Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Gilbert and Lionel on Radio, Pt. 3

Originally published in the January, 2009, Old Radio Times.(

Gilbert and Lionel on Radio
Jack French © 2009

The A.C. Gilbert Company sponsored Engineering Thrills which aired exciting stories involving all sorts of engineering projects. One of the first programs told the tale of two men rescued from a caisson below the surface of the Susquehanna River while working on the supports of the Camden Bridge. John Holbrook and Kelvin Keach were on this show, but it is not known which one "impersonated" A.C. Gilbert in the commercials. A youthful Walter Tetley apparently had occasional roles in this drama.

The second series was True Railroad Adventures and the Lionel Corporation paid the bills on this one. Lionel electric trains were very popular with kids in that era and the company encouraged sales and loyalty by giving a subscription to Lionel Magazine to every one who had a train set (or who wanted one.) The radio series was built around "Little Jimmy" a kid who'd climb into the train cab at the beginning of each episode where the engineer, "Mike Bolan," would begin telling a thrilling story, which would then be dramatized. Jimmy and Mike would return at the end of the story in time for the last Lionel commercial. Ben Grauer was the announcer on the show; Wilmer Walter played Mike while James McCallion was Jimmy.

We know very little more about these two programs. No audio copies have surfaced yet, nor have any scripts been found. Karl Schadow and I have recently taken an interest in attempting to uncover more data about these two series and researchers who can provide more data may reach me at <>


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