Guide to American Flyer S Gauge Trains

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    History

    • The A.C. Gilbert Co. purchased the name "American Flyer" in 1938. In 1946, shortly after the end of World War II, American Flyer S gauge trains went on the market. Because their engine and rolling stock designs were based upon photographs and the blueprints of real railroad trains, American Flyer trains were easily identified by their gritty, realistic appearance. They were modeled on 1:64 scale, and the toy designers and engineers at A.C. Gilbert made sure that the proportional dimensions of the both the rail cars and locomotives were accurate. American Flyer trains looked real. The fact that they used a two-rail track system as opposed to the three-rail track manufactured by Lionel made them look even more authentic. Following Mr. Gilbert's death in 1961, American Flyer trains began a rapid decline in popularity. As the company continued to lose money, Gilbert's heirs finally sold the American Flyer name and design specifications to its chief competitor; Lionel. Lionel continues to manufacture and sell S gauge model train sets under the American Flyer name. Other manufacturers have also begun producing S gauge model trains that are compatible with their original A.C. Gilbert, American Flyer counterparts.

    Collecting

    • Though original A.C. Gilbert American Flyer trains have been out of production since 1967, a thriving collector market has sprung up. Internet-based auction sites often list original American Flyer trains and accessories for sale. The pieces commanding the highest prices in the collector market are the U.S.-manufactured "steam" locomotives produced during the 1950s. After Mr. Gilbert's death, some production was shifted to Japan. The quality of the Japanese-produced models is inferior because a less-expensive and less-powerful type of miniature electric motor was used instead of the worm-gear drive motors in the domestically produced engines.

      But as they have now entered their seventh decade of production, like the legendary Rock Island line itself; for many model train enthusiasts, American Flyer is still "the road to ride."

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