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VISIT ALL OF OUR HOBBY AND TOY WEBSITES
Over 4,000  American Flyer and Lionel Repair parts for your antique trains. Check stock & order on line.
Come to Middletown or New Britain Connecticut and visit our huge Toy and Hobby stores.
 
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ABOUT US 

Learn why you can trust us to deliver the hobby products you need:

WHO WE ARE      NICE THINGS PEOPLE SAY ABOUT US    CONTACT US 

Hobby Surplus is the internet and mail order division of a Hobby and Toy Business founded by Vincent Amato in the 1940's.  Hobby Surplus also operates two other catalogs and internet sites Discount Plastic Models, and Train Repair Parts .

We are a small family owned and operated business located in central Connecticut ( USA, East Coast, New England ).  Locally, we are well known for our AMATO'S TOY & HOBBY stores.  Use this link to visit our retail stores websites:

AMATOS TOY and HOBBY

Our business was founded in 1940 by my father who "took over " a corner in my grandfather's plumbing supply business and began selling stick and tissue airplane kits to boys who's heroes were Lindberg and other pilots of the era.

For information about our founder Vincent Amato, the following link will take you to the Wesleyan University website and an extensive interview and history of AMATOS.  (Note use the back button on your browser to return to our site  This website, "Toymaster of Middletown" was developed by a professor from Wesleyan University ( located in my dad's hometown) and is not associated with our HobbySurplus.com website.) :     Toy Master Of  Middletown

 

Over the past 60 years AMATO's ENTERPRISES has been involved in all aspects of the Hobby Industry , retail, wholesale, manufacturing and importing.  Of particular interest to collectors of antique AMERICAN FLYER trains is the details about the purchase of the A.C. GILBERT AMERICAN FLYER factory parts department. An article published in the S Gaugan Magazine where Mr. Amato relates the surprising details about how this took place.  Flyer Parts Department

In addition to our retail and wholesale business, we have been operating  mail order hobby catalogs since the 60's and internet sites since 1998. Over the years our founder Vincent Amato has been very involved in the growth and development of the Hobby industry.  He served in a variety of roles in a variety of hobby organizations including President of the Hobby Industry Association. 

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CONTACT US

By Snail Mail:

Hobby Surplus
287 Main Street
P.O. Box 2170
New Britain, CT 060500

By e-mail:

Customer Service Contact Form

By Phone:

1-860-223-0600

(Note: Calls between M-F 10:00am and 5:30 pm EST time will be answered by a human being.)


 

 

NICE THINGS PEOPLE SAY ABOUT US

Completely spontaneous and unsolicited nice comments we receive about our products and services. .... Ok, I admit that after trying to fix whatever went wrong, I delete the complaints and nasty emails I get.  

But I am pleasantly surprised every time someone emails a compliment. .  We all are quick to complain,  but how many complimentary letters have you sent to a businesses you've dealt with?

 

 

One of the best web sites I have come across in a long
time. I am still exploring the many features your web site has to offer.
Keep up the good work- Mark


With so many small hobby stores abandoning plastic model cars in favor of
die cast, it is good to know that Hobby Surplus hasn't abandoned the
diehard model BUILDER!!! Your catalog is fantastic, and your prices are the lowest I've found on the internet. Many thanks! Your efforts are appreciated. Keep up the great work! - Peter


I got the D405 traction engine and other items i ordered today .
It was packed well and no damage.
thank you for the good service.-Carl


Your site is very helpful to my interest in S gauge trains. I have a
number of trains in various stages of repair needs. So far this site is
the most promising site for locating missing and/or broken parts.- Neil


Hello and thank you for having such a informative site.
I can find a lot of information there.
Keep up the GREAT work. - John


Great site..well thought out and planned. Ė Chris


I just received my order from you (#xxxxxxxxxxxxxx) and am very pleased. I am especially pleased with your selection of the extra cars for the 2 extra sets of cars I ordered. Thanks again.- Norman


