American Flyer Gauge Question

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by Grant B, Sep 10, 2005.

  1. Grant B

    Grant B Member

    I just picked up a S scale gauge and noticed that the front wheels of my flyer locos are not adjustable and much more narrow than the gauge indicates.
    Should I even try or did they not follow scale back then as much as newer trains?
  2. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    I don't know. AF had such large treads and flanges, it may have not been an issue. I guess it depends on how well it runs through your switches before you attempt to do any adjusting.

    Greg Elems
  3. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Despite all the claims in the catalogs about "scale", toy trains do not have scale wheels or anything approaching it. Look at AF switches -- there are no guard rails or frogs; they are designed to give continuous rails and not interfere.
    If you run them on AF track, you will do OK. If you want to run them on scale track, then the whole collection of wheels will have to be replaced or remachined and regauged.
  4. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    It's possible that the wheels are out of gauge. I took two postwar Lionels in for repair last year (they were beyond my ability to fix). One needed a replacement front truck. When I got them home, one of them couldn't run around a simple loop without derailing. I took it back and he tried a few things before he thought to check the truck with a caliper. It was off by 1/8 of an inch. So he forced it into gauge and I haven't had a problem with it since.

    So I'd try running your Flyer, and if it runs fine around your track, then leave well enough alone. But if it derails a lot, see about finding out just how unadjustable your unadjustable trucks are.

    Lionel was even worse about scale than Flyer was, and while the tall rails of tinplate track will let you get away with a lot (I've run cars on makeshift "wheels" that were nothing more than a stack of fender washers glued together), postwar Lionels and Flyers do have their limits.
  5. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi Grant:
    What engine do you have? I'm not aware of any Flyer equipment that you can't set the wheels to proper gauge. My 0-8-0 was significantly out of gauge on the front drivers and it kept jumping off the tracks on turnouts, Fixed the gauge and fixed the problem. What the other folks have said about hi-rail wheels being more forgiving than scale is true, but it's still better to keep them within "reasonable" limits as the tin plate track, and some others like Gargraves, can vary quite a bit.

    The width of the wheels on hi rail are a bit wider than scale wheels, that's why if you are going to run Flyer and Scale equipment on the same track most of the time you have to use closed frog switches on your turnouts. If you use open frogs and make the guard rails work for Flyer wheels then scale wheels will drop into the gap onto the ties and get caught. The flanges are significantly larger on hi-rail as well to help keep them on the track when you're running around corners at 120 mph!. We have to remember the heritage of the equipment. It was made to be put together by kids to run on the floor of the house so it's pretty forgiving and tough as nails.

  6. Grant B

    Grant B Member

    One of the reasons I love them ....and the 120mph thing too!

    I have the royal Blue, a 4-6-2 & a 4-4-2 and flyer switches all around. Not sure about frogs but I haven't seen any hopping. Guess I need to read up.

    I picked up a pikemaster switch a while ago and it doesn't seem to connect to other flyer track; is that true?Is it considered better or worse than the tinplate kind?
  7. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Pikemaster track is a different profile, and I believe it was even a smaller radius (15 inches maybe, as opposed to the 20 inches on the older track?). The Pikemaster switches are pretty much universally despised. Most Pikemaster is.

    The track looks more realistic than the older track did, thanks to the plastic ties and such, but the smaller radius means the larger trains won't run on it.

    Pikemaster dates from the last few years of Gilbert's existance, when train sales were down so Gilbert was doing everything they could to reduce costs and/or gain some kind of an edge. Pikemaster allowed them to claim a much more realistic type of track and it allowed them to compete with Lionel in terms of the space required for a layout. The cars supplied with Pikemaster sets had cost-reduced plastic couplers on them.

    All that said, if I ever find a supply of Pikemaster track I'll grab it. The size is comparable to O31, so I could easily adapt a Lionel trackplan intended for a 4x5 layout and have a nice mini-Flyer pike. If I can't get the Pikemaster switches to work properly, I'll just do a loop-the-loop layout without switches.
  8. Grant B

    Grant B Member

    Thanks very much for the info.
    There is a small antique shop that has a few switches new in the original packaging. I picked up 1 and found some track that's a little on the weathered side. I was going to do a seperate loop of it until I found some gargraves track. If you are interested in the switch and track, I'd be willing to swap or sell what I paid for them ($30).
    The switch is out of the blister pack (which I have) but has never been used. I also have 8 curved & 2 straight, 1 with the power connections. I cleaned off 1 but never got to the rest but they do clean up.
    Anyways, Thanks again
  9. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi, Grant:

    I'm a month behind on my "Gauge" perusal of the board so this may not still be useful to you. If you like a more realistic look to your track you may like to look at S-Helper Services’ track system. It’s all on ballasted roadbed, has turnouts, and also has a range of specialty tracks such as uncouplers and accessory rails. The pikemaster track will not mate with the regular Flyer track. The radius is much tighter and most diesels will not run on it. Another way to get a more “realistic look” for your classic flyer track is to buy the rubber roadbed. This is still being produced by a few folks and you can find the original stuff at shops and shows. It looks good, from a high rail standpoint, helps quiet the operation of the trains al little bit and makes it easier to run the trains on the floor.

