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.
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.
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.
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.
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!