American Flyer Displays & History

The Gilbert Halls of Science   Hall of Science Layouts

New York City

The first and Largest of the Gilbert Halls of Science 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.


Leroy JahnAround 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

Washington, D.C.

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 the 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.

New Haven Factory Showroom

This could, perhaps, be termed the fifth Hall of Science.  After all, the products claimed to be "Developed at the Hall of Science" and the factory is where this occurred.   For this reason, I have devoted a section to this "Hall of Science," complete with newly discovered photos of the showroom.


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.