    The Gargraves track is also a nice option; I use it on my modules on cork roadbed. I buy a section of HO roadbed and a section of O roadbed and use half of each. Works out about right. A company also makes a really nice urethane roadbed that bends to most any radius without having to cut or notch it, and it’s a gray color so it blends into the background for most colors of ballast.

    Have fun,

  10. Grant B

    Grant B Member

    Hey Ted
    Thanks very much!

    I'm a month behind on my "Gauge" perusal of the board so this may not still be useful to you.
    That's what great about timetables or rules; you do it because you feel like it and I respect that.

    I cleared out a couple stores of their rubber roadbed, it does add alot.
    I bought a few 3 foot flex sections but never could get them bent properly, so I now use them for little joiner sections. I also have a oval of gargraves(??); thiner with plastic ties & brass rails. Works great except I can't find switches and how to activate all my moving stuff.
    But it's coming along and hopefully I'll have many more years to screw around with it......don't like that word finish because to me finished means to move on to something else.
  11. Grant B

    Grant B Member

    Not the best photo of my layout.....

    Attached Files:

  12. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi Grant:
    On the flex track, it's useful to draw the radius onto the board upon which you are mounting the track. Another way to get the radius right is to cut some plywood templates for the required radius and then you can bend the track against the template. For short curves i just put some flyer curves together and use them as a template. Then i can tighten up or loosen the radius as requried.

    Looks like you like to run trains. Me too.

  13. Grant B

    Grant B Member

    Templates are good,it just seemed to kink pretty easy.
    I have been in the process of hooking up all the wiring which is quite a chore. The 3 seperate tracks all have their own transformer and I try to split all the accessories to the track they are closest too.
    Soon the fun stuff!
  14. Joiner Station

    Joiner Station New Member

    Is American Flyer a popular model, or old history??

    Joiner Station
  15. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Joiner Station, hopefully this answers your question. American Flyer was the second-biggest brand of train in the 1950s, behind Lionel. American Flyer's advantage was better realism, and the size was a bit more convenient. The company actually got its start before World War I, but it rose to prominence under the ownership of A. C. Gilbert (maker of Erector sets). Gilbert went out of business in 1967 and Lionel ended up buying the train business for pennies on the dollar. Lionel started making American Flyer trains again in small quantities in 1979 and has continued, but it's a niche market. It's been nearly 40 years since you could walk into a department store and see an American Flyer train. (Versus 20 years for Lionel, but hey.)

    Does that answer your question?
  16. Gil Finn

    Gil Finn Active Member

    Is American Flyer a popular model, or old history??

    ...both if that is an answer.

    It is popular but with a die hard smaller following.

    Mostly with guys who had them as kids. However it is a neat gauge with a lot of old classic accesories and trains, for example the cow on the track gizzmo.

    Also Gabe the lamp lighter.
    Notice though that several modern manufactureers are makeing new and reproduced items, all of the big three are that is.

    It is a good gauge to start out with now and also to collect the classic items.

    Plenty of new track to work with so I say you are getting a double yes to both questions.

    Gil Finn.
  17. Grant B

    Grant B Member

  18. Joiner Station

    Joiner Station New Member

    Thanks Dave,

    You have any info on possible value of things, 60 Yrs old that look new??

    Thanks, Al Joiner Station
  19. Grant B

    Grant B Member

    There are a few books that have value of AF trains or ebay and see the demand which is pretty good.
    Unlike some things, if they are priced right they usually sell
  20. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi Joiner:
    Asking "Is American Flyer a popular model" may not be the right question. Is "S" gauge a popular scale/gauge might be a better question, with a "yes but" kind of answer. American Flyer made by Lionel, refered to as "Flyonel" by the faithful, enjoyed increased support from the last president of Lionel. In the previous three years there were increasing numbers of trains and accessories produced by Lionel for the AF market. Good times. The current president and crew have scaled that back to one page in the current catalog. Sigh. However, elsewhere in manufacturer land "S" is now enjoying a kind of renaissance as far as the availabliity of items, rolling stock, motive power and scenery is concerned. There are over 200 manufacturers currently making S-Gauge/Scale equipment. Go to and check out the links. Depending upon your focus, scale, prototype, hi-rail, or something in between, there are many things from other scales that can be used with "S" depending upon your skill with an x-acto and the amount of time you spend counting rivits. See this site for more info:
    It's not as popular as HO or N. I expect there are more O-Gauge layouts than S as well. But if you like the size, you can do many things in "S".


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