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approximately the same text that appeared in the S Gaugian
started (again) in 1985, when after Christmas
dinner with friends, I said "Hey, we should get
out my old trains from when I was a kid." So we
set up my American Flyer set, with my 21185
Engine and several freight cars in a standard
oval of 12 curves and four straights on the
kitchen floor. My small children and the two
women looked over our shoulders as they cleaned
up the turkey dinner. Over twenty years later I
am still faithfully laying out a Christmas
display that now consumes my living room.
second year began with a 4x8 sheet of plywood,
which eventually grew to the present day 5x12
platform, with a 4-foot extension to complete an
L-shaped configuration. My goal has always been
to create a Christmas yard, which was a
tradition in my family when I was growing up. My
grandmother and my brother were usually in
charge. That tradition started with my father's
No. 1 gauge Lionel set, but transformed into an
American Flyer set in the early '60s.
Focused On Fun
For The Kids
Christmas layout has been focused on fun for
kids and the toy aspect of American Flyer
trains. When my oldest daughter Cara was seven,
we started having her schoolmates come over for
a caroling party and a train run afterward. This
established the goal for when the platform
needed to be completed. Thanksgiving weekend
signaled the beginning of the mad rush to create
a new Christmas fantasy.
The Whole Family
Participated In Construction
worked on wiring new accessories or section of
track and tried to work the bugs out of the
40-year old engines, my family began the
daunting task of resetting the village scenes.
This process began with decorating the Christmas
tree, which always stood towering over the
layout. Cara and Devin's favorite part of each
year's build was laying out the farm scene.
Devin had an eye for detail, such as breaking
spaghetti into "corn" for the Plasticville
corncrib, and cutting down a drink umbrella to
shade a couple relaxing on the beach. Cara
talked about the personal lives of the people as
she placed them around the platform.
Selected With The Kids In Mind
enjoyed stepping back and letting the children
run the show. As the layout grew I always kept
in mind what the kids would like to play with. I
purchased a cattle loading platform first, and
then a year or two later, the car unloader. Next
came the rocket launcher, the biggest hit of
all. Then I added several side-dumping 716
hoppers, filled with mini-M&Ms. I devised a
chute that caught the M&Ms in a dish at the
front of the layout.
first few years were spent in flatland. I
expanded the layout to 5x12, all on one level.
It was a typical Christmas yard. As I kept
expanding my collection, I worked to have as
many trains running at one time as possible. So
when I ran out of space horizontally, I figured
I could get more action out of expanding
vertically. One level one year, then two, then
three, until finally four different levels, in
three separate locations, with Santa's mountain
and a circling sleigh.
present, there are nine separate loops, and
usually 8 to 10 separate trains operating. There
are four sets of switches, and one single siding
switch. There is approximately 150-feet of
original American Flyer track, all of which is
on original rubber roadbed or trestles.
American Flyer transformers ranging from the
large 30B down to the modest 1 _A now power the
entire layout. Also included are a 15B and
several 8B transformers.
layout's inception, I would use cheesecloth
strips dipped in Plaster of Paris to form the
mountains. My technique later evolved into
carving blue foam and "Great Stuff". The
buildings have always been an eclectic mix of
Plasticville, metal, wood, ceramic, and ceramic
structures. Ground cover has always been
"Life-like" earth and grass, which is laid down
fresh annually a spoonful at a time.
The scenery is
finished off with an equally diverse collection
of "Life-like" trees, bottle brush pines, and
many trees hand crafted by interesting
vegetation from around my house.
engines range widely, but include the following;
a 21185, several 290s, a 322 S.I.T, a 342 S.I.T,
a Franklin, a Silver Bullet, 302s and other
miscellaneous engines. The girls' favorite, a
custom silk-screened engine called the "Anderman
Express" was delivered one year by Santa
himself. Later additions included the barrel
loader, a log-loader, and the loading platform
with boxes and milk cans.
configurations are constantly changing, and
consist of about 100 different freight cars and
15 different passenger cars.Everything on the
layout is original, pre-Lionel American Flyer,
both link and knuckle couplers. The only
exception to this is two SW9 diesel switcher
engines and approximately 20 S-helper billboard
reefers, usually running as two separate trains.
years many beacons and other accessories added
animation and a spot of color to the layout.
Some of the other highlights are the animated
pond with oversize ducks and swimmers, the real
water waterfalls, animated merry-go-round and
Ferris wheel, moving kite attached to a girl,
and circling airplane. These items are powered
with a variety of motors including hobby motors
and discarded microwave turntable motors.
the years my wife Doris has been an active and
enthusiastic participant in my train collection
and Christmas platform adventure. This year,
marked the end of an era. With our girls grown,
the caroling parties have ended after 16 years,
and our new focus is continuing to entertain
neighbors and friends of all ages.