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S gauge American Flyer passenger cars by Lionel

Add some vintage style to your S gauge layout with these add-on American Flyer passenger cars produced by Lionel.
With the invigoration of Lionel’s American Flyer product line and the sale of S-Helper Service to MTH Electric Trains, the S gauge market appears to be entering a new epoch that may permanently divide old school and new school S gaugers.

Before we step through the looking glass into this brave new world, I wanted to doff my hat to the nos. 49944 Erie baggage car and 49948 Erie full Vista-Dome observation car. Note that the A.C. Gilbert Co. never offered in its American Flyer line a full Vista-Dome extending nearly the length of the roof of the car.

These new cars from Lionel, as well as their companions in Denver & Rio Grande Western, Northern Pacific, Pennsylvania RR, Santa Fe, Southern Pacific, and Texas Special road names, could conceivably be among the last of the add-on postwar-style passenger cars made in the modern era as Lionel moves into more realistic S gauge American Flyer products.

Opening the box
Both passenger cars have streamlined plastic shells. Each model has cast-in fluting running along the sides. That feature simulates the fluted stainless steel skin found on many real passenger cars made in the 1950s and ’60s.

The cars have plastic trucks and couplers with metal and plastic wheels (metal for the power rail and plastic for the common rail). Each truck operates when an uncoupler pushes up on the knob, releasing the locking mechanism.

Each truck has two copper power pickups touching the axles. A single large light bulb illuminates the car and can be accessed/replaced from the underside of the frame. A spare bulb is included.

Unique dome car features include one side of the coach with standard passenger windows, while the first few on the opposite side are placed at normal height then drop to bi-level height for a lower ride above the rails.

There are passenger silhouette strips placed behind the windows.

The dome rests atop the car with a piece of white material beneath it – there are no seats. Beneath this sheet is a wide slit in the roof – when the car is on powered track, the light brightens and is diffused by the gauze-like material, thus creating an interesting illumination effect.

The only aspect that is disappointing appeared at the end – the doors and diaphragms are cast in and lack even the most basic details.

The baggage car has the same general detailing: fluted sides, ribbed rooftop with vents, and four nice cast-in doors. The sliding doors don’t move and have rounded tops and deep handles cast into the sides. The car has illumination (there are eight small windows). The cars complement each other in design, and the Erie paint scheme is well executed. I didn’t see any overspray or flubs in the accent striping or the Erie logo or car numbers.

These cars are well made and rolled smoothly. Lionel gets points in my book for adding two cars in the vintage style to its American Flyer product line. Well done!
Price: $69.99 each (nos. 49944 baggage car and 49948 full Vista-Dome)
Features: Interior illumination, plastic shell, plastic trucks and couplers


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