The Gilbert American Flyer HO Index

Gilbert Reproductions

The Role of Reproductions

I have included this section on reproductions for two reasons. First of all, I believe that these models are fascinating expressions of the creativity in modeling. They can provide items which are in such short supply that they could never satisfy the potential demand for them, no matter what the price. I also include within the category of reproductions those items which are fantasy pieces, items that were never made by Gilbert, but which we wish were. The creators have, in effect, put themselves in charge of their own Gilbert factory and planned interesting additions to the HO train line. These items can even be based on actual evidence of what might have been, as expressed in Maury Romer's IBM number lists, which assigned numbers to many items that never got any farther than that list.

My second reason for including this section on reproductions is to insure that these items are not mistaken for the original Gilbert items. Enjoy them for what they are and be aware of the markings their creators have put on them to honestly present them.

HO Reproductions & Fantasy Items by Joe King   Slideshow

HO Reproductions Artwork

Reproductions by Joe King

Joe King started "HO Reproductions" back in 1999 at about the same time he discovered EBay. In those days, you could communicate with other buyers.  A small group including Joe became good friends over the internet and via phone.  One day, Fred Alles and Joe were discussing the lack of stickers for the cars.  They compared the pieces they had with and without stickers and between the two of them, determined that they had all the cars with paper stickers.  Using a flatbed scanner at a hi-res, the different stickers were all scanned in.  Joe redrew them and printed them out on his inkjet on Avery self adhesive label stock and adhesive photo paper.  He started selling them on eBay for $1.00 a pair shipped.

Eventually Joe bought a top of the line Alps MD series printer that printed photo realistic quality prints, drastically improving the quality of the stickers and giving him the ability to do waterslide decals, even in white and metallic ink. This allowed him to expand into other realms including custom work.

At first, he wanted to expand the stickers into other brands, including early Mantua/Tyco, Pennline, Hobby line and others.  At about that time, he took on a restoration job for a L1001 engine that was damaged.  After completing that and talking with Bruce Gripkey, they decided that a few experimental cars would be worth trying.  Bruce supplied Joe with new old stock shells and he redecorated them into Sunset Limited Vista Dome and Observation cars and Cities Service and Sohio tank cars.  He would buy up broken streamlined cars for the chassis and vista domes and tank cars for the chassis, ladders and trucks.  He even reproduced the silhouettes.  At the same time, he bought a large amount of undecorated Varney shells from Bob Nazian and made a few dummy A units and B units for both the Sunset Limited and Eagle passenger sets.  Bruce and Joe had some long conversations and talked about Bruce supplying shells and parts to build some of the cars on Maury Romers IBM list and a couple of fantasy cars also.  Not too long after that, Joe had to stop due to other obligations.  At the end, a complete running 105 Inspection Car was in final running prototype stage.  Also planned were new parts such as railing sets for the Alco diesels, vista domes, tank car chassis and D&H containers. 

Listed below are the cars that Joe made and the quantities produced.

  • Cities Service tank car (12)

  • Sohio Tank car (10)

  • Sunset Limited Vista Dome (12-14)

  • Sunset Limited Observation (10)

  • Southern Pacific B unit (8)

  • Southern Pacific dummy A (3)

  • Missouri Pacific B unit (3)

  • Missouri Pacific dummy A (2)

  • Complete reproduction FY&P set (loco, two coaches and one combine) (2)

  • FY&P combine (8)

  • HO Washington loco and combine (2)

  • Orange 125 Shell Tank car (3)

  • Northern Pacific Hay-Jector (4)

  • Union Pacific Hay-Jector (2)

  • Orange plastic New Haven hopper, pikemaster (2)

  • Lackawanna passenger 4 car set (2)

  • C&O 3 car passenger set (1)

  • L1002 C&O dummy A (2)

  • 701 Cheshire station, (3)

  • Pikemaster Southern Pacific "Black Widow" A unit (1-2)

  • Green Great Northern Reefer (like S gauge) (1)

  • 105 Inspection Car. 1 white running  prototype.  (Whereabouts unknown)

All of these reproductions were marked as such either on the bottom or inside the shell.   In addition, Joe used paint color variations to make sure the copy wasn't mistaken for an original, as he did on the Cities Service tank car.

Joe picked some of the above items based on requests he had received.  Some of the items, though, came about simply because he didn't want to ruin his original by running it, fearing a derailment or other mishap.   That actually happened with his original FY&P Franklin.  He placed his original on the track and it ran but never made the first curve.  The rubber driveshaft was petrified and didn't allow the engine to articulate.  The resulting crash broke the cow catcher on the FY&P loco.  The L1002 was made so his original wouldn't meet the same fate.

While some of the items listed above were never made in HO, they were related to existing items or based on American Flyer S gauge production.  Growing up around S gauge, he had developed a love for the Alco PA and some of the other motive power.  He made a chromed Athearn PA into an HO version of the 405 Silver Streak, using 80' Herkimer aluminum cars behind it.  He also had painted but never decorated an HO Rocket, Comet and Silver Flash ABA consist.  Using a rare Varney bronze Streamlined boiler and a derelict Gilbert 443, he made an HO Circus Engine with matching Gilbert Flat cars and a New Haven style circus coach.  He also turned a couple of AHM C-Liner shells into an EP-5 electric. 

Other Reproductions

Washington Set

I found this reproduction on display at the Flyernut meeting during York week in October 2014.   It isn't a reproduction of recreation because this set was never made in HO.  It is probably best termed a "fantasy" item.  It was beautifully made and nicely displayed.   I was able to get a few shots of it and they are displayed here.

Complete Set
Washington Locomotive Box Car
Flat Car

Sunset Limited Lighted Dome and Observation Cars

Lonny and Paul Beno found these cars at a recent show along with what appeared to be a genuine paint sample of the lighted observation car.  For more on that car, click here.  These cars are more carefully done than the paint sample and are also lighted cars.  They bear numbers that would follow the 33531 unlighted Sunset Limited Coach, but those numbers were never reserved for a dome and observtion car, but rather were assigned to freight cars that were never made.

Sunset Limited Observation Car Sunset Limited Dome Car