While browsing Ebay, looking for more Lionel stuff to buy, or should I say sneak into the house, American Flyer pre-war stuff comes up quite often.  The thought occurred to me that if AF had stayed with three rail "O" gauge, they may have captured more of the market in the post-war years from Lionel.  Any thoughts ?

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Original Post

It seems like the later models should run smoothly at realistic speeds, since they have a “tight” worm gear drive.  A long time ago someone advised me that they weren’t good pullers.  Also, it’s hard to find examples with intact wheels.  The pilot and trailing wheels especially seem to crumble from zinc pest.

I grew up with O27 trains, so I’m not a stickler for scale proportions.  But the bodies are noticeably small for O-gauge track (they remind me of English trains), and I think they would look small next to traditional Lionel postwar and MPC rolling stock.

I don’t own any, and you’re right- I don’t know of any good reference books on Prewar Flyer.

Creep, coast, and pull.  We're not talking about cold fusion here.

Ted S posted:

It seems like the later models should run smoothly at realistic speeds, since they have a “tight” worm gear drive.  A long time ago someone advised me that they weren’t good pullers.  Also, it’s hard to find examples with intact wheels.  The pilot and trailing wheels especially seem to crumble from zinc pest.

I grew up with O27 trains, so I’m not a stickler for scale proportions.  But the bodies are noticeably small for O-gauge track (they remind me of English trains), and I think they would look small next to traditional Lionel postwar and MPC rolling stock.

I don’t own any, and you’re right- I don’t know of any good reference books on Prewar Flyer.

Ted, are we on the same subject ?   No disrespect meant.

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

I do have prewar flyer, most especially the streamliners. No one carried these into the postwar era. Lionel, Hoge, AF, etc. The only problem I have is the reversing, and specifically auto reverse. Because of their little

legal dispute with Lionel, Af came up with some creative auto reversing. I think on any given day Af

was right up there with Lionel in the prewar era. And a lot of times better. 

Dan Padova posted:

 The thought occurred to me that if AF had stayed with three rail "O" gauge, they may have captured more of the market in the post-war years from Lionel.  Any thoughts ?

No, I don't think Flyer could have successfully competed with the powerhouse that was Lionel in the 3-rail market in the early Fifties.  IMO, Gilbert made the right decision in trying to carve out their own niche with S scale.

Unfortunately for us all, the rapid downturn in train sales that struck in the late Fifties killed American Flyer in the cradle.  S scale never really got the chance to become a major player.  It is slowly regaining adherents today, but S scalers are still very much in the minority.

My feeling is that 3-rail Flyer would have disappeared altogether before 1960.

Dan sorry for any confusion.  My post was referring to the 3/16” scale proportioned steam locos American Flyer made for 3-rail O gauge circa 1940.  I’ve looked at them with curiosity many times myself.  I’m pretty sure they would run slower and with more control than any of Lionel’s traditional-sized prewar locos like the 1666, etc.

Some of them (such as the Reading Atlantic) morphed into the well-known American Flyer S-gauge after the war.

Creep, coast, and pull.  We're not talking about cold fusion here.

Dan , I believe that you are right that American Flyer O-Gauge three rail would have been able to give Lionel some decent competion in the post war era . You have to remember that Lionel only made it through the depression with the help of Disney and Mickey Mouse .Those one dollar hand cars sold well . W.O. Coleman and the gang from Halsted street in Chicago were not so lucky . In 1932 , a President's Special wide gauge set sold for $100 and a Mayflower set set you back a whopping $150.Not a lot of takers back then . The American Flyer name and factory was sold to A.C. Gilbert in 1937. And as they say , the rest is history . I think that they were on a par with Lionel in the Teens and Twenty's and had they survived , They may have been as innovated as Lionel was in the post war era. 

Enjoy your life now . It comes with a expiration date .

TCA -00-52289  LCCA-25013

Summerdale Junction posted:

Dan , I believe that you are right that American Flyer O-Gauge three rail would have been able to give Lionel some decent competion in the post war era . You have to remember that Lionel only made it through the depression with the help of Disney and Mickey Mouse .Those one dollar hand cars sold well . W.O. Coleman and the gang from Halsted street in Chicago were not so lucky . In 1932 , a President's Special wide gauge set sold for $100 and a Mayflower set set you back a whopping $150.Not a lot of takers back then . The American Flyer name and factory was sold to A.C. Gilbert in 1937. And as they say , the rest is history . I think that they were on a par with Lionel in the Teens and Twenty's and had they survived , They may have been as innovated as Lionel was in the post war era. 

