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rec.models.railroad FAQ-TINPLATE, Part 2 of 4

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From: (Christopher D Coleman)
Newsgroups: rec.models.railroad
Subject: rec.models.railroad FAQ-TINPLATE, Part 2 of 4
Date: 16 Dec 1997 23:53:32 GMT
Message-ID: <67749s$>
Summary: This FAQ contains information on the collecting, operating and repair of Collectable or Tinplate model trains.
Keywords: tinplate trains collectible railroad railway model

Archive-name: model-railroad-faq/tinplate/part2
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 09-29-97


Part 2 of 4, Equipment

This is a listing of frequently asked questions and general information concerning the collection, operation and repair of
collectable model railroad equipment. For more info on this FAQ see part 1. Additions and corrections are always
welcome. E-mail to:
(Christopher D. Coleman)
TCA #88-26999
LRRC #0032070

This FAQ contains the following topics: 

Part 1, Information


Part 2, Equipment


Part 3, Maintenance


Part 4, The Hobby



How are coupling and uncoupling done?

     Coupler designs and methods can be considered an entire field of study on its own. The earliest systems used
     variations on the simple loop and hook system. The problem was that the cars had to be lifted off the track to
     be coupled. Following this most companies turned to complex and sometimes unreliable latch coupler. This
     usually involved a barbed latch and receptacle for a latch on each coupler. The cars could be separated by
     disengaging both latches at once, which usually proved difficult. After WWII major makers switched to the
     prototypical knuckle coupler. The prototype uses a pin above the coupler head which, when lowered, locks
     into the rear of the knuckle inside the coupler head. 

                       #                   knuckle pin
                **  #   O        **  ####O   knuckle
                ** ### **        **     **
                *********        *********  coupler head
                  **O**            **O**   locking pin
                   ***              ***   drawbar
                   ***              ***
                  OPEN             CLOSED

     The Lionel version, introduced in 1945, used a spring loaded plunger in a cylinder within the knuckle head
     locking the rear of the knuckle. The plunger is surrounded by a solenoid powered by a sliding shoe contact.
     The sliding shoe contacts with a fourth rail in special track sections, which when powered will energize the
     solenoid pulling the plunger to release the knuckle. In the early 1950's a revised knuckled which used a spring
     loaded pin beneath the coupler head to work the same way as the prototype, except inverted. This design, with
     a few changes, is still used and is the standard on O gauge systems of many makes. 

     Flyer's, introduced in the early 50's, uses a bar inside the head to lock the knuckle from the above, like the
     prototype, but the bar extends below the head to a weight. When the weight is lifted the knuckle is released. A
     special track section with a coil powered lifting runner was used to lift the weight. 

     Marx continued to use their unique V shaped couplers well into the 1960's when they switched to a
     non-operating knuckle coupler which was smaller than and incompatible with Lionel's. Their V type couplers
     had a downward barb on the left branch of the V and a hole on the right. When the couplers engaged, both tilt
     slightly such that the barb from each V pops into the hole of the other. By manually tilting either V one could
     disengage both barbs from both holes and release the cars. These couplers were simple and economically
     made of a single piece of stamped steel, and important consideration for thrifty Marx. They were reasonably
     reliable and were later produced in plastic versions. 

How do Lionel UCS track sections work?

     The UCS (universal control section) and its predecessor the RCS (remote control section) and their O-27
     cousins are simply constructed, but operationally difficult to understand. The different rails and the
     electromagnet operate in different ways for different functions. As shown below, the section controllers use
     strips of copper contacted in certain ways such that the desired circuit is made. Either the three *s are
     connected or the two #s and the two @s. The controller uses four wires. Two are connected to the rails as
     supply and ground and the other two lead to the control rails and electromagnet. Therefore only the two control
     wires need be strung to your track while the others may be connected directly to the transformer. 

     Uncoupling requires either the use of an electromagnet on a plunger activated version or the energizing of a
     knuckle electromagnet connected to ground and to a sliding shoe. The uncouple button connects both control
     rails and the track electromagnet to the power rail. This has the result of uncoupling all types of couplers, if
     properly positioned. 

     Earlier operating cars are supplied both ground and power leads through a pair of sliding shoes, one in each
     truck. When the Unload button is pressed, one rail is connected to ground and the other to the power rail, thus
     powering the car. Later cars used a large spring loaded plunger in the center of the car to supply the action,
     which must be manually reset after operation. The Uncouple electromagnet must be used for these. 

