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Current Project: American Flyer 312

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Current Project: American Flyer 312
Posted by Leverettrailfan on Friday, August 13, 2021 8:17 PM

It may be a bit late to post about it, but I've just dug into a project I've been very eager to start work on for quite a while.
The project in question is an American Flyer 312, with SIT and "Pennsylvania" lettering on the tender. According to the Gilbert Gallery, that would make it 1946 production(?). The locomotive certainly has seen better days, but also has sustained relatively little damage to the diecast body, and all 6 marker lamps are still intact (though some are missing their jewels). 
I had to delay work until I finished overhauling the link-coupler cars I bought at the same time, since otherwise I would have no cars for it to pull, and the added motivation of getting to work on the 312 afterwords would help push me through the tedium of cleaning the cars. 

I do not yet have pictures of things as they currently are, but here's the pictures I took when I was documenting the loco, "pre-repair":













Currently I have the loco apart, and have started with servicing the reverse unit. Two of the contact fingers are completely shot, the other two are on their way there. I have some makeshift solutions to get it running, but those fingers definitely need replacing. Likely no more work will be getting done this weekend, since I'll be busy with volunteering at the local trolley museum- hopefully I have time to pick things up Monday.
Big Smile

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Posted by lionelsoni on Friday, August 13, 2021 8:42 PM

If your reversing unit fingers have worn out by having the final 90 degrees of the 180-degree loop at the end fall off, you can get a second life out of the finger by flattening it somewhat, so that the remaining 90 degrees is close to where the original 180 degrees was.

Bob Nelson

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Friday, August 13, 2021 8:50 PM

I shoulda thought of that! It's unfortunately too late for me to turn back now... I made some makeshift replacement fingers out of very thin, springy brass. I cut the old fingers off at the base, and soldered in the brass 'replacements'. They're a bit less springy than the originals but will suffice for a while! The fingers that are still intact, I opted not to replace in this manor.

Where I left things early this evening, the reverse unit is able to cycle without getting stuck. I have yet to detirmine if my new fingers are going to work, since there's much more to do before I can wire things back up.

Thanks for the tip, I'll try not to forget it before it comes in handy!

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, August 14, 2021 8:49 AM

As far as the missing marker jewels are concerned measure the empty sockets with a metric ruler.  Swarovski makes crystals of various sizes and colors, you can get them at a Michaels craft store if there's one in your area.  That's what I use for Lionels (and others) missing the marker lamp jewels.

They're not as dark as the originals, but relect light a lot better.  

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Saturday, August 14, 2021 8:13 PM

That's going to be fantastic when you finish it! I also rebuilt a 312 2 years ago that was in rough shape. My experience with the Flyer steamers is that they are usually great running engines...once you do the overhaul. Generally everything inside is shot when you buy it. Don't skimp on the reverse unit.

You've got the earlier production with smoke in tender and die cast trailing truck. You'll also have to service the smoke unit motor and bellows. But as you say, most of the exterior is in good shape, should be a sweet engine when you finish.

Paul

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Saturday, August 14, 2021 11:13 PM

[quote user= "Flintlock76"]

As far as the missing marker jewels are concerned measure the empty sockets with a metric ruler.  Swarovski makes crystals of various sizes and colors, you can get them at a Michaels craft store if there's one in your area. 
[/quote]

There is indeed a Michaels nearby, I may scope them out and see if they have what I'm looking for when I can next get out. Thanks for the tip!

Postwar Paul

That's going to be fantastic when you finish it! I also rebuilt a 312 2 years ago that was in rough shape. My experience with the Flyer steamers is that they are usually great running engines...once you do the overhaul. Generally everything inside is shot when you buy it. Don't skimp on the reverse unit.



Thank you for the kind words! I second that experience with flyer... service 'em good, and they'll run like a dream.
I certainly intend to go "all the way" with this loco, it's simply a matter of budgeting and then ordering the parts. My 'temporary fix' for the reverse unit is exactly that- temporary. I have every intention of doing it properly once I'm ready to make an order from portlines!

I have a spare SIT unit I got somewhere, which I made a makeshift baffle for- it didn't hold up the best, but that was a couple years ago, and I may be able to do a better job with my current knowledge and skills. Hopefully the lessons learned on that unit will apply themselves nicely to the 312's SIT unit. 

When I did my research on the 312 I figured out pretty quick it had to be an early model, since as far as I know the SIT units were phased out by the early '50s. I also noted a lot of pictures showed up of 312s with the combined drawbar/trail truck that all my other AF postwar steam locomotives (except the 343 of course) have- I presumed it was a cost cutting measure that came along at some point. 
What I wasn't expecting was that the "Pennsylvania" lettering on the tender could actually more or less pinpoint what year the locomotive was made. Usually I'm looking at a span of a few years for a train. 

