7/11/2023 - I have made some revisions to the track plan of the 3rd layout to occupy the first floor of the New York Hall of Science to show wider curves at the inside bottom of the reverse "J" based on my last conversations with Ray Mohrlang and Richard Trotter shortly before Ray's death. I also revised the track plan to show two full loops for the two tracks that pass through the train shed on the Fifth Avenue window side of the layout, rather than one loop with dogbone ends hidden under the higher parts of the layout. I believe this is more consistent with the previous reports stating that the layout contained twelve loops. Two loops here would make that count correct.
4/29/2023 - I have made a lot of updates this week based on information obtained from Earl Hunt and some more research in the annals of the Train Collectors' Quarterly. Among the changes made were to the Shelburne Museum page, the Eastern States Exposition page, and the page covering the 3rd layout to occupy the first floor of the New York Hall of Science. The changes consist of additional details and conclusions that can be drawn from them and are too extensive to detail here. It is worth re-reading those sections.
4/23/2023 - I recently updated the pages covering the first layout to occupy the first floor and the second layout to do so. Contributor Earl Hunt has provided new information that enables us to more accurately date the construction of that second layout. Click on the links above to read the new information.
4/7/2023 - I recently updated the portion of the Boys' Railroad Club page that covers the "Other Boy's Railroad Club" that emerged after the TV show stopped running at the end of 1952 based on information provided to me by Earl Hunt. Be sure to check it out as it answers a lot of questions about these new photos. Click here to see it.
4/6/2023 - When you select the 2nd Floor New York Hall of Science layout on the Hall of Science Layouts page, it takes you to a page that lets you explore this layout through 6 different collections of photos. When I first started this website, I didn't have the JAlbum software that I now use for displaying photo collections, so I constructed photo display pages for each of those collections. The links will take you to those pages, but those pages now include links to JAlbum slide shows for the four of those collections that lend themselves to that kind of a display. (Construction Photos, The Buckage Collection, Sectional Photos, and The Boys' Railroad Club) The original pages are still there and the same photos are displayed both there and in the new albums, but you may find them easier to view on the new albums. Also the albums allow you to expand the images up to full size. This is especially useful with the Buckage photos which are extremely high resolution. 2nd Floor Layout
3/13/2023 - I always said there would be times when I got things wrong and I think that just happened. I was misled by an error in The Gilbert News related to the Washington Hall of Science. They got the generations of the founder and his son wrong and called Oliver Quayle, Jr., "Sr." and Oliver Quayle, III, "Jr." This confusion made it difficult to determine the roles of each of these individuals in this Hall of Science. See the new page rewritten especially to make sense.
2/5/2023 - New information has been added to the Sibley Department Store Layout page, about the wide radius curves and the fact that the layout originally had a loop of HO track. More information, including extracts from an official Gilbert blueprint showing the track plan and other specifications for the layout, will be coming soon.
7/26/2022 - There are some new film clips added to the "Gilbert Goes Hollywood" section. The first clip is of prewar train action from "Calling Dr. Gillespie." Second, I added a link to the episode of "You Asked For It." that features a tour of the Gilbert Factory. Click on the links above to go directly to those pages.
7/16/2022 - I just added a Paramount Pictures press release announcing a Gilbert layout displayed in the Capitol Theater in New York City in conjunction with the 1959 Paramount release of the movie "Last Train From Gun Hill." Click here to see more.
3/26/2022 - Emil Suda informed me of another 50's television show that featured the American Flyer "Big Hollywood Layout." Just a few months after its appearance in 1958 on "Leave it to Beaver," it appeared on "The Millionaire, " a dramatic show that told the stories of people suddenly given a million dollars by a "fabulously wealthy" eccentric. Who better to be a train fan and have a good size American Flyer Layout. The action is right at the beginning of the episode. Click here to see the episode.
