New Product Spotlight – American Flyer Challenger

24 10 2011

After much anticipation, the new American Flyer Challengers are set to storm into your dealers’ showrooms. The models feature all new tooling and capture the power and beauty of the prototype in amazing detail.

3977 front

UP 3977 features smoke lifters and twin stacks.

The Union Pacific collaborated with the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) to build the first Challenger in 1936. Designed to eliminate the need for helpers and speed service over the Wahsatch Mountains, the Challenger was a novel concept – an articulated locomotive designed for high-speed service. Previously, articulateds were generally thought of as heavy drag-freight engines. The Challenger’s design actually stemmed from the UP’s enormous 9000 class 4-12-2 which produced plenty of power but was limited to 50 mph and was quite demanding on the rails. The name “Challenger” came from the challenging test run of the first locomotive, UP 3900, from Ogden to Green River and back unassisted.

Clinchfield 675

Clinchfield 675 has the coal burning options.

The design was a success, and a total of 252 Challengers were built and used by 9 railroads. UP had the largest fleet by far, with 105 locomotives. Other operators included Northern Pacific (47), Delaware and Hudson (40), Rio Grande (21), Clinchfield (18 – 6 purchased from Rio Grande, 12 new), Western Maryland (12), Spokane Portland and Seatle (8), Western Pacific (7), and Great Northern (2 – purchased from SP&S). Baldwin built 27 of the 4-6-6-4’s, the rest came from ALCO. Most were oil-burners, particularly in the west, but coal burning versions were also sold.


Despite their size, the Clallengers can negotiate a 36" diameter curve.

Two Challengers survive today, both from the Union Pacific. No. 3977 is on static display at North Platte, NE. The most famous, No. 3985, is maintained as part of Union Pacific’s steam program in Cheyenne and still pulls excursions (and occasionally even freight) today.

Our new American Flyer models capture some of the various options along with many of the exciting effects you’ve come to expect from Lionel. Coal and oil tenders, one or two stacks, and the “elephant ears” smoke lifters are all applied as appropriate to the models. Directional headlights, marker lights and ashpan glow, smoke and sounds bring these beasts to life. LEGACY control gives you full access to features like the 6 prototype speed settings, crew talk and quillable whistle. Despite their size, the articulated giants will negotiate a 36″ diameter curve.


The tender features an oil tank or coal load as appropriate, working backup light and markers and an ElectroCoupler.

Models will begin shipping in November, and all roadnames should be on dealer shelves before the holidays. To get ready, just take a look at this video on our display layout!



10 responses

24 10 2011
Alfonso Llana

It is a pity (for me) that now there is such a wonderful offer of the venerable American Flyer. Being completely happy with my 3 rails I notwithstanding consider de S gauge a quite interesting perspective but I never went into it due to the reduced offer. Now it is too late for I have a considerable collection od 3-rail Lionel trains and cannot afford a multiple scales layout. congratulations for such beautiful American Flyer trains.

5 12 2011
New Product Spotlight – American Flyer FasTrack « Lionel LLC

[…] Handling our pre-production pieces, assembly is just like the O gauge track; simple and secure. And as you can see, the proportions of the rail and track look amazing underneath our scale models like the new Challenger. […]

18 12 2011
Stephen Law

Here is hoping that the Western Maryland Challenger will eventually be available! It is a great looking product, but I’m holding out for a WM, the road of choice for my Flyer layout.

6 02 2012

Yes!!!! I too am waiting for a Western Maryland.

3 08 2012

Time goes by. Now MTH is entering the S-market. Maybe they’ll make the Western Maryland Challenger. Still waiting guys

19 08 2012

No fair! I see more and more road names coming out, but Western Maryland isn’t one of them. If a WM is selling in O, why not S? I may have to do a repaint to have one of these on my layout. Hmmm.

8 08 2014

Well … I am tired of waiting. I bought a Union Pacific, and will do a repaint for Western Maryland. WM had 12 Challengers, whereas the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle only had 8. Now … if I can only find a Legacy Command set to go with it!

15 08 2014

Caveat emptor … be aware when you buy one of these that Lionel never made the engineer and fireman to go inside the Challenger cab, even though the figures are listed as “included” on the box itself.

16 11 2014

I have finally done a repaint of the Challenger … I probably have the one and only Western Maryland, Lionel American Flyer, Challenger on the planet! Great product. I just couldn’t wait anymore.

28 06 2015

Well I finally bought one … after about 20 hours of run time, the motherboard went totally wonky. I have been told it is useless without a new motherboard. Thanks Lionel. I have wasted a small fortune.

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