All About Aurora Postage Stamp Trains
Part 3: Train Sets

Postage Stamp train sets constitute the messiest part of Aurora's product line and history. Remember that the Internet was still decades away, and no one was carefully documenting everything that transpired at Aurora Plastics; indeed, former employees often express surprise that anyone is still interested in what went on. Unfortunately, I've found that memories can be faulty on occasion, but slightly incorrect information is still better than none at all.

Locomotives, passenger cars and track were all made by Trix in Western Germany, while freight cars were made by Roco in Austria and branded for Trix. Power packs were made by K-F Industries in Philadelphia, and set packaging was made in the US by Aurora.

1967: An Organized Start

Aurora started with four sets: Fast Freight, Little Donkey, Cannon Ball and the Transcontinental Express. (Incidentally, these train set names appear in a catalog of copyrights.) Each set was available in one of four road names: Union Pacific, Santa Fe, Pennsylvania and Baltimore & Ohio. Packaging was exclusively the iconic bookshelf box.

Aurora used the same catalog number for all sets of a given type, and added a three-digit suffix (what I've dubbed a "road code") to indicate the road name. They applied the same numbering scheme to locomotives and rolling stock.
 

1968: Scaling Back

Aurora revised their train set line in 1968 by modifying existing sets and adding a new one. The Fast Freight rolling stock was switched around; the Cannon Ball and Transcontinental Express double-headers became single-headers; and the Little Donkey lost a freight car. The O-Six-O Freighter was the newcomer. Also, a number of Canadian train sets were released in Canada.

Road name options were cut in half: Fast Freight, Cannon Ball and Transcontinental Express sets came in Santa Fe and Penn Central only (evidently the switch from Pennsylvania to Penn Central was done to reflect the transition in real life). The new O-Six-O Freighter was offered only in Pennsylvania, and the Little Donkey had no road name options at all. Plus, Aurora significantly reduced the amount of track included in sets, slashing the straight section count from ten to three, plus a new rerailer.

Aurora also changed their numbering scheme: each set type and road name combination now had a unique catalog number. This change was carried over to their locomotives, but not their rolling stock. Packaging was still exclusively bookshelf boxes.

1969: Entropy Wins

In 1969, likely to stir fresh interest in the face of diminishing sales, Aurora went in the opposite direction from the year before, adding a whole slew of new sets featuring the three new locomotives Trix had introduced. However, none of these sets were released, possibly owing to production delays. Adding to the confusion, they changed the names of existing sets having power packs.

Aurora later released a number of sets not listed in their 1969 catalog. These have road codes grafted onto existing road-specific catalog numbers. My suspicion is that this was done because Aurora was overstocked with train sets in road names from their 1967 line-up. There may be more of them than are listed; I've only included those I've seen either in person or in photos online. Meanwhile, the 1969 order sheets tell an interesting story: evidently Aurora soon dropped the new sets that didn't have power packs, but kept the rest on the books, even though they were never released.

Packaging was still bookshelf boxes, although the 1969 catalog revealed a new flat box for a pair of Canadian train sets packaged by and sold through Aurora's Canadian distributor, Aurora Plastics of Canada, Ltd.

1970: The Big Chill

On March 1, 1970, Aurora abandoned Postage Stamp Trains. Sales were poor as public interest in N Scale waned; plus, numerous other American hobby companies had been importing N Scale products by this time. American Tortoise had taken over distribution of Minitrix products in North America, and started marketing their own product line, which was virtually identical to Aurora's, save for any Faller products.

Yet Postage Stamp branded train sets were still available, now in big yellow flat boxes. It seems that C.J. Bubla, Inc., a long-gone hobby and crafts distributor in Long Island, had taken over distribution of the train sets. Most of the sets from this era were the same ones as before, still packed in Styrofoam trays, just in different boxes. However, the C.J. Bubla order sheet included four unusual "P.S.T. Special Sets," which were packaged in boxes with yellow vacu-formed plastic trays, and contained unique combinations of locomotives, rolling stock, track and accessories. The order sheet also confirms that none of the new 1969 sets had been released by Aurora. But because C.J. Bubla evidently had access to the new Minitrix Pacific steam loco, they released two sets with it.

