series. I hope that you have enjoyed it.

Ben Swope

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American Flyer Railcar Loads Part 2 by Ben Swope

September 30th, 2015 · No Comments

In this second installment on creating American Flyer railcar loads, we will be loading some S scale farm tractors. Farm machinery loaded on flatcars was, and still is, a common way to transport these colorful machines long distances.

Several models of inexpensive S scale die cast tractors are available from Ertl. I bought mine at a local Tractor Supply Company (TSC) store. There are several models to choose from, they cover several eras, making it easy to find a model to match either the classic 1950’s era of American Flyer, or if you prefer a more modern era.

Start with by placing the tractors of your choice on the flatcar, deciding how many and the way they will fit the car deck. The tractors I chose were a “tricycle” type, having a narrow spacing of the front tires. Tractors of this type were frequently loaded nested at an angle to fit as many on the flatcar deck as possible. Though I only used four tractors, I still loaded them at an angle for the nested look.

We will be using sheet brass as a tray to contain these tractors aboard an AF flatcars. The car I chose for my tractor load was a die cast flatcar, but the same methods allow for placement on an AF plastic bodied flat.

The tractors get placed on a tray made of sheet brass, and will have attached tabs or keys, to drop into slots in the flatcar deck to secure the load. I used a brass sheet thickness I had on hand for this project; .015”, or 26 gauge. Choose a thickness that allows you to easily bend angles along two edges.

Using the tractors as a guide, I determined how long to make each tray (with my two tractors sitting nested side by side). The width is determined by the flatcar width or just wide enough to comfortably fit your tractors in the way you wish to load them, plus the added width of the folded up edges to contain the tractors.

Bend the side edges up to give you about 1/8-inch lip. This does two things, it contains the tractors and it adds strength to the tray. Next decide where on the flatcar to place the tray(s) and where to key the tray to slots within the flatcar deck. I used a pencil to mark the location through the underside of the flatcar deck slot while holding everything in alignment.

Once the location for the tray to flatcar key is determined, cut a slot from the underside in the tray with a Dremel tool using a reinforced cutting disk (use care and eye protection). Next, cut some brass angles to length matching the slot in the flatcar deck and the slots cut in the tray. Clean, flux and solder the angles through the top of the tray positioned where the tray is snug in the slots and so the tray rests flat onto the deck.

Next, I used 3/32-inch brass tubing soldered to the tray in a vertical position (as posts) and set the rear hitch of the tractor over the tubing. Doing so, it’s easy to load, unload, and swap-out tractors (say from green to red tractors).

The final thing to do is to de-bur all the edges and corners, clean and paint the tray(s). I chose a black color, as AF would have done if the fellows at Gilbert would have done this same project.

Ben Swope

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American Flyer Railcar Loads by Ben Swope

August 15th, 2015 · No Comments

From the first day an American Flyer train set was unpacked, perhaps on a Christmas morning, flat cars and gondolas were subject to having custom loads inserted. Likely loads inserted by children, were perhaps toy cars, marbles or maybe army men. Basically, anything small enough to fit in or on the car, and handy enough to represent a railroad car load, at least in a kid’s mind. As an adult, our sense of scale and practicability rule out the child-like loads of marbles and army men to more sophisticated tastes of better scaled loads and something more in tune to what a railroad might actually haul. In this short series we’ll be looking at a few loads I have created, and how they were placed onto AF cars in a manner American Flyer would have done from the factory. These loads may not be totally true 3/16” scale or use prototype railroad securement methods. The guys at American Flyer took liberties with scale and securement to engineer “play value” into these loads – my aim was to follow their lead. In this first installment we be looking at three simple loads, all using American Flyer items in a different way to create believable “American Flyer” car loads.

First is a simple gondola car load. This load could be called either a scrap metal load or a work train car load. This load consists of retired AF cross ties gleaned from old track sections. Simply pry open the tabs that hold the rails in place, remove the rails and the fiber insulation the cross-tie, and flatten out the tabs. The car shown has about 20 ties in it. This number of ties does not make the car too heavy, fills it to the top, and can be loaded or off-loaded with a crane magnet.


If you are a collector of AF items, you are bound to have retired rail cars or accessories that are kept for their parts. This next car is a flatcar loaded with a crane boom assembly. These booms were widely used through the AF line for early wrecking cranes, the magnetic crane and even used on an early station platform. Having an extra crane boon in my parts bin, I placed on a flatcar and noticed this could have been something American Flyer could have easily done from the factory. To secure the boom to the flatcar (here using a die cast car) I cut strips of sheet tin to the match the width of the flatcar floor slots (about 3/16”), bending the strips around the boom and threaded the ends through the floor slots. Once satisfied the load would be securely attached to the car, I cut the strips to length and folded ends tightly to the underside of the car.


The third load in this installment started with an auction purchase of a bunch of AF items. In the box purchased was a 25515 U.S.A.F. flatcar. Missing was the motorized rocket sled, but the bracket to hold the sled was in-place. Acquiring a rocket sled could be costly, so a search for something appropriate for an Air Force flatcar was on. The brackets have slots intended to hold the rocket sled’s axles (likely the same bracket to hold trailers for the 24550 Monon piggyback flatcar), and will readily hold other axles.

