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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

Tags: Main Line

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