Volume 4 No. 3, Building Osgood-Bradley “American Flyer” Passenger Cars

Volume 4 No. 3, July 17, 2015

Building Osgood-Bradley “American Flyer” Passenger Cars

by Dick Karnes
with Bud Rindfleisch, Lehigh Valley Consultant
Photos and drawings by the Author except as Noted


Per the “Railway Classics” website, “In 1934, the New Haven engaged the services of noted industrial designer Walter Dorwin Teague, who collaborated with Pullman designers to develop a light weight car design for a new fleet of cars that would allow the railroad to improve schedules, reduce maintenance costs and to reduce the growing costs of fuel.  The first 50-car order was for 92-seat coaches delivered in December of 1937.  Utilizing Cor-Ten steel and weighing in at 100,000 pounds (17 tons less than comparable contemporary cars), these cars featured a tubular cross-section design that was aerodynamically clean with full skirts and windows that were flush to the sides.  Vestibules were located at both ends of the cars to facilitate fast loading and unloading.  So successful was this design, the New Haven would eventually purchase 205 of these cars in both ten-window (84-passenger) and eleven-window (92-passenger) versions.”

Pullman Standard’s Osgood Bradley plant in Worcester, Massachusetts built over 270 lightweight passenger cars of this design, known as "American Flyer" style cars, named after the O scale S gauge American Flyer train sets that contained shorty models of this prototype.

In addition to the New Haven, the following roads received these cars:

  • Bangor and Aroostook (84 passengers)
  • Boston & Maine (84)
  • Kansas City Southern (76)
  • Lehigh Valley (92)
  • St. Louis Southwestern (76)
  • Seaboard Air Line (76)
  • Southern Pacific (76), transferred from SWW

Figure 1 –

Figure 1 shows a New Haven coach, the prototype for the American Flyer model.

The LV cars had squared-off roof ends.  All the others had rounded roof ends.  The New Haven had by far the largest fleet, and they underwent many modifications, including having the center mullion in each window pair removed to accommodate large single glass panes.  Some roads had cars with different window variations than the ones shown in this article (e.g., New Haven buffet cars, SAL combines, BAR buffet-lounge-chair).  The BAR and B&M cars had plain-bearing trucks, as did some of the others.  But most had roller-bearing trucks.  All the LV cars eventually received roller-bearing trucks.


Many of us have old American Flyer “New Haven” coach bodies in our scrap boxes.  These little seven-paired-window ten-inch carbodies are still very common at swap meets.  Now and then we see these converted into ten- and eleven-window full scale length cars.  However, to our knowledge, no one has done an article on how to do this.

We’re presenting this project in stages.  First we’ll tell you how to create a credible version of one of these cars with the barest minimum of effort.  Then we’ll go into steps that will make your car increasingly accurate.  The simplest conversions are the 84- and 96-passenger carbody splices.  Then we’ll cover making the Lehigh Valley squared-off ends.  Finally we’ll go into adding rivets, flush window panes, diaphragms, and accurate trucks and underbody.

Simple Conversion

Converting these cars to scale involves, as a minimum, cutting up the carbodies, smoothing the cut edges, joining the bodies, puttying and smoothing the joints, painting and lettering the result, and adding a wood floor, center sill, bolsters, steps, and your choice of four-wheel passenger trucks.

Figure 2 –

The AF carbodies have seven paired windows plus one single window at each end, next to the door.  The easiest conversion is the 10-window 84-passenger car, which requires cutting three cars to get two.  Because there is an extra 21st paired window in the three cars, you can afford to make pretty rough cuts with enough extra material (an eighth of an inch or so) to square off and sand for a good splice.  If you want the 11-window 92-passenger version, you’ll need three carbodies to make one 11-window and one 10-window car, or five carbodies to make three 11-window cars.

Follow Figure 2 (10-window 84-passenger) or Figure 3 (11-window 92-passenger) to plan your cuts.  If you want the 76-passenger version, follow Figure 4.  The one double window at the 76-passenger car end, separated from the others by a single window, are for, shall we say, “more luxurious” restrooms.  Mark your cuts with the help of a square and a pencil or pen.  Wrap a strip of masking tape over the roof such that one edge of the tape coincides with the location of your marked line.  Use a hand-held razor saw to make your cuts as thin as possible.  Other saws will be faster, but they remove far too much material.

Figure 3 –

Figure 4 –

Resist the urge to mark your cuts cut midway between window pairs.  Cutting along the edges of windows will leave you with less filling and sanding in the skinny space between windows.