12/14/2021 - Aric Peery made a suggestion that the Alco streamliner set shown on the Eureka Stores page under Department Stores might be a cutout instead of the actual train. After a bit of a review and consultation with some knowledgeable people, I think he is right. Take a look at that section and see what you think. Be sure to let me know what you conclude by sending me an email at email@example.com
12/5/2021 - I added a new video to the “Gilbert Goes Hollywood” section. Someone pointed out to me that "Roadblock" was not the earliest appearance of postwar American Flyer trains in movies. A 1947 movie called “Christmas Eve” now holds the title. Click here to see the clips.
I also found when reviewing the Bon Marche Department store photo album that there were a few shots that had potential for sectional crops to focus on certain parts of the layout so I added them to the album as individual photos. Even the cropped sectional views are very good resolution because I was starting with 30 megapixel photos.
I also added a small sectional clip of a night time shot of the Hall of Science in New York, which actually shows the train layout in the window with remarkable clarity. The really interesting thing about it though is the “ghosts” standing in front of the train display window on 5th Ave. There is also one in the doorway. Apparently an individual or perhaps more than one, stopped long enough during a very long time exposure by photographer F.M. Demarest to be recorded as a ghost. They didn’t stay long enough in one place to be recorded more distinctly, but they were there long enough and still enough to leave a ghost image. Take a look by clicking here and going to the last image in the album.
12/2/2021 - I have made a few changes to the website, mostly to make using the website easier. It has gotten so big that it can be more difficult to navigate. One of the things I did was to incorporate graphics to help identify certain types of items.
Video Play Buttons & Photo Album Icons
I added “play buttons” with which we are so familiar because they are widely used on websites and on home entertainment equipment, to all videos so that they can be more easily identified. I have left the capsule type buttons in place for those of you who got used to them and also to provide text identification of the videos. Clicking on either the capsule or the "play button" icon will get you where you want to go. The Blue/Yellow buttons identify videos hosted directly on the website and the Red/White buttons identify links to YouTube hosted videos.
I also wanted to identify the photo albums/slideshows of extensive photo collections with a graphic, so I added a "photo album" icon to the right of the capsule type buttons. In addition, I made sure each album was linked to a dark blue framed photo with the title of the album on its face. Clicking on the framed photo, the capsule or the "photo icon" takes you to the album. I hope this helps a bit in navigating the site and not missing some really great resources contained in these albums and videos.
7/17/2021 - A new entry has been added to the Layout Memories Section on Emil Suda's recollection of a childhood visit to Larrabee's Hardware store in Amsterdam, N.Y. in 1961. Unlike many of us in similar situations, Emil remembers the exact layout he saw in the store that day. Click here to go to the new entry.
11/5/2020 - All the photo albums have been redesigned to allow better viewing on cell phones and tablets with larger images and more readable captions. I have also redesigned the drop down menus to make finding what you are looking for easier. No more 3rd level menu items and most of the menu choices are now in alphabetical order which should help in finding your choice more quickly. Finally, I added some quick links on the index page which will take you to the most popular parts of website. I hope these changes are useful to you.
6/7/2020 - I have been delving into the Gilbert History section this week and have redone the Factory Photos section to better identify and document the photos from Ray Mohrlang's collection. With a little research oriented reading of A.C. Gilbert's autobiography, "The Man Who Lives In Paradise," and a little online research, I have been able to document Gilbert's factory history from its founding in 1909 to its move to the now famous Erector Square facilities on Peck Street in New Haven. I was even able to find one of those intermediate factory buildings that is still standing and you can see it in a Google Streetview image. There is a lot to learn yet about some of the photos. I have included comments on the photos, some of which serve to fully explain the photos, and others of which only address some of my questions about the photo. If any of you can provide information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of you who are interested in Gilbert's estate and game preserve, Paradise, I have formatted my source clippings for your reading and provided links on the Paradise page.
