American Flyer Displays

Gilbert Hall of Science Layouts

1st Floor - First Layout
New York
1st Floor - Layout  1
Small 3 Rail Layout
1st Floor - Second Layout
New York
1st Floor - Layout 2
The Railroad Empire
1st Floor - Third Layout
New York
1st Floor - Layout 3
The Super Layout
2nd Floor Layout
New York
1st Floor HO Layout
A Place For HO Trains
2nd Floor Layout New York
2nd Floor Layout
The Sales
Chicago Layout
Chicago Layout
The Midwest

The Halls of Science

There were 4 Gilbert Halls of Science.  The first and Largest was located in New York City where Broadway meets 5th Ave.  The front of the building was on 25th Street.  This Hall of Science opened on September 17, 1941, almost 3 months prior to Pearl Harbor.  One of the major missions of the Hall of Science in its early days was to keep the American Flyer Trains and other Gilbert products before the public's eye during the shutdown of toy production during World War II.  The biggest attraction of these Halls of Science were the layouts, which were the largest American Flyer layouts of their day.  The ultimate layouts of which dreams were made.

Around the end of 1943, Leroy Jahn, a Miami businessman, visited the New York Hall of Science and was greatly impressed with the dramatic presentation of the products displayed in New York.  He decided that he would like to create a similar Hall of Science in Miami.   Gilbert saw the potential for this linking of retailer with manufacturer and helped Jahn accomplish his goal.   In 1945, the Miami Hall of Science opened at 300 East Flagler Street.  1   In the early 1950's, A.C. sent layout builder Frank Castiglione to build a display layout there, but it was an ordinary display layout.  Jahn and Gilbert were apparently friends, sharing an interest in magic. 2

In 1946, approximately one year after the Miami Hall of Science opened, another Hall of Science, operated by Oliver A. Quayle, Jr., Inc., opened at 1610 K Street N.W. in Washington, D.C.  It was quite successful and during its first few weeks of operation received an average of 500 visitors per day. 1  There is an excellent article on this Hall of Science in May 1995 Issue of Classic Toy Trains magazine.

The last Hall of Science to open was located in Chicago at 512 S. Michigan Ave. in the Congress Hotel.  It opened on October 17, 1953 in a ceremony led by A.C. Gilbert Jr.  Click on the link above to learn a bit more about that Hall of Science and the S gauge layout housed there.


The New York Hall of Science

Since this was the most well known of the Halls of Science, it is appropriate to say a bit more about it here before we visit the  layouts that were featured there at various times.  Aside from American Flyer trains, it featured all of the other Gilbert products on various floors.  For more details about it, I highly recommend two articles in the Train Collector's Quarterly by Bruce Manson.

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

The Gilbert Hall of Science - Update and Then Some, by Bruce Manson - Train Collector's Quarterly, October 1992, Vol. 38, No. 5, page 28  Link to this issue and article in the TCQ (available to TCA members only)  

New York Hall of Science Tax Map
Shown above is the New York City tax map showing the exact dimensions of the New York Hall of Science

The First Floor Layouts in New York

During the time that the New York Hall of Science was in operation from 1941 to 1958, there were a succession of layouts on the first floor, which were open to the public.  In total there were three major O or S layouts and some smaller layouts, including at least one HO layout, which is noted above.  Much of the information on the layouts was derived from the Train Collector's Quarterly articles by Bruce Manson cited in the footnotes of the sections covering each of these layouts.  Other information and photographs were obtained from Ray Mohrlang, the owner of a very large collection of photos of many Gilbert display layouts.  The articles are an excellent source of information on all three layouts.  We certainly need more information on these layouts, so if you can help by providing any information or photographs of these layouts, please let me know at the "Contact Us" link on the home page.

For more details on these layouts, click on the 1st Floor Links above.

The Second Floor Layout in New York

This layout was for advertising and promotion purposes and was not open to the public.  It is where buyers of major retailers were taken to be shown the latest American Flyer products.  Ironically, though, it is the one that is best preserved in the photos used in catalogs and other advertising and the filmed footage used in the Boys' Railroad Club television show.

For more details on this layout, and many photos, click on the 2nd Floor link above.


1  Famous American Flyer Trains, by Paul C. Nelson, Heimburger House Publishing, Forest Park, IL, pages 184-186

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