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Despite owning way too many O-gauge engines/equipment, I wanted to do American Flyer for under the tree, as AF was my first toy train as a seven year old. I recently acquired a 282, 322, 336, and a 350, some given to me and some purchased. I love the vintage engines and have no plans in getting into modern Flyonel, I already have the bells and whistles in O gauge. These engines, all pacifics (the 336 is a Northern) have their own quirks/personalities, I am finding. Like I said, these items are just for under the tree and are run a circle of Fastrack 40". The track is directly screwed to a 3/4" thick piece of a 48" diameter circular cut piece of plywood, raised off a hardwood floor by 3 milk crates (don't tell the milk company). The freight consist I consist of a car unloader, search light car, spool car, beam car, crane car, and boom car- all of which are primarily diecast (heavier). The 282 is still torn apart, but here are my observations with the other engines thus far:

The 322 Hudson is SIT. This engine has a hard time pulling the aforementioned 6 car consist. A lot of wheel slippage. The drive wheels and center blind wheels seem to be in very good condition and the track is clean. I am still struggling getting the smoke unit to function properly. I started out with 6" of nichrome wire and wick, but probably 3/4" of wire protruded the top lugs and soldered. The ohms bounce from 38 to 46. The engine smokes good for a few minutes then slowly trickles down to nothing. After it has sat (off track) for awhile, the same scenario happens. Would this be a symptom of the wire being too hot?

The 350 Royal Blue resonates very loud on the platform- It really growls! It can pull the 6 car consist nice and slow without problems, but the wife won't let me run it. It seems to be lighter than the Hudson and and yet doesn't slip. It is also a Pacific, but why so loud? Is this normal for 350s? It is mechanically very clean and  lubed. It does however do station stops! (LOL). After 5-10 minutes running it will stop for a minute, then start running again. Is this a reverse unit problem?

Then there is the 336, a very tough act to follow. It smokes perfectly, will run a a crawl smoothly, and easily pulls the consist with zero slippage. What can I say, it is simply an amazing piece of machinery!

Finally my last question: After an hour or longer of steady running, is it typical for engines to slow down and stall, requiring a slight bump up on the tranx? Not sure if this is normal behavior for an open chassis motor.

Sorry for being so wordy, but the stuff in italics are my questions. I did get both of Tom Barkers books, and though well worth the money, there are still so many questions!



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Wow....Lots of questions.  I do a Flyer repair column in the S Gaugian magazine.  Tom Barker was the original writer of the Roundhouse Column.  It is my opinion that all the engines you are operating need a complete tune up and cleaning.  Gilbert engines in good running condition do not show the problems you are writing about.  Now, not being able to see the engines the one complicating factor is are there ware issues.  Being produced in the 1940's and 50's wear could be a factor.

Flyer Pacifics all have the same chassis and motor.  A smoke-in-tender is a different animal of course. The blind driving wheels of all these engines do not touch the tracks.  The same is true for the Northern.  The Northern could possibly have the later larger motor which means it could pull several times the 6 cars.

None of the engines should slow down as they run.  The 350's noise is not normal.  Your S-I-T smoke problem is not typical if the unit is completely rebuilt.  Follow Tom's books on that or the online repair guide at the Port Lines Hobbies website.

One thing I would note is that Fastrack was not designed for these engines.  It was designed for new Flyonel engines.  I suggest Gilbert track could be a better option.  

I absolutely love American Flyer. A product that was way ahead of its time.

The slowing down of your trains may actually be the transformer starting to over heat.

I agree with the track comment. The American flyer track has more of a T section which improves pulling power.

My favorite locomotive was the NY&NH 293 and then the 5 digit NYC Hudson.... followed by the little 0-6-0 sloped back switchers.

The smoke units are kind of tricky to rebuild but they keep smoking strong as long as you add fluid.

the red glow from the stack was cool and the chug really takes me back... would really like to find some authentic American Flyer smoke fluid....

And who could forget the caboose with the operating lantern man?

Great stuff. Enjoy running them.





