American Flyer Layout Questions

Discussion in 'G / O / S Scale Model Trains' started by Grant B, Nov 3, 2004.

  1. Grant B

    Grant B Member

    I am glad I happened to find this forum; just wish I found it earlier.
    After a little 30 year + break I broke out my flyer trains and set it up in a room in our Victorian (No basements in San Francisco).
    Well after a few false starts I think I have a layout that I can live with so at least one thing is complete.
    Most of my track is the AF stuff from my childhood and thankfully I got plenty of it since it was pretty cheap back then. I bought some new K Line (I believe) track but was wondering if it's just a idea idea to mix them?
    What about switches? All are AF and it seems like some cause problems no matter what I do
    The other question is about couplers; most are knuckle but some have the other stlyle. Should I just stick with the knuckle?

    Any tips or suggestions gladly accepted!
    Thanks very much
  2. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

    Welcome Aboard, Grant - I'm not really into American Flyer trains, but I'm sure someone will be along soon :D :D

    Look around the boards & have fun!!!
  3. Chessie6459

    Chessie6459 Gauge Oldtimer

    Welcome to The Gauge Grant. :wave: :wave: I am sure someone on here knows something about american flyer. I myself am not into the american flyer but as N Gauger said someone will be along soon to help you out. Have fun on the boards. :wave: :wave:
  4. 3railguy

    3railguy Member out this link. It gives you all kinds of flyer info. Parts dealers, layout photos, tips, etc. Have fun!!

    K-line track works well with flyer track. Some dealers sell knuckle coupler conversion kits. Shop around in the attached link. I bought some years ago from Ron Leviton.
  5. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Hi Grant:

    If you haven’t already discovered it go check out Paul York’s website at:

    Also, check out the NASG website and the Yahoo groups site “S-Trains”. The links pages at these locations will give you lots of sources for information and supplies. See if there is a Flyer group listed for your area. Pick up a copy of S-Gaugian Magazine. That should give you information overload for the next couple of months.

    The K-Line track works fine with the flyer track. Both will fit into the rubber roadbed, both the original Flyer and the new K-Line or independent stuff. You can also interconnect these tracks with the S-Helper track by using their adapters. American Models also makes good track and American S-Gauge also makes a really nice track. I expect the K-Line and Flyer with rubber roadbed work best on the floor and the others will work fine on a “table top”. I do modular railroading and use Gargraves SS track with Flyer turnouts.

    The Flyer turnouts are really pretty sturdy. What usually causes problems is wearing on the switch pivot or corroded/dirty contacts. The specific troubles depend upon which version turnouts you own. The early ones are numbered “XA99—“and have contacts attached to the bottom of the Movable Points Assembly, the moving part of the turnout. Sometimes a spray of Radio Shack tuner cleaner/lube will fix these and other times you just have to take the switch apart and clean it and adjust it so the contacts stay in contact when the train rolls over it. Sometimes there is enough play in these that as the train rolls over the switch it’ll rotate a little and allow the contacts underneath to open. This kills power to the open end of the turnout and can cause the train to stall. One unique thing about these early turnouts is that the “track” is just a “U” shaped piece of metal bent over the plastic base. The metal track pins attached to these units are “L” shaped. DON”T TRY TO PULL THESE OUT WITHOUT FIRST BENDING THE METAL TRACK TABS AND LIFTING UP THE METAL RAIL. You will break the plastic base because the short “L” fits down into a slot in the plastic.

    The later ones are numbered “PA10---“, the remote versions are referred to as “720A”. If you turn them over and remove the bottom plates you’ll see a set of flat copper plates and a pair of “vee” shaped contacts that slides back and forth over these plates. Make sure the contacts make contact and clean off the plates. Check that the small spring loaded wedge is adjusted properly to hold the MPA in position at each end of its throw. If trains are derailing because the points are opening up it may be because of this being out of adjustment. If it’s a remote control unit, check that the solenoid works and isn’t binding because someone tried to “adjust” it. It takes a fair amount of voltage and current to operate these units and any additional binding just adds to the power requirements. At least 16 volts with a little muscle behind it is usually required. Lube ‘em and clean the entire track and that’s usually about it as far as making these things work.

