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Stumpy’s Station – “Project Atlantic” Part One

September 3rd, 2012 · No Comments

Beginning this month, I’m returning to Kit Bashing old American Flyer locomotives as the subject. I have gotten some requests from those who have read my “Kit Bashing American Flyer Steam Locomotives” guide and still feel hesitant to try it, to do a series that takes the process step by step.
For those of you who have not read the guide, it is available right here on MyFlyerTrains in the photo Albums.
Much of this series will cover ground I’ve already covered in the “guide” but perhaps doing it a step at a time will make the process clearer. I’ll add photos to further remove the “mystery” of doing what collectors might consider a “black art.”
To start the process, you can do as I often do and start looking through junk boxes at train shows or ask to see a hobby shop’s junk boxes. As I have said before, sometimes you’ll be surprised at what you find, and often you can buy the whole box for the same price as one or two items. Keep any usable items you find for a future project you haven’t even considered yet. You only badly need something when you don’t have it!
If you don’t feel comfortable in repairing and rebuilding, then perhaps purchasing a complete and running steamer of less than pristine appearance would be the way to go. In this case, a common Atlantic is the target project locomotive, and these are plentiful and cheap in running condition.
When looking for a usable engine, you’ll want to know what you are looking for. The Atlantic covers virtually the entire production history of American Flyer from the end of World War Two until the demise and purchase by “hated competitor” Lionel in 1966. Therefore it came in many variations, but certain ones are more desirable than others when it comes to Kit Bashing.
I avoid the pre-1952 #300, 302, 302AC, and the early 1952 #300 Atlantics because they have a metal boiler shell. Most of these early Atlantics also do not have smoke and Choo-choo because the reverse unit was commonly in the boiler. Only the 1950 #302AC with the single piece metal shell has these desirable items.
It’s up to you, but I also discount the early engines because of the sheet metal tenders with the link style couplers. Beware that early 1952 production had “tin” tenders, while later ones had plastic tenders, but both had links.
If you like the “extended smokebox” look of the early #300 with the four piece metal shell and extra valve gear, and don’t want to do anything more than paint and decal it, you can get smoke and Choo-choo by swapping a later chassis into the early shell. You might have to drill out the inside of the smoke stack of the metal shell to do this too.
There are many later Atlantics with the plastic boiler and tender shells. I like plastic because it is MUCH easier to cut, drill, sand, and glue than metal. However, some of these plastic boiler shell engines don’t have smoke units or Choo-choo, some don’t even have a headlight!
Of these later ones I avoid the 1953 #301 because it has no smoke unit. The same goes for the rare #299 of 1954. The #307, #308 and 21160 are also without smoke.
The #303, #21100, 21105, and the #21107 were all equipped with headlight, smoke, Choo-choo and knuckle couplers, making them my choice. Note that from the later #21105 of 1958 on, the boiler shell had the whistle and bell molded on, not separate. The #21107 had PikeMaster all plastic trucks and couplers.
Of course the #21160 and #21161 are priced beyond reach and shouldn’t be used as Kit Bashing fodder because of their rarity. The desirable Atlantics for Bashing (#303, 21100, 21105, and even the lowly #21107) are all inexpensive in running condition, with $50. just about the upper limit for our needs. $25. to $40. is a good price for bashing stock. However prices are ever climbing.
People ask why I don’t bash the cheap and common “Casey Jones.” Well, I did two of those, and found them to be poor candidates. The cabs are well out of scale, being more suitable for 027 Lionel. Worse yet is that they are poor runners, a “bargain basement” of cheesy design and construction. The tender is useful for other projects as it is the common “fits all” plastic one. I also have cut up the boiler shells to get the pilot (cow catcher), stack, headlight, and domes to “back date” other projects. When the price of an entire running locomotive and tender in nice shape is less than a good boiler shell for an Atlantic, that should speak volumes!
Okay gang, now you know what to look for, let the hunt begin! Next month we’ll tear your new victim apart and get started!

Stumpy Stone

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