The Gilbert American Flyer HO Index

Tyco Gilbert Hybrid Passenger Cars

1959 was the 50th Anniversary of the A.C. Gilbert Co.  Gilbert had modified the chassis of the Atlantic to produce an old time locomotive to head a set dubbed The Frontiersman.  This set was heavily merchandised in the S Gauge line, as evidenced by the advertising of that time.  In order to produce an equivalent set in the HO line, Gilbert contracted with Mantua-Tyco, who was already producing an old time set marketed as "The General" of Civil War fame.  Less well known is the fact that Gilbert also provided shells for Tyco passenger cars in that same year.  It is likely that the use of these shells was part of the deal which included the manufacture of the Gilbert HO Frontiersman set by Tyco.

Prior to 1959, Mantua-Tyco had produced aluminum passenger cars but was attempting to transition to more modern plastic cars.  Gilbert had just what they were looking for in the Gilbert streamline passenger cars that were included in the Northern Pacific and Southern Pacific sets.  Gilbert cars have 6 windows in the combine, 8 wide windows in the coach, and 7 wide windows in the observation.  The shorter Tyco plastic cars have one less window.  The Tyco-Gilbert cars did not include a dome car, as was included in the Gilbert line.  While the Gilbert cars had single bulb lighting, the Tyco-Gilbert cars were dual lighted.  They also had different silhouettes than the Gilbert cars.  The insides of the Gilbert bodies used by Tyco are embossed with the Gilbert part number, P13C763, as shown in a photo below, clearly establishing their source.

The cars produced using Gilbert bodies had Tyco frames and were decorated for the Baltimore and Ohio and the Canadian Pacific.  The illustrations immediately below (courtesy of show the two sets Tyco offered in 1959 featuring the Gilbert produced cars.  Click on the illustrations below to view larger images of the sets. 

Tyco Santa Fe Cars
Tyco Santa Fe Cars

Click here to view full 1959 catalog page

It is possible, though not likely, that some Gilbert length cars exist decorated for New Haven and Santa Fe.  The 1960 catalogs consistently show illustrations of such cars in the Gilbert length.  They continue to be shown inconsistently in catalogs for 1961 and 1962 along with photos of the shorter plastic Tyco  cars.  I checked with several Gilbert Collectors and none had ever seen New Haven or Santa Fe cars in the Gilbert length and the general consensus is that they don't exist other than possible mockups created for catalog photos. 

It is clear that Tyco did offer Santa Fe and New Haven cars, as well as those decorated in other road names, in 1960 and following years, but they used the shorter Tyco manufactured shells.  I do think it is possible that some Gilbert sized cars were produced for the catalog photo shoots, possibly due to unavailability of the shorter cars, in an effort to make deadlines for printing the next year's catalogs.  Once the illustrations were created, why waste money doing more accurate ones when the shorty cars became available.   After all, they were just children's toys and who would notice.  (us collectors 60 years later that's who!)  Today, they would probably just photoshop the existing illustrations to do the same thing, but back then they needed a model for a photo shoot, so there may be some examples of such cars out there.  If so, they would be extremely rare and quite collectible.  If you come across any, be sure to let me know at

Tyco Santa Fe Cars
Tyco New Haven Cars
Illustrations above and catalog page courtesy of

These Gilbert body cars are easily distinguishable from the more common Tyco cars produced in 1960 and following years because they are longer, as can be seen in the photos below from Joe King's collection.  They illustrate the short plastic Tyco cars, the long Tyco-Gilbert cars, and the Gilbert Cars. 

Click on Images for a larger view
Tyco B&O Combine - 1959Tyco-Gilbert Combine - B&O - Dom San Giovanni Collection
Tyco B&O Coach - 1959
Tyco-Gilbert Coach - B&O - Dom San Giovanni Collection
Tyco B&O Observation - 1959
Tyco-Gilbert Observation - B&O - Dom San Giovanni Collection
Tyco Canadian Pacific Combine - 1959
Tyco-Gilbert Combine - Canadian Pacific- Dom San Giovanni Collection
Tyco Canadian Pacific Coach - 1959
Tyco-Gilbert Coach - Canadian Pacific- Dom San Giovanni Collection
Tyco Canadian Pacific Observation - 1959
Tyco-Gilbert Observation - Canadian Pacific- Dom San Giovanni Collection
Size Comparison Photos of Tyco shorty cars, Gilbert Tyco cars, and Gilbert Cars
Tyco Gilbert Combine
Tyco-Gilbert Combine - Photo Courtesy of Joe King
Tyco Gilbert Coach
Tyco-Gilbert Coach - Photo Courtesy of Joe King
Tyco Gilbert ObservationTyco-Gilbert Observation - Photo Courtesy of Joe King
Gilbert-Tyco Frame ComparisonFrame Comparison of Gilbert (top), Tyco for Gilbert body 1959 (middle) and Tyco 1960+(lower)
Photo Courtesy of Joe King
Inside View of Tyco-Gilbert Shell with Part No.

Inside of Tyco-Gilbert 1959 shell showing Gilbert part number