Jay’s 1939 American Flyer train set

“”My grandfather’s 1939 American Flyer train set.

Back in January I got all of my HO train stuff out of storage to take inventory. That included my grandfather’s 1939 American Flyer O gauge 3/16 scale prewar era set.

I contacted the Train Collectors Association – Western Division and they sent me the information about the train set (see below). I learned that I was missing the baggage car to the set.

After taking inventory of all me HO trains I collected over the past 60 years I decided to put my grandfather’s set in a display case. At this time I have no room or any space to setup my HO trains.

So the 267 pieces of rolling stock went back into storage (neatly packed this time). When I finish remodeling the living room I will have half of my double car garage empty and decided I will use it to set up my trains.

Since January I have been watching several different websites for HO model trains and learning about DCC controls. Hope to have the HO trains setup by end of year. Right now I plan on setting up the Atlas HO bookshelf Plan # 17 in my office.

Back to American Flyer; I don’t even know if engine works.

First I had to fix the rear truck on the engine. Luckily I found a person on eBay that had parts for these old trains. I wanted to put people and lights in the cars. I made bench seats out of balsawood and bought some O gauge people and some two rail O gauge track.

After sealing the bottom of the cars and end door openings I glued in the seats and the people. Then I wired in LED lights, 3 per car & 1 in engine compartment. I also lined the inside cover of the cars with aluminum foil to enhance the lighting.

The base of the display case is a piece of 2 x 8 lumber routed on top to seal the acrylic case and grooved on the bottom to run wiring.

The cars and engine are held in place with springs so they won’t move around. I then added some scenery and rocks. I installed a 9 volt battery and switch in a box to operate the lights. I had the acrylic case made to fit.

I also order a name plaque to honor my grandfather. Unfortunately it got damaged in shipment and they are sending me a new one. Then it will be finally finished.

THE PLAQUE READS:

‘In Memorial of Grandpa
STEPHEN F. PIOTROWSKI
26 Jul 1898 – 24 Mar 1958’

Thank you Al for a wonderful blog.

Jay”

American flyer

American flyer

American flyer

American flyer

American flyer

“Al, I am a copy-cat, yes I am.

I copied Roger’s chair which I added tool trays and a arm rest with a trough to catch dropped items.

At 80 years old the arm rest gives me needed support for soldering and other duties under the layout. (see pictures of my chair).

Also, does everyone at near 80 years old drop everything they pickup or is just me? I also copied from someone else, I don’t remember his name , a throwaway razor bridge which I added leftover parts from two Central Valley bridges.

The ladder is an almost exact copy of the one someone else sent in pictures a while back.

Included is a picture of a trestle bridge I built from scratch. The trestles are spaced 1 3/4 ” apart which may not be to HO scale. There is a cat-walk with step-outs for the workmen to step into when a train is coming. Again the cat-walk and railing may not be to HO scale.

Al thanks to you and all the guys I copied from, and I don’t plan on stopping this habit.

John”

model railroad access chair

model railway access chair

model railroad slider chair

A very big thanks to Jay and John today.

I do live John’s razor bridge. How on earth did someone, look at a disposable razor and think, “That would make a great bridge…”

I will never tire of sharing your wonderful layouts, memories and inventions.

I really do look forward to my inbox each morning, just as much as you all.

That’s all for today, folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And don’t forget the Beginner’s Guide is here if you want to stop dreaming and start doing.

Best

Al

PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

20 Responses to Jay’s 1939 American Flyer train set

  1. Kaustav says:

    @Jay – you have real antique! That’s one beautiful train set and it’s so much fun to play with it. When I visited CSRM in Sacramento, I spent over 2 hours in their model train exhibit which is full of historical model train sets – your granddad’s set reminded me of that experience.

    @John – great creativity and a great tool for working under a layout. I cannot imagine myself making model trains even at the age of 60 and it’ll be a miracle if I manage to build a layout like yours at 80! That trestle is one beautiful piece of art.

    Cheers!
    Kaustav

  2. Malcolm Hodgson says:

    Firstly, you don’t have to be eighty to drop everything you pickup. I am in my fifties and I don’t all the time.
    The trestle bridge is a work of art! Superb work.
    The razor bridge…. I had to do a double take but there they are complete with the shaving heads attached. Fantastic use of waste plastic. Saving the planet AND enjoying our hobby, win-win!

    Mal
    North Wales

  3. Kevin McArdle says:

    Whatever elixir you have found at 80 that allows you to build such a meticulous and beautiful layout, please share with us. Keep on keeping on.

  4. Bill in Virginia says:

    I’m blown away by the work of both of you.