This is a remarkable site, prices are acceptable & visuals are sharp & clear-Bob


Very well planned, and easy to find items from manufacturers of all model
trains!!- Terry


I like your web site. I have done some business with xxx. Your web site
is more "customer friendly" than xxx's. Also I get the feeling you care
about your customers. I had a comment for xxx on an order and all the
company did was insult me through its emails to me. Joseph


Anyone interested in building models of any sort, will be please at what
they find on your site!!!! Dan


Well I remember shopping at Amatoís in the early 50s
Amazing that any small business survives from the past so you must be
doing something right keep it going and good luck Fred


Hey I really like you catalog I only order out of your catalog and no one 
elseís. Your prices are just right to. Iím getting ready to order something 
now. Well got to go. Sincerely, Taton


My first order with you was made by mail. Used catalog to make
order. Received order today. No phone calls, no emails for
clarification. Order received exactly as placed, no hassles, no sweat, no
anxiety. You're a first class operation and you're book marked and in my
favorite web bar. I look forward to years of business with you!!! Allen


I find your site very easy to look at. The presentation is very good.
Things are very easy to find. I like to work with metal and plastic parts.
I will entering some model in our fair this year so it is very important
that I get the right stuff.
Your closeout prices seem to be very reasonable.
I will definitly be buying products from your company.
Thanks for the great looking website. Alberta


I received my order today and it was exactly the product as indicated. As I have one grandchild and another on the way I will be back to your store frequently. Thank you for the excellent service. Charles 


Thanks!! 
I got the order. I am very pleased. 
Have a Merry Christmas!!! Rick


Dear Hobby Surplus,

Please thank Mr. Peter Amato and everyone else at Hobby Surplus who made
it possible for the Revell V-8 Engine model I ordered on Thursday evening,
Nov. 14th, to ship the very next day, Friday, Nov. 15th. The model will
arrive on my son's birthday without costing a small fortune in special UPS
costs.
I know that you were very busy and there were many other orders in front
of mine. I want to let Hobby Surplus know that I truly appreciate the
extra attention given to my order, for shipping it on 11/15 and for making
it possible to go UPS orange instead of UPS blue, saving me a little bit
of money. For Mr. Amato to call me back to confirm this was going that
"extra mile" that makes great customer service GREAT!

I can't wait to see my son's surprise when he sees this model. Thanks
again.

Sincerely,

Tina


MY GRANDSON AND I GET UP AND THE FIRST THING HE SAYS (HE'S 2) IS TRAIN, TRAIN, LOLA SO WE START THIS OLD PEUTTER UP AND IT'S TRAIN WE FIND CAN YOU GUESS WHAT HE GETS FOR CHRISTMAS .....IF YOU GUESSED A TRAIN YOU ON THE RIGHT TRACT LOL..THANK YOU FOR A WONDERFUL SITE IF IT KEEPS A 2 YEAR OLD ATT. YOUR ALL RIGHT WITH ME . 
HAVE A GREAT DAY JUDY

i wish i had found the time to do this search sooner this site is exactly
what i've been looking for the hobbies my son and i are involved in to be
honest even the guys down at great escape are going to be impressed can't
hardly wait for the catalog thank you! Tim


Mr. Peter Amato:
Thank you very much for your reply. I appreciate your concern over my order and admire your professional response. You are wise in your deliberations and I look forward to doing more business with an organization that considers the customer first where there may have been the potential for misunderstanding-which there had been in this case. I'll make sure I read the email in its entirety next time and perhaps you'll highlight earlier the need for a minimum balance or asterisk the "free" from the very beginning. It's a pleasure doing business with you!
Mike


Hello Hobby Surplus,

I received my order in excellent condition.
Thanks Again


Matthew 

Very wide variety! Easy to follow. Packed full of options. I'm pretty
new at the hobby. But very interested! Krag