                                  UNCOUPLE             UNLOAD
          near rail                supply              ground
          far rail                 supply              supply

          left rails               supply              ground
          right rails              supply              supply
          electromagnet              on                  off

          6019 (O-27)
          left front rail          supply              ground
          right rear rail          supply              ground
          electromagnet              on                  off

          OTHER O-27 SECTIONS
          electromagnet              on                  off

                     UNCOUPLE    UNLOAD

                 |  *-----------+-------@  |
                 |  *----------+|-------@  |
                 |  *---------+||-------#  |   front view
                 |  ---------+|||-------#  |

                       RCS CONTROLLER

                                 top views

            ================================================== ground rail
              -------------------------+--------------------   outer control rail
            ===========================|==+=================== power rail
              ----------------------+--|--|-----------------   inner control rail
            =====================+==|==|==|=================== ground rail
                               \ O  O  O  O /                  screw terminals
                                 |  |  |  |___4
                                 |  |  |______3
                                 |  |_________2

                               RCS TRACK SECTION

               =============================================== ground rail
          left   ----------------+  /~~~\   -+--------------   right control rail
               ==================| (  O  ),+=|================ power rail
          left   ----------------+\ \/__//  /+--------------   right control rail
               =================+==\/===/==/================== ground rail
                               \ O  O  O  O /                  screw terminals
                                 |  |  |  |___4
                                 |  |  |______3
                                 |  |_________2

                                UCS TRACK SECTION

               =============================================== ground rail
                                 __--~~~--__  +-------------   right rear control
               ==================     O     =/=+============== power rail
                 --------------+ ~~--/__--~~/  |               left front control
               ===============+=\===/======/===|============== ground rail
                              |  \ /      |    |
                              |   |       |    |__4
                              |   |       |_______3
                              |   |_______________2

                               6019 TRACK SECTION

               =============================================== ground rail
               ==================     O     ==+=============== power rail
                                 ~~--/__--~~  |
               =====================/=========|=============== ground rail
                                   /          |
                                  |           |____4

                              OTHER O-27 SECTIONS

Hey, one coupler opens when I try to unload my car

     The 3462 Automatic Milk Car, the log dump car of the same vintage had coil couplers and these are
     SUPPOSED to uncouple (which one depends on the orientation of the car) when the car is unloaded. The
     reason is that the sliding shoes provide power to both the car mechanism (one positive one negative) and to the
     coupler coils (both positive, grounding through the truck frame). So, whichever truck is contacting the positive
     control rail when UNLOAD is pressed gets uncoupled. UNCOUPLE gives positive to both control rails, hence
     activating both couplers, but not the car mechanism. This also explains why the truck can get hot, as where the
     coupler coil is on whenever the activatior coil is on. 

     To get around this you'd have to cut the wire from the offending coupler to the sliding shoe and always run the
     car in the same orientation (which would be mandated by the position of the platform). The coil could be
     reactivated and work "properly" by connecting it to the sliding shoe on the opposite end of the car. This ailment
     was resolved by the adoption of mechanical couplers. 


What can I get in the way of power for my trains?

     A basic review of higher wattage available power: 

     Lionel Transformers

          MultiVolt (no circuit breaker) 

          A: 40W 60Hz 1921-33 
          L: 50W 60Hz 1934-38 
          N: 50W 60Hz 1942 
          A: 60W 60Hz 1934 
          B: 75W 60Hz 1918-38 
          T: 100W 60Hz 1923-38 
          T: 110W 60Hz 1922 
          T: 150W 60Hz 1918-21 
          K: 150W 60Hz 1922-38 
          K: 200W 60Hz 1918-21 

          F: 40W 25-40Hz 1931-37 
          C: 75W 25-40Hz 1922-37 
          H: 75W 25Hz 1938-39 

          J: ?? 40-133Hz ?? 

          TrainMaster (circuit breaker) 

          1034:75W 60Hz 1948-54 
          1044:75W 60Hz 1957-69 
          W: 75W 60Hz 1939-42 
          Q: 75W 60Hz 1939-46 single control 
          A: 90W 60Hz 1947-48 
          R: 100W 60Hz 1939-47 two controls 
          RX: 100W 25Hz one control 
          V: 150W 60Hz 1939-47 four controls, fixed voltage terminals 
          Z: 250W 60Hz 1939-47 four controls 

          MultiControl (Circuit breaker, Whistle and Direction) (may also say TrainMaster) 

