American Flyer Displays

New York - 1st Floor Layout 2 - 194? - 1954
The Railroad Empire

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railroad_empire-800.jpg (211617 bytes)
Catalog illustration from the 1946 American Flyer Consumer Catalog courtesy of myflyertrains.org
Click on the illustration to examine it in greater detail.

This layout was pictured in the 1946 and 1947 catalogs, but was never identified.  Based on his memories and a review of certain elements in the catalog illustration, Bruce Manson believed that this layout, in its original form, was an O gauge layout and the second in a sequence of three layouts that occupied the first floor of the New York Hall of Science between its opening in 1941 and its closing in 1958.  He believed that what appeared in the 1946 and 1947 catalogs was an artist's rendering based on a photograph of the actual Hall of Science layout.  He noted that the caboose at the lower left in the catalog illustration and one of the gondolas were clearly O gauge models.  Finally, the man in the photographs building the layout was one of the New York Hall of Science salesmen.  Bruce thought that this layout lasted until about 1953 or 1954 and remembers the track being changed to two rail when he visited the Hall of Science in March 1946.  He was invited to return in the afternoon to see something "he had never seen before," namely the first American Flyer engines with smoke.  1 2 Changing the track work from O to S shouldn't have been too difficult as American Flyer O gauge track had the same 20 inch radius (40 inch diameter) as American Flyer S gauge track.

I have only been able to find two photos of this layout, both of which are partial views of the layout looking out the 5th Ave window. They are shown below.

Click on the photos to view them in full size

Layout-2-photo-1-350.jpg (69884 bytes)
Photo Courtesy of Ray Mohrlang

Layout-2-photo-2-350.jpg (72670 bytes)
Photo from The Gilbert News, Vol. 12, No. 5
September-October, 1952

I have also discussed this layout with Ray Mohrlang and he thinks Bruce Manson was basically correct in his theories about the conversion of the layout from 3 rail to 2 rail in 1946.  The design of the layout, with its dual "wye" tracks which essentially form two overlapping reverse loops, seems to be a vestige of its 3 rail roots.  Ray noted that in 1946, Gilbert had no system yet to operate 2 rail trains over such trackage without extensive operator involvement, thus making this a less than ideal display layout.  In looking at the first photo above, the reverse loop area is visible at the lower right side and the "wye" tracks do not seem to be present.  Possibly they were eliminated when the layout was converted to 2 rail track.

Shown below are some additional photos of this layout under construction which appeared in the
Model Railroad Handbook that came with the Pike Planning Kit.  Click on the photos to view them in full size.

Construction photo 1 Construction photo 2 Construction photo 3
Photos courtesy of Clay and Charlie Buckage

Thanks to the efforts of Clay and Charlie Buckage, this layout will soon be reborn in S gauge.  They are recreating the layout and photos of this work in progress can be seen at the Atlantic Coast S Gaugers' website and also on myflyertrains.org.  Myflyertrains.org has some of the photos on the ACSG site plus some additional photos of early construction.  You can get to them by clicking on the links below.

Re-creation of the Layout on the ACSG Website Re-creation of the Layout on myflyertrains.org


Notes

1 The Gilbert Hall of Science, by Bruce Manson, with Maury Romer - Train Collector's Quarterly, Fall 1980, Vol. 26, No. 5, page 11 at pages 16 & 17  Link to this issue and article in the TCQ (available to TCA members only)

2 The Gilbert Hall of Science - Update and Then Some, by Bruce Manson - Train Collector's Quarterly, October 1992, Vol. No. 5, page 28 at pages 32 & 33  Link to this issue and article in the TCQ (available to TCA members only)