    One neat thing about these turnouts is their ability to control which track downstream of the turnout is powered. The little slide switch between the open ends of the track has two positions, If you move it to the “Two Track” position the switch will only pass power to the track to which the MPA is directed. This allows you to park trains on a stub track without having to wire “blocks”. Sidings also work this way so you can set up multitrain operations without having to resort to “block control”. The late Tom Jarco wrote a lot about these kinds of operations in “The Dispatch”. Add a few current sensors and relays and you can start doing automatic switching!

    Flyer originally had link couplers for all their post war equipment up to 1954 when they switched over their product line to knuckle couplers. The knuckle couplers are more forgiving of track irregularities than the link couplers but both can be run successfully and both must be in proper adjustment. Many folks set up a passenger car and a freight car as “conversion units” with a link at one end and a knuckle at the other. This way you can run any engine you want with your consist or combine different eras of cars on the same train. One trick used on the link couplers to make them more reliable is to file a slight “backbite” on the vertical face of the plastic link so it will tend to grip the little metal rod on the adjoining link in a more positive manner. Normally this face is vertical but with wear and time they often are actually tapered so they tend to slip off the metal bar, uncoupling the cars.

    There is a good supply of parts for Flyer trains and equipment. Joe’s Train Repair and Portlines Hobby Supply are two of them I have used. As you will see, there is a ton of folks making S-Gauge equipment. Lionel, who bought the flyer name back in the 80’s, has FINALLY started making a good amount of new equipment. Most of it is remakes of original Flyer, some with new road names, but most uses newer technology. Can motors, electronic sound, etc. Check out the lionel site and look at the Flyer pages in their catalog.

    Have fun,

  6. Grant B

    Grant B Member

    Thanks very much Ted, that helps a lot!
  7. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Grant, I would recommend the conversion car method that Ted mentioned. If you're lucky enough to have a hobby shop nearby who stocks Flyer parts, or can find one rummaging through the under-the-table boxes at a train show, you might pick up a junker car that's missing a truck and put a truck with the other type of coupler on it. Or pick up a junker Lionel or Marx O27 car of some type and put Flyer trucks on it. Since O27 is supposed to be 1/64 scale like S, they look fine together, and Lionel and Marx O27 tends to be cheap, cheap, cheap.

    As it turns out, most of the K-Line S gauge stuff is made from old Marx O27 tooling with S gauge trucks put on it.

    Enjoy your Flyer. Those trains from the '50s, regardless of which of the "Big Three" made them, have undeniable charm.
  8. Grant B

    Grant B Member

    Thanks Dave
    You bring up a question; I thought that O27 was O scale that ran on track that could have a 27 inch that correct?
    I hear the term 'narrow gauge ' but never a definition of it. Would S scale narrow gauge be something like S scale running on HO track?

    Yes they do have a special charm and the accessories like the vibrating stock yards, missile launching cars and talking stations with the original record (Is that like a MP3?!?!) really take you back to a time ....well to a time before I was alive.
  9. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    Well, O27 is O gauge track, but the cars are smaller to accomodate that. Flyer and Ives did O27 in the '20s and '30s but in 1938 A. C. Gilbert decided to standardize O27 as 1:64 scale (same as S scale; regular O scale is 1:48), using O gauge trucks. Marx copied the idea, and after WWII, so did Lionel.

    O27 makes for a very wide gauge track, but O gauge track is already too wide for O scale anyway (5 scale feet in O, so I guess it would be 5'4 in O27...) O27 cars look bigger than S gauge cars but it's because the oversize trucks make them ride higher and look bigger than they are. The first time I held an O27 gondola up next to an AF gondola, I was shocked. The bodies were exactly the same size. O27 boxcars are bigger than AF boxcars but that's because Flyer worked from a different prototype than Marx and Lionel did.

