model train set on track

Flyerizing Thomas, Part 1

e*Train Issue: Jun 2019   |   Posted in:

Thomas is all ready to GO FLYER.

By John S. Halajko (TCA 84-20653) and Carl Giambrone (TCA 83-19674)
 Summer 2019

Lionel has not yet extended into its American Flyer Line an S-Gauge Thomas the Tank Engine. We look forward to enjoying the future memories.  But for those of us who just can’t wait, the Schylling whistle may now be in stock at your local hobby store. It makes a great looking Thomas. Nicholas Smith Trains, Broomall, PA had lots of in stock.

You can now Lionize the eight-inch-long Schilling Thomas Whistle as shown in John’s December 2004 Classic Toy Trains Article, “Thomas for $10,” or make a Flyer version. Beware, the five-inch-long version that looks the same will not work for this project.

Above is what the new packaging looks like for the eight-inch-long whistle.

Above is Thomas in the Schylling catalog. BUY THE EIGHT-INCH-LONG VERSION.

Above is more info on the product.

Alas, John is a three-rail guy and does not collect or operate American Flyer.  A great break presented itself when the new Atlantic Division Layout offered him an opportunity to Flyerize the Schylling Whistle for others to enjoy. He compromised on his initial version of Thomas in S-Gauge by using a motor from an Atlantic. Many thanks to Steve Stevens for his willingness to support this project by selling John an Atlantic at the TCA Atlantic Division Meet last year. As in Lionelizing the Schylling Whistle, the goal is to allow the Flyer piece to be returned to the original form without damage to the item.

The eight-inch-long Schylling Whistle is an ideal candidate for the Lionel six-wheel drive motor, say from a Postwar 675 or even the Prewar 225. Unfortunately, one may have to compromise when creating an American Flyer version, herein called Flyerizing. You can see the problem in the pictures that follow. The Postwar Flyer motor and frame of the six-wheel chassis is a little longer than desired, while the inexpensive plastic Casey Jones side rods are too long to be used for this project. The Atlantic motor is just the right size, but you get only get a four-wheel Thomas. For all Flyer motors the tender has the electrical pick-ups, so at no extra cost, you get a Thomas version with an auxiliary coal/water tender. An S-Gauger solved this problem by using an O-Gauge Lionel Thomas and a modern era S-Gauge can motored six-wheel drive.

American Flyer offers lots of choices, but one is easier to work with than all the others.

And the WINNER is the Atlantic.

The Hudson or Pacific motor is a bit too long and requires a custom made drawbar.

See, an American Flyer motor can be used.

If someone asks why Thomas has only four drive wheels, just tell them that Thomas went on a diet when he journeyed across the Pond that resulted in changing a pair of his drive wheels into a trailing truck. Running in North America forced him into carrying extra coal and water for those longer runs between stops. His water tank and coal box are just too small for the North American railroads. After all we all know that the Island of Sodor had short distances between coal/water stops. 

The breakdown of the Flyer Atlantic is shown below. You will need to remove the light bulb from the Flyer 300. If you use a Flyer 302, the smoke unit may need to be removed.

The difficult part of this project is the surgery on the Schylling Whistle to remove the interior piping, mouth piece and wheel set. John recommends using the large disc (about two inches in diameter) on your Dremel tool to do the long line cuttings of the wheel set. John reused his Lionel project’s shell to create Flyer Serial Number ONE and gave to Carl a garage sale whistle for him to construct Flyer Serial Number TWO. Carl will experiment around from parts he cannibalized. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article.

You will notice above the Styrofoam block, about ¾ in thick, epoxy glued to the shell to form a mounting pillar. A second Styrofoam block, over one inch thick, was glued to the cab roof to hold the motor in place by wiring it to the plastic body as in the Lionel version.  A wooden piece was temporarily used to mount the frame to the shell using epoxy glue.  John found that there was not have enough styrene materials to use screws. You will need to cut a slot for the Flyer 300’s reverse lever.

Notice the slot in the boiler shell for the e-unit lever.
For this version, John used caulking to build-up a front mounting block.

Above are the details of how John wired the motor to the shell.

Many materials can be used to support the motor frame like BONDO, EPOXY GLUE AND CLOTH or just CAULK to form the mounting block.  Recommend using screws to attach to the built-up mounting block. Alas, John took some short cuts and glued a stick to the frame and then wired the rear and held the front in place with lots of caulk. He painted the Styrofoam blocks flat black before gluing to the shell. You can see the effect in the cab window above.

Mount the tender connection block and cut the shell for the draw bar clearance.
Looks like Thomas is happy with his new power train.

Enjoy the videos that follow:

Part 2 of this article will show the details of the shell surgery along with some surprises.