6/1/2020 - As some of you may know, the numerous slide shows on the website are created with a program called Jalbum. There are many different "skins" or templates that control the features and appearance of the slide shows. For some time, I have been looking for a "skin" that will render well on cell phones and other smaller screens and also allow the ability to examine an enlarged view of the photos. After a lot of experimentation, I have settled on a skin that seems to achieve those goals better than most. The controls are still a bit small on a small screen, but it works pretty well in a horizontal format. It is definitely a big improvement over the old skin, which produced images of less than optimal size that could not be expanded. Take a look at some of the slide shows and use the expansion feature. You may see some things you missed before.
4/13/2020 - I looked a little closer at the page for Lansburgh's Department Store in Washington, D.C., and cropped out close-ups of the trains featured. Click here.
4/12/2020 - I have added a more convenient link to this page on the Home Tab of the drop down menu. You no longer have to scroll down the page to get to that link when viewing on a horizontal screen.
4/10/2020 - A few additional pieces of paper have been added to the Gilbert Paper section under "From The Ray Mohrlang Collection." In addition, a trade journal ad for the producer of the Boys' Railroad Club films has been added to that section.
4/8/2020 - A new section has been added to the History tab. One of the photos from the Mohrlang Collection was of the last meeting of the Gilbert salesforce in 1963. All these salesmen were fired in 1964 and replaced with independent contractors, hence the title "Death of the Salesmen." For more details click here.
4/6/2020 - I just finished adding a few images of Gilbert paper from the Ray Mohrlang Collection to the Gilbert Paper section. You can see them here.
4/4/2020 - One thing I have learned from maintaining this website is that there is always something new to learn. When I first gained access to the Ray Mohrlang Collection I tried to put each of the photos in context relying on what may have been written on the back of a few of them. Sometimes it was pretty clear but other times I was left with more questions than answers. A lot of times we write things in shorthand and assume facts we already know. When read by someone who doesn't know those same facts, the notes make less sense.
The photos taken at the Eastern States Exposition were particularly hard to put in context because the notes seemed contradictory at times. The displays looked very similar and they were displayed in a large exposition hall, but there was something written on some of them that mentioned a Goffe Street Armory, but that is in New Haven and the Eastern States Exposition was in Springfield, Massachusetts. Since they looked alike, I put them all under the Eastern States Exposition. In the process of some other research, I came across a piece in the Gilbert News that was all about "Industry's Open House" which was held in 1952 in New Haven at the Armory, which is on Goffe Street. One of those Mohrlang photos was used to illustrate the article. It was the same exact photo, right down to where specific individuals were standing. Here was the explanation for 5 photos that looked a little different and one that looked like the 5, except it was clearly taken at the Eastern States Exposition as it showed that venue's fancy draperies and tall pillars. I concluded that the first 5 were taken at Industry's Open House in May 1952 and that last one was taken when that same display was used at the Eastern States Exposition in September of that same year.
As a result I added a new page and slide presentation for that newly discovered show. I also included a copy of the article from the Gilbert News. See Eastern States Exposition or Industry's Open House
3/30/2020 - The following have been added to the website.
- An ad for Koehlingers Toy Store and a 1946 ad for the new S gauge train line. Look under Gilbert Paper, Miscellaneous Paper.
- A Boys RR club article that appeared in Playthings Magazine.
- A page on the Washington DC Hall of Science featuring links to newly discovered TCA photos in their online catalog. I am attempting to get permission display larger size images of some of those photos.
- More information on the 2nd first floor layout, The Railroad Empire, including the links to additional TCA photos in their online catalog. I am also attempting to get permission display larger size images of some of those photos.
- A new slide show of the photos of Clay Buckage's reproduction of the Railroad Empire Layout. I used to link to them on the Atlantic Coast S gaugers site, but they took them down when he moved out west. With Clay's permission, they are now hosted on this website.