I believe the whole Mickey Mouse saving lionel is a myth from what I have read. I don't think

Lionel made enough from Mickey mouse to buy a pack of gum after manufacturing costs etc. 

I think it was the M10000 and forward looking trains like that that really got Lionel back on track.

Ted S posted:

Dan sorry for any confusion.  My post was referring to the 3/16” scale proportioned steam locos American Flyer made for 3-rail O gauge circa 1940.  I’ve looked at them with curiosity many times myself.  I’m pretty sure they would run slower and with more control than any of Lionel’s traditional-sized prewar locos like the 1666, etc.

Some of them (such as the Reading Atlantic) morphed into the well-known American Flyer S-gauge after the war.

All of the Flyer 3/16ths O gauge body shells and tenders made the transition from 3 rail O gauge to S gauge. There were a couple wheel arrangements that bit the dust (a B&O Royal Blue 4-4-2 and a PRR K-5 4-4-2 didn't make the transition). They engines' boiler shells are a little wider than true S scale size so the steamchests looked ok riding on O gauge track. No traction tires on the worm drive models, the Hudson and Challenger (UP 4-8-4) came in early versions with spur gear drives and I believe some Hudsons had traction tires. My friend Art Shifrin loved 3/16ths O gauge Flyer and had a beautiful layout which he populated with custom paint job models; he also had a machinist who would modify drivers so they could accommodate traction tires. Here's a link to some of Art's Flyer customized models:  https://web.archive.org/web/20...s/customizations.asp

The stamped metal freight and passenger cars weren't very detailed and roll so-so, the diecast freight and passenger cars look really nice but are prone to zinc pest (Dorfan's Disease) and can be found intact, warped, bowed, crumbling or varying combinations of destruction - they also weigh a ton, aren't very good rollers and limit the length of train you can run. One nice way to supplement 3/16th O gauge Flyer consists is to consider running Marx 3/16ths O gauge cars; the couplers are completely different, but you can swap a Flyer truck onto a Marx car to make a transition car. A little Marvel Mystery Oil on the axles allows the Marx cars to roll much better. Marx's litho work is gorgeous and they offered nice variety of car styles as well. The 999 2-4-2 and 333 Pacific are 3/16ths O gauge proportioned as well and look good with Flyer's offerings.

Here's a thread over at CTT that does a nice job at describing Flyer's 3/16ths line:  http://cs.trains.com/ctt/f/95/t/211963.aspx?page=1

I have had only one opportunity to examine a 3 rail American Flyer prewar O gauge set. I finally found the pics.....it was in late 2015. Really nice stuff.....the "might have beens" are always interesting to consider.....

Here are the pics.....note the zinc rot on the steamer.....

The red Christmas bulb simulating the firebox is a nice touch.....

IMG_4955IMG_4956IMG_4957IMG_4958IMG_4959IMG_4960IMG_4962IMG_4963IMG_4964IMG_4965IMG_4966IMG_4967IMG_4968IMG_4969IMG_4970IMG_4971IMG_4972IMG_4973IMG_4974IMG_4975IMG_4976IMG_4977IMG_4978IMG_4979IMG_4980

Have a great weekend folks......

Peter

 

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I have the same (almost) set except for the dump car and its from 1940-41 as best I have been able to research.  I also have an engine but its a 2-4-2 and smaller than the one in Peter's entry above and also is a shelf queen.   The cars would look a little "small" when run with Lionel scale or other O scale trains because they were made at 3/16" scale but O-gauge as opposed to 1/4" O scale.  I also agree pulling them with a Marx loco and scale cars which also approximated 3/16 " scale, when you can determine the scale at all, and the listed ones 999/666 are great runners but don't forget the 333 or 1869 .  Yes you have to create a "transition" car to alter the couplers but a common Marx flat car and a little work will do this. Note- candidly when in a hurry I have taken care of this with a "band aid" of a little wire wrapped around the coupler from the tender to the first car sort of tying them together (yes I agree its crude but it does work).

Don

American Flyer 3 rail O gauge probably would not have survived in the post war years for a number of reasons, but while they were produced they were beautiful.

