Just finished reading The Man Who Lives in Paradise, the autobiography of Alfred Carlton Gilbert. Even if he had not ventured into his famous 3/16" scale electric trains, first running on O gauge track, and later on the more correct S gauge track, he would have been one of the most famous inventors and entrepreneurs of the 20th Century. He was an outstanding athlete first as a wrestler, and later as an Olympic Champion pole vaulter. He was a self-taught magician and started the enormously successful Mysto Manufacturing Co. which produced both amateur and professional magical equipment. He later took toy construction sets to the next level with his square girder concept Erector sets, which alone would have guaranteed his inclusion into the pantheon of the great toy makers of all time. He was a graduate of Yale Medical School and held an MD degree. His early manufacturing efforts with the Polar Cub electric fans led to his company engineer developing an enamel coating on electrical wire for windings on all small motors. Some of his later toys such as the Kaster Kits, Chemistry Sets, Microscope Sets, and the amazing Atomic Energy Lab of 1950 were examples of products to promote the sciences among the young folks of the period. His Gilbert Hall of Science in NYC had a number of push-button scientific demonstrations such as the famous climbing arc "Jacob's Ladder".
Oh, and then there were those model trains, especially those wonderful 3/16" scale S gauge trains which ran on two-rails, and the rail had a realistic "T" cross section. There was also a rubber roadbed available. The steam locomotives had a synchronized puffing action producing ample quantities of wonderful cedar-scented smoke, along with a "choo-choo" exhaust sound. The engines and cars were carefully proportioned and more scale-like than their Lionel counterparts. There was also a famous mail car that would simultaneously eject and pick up a plastic mail bag on the fly, and an oil drum loader that featured a miniature fork lift driver who tirelessly loaded metal oil drums into a waiting gondola car.
A.C Gilbert: A man of many talents who helped make my childhood happy and productive!