model train set on track

American Flyer Unusual 401 Engine & Tender Combination  c. 1939

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

1938 tender with billboard decal

By Leon Sweet

This unusual engine and tender came to me a couple of years ago via an auction. I first noted the tender which instead of having either the billboard style black and yellow decal with the PRR shield at the center or the billboard style decal with American Flyer in white on a black background with blue stripes above and below, simply has 2 American Flyer decals per side.

1939 engine with nickel trim

After getting the item home, I also noted that the engine had nickel trim instead of copper trim. In searching through various guides and catalogs, I discovered that the nickel trim was introduced on American Flyer engines in 1940 and then it was found primarily on black engines instead of the gunmetal gray engines like the one in my possession.

1939 tender with 4 decals

I also examined the tender very closely to ascertain the authenticity of the 4 small decals as opposed to either of the billboard style decals. The paint and decals appeared to be original and there was no evidence of a billboard style decal as ever being on the car.

1939 tender with billboard decal

Wanting more information on the item, I showed the engine and tender to several collectors including David Garrigues HR-67-1904. David indicated that he had seen a few gunmetal gray 401s with nickel trim and that they were not common. He indicated that he had not seen a tender with the 4 small decals, but that the paint and decals appeared original.

As for why the tender has the 4 small decals, I can only guess. My thoughts are that the engine and tender are late 1939 production, which accounts for the nickel trim instead of copper trim and that either they ran out of the billboard style decals or a factory worker decided to do something different.

I would appreciate any input from anyone who has seen a similar tender. [email protected]