Chicago era

Gilbert era

Chicago   Great looking toy train

Chicago era  streamliner

Chicago era soulmates

Minnehaha and Hiawatha

The Royal Blue

I got a bit carried away.  All of my trains are packed away following a recent interstate move. I miss seeing them.  LOL

Northwoods Flyer

Greg

 

                                                             

A little off subject but I think American Flyer made a good move when they did S gauge. They knew the could never catch Lionel. They advertised true scale trains but they never went all the way. Those silly wide white tires on all their steam engines, American Flyer plastered on all the engines and cars, diesels with names like Rocket or Comet  just didn't look right. Even as a kid I thought they missed the boat. I think they could have put a dent even with the HO crowd if they really did scale trains. Don4163419353_8f46fc9ae9_b

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beardog49 posted:
Summerdale Junction posted:

Dan , I believe that you are right that American Flyer O-Gauge three rail would have been able to give Lionel some decent competion in the post war era . You have to remember that Lionel only made it through the depression with the help of Disney and Mickey Mouse .Those one dollar hand cars sold well . W.O. Coleman and the gang from Halsted street in Chicago were not so lucky . In 1932 , a President's Special wide gauge set sold for $100 and a Mayflower set set you back a whopping $150.Not a lot of takers back then . The American Flyer name and factory was sold to A.C. Gilbert in 1937. And as they say , the rest is history . I think that they were on a par with Lionel in the Teens and Twenty's and had they survived , They may have been as innovated as Lionel was in the post war era. 

I believe the whole Mickey Mouse saving lionel is a myth from what I have read. I don't think

Lionel made enough from Mickey mouse to buy a pack of gum after manufacturing costs etc. 

I think it was the M10000 and forward looking trains like that that really got Lionel back on track.

No myth here .Check this out: https://www.waltdisney.org>blog>Disney-and-lionel

Enjoy your life now . It comes with a expiration date .

TCA -00-52289  LCCA-25013

Summerdale Junction posted:

Dan , I believe that you are right that American Flyer O-Gauge three rail would have been able to give Lionel some decent competion in the post war era . You have to remember that Lionel only made it through the depression with the help of Disney and Mickey Mouse .Those one dollar hand cars sold well . W.O. Coleman and the gang from Halsted street in Chicago were not so lucky . In 1932 , a President's Special wide gauge set sold for $100 and a Mayflower set set you back a whopping $150.Not a lot of takers back then . The American Flyer name and factory was sold to A.C. Gilbert in 1937. And as they say , the rest is history . I think that they were on a par with Lionel in the Teens and Twenty's and had they survived , They may have been as innovated as Lionel was in the post war era. 

AC Gilbert did not purchase the Flyer Factory on Halsted Street, as W.O. Coleman did not own the building and was leasing it.  AC Gilbert purchased the name and tooling and any remaining inventory.  He had all of the tooling/equipment moved to New Haven after the purchase.

As stated, American Flyer (in Chicago) was barely hanging on in the late 1930s and likely would not have survived to WWII, as W.O Coleman passed in 1939.  

scale rail posted:

A little off subject but I think American Flyer made a good move when they did S gauge. They knew the could never catch Lionel. They advertised true scale trains but they never went all the way. Those silly wide white tires on all their steam engines, American Flyer plastered on all the engines and cars, diesels with names like Rocket or Comet  just didn't look right. Even as a kid I thought they missed the boat. I think they could have put a dent even with the HO crowd if they really did scale trains. Don4163419353_8f46fc9ae9_b

How true Don.  I too, could never figure out why Flyer used such fictitious unrealistic names.

Dan Padova

 

"In the course of my life I have had to eat my words, and I must confess it was a wholesome diet"..........Winston Churchill

                                                                                                                                        

Wow PD what great loco's.  I have one just like the sheet metal version you pictured but no cast iron versions.  Attached are some pictures of an another old relic I found in an antique store.  Its condition is poor as you can see but you can make out the "American Flyer Lines" on the leading edge of the boiler side.  My research shows it to be (as best I can tell) a " Type 10"  most likely an uncatalogued version made between 1934-1940.  I learned it was made as a 2-4-0 and an 0-4-0 and this example shows no evidence of ever having a leading truck so its likely the 0-4-0.  Domes / piping is copper and except for the lettering is the only decoration. No cab number.   I am mostly a Lionel pre-war O gauge collector but since these AF trains are also pre-war and O gauge I have collected a number of them, mostly just unconnected freight and passenger cars and I pick them up when I see them but they are not common here in Texas.Do  I found this in May of 2014 at the enormous cost of $12 !

