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Cataloged: 1954, 1955, 1956

Pacific type steam locomotive: Wheel arrangement 4-6-2

Prototype: USRA Pacific—curiously, none were owned by either the CNW or Milwaukee Road

Road Name: Chicago North Western – later five digit version has road name Milwaukee Road

Materials and Features: Boiler Shell is one-piece plastic as is the tender which contains the reverse unit and is equipped with a knuckle coupler. The locomotive is equipped with smoke and choo-choo, plus Pull-Mor Power traction wheels.


The C&NW number 283 is among the most popular 1950’s S-Gauge locomotives in the Gilbert American Flyer product line. It is well-proportioned in appearance and operates reliably.

In 1954, it came with two cataloged sets: one passenger and one freight.

In 1955, it also came with two cataloged sets: one passenger and one freight.

In 1956, it came only in a freight set, but it was also available for individual sale.

With the Gilbert conversion to a 5-digit numbering system in 1957, it appears that this locomotive continued to be sold in a freights set and as a separate sale item. However, while the catalog images show a 283, the text refers to a 21015 catalog number.

Actual locomotives also show up with 21084 and 21085 numbering. The 21084 number was likely production mistake caused by the confusion in the number conversions to five digits.

Also, the 21015 number in the catalog is likely a mistake. Eventually it got straightened out, and the subsequent years numbered the locomotives as 21085.

This locomotive was the successor to the similar locomotive—numbered 282—which was equipped with a link coupler. Late number 21085 locomotives have the Milwaukee Road on the tender instead of the Chicago North Western.

Other numbers on this same locomotive body include 285, 287 and 289. The 285 is equipped with the air chime whistle, whereas the 287 is a low-end version that lacks smoke and choo-choo. The 289 is an uncataloged version that lacks smoke and choo-choo, but it did come equipped with the whistle.

Gilbert provided service and parts information in Form 1646.


More Information

The American Flyer Locomotive 283 lettered for the Chicago North Western made its debut in 1954 with a plastic tender and knuckle coupler. This was Gilbert’s first postwar, newly tooled steam locomotive with a plastic boiler. With the 4-6-2 wheel configuration and simplified valve gear it was designed to provide a more impressive presence than the smaller Atlantic locomotives but could be cost competitive. The 283 is part of a series of numbers and features that continued in the American Flyer S gauge product line until the end of operations in 1966.

For features, the American Flyer 283 Pacific type locomotive included a Lucite headlight lens, smoke and choo-choo effects, and remote control reverse (reverse unit mounted in the tender). The locomotive appeared after the transition time for couplers from link to knuckle and change to plastic molded parts from formed sheet metal.

The 283 continued the use of the tooling for the 282 and became one of the workhorses of the Gilbert American Flyer locomotive product line. If the 5 digit continuation of this locomotive is included, the basic unit was in the cataloged products from 1953 to 1966 in the same form.

The 1954 production moved to a plastic molded boiler & tender body and all examples have knuckle coupler trucks instead of the earlier link couplers. Other variations include tenders with coal pushers, marker lights and traction or “pull-mor” tires on the drivers.

This could make a great addition to your collection railroad layout or gift for a friend

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