Clean up the cut edges of your carbodies.  400-grit emery paper atop a smooth surface like a glass mirror tile will assure that your cuts remain square as you move your cut edge across the emery paper.  Remove as little material as possible; you will rely on plastic putty to fill any gaps.  Now we’re going to begin gluing.  Use a solvent-style cement like Plastruct Pro-Weld, applied with a No. 0 artist’s natural-bristle paintbrush to parts pre-positioned together.  (By all means AVOID thickened adhesive product such as those that come in a tube.)  Placing the cement-laden brush at the edge of mating surfaces will cause the cement to be drawn into the joint by capillary action.

Glue two strips of half-inch-wide .030" styrene to the inside of each side of the longest body segment.  Then place a metal level (or other straight object, e.g., a section of 1×2) on your flat surface.  Position the mating body segments on your surface right side up with one side against the level.  Determine which side of the mating bodies makes first contact.  This is the side you will glue together first.  Place the two segments with that side down, bottom edges against the level, and glue the strip on that side to the second body segment.  Now flip this partial assembly over and glue the strip on the other side.  If there are additional body segments to add (e.g., for the 76-passenger version), repeat these steps.  You should now have a perfectly aligned carbody.

Where the segments actually butt against each other with no gaps, apply some plastic cement to the joint(s) from the inside, and let dry thoroughly.  Now fill in the joint gaps on the sides and roof with a good-quality plastic putty like Squadron Green.  Don’t mound it on!  Smooth off the putty with a scrap of styrene before it begins to dry.  Let the putty dry thoroughly, then apply a second coat and let it dry for 24 hours.  Now sand the joints with 400-grit emery paper until perfectly smooth.

Figure 5a –

Figure 5b –

Decide whether you want to add diaphragms to the car ends.  If you do, you will need to remove the molded-on diaphragms from the plastic carbody.  Slice each one off with your razor saw along the vertical line shown in the Lehigh Valley Figure 8a cutting diagram, leaving about 1/32" projecting beyond the car end.  Make diaphragm bellows out of accordion-folded typing paper.  Use the cut-off diaphragm as a pattern for a cardstock or styrene faceplate.  Figure 5 contains full-size patterns for the bellows (courtesy of SouthWind Models) and a faceplate.

Figure 6 –

Figure 7 –

Now you can cut a floor 1-3/4" inches wide out of 1/8" thick basswood stock or .080" styrene sheet.  Make it long enough to fit in the carbody.  With a 1/8" diameter Dremel cylindrical milling cutter or a round rat-tail file, cut semicircular notches out of the floor where each interior carbody reinforcement post is located.  Cement short lengths of Plastruct angle, an inch or so long, between each of these posts to position the floor within the carbody (see Figure 6).  Drill the floor through the angles in two places on each side for round-head screws of your choice to attach the floor to the carbody.  Thread the holes on the angles by running the screws into them, or cut threads using the proper size tap.  Ream the holes in the floor with a drill large enough to clear the screw threads.

Mark the four corners of the floor to position No. 02449 passenger-car steps by BTS and glue the steps in place.  Make two body bolsters from wood or styrene as shown in Figure 7.  Mark their locations on the floor so as to place the truck screw holes 2-1/4 inches in from the car ends, and glue them in place.  Finally, cut two lengths of ¼" Plastruct or Evergreen channel and glue them between the bolsters to form a center sill.

Figure 8a –

Figure 8b –

Figure 8c –

At this point, decide whether you want to replace the cast-on vestibule handrails with wire handrails.  If you do, carve off the cast-on handrails with a No. 18 X-acto chisel-end blade or equivalent.  Drill #76 holes for new handrails, and form them from .020" steel wire.  The prototype handrails are bent over at 90 degrees toward the door openings.  You may also wish to add a drop grab iron to the bottom of each side of each car end.

Paint and letter the carbody, then glue strips of 010" clear styrene window material behind the windows.  You may wish to frost the lavatory windows by lightly sanding the window material.  These are the two single windows (one on each side) beneath the small round roof vents.  Paint the underbody and steps, and install trucks and couplers of your choice.  Screw the floor to the carbody.  Now your new car is ready for revenue service.

But there’s a lot more that can be done.

Window Arrangement Variations

Some of the less common car styles omit certain windows.  New Haven 53-seat grill cars are essentially ten-window cars that are missing center paired windows no. 4, 5, and 6.  The BAR buffet-lounge-chair has a blank space in lieu of one of the usual single windows at the non-restroom end of each car side.  Removing windows is easy.  Carve off the window frames, fill the openings with .060" styrene plugs cemented in place, apply Squadron Green plastic putty, and smooth the surface after the putty has dried.


