Gilbert American Flyer provided accessory signals for the layout to protect the locations where a road crossed the tracks. These crossing signals blinked as the train approached and then crossed the road. Available in several configurations from 1946 to 1964 they provided flashing lights in most variations and included a bell in others. In the 1946 and 1947 versions Gilbert American Flyer was emphasizing scale modeling as a hobby. The early version blinker – model 582 – was approximately scale sized. The later version 760 is much taller than scale and is more toy like but is a more robust construction for the toy train market. The companion for the 760 blinker is the 759 bell danger signal which includes a bell that rings as the train passes along with the blinking lights.

American Flyer Accessory 582 Automatic Blinker Signal

American Flyer Accessory 582 Automatic BlinkerIn 1946 and 1947 Gilbert American Flyer cataloged the American Flyer Accessory 582 Automatic Blinker Signal. The 582 was a continuation of a similar unit cataloged in the Gilbert American Flyer line in the pre-war 0 gauge line. With the introduction of S gauge, the 582 was originally cataloged to operate with model 695 Track Trips in 1946. This track trip was activated by coming in contact with spring loaded brass “buttons” in the center of the frames of the steam locomotives. While it seems that very few of the 695 Track Trips were actually manufactured, there are many examples of the locomotives with the buttons. The 582 Automatic Blinker Signal is also hard to find and boxed examples are even harder. Boxed examples do exist that are probably 1947 production and include the 696 Track Trip instead of the 695.

American Flyer Track Trip 696The 696 Track Trip operates on a very different principle than the 695. As wheels of the locomotives and rolling stock meet the trip, a button is depressed and the button is attached to a spring that makes contact and provides voltage to the lights of the Blinker. Each wheel causes a separate contact connection and then releases resulting in a Blink on the 582 for each wheel.

The Gilbert American Flyer 582 Automatic Blinker Signal uses an early example of a light pipe. The actual light bulb is in the die cast base of the signal. There is a Lucite rod that extends from the top of the base, above the light bulb, up to the cross arm. An extension connects with the rod sideways to the two light positions. The rod is covered with a black cardboard tube in some versions and by a metal tube in others. The cross arm extension is also covered in black to shroud the light. Openings at the front allow the light to shine out and warn the automobiles and trucks that a train is crossing. There is a red lens at the base of the vertical rod to filter the light from the bulb and cause the signal to shine red. Lionel has reproduced this signal in the last few years so it is now easier to find examples.

American Flyer Accessory 760 Automatic Highway Flasher

In 1948 the crossing protection changed to the American Flyer Accessory 760 Automatic Highway Flasher.American Flyer Accessory 760 Highway FlasherThe 760 is a much more sturdy construction with a die cast base, metal vertical rod, crossbuck, and lamp housings. Two knurled nuts provide the connection points for the wiring. The 760 again uses the 696 Track Trips and operates in the same manner as the later 582 with the rolling stock wheels causing the button on the track trip to activate the contact and blink the signal. Somewhere in this transition from the 582 to the 760 the part of the 696 that makes contact with the wheel flange of the rolling stock changed from a die cast button to a plastic “shoe”. (a plastic piece about ¾ inch long that makes a more reliable physical contact with the wheels. The newer shoe is also less likely to cause a derail of a lightweight car. The basic 760 remained in the product line until 1964.

In 1957 the 760 became the 23760 Automatic Highway Flasher as Gilbert American Flyer implemented a new inventory/catalog numbering system due to the installation of an IBM computer to help automate the accounting system. Packaging, catalog and instruction sheets changed but the product did not.

 American Flyer PikeMaster Track System

With the introduction of the PikeMaster track system, the Automatic Highway Flasher was renumbered the 23764. A new track trip – number XA16A593 – was included to enable the signal to be used with the new PikeMaster track. Also the knurled nuts for wire connection were replaced with wires that simply extended from the base to the transformer and the track trip.

When the train line shifted to the All Aboard system in 1965, the Automatic Highway Flasher was discontinued. The crossbuck warning signs on the All Aboard system are simplified plastic pieces with no lights or action.

 American Flyer Accessory 584 Bell Danger Signal

In 1946 and 1947 Gilbert American Flyer cataloged the 584 Bell Danger Signal. These were a continuation of the pre war O gauge model.American Flyer Accessory 584 Bell Danger Signal This incorporated a die cast metal ramp base for a roadway extending up to the top of the track. Along side of the road is the same crossbuck blinker signal as used on the 582. There is also a die cast figure with a caution sign held up to warn automobiles and trucks. Similar to the 582 Blinker, the 584 was supposed to be activated by the 695 track trips but boxed examples include the earlier 696 trips. As the rolling stock wheels encounter the track trip, a contact is made, the crossing signal blinks and a “bell” located under the base goes ding for each wheel. One curiosity about these 584 crossings is that the blinker and warning man are at the left side of the road – not on the right as in American prototype signals.

1948 brings a major change to the Bell Danger Signal that parallels the change to the blinker. A much smaller base made of sheet metal holds the same flasher assembly as the 760 and a small metal hut holds a solenoid activated bell. As rolling stock wheels encounter the 696 Track Trips, the lights flash and the bell dings. This basic design continues until 1957 when the 5 digit numbering system changes the catalog number to the 23579. Connections for the wires use Fahnstock clips during this time.

With the introduction of Pike Master track the model number for the Bell Danger Signal becomes catalog number 23763, the base changes to plastic and the Fahnstock clips are eliminated in favor of wires directly connected with the unit. The 696 trips are replaced with the XA16A593 Pike Master trips.

American Flyer Cost Cutting

For both the Flasher and the Bell Danger Signal, the introduction of the new models for the Pike Master system reflect a cost cutting effort resulting in the direct connect wiring rather than the knurled terminals and Fahnstock clips. In addition, the Pike Master activator clips are very flimsy and few have survived.

Both of these crossing protection products were in the product line from 1946 (actually the crossing signals were in the Gilbert American Flyer pre war 3/16” product line) to 1964 in various forms. The basic functions remained consistent with the stand alone crossbuck signal having flashing lights and the Bell Danger Signal having a crossbuck with flashing lights and a ringing bell. With their simple and reliable track trips their presence on a layout adds light and sound. The progression of the designs follows the Gilbert American Flyer progression from the emphasis on realistic scale model trains to toy trains and then to the cost cutting efforts as sales declined going into the 1960’s. Finally with the advent of the All Aboard system, the crossbuck becomes a passive molded plastic piece.