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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

Tags: Main Line

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