I'm very excited to see her run again- though it's probably going to take a little while to get there with all the work that needs doing. Here's to hoping that it's not going to take as long as I think it is!

-Ellie

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Sunday, August 15, 2021 12:28 AM

I really love the Flyer 312 engine. Please continue to post pictures of your progress! 

Paul

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Posted by fifedog on Sunday, August 15, 2021 5:52 AM

Ditto what Postwar Paul said. YesCool

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Posted by Laurastom on Sunday, August 15, 2021 9:49 AM

The engine you have was made in 1946, the first year of post war S gauge production by Gilbert. There are four ways to date it to 1946. First is a 1946 only coupler, but that is missing, I will come back to that. Second is the PENNSYLVANIA stamping on the tender. Third are the two spring loaded brass buttons on the underside of the engine chassis. These were to be used with a track trip, but Gilbert discontinued that trip after only a few were made. 1947 engines have the holes in the chassis but no brass buttons. Fourth is by a date stamp inside the engine shell. Almost all Gilbert engines have the month and year of production stamped inside the shell.

There are Gilbert parts suppliers that have all the parts you will need. One is Port Lines but there are others. Port Lines also has repair instructions on their site, including a tutorial for rebuilding the bellows type smoke unit. You will need the 1946 only, thin shank, unweighted coupler with its matching pin for the tender. You will also need the link coupler installation tool kit. If you purchase replacement reverse unit fingers be aware that some are slightly too long. The fix is easy, just bend them very slightly. they also sell replacement jewels. They usually have some two pin jacks, the one on the engine is broken. You will likely also need replacement brushes.

Were that my engine I would save the original PENNSYLVANIA stampings on the tender. I have done that in the past by spreading a thin coat of Vaseline over the letters prior to painting. Then carefully wipe it off when the paint is dry. That stamping is easy to remove so care is required.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, August 15, 2021 11:46 AM

Leverettrailfan
Thanks for the tip!

You're welcome!  And if worse comes to worst and you lose the "Pennsylvania" markings on the tender this is a source for S Gauge / American Flyer decals.

http://www.lbrenterprisesllc.com/

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Sunday, August 15, 2021 8:03 PM

Laurastom

...Third are the two spring loaded brass buttons on the underside of the engine chassis. These were to be used with a track trip, but Gilbert discontinued that trip after only a few were made.
...
Fourth is by a date stamp inside the engine shell. Almost all Gilbert engines have the month and year of production stamped inside the shell.
...
Port Lines also has repair instructions on their site, including a tutorial for rebuilding the bellows type smoke unit.
...
Were that my engine I would save the original PENNSYLVANIA stampings on the tender. I have done that in the past by spreading a thin coat of Vaseline over the letters prior to painting. Then carefully wipe it off when the paint is dry. That stamping is easy to remove so care is required.



I was wondering what those brass buttons were for! It was driving me bonkers, they clearly had some purpose but I couldn't figure out what it was for, and I hadn't stumbled across any writing on their purpose. Do you know what exactly this type of trip was used for?

I am familiar with Gilbert's date stampings. I will have to check the shell again, because I didn't see the stamping when I took the loco apart- however my focus was more on the work I was conducting, so I may have managed to overlook it!

My plan was to order from Portlines, I have bought from them once before. Unfortunately at the moment I have no plans to replace the rear coupler- I cannot afford the overhead cost of buying specialized tools made for repairing toy trains, particularly tools which I don't find myself left "high and dry" without. I would love to invest in the right stuff someday, but it's going to have to wait until further down the line Tongue Tied As for motor brushes, well... yeah, the brushes are completely shot, and I noticed a discrepancy in the tension between the brush springs, and the two brushes were significantly different in length. When I place my next order with Portlines, I'll be sorting that out. Reverse unit fingers too, of course!

As for saving the PENNSYLVANIA stamping... that's not going to be an issue, as I have no intentions to repaint the locomotive. My plan is to clean that engine inside and out, as completely and thoroughly as I can manage. It may not be the best looking 312 out there, but I'd rather keep things original in this case. You can restore something any time you like, but it's only original once.

Thanks all! I will happily keep you updated. This project has gotten slightly sidetracked by another piece of equipment that showed up, which I'm attempting to fix for a friend and coworker at the trolley museum- with the promise that after he's done playing with it, it's mine to keep. Currently not sure how well things are going to go with that, I may set it aside and get back to the 312 sometime tomorrow if I get bored or frustrated.

