American Flyer Displays

New York - 2nd Floor Layout - Layout Changes

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 Timeline of Changes

Though we don't often think about it, the 2nd floor Hall of Science layout was a work in progress.  Throughout the years, it changed, not for the reasons most of us might change a layout, but for the purpose of showcasing new products.  For commercial reasons, it had to be representative of current production.

The Boys' Railroad Club TV Program & the First Changes

The Boys' Railroad Club TV program, an early infomercial for American Flyer Trains, was first aired in 1950.  While all the action ostensibly occurred on a layout in the basement of one of the Boys, It was actually filmed on two layouts.  There was a small studio layout for shots which included the boys, but most of the action actually took place on the 2nd floor Hall of Science layout.  The studio layout was almost identical to the Sibley department store layout discussed in other portions of this website.

After reviewing the photos in The Buckage Collection and viewing the Boys' Railroad Club TV programs many times, I am convinced that the Boy's Railroad Club depicts the layout in its earliest incarnation.  Some of the differences that lead me to this conclusion are as follows:

There are no tunnel portals where they are present in the Buckage photos.

Frame grab 11.bmp (921654 bytes) buckage tunnels.jpg (23781 bytes)

Courtesy John Huster

Courtesy Clay & Charlie Buckage

At the left end of the layout, to the right of the tunnels, there is a house, instead of the circus area.

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Courtesy John Huster

Courtesy Clay & Charlie Buckage

In stock footage used at the beginning of the shows, the second factory in the industrial area, the one with the A.C. Gilbert sign, has not yet been added.

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factories.jpg (63444 bytes)

Courtesy John Huster

Courtesy Clay & Charlie Buckage

There are no buildings under the Erector girder bridge crossover that leads to the wall surrounding the industrial area.

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erector girder freight house.jpg (71141 bytes)

Courtesy John Huster

Courtesy Clay & Charlie Buckage

The Alco diesels featured in the Boys' Railroad Club TV program do not have the war bonnet paint scheme, indicating early production units as opposed to the later production Alco diesels shown in the Buckage Collection photos.

santafe_no_warbonnet.jpg (113134 bytes)
erector girder freight house.jpg (71141 bytes)

Courtesy John Huster

Courtesy Clay & Charlie Buckage

One final point of difference between the Boy's Railroad Club television program and the Buckage photos is that in the television program, there is no switch tower at the switch that leads immediately to the 90 degree crossover in the middle right area of the layout.   This difference is probably more related to the production needs of the television program than to the time at which the images were recorded.  It is possible that the switch tower was removed for the television program to allow a better view of the train which passes by on the more distant track.  The Boys' Railroad Club view, showing no switch tower, is shown in the left photo below.  The right photo below, from the Buckage Collection, shows the tower placed just to the side of the light housing on the switch.  The lower illustration from the 1950 catalog also shows it to the side of the switch, but farther forward. 

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switchtower.jpg (65790 bytes)

Courtesy John Huster

Courtesy Clay & Charlie Buckage

catalogtower.jpg (19672 bytes)

Courtesy Myflyertrains.org

The layout shown in the Boys' Railroad Club video clearly depicts a less complete version of the layout.

1953 Revisions

Major revisions to the 2nd floor Hall of Science layout were made in 1953.  From a review of several issues of The Gilbert News from that time, it appears that a major motivation for the changes was to increase the number of trains that could run at the same time.  Also, there was no longer a need to include HO trains in the display as they not been marketed by Gilbert since 1950.  In an article that appeared in The Gilbert News, Volume 12, No. 5, September-October 1952, on page 7, the author notes that the number of "tracks" has been increased from 4 to 9. The added "tracks", all but one of which are loops, appear to be the following:

1953-elevated500.jpg (74072 bytes)
A circuitous S gauge loop replacing the HO loops and an over/under figure 8 in a flattened area formerly occupied by mountains and the HO village
1953-mineloop500.jpg (103323 bytes)
A circular mine train loop going in and out of a tunnel in the area formerly occupied by the circus grounds.  The handcar was introduced in 1952 and the handcar mine train in 1953.
1953-lakeelevated500.jpg (83755 bytes)
An elevated loop which circles and crosses the lake at water level and passes under the waterfall.  The water level crossing of the lake under the trestle bridge can be seen in views of that bridge below.
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A mine train spur off one of the elevated main lines at the central rear of the layout

Above Photos from The Gilbert News, Volume 14, No. 1, January-February 1954
Click on illustrations to view in full size

Additional changes included the following:

1953-trestlebridge500.jpg (78081 bytes)
The Erector drawbridge was replaced by a series of 4 No. 750 Trestle Bridges, only the first one of which includes the bridge tender's house.  This change can be seen in Roger Carp's article on American Flyer display layouts in the July-August 1992 issue of Classic Toy Trains. 1
1953-bumpout500.jpg (119508 bytes)
Replacement of some of the accessories in the bumpout area, especially duplicates, with newer recently introduced accessories such as the Guilford animated station. 

An additional view of these changes in the bumpout can be seen in a 1952 cover from Toy Trains magazine. 2

Above Photos of the 1953 revisions are from The Gilbert News, Volume 14, No. 1, January-February 1954

I need more detailed information on the 1956-57 changes that were made, so your help would definitely be appreciated if you can fill that in.  There may also be other changes which I have missed, so I hope you will tell me about them so that I can include them in these pages.  Just use the "Contact Us" link at the top of this page.


Notes

1 The Marvelous American Flyer Display Layouts, by Roger Carp - Classic Toy Trains, August 1992, page 57.

2 Toy Trains Magazine, September 1952 issue.