1973: The Last Hurrah

In 1973, Postage Stamp Train sets reappeared on the market in nice new white flat boxes bearing a big American 4-4-0 and Aurora's new block letter logo, a visual reminder the company was under new ownership. Evidently Nabisco was doing their best to shed an enormous stockpile of train sets and other products they'd inherited, and even offered a special promotional set to employees. All of these "new" sets were still the same as those from 1968-69, right down to the original names and Styrofoam trays.

Although this marked the end of Postage Stamp Trains once and for all, Aurora made one last very brief, strange reappearance in the N Scale model railroading market just before the company finally died in 1977.

1986: A Ghost from Japan

In 1984, the enormous Japanese toy conglomerate Tomy became the owner of Aurora's AFX model racing line. With it came rights to the Aurora name, which they used for their newly-retooled AFX products released in 1986. Tomy is also a major model railroading manufacturer, and so they also released a small series of train sets under the name Aurora Model Railroading.

Train Set Index

  • Items in green rows are Canadian sets
  • Items in tan rows are "P.S.T. Special Sets"
  • Items in yellow rows do not appear in any catalog
  • Items in grey rows were announced in 1969 but never released

PP = power pack included
BB = bookshelf box
YB = yellow flat box
WB = white flat box
* = name change (see below)

Cat #

MSRP

Road Name

Set Name

Release

PP

BB

YB

WB

4701-210

31.95

Union Pacific

Fast Freight

1967

 

 

4701-211

 

Canadian National

Diesel Freight Set

1968

 

 

4701-212

 

Canadian Pacific

Diesel Freight Set

1968

 

 

4701-230

31.95

Pennsylvania

Fast Freight

1967

 

 

4701-240

31.95

Baltimore & Ohio

Fast Freight

1967

 

 

4702-210

31.95

Union Pacific

Little Donkey

1967

 

 

4702-220

31.95

Santa Fe

Little Donkey

1967

 

 

4702-230

31.95

Pennsylvania

Little Donkey

1967

 

 

4702-240

31.95

Baltimore & Ohio

Little Donkey

1967

 

 

4703-210

34.95

Union Pacific

Cannon Ball

1967

 

 

4703-220

34.95

Santa Fe

Cannon Ball

1967

 

 

4703-230

34.95

Pennsylvania

Cannon Ball

1967

 

 

4703-240

34.95

Baltimore & Ohio

Cannon Ball

1967

 

 

4704-210

34.95

Union Pacific

Transcontinental Express

1967

 

 

4704-220

34.95

Santa Fe

Transcontinental Express

1967

 

 

4704-230

34.95

Pennsylvania

Transcontinental Express

1967

 

 

4704-240

34.95

Baltimore & Ohio

Transcontinental Express

1967

 

 

4707

 

Canadian National

Diesel Freight Set

1969

 

 

 

4707

 

Canadian Pacific

Diesel Freight Set

1969

 

 

 

4709

27.50

Santa Fe

P.S.T. Special Set

1970

 

 

4710

20.00

Lil' Donkey Switcher

1968

 

 

 

4710-211

 

Canadian National

Lil' Donkey Switcher

1968

 

 

 

4711

22.50

Santa Fe

Fast Freight

1968

 

 

 

4712

22.50

Penn Central

Freight

1968

 

 

 

4714

25.00

Santa Fe

Cannon Ball

1968

 

 

 

4715

25.00

Penn Central

Cannon Ball

1968

 

 

4715

 

Canadian Pacific

Cannon Ball

1968

 

 

 

4716

25.00

Pennsylvania

O-Six-O Express Freighter

1968

 

 

 

4716

25.00

Santa Fe

O-Six-O Express

1969

 

 

4717

27.50

Santa Fe

Transcontinental Express

1968

 

 

 

4717-240

 

Baltimore & Ohio

Transcontinental Express

1969

 

 

 

4718

27.50

Penn Central

Express

1968

 

 

 

4719

30.00

unspecified

P.S.T. Special Set

1970

 

 

4720

27.50

Lil' Donkey Switcher*

1968

4721

29.95

Santa Fe

Fast Freight*

1968

4722

29.95

Penn Central

Freight*

1968

4722

 

Canadian Pacific

Diesel Freight Set

1968

 

 

4722-230

 

Pennsylvania

Rattler

1969

 

 

4724

32.50

Santa Fe

Cannon Ball*

1968

4724-240

32.50

Baltimore & Ohio

High Iron

1969

 

 

4724-810

 

Santa Fe

Cannon Ball

1969

 

 

4725

32.50

Penn Central

Cannon Ball*

1968

 

