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Nation Wide Complete set


Article By Leon Sweet. Photos By Leon Sweet and Henry Koshollek

(Article updated Summer 2012  ...  continued from first page)


I have classified the entry level O gauge passenger sets as sets that are characterized by their single piece coach construction, where the frame, roof, and body are formed from a single piece of metal.  There are three distinct types of cars that fit into this classification: 1) the 500 series cars; 2) the 515 series cars; and 3) the 518/519 series cars.

Re-used metal

The set featuring the 500 series cars came to the author with two of these cars, a 509 type tender marked with Nation Wide Lines, and a black wind-up engine.  An interesting note about one of the cars is that the metal floor is a re-used piece of metal that appears to have been lithographed for an American Flyer Lines 120 tender.  Unfortunately this lithograph is turned inward so that one has to look through the windows to read it.  Similarly, an Empire Express car has been observed with a piece of Nation Wide Lines reused lithograph.  This floor appears to have been turned outward so that the lithograph is clearly visible. 

The second variation features cars similar to the 515 Express type cars.  These cars came with a 509 Nation Wide Lines tender and black wind-up engine and appears to have been packaged in two different sets.  One set is very unusual in that it was found in the original box and features a 6-inch tunnel and a Hyde Park station.  This set appears virtually identical to the Queen City set featured in the 1930 American Flyer catalogue, with the exception of no crossing signs.  The missing signs appear be a factor of omitted them for the Nation Wide Lines set in order to provide a slightly cheaper set, as two boxed sets have been observed, neither with signs.  The second set featuring these cars appears to have been sold as a three coach car set with a windup engine and tender.

An interesting note about these cars is that they are commonly found in either orange or yellow with dark or light green roofs and trim (as reported in the Greenberg’s guide and observed by the authors).  Thinking that the two colors was a variation, a set of each was examined only to discover that the yellow cars originally began life as darker colored cars.  This was discovered because one of the tabs holding the car together was bent incorrectly under the side instead of over the side.  Upon fixing the tab so that it correctly went over the side, it was noticed that the portion of the tab that was not exposed to oxygen was more orange than yellow.  Due to the uniformity of the color change on all three of the cars examined (ie one side is not faded any more or less than the other side or ends) we can only guess that the color change is due to some form of oxidation?  Sunlight damaged cars of this variation have also been observed but the sunlight damaged cars typically do not have uniform color changes.  The cars observed for the purpose of this article exhibit fading that is uniform over the entire car as opposed to being lighter on one side due to sun damage.

The third variation features cars similar to the 518/519 cars that came with a 119 Nation Wide Lines tender with an orange body and Nation Wide Lines in a black rectangle on each side.  These cars feature red bodies with green roofs and trim.  The cars match the American Flyer cars of this design with the exception of the name.  These cars have been reported in an original boxed set being packaged similar to the Skylark set as shown in the 1931 and 1932 American Flyer catalogues, featuring a tunnel, station, and train.

6.5 inch freight sets


There are two distinct sizes of the Nation Wide Lines freight sets, the 6.5 inch cars and the 5.5 inch cars.  The 6.5 inch cars have been observed as either 4 or 8 wheel cars and the 5.5 inch cars appear in two different color variations.

The six inch freight cars appear to have been made over several years.  The three sets observed each have different features, some of which are apparently caused by their date of production.

The earliest set has the uncatalogued thin die-cast shell engine that is commonly found with Nation Wide Sets.  The set comes with a 120-style Nation Wide Lines lithographed tender, a log car that is marked Nation Wide Lines on the crossbuck, the red lithographed Nation Wide gondola and red lithographed Nation Wide caboose with a green roof and lithographed cupola.  The cars each have early style type XII frames. 