Happy Holidays

Don

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When l was a kid, my brother and l had Marx 3/16, but two neighbor kids had Flyer, Atlantic sets.  In the large dept. stores, l rarely saw the individual Marx 3/16 cars we hunted, but saw and wanted the Flyer Northern..this post WWII, and it was no longer 3 rail.  I wanted Marx to have Mikados, Consols, and those Northerns. In those stores l remember many attractive Flyer steam sets, chuffing, but only Lionel Santa Fe F unit sets. Flyer had  real steamer wheel arrangements, Atlantics and Pacifics, but not freights,nor did Lionel or Marx have the freight power that shunted coal hoppers down at my depot, and both had some goofy wheel arrangements. Back in trains years later l looked for those 3 rail Flyer Northerns... Himmel!  Es gibt Zinkpest!  And today l don't seek that roadname.

??Another one of THOSE!!??  What you want to sell is not what I want to buy!

colorado hirailer posted:

When l was a kid, my brother and l had Marx 3/16, but two neighbor kids had Flyer, Atlantic sets.  In the large dept. stores, l rarely saw the individual Marx 3/16 cars we hunted, but saw and wanted the Flyer Northern..this post WWII, and it was no longer 3 rail.  I wanted Marx to have Mikados, Consols, and those Northerns. In those stores l remember many attractive Flyer steam sets, chuffing, but only Lionel Santa Fe F unit sets. Flyer had  real steamer wheel arrangements, Atlantics and Pacifics, but not freights,nor did Lionel or Marx have the freight power that shunted coal hoppers down at my depot, and both had some goofy wheel arrangements. Back in trains years later l looked for those 3 rail Flyer Northerns... Himmel!  Es gibt Zinkpest!  And today l don't seek that roadname.

There are 3/16ths O gauge Challengers aka Northern aka 4-8-4s out there that aren't crumbling - I have several and aside from not having been run in years will probably fire back up with an oil job and some electricity to liven things up. The zinc-pest infected body shells may turn to dust, but the mechanism will yield lots of parts to keep intact models running. They look great pulling Marx tin 3/16ths litho freight cars (the passenger cars are a bit on the short side to run with the Challenger, but might not look too bad behind the NYC Hudson.

Colorado :  Lionel did have some 0-4-0 and 0-6-0 switchers on and off during their production years.  I am not sure the 0-6-0 ever came back postwar but the 0-4-0 came and went a few times, usually each time with less detail and a cheaper tender (eventually just ending up with a slope back plastic tender with no detail at all, not even hand rails). Eventually with the 1061 the loco does not even have a headlight and has  no reverse (which seems really limiting for a switcher!!).   I have a mid-level 0-4-0 version, from the 1950's, that I like and it runs good but it needs a better tender (one of those "someday" things) .  Marx did not do steam switchers however had some really great diesel switchers,  Alco S-3 switchers in both 4 and 8 wheel arrangements for lots of rail roads and then a good variety of GE 70 Ton Switchers (all 4 wheel).  The Alco's began about 1955 and the 70 Ton GE's about 1958.   I must say I like them because in general they run great (use the fabulous and highly reliable Marx motor) and look pretty good.  Marx 3/16 cars started in 1942 and continued until about 1952-53, came with both "scale" trucks and with " high trucks" that don't look nearly as scale like but couple easier with the rest of the line.  They also made some "deluxe" plastic freights that I think are as good as any postwar freight cars even Lionel or AF. Not switchers but the Marx 3/16 scale F units are far superior to the AF units and they came labeled for several REAL railroads (and the very collectable "Allstate" versions from Sears)  not the "Rocket" or "Silver Bullet".  Marx, ever the challenge to us collectors, put scale cars on high trucks, non-scale (even some 6" litho) cars on scale trucks, whatever worked.  Their plastic freight line was incredible both in the variety of types but also in their coloring and RR labels.  I must have 30+ different 4-wheel plastic cabooses all different in some way...not worth much but what a hoot to look at.

Don

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