4726

32.50

Pennsylvania

O-Six-O Express Freighter

1968

 

4726

32.50

Santa Fe

O-Six-O Express

1969

4726-240

 

Baltimore & Ohio

O-Six-O Express

1969

 

4727

35.00

Santa Fe

Transcontinental Express*

1968

4727-220

 

Santa Fe

Golden Spike Express

1969

 

 

4727-240

 

Baltimore & Ohio

Golden Spike Express

1969

 

 

4728

35.00

Penn Central

Express*

1968

 

Cat #

MSRP

Road Name

Set Name

Release

PP

BB

YB

WB

4732

25.00

Santa Fe

Tower Switcher

 

 

 

 

4733

25.00

Milwaukee

Tower Switcher

 

 

 

 

4734

25.00

Penn Central

Tower Switcher

 

 

 

 

4735

25.00

Union Pacific

Tower Switcher

 

 

 

 

4736

27.50

Santa Fe

Road Special

 

 

 

 

4737

27.50

Penn Central

Road Special

 

 

 

 

4738

27.50

Louis. & Nash.

Road Special

 

 

 

 

4739

27.50

Northern Pacific

Road Special

 

 

 

 

4742

32.50

Santa Fe

Yard Hog

 

 

 

4743

32.50

Milwaukee

Yard Hog

 

 

 

4744

32.50

Penn Central

Yard Hog

 

 

 

4745

32.50

Union Pacific

Yard Hog

 

 

 

4746

35.00

Santa Fe

Main Liner

 

 

 

4747

35.00

Milwaukee

Main Liner

 

 

 

4748

35.00

Penn Central

Main Liner

 

 

 

4749

35.00

Union Pacific

Main Liner

 

 

 

4750

40.00

Pennsylvania

Rocky Mountain

 

 

 

 

4751

40.00

Penn Central

P.S.T. Special Set

1970

 

 

4752

50.00

Pennsylvania

P.S.T. Special Set

1970

 

 

4753-610

50.00

Penn Central

Nabisco Promotional Set

1973

 

 

4760

47.50

Pennsylvania

Mighty Mammoth

1970

 

 

4801-210

24.95

Union Pacific

Fast Freight

1967

 

 

 

4801-211

 

Canadian National

Diesel Freight Set

1968

 

 

 

4801-212

 

Canadian Pacific

Diesel Freight Set

1968

 

 

 

4801-220

24.95

Santa Fe

Fast Freight

1967

 

 

 

4801-230

24.95

Pennsylvania

Fast Freight

1967

 

 

 

4801-240

24.95

Baltimore & Ohio

Fast Freight

1967

 

 

 

4802-210

24.95

Union Pacific

Little Donkey

1967

 

 

 

4802-220

24.95

Santa Fe

Little Donkey

1967

 

 

 

4802-230

24.95

Pennsylvania

Little Donkey

1967

 

 

 

4802-240

24.95

Baltimore & Ohio

Little Donkey

1967

 

 

 

4802-260

 

New Haven

Little Donkey

1967

 

 

 

4803-210

29.95

Union Pacific

Cannon Ball

1967

 

 

 

4701-211

31.95

Union Pacific

Fast Freight

1967

 

 

4803-220

29.95

Santa Fe

Cannon Ball

1967

 

 

 

4803-230

29.95

Pennsylvania

Cannon Ball

1967

 

 

 

4803-240

29.95

Baltimore & Ohio

Cannon Ball

1967

 

 

 

4804-210

29.95

Union Pacific

Transcontinental Express

1967

 

 

 

4804-220

29.95

Santa Fe

Transcontinental Express

1967

 

 

 

4804-230

29.95

Pennsylvania

Transcontinental Express

1967

 

 

 

4804-240

29.95

Baltimore & Ohio

Transcontinental Express

1967

 

 

 

*NAME CHANGES: Beginning in 1969, sets with power packs received new names, while sets without power packs retained their 1968 names.

Without Power Pack

With Power Pack

Lil' Donkey Switcher

Donkey Freight

Penn Central Freight and Fast Freight

Rattler

Cannon Ball

High Iron

Penn Central Express and Transcontinental Express

Golden Spike Express

BUYER ALERT

Most people have no clue what should be in one of these train sets, so unless you're just interested in the box, carefully compare the set's contents with what's shown on the detail pages in this section to be sure it contains what it should. More recommendations here.

See Also...

Marketing & Catalogs < Home > Locomotives

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