The other two freight sets each have a 3195 type engine that is marked with 3185 plates.  One of the tenders is a 3199 type tender that is marked with Golden State brass plates on the side and a larger standard gauge Nation Wide brass plate on the top of the tender and the other tender is an unmarked 120 type tender with the heavy cast iron coal load and no markings, with paint filling in the holes for the plates.  The log cars in the late sets may be unmarked, but the caboose and gondola bodies are the same, with the cars featuring later style frames and the cabooses having ribbed, orange enameled roofs with orange cupolas

The last variation of these cars comes in a 4-wheel version instead of eight.  I have observed both 4-wheel gondolas and cabooses.  My 4-wheel gondola came in a set from the original owner’s family and the remainder of the set, with the exception of the engine, was comprised of a 4-wheel American Flyer lithographed set.  It came with a 4-wheel log car, box car, caboose, and 120 tender, all marked American Flyer Lines.  The engine with this set was the thin die-cast engine appearing in the earliest version of the 8-wheel freight set.

One last observation about the 6.5 inch Nation Wide Lines freight cars is related to the caboose bodies.  After acquiring my first set, I noticed that the left side of each caboose side has a horizontal crease through the center of the windows.  I thought this was a bend caused by a former owner, until I acquired sets 2 and 3, which have the exact same crease on each side of the car body.  Therefore, the crease appears to have been caused at the factory when the bodies were stamped out or bent into shape.

5 inch freight set

The 5.5 inch freight sets have been typically observed as wind-up sets; however, one has been observed with a small uncatalogued electric engine.  The cars typically include a Nation Wide Lines Hams & Bacon Specialties box car similar to the Morris type box cars, a Nation Wide Lines gondola similar to the 1109 flyer gondola, and a Nation Wide Lines Caboose similar to the 1111 caboose.  The gondolas are found in gray and green color schemes and the cabooses are found in red or brown color schemes.

close-up of Morris type boxcar

The Greenberg’s Guide to American Flyer O Gauge (1997 edition) reports a boxcar variation that states Fancy Creamery / Butter; however, none of the collectors with whom the author has spoken has observed this variation and some have questioned its existence.  A thought on this variation is that a standard 1110 Morris car may have inadvertently been reported as a variation when coming with a Nation Wide Lines set.  The author’s boxed Nation Wide Lines freight set came with a standard American Flyer 1111 Illinois Central caboose instead of the Nation Wide Lines caboose.  Since these sized cars do not clearly state American Flyer on the sides, it may be that some sets were packaged with standard American Flyer production items as opposed to Nation Wide Lines marked items due to shortages at the factory.

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Observed Boxed Sets/Set Numbers/Prices




1084 engine, orange 119 NWL tender, red 11/1108 cars with unpunched windows


Nation Wide Lines transformer (AF 1250)


Unusual label passenger set, 1090 empire express engine and three 515 American Flyer marked cars


Windup set similar to American Flyer Queen city set of 1930, but no signals


Windup freight set with 1109, 1110, 1111, marked NWL


Rainbow set with 1084 steam engine, red 1108 baggage, green 1107 coach, blue 1107 baggage, all marked NWL


Red 1090 Nation Wide Lines marked engine, 1108, 1107 coach, 1107 observation all in red all marked NWL


Blue 3113, lithographed blue 80, 81, 81 cars

178/11 & 7028

Standard gauge Nation Wide Lines Freight set.   My set came with Montgomery Ward's shipping label on box, box stamped 7028, cars boxes marked "Special"



It was very surprising for me to discover a new, never before seen Nation-Wide Lines set in May at the Great Midwest Train Show, in Wheaton, Illinois.  Sadly, I am not the happy owner, but I was able to borrow the set label for this update.

The set itself does not feature specially lithographed items with Nation-Wide Lines being shown in the lithograph; therefore, the set had escaped my notice until the box label was discovered.  The box label indicates that Set 128/1 features a red enamel finished cast iron wind-up engine with ringing bell.  The label shows a small 328 style tender and 515 New York Express cars with the set.  The actual set in the box does feature similar items, with the cars being 515 style cars marked for American Flyer, a red cast iron engine with ringing bell, and a red tender marked "Limited".

The set appears to date to 1932/1933 and is what I believe would have been the later and possibly last year of sets marked specifically as Nation Wide Lines sets.  The label is very similar to the label for Set 128/11, a small electric set, which also features no items specifically marked as Nation-Wide Lines.

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