William Hafner (Chicago, Illinois), decided to produce toys in 1900 and at the start his firm: 'the Toy Auto Company', focused mainly on the production of (clockwork) model cars.

Hafner's creations reflected the advances in technology during those years, and clockwork mechanisms became the consistent component in all the pieces he manufactured. But the company struggled with the production and distribution of its products. In 1904, the name was changed to the WE Hafner Company.

american flyer trains

Clockwork trains

Facing mounting financial troubles, Hafner entered into a partnership with Wiliam Coleman, a Chicago hardware store owner, in 1910. They focused the business on the production of clockwork trains and renamed it American Flyer. Four years later, Hafner formed a rival company, called Overland Flyer, to compete with the original company he had founded 14 years before.

American Flyer began experimenting with different products to compete with other manufacturers of the time. In 1928, in addition to the successful train line, the company designed four different styles of mechanical airplanes, the Spirit if Columbia, Lone Eagle, Spirit if America, and Sky King. But in 1931, the company dropped the airplanes from its line and refocused on the production of trains, gradually establishing itself as one of the leaders in the toy train market. The trains continued to be popular until the mid-1930s.

American Flyer links

Updated: 5 November 2019

American Flyer forum

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Comments (3)
Michael - February 22, 2013
As a young boy (mid 1950's) my parents gave me and my brothers an American Flyer 3/16" scale train set. She recently gave the set to me. All the boxes containing the set as well as the locomotive and cars are completely intact as are the tracks. I don't want to plug it in for fear of an electrical mishap. Could you please send me any information you can on who to contact concerning what I might be able to do to get it running again or possibly selling to a train enthusiast. Thank you for your help.
Joe - March 2, 2012
hello please e-mail me back if you have for sale a american flyer prewar green o-gauge 496 pullman passenger car. thanks joe
I don't have one but you can try and search on this website for: american flyer prewar.
Pete - February 19, 2012
This is awesome still have some of these trains