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Wire an American Flyer whistling billboard

If you have an American flyer whistling billboard and didn’t get the instructions, or misplaced the instructions sometime over the decades, here’s how to wire one. And if you want to use it with another brand of transformer, this will also help.

The base post

American Flyer whistling billboard wiring diagram

Refer to this diagram to wire your American Flyer whistling billboard.

The easiest connection is the connection to the base post. The black wire runs directly from the control button to the base post on an American flyer transformer. If you want to use a Lionel transformer, here’s the equivalent. Sometimes that post is marked common, sometimes it isn’t, and the lettering scheme wasn’t consistent across transformers.

The control button

The whistling billboard originally came with a push button controller. That connects between the billboard and the accessory post on the transformer. The green wire runs from the billboard to the button, and the black wire from the button to the transformer.

If you’ve misplaced your control button, you can use any momentary push button. It’s times like this I miss Radio Shack. But you can pick up a cheap doorbell button at a convenient hardware store or home center and it will control the billboard just fine.

Flyer transformers conveniently label the 15V accessory post. Guess who doesn’t? If you are using a Lionel transformer, once again, I refer you to my collection of Lionel transformer pinouts.

Testing

Once you have your billboard wired up, when you plug in the transformer, the billboard should light up. Push the control button, and it will whistle or below the horn.

American flyer billboard tips and tricks

The wiring I described above is basically by the book, the way Gilbert said to do it.

If the wires are too short to reach the place on your layout you want to put the billboard from your transformer, it’s no problem to lengthen the wires. I recommend using 18 gauge wire to keep voltage drop at a minimum, but thicker wire is completely fine. You will make life easier on yourself if you follow the same color coding. To extend the wires, twist the wires together and attach them with a wire nut and then secure the wire not with a couple of wraps of vinyl electrical tape.

On a three-rail layout, you can control the billboard a different way. Instead of controlling it with a push button, you can control it with an insulated track section. This will cause the billboard to sound when a train passes over the insulated track section.

The wiring for this is a bit different. Connect the green wire that would normally go to the base post to the insulated track section. Then run a wire directly from the accessory post to the black wire on the billboard. This reverses the flow of current from the way Gilbert normally recommended, but it will still operate.

The downside with wiring this way is that it interferes with the lights. So I don’t recommend this except with a later billboard without lights.

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