9/12/2019 - A lot has changed in the last few months and I have finally gotten the changes up on the website. The biggest change is in the Wanamaker pages in the Department Stores section. Previous versions have shown most of the Wanamaker photos to be from the Philadelphia store, but I have now been able to definitely identify some of them as being from the New York store instead. In addition, I was able to date the newly categorized New York photos to 1946 by just staring at them long enough. I finally noted that the tender lettering on the locomotives in the photo was"New York Central" and "Pennsylvania," a clear indication of a 1946 date. I also went back to the original photos and pulled out some enlarged sections showing the tender lettering as well as a close-up view of the layout.
I have also posted a new color version of the 1947 display at the Wanamaker's Philadelphia store. I have seen other versions of this photo, but they were so badly deteriorated that I couldn't put them up. I knew this version existed and so I just waited for it to be found. I also found an additional photo of the toy department of the Wanamaker's Philadelphia store in a Gilbert publication for dealers extoling the benefits of establishing a permanent "Hall of Science" in their store. That photo shows the same staircase as the color photo. That publication has also been posted under Catalogs and Documents in the Sources section of the website at this link.
I also corrected some display problems on the "Gilbert Goes Hollywood" page.
6/20/2019 - Another item has been added to the Gilbert Goes Hollywood Section. The film clip is from a Howdy Doody show that aired on December 24, 1953 and shows both Erector models and the 2nd Floor Layout at the New York Hall of Science. You can see the changes Gilbert made in 1953 and compare this video with the Boys Railroad Club videos filmed in 1950 and the Buckage photos from 1951. This video plays fine on most devices, but for some unknown reason it may play without sound on some Android phones.
6/5/2019 - The Gilbert Goes Hollywood section has been changed for the Perry Mason film clips. I was able to obtain clips of both instances where American Flyer trains were visible in the show. The clips are also much better quality than the one available in the previously posted link.
3/1/2019 - Thanks to Lonny Beno, I have an illustration of another "Layout in a Box" product. In addition to the Tom Thumb Traintown display I now have the Porto-Train Pak under the heading of "3rd Party Products" in the Layout in a Box section. I think you will find this new product interesting. I have also corrected a link in the The Gilbert Goes Hollywood section. It seems a Youtube video has changed its address causing the old link to fail.
2/1/2019 - The website has been redesigned to use drop down menus, which should make the it more readable by removing space wasting menus from the content pages. This is especially true when viewing on smart phones or other smaller screen devices. In the process, a new section has been added covering Gilbert Paper. Content has been updated and the formatting cleaned up on several pages.
In the near future, an addition is planned to cover the Washington DC Hall of Science and its layout. I am also working to add some recently found photos of the 2nd layout to occupy the first floor of the New York Hall of Science. Finally I will be filling in the sections on newspaper ads with some newly found items.
7/28/2018 - Two photos in the Other Promotional Layouts section have been identified as displays set up by Hartigan's Department Store of Troy, New York at an unidentified trade show or public exhibition. They can now be found in the Department store section with a bit more information.
4/26/2018 - I am continuing with the enhancement of the website. The planned section on Gilbert History is now operational. Right now you can visit sections on the Gilbert Radio Car of 1922, some photos of the factory, from its earliest days to the last days of the company, and some really interesting Gilbert delivery trucks. I plan a lot more for Gilbert History, but it all takes time. Also coming in the future are scans of some full color transparencies taken for Gilbert advertising. Most were quite faded and they are now being restored by my friend and Photoshop Wiz, Daryl Olszeski. They were a bit difficult to scan because they were mostly 8x10 sheet film color transparencies. I guarantee that they will be worth waiting for.
3/19/2018 - I was recently offered scans of some very rare photos that were in the collection of the late Ray Mohrlang. The new owner of that collection is committed to spreading knowledge about the A.C. Gilbert Company and American Flyer and has chosen to do so through this website. There are hundreds of photos in this collection and I have now completed the addition of all the display related photos to the appropriate sections of the website. There are many other photos covering general A.C. Gilbert history that will be added soon to the new Gilbert History section.
This new section will include photos of Paradise Park (the A. C. Gilbert estate), the Gilbert factory, and other subjects related to Gilbert History.
Here is what has been added so far.
