American Flyer Displays & History

The Washington D.C. Hall of Science

Wash. D.C. Layout Photos - TCA Catalog

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. 2

Not much is known about the Washington D.C. Hall of Science but there are two articles which are about the only source of information.  The first is an article in the May 1995 issue of Classic Toy Trains magazine.   One caution on this article, however, is that the top photo on page 105 does not appear to be from the Washington D.C. Hall of Science, but is clearly a photo of the 2nd first floor layout at the New York Hall of Science, discussed elsewhere in this website.  The photo in the CTT Article does not show the "Porthole" windows that are visible on other photos of this same layout which are also contained in the TCA Archives, though not in the same folder as the Washington photos above. (Click here to see them)

Another article was published in the January-February 1952 issue of the "Gilbert News," the employee newsletter of the A.C. Gilbert Co.  

This Hall of Science opened in 1946, just as Gilbert was introducing his line of more accurately scaled S gauge trains to the toy train world.  The location was 1610 K Street Northwest.  When it first opened, it was run by Oliver A. Quayle. Sr., who was a prominent Democrat, who at one time served as the Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee.  He was quite active in arranging the 1936 and 1940 Democratic National Conventions, which were held in Philadelphia and Chicago respectively.   If you Google his name, you will find many photos of him related to that period. 

Oliver Quayle, Sr. is described in the Gilbert News article as "a long time friend and associate of the Gilbert Co."   When that article was written in 1952, it appears that the Washington D.C. Hall of Science had been "command central" for Gilbert's government contract work.   Mr. Quayle's high level involvement earlier in Democratic politics may have served him in good stead in this work.   The article notes that he "handles most of the government matters for the company.

Also instrumental in the running of the Washington Hall of Science was Oliver A. Quayle, Jr., presumably Oliver Sr.'s son.  He is described as follows:  "District Manager, Oliver A. Quayle, Jr. is in charge of the Maryland territory and the Gilbert Hall of Science Operation."

Oliver Quayle's Sr.'s role in running the Washington D.C. Hall of Science is described in ways that would lead one to believe he was a private businessman running a parallel operation in cooperation with Gilbert.  Clearly Oliver Jr. was a company executive and I believe it is most likely that the Washington Hall, like the others, was totally a Gilbert operation with Gilbert Executives in charge.  The fact that the Hall continued seamlessly after Mr. Quayle's departure in 1952 is a clear indication that it was a Gilbert operation and he was a Gilbert Executive and not an independent operator.  After Mr. Quayle Sr.'s departure, the hall continued under the leadership of Ted Cook, the Assistant Manager, who was described in the Classic Toy Trains Article as a Gilbert Co. employee.  The photos in the TCA Archives were apparently commissioned by Cook at around the time he took over operation of the hall.

According to the Gilbert News article, there was one part of the operation that was operated by an independent contractor and that was the service department.  It was said to be privately owned and operated by a Dick North, who even handled overflow work from the Gilbert Factory.  He was described as a "former co-worker."  Mr. North's name will surface later at the opening of the Chicago Hall of Science in 1953.  Richard North is credited, along with Frank Castiglione as one of the builders of the layout at the Chicago Hall of Science.   It is unclear whether he handled those duties as an independent contractor or again became a Gilbert Co. Employee.   He is among those who appear in the opening day photo taken on the sidewalk outside the Chicago Hall.

In many ways the layout was similar to the Second Floor Layout at the New York Hall of Science in that it was long rather than wide.  Assuming that the photos were taken in 1952, a time when Gilbert was not selling HO trains, it is surprising that the layout clearly contains HO trackage.   The trackage appears to be the Bakelite based track sold between 1940 and 1950.  Based on the presence of rubber roadbed introduced in 1950 and Minicraft buildings marketed in 1952 and 1953, I believe the 1952 date is accurate and that the HO track is simply left over from the days when HO was also being sold.  It should also be noted that the HO trackage was not removed from the 2nd Floor Layout at the New York Hall of Science until it was redesigned in 1953.


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.