American Flyer 30B transformer service

I have an American Flyer 30B transformer on my workbench. It started out looking very grungy. The dead mans control handles wouldn't even turn. But after a careful cleaning things are looking better.
I am interested to know if there are any places where people apply lubricants to the controls.
As I rotate the control hubs, they seem to really rub against the transformer case. And I can see wear marks where the edges of the underside of the hub rubs against it.

I also find it interesting that the last 30B I did had the power wiper arms mounted on brackets attached to the transformer coil. The dead mans controls had short arms that engaged the wiper arms when the dead mans lever was pushed down.
This transformer has the wiper arms attached directly to the dead mans controls. They must hover above the transformer's windings until the dead mans level was pushed down.

C.W. Burfle
Original Post

The 30B is tops in my book, especially when well serviced and kept in good tune.  There are several key parts of one to be sure are correct.  More than I have time to expound on here.  Click here for an American Flyer 30B Checkout & Repair article that might help with some of your questions.  Enjoy.  


David Horn

Precision Flyer Repairs

Specializing in S-gauge train repairs, upgrades, and DCC conversions

Member NASG, TCA, BAAFC, and founding member ACSG Old Dominion Division 


I always put a small amount of light oil on the case where the turret moves on and then just run my finger over it so that is a thin film and wipe off the excess. I have never had any problems with it and some were done more than twenty years ago. 

As long as you don't have large amounts of dust floating around which may find its way to the surface area they should rotate smoothly.

Here is a tip on servicing A.F. transformers with meters.

When removing the nut that secures the wire terminals to the meter use a second tool to hold the nut below the terminal (solder) lug. In my experience this keeps the terminal post from turning.
I use a pair of ignition pliers that had the width of the head ground down for another project.
I will be looking for something better.

Here is the issue:
On every commercial panel meter I've handled, the terminal posts on the back of the meter are keyed to the meter so they cannot turn when you tighten the nuts to hold the terminal (solder) lug. Whomever made the meters on Flyer transformers used plain screws.  On the last four meters in transformers I went to service the screw started to turn with the nut instead of the nut loosening. On 3 out of the 4 I knew enough to stop and secure the lower nut. The first time I did not expect the problem, and didn't realize the screw was turning with the nut. It happened to be the screw with the fine wire running to the electromagnetic part of the meter. The wire broke in such a way that there wasn't enough left to reattach it to the screw or splice in a new section of wire. The net result was a dead meter.

C.W. Burfle
C W Burfle posted:

Thank you for the link.
I did not see any reference to applying lubricant to the bottom edges of the control hubs, so I guess Kent (the author) does not do so.
I am still interested to read whether anybody else does.

I have lubricated the dead man turrets on my 19B and 17B's with Vaseline and found that it makes them operate much smoother.  I applied it at the base of the turret, where it rubs on the case.


Scott Griggs

Louisville, KY

Thank you for the responses.
Here is a few new questions on the meters.

The meters in the 30B under repair appear to be in working order except that the cardboard face plates are warped and blocking the pointers from moving freely.
I know reproductions are available.
I also have had success straightening cardboard boxes by applying gentle heat from a clothes iron.
Has anybody ever tried straightening the original face plates?
Anybody use the replacement dial plates that are sold by Port Lines?
If so, are they pre-cut?

Anybody use the replacement meters that Port Lines sells?
They are described as fitting the transformer case, but not looking the same. I didn't see any photos on their site.

C.W. Burfle

I decided to forge ahead without the benefit of other peoples experience. Here is what happened.

As the article originally written by Kent states, it is easy to remove the meters from the transformer case. The tabs holding them in bend easily, and it does not seem like they would be prone to cracking.
I found that the face frame was very tight against the meter body and could not be rotated until I loosened the tabs slightly using a jewelers screwdriver to pry them up just a bit. I put a dot of magic marker on the meter body and one tab so I could get them in the same spot on reassembly.
Then the face frame and glass came right off.

I had to carefully remove the paper meter face with a tool inserted in the window opening of the face.

My paper faces were so warped that they interfered with the movement of the needle. The meter seemed to work ok without them in place. I moistened the backs of the faces with a light spray of water and shook off the excess. I put the first one between two pieces of index card (plain side) and used an old clothes iron on "wool".
The face came out nice and flat, but unfortunately, a bit of the silver face stuck to the index card. (Too bad).

For the second face, I decided to add a piece of wax paper between the silver side of the face and the index card. Bad idea! I lost more of the silver face this time.

After cleaning the meter glass with glass cleaner the meters went together easily.
When installing the face frame note that there is an obstacle to freely rotating the ring at one point. Just avoid trying to rotate it past that point.  Since I had loosened the tabs slightly, I did a very slight recrimp. It does not show on the front. 

Remember, when loosening or tightening the terminal post nuts, hold the lower nut to keep the post from turning.

So the 30B transformer now has meters that function. However they are very inaccurate. I guess I could add an external resistor to get better readings.  I don't think I will bother.

I still would appreciate reading comments and/or seeing photos of any transformers that have had their meter faces replaced with the reproductions from Port Lines, or have had the original meters replaced with the ones Port Lines sells.

C.W. Burfle

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