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Continuing on, the 1946 had a thin shank coupler with no weight. The 1947 had SIT and American Flyer Lines on the tender along with a thick shank coupler. The 1948 had the smoke and choo choo unit in the engine with the reverse unit in the tender. There is a 4 wire connection from the tender to the engine. The coupler now had a brass weight.

At the risk of muddying the water slightly, I have a 312 with smoke/choo-choo in the boiler and the four-step reverse unit in the tender.  I claim (without a whole lot of specific evidence) that I received it - along with the New Haven passenger car set (baggage car and two coaches) - the Xmas I turned 6, which would have been 1950.  The 1950 catalog doesn't list the 312 any longer, but the 1948 and 1949 catalogs do (actually, the artwork shows 312, the text sez 312AC) along with the New Haven passenger cars, showing them as a set.  So I dunno.   I suppose I could have been 5 (Xmas 1949)...  I am certain my parents bought the train set plus the 8B transformer at Gold's Department store in Lincoln, NE, so this may have been a set left over from the previous year or ...?

That engine still runs well, though I do need to replace the nichrome wire in the smoke unit

If there is a date stamp in the engine shell that would provide a definitive manufacture date. Do the couplers on the tender and any cars have brass weights or are they all black weights? Is the tender stamped American Flyer Lines in Serif lettering? Are the cars red? Did the set have a tan envelope with 14 #693 track locks in it?

The set would be the 4609A. If it is the 1949 version it should have a 312AC but it is possible the factory packed the set with an earlier 312.

Tom -- when I get around to replacing the nichrome wire, I'll take a look inside the engine shell.  The set came with link couplers, but I somehow managed to badger my parents into having all the couplers replaced with knuckles when they came out (I think my line of argumentation was simply that if they were gonna continue to buy me new cars, etc., the new knuckle couplers wouldn't be compatible...  probably wasn't that sophisticated!).  The font on the tender is indeed serifed - American Flyer Lines with the PRR logo stamped in the upper 'near engine' corners.  The 651baggage car and two 650 passenger cars are green.  In an earlier attempt at identifying which set my first train set was, it looked to me like 4609A was pretty close except for the green color of the cars.  Somewhere I read (or think I did) that sometimes the green color was used instead of the red.  I don't recall getting track locks, but since I sometimes don't remember what I had for breakfast last week, I'm not sure that's reliable.

One thing I now realize is just how 'unreliable' the catalog art is in terms of the identification numbers on locos - as I just flipped through several of the older catalogs on Harrington's great website, myflyertrains.  Its also interesting that after Gilbert's brief flirtation with the whistle in the tender (314AW - running afoul of Lionel's patent, IIRC), they went back to the 312 and 312AC for a year or so before introducing the next version.

The track locks were added to the 1949 set, it is a content item not in the 1948 set. My boxed 5114 set has a 312 engine and green passenger cars despite the catalog listing the set with red cars. Green cars in a 4909A set would be unusual.

I neglected to ask about the set box. Many have date stamps applied by the manufacturer of the box. Also in the 1948 to 1950 time frame there were inspection slips in the box. I have these in most of my early sets and they also allow determining the approximate day the set was packed in the factory.

The 314AW was last made in 1950, the 315 appeared in 1952 only.

Tom -- I thought briefly that my set could have been the 5114, as both Doyle and Bubeck books suggest that the color of the passenger cars could have been either red or green.  But, the kicker is that the baggage car in the 5114 set is the #718 operating mail pickup car.  My set came with the #651 baggage car ordinarius...  Set box?  Nope - probably didn't survive the early years of my youth.

When you dig into the smoke unit repair there will hopefully be a date stamp that will answer the key questions.

Do you recall that there was a set box? Retail stores were known to sell display sets at a discount to customers. This resulted in some mix and match where the year of manufacture of all the train items do not match what would have been in an unopened set box.

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