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Collecting American Model Trains

As a brand name American Model Trains was a relatively short-lived company, and yet collecting American Model Trains remains a popular pastime. The names of Lionel and American Flyer are well known by the general public today, and even the likes of Marx bring forth recognition, and yet American Model Trains is a name generally only known among the model railroad community.

The history of American Model Trains

American Model Trains, or AMT, has its roots in Fort Wayne, Ind. There Jack Ferris formed the firm in 1948. The new firm started to compete with Lionel, and started off by creating more realistic carriages and rolling stock than its rivals. American Model Trains, though, was producing O-gauge models based on two-rail tracks, which meant that while rolling stock could sit with Lionel locomotives, later-produced AMT locomotives would not run on three-rail track.

The early models produced were available in Santa Fe and New York Central liveries and included passenger observation carriages and baggage coaches. Lionel though was not slow to see the danger that AMT offered as a competitor and instead launched its detailed aluminum range of cars. AMT, though, also adapted and looked to other deficiencies in the Lionel range. As a result even more realistic rolling stock was produced. AMT though looked to do more and so started to produce a budget line as well as diesel locomotives.

The later history of American Model Trains

The take-up of the new line from American Model Trains was not as large as was required for the financial well-being of the company, and so a shake-up of the company was required. This reorganization led to the company changing its name, changing from American Model Trains to Auburn Model Trains in 1954. This, of course, enabled it to retain AMT as a second name. By the end of the year though, American Model Trains was forced to sell out to the Nashville toy company Kusan.

Kusan continued to make use of the original AMT toolings for the trains and rolling stock, as well as adding some of its own designs. Kusan became particularly known for modern train sets, sets that played on military themes as well as atomic power. The Kusan firm though also developed the innovative approach of designing O-gauge trains that would run on three-rail and two-rail track, giving them more universal appeal in theory. The theory though failed to live up to expectations and Kusan failed to impact the model railroad market. So in 1961 Kusan decided to stop production of model trains.

The toolings were then sold to KMT, Kris Model Trains, although only rolling stock was produced. In 1990 the toolings were again sold on, this time to Williams Electric Trains and K-Line.

American Model Trains today

Collecting American Model Trains is a hobby that many enjoy and yet the fact that the company was not as prolific as its better-known rivals has ensured a scarcity of good condition models to purchase. That being said, Internet auction sites do offer up small numbers of AMT or Kusan model trains. Prices range from a few dollars up to $1,000 or more for a mint complete American Model Trains set.

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