I just would like to say your grab bag deal is the BEST! I was a little
worried when I first ordered it, really didnt know what to expect. It came
today, and it blew me away. 4 Nascars, 1 IRL, and a '69 Cougar...way cool.
I was so impressed that i just ordered another grab bag, along with a
couple of funny cars. I cant wait to see what comes next. Thank you very
much, and I look forward to many more orders with you folks. Keep stuffin
them grab bags with race cars, drag cars, funny cars and muscle cars,
thats what i love. Again, thanks alot.....a loyal customer, Tom


I have about 40 hobby shops in my "Favorites" folder...
Without a doubt, you guys have the best site out there. Your proactive
marketing via email sale notifications is the best I have encountered. I
get notices of sales from at least a dozen of my other e-retailers, but
none compare to yours.

Keep up the good work.

btw, I'm putting together yet another order to take advantage of your
latest offer.

thanx David


GREAT SITE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!THANK YOU RON


nice layout, easy to get around in thanks pres.L.E.

I am very impressed with your Web Sight so far. I look forward to be ordering parts soon.

Thank you,

Jeff


I appreciated the simple yet detailed manner in which it is done,allowing you to find what you need/request form, without much time consumption. Simple & pleasant.
Good Day,

Rosi


I found your site very useful and extremly quick to use.
I found the associated web site on your father very interesting, especially because I was born and raised in New Britain, and I was trying to associate your fathers history with mine. Your father is probably 6 or 7 years older than me. Thanks again for the information, and maybe someday I will get back to New Britain and visit your store. I do not have any family left in that area. Ed


I enjoyed reading the story about Amato's and the A.C. Gilbert company. It is amazing how fate smiles or frowns on us throughout our life. I wish you the best and hope you can continue in business for another 30 years. Although I model in N scale my older brother has had an interest in American Flyer since I was very young. He has some Flyer trains which have become neglected in recent years. Mostly just broken trucks or couplers. I hope I can convince him to repair them and get them back into working order. If so, I will certainly consider ordering the parts we will need from you. Frank


I live in NY but work in CT. I have brought the Grandchildren to both your stores...A Fantastic Experience...Thank you...enjoy the web site upgrade and I look forward to doing business again either at the stores or on the web ...Thanks again. Richard


Very nice site. Easy to navigate tons of info. One of the best I've come across. Tom


I haven't gotten into the site but what I have seen of it so far, it seems to be a real good site. Richard


hello again.

i just had a big box delivered.
now that's what i call a "status report" !! ;-)
thanks.
hwn


Thank you very much for your assustance..it has been well appreciated.. B.C.


Yes, I got it, safe and sound.
Thank you very much! real pleasure doing business with you!
Said


To HobbySurplus Folks- 
Thanks for your very quick confirmation of my order. That's the way I like to 
do business! This is my 1st encounter with your site, and since you had what 
I was looking for, you got my order. I also clicked on for a free catalog, so 
I'm looking foward to that. If your service continues to be good, I will 
continue to do business with you. Thank You!
Howard


extremly interesting and helpful. hollis


Absolutelly amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Placed the order at 3am on 3/21, received it at 9:30 am on 3/22.
You just became my only source for kits and parts. And I am already thinking of the next order and you will get it too, for sure.


Thank you so very much, I am very very glad I found your store!
Said
You have a great selection of jets, including some that I've only heard off in chat rooms but no one seemed to carry them.

Much appreaciated and looking forward to doing more business with you.

Said



THIS SITE HAS BECOME A EXCELLENT RESOURCE FOR LEARNING TOOLS FOR MY YOUNG BOYS.I APPRECIATE YOUR THE MERCHANDISE IN YOUR INVENTORY,KEEP UP THE THE GOOD WORK. TIMOTHY


This is the best site I've visited in any area. It's terrific. Keep up the good work. Let me know when that train clock is down to $9.95. I'll bite then. It will drive my wife goofy :) allen


You have the best and easiest to use web site I have found. being new computers and the internet. it is pleaser to find a site easy to use and understand. i have been absent from the hobby for about 25 years and I finally am able to build a layout. although I DID NOT ODER this visit you will be hearing from me in the near futur Keep up the good work. A.J.


