model train set on track

American Flyer Set 1228– As Found in an Unusual Sized Box

e*Train Issue: Jul 2010   |   Posted in: ,

By Leon Sweet

Let me first start off this article by saying that I am not an expert on this set. Rather, I am making observations based upon two boxed sets that I have seen as well as on catalog artwork.


The earliest catalog artwork for set 1228 (that I am aware of) is from a 1921, 8-page foldout. (see above) This foldout names the set the “20th Century Limited” and indicates that “This is our most beautiful train. Complete as shown, including one double arm Semaphore, one arc light, one 15 inch tunnel, one Station 6 ½ inches. Length of track 265 inches, Length of train, 31 inches. Weight 9 ½ lbs.”

One interesting note about the 1921 artwork is that it accurately depicts the arc light.


The 1922 catalog (3 Million catalog) also names the set the 20th Century Limited and indicates that “This is our most beautiful train. Complete as shown, including one double arm Semaphore, one arc light, one 15 inch tunnel, one Station 6 ½ inches. Length of track 265 inches, Length of train, 31 inches. Weight 9 ½ lbs”

Two interesting side notes about the 1922 catalog. First the artwork is identical to the 1921 artwork, with the exception of the arc light, which is now shown as an odd looking piece, which does not match the actual arc light.

The second interesting item is that the set is still called the “20th Century Limited”, yet 1922 saw the introduction of the 3020 4-4-4 electric engine, which when cataloged as set 1307 with a 3000 baggage and two 3001 coaches was named the “Twentieth Century Limited”. I guess it is wordplay, but a “20th Century Limited” verses a “Twentieth Century Limited” set must have been a bit confusing.


The 1924 illustrations are probably the most interesting, as I have both the 1924 “4 Million Catalog” and the 1924 “4 Million” foldout.

The 1924 catalog again shows the artwork from the 1922 catalog, but the set is no longer called the “20th Century Limited”. The set description has also changed slightly and now reads “This is a most complete outfit with the 8 inch locomotive and 6 ½ inch cars. Complete as shown including 1 Double Arm Semaphore, No. 208; Arc Light, No. 2009; Tunnel No. 83, 14 inch; Station, No. 96, 9 5/8 inches long, x 5 5/8 inches high x 5 5/8 inches wide. Length of track, 265 inches; length of train, 31 inches. Weight 9 ¾ lbs.

The 1924 Foldout shows different artwork, which appears to show a photo of the actual set. The artwork shows the correct style arc light and station 96, which is described in the 1924 catalog but not shown in the 1924 catalog. The description in the folder appears to be slightly different from the catalog as it reads “Complete set as shown with headlight locomotive 8 inches. Cars 6 ½ inches. No. 208 Semaphore, No. 2009 Arc Light, Tunnel 12 inches, No. 96 Station, twenty pieces of track, two switches, one crossover. Length of train 31 inches. Length of track 265 inches. Weight 9 ½ lbs.”

There are several interesting features of the two descriptions/artwork drawings for this year.

  1. The actual catalog shows the small #90 station yet describes the larger #96 station.
  2. The foldout shows and describes the #96 station.
  3. The catalog lists Tunnel 83 with a size of 14 inches being part of the set and the folder shows the two-piece Tunnel 85 and describes the tunnel as being 12 inches long.
  4. The weight of the sets differs by ¼ lb between the folder and catalog.
  5. The folder accurately depicts the 2009 arc light and the catalog shows an odd looking light.

Actual Sets Observed

I have observed two boxed 1228 sets, both of which feature an unusual sized box. I first observed this set in Hollis Cotton’s (TCA 81-16836) collection. He had to show me the set as he was so proud of the unusual box that it was in. About a year later, I came across a similar 1228 boxed set in the unusual sized box and purchased it.

Both sets are rubber stamped with 1228 on the end and feature an unusual sized box that is 24 inches wide x 24 inches long x 3.5 inches deep. Hollis Cotton theorizes that the box was designed to be a display type of box, where one could display the entire train without removing it from the box. The majority of boxes I have observed for similar type complete sets (but not actual set 1228) featuring a tunnel, station, signals, and train are approximately 13 inches wide, 15 inches long, and 7 inches deep.

The unusual sized box does not allow for a single piece tunnel or the Station 96 to fit in, due to their larger sizes, which do not fit in a 3.5 inch deep box.

I would suspect that there are similar 1228 sets out there with the more commonly found deeper boxes that accommodate the larger station and 1-piece tunnel. I have not specifically observed any and my curiosity and attention were simply aroused by the unusual sized box that my set came in.

I am also curious to know more about how the set was depicted in the 1923 catalog and 1922 and 1923 foldouts, which I do not own. These may provide more information on the set.

Leon Sweet  [email protected]