          1032: 75W 60Hz 1948 
          1032M: 75W 50Hz 
          1232: 75W 50-60Hz 
          S: 80W 60Hz 1947 
          1033: 90W 60Hz 1948-56 single control with fixed voltage 
          1044: 90W 60Hz 1957-69 single control with fixed voltage 
          6-4090: 90W 60Hz 1970-84 identical to 1044 
          RW,RWM:110W 60Hz 1948-59 single control with fixed voltage 
          LW: 125W 60Hz 1955-56 single control with fixed voltage, replaced RW 
          SW: 130W 60Hz 1961-66 dual control, single whistle, 
          TW: 175W 60Hz 1953-60 single control 
          KW: 190W 60Hz 1950-65 dual control with fixed voltages, troublesome circuit breaker 
          VW: 150W 60Hz 1948-49 looks like ZW 
          ZW: 250W 60Hz 1948-49 four variable controls, two with direction and whistle 
          ZW: 275W 60Hz 1950-66 four variable controls, two with direction and whistle 

          Solid State (circuit breaker, whistle/horn, direction, power switch) 

          6-4690 see MW 
          MW: ??? 60Hz 1986-89 dual control 
          6-12780 see RS-1 
          RS-1: 50W 60Hz 1990-93 dual control, railsounds, replaced MW 
          TrainMaster System: see below description 


          4B/22034: 100/110W, single control, circuit breaker 
          8B: 100W, single control, manual circuit breaker 
          9B: 150W, dual control, manual circuit breaker 
          12B: 250W, dual control, manual circuit breaker, power switch 
          14: 150W DC, single control 
          15B/22040: 110W, single control, circuit breaker 
          16: 150W DC, single control 
          16B/22050: 175W,: single control, circuit breaker, power switch 
          17B: 190W, single control, circuit breaker, V and A meters 
          18B/22060: 175/190W, dual control, circuit breaker, power switch 
          19B/22070: 300W, single control, V and A meters, power switch 
          30B/22080: 300W, dual control, dual V meters, dual circuit breakers, power switch 
          22090: 350W, dual control, dual V meters, dual circuit breakers 


          MRC Trainpower O-27: single control, direction and whistle, power switch, solid state 
          MRC Dualpower O-27: 80VA, dual control, dual direction and whistle, power switch, solid state 
          ROW Power Supply: 400VA, dual control, bell/whistle, dual V and A meters, power switch 
     No particular problems have been experienced with these transformers unless so noted above. 

     Most Lionel transformers made after 1939 are designated "TrainMaster" and have circuit breakers. Previous to
     this they were called "Multivolt" and had no circuit breaker. Because of this caution should be used with
     Multivolt transformers. 

Does it matter that I use only Lionel transformers on Lionel trains?

     Essentially all trains using universal motors will run on all transformers. They will also run on DC, but the normal
     current draw is beyond what most DC transformers will produce. Trains using DC can motors will run on AC
     only if they are equipped with a rectifier to convert AC to DC. The newer offerings do but some cheap Lionel
     from the 1970's does not. Compatibility between brands is not a problem. 

What's the difference between WATTs and VAs?

     VA is short for Volt-Amp, or the total power lost in a circuit. In a nutshell, Watts (Volt-Amp Resistive) tell
     how much power is lost to heat (resistance) and VARs (Volt-Amp Reactive) tell how much is lost to stray
     magnetic and electric fields (inductance and capacitance). VAs are defined as: 

                     /     2       2
             (VA) =\/ (Watt) + (VAR)

     or the RMS (root mean square) value of power. Thus, since VAs express more forms of power consumption
     (both thermal and magnetic), the power value expressed in them is slightly different than in WATTs, but is a
     better measure of power consumed. 

Can broken transformers be fixed?

     As to repairing your transformer, if the wiper or a connecting wire is damaged I would try to repair it, but if the
     main coil is burned out it is not really worth the trouble, at least on smaller transformers. (there are places to
     have transformers and motors rewound) In my experience a simple dial-on-a-box Lionel transformer will run
     $15 to $30, and a nicer one with whistle and direction controls $40 to $60. The dollar a Watt, or VA, usually
     holds true for 1950 or newer. This depends greatly on who's selling it and how much money they want to make
     on it. 

Can more than one transformer be used together? (AC)

     Connecting Transformers in series is bad news. Don't try it. For transformers to share a common ground is no
     problem, as long as their other poles don't touch. Now, it is often necessary to connect the poles of two
     transformers if the load is too great for a single transformer or when a roller crosses the boundary between
     insulated track blocks powered by different transformers. To do this the two transformers must be placed in
     phase. To test the phasing connect the two commons together and connect a wire to one control terminal.
     Adjust the two to the same voltage level, say 6V. Momentarily touch the wire to the other transformer's control
     terminal. If a spark occurs they are out of phase so you must reverse the wall plug of one. If there is no spark
     they are in phase. 

