Smoke & Choo-Choo
both with and without headlight. Charles Sommer values the locomotive
without headlight higher than the one with the headlight, based on his
belief that the locomotive without the headlight is rarer. Collector
Dom San Giovanni has found that the locomotive without the headlight is more
frequently found than the locomotive with the headlight, leading to the
opposite conclusion. Also, Dom has found unlighted 443's with 1956
date stamps in the boiler casting, which indicates that the unlighted
version was not confined to 1955 as indicated in the Sommer guide.
At the time of the transition of the
entire American Flyer line from 3 digit to 5 digit numbering, there was also
another transition going on in Gilbert HO and that was the transition from
cast drivers with the familiar white sidewalls and steel rims to plastic
drivers with cast aluminum rims. This affected the 433, 443, and 446. In
theory, these should all have had the cast drivers with white sidewalls and
steel rims, but numerous examples have been found of 3 digit locomotives
with plastic drivers and aluminum rims. Given Gilbert's penchant for always
attempting to utilize old stock before producing new, this suggests that the
factory may have run out of old mechanisms before they ran out of shells.
These plastic/aluminum driver 3 digit locomotives may either be a variation
or the result of a hobbyist modification or repair depending on the date
stamped inside the shell. The shells were not date stamped until used so
shells with 1955 or 1956 dates are likely to be modifications or repairs,
rather than variations. Late 1957 dates, such as September and October 1957,
would indicate variations.
Most plastic/aluminum driver 443's
have Pull-mor drive wheels.