Chicago Hall of Science Dedication Photos - Halls of Science - Chicago
Photos of 7 new department store layouts - Department Stores
This includes a slide show of several new photos of the 1949 Bon Marche layout in Seattle
Photos of the prototypes of the All Aboard layout panels - Layout in a Box - All Aboard
Photos of additional promotional layouts, including the 1939 New York World's Fair, the Shelburne Museum, the Eastern States Exposition, Freedom Land, and several others, featuring extensive slide shows - Promotional Displays
A new factory layout has been added, the 28220
Photos of Pre War displays from the Mohrlang Collection have been added to the Static Displays section.
The section on the Halls of Science has been greatly expanded with a section on the New Haven Factory Showroom, the fifth "Hall of Science." Also, 3 extensive slide shows about the New York Hall of Science have been added to that section. Get a close look at the porthole windows, tour all the floors of the building, or see photos of Dedication Day in 1941.
Additional photos have been added to the section covering the "Super Layout" which occupied the first floor of the New York Hall of Science between 1955 and 1958. In addition to what is shown on the page, there is a slide show containing almost all the known photos of this layout.
The Layout Memories Section covering George Sorensen's 1953 visit to the hall on the day of its dedication has also been changed. Both George and I were surprised when an additional photo of him that he had never seen before showed up in the Mohrlang Collection.
To learn more about the Ray Mohrlang Collection, click here.
2/23/2017 - For some time now, the photos of the 1953 F.A.O. Schwarz layout and the 1947-1951 Bon Marche Layouts which were previously linked through Google Books have been unavailable online. Now, by special permission of Kalmbach Publishing Co., I can now display scans of the photos which appeared in the Kalmbach book, Toy Train Memories, by John Grams. Take a look at the revised pages under Department Store Layouts.
2/20/2017 - Recently I found an item offered on EBay that was identified as an instruction booklet for the "Tom Thumb Fold-away Train Town." This was an ingenious set up that allowed you to fold a 4x6 layout for packing into a 2x3 box with the track remaining attached to it. It also had a built in wiring system for a variety of Gilbert and even Lionel accessories, but it was clearly designed for Gilbert track and trains. Take a look in the "Layout in a Box" section for more information and photos.
12/20/2016 - I have added two new sections to the website. The first is a link to a photo of what I call the "Mystery Layout." My friend Bill Drake, who runs traindr.com obtained a print of a layout that neither of us had ever seen before. It is a very large American Flyer Layout which is easily dated to 1951, but what no one seems to be able to figure out is where it was. It was probably a department store layout, a toy fair layout or a layout from one of the other Gilbert Halls of Science. I have put it under promotional layouts but once it is identified, it could be moved to a more appropriate section of the website.
1/30/2016 - Viewing PDF files has changed with updates to the three main windows browsers. Both Chrome and Firefox open the PDF file in its actual size, which may be too small for comfortable viewing. Only Internet Explorer opens the PDF in page width view, which is probably best for reading. Firefox has a dropdown menu under "Automatic Zoom" at the top center of the screen that allows you to view in full page or page width view. Chrome is a bit more subtle with dots at the lower right side of the screen. Plus and Minus are pretty obvious, but the top button marked only in symbols is what lets you go from actual size to full page view first and then to page width view and then toggles back and forth between those two views. It does not let you go back to actual size view.
12/7/2015 - A new link on the "Gilbert Goes Hollywood" section has been added for a video clip of an American Flyer train appearance in the 1951 movie Roadblock. Click here
11/7/2015 - A new photo of the 3rd first floor layout (The Super Layout) has been added. It is from the cover of the second edition of How to Build and Operate a Model Railroad by Marshall McClintock. It is probably a photo that many have seen, but were unaware of its location. Click here
6/23/2015 - The website is now mobile friendly.
