American Flyer Prewar Uncataloged Engine and Uncataloged Set
By Leon Sweet (Spring 2013)
I am always on the lookout for unusual American Flyer prewar items and recently I came across such a set. It was on eBay as a buy-it-now offering with a very steep price, but was advertised as New and Unused. Although it is in pristine shape, I do not necessarily believe that it was unused, but rather used very sparingly.
I knew that the set itself was an uncataloged set, because of the Illini cars that are with it. The Illini cars were cataloged by American Flyer from the years 1922 through 1927, with the cars from the 1922 through approximately 1924/1925 featuring a dark green lithograph and the cars after that period featuring a light green lithograph.
The cars in this set are very late cars as they feature a style of gray truck that was introduced in or around 1931/1932. The majority of the Illini cars that are found feature black trucks, as opposed to the gray trucks on these cars. Another unusual feature of the set is the dark green lithographed doors on the baggage car, which feature correct early style door handles. Obviously, these are early stock doors that were found and used at the end of the production run of these cars.
However, the great condition of the set and late Illini cars are not what made me purchase the set. Rather it was the engine, which has some very unusual features and turned out to be an uncataloged engine, which has not previously been documented.
This engine, as evidenced by the rubberstamped number on the engine box, is a 3357 Locomotive. This engine is not listed, nor is it described in the Greenberg’s Guide to American Flyer Prewar o Gauge Guide.
Lastly, the tender of this set also appears to be a bit unusual, in that it is an early style coal load for the 3389 tender, which is normally found with square standard gauge type American Flyer brass identification plates. This tender features holes for those plates, but American Flyer decals instead of the brass plates.
The engine is unusual in that it features a die cast 3307 type boiler that was first cataloged in 1932; however, the motor and the brass bell on the boiler are uncommon to this boiler. The motor does not feature the ringing bell or the trailing truck, nor does it have the side mounted slide reversing lever of the 3307 engines. Rather it features a motor that is commonly found in the 3190 locomotive from 1931. The 3190 locomotive features a cast iron boiler 2-4-0 combination with a reverse lever accessible in the cab of the engine.
Additionally, the style of bell on this unusual 3357 locomotive is more commonly found on the cast iron boilers and die cast 3300 type engines from 1931 and before. Prior to finding this engine, I have never observed this bell on this type of boiler.
Obviously, this engine was produced during the transitional period of 1931-1932, when American Flyer was converting from cast iron boilers to die-cast boilers. The first die-cast boiler that American Flyer produced was the 3300 locomotive in 1931, which featured a die-cast hood over the headlight that was changed in 1932 to feature a headlight with the brass surround, as featured on the 3357 locomotive here.
I have previously written about an unusual 3300 type boiler that is rubberstamped 3190 and is a 2-4-0 configuration as compared to the 3300’s 2-4-2 configuration. It is believed that engine was produced due to a shortage of 3190 cast iron boilers. Therefore, possibly this engine was also produced in an effort to use up leftover motors from the 3190 type engines.
If anyone has seen a similar engine, I would be interested in knowing more about your engine/set.