American Flyer Locomotive 301 Atlantic Reading
The American Flyer Locomotive with catalog number 301 is part of the series of Atlantic wheel arrangement was introduced in the 1953 catalog. (Actually a 301 Atlantic was shown in the 1946 and 1947 catalogs but is thought to not have been produced). The American Flyer Locomotive 301 Reading Atlantic 4-4-2 would have had 4 leading, 4 driving, and 2 trailing wheels. There were 12 other models of the Atlantic 4-4-2 produced by Gilbert.
When the locomotive numbering system was developed the last digit indicated the features in the locomotive, 0= motor only, 1= choo-choo, 2= smoke and choo-choo, 3= knuckle coupler, 4= whistle, 5= whistle and pull-mor, 6= extended motor and whistle and pull-mor. So, the 301 should have choo-choo only with no smoke unit or whistle. The coupler at the rear of the tender is link type with the black weight. A characteristic of 1953 production is the tender trucks were lengthened with the sides indicating three springs rather than the earlier two spring trucks. One theory is that the longer wheelbase enabled in the trucks helped the electrical pickup wheels maintain contact through crossings and switches, reducing the stalls due to momentary loss of contact.
The engine and tender are made from plastic molds and are black with white lettering. (there are reported examples with the older style sheet metal tender but the normal version has the plastic molded version) The 301 engine was included in a variety of American Flyer Train Sets and was designed to pull about 4 cars.
Modeled after a Reading Railroad prototype, the Gilbert American Flyer locomotive was produced before World War II as an O Gauge engine at 1:64 scale. The same design was used after the war but with S Gauge. The prototype had an extra large firebox due to the type of coal burned by the Reading Railroad (hello Monopoly fans). This large firebox on the model enabled the ability to fit the standard Gilbert worm drive motor into the rear of the boiler/cab shell.
The Reading railroad was one of the first railroads in the US and ran from Philadelphia along the Schuylkill River to Reading Pennsylvania. The railroad primarily transported coal and ran from the 1800’s until the 1970’s until it went into bankruptcy from highway competition and short haul coal operations.
The 301 Engine included a choo choo unit in the boiler with the four position reverse unit in the tender.
Although the catalog number 301 Reading Atlantic was listed in the 1946 Gilbert American Flyer catalog, it appears that none were manufactured. The last digit being a “1” would indicate that the locomotive was equipped with a chugger but not a smoke unit. It may be that orders did not justify the production or that ongoing material shortages made Gilbert divert the materials to items with larger order volumes or profits.
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