The Chesapeak Northern: A Hybrid Train Empire
by F Lamont Heppe
The Chesapeake Northern is a toy train empire featuring predominantly S Gauge trains made by American Flyer between 1946 and 1966. There are some pre-war Flyer O gauge trains including two Streamliners from 1934 and one set from 1924. We also have a number of O gauge trains by K-Line, Lionel and MTH.
Most of the trains and operating accessories you will see are American Flyer originals (Jan found many of these), are from 25 to 45 years old, although some are recent reproductions. Some of the operating accessories are also Lionel originals from the 1950s. Recently Lionel and MTH started making new accessories. Some are included on our layout.
The upper level track, near the ceiling, is S gauge and has siding for three trains. Part of this level depicts coal mining scenes reminiscent of Northeast Pennsylvania, where I grew up. The main layout has two S gauge loops, one O gauge loop and numerous siding for accessories and storing trains. Two of the loops cross the operating bascule bridge that I designed and built using metal angles and Erector set parts.
While the track plan would allow several trains to run at once, most of the time we prefer to operate only one train at a time so the many operating accessories can be enjoyed without distraction. Most of the freight trains and one of the passenger trains have at several operating cars that load or unload something.
Our train collection has been assembled over many years. The basis of the collection are the trains I had as a child. Fortunately, my Dad insisted on proper care of these trains so they are still running. My wife and I stumbled across a local train show in 1982 and that started the collection growing. Over the years, we have purchased a number of complete train collections. My wife has found more collections than I have. Friends and family have found a number of train items for us. We joined the Train Collectors Association in 1987 and are among the original members of the Baltimore Area American Flyer Club founded in 1992.
On display in the layout room are numerous railroad related items including railroad switch lanterns, die cast and tin toy trains, beer steins with railroad themes, train pictures and posters and Lehigh Valley excursion posters from the beginning of the 20th century.
This is model of an imaginary American Flyer “prototype” operating accessory, designed and built by Monty. It won “Best of American Flyer” in the model building contest at the National Association of “S” Gaugers, National Convention, Steamtown USA 2001.
The model depicts a factory prototype of a #776 Operating Oil Depot. To give it a Gilbert look: American Flyer parts were used for the roof, ladder and oil tank; Erector set girders were used for the legs: and the sheet metal base was painted green with a Gilbert Accessory sticker.
The judges commented that it “looked like something Gilbert would consider making because it would require few new parts.”