Painting a pair of American Flyer piggyback trailers to U.S.A.F. was considered. But a more likely load of Air Force Jeeps would be more believable. I had two Tootsie Toy on hand, and these seem to fit the bracket well. The bracket was left unmodified, including the tall tab at one end (that nestles nicely in the Jeep’s engine compartment area), as someday I may locate a rocket sled.
The Jeeps shown will be painted or replaced with others (with matching wheels), perhaps painted with Air Force blue color. Tootsie Toy (and others) have made over the years all sorts of armed forces wheeled pieces that may fit this car even better.

But, for the purpose of this article, you can see what can be done with a little thought, little money, and a bit of imagination.

Ben Swope

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AF Steam Engine Tester by Ben Swope

May 7th, 2015 · No Comments

Many American Flyer S Gauge hobbyists enjoy restoring their vintage equipment. For me, restoring these old worn items back into their original operating condition has always been one of my favorite parts of the hobby. Let’s look at a homemade tool used to assist servicing American Flyer steam engines, and how with a little effort and a few simple parts, you can construct your own.

Several drawings, both in-print and on-line, have shown the standard 4-wire connection of AF steam engine’s rear of cab electrical jack panel; where to place a jumper wire on the panel, and where to apply the power leads when the engine is not connected to the tender and its reversing “E-unit”.

One on-line resource Port Lines displays some very nice wire schematics of the standard 4-wire and the 5-wire engine/tender connections, along with the other 2-wire type tender connections; each noting the jack panel wire locations leading to the various connections on the engine drive motor, smoke and headlight connections, and the tender and reverser wire connection points.

After a search for information on how to create a four or five-wire steam engine test wire harness; one that attached directly to the engine’s jack panel, none could be found. So I created on my own.


Ben’s Test Wire Harness for American Flyer Steam Engines

The accompanying drawings show first, a 4-wire test lead utilizing a simple double-pole-double-throw (DPDT), center-off toggle switch to create a forward/off/reverse option.

Switch “A”: The motor direction switch, being a double-pole double-throw, center-off switch. This switch performs the same function as the tender mounted reverser.

The next drawing adds a second DPDT switch to the circuit, making it switchable from a four to five-wire engine/tender wiring design. An optional on/off switch may be used to make a connection to the smoke unit and headlight for engines with the 5th tender wire connection.

Switch “A”: The motor direction switch, being a double-pole double-throw, center-off switch. This switch performs the same function as the tender mounted reverser.

Switch “B”: Also a double-pole double-throw; used to compensate for the difference in the 4-wire to 5-wire connections to the motor brushes/field coil.

Switch “C”: Optional single-pole on/off switch; connecting the smoke unit/headlight to the power source through the direction switch.

The four wires to the jack panel were soldered to a salvaged male plug off an unused tender chassis.

The 5th wire for the smoke/headlight connection may be connected to the engine by using a small covered alligator clip or similar device. On my engines, this 5th wire connection typically is converted from a factory soldered connection to a homemade 1/16-inch jack plug and socket using brass tubing; thus for servicing, the tender can be easily and totally disconnected from the steam engine.

This wire harness assembly will allow you to leave the test leads attached during servicing work. And it comes in handy when the engine is turned upside down, as an attached tender’s reverser will not work in this inverted position.

In all, this is a rather simple electrical circuit (if I can figure it out – it’s got to be simple), with all of the components coming out of my parts box. I used colored wire, but any color of flexible light-gauge stranded wire would work. I found the color and polarity of the two power lead wires doesn’t matter if you’re using AC current.

To keep things neat and flexible in use, I braded the wires from the switches to the male plug, and slipped on a bit of heat-shrink tubing before soldering the final wires into place, but tape could do the same. The toggle switches used were of the tiny sub-miniature type. These toggle switches were small enough to mount all three into an old style empty AF control box; and would be handy if you wanted to mount the control box to your workbench.

This harness, by isolating the tender from the engine, may aid in diagnosing an electrical problem. For example, if the engine runs fine on the harness, and not when connected to the tender, obviously the tender has an issue.

Also, do not attempt to operate a 4-wire engine on the 5-wire switch setting (or visa-versa), as the resulting electrical short may damage the engine or power source. Labeling your switches will help avoid this situation.

The bit of work to assemble this test wire harness assembly may save time and hassle on your next steam engine service work. And best of all, it cost just a few dollars to make.

Ben Swope

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New Old Paper Posted in Catalog Section!

April 27th, 2015 · No Comments

It is not real often anymore that I find new content for the catalog section, but thanks to Larry E. Long I have posted some new old Gilbert paper “Dealer Tips Booklet D1834“. These are high quality scans so I hope you enjoy them!

Chuck

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MyFlyerTrains Welcomes Ben Swope

April 11th, 2015 · No Comments

I would like to welcome guest author Ben Swope to MyFlyerTrains.org. Ben wrote this great article on kitbashing an American Flyer 761 Semiphore. I hope you enjoy it!

Chuck

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