    Jay you have done a wonderful restoration and beyond work on your grandfathers set. I would love to see you post a video of it running when you can.

    John you have a beautiful layout under construction. The razor bridge is so cool! I had to do a double take on it before I saw the razors . Love it! Your other bridge is great too. You have a knack for them

  5. Cary B says:

    Thank you Al for your site.
    To Jay, what an awesome tribute to your Grandfather
    To John, your layout is looking fantastic, that trestle is so cool. Love the ladder and chair you made for working he layout.
    And I’m 71 and always dropping stuff, the fact that we can still pick them up is what keeps us young

    Cary B from Maryland

  6. Barry R Olson says:

    No n scale!!!

  7. Chuck Bartunek says:

    Truly a out standing project , and quite an achievement for a octogenarian.please leek us up dated

  8. David Rines says:

    Hey, Jay:

    Yes those of us in our eighties (or there abouts) DO drop almost anything that is possible to drop.

    I do have my father’s 1940 AF that he bought just before Pearl Harbor. The story goes that he found it in the Macy’s store in Baltimore, MD and quickly grabbed it as it was the last one available. Will send pics along to you shortly.

    I might just have the baggage car that you are looking for.

    I truly love these pre war O gauge American Flyers. Great Trains.

    Later, David in South Carolina

  9. Fred Levora says:

    While I really enyoy seeing all the close up detail work in the scenery and the trains moving to their destination, what does the layout look like? You give us all the information on size and where built, but nothing on how the track looks. I am most interested in layout size, how many feet of track, how many switches,how many trains can you run at the same time, and how do you power everthing. Did you build to fit the scenery you wanted, or fit the scenery to what your track work looks like?

  10. george zaky says:

    Jay
    Fantastic! That’s what’s great about this hobby.
    John
    You had me in hysterics. I am the dropsy king! I thought I was the only one! Gorilla fingers, bad back and sometimes fly away brain cells but we have to push on. Getting old aint for sissys
    Keep it up! God bless and do write often
    George from NY

  11. Jay, your grampa paid $7.94 for the train set?! Seems cheap but in 1939 money was silver and even gold coins. Silver dollars ended mintages in 1935 but l remember working in dad’s restaurant and seeing old Silver dollars until 1967 when our restaurant closed. Silver coins are now worth many times face value and gold is much more. I wonder if he paid in coins or got tricky and paid in paper notes? $7.94 in coins was a lot of money….

  12. paul diffley says:

    At 82, I can attest to the fact that I personally don’t drop things much, unless it’s a letter from the IRS! My biggest problem is walking through doorways…seems to wipe out the memory of what it was I was looking for in the first place.

    Thank you for such a delightful, well-photographed article. I only have one American Flyer from the 40’s, but run a German Marklin layout.

  13. Brad Bourne says:

    I have been an active partake of your site for several years now, but without a doubt, enjoyed the posting on “Grandpa’s 1939 AF train set’, and John’s ageless wisdom, more then anything else that has been posted. I have chuckled and reviewed it several times, and it’s only been here an hour! Thank you for the daily delights that just make me want to widen my horizons on this delightful hobby.
    Brad

  14. Don Rogers says:

    I would like to see someone’s razor blade bridge, most impressive

  15. Dominic Joseph Radanovich says:

    I have an American Flyer ‘O’ gauge set that belonged to a friend of mine. It’s not in great shape and needs restoration. It is a 2-4-2 loco, a 4 wheel tender, a 4 wheel boxcar, a 4 wheel caboose. The gondola my friend converted to 2 Lionel trucks. It still has the hook on one end, but a Lionel coupler on the other. I don’t know the date of this train. When I first got it I had no idea that American Flyer made ‘O’ gauge in the early days.

    The American Flyer set pictured is so beautiful, and that trestle is a real work of art. Wow!

  16. This is a great American Flyer set….😏😀😄🤩!!

  17. James says:

    BEAUTIFUL !

  18. ANDREW SCHYHOL says:

    Jay- AF “O” parts and cars available on EBAY. Also available on line from various hobby and train parts suppliers. I recently repaired an AF “O” loco the first one I ever attempted, no sweat! I am close in age and fumble fingered learning to be left handed. I don’t think I could do what you have built even with fully functional fingers!

    ANDY S. FL

  19. Bernard says:

    As far as dropping things,Today things are much more slippery than they used to be. You should set up a little booth at the entrance to the bridge and you could get a shave as you cross.

  20. Paul Case says:

    Hi John I’m the person from whom you copied the ladder adaptor. Great job –also love the trestle. Fingers don’t work as well as when we were young. Paul

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