The Washington D.C. Hall of Science

Photos of the layout at this Hall of Science are available at the following link:

 Wash. D.C. Layout Photos - TCA Catalog

On August 7, 1946, approximately one year after the Miami Hall of Science opened, another Hall of Science was dedicated at 1610 K Street N.W. in Washington, D.C.  This Hall of Science opened just as Gilbert was introducing his line of more accurately scaled S gauge trains to the toy train world.  It was quite successful and during its first few weeks of operation received an average of 500 visitors per day. 1  

Little is known about the Washington D.C. Hall of Science.  Our only sources of information are a few paragraphs in Paul Nelson's Famous American Flyer Trains book referenced in footnote 1 above, an article in the May 1995 issue of Classic Toy Trains magazine,2   and an article published in the January-February 1952 issue of the "Gilbert News," the employee newsletter of the A.C. Gilbert Co. 

Washington Hall of Science Price ListThe Washington D.C. Hall of Science appears to have started out as a parallel operation run by a non--Gilbert employee.   A recently discovered price list specifically for this Hall of Science lists its operator as "Oliver A. Quale, Jr., Inc." (sic) (click here or on illustration to read the full price list)  Further documentation of this independent corporate entity is provided by Oliver Jr.'s obituary in the Washington Evening Star, which notes that he formerly served as president of "Oliver A. Quayle, Jr., Inc., a toy concern at 1610 K. Street. N.W." 

Oliver A. Quayle, Jr.,  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.  When the article in the Gilbert News 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 earlier high level involvement in Democratic politics may have served him in good stead in this work.  

The Gilbert News article provides a lot of information, but confuses things because it refers to Oliver A. Quayle, Jr. as Oliver A. Quayle, Sr. and his son, Oliver A. Quayle, III as Oliver Quayle Jr.  Once the players are properly identified, it is clear that Oliver A. Quayle, Jr. , a "long time friend and associate" of the Gilbert Company was responsible for the creation of this Hall of Science.  He is also described in the Gilbert News article as "Public" Relations Counsel."  It is noted that "he handles most government matters for the company."  He was essentially the Washington D.C.. lobbyist for the A.C. Gilbert Co. during a crucial time when A.C. Gilbert was seeking Korean War contracts.  Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the Washington D.C. Hall of Science was located on K street, which is well known as the location of major lobbying firms in Washington D.C..  During this time, Oliver A. Quayle, III was said to be the "District Manager ... in charge of the Maryland territory and the Gilbert Hall of Science operation."  With such a title, it seems likely that he was a Gilbert executive.  Oliver Jr. and Oliver, III ran the operation until 1952, when Oliver Jr. relocated to Florida to continue his career in public relations. 

At that time, Ted Cook, who was described in the Gilbert News article as the "Assistant Manager," took over the responsibility for the operation of the Washington D.C. Hall of Science.   He was definitely a Gilbert Co. employee and I believe it was at this time that the Hall transitioned to a Gilbert Company operation.  He continued as manager of the Hall until it closed in 1956.  It is likely that the photos of this Hall of Science in the TCA archives were commissioned by him. 

While the Gilbert News article describes the operation as much like the New York Hall of Science, it differed in one important way.   It offered Gilbert products for sale, something the New York Hall of Science did not do.  The article also noted that 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, one would not expect the layout to contain HO trackage, but clearly it does.  The trackage appears to be the Bakelite based track sold between 1940 and 1950.  Based on the presence of S gauge 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 not be surprising that the HO trackage had not been removed from this layout as it had not been removed from the 2nd Floor Layout at the New York Hall of Science until that layout was redesigned in 1953.


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

2  Travel Back to the Washington Hall of Science, by Roger Carp - Classic Toy Trains, May 1995, page 102.
(You should note that the photo of a layout at the top of page 105 of that article is actually a photo of the 2nd layout to occupy the first floor of the New York Hall of Science (The "Railroad Empire" layout pictured in late 1940's catalogs) and is so identified in a TCA archive of New York Hall of Science photos. )