American Flyer Locomotive 300
Cataloged: 1950, 1951, 1952
Atlantic type steam locomotive: Wheel arrangement 4-4-2
Prototype: Reading Railroad Atlantic
Road Name: Reading
Materials and Features: 1950 and 1951 boiler Shell is 4 piece die cast and the tender is sheet metal and is equipped with a link coupler. The reverse unit is in the boiler.
The 1952 version has a one piece plastic boiler shell with a sheet metal tender equipped with a link coupler. The reverse unit is in the boiler.
This locomotive is the S gauge update of the pre war 565 locomotive. As the smallest steam locomotive in the product line, it came in the least expensive sets and therefore is one of the most common steam locomotives. The 1950 – 1951 version is one of the more complex valve gear equipped post war Atlantics.
The 1952 version the 300AC has a plastic boiler and is equipped with the black weighted link coupler. The later simplified valve gear is present.
Gilbert added the AC suffix to the catalog number to help the dealers and customers distinguish the two types of locomotive motors available in the product line. Those locomotives that operated on AC carried an AC suffix and those that operated on DC carried a DC suffix. Not sure why the Atlantics carried the AC suffix as no Atlantics with DC motors were cataloged so no confusion possible. Perhaps it was across the board for the steam locomotives.
Other numbers on this same locomotive series include 299, 300, 301, 302, 302 AC, 303, 305, 307, 308, 21100, 21105, 21106, 21107, 21160, and 21161.
This locomotive series was typically used in the least expensive sets offered by Gilbert American Flyer. Most had limited features. The 303 was equipped with smoke and choo choo. The 305 was to have the electronic whistle but was not manufactured.
There is no Service Manual listed for the 300 AC but the manual for the 300 should work and is M3820 with the later 1952 model probably using the 302 Service Manual Form 1810.
Gilbert American Flyer built many versions of this Atlantic (4-4-2 wheel arrangement) style locomotive. The 300 is a scale model of the Reading Railroad prototype including the characteristic Wooten firebox. The Reading Railroad burned a type of coal that required an extra large firing area and this feature allowed the Gilbert motor to fit into the otherwise smaller Atlantic locomotive model.
The first American Flyer Atlantic product offering was in the pre WW II 3/16ths O gauge line. The tooling was modified for S gauge and became the workhorse of the basic entry level sets in the ’40’s and ’50’s and even into the 1960’s. This version has a die cast metal boiler with a sheet metal tender, and link coupler.
The earliest versions have sprung brass buttons at the bottom of the chassis that were designed to make contact with track clips for activation of signals. Later, the brass buttons were simply not included. Also the early versions simply say “READING” on the sides of the tender. The locomotives can also be dated by the narrow shank link coupler – 1946, or the wider shank link coupler – 1947, and by the manufacturing date stamped on the inside of the boiler (requires disassembling of the locomotive, however). The detailed trim pieces, complex valve gear, die cast boiler and reliable operation make the early 300 a desirable version of the Atlantic model in spite of its inclusion the low end sets. The ready availability indicates the large volumes of production.
In 1950 Gilbert American Flyer added the “AC” suffix to the universal motor powered steam locomotives to distinguish them from the DC powered locomotives. Previously, there was no external way to determine which motor was in the locomotive (other than by trying to operate it with a transformer – if it worked it was AC if not it was DC). Otherwise the 300 AC version is the same as the previous 300 Reading Atlantic locomotive – of course there are exceptions. It is a high volume Gilbert product after all.
Gilbert paid a lot of attention to cost of manufacture and small savings on high volume production items add up to major amounts of money. The highly detailed Atlantic required many assembly steps and had many parts. During the three year life of the 300 AC, Gilbert spent engineering hours to reduce the numbers of parts and the manufacturing complexity. The boiler became a single piece casting instead of the previous 4 pieces. Handrails became cast into the boiler rather than separately applied. The complex valve gear was eliminated and replaced with a simplified setup. While Gilbert continued to promote the American Flyer line as a scale model product, the conclusion that they were selling toys for children rather than scale models for adult hobbiests was evident. The simplifications – in particular in these entry level locomotives – did not slow down the sales and perhaps the cost savings passed along in lower selling prices even added to the sales volumes. Atlantics were bundled into sets and didn’t show up in the catalogs as separate sale items, indicating that hobbiests did not buy them to add to a scale model system. The values for these locomotives indicate that they are extremely common and must have been produced in huge volumes.