-Ellie

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Posted by Laurastom on Monday, August 16, 2021 10:03 AM
The track trip was assigned the number 695, only a few were made. It was not cataloged with any operating accessories. It could have been used in place of any momentary contact pushbutton. It could have been used to throw a turnout for an approaching train or to start the Talking Station. The number 695 was re-used in 1955 for the reverse loop relay. The holes in the engine chassis were eliminated in 1948 when the tooling was changed to incorporate the smoke and choo choo unit in the boiler.
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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Monday, August 16, 2021 3:57 PM

Progress has been made!

I confess, I did do a slight bit of work over the weekend. Relatively little, but it did give me a "leg up" on today's work. The main efforts over the weekend were some cleaning and lubriucating of the chassis, and reassembling and tuning up the reverse unit with my temporary fix.
I have the motor reassembled now, and it runs pretty nicely- not as silky smooth and silent as my 372 or 343, but not bad at all. 


Well versed and attentative readers may note something very "not right" about these pictures. No, that is not the original brush plate- I have no spare American Flyer brushes or brush springs with which to furnish the original brush plate, so for the time being, it is borrowing the brush plate from a loose whistle assembly I got somewhere, and brush springs and brushes from a 307 I have in pieces. In due course, I will return the proper brush plate to the motor with new springs and brushes.

The reverse unit is cycling pretty well- I imagine some nice, new contact fingers will only serve to take it from "working well" to "working flawlessly".


I wasn't just imagining things, there legitimately is no date stamp inside the shell of my 312- and I have a photo to prove it!

Just in case there were a date stamp hiding in the tender, I took the shell off- no dice, but I did snap some pictures of the SIT unit while I was in there. Somehow it managed to wind up missing one of the two motor brushes, but not the other! Looks like a cracked brush plate, solidified lubricant, rust, oxidation, dust, and a dried out bellows are also issues that need to be sorted. I suppose I don't know the state of the smoke unit itself, either- I may test it at some point. For now my focus is on making the locomotive clean and operational- then moving on to the tender.





If I can manage it, my goal is to get the loco wired up and reassembled this evening. Fortunately in the event I can't manage to do it, there's always tomorrow...

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Monday, August 16, 2021 4:05 PM



Laurastom

...They usually have some two pin jacks, the one on the engine is broken. You will likely also need replacement brushes.
... 


Indeed, it was one of the first faults I noticed with the locomotive. Fortunately, due to the manner in which it had broken, almost every single piece of it was still attatched to the engine. Since I felt up for the challenge, I set about repairing it. In the end, it wasn't too hard- not as good looking as a replacement, but it should do the job nicely.

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Posted by Laurastom on Monday, August 16, 2021 4:44 PM
You are correct, it was obvious that the brush holder was not original since the 1946 engines used lever style springs with slotted brushes. It is interesting that the whistle motor brush holder will interchange with the early steam engine motor brush holder. The slotted brush holders and the early shoulder style brush holders were made for 2 9/32" armatures. In October 1949 an oil slinger was added to the commutator shaft and the resulting armature length was 2 11/32". The slotted brush holder was changed to accommodate the longer armature. If the motor is not running as well as you expect the whistle motor brush holder may require some extra spacers on the armature shaft. There were multiple lengths of whistle motor armature shafts from a minimum of 1 22/32" to a maximum of 1 30/32". Those made after October 1949 also had oil slingers. The pictures and the repair work look great.
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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 12:41 PM

Laurastom

...If the motor is not running as well as you expect the whistle motor brush holder may require some extra spacers on the armature shaft.
...


I noted that despite the brush holder for my 307 Atlantic and my 350 'Royal Blue'  looking relatively identical, they are not. Something has to keep the commutator from touching the brush tubes- the means to keep that space is part of the brush holder, on the 350- but for the 307, it is part of the armature. The brush plate from the whistle is like the one from the 350, and works with the 312's armature- it does run slightly less well in reverse, but I can't find any faults in the spacing between the armature and brush plate.

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 1:01 PM

Today's report brings with it no pictures... yet.
I wish I could entirely announce good news, but today we have some bad news as well.
The good news, is that I gave the shell, steam chest, boiler front, and trailing truck a good scrubbing with soap and warm water, and they do look a lot nicer. In preparation for cleaning, I removed all the trim, and took out the surviving jewels to make sure they didn't come loose in the sink and become lost forever (a just concern, as one of them fell out during the removal of the trim). I gave the trim a good cleaning, and took care of the rust as best I could manage- I replaced almost all the cotter pins that hold the trim on, since I had some of the right size hanging around. 

...Now, for the bad news.
I should have noticed far earlier, when I first got the locomotive and looked it up, but the boiler front is clearly that of a 342. Someone attempted to glue it onto the front of the 312, which I mistakenly assumed was because maybe it became loose. No, it's because the boiler of the 312 is too big for the 342's front!
The part is frankly in quite good shape, though missing the headlight lens.
This is bad news to me, since it means one more part to order, and as far as I'm aware, boiler fronts aren't as cheap as some other parts. I have a number of pieces of equipment which also need somewhat more expensive parts, so it's likely I won't have the loco finished to a state where I'll be happily operating it for a while still- I will be able to run it, but.... it's a frustrating sight to see a locomotive with no boiler front!