 

IT ALL STARTED WITH A COAT HANGER

The story of Vincent Amato & the A.C. Gilbert Parts Department

Looking back 30 years to the spring of 1968, it seems almost as if fate wanted me carry on the American Flyer Repair Parts business, but quite honestly at the time it was the last thing I would have expected doing. Of course, I was well aware of the troubles the A. C. Gilbert Company had been going through. By 1968 I had been operating several hobby shops in Connecticut for over 25 years. The Gilbert factory was just about 20 miles South of us and Flyer trains were always a featured part of our toy train inventory.

It was early in May of 1968, that a gentleman from The Connecticut Development Commission stopped in my store to borrow a coat hanger. He had locked his keys in his car, which by a quirk of fate he had parked in front of my hobby shop. As I helped him get his car open, he told me he was on his way to visit the liquidator of the bankrupt A.C. Gilbert company. He suggested I go down and look into buying the Train Repair Service Department. I laughed and did not accept.

A few hours later, he called to say he had made an appointment for me with the representative of the Walter E. Heller Company, the liquidator. At this meeting I was persuaded to put in a bid for the contents of the Repair Service Department consisting of a very large area with thousands of small bins on wooden shelving, and several tons of paper exploded views, parts lists and ledger books.

I returned from summer vacation a few weeks later to find I had bid twice as much as others. Feeling sorry for me, they also included the Service Parts for race sets!

Removal necessitated a great many trips to the factory, about twenty minutes from my store. Each trip seemed to turn up more things to buy. I inquired about a room in the factory containing what was supposed to be the archives. Upon inspection, I found very few things left in there, (according to a few employees still there most had been taken by departing workers). Since all that was left was mostly incomplete common items I offered $1,500. The Heller representative laughed and said he was going to have Park Bernet Auction Gallery sell the "archives". He asked me to provide a couple of hundred dollars worth of parts needed to complete some of the items. I attended the auction but because a rainstorm slowed traffic into New York, I arrived when auction was almost over. A representative of Dan Olson of Seattle had bought most of the stuff. Maury Romer later told me that after all Park Bernetís expensive work; the lot brought in about $1,200!

TOO MANY PARTS
Besides the parts located within the repair parts department that I had purchased, the basement of the factory was full of crates of parts already manufactured when it was shut down. I inquired of the liquidator what would happen to them. He refused my offer of $5,000 for all of it. He pointed to a big crate with thousands of armatures for the Casey Jones loco and said factory cost for that one crate alone exceeded my offer!

Later, a group of men were hired to bring all the thousands of trays and boxes of parts upstairs. They were spread out all over the empty production floor. A price of $1.50 a tray of parts was asked. I bought several hundred trays of things I thought could be used in the next few years. Later on, I saw a scrap metal dealer emptying the trays into fifty-gallon drums. He said that all he wanted was the metal trays. He had resold them to a factory for $4.00 each. The parts would be sold as scrap metal. Later, Harry Gordon told me he purchased several barrels of miscellaneous small parts and had his children sort them out for resale as repair parts. I doubt that the liquidator received anywhere near the $5,000. I had offered!

TONS OF PLASTIC

Large bins of molded plastic bodies also attracted my attention. The liquidator told me it would be sold to a scrap plastic dealer. He said he would sell me any I wanted by weight. Huge amounts of plastic bodies were spread all over the factory. I was told there was 365,000 pounds of molded and virgin plastic. After researching its scrap value, I purchased it all by offering slightly more than its scrap value. I knew I could never store all of it, as it would have required a huge warehouse. Since, I had several months time for its removal, I picked what I thought I could use in the near future and made a deal to sell the balance to a plastic molding business.