Hi Smoke Stack Lightnin,

     I have read your problems with your Royal Blue. I think you have an armature which is hitting the brush tubes. In the motor there are some spacers to relieve the slack or the armature from front to rear when it changes directions. There might be spaced too close to the bottom of the brush tubes which causes the armature to hit them on the armature face and scar it. 

    Remove the brush plate and armature and check the spacers and adjust accordingly so that the armature is slightly away from those tubes. The engine should run very quietly after the adjustment and spaced loosely between the front bearing and the rear bearing but away from the brush tubes.

    Try this and see if that will work. In the mean time I will try to diagnose your other problems.


Thanks for the responses! Don, very interesting you should mention the armature travel. When I disassembled the engine for cleaning (something a habitually do with any newly acquired old engines) I thought there was a lot of play going from front to back/vice versa. There was only one armature spacer and that was towards the front. Nothing on the back (brush side). I noticed the exploded diagrams don't show a spacer on the back side so I didn't give it any more thought. I have 2 spare armature spacers, an .005 and a .015 I bought from Port Lines just to have. I'll try installing the .015 and see if that quiets it down any. Maybe both would be better? I'll experiment. The bush side of the commutator didn't appear dished. Really glad you mentioned this, I'd like to run the Royal Blue without my wife screaming louder than the train! 

I think my smoke element replacement (first attempt) on the Hudson is too hot. Seems like it is drying the fluid under the wick area within five minutes of running. After it sets a few hours it will smoke for another five minutes and die out again. The tender is diecast (SIT) and the top of the tender is warm (which I thought might be unusual?).Think I'll try cutting 7" of wire this time to allow for what comes through the top smoke box cover. At any rate I'll try to get the ohms closer to 50. My goal is for just noticeable smoke, not a smoke out! 

The 12 pieces of fastrack wasn't cheap but if AF original track is available that will make a 40" diameter circle I'll replace it. The AF curves I have laying around are closer to 054. My platform is only 48" diameter.

Other problems might be me being intimidated by those "twist tab" fasteners on the reverse units. The Royal Blue tender shell makes me nervous also because I'm afraid of them breaking off. I sprayed contact cleaner down into the unit to try and clean it without taking it apart. The fingers look good and the (pall?) seems to catch good with manual operation.

Thanks again guys for your help. These are quite interesting and fun engines!


The twist tabs in the reverse units are pretty much indestructible. Might want to be careful with the tender tabs as they are just a thin tin like materiel. Make sure everything cycles and runs good before reattaching the tender shell to avoid multiple twistings. Original gilbert track will easily fit in a 48' dimension. Make sure that the armature has a slight bit of play front to rear. Oil the front of the armature shaft where it enters the chassis bearing (do this from the top of the chassis) and a drop on the brush holder end. Earlier brush holders usually have a small piece of wicking material in the brush holder where the bearing/armature shaft connect. Also a few drops on the pin that holds the gear that is connected to the smoke piston. Make sure all old hardened grease is removed from the axle gear and armature spiral gear.  A few dabs of white grease on all gears. Make sure there is a little spring pressure in the reverse fingers on the drum. Not too much or there will be excessive wear on the fingers and drum. Really easy once you get the hang of it.

I did take the motor apart to add a spacer and went and opened up the reverse unit. 3 of the 4 fingers had holes worn thru and one was flattened probably in an attempt to make better contact. I ordered 2 sets of fingers (one for extra) to replace. I'm anxious to see if adding the spacer will quiet it down, but need to wait for the fingers to arrive at this point. 



Another reason your 336 steam engine pulls all your freight cars is your 336 have pull mor wheels. Like rubber tires. All the other engines you listed do not. The 0-54 curve track you have was made by K-Line. Original Flyer curve is 0-36.

Check some of your local shops to see if they have any good clean used Flyer track. I agree with Mr. Payer regarding the banging noise. Also, make sure the side rods are lubed where they enter the steam chest.  As someone else stated, all of your engines need a good cleaning. New brushes and brush springs would help.

Smoke Stack, If I can be any other service, you can call me. My number is 724-479-2026.



Last edited by jim sutter

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