A New Retro American Flyer Layout
By Randy Thompson

   A while ago, I read the article on Tom Miller’s layout in the S Gaugian magazine and my friend Mark from the TCA gave me a copy of the Tom Miller Layout video. His layout style presented a simple solution as to how I could get my American Flyer accessories and equipment I have been collecting out of the storage boxes and on display. I am primarily a collector but now I could finally have a layout with the operating accessories to showcase the collection and be able to do it in a just a few days.

   For a long time now I had been struggling with what kind of a layout to build. For me a "retro" 1940s and 50s layout that we could have had as kids in the 50’s was just the ticket.  So I sat down and outlined what the basic criteria for the new layout would be and I dedicated a 14’ X 11’ Room to be the train room with the following guidelines:

   The layout would be original Gilbert from the 40’s and 50’s except for the addition of the die-cast cars from my Manoil collection. (The Manoil coupes were used on the 715 auto unloading cars.)  Another exception to the "all Gilbert" criteria will be the addition of TMCC capabilities to the layout to allow some of the new locomotives with railsounds to be run on the layout. The postwar transformers will be used and TMCC controls will be added allowing the original as well as some of the new engines to be run with a handheld controller.

   The layout will be easy to move or change and built in a modular fashion.

   The benchwork modules are to be sturdy 2X4 construction bolted together for easy disassembly or modifications with a 5/8” plywood top on each module.

   Everything would be easy to reach. A compact and hopefully not too crowded small layout around the three walls in a dog bone configuration with two yards. The benchwork along the wall under the shelving would only be 3 feet wide to allow for easy access to the collection on the shelves.

   Build and install custom shelf units with track width grooves routed in them for the wheels to display some of the train collection.

   The bench top plywood would be covered with a green outdoor carpeting. After looking at different kinds I settled on a thin carpet with a rubber backing that could be easily moved or changed and would stay in place without gluing or otherwise fastening it down. The carpet actually works well and I was surprised how well the rubber roadbed stays in place without fastening it down either.

   In keeping with a modular approach, the electrical connections would all be done at the accessories with connectors that allow for easy removal and installation.  This will allow for switching out or making repairs to the accessories on the workbench without crawling under the layout to remove them. For me a lot of the fun is in restoring and repairing the accessories.

   Use the original Gilbert #790 “Trainorama” cardboard scenic backdrop panels for the layout across the back 11 feet with a 2 foot return. To continue with panels for the rest of the side walls I am scanning in some of the panels and modifying them graphically on the computer to create matching panels to continue along the side walls. (see the picture of the scans below)

The following pictures show the progress so far.

   Beginning Benchwork - 2 X 4 Legs bolted on and
sections (modules) bolted together.

   Benchwork - A Tight fit so there is no need to  fasten to the walls. (for possible easy removal without any damage to the walls)

   Benchwork - The shelves are hung and the first three modules are bolted together.

   Benchwork - Trial fit of the track and accessories. The rear and left side sections are 3 feet deep to allow easy access to the shelves.

   Custom 8 Foot Shelf Unit - Left side

   Custom 8 Foot Shelf Unit - Rear

   The 4 Foot wide benchwork on the right side has no shelves as they would be difficult to reach. A good place to display copies of catalog artwork.

   A view of the rear area with some of the original Gilbert Trainorama backdrop panels in place.

   A 589 Passenger & Freight Station with a 586 Wayside Station on either side. A 711 Mail Pickup Pole is on the right for the 718 Operating Mail Car.

   A top view of the south freight yard. The first attempt to arrange accessories without it becoming too crowded. A challenge on a small layout.

  Corner for the "Town" with the MiniCraft buildings.

   Going around the rear of the layout from the town.

   The left side rear corner with the sawmill and log loaders. The 766 Animated Station & the 759 Bell Danger Signal are in the foreground.

   Going up the left side with the 799 Automatic Talking Station, 772 Water Tower, 748 Overhead Bridge and the 270 News and Frank Stand.

   Going along the left side (no backdrop as yet) with the 767 Branford Diner, 593 Signal Tower and the 761 Automatic Semaphore.

   The left side yard with several accessories. The bench is wider on the end to accommodate the return loop. The narrow part allows for easy access to the shelves.

   Left side yard.

   Left side yard. Still tweaking the track & roadbed.

   Some of the computer scans modified and ready to be cut out and glued to a backing.

   Scanned and modified scenery panels temporally placed along the right side.

In Closing:

      I welcome any suggestions or comments on the "Retro" layout. Let me know what you think. RThompson@AmericanFlyerClub.org
   The nice thing about this design for displaying and operating my collection is that the layout is easily added to, moved or changed.


Fun With The Wonderful A. C. Gilbert S Gauge Trains


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