Gilbert American Flyer Crossing Gates were introduced in the pre war 3/16’s product line from 1938 to 1941. Many of the parts that were in inventory when toy production was stopped for the war were saved and then used in the post war products. The first crossing gate introduced in the post war period was the 591 which continued the prewar 591 design but with the wiring adapted to the newly introduced two rail track system.

American Flyer Accessory 591 Crossing Gate
In 1946, American Flyer produced a black and white striped plastic roadway crossing gate, metal walkway gate, smooth green painted roof with no stack on the hut. The 591 crossing gate has both a pedestrian gate and a roadway gate.American Flyer Accessory 591 Crossing Gate A solenoid in the hut activates a linkage that lowers the gates. A clever addition is the red plastic lantern that hangs from the roadway gate. Beneath the large base of the crossing gate is a light bulb aligned with a small hole. When the roadway gate lowers, the lantern is located over the hole and is lit from below. Activation of the crossing gate is by pushbutton, requiring the young engineer to be alert and diligent to prevent vehicles and pedestrians from colliding. The wiring uses two knurled nuts (M2443) for connection and the activation energizes the solenoid and lights the bulb under the roadway. For some reason Gilbert American Flyer designed the American Flyer 591 Crossing Gate for left side of the road driving as the roadway gate lowers from the left – the opposite of prototype installations. The 591 came packaged in a corrugated cardboard box with a red and white “shield” label applied at one end of a side. There would have been an insert to hold the gate in position in the box along with the instructions, pushbutton, screws, wires and an inspection slip.

In 1947-48 the plastic roadway gate changes to metal (aluminum) for both gates, the roof for the hut becomes black crinkle finish with a stack.American Flyer 707 Track Terminal The wiring is changed to utilize an insulated track section to activate the gate. The base has four binding posts for the wiring. Some of the wiring changes are to support the introduction of DC operated locomotives and the instructions have two sections – one for AC operation and one for DC. It appears from the wiring diagrams (M2569) that current passing through the locomotive is used to energize the solenoid while the light bulb is powered continuously. Although the operation is changed significantly, the catalog number remains the same. The arrangement is still for left hand driving. Again this would have been packaged in a corrugated carton with an insert to hold the gate in position within the box. Instructions, wires and a 707 track clip would have been included.

Three binding post 591 Crossing Gates seem to be the pre war version.

American Flyer Accessory 592 Crossing Gate
The 592 Crossing gate came with a silver or white walkway and roadway was made in 1949. The gate arms remain as aluminum.American Flyer Accessory 592 Crossing Gate The 592 is packaged with a weight activated track trip (No. 697). With four binding posts (knurled nuts) the 1949 No. 592 can be connected for AC or DC locomotive operation. Later in the year the wiring is changed to a two binding post arrangement as the No. 697 track trip does not require special connection for the DC locomotives. Gilbert is thriftily using up the supply of four binding post bases. The basic structure of the gate is the same with a die cast metal base, sheet metal shed housing the solenoid and the light under the base that illuminates the lantern hanging from the lowered roadway gate.American Flyer Track Trip 697 The 592 is packaged in a corrugated carton with an insert to hold the gate in place during shipping. Included in the box is the No. 697 Track Trip and M2667 instruction sheet, wires and inspection voucher. The red and white shield label moves from the side to the end of the box.

 American Flyer Accessory 592 Crossing Gate 
The 1950 version has two binding posts and is a continuation of the 1949 two binding post version. Same packaging and contents except the M2667 instructions are replaced with M2667A. The A revision drops the references to DC connections.

The box is still the corrugated type with cardboard insert to hold the crossing gate in position during shipping. The label (M2665) moved to the end of the box. Contents in addition to the gate include a No. 697 Track Trip, M2667 instruction sheet, wires and inspection voucher.

All of the above utilize the die cast roughly 5 inch by 10 inch base that provides sloping roadway and walkway from table top level to the level of the top of the track. The hut is the same design that is used in many of the accessories. There are several aspects to the design that make this accessory not fit the Gilbert American Flyer push for scale model operation. The crossing gate is positioned for the vehicles to be driving on the left side of the road. The edge of the base next to the track makes no provision for the sleepers resulting in a rather large gap between the rail and the base edge. There never was a part issued that would fit between the rails for the road surface. The paint colors vary during the life of the product with the green being the general green used for the bases of several American Flyer accessories, the road and walk ways are white, cream, or silver at times. Wide variations in the colors are observed due to use, fading and cleaning efforts.

American Flyer Accessory 592A Crossing Gate
From 1951 to 1953 the crossing gate was redesigned by Gilbert American Flyer to use a much smaller base. Several factors probably entered into this.

American Flyer Accessory 592A Crossing Guard

Courtesy of

In addition to the reduced cost of the die cast material in the base, the box changed to a colorful blue, yellow and white pasteboard design. The new design would require less layout space for smaller layout use. Shipping costs would be reduced as well due to the smaller size and weight. All of the changes would put the crossing gate accessory into a more competitive price range and potentially higher profit position.

The action still consisted of the pedestrian and vehicle gates lowering with a lantern arriving above a small hole in the pavement and appearing to light up with the gate in the down position. The roadway and walkway are narrower than the earlier large base gates and the crossing arms are correspondingly shorter. The No. 697 Track Trip is still the source of operation. The knurled nut binding posts have been eliminated in favor of permanently connected wires.

During the time period of production, the Korean War started and materials shortages and restrictions resulted in the base being converted away from metal. Bakelite and a kind of wood fiber composition material are known. This must have presented a challenge to the Gilbert engineers as the material had to provide enough weight to hold the accessory steady in spite of the vibration of the solenoid coil and to withstand the heat generated by the light bulb under the roadway. The Bakelite plastic is thermosetting (won’t remelt when heated) so was a good choice, but continuing shortages or cost considerations may have required the continuing conversion to the composition material. However, many examples of these alternate material crossing gates show up with the paint peeled, since the plastic and composition surfaces required different treatments or different paints for stability.