A major revision of the website to make it more compatible with mobile devices and small screens has now been completed. This is the first major change in over a year. Instead of seeing a shrunken and hard to use version of the desktop website when you view American Flyer Displays on an IPhone or Android device, you will see a reformatted page with readable fonts and links that are easy to select. The graphics are also displayed at the maximum size that will fit the smaller screen. On the desktop and large screen mobile devices, like IPads and other tablets, the site appears much the same as in the past, except for the fact that the menu is now at the top, rather than the side. One nice side effect of this change is that the display can be a bit larger. Because of the extensive format changes, if you have visited this site in the past, you may need to refresh your screen by hitting the "F5" key if you find the screen image looks strange
For viewing most pages on small mobile devices, I recommend that you view in the landscape mode by turning your phone sideways as that produces a larger image.
I also heartily recommend that you install the Dolphin browser and Dolphin "Jetpack" for your device. This browser, unlike others, including Chrome, provides better support for video. This makes the viewing of the many video links on this website much more dependable.
I hope you enjoy these changes.
6/17/2014 - Unless I can think of more ways to add graphics to the menus of the website, the graphics enhancement project has been completed. I have also added an Alphabetic Site index to make it easier to find what you are looking for. While the menu above follows certain logical groupings, the fact that the website has gotten so large, may make it hard to keep track of where things are located. I hope this new index helps.
6/12/2014 - I recently decided that the website needs a more graphic look to it so I am trying to add graphic features to the menu choices in the website, so you will have a better idea of what you are selecting. I have completed this for the Factory Layout Displays and Static Displays Sections as well as the Hall of Science and Display Catalogs section. Department Store Layouts and Advertising Layouts are in progress, but I have to extract some images from videos to illustrate the remaining Advertising Layout menu choices. I have had a bit of a setback on the Department Store Layouts, as the source of the Bon Marche layouts has disappeared from Google Books. I am not sure when I can find other sources for that layout that I can use.
6/12/2014 - After looking into the resources cited in an article in The Collector, the magazine of the former American Flyer Collectors' Club, I found nothing that supports the argument made in that article that the 1956 catalog cover photo was taken on a B&O layout. The article cited in Railroad Model Craftsman is about how to do scenery and, other than the photo of the 1956 cover, all the photos are of the B&O Museum HO layout. I even checked out a book called Scale Modeling at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and found nothing to support the assertions in the Collector article. I have revised that section to cover these new revelations. Just goes to show you that inaccuracy predates the internet and even print sources can be very wrong about Gilbert History.
3/12/2014 - Bobby Abrams recently provided me with access to his collection of Collector Magazines which were produced by the American Flyer Collectors Club. In those magazines, I found an article establishing that the photo was actually taken on a mid 1950's layout at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. Click here for the revised section.
2/1/2014 - Right now, just about everything is new as this is a completely new redesign of the website. The reason for the redesign was to better organize the information, which has grown significantly since this site was started in 2010. The new design also takes into account the special needs presented when viewing the website on tablets and smart phones. While there isn't a mobile version of this website, this version is easier to read and maneuver on these smaller devices. In the course of the redesign, several sections were either added or expanded as noted below.
This section covers the information I have been gathering over the last several months concerning the display layouts that were prominently featured on TV shows. It features clips of the shows featuring American Flyer trains. Maybe this will bring back a few memories.
In this section we end up at the All Aboard sets, but there is more to it than that. We trace the history of Gilbert's attempts to provide the train set buyer with a more realistic train layout experience with their initial purchase. We start with scenic dioramas and progress to the less detailed modular sections used in one set offered in 1959 and in two dealer displays. Finally, we end up at the molded plastic panels of the All Aboard Sets that were produced in Gilbert's last days. While these All Aboard sets are not quite like the other layouts discussed on this website, they are, in essence, a mass produced version of a factory display.
This section is just the beginning of the exploration of the first model train television show. According to IMDB, it beat Lionel's Tales of the Red Caboose by 3 days - Oct 26 vs. Oct 29, 1948. In particular, I hope, in the future, to be able to present approximate track plans of the two layouts that were used in the filming of this show.