model train set on track

“American Flyer Does Not Experiment on the Public”

e*Train Issue: Feb 2012   |   Posted in: ,


By Leon Sweet

Let me start out by saying that I am not sure what this motor represents, other than it does not have normal features that are commonly found on this style of motor, and yet these unique features are factory made features as evidenced by the lack of alterations and differences between the common production motors.

I found this engine on eBay and it was listed by the seller as being unique in not having its cow catchers being punched out.  I also noted that instead of featuring the normal 1090 lithographed cab or enameled 1093 cab, this engine had a 1096 lithographed cab mounted on the frame.  At the time I thought little of the cab style; however, I later realized that the cab style is also a clue to its uniqueness.

American Flyer introduced the 1090/1093 boxcab locomotives in 1930 and highlighted this motor in their June 16, 1931 Express Electric Line flyer sent to dealers

June 13, 1931 Express Electric Flyer

The dealer flyer prominently states “American Flyer does not experiment on the public. This is the same motor that was originally introduced in 1930 after 4 years of development without any changes in design or workmanship.  It was engineered and built to a standard and not down to a price.”

This statement, if taken as fact, seems to be indicative that the engine I purchased was part of the development process.  The reason I state this, is that the motor frame and black decorative skirt were punched out identical to the commonly found production items indicating that development of the motor design was significantly complete.

1928 catalog art

I believe possibly this motor represents a 1094 motor that was cataloged in the 1928 catalog, which per Greenberg’s Guide to American Flyer O Gauge – Alan Schuweiler, “author believes this is really a 1097 and that the 1094 was never produced. Confirmation Requested.”  Obviously it is difficult to tell from the catalog artwork if my engine is a 1094, as details, like the 1094 number, flag holders, brass journal boxes, and a brass cowcatcher appear in the artwork, but not on my engine.  However, one notable feature about the 1094 shown in the 1928 catalog is that the frame/side skirts match my engine and the headlight is shown below the center of the windows at the front of the cab.  This appears to be the first showing of this style of frame/side skirts, which in itself is significant because the side skirting is unique to this style of engine frame.  The description in the 1928 catalog indicates that “It is an entirely new and fully guaranteed train”

If this engine does represent a 1094 engine from 1928, I suspect that it was offered in very limited quantities with this motor, which is why it is difficult to find today.  I suspect that American Flyer may have had larger plans for this motor in 1928, but that production or design issues may have caused them to go back and redesign it slightly and then re-introduce it in 1930 in the 1090 and 1093 engines and eventually use the motor in a low cost cast iron steam engine.

The differences between this motor and the 1930 and after production items are quite significant and would tend to indicate earlier production than this motor’s final design and introduction in 1930.  First and foremost, the motor brushes and brush insulator plate is significantly different than regular production items.  The brushes are square and are held in place by brass fingers, as opposed to being round tube style brushes as are commonly found on these engines.

regular production brushes
odd motor brushes

The brush insulator plate is attached by rivets to the motor in different locations than the later motors, which feature threaded studs with nuts holding on the brush plate on the lower portion and a bracket holding the top of the insulator plate on.

The 1096 cab also proves the uniqueness of the motor as the headlight opening is at a different height than the 1090 or 1093 cabs and the headlight bracket appears to be appropriately and crudely altered to fit this cab.  Additionally, the headlight bracket is attached with a single nut and bolt (through a single hole in the frame) as opposed to the commonly found motor, which has the headlight bracket attached with 2 rivets.

1930 and later production

To me it makes sense that an earlier style cab, such as a 1096, would be used in the developmental process of this motor, as it is substantially similar to the end product and was available during the development process (i.e. the engineers did not have to create a special cab during the design/development process).

The unique features of this motor include:

1:  The cow catchers are not punched out, but there are embossed ribs in the motor frame on either side of the motor

cow catchers

2:  The headlight bracket is not the standard size on the commonly found engines, either in height (it is shorter) or in its means of attaching to the frame (the bracket there is shorter and it is held in place by a single screw with a single hole, as opposed to the commonly found brackets, which are held in place by 2 eyelets).  Additionally, the bracket features two pieces of steel that are soldered together, but there appears to be no need for their being two separate pieces to make up the bracket as the piece that attaches to the frame is correctly sized.

1930 and later production
odd motor

3:  One of the most interesting features of this engine is the brushes/fiber board that holds them in place. On the commonly found motors, there are tube brushes and a slightly smaller fiber board. This engine features square cut brushes that are attached to brass tab fingers. The fiber board is larger and is riveted to the frame, as opposed to the commonly found engines which feature the board being riveted to a bracket that is then riveted to the frame on the top and bolted to the frame on the bottom (coincidentally bolted to the studs that attach the windings/electromagnet to the frame, (see below)

regular production brushes
odd motor brushes

4:  I also noted that while the windings and subsequent electromagnet steel portion of the engine, while being substantially similar, are attached to the frame in different locations and have differing holes/rivet points drilled through them.  On the odd engine, there is a hole/rivet at the top of the steel C and none at the bottom rear, in contrast to the normally found motor, which features a rivet/hole just below the main windings.

5:  The pinion gear also appears to be attached differently as there is a ball on the end, as opposed to the end of the shaft sticking out (see photo 9).

6:  I also noted that the black decorative frame that covers the motor frame is of a heavier gauge of steel than the regular production frames.  The black frame appears to be the same thickness as the regular production frames of the 1096, which was heavier than the regular production frames of the 1090/1093 decorative black motor frames.

Have any of you seen an early motor like this?  Specifically, the brush style on this motor or a motor with unpunched cow catchers?  If so contact me at [email protected]

To me the brushes and the fiber board and their manner of attachment to the frame prove that this had to be done at the factory, as there is no evidence of anything being switched and everything is soundly attached.

Additionally, since writing this article, I found the original patent application for this motor, which shows the brushes being attached, as on my engine.