The other major bit of bad news is imho much worse: the 312 has a new battle scar. A sibling pushed pass me this morning while I was carrying the locmotive and knocked it out of my hands before I had time to move out of their way- the damage could have been worse, but now part of the roof is bent and so is one of the pieces of trim I spent so much time working on yesterday evening.
The trim I can fix easily enough, but the roof is not something I can repair. Our jigsaw has been out of service for years, and is tucked away in storage somewhere. The drill press is also off stored somewhere. Without these tools, making a forming clamp to fix the bend just isn't happening.

I guess there's a lesson to this: if you have brothers, never carry your trains anywhere unless they're inside a padded box! Sigh

Inconveniences aside, progress shall continue somehow. I'm going to hold off on making the SIT unit operational, since I have no motor brushes for it yet. Instead, my focus will be simply on cleaning the tender, and making it roll smoothly and keep good electrical contact with the rails- as well as fixing the power leads to the locomotive, of course!
I will see about getting some pictures up soon... the locomotive was fully reasembled, except for the socket bracket the power leads plug into- I decided that it wasn't strong enough after all, and I'm going to make an additional layer or two to put on the back of it for extra structural support.

I suppose that's all I can report for now, hopefully I don't run into anymore trouble (a bold thing to assume). Look forwards to an update (with pictures!) sometime later today, assuming I get my act together! Wink

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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 10:13 PM

In the end, today was a very hectic, busy day for me, and I didn't end up working on any trains. However, I promised pictures, so here are a few- not my finest ones, but at least they show the 312 in a state of assembly...
Still really bummed about the roof, but relieved that it appears not to have suffered any paint loss. Hopefully I can at least get that hand rail sorted soon. And of course, the plate where the power leads plug in still needs to be finished up and installed.





Hope these do a good enough job of reflecting the work that was put into this locomotive so far.
I suppose I'll have to take some better ones soon!

-Ellie

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Posted by Postwar Paul on Wednesday, August 18, 2021 8:41 PM

You're doing a fantastic job! Keep on keepin' on!!

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Posted by Joe Hohmann on Sunday, August 22, 2021 9:58 AM
What about the missing bell under the headlight? It's what makes this a K5.
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Posted by Leverettrailfan on Tuesday, August 24, 2021 11:38 PM

Joe Hohmann
What about the missing bell under the headlight? It's what makes this a K5.


I assume you're referencing this previous line?
"I should have noticed far earlier, when I first got the locomotive and looked it up, but the boiler front is clearly that of a 342. Someone attempted to glue it onto the front of the 312, which I mistakenly assumed was because maybe it became loose. No, it's because the boiler of the 312 is too big for the 342's front!"
There are multiple details that set Gilbert's K5 apart from the other pacifics. I would hardly consider a bell on the boiler front to be the only one. There's also the square 'blister' before the cab, which is a pretty distinct visual identifier of the K4/K5. And I believe there's also the keystone emblem on the boiler front.
I certainly took my time noticing things were clearly "off". Honestly, I would be quite unbothered by having the wrong boiler front, if it weren't for the fact that it just doesn't fit the boiler. Some prototype K5 locmotives had headlights that were at a level above the top of the boiler, so it did offer a nice prototypical appearence in that regard. That said, I'm definitely on the market for a correct boiler front, once I'm in the position to go shopping for one. Still debating if I should keep or sell the 342 boiler front.

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Posted by Laurastom on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 10:08 AM
Only two prototype K5's were ever built. Both had the high mounted headlight with the bell under it, a feature unique to the K5 on the PRR. The "blister" in front of the cab is the top of the Belpaire firebox used on PRR steam engines.
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Posted by Flintlock76 on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 11:09 AM

Leverettrailfan
but now part of the roof is bent

Man, you're making great progress!

I looked at the photos and you know, the bend in the cab roof doesn't look too  bad, in fact if the photos are any indication it's barely noticeable, to me anyway.  I wouldn't worry about it.

You know, it's kind of like when you come up to your car in the parking lot and some ***-**** has dinged your door.  When you first see it it looks three feet wide and four feet long, but as the days go by for some reason it seems to shrink to the point you can live with it.  Know what I mean? 

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Posted by Swiss-Colorado-Lines on Wednesday, August 25, 2021 8:08 PM

Also, after building 425 K4's, the two K5's had a much larger diameter boiler, being built at the same time as M-1 4-8-2's. The second K-5 had Caprotti poppet valves, and Pennsy men called her " Mussolini"....

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