American Flyer Displays & History

Roar of the Rails

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Before the Boy's Railroad Club, there was The Roar of the Rails.  This was a series that consisted of 15 minute programs about railroad history produced live in 1949.  Some have said that no 4-8-4 locomotives were used on this show because they didn't run dependably enough on the sharp Flyer curves and Gilbert didn't want any derailments on live TV.

The premise of this show was to use American Flyer trains to illustrate and dramatize the stories. The series was set in the fictional James household, where Grandpa would tell the stories to his grandson.  Some have referred to this as an early infomercial, but it is really more an attempt at entertainment with a massive product placement.   A VHS tape containing seven of the episodes has been available in the past from John Huster.  His website is no longer active, but the video may be available on the used market.  There is also an excellent article about this program by John Huster that appeared in the November 1994 issue of Classic Toy Trains. 1

The title "Roar of the Rails" was also used for a publication released by Gilbert during World War II to keep the interest in trains alive for the duration of the war when no new toy trains could be manufactured.  Click on the following linkg to see a copy of this publication on the website.

 Roar of the Rails Pamphlet

The focus here though will be on the three layouts that were used in the production of the television shows.  One layout depicted running in open spaces, while another provided city and industrial scenes.  The third layout was the disaster layout on which the disasters that were featured in Grandpa's stories took place.

Right now I am reviewing the tapes in an attempt to create a reasonable replica of the track plan of the layouts used in this production.  Watch this space for updates.



1  Roar of the Rails, by John Huster, Classic Toy Trains, November 1994, pg. 93