Why did they stop making powerful transformers?

     Initially it was due to lack of demand during the 1960's when just selling trains was a challenge. In 1973 the
     Consumer Products Safety Commission cracked down on General Mills on transformer design. They felt for
     some reason that the ZWs and others were "Electrocution hazards waiting to happen". They came up with lots
     of new rules and regulations making the manufacture of these transformers near to impossible and financially
     unrealizable. To add to this Underwriters Laboratory, which approves products as "safe" for insurance
     purposes, recently would not approve a redesigned ZW II transformer from LTI. Apparently heat dissipation
     problems occurred with the large coil. As a replacement Lionel developed the "TrainMaster" system profiled
     later in this section. Neil Young, the popular singer and Lionel collector, has been contributing greatly to this

What's the deal with those new Lionel units?

     The "TrainMaster" system is made up of several separate units each inside their own plastic housing.
     PowerHouse (PH-1) is the 135 Watt step down transformer. It has one cord to the wall outlet and one to a
     1/4" miniplug (headphone type). It includes a power switch and a manual reset circuit breaker. It can be
     replaced with most any standard AC transformer with a circuit breaker (set at 7-9 amps) and a 21 volt or more
     max output. An available adapter cord with a 7 amp in-line fuse can connect it to PM-1. 

     PowerMaster (PM-1) is the track voltage level control unit. It has a female jack to connect with PH-1 and two
     lugs for track connection wires. PM-1 has no controls of its own but is controlled by radio frequency by the
     CAB-1 unit. One unit is needed for each insulated block of track you wish to control independently. Each
     PM-1 requires an independent power source, for example a KW can supply two. 

     Command Base performs the same function as PM-1, except does it by transmitting encoded digital commands
     down the rails to specially equipped locomotives and to SC-1 units (described later). It also receives RF
     signals from CAB-1, but sends only signals down a track whose power is controlled by another means (a
     PM-1 or conventional transformer). Unlike PM-1, only one Command Base is required for and entire layout.
     Command Base requires it's own power supply which is provided. 

     Switch and Accessory Controller (SC-1) is controlled by the digital commands relayed by Command Base.
     SC-1 has switch control lugs on it for the control of four switches and two on-off for accessories. 

     CAB-1 is the remote controller which contains all controls and sends signals to PM-1 and Command Base. It
     operates on radio frequencies similar to those of RC cars using a telescoping antennae. It requires a single 9
     Volt battery and has a 1/4" jack in the top for connecting The Big Red Switch (detailed later). There are 26
     controls on it. It contains a large red throttle knob, a numeric keypad, and buttons for direction, bell,
     whistle/horn, boost (accelerates while the button is pressed, then resumes previous speed), brake (overrides
     the available momentum setting), front coupler, rear coupler, aux 1 and aux 2. There is a small red button
     labeled "halt" which is an emergency stop for the whole system. 

     There are buttons across the top labeled SW, ACC, RTE, TR, and ENG which set the mode to the
     transmitter. TR is pressed followed by 1 through 9 or 0 for 10 on the keypad to designate which PM-1 (and
     thus which track block) is to be controlled. In this mode whistle/horn, bell, direction, boost and brake are
     options. ENG followed by number 01 through 99 or 00 for 100 selects which digital receiver equipped
     locomotive you wish to control through the Command Base. all the TR commands plus front and rear coupler
     are available, except here they control only a single engine no matter where it is, rather than any engine in a
     particular block). Similarly SW and 01 through 99 or 00 for 100 selects a switch controller in an SC-1 and
     ACC and 01 through 49 or 00 for 50 selects an accessory controller on a SC-1. Presumably aux 1 (straight or
     on) and aux 1 (diverging or off) control switches and accessories when in SW or ACC modes. 

     So with a single CAB-1 you can control 10 track blocks (using 10 PM-1's), 100 digital receiver equipped
     locomotives (using a single Command Base), 100 switches and 50 accessories (using 25 SC-1's in conjunction
     with the same Command Base). 

     A few details are still fuzzy, such as how to set which digital receiving locomotive, which PM-1 and which
     SC-1 corresponds to which number on CAB-1; the function of the RTE button; how to set the available
     momentum (simulates train weight by dragging out responses to commands) and stall (sets the minimum voltage
     to a particular unit to a level where the unit just stalls so the e-unit will not cycle and to make starts and stops

     Also available is "The Big Red Switch", a large, red pressure sensitive pad which plugs into the CAB-1 jack to
     operate whichever function was last executed on the CAB-1. 

