American Flyer model toy trains were first sold in 1907 as wind-up toys of "O" gauge train tracks, according to The Train Collectors Association. William Frederick Hafner and William Ogden Coleman made and marketed the toys for American Flyer, a brand that eventually became A.C. Gilbert Company and then Lionel. The pinnacle of their popularity occurred when the trains were made and sold by Gilbert in the 1950s.
American Flyer trains were made in Chicago. The first electric toy train from the company came out in 1918 on "O" gauge track, one of the larger sizes available at the time. The electric toy train worked with a wind up engine, and then electricity ran the rest as opposed to clockwork gears. In 1938, American Flyer released products for "HO" gauge tracks for the first time.
Gilbert opened the Gilbert Hall of Science in New York that featured massive layouts with his electric trains. The toy company's other products were on display, such as Erector sets and chemistry labs. The popularity of the trains skyrocketed through the 1950s.
The American Flyer company first started using the name in 1910. The company's assets were sold to rival train maker Lionel in 1966 following the death of A.C. Gilbert. American Flyer trains have a distinctive logo that says "American Flyer Lines" on the sides of train cars and model locomotives.