American Flyer Displays

Gilbert Hall of Science Layouts

1st Floor - First Layout
New York
1st Floor - Layout  1
Small 3 Rail Layout
1st Floor - Second Layout
New York
1st Floor - Layout 2
The Railroad Empire
1st Floor - Third Layout
New York
1st Floor - Layout 3
The Super Layout
2nd Floor Layout
New York
2nd Floor Layout
The Merchandising
Layout
 
Chicago Layout
Chicago
Chicago Layout
The Midwest
Outpost
 

The A.C. Gilbert Company operated 3 Gilbert Halls of Science.  The first and Largest was located in New York City where Broadway meets 5th Ave.  The front of the building was on 25th Street.  This Hall of Science opened on September 17, 1941, almost 3 months prior to Pearl Harbor.  One of the major achievements of the Hall of Science was to keep the American Flyer Trains and other Gilbert products before the public's eye during the shutdown of toy production during World War II.  The opening of the Hall of Science at this time was probably just fortuitous timing on Gilbert's part, as it is doubtful that anyone could have foreseen a shutdown of toy production at that time. 

Around the end of 1943, Leroy Jahn, a Miami businessman, visited the New York Hall of Science and was greatly impressed with the dramatic presentation of the products displayed in New York.  He decided that he would like to create a similar Hall of Science in Miami.   Gilbert saw the potential for this linking of retailer with manufacturer and helped Jahn accomplish his goal.   In 1945, the Miami Hall of Science opened at 300 East Flagler Street.  1   In the early 1950's, A.C. sent layout builder Frank Castiglione to build a display layout there, but it was an ordinary display layout.  Jahn and Gilbert were apparently friends, sharing an interest in magic. 2

Approximately one year after the Miami Hall of Science opened, another Hall of Science, operated by Oliver A. Quayle, Jr., Inc., opened at 1610 K Street N.W. in Washington, D.C.  It was quite successful and during it first few weeks of operation receiving an average of 500 visitors per day. 1

The last Hall of Science to open was located in Chicago at 512 S. Michigan Ave. in the Congress Hotel.  It opened on October 17, 1953 in a ceremony led by A.C. Gilbert Jr. 

The biggest attraction of these Halls of Science were the layouts, which were the largest American Flyer layouts of their day.  The ultimate layouts of which dreams were made.

The First Floor Layouts

During the time that the New York Hall of Science was in operation from 1941 to 1958, there were a succession of layouts on the first floor, which were open to the public.  In total there were three major layouts and there may have been some smaller layouts, including at least one HO layout.  Much of the information on the layouts was derived from the Train Collector's Quarterly articles by Bruce Manson cited in the footnotes of the sections covering each of these layouts.  Other information and photographs were obtained from Ray Mohrlang, the owner of a very large collection of photos of many Gilbert display layouts.  The articles are an excellent source of information on all three layouts.  We certainly need more information on these layouts, so if you can help by providing any information or photographs of these layouts, please let me know at the "Contact Us" link on the home page.

The Second Floor Layout

This layout was for advertising and promotion purposes and was not open to the public.  It is where buyers of major retailers were taken to be shown the latest American Flyer products.  Ironically, though, it is the one that is best preserved in the photos used in catalogs and other advertising and the filmed footage used in the Boys' Railroad Club television show.


 

Notes

1  Famous American Flyer Trains, by Paul C. Nelson, Heimburger House Publishing, Forest Park, IL, pages 184-186

2  The Marvelous American Flyer Display Layouts, by Roger Carp - Classic Toy Trains, August 1992, page 57.