Two million small plastic trees for the All Aboard, and Sears HO Race set panels were in the deal. The trees were contained in hundreds of wooden cubic yard crates. On top of the plastic cost, the liquidator wanted $5.00 a crate if I kept them. So, instead of keeping the crates, I used the wine room in my Grandfatherís cellar to store those trees. (During prohibition, he had made the legally allowed two hundred gallons of wine a year from his grapes.) Every few days, we would drive our flat bed three-ton truck the 20 miles to the factory returning empty crates and picking up another load of plastic trees. We set up a childís sliding board through a wine cellar window and just poured the trees into that room. Lots of model railroad "forests" were created in the twenty years it took to sell all those trees.

Sixteen thousand plastic buildings, houses and barns for use on All Aboard tiles were part of my bulk plastic purchase. However, no roofs could be found! The liquidator allowed me to locate and borrow the roof molds. Before I sold the unwanted virgin plastic, I had roofs molded to complete the houses. That summer, I employed a school teacher who supervised a crew who spent ten weeks bagging those sixteen thousand buildings into complete kits with roofs, windows, chimneys and doors.

There were five thousand shell tank car bodies all printed and ready to be put on the chassis, but once again the chassis had not been molded! I borrowed the chassis mold and had them made to complete the shell tankers. I had previously purchased all the tens of thousands of Pikemaster trucks that were left in the factory.

Andy Kriswallis, of Endicott New York was producing Kusan Box and refrigerator cars for use on Lionel O Gauge during this period. He offered to buy the three thousand or so un-printed boxcar bodies and stamped chassis I had. I wouldnít sell, but I shipped Andy the bodies. He painted and printed them and shipped me half of the finished bodies.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have borrowed more molds and had Diesel bodies, accessory parts etc. molded. But, I didnít have a crystal ball to foretell the future and at the time everyone thought I was crazy for holding on to what I kept.

I almost melted more Gilbert plastic down during the early 1970ís oil crisis. Somehow, a Korean plastic factory became aware of all the plastic I still had and offered me $50,000 for all of it. I was very tempted, but in the end, I refused.

Thirty years later, I still have thousands of plastic tender bodies printed and un-printed. As well as caboose bodies, Atlantic Loco bodies, Casey Jones Loco bodies and lots of Gilbert Racecar bodies.

The dies, molds, etc required for manufacturing were all stored on skids in a very large area of the factory. I was told that since efforts to sell the name and manufacturing rights were not successful, these would probably be sold as scrap iron. I was assured I would be notified if this came to pass. I donít know how I would ever have handled such a large quantity of items had I had the opportunity to buy. Finally, since the liquidator was also liquidating Lionel, I was told the equipment was being shipped to Lionelís facility in New Jersey. When General Mills acquired the manufacturing rights to Lionel, the American Flyer remains also were included and ended up in Michigan.

The A. C. Gilbert machinery and office equipment was auctioned to industrialists. I did attend the auction, but purchased only a fireproof file cabinet (to store my collection of original catalogues) and a rotating shelf display showcase for my store.

PILES OF PAPER

The purchasers of desks and file cabinets did not want the paper in the cabinets. Most of it was dumped on the floor then taken to the dump. I happened by a person emptying a cabinet of erector set handbooks. Almost every handbook ever used was there. I rescued them and soon had disposed of them for a few dollars each. As I made my way through the factory that summer I frequently saw truckloads of paper being loaded for the landfill.

The Repair Department itself contained tons of paper. Mostly exploded views and parts lists for supplying Gilbert repair stations around the country. One day I arrived home with my large van almost dragging the ground because it was so full of paper. My wife was quite surprised when I informed her that I had run out of space and planned to store the load in our basement. Over the years, we have assembled thousands of sets of the exploded views from the paper contained in that van.