     The Idea of the system is to have a PH-1 and PM-1 pair connected to each block of track to control the
     voltage level for conventional locomotives. If all your locos are digital receiver equipped, a PM-1 would not be
     required, but would still be a good idea. This way you can set locomotive 1 to, say, 70% throttle and leave it
     there if you have your straightaway blocks set to 20 volts and your curved blocks set to 12 volts (kind of like
     setting speed limits). Although you only need one CAB-1, you can have more than one for division of
     responsibilities between engineers. 

     A few quirks exist in the system. For one the RF frequency is the same as CB Channel 23, so you may
     experience rouge commands near main highways. Also compatibility with other systems is nil. MTH
     whistles/horns blow continuously when connected to any part of the system and QSI control units are totally
     confused by it. New QSI offering are compatible with TrainMaster, but no conversion is available for older
     ones. A workaround for MTH locomotive has been found, involving seting the stall speed. Contact a Lionel
     Authorized Dealer for details. On the whole it is an excellent system with a few bad spots. 


What is the difference between gauge and scale?

     Scale is the relation or ratio of sizes between a model and a prototype. For X:Y a dimension of X units on the
     model corresponds to Y units on the prototype. For example, if a real boxcar is 500" long and you want your
     model in 1:100 scale, then the model should be 100 times smaller, 500"/100, or 5" long. Conversely if your
     model boy is 1" tall and in 1:50 scale, then if he were real he would be 1"X50 or 50" tall. Over the years many
     scales have been defined, but the primary ones collected are: 

          II (two)       1:22.5
          Standard/Wide: none defined but would be about 1:27
          G [see below]  1:24
          I (one)        1:32 (1:29 for Aristo-Craft)
          O (oh or zero) 1:48 in North America
                         1:45 or 1:43.5 Europe
          S              1:64

     Gauge is the Distance between the inside faces of the outermost railheads. The prototype standard gauge in
     most of the world is 4'8.5". Early scale ratios were derived by comparing the real gauge to the model gauge but
     GAUGE DOES NOT DEFINE SCALE NOR VICE VERSA. Popular scale definitions and gauge definitions
     are often slightly different from what would be derived. This is a result of history and is just the way it is in the
     hobby. Also one may wish to model a narrower prototype gauge which would require a smaller model gauge in
     the same scale. Defined gauges used in tinplate trains are shown below. 

          Standard: 2-1/8"
          Wide:     2"
          G         45mm (1.77")
          O std     1-1/4"
          S std     7/8"

G gauge still confuses me!

     G gauge was originally defined by LGB as a GAUGE not a scale and being 45mm. LGB created the name
     although the gauge was used previously as I scale standard gauge and III scale narrow gauge. LGB models
     mostly European metric gauge (between American standard and narrow gauges) so should theoretically be
     called II scale. As time progressed other makers produced trains in the same gauge for compatibility of track,
     but of different gauge prototype. Standard gauge, American and European narrow gauge models have been
     produced for G track. As a result the scale ratio changes. Models of standard gauge are I scale and of
     European narrow gauge are III scale. US 36" narrow gauge falls between established scales at about 1:24 and
     so is usually referred to as "G Scale" in the US although this is not always accepted. Standards for G are still
     being created and remain largely nonexistent right now. 

     It is common practice in tinplate to refer to a scale, say O scale as O gauge. This is incorrect terminology but is
     the normal practice. When someone talks of O gauge in a tinplate context you can assume it is O scale
     modeled on prototype standard gauge. G is the exception whereas it is usually modeled on a narrow gauge. 

     Usually when the word scale is used in Tinplate terminology it is referring to 'Scale' model railroading. For
     example O scale refers to 2 rail exact scale modeling in O (as is predominant in HO and N). O gauge, on the
     other hand, refers to the 'tinplate' side of the hobby. Again this is not proper terminology, but is common

What kinds of track systems are available?

     Different types of track systems in a given gauge are usually separated by their curve radius. This has be
     defined as the distance from rail to rail of a complete circle of curved sections. Which rail or part of the rail is
     not always the same, but is usually the outermost rail. 

     O: The standard type of trackage. Usually with three black ties per section. 31" curve diameter is common but
     O-72 and O-54 with 72" (five ties) and 54" curve diameters are also readily available. Single straights normally
     are 10" long. 

     O-27: A lighter duty trackage style also usually with three ties per section. Usually 27" curve diameter with 42"
     and 54" (O-42, O-54 