    "Narrow gauge" in the real world is track that's narrower than the standard 4'8.5". Some common gauges were 36 inches, 30 inches, and 24 inches. They were used by short lines and in mountains, where narrower gauge provided cost advantage.

    Conveniently, these numbers often work out to the track used by smaller scales. On30 uses HO gauge track (which is 32 inches wide in O scale--close enough for most people). I believe HO gauge track in S scale would work out close enough to 36 inches for most people to be happy with it.

    On30 is extremely popular today because it gives a good-size train while taking advantage of HO's economies of scale.
  10. acflyer322

    acflyer322 New Member

    Hello Grant

    American Flyer have two gauges before and after WW2, prewar and postwar. In 1946 Alfred Carlton Gilbert owner of the AC Gilbert company thought that realistic trains should run on realistic track 2 rails instead of 3 so he decided to manufacture scale trains which all postwar Flyers are 3/16 th scale and run on 2 rails with the exception of the HO line. To the true model railroader this was a blessing and those who wanted to stay with the 3 rails purchased Lionels. It was a rough time for people who purchased the prewar Flyers cause all their engines and rolling stock were O scale. As for us who were born after 1946 we woke up on a Christmas morning to find shinny new S scale Flyers running on 2 rails and never knew of the fued between the two scales. I myself have been collecting American Flyer trains for many years and I love the 2 rail system. I make all my own parts and machine tools for them such as quartering tools and wheel insulators and many other parts. If I can be of any help to you please let me know. S-Helper and a host of other web stores have plently of parts and accessories for your American Flyers. Good Luck and have fun !
  11. riverotter

    riverotter Midwest Alliance Rail Sys

    Gargraves Track and DC/Scale S Equipment

    I am a complete newbie to S scale. Unlike most kids in my neighborhood who had Lionel O gauge trains, I had American Flyer "S" and always liked it, even after I got into HO (where, after 40+ years, I am again, but thinking about making the switch back to S, but scale this time).

    Anyway! My question is simple: will S scale DC equipment (e.g., American Models Co.) run OK on Gargraves track?

    I've looked at everything I could find so far about S track, and I like Gargraves because of the wood ties, and the fact that you can get it in large radii, such as 42", etc. whereas most of the rest of what's out there in much tighter. I have an AM Southern Pacific Trainmaster and a small inventory of 40' freight cars. I'm planning on easing into "S" slowly ... a loop of track to run my small roster on, then maybe a switching shelf-style layout.

    I have so much HO stuff it scares me to think about trying to liquidate all of it to switch totally into S, so maybe they'll have to compete for resources for a while.

    Thanks for everybody's patience with me as I go through my S scale newbie-hood!
  12. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member

    My first S layout back in 1985 was on Gargraves track. The scale wheels did fine. If you want scale, look into Tomalco track or Shinohara. Both are flex track and have switches which are nice looking. Tomalco has a better selection of switches and cross overs and the price is ok IMO. If I didn't make my own switches, I'd probably buy Tomalco.

    Does your SP Trainmaster have scale wheels or the AF compatable? AM did a nice job on it. As for your HO stuff, sell it a little at a time on eBay. I have a lot of O scale which I'm hanging onto and my boys sort of took over my HO stuff. :D All the while I'm modeling in S. I've had to close my eyes to some of the nice N that is out there. :D

  13. Greg Elems

    Greg Elems Member


    S scale narrow gauge on HO track is 42" gauge. Sn3 or 36" gauge is 9/16ths. On3 would be 3/4 of an inch and HO track in O would be On30 or 30" gauge. Tomalco sells Sn3 flex track. Sn42 would use HO but the ties would still be a bit undersized. For prototype 42" gauge, CN's Newfoundland rail system would be main one I know of in N America. Australia and New Zealand have 42" gauge systems as well as Africa. I'm not sure about S America and 42" gauge. I know they have meter gauge which would be 39". Hope that helps.

  14. Triplex

    Triplex Active Member

    Railroad Gauge Width There's some Cape (3'6") guage in Latin America, in Nicaragua, Guyana and formerly Venezuela.

Share This Page