CNW 46' Flat Car
Rebuilding an American Flyer Car


After acquiring 1,210 50-ton, 42' flat cars derived from the USRA design in the first half of the 1920's, the CNW began to purchase an elongated version of the design beginning in 1927, eventually acquiring some 900 46' flat cars in three series.

Odd Numbers Only

S Scale Model

The A.C.Gilbert Company is critical to S scale history.  Their American Flyer brand is so associated with the scale that some (wrongly) equate them as one in the same.  And, fortunately for scale modelers, the company typically tooled their offerings from drawings published in the Car Builder Cyclopedias.  Such is the case for the AF flat car:

Unfortunately for scale modelers, the deck and underframe... features... are of little use, offering large slots in the deck for the application of whatever loads AF may have offered in the day, end sills notched for huge lobster claw couplers, and an underframe bearing no resemblance to prototype practice at all:

However, with these cars available very inexpensively on the secondary market, and the side sills still of some use, the most expedient way of creating these cars is too simply do away with the entire top and center of the AF molding.  The resulting pieces must have the deck boards filed away and details removed.

The underframe can be constructed using the plans published in the 1931 CBC (reprinted in Train Shed Cyclopedia No. 46.)

From the beginning, I decided that this model would not warrant a 'contest-quality' approach.  While all structural components of the underframe would be represented, I would forgo full rivet detail on the new work.  Rather than building the frame first and finding ways to add weight as an afterthought, a sheet lead subfloor was the first order of business.  While the plan was for the lead to run from end to end, I revised that initial approach, limiting the weight to the central part of the car where the cross ties and cross bearers are located.  This enables the model to maintain flange clearance and match the prototype's deck height, and to allow the draft gear to be constructed without the need to anchor into the soft lead.  The nominal 1/16" lead flashing (obtained at the local big box home improvement store,) is actually rather closer to .050" thick.  Styrene strips were attached to the metal with CA; further pieces were cemented with solvent cement.  See the diagram below for the sizes used.

The first effort on the bolster, draft gear and end sill was to begin building these components up with various bits of strip styrene.  As this model foreshadows some other models I would like to build, and the essential features of some of these components are shared with other USRA design equipment, I am changing tack, and will create a digital file to make more detailed 3-D printed components.  Once I get these printed, they will complete the remainder of the underframe.


Posted 2/6/21.  Updated 2/11/21.  Maintained by Earl Tuson