Contents in addition to the crossing gate would include instruction sheet, No. 697 Track Trip, wires and inspection voucher.

American Flyer Accessory 600 Crossing Gate with Bell
This crossing gate was produced from 1954 to 1956.  The next Gilbert American Flyer crossing gate in the series is the No. 600.American Flyer Accessory 600 Crossing Gate It uses the same base as the 592A but adds a bell to the action. The bell is hidden in the hut. Earlier units come in a blue, yellow and white box with American Flyer 696 and 697 track trips. Later units (probably 1956) come in a red, white and black box with 696 and 670 track trips. The No. 697 Track Trip is weight activated by the passing train. They are touchy to adjust so that they respond when required and keep the crossing gate down for the entire length of the train. The No. 670 Track Trip is electrically activated by the locomotive and or lighted car being in an isolated track section. The drawback to the No. 670 Track Trip is that it overheats if the train occupies the isolated section for too long. However, the American Flyer 670 Track Trip is a much more reliable way to activate the crossing gate.

American Flyer Track Trip 670Since the 697 and 670 Track Trips activate continuously to keep the crossing gate down, using them to activate the bell would generate a single ding when the activation first occurs. Gilbert American Flyer included a No. 696 Track Trip with the No. 600 Crossing Gate with Bell to operate the Bell portion of the accessory. Since the No. 696 makes and breaks its contact every time a wheel passes over, the bell dings each time providing a continuous if occasionally irregular dinging.

1954-55 Contents in blue, yellow and white box. No. 600 Gate, Nos. 696 and 697 Track Trips, instruction sheet, wires, inspection voucher.

1956 Contents in red, black and white box. No. 600 Gate, Nos. 696 and 670 Track Trips, instruction sheet, wires, inspection voucher.

American Flyer Accessory 23600 Crossing Gate with Bell
1957 is the year of transition as Gilbert American Flyer catalog numbers change from the three digit numbering system in use since the 1930’s to a five digit numbering system required by the installation of an IBM computer for inventory control and cost information. As old inventory was used up the items shipped still carried the three digit number and would be identical to the 1956 items. In some cases the number on the box would be over stamped or hand changed to the new five digit number. This unit was made from 1957 to 1958.

Contents were the same as 1956 American Flyer Accessory 600 Crossing Gate with Bell.

American Flyer Accessory 23601 Crossing Gate
Conflicting directions were at work in the Gilbert American Flyer engineering department in the late 1950’s.American Flyer Accessory 23601 Crossing Gate The traditional selling points for American Flyer trains were two rail track and scale realism. There was a market survey post card packed in train sets in the mid 1950’s and it indicated that most purchase decisions were made based upon price and the attractiveness of the packaging. The sales for the 1958 year were disappointing adding to the pressure on the engineering department to cut costs. One of the results of these pressures is the American Flyer Accessory 23601 Crossing Gate produced from 1959 to 1962.

The bell function is gone as is the pedestrian gate. The entire unit is now made of plastic and a more realistic looking hut has replaced the sheet metal hut in use since the 1930’s. However the automatic activation by track trip has been eliminated and replace with a push button requiring the user to manually activate the crossing gate as the train approached. The lighted lantern is also gone. Interestingly the 23601 Crossing Gate is now set up for right hand road driving.

Contents in red, black and white box. Crossing Gate, control button, wires, screws, instructions.

American Flyer Accessory 23602 Crossing Gate
The Gilbert American Flyer 23602 Crossing Gate has continuing changes in the 1963-64 time period. Early units are essentially the 23601 Crossing Gate in boxes numbered 23602. American Flyer Accessory 23602 Crossing GateAs inventory was used up, the newly produced units had additional cost cutting in that the roadway portion of the base was eliminated. Manual activation with a push button continued.

Additional reasoning for the elimination of the roadway portion of the base might have been the ability to use the non roadway 23602 Crossing Gates with the re railer/road crossing available for the standard track system. Also the Pike Master track in this time period has a much lower profile so the roadway would launch the vehicular traffic about two feet above the tops of the Pike Master rails.

Contents in red, black and white box. Crossing Gate, control button, wires, screws, instructions.

From 1965 to 66 The All Aboard railroad system did not have a crossing gate accessory. All of the grade crossings were signed with plastic non operating cross buck signals.

The Gilbert American Flyer Crossing Gate accessories were continuously in the product line from the time that Gilbert acquired the American Flyer train line until the All Aboard system was introduced in 1965. For most of the time the gate action, light function and then bell sound resulted in a fun accessory that added a feature to the layout that modeled the grade crossings the young engineer could experience in real life. The challenge of getting these units to operate reliably contributed to the learning of not only electrical principals but the physics of weights and spring tension, timing, positioning of the track trips to activate the Crossing Gate before the train entered the grade crossing and so forth. The fragile nature of the crossing gate is evidenced by the number available with bent, broken and missing gates.

Gilbert reused several “standard” parts as part of many of the accessories and the Crossing Gates are no exception. The hut and its roof are in many of the accessories and the later plastic hut is shared as well. Electrical parts are common and the early large base is used in the early Bell Danger Signal accessory as well.

The changes in the Gilbert American Flyer Crossing Gates are a continuous example of the changing technical and market conditions in the toy train business from the 1940’s to the 1960’s. Early units are heavy duty and attempt to exhibit scale model appearance. Transition to a toy train market along with cost pressures and finally limited functionality and mort toy like appearance toward the end of Crossing Gate production.