As delivered, the prototype cars have full skirts, as do the AF carbodies.  Owning railroads subsequently cut the skirts out in the vicinity of the trucks; others went completely skirtless.  Best advice here is to check prototype photos of your favorite cars before deciding whether and how to modify your car’s skirts.  A good Internet reference is http://www.railwayclassics.com/amflyer.htm.

Lehigh Valley Roof Ends

If you’re doing the Lehigh Valley car (see drawing), you will need two carbodies for every completed car because of all the roof material required to make the squared-off roof ends.  To modify the roof ends, cut off each roof end to a point slightly inboard of where the rounded portion begins.  See Figures 8a and 8b.  Use the upper edge of the car side to guide your horizontal cuts.  Now cut a replacement chunk from your spare roof the same length as the piece you removed.  Place a shim cut from a piece of .030" styrene about three inches wide against the cut in the carbody roof, put the new roof chunk atop the carbody end, and push it against the .030" shim (Figure 8c).  Now mark the contour of the car end on the bottom of the end of this chunk.  Remove the shim, cut the tapers on the end of the roof chunk, and smooth the cuts.

Figure 9 –

Make two roof end caps.  Using the straight end of this roof chunk as a pattern, trace the roof contour onto the edge of a rectangular piece of .030-inch styrene and cut to that contour (Figure 9).  Mark and score the backsides of two of the end caps to match the two locations where the three flat surfaces of the tapered end of the roof chunk meet.  Now glue the two short roof chunks in place on the ends of the carbody, bend the end caps along the score lines, and cement the end caps in place with the score lines on the backside.  Use plastic putty as necessary to hide the joints, and finish-sand the rooftop at each end.

Figure 10 –

Figure 11 –

Figure 10 shows Bud Rindfleisch’s completed LV car; a close-up appears in Figure 11.  Bud has enlarged the door windows to more closely match the prototype.

Window Panes

Figure 12 –

Figure 13 –

Figure 14 –

For window glass, you can apply clear styrene strips on the inside of the car behind the window openings.  Fellow modeler Vic Roseman used green-tinted styrene strips on his New Haven cars (see Figures 12 and 13).  The authors had precise-fitting transparent green styrene window panes custom-manufactured by Laser Horizons (Figure 14).  Any reader can get these from Laser Horizons because proprietor Dennis Sauters is now set up to make them.  Call, mention “American Flyer New Haven passenger car” windows, describe what you want, and get a price.  Then send enough styrene window material to Laser Horizons along with your payment.  We sent green-tinted clear styrene from Rix Products.  Laser Horizons can also supply opaque semi-clear styrene single-pane lavatory windows if requested.

The Laser Horizons windows fit flush with the outside surface of the car.  You may need to dress some edges of the panes to get them to fit.  Slight finger pressure should be all that’s needed to push them in place, although you should use an adhesive for permanency.  Microscale’s Krystal Clear, applied from the inside of the carbody with a knife tip, works well.


Vic Roseman has built several of these cars in the ten-window New Haven configuration.  He chose to add rivet strips that extend from the bottom of a side, over the roof, end down the opposite side.  These strips, obvious on Vic’s models (Figure 13), are very subtle on the prototype.  The primary advantage of using them on the model would be to save time and effort hiding body joints.  Vic impressed his rivets on .010" styrene.  You can emboss your rivets with a pounce wheel, running it against a straightedge over a sheet of .010" styrene, then cut out strips that contain the rivets and glue them to the carbody.

Steps, Floor, Underbody

Figure 15 –

Figure 16a –

Figure 16b –

The BTS steps, while nicely done and a great time saver, are not quite correct for these cars.  Bud fabricated accurate steps by making a step-assembly jig like the one in Figure 15.  The top image of Figure 16 shows one of the .015" styrene step sides in the jig.  After placing styrene angle stock in the center portion of the jig and gluing them to the first side and to each other, place the second step side in the jig (bottom image) and glue it in place.  Be sparing with your cement, and remove the assembly from the jig before any portion of it has a chance to glue itself to the jig.

Now make the floor described at the end of “Simplest Conversions.”  Insert the floor into the carbody and cement the step assemblies to the floor.