Many notebooks and ledgers were in the repair shop, as well as many instruction sheets on trains, planes, science sets, etc. These were not looked at until recently when I allowed Bob Tufts, and Julian Spector to study them. Bob Tufts has used much of the information in the various American Flyer articles he has written for magazines. I have considered publishing some of the information such as exact copies of the make up of catalogued and uncatalogued sets. But, I donít believe the expense would be covered by possible sales, so I havenít yet done so.

LOST, FOUND, THEN LOST AGAIN

A great deal of Gilbert racecar track was offered to me for almost nothing. But I did not feel there would ever be a market for it, and I later observed it being loaded on dump trucks for disposal. It seemed like tens of thousands of pieces of track.

While coming and going in the removal of the Repair Department and the plastic, I had seen a locked enclosure full of race and train sets. When I inquired I was told these were the subject of a law suit between Gilbert and a famous New York department store. They had been shipped back as defective. The majority of the cartons had not even been opened. Eventually, the lawsuit was settled, and I purchased the room full of merchandise. That summer, I hired a vacationing schoolteacher to supervise a crew who removed every item from the sets, tested them and repackaged the sets. Very few things were really defective. I believe those All Aboard sets and the race sets simply sold poorly prompting their return as defective.

I have made a few major mistakes in the use of the plastic. We had thousands of racecar bodies with little demand for them. We assembled them with body, chassis, and wheels, but no motor, for sale as toys. We sold them for fifty cents or a dollar each. Much later, we discovered that one of the cars; the Corvette was used on flat car #24578. These Corvettes now sell for $100. or more. But, of course, we donít have any left!

Some time during this period, I received a call from a Baltimore, MD machine shop. A train collector who was a barber had ordered dies and punch presses to make reverse unit contacts for Lionel and Flyer reverse units. The barber died and the shop wanted to sell the setup. I visited Baltimore and purchased the machines, dies and some finished products. For several years, until others provided these parts, we did manufacture them.

Word that I had purchased so much from Gilbert spread and offers came for various lots remaining in distributorsí warehouses. I purchased one such lot from a St. Louis distributor. It contained about five hundred All Aboard panels, and quite a bit of various small locomotives and other items. The locos and accessories went very quickly. But the All Aboard panels did not sell. Five years later, my store in New Britain, Connecticut was destroyed when the building burned beyond repair. More than 400 All Aboard panels had been stored in the storeís cellar. While wet, they had not touched by fire. Because almost none had sold in the five years I stored them there, I did not bother to remove them. They are now buried under what is now a parking lot. Iíd like to be there when some future archaeologist tries to figure out what they were used for!

THE COAT HANGER OPENED MANY DOORS

Although I had begun to operate a mail order division of my hobby business in the 50ís, HOBBY SURPLUS SALES really took off with the purchase of the A.C. Gilbert inventory. Besides the parts and plastic items, weíve used several items purchased from Gilbert to help promote our mail order sales. I bought thirty five thousand switch machines, made in Japan for use on Pike Master Switches. I realized these were exact copies of the Atlas switch machine then used on HO track layouts, except with a more powerful solenoid. For years we advertised these for $11.99 a dozen. The retail price for the Atlas machines was then $2.50 each. We attracted many new customers before these were all gone. We did the same thing with double pole double throw slide switches often used for reversing on D.C. power layouts.

People who were exploring renewed production of S gauge trains have approached me several times over the years. I could supply start up quantities of Atlantic or Casey Jones Loco bodies, tenders, and caboose bodies and chassis. So far, no one has actually carried out any such idea. However, many S clubs have used our original freight car bodies over the years to customize special cars for their annual conventions.

More than thirty years have passed since that fateful day when a coat hanger caused me to get involved with the liquidation of A.C. Gilbert Company. I have made many new friends and customers. We have been able to help many S Gauge and even HO and O Gauge train enthusiasts to continue to use their no longer manufactured trains. Thousands of collectors have found the needed parts to restore their trains. Although figuring out what we had and cataloging it for sale has been more work that I ever imagined back in the summer of 1968, it has also been a lot of fun.

Vincent Amato, 
Owner Hobby Surplus

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