Figure 17 –

It’s difficult to discern the type and locations of the underbody components from the prototype photos, and many of them show different arrangements.  My best information source is a photo of the bottom of an HO model by Rapido, from which I’ve deduced the arrangement that follows (Figure 17).  The minimum array of components would be a generator, two battery boxes, air-conditioning (A/C) unit, two air tanks, a water tank, and a passenger-car brake system.  The two battery boxes are opposite each other, close to one truck.  The A/C unit is at the center of one side.  The two air tanks are on the side opposite the A/C unit.  The brake system components are mounted between the battery box and the air tanks.  The water tank is on the same side as the air tanks, and the generator is behind the water tank.  The brake system components are from BTS; the rest of these components can be purchased from The Supply Car.


Figure 18 –

Figure 19 –

Palace Car Co. has S scale seats for streamlined cars, Part No. 5031, 36 seats for $15, 100 for $36.  Figure 18 shows these being installed on a car floor.  The floor tiling beneath the seats was produced on a computer using Microsoft EXCEL.  The tile pattern was printed on photo paper with an inkjet printer, then glued to the floor shim.  Note the notches, needed to clear the reinforcing posts inside the carbody.  Figure 19 shows the seats inside a completed car.


Figure 20 –

For most of these cars, the AF roof details, sparse as they are, will suffice.  Bud replaced these on his LV car with modified Walthers O scale vents, no longer available.  (Keil Line makes a wide variety of O scale vents from which appropriate ones might be selected.)  Some of these cars have a hinged rectangular access hatch over the center aisle at the restroom end; others do not.  The LV cars are exceptions – they have one hatch at the non-restroom end.  The hatch is six feet long by five feet wide, and can be represented by a 1-1/8"x 15/16" rectangle of .030" styrene sheet glued to the roof, then surrounded by eight rail spikes in the locations shown in Figure 20.


Figure 21 –

Some trucks for these cars have friction bearings, while most have roller bearings.  Neither version of these trucks is commercially available, but credible ones can be bashed from readily-available trucks.  The friction-bearing trucks are best represented by starting with American Models 4-wheel heavyweight passenger trucks.  The primary difference is that the prototype trucks are cast with integral journal pedestals, whereas the American Models trucks represent bolted-on pedestals.  With a No. 11 X-acto blade and fine jeweler’s files, remove all definition of the distinction between the bolt-on journal pedestals and the truck frame.  Figure 21 shows the result.

Figure 22 –

For the roller-bearing trucks, start with American Models older streamlined trucks, the ones that came with the older full-length smooth-side streamlined passenger cars.  (AM has these in stock again.)  Grind and carve away the spring nearest the center of the sideframe from each grouping of two springs.  Also remove all the small surface appurtenances from the center of the sideframe.  See Figure 22.  Now we have to sacrifice a pair of AM 4-wheel heavyweight passenger trucks in order to get the leaf spring molding that goes in the center of each of our modified truck sideframes.  From the rear of the heavyweight sideframe, use a Dremel toothed cutter to slice through the plastic at the top and the bottom of the leaf spring molding.  Once freed, carve and file the top and bottom of the leaf spring molding sufficiently to fit between the top and bottom portions of the modified truck frame.  Then cement one leaf spring in the center of each sideframe.  Your trucks should now look like the center image in Figure 22.

Both of the AM truck types are molded in Delrin®, which is slippery and tough, but soft.  Carving Delrin® is best done by carefully shaving off successive thin chips.  Trying to remove large chunks at a time just gets the knife blade stuck in the plastic.  Filing is also difficult unless done slowly and with pressure.

Both the friction- and roller-bearing prototype trucks have combination brake cylinders/slack adjusters mounted at the top center of each side of each truck.  Train Station Products HO part No. 444, “passenger car brake cylinder/slack adjuster,” will do nicely here.  There is a left and a right one of these, two pair to a package.  When installed, the cylinder pistons should point to the car ends while the triangular projections on the slack adjusters point upward.  Drill a No. 67 hole at the top center of the sideframe, put a tiny drop of super glue over the hole, and push the cylinder’s mounting pin into the hole.  The bottom image in Figure 22 shows the roller bearing truck with these cylinders attached.


A full view of one of Vic Roseman’s skirtless New Haven cars appears in Figure 12.  Figure 19 shows a complete view of the New Haven car I built some 40 years ago, upgraded according to some of the suggestions in this article.  It now sports flush window panes, seats, and the correct trucks.  The diaphragms are old MHP products, no longer manufactured, with one corrugation removed from each diaphragm.  Bud’s LV car (Figure 10) also has modified MHP diaphragms.  Each of these models was built using techniques described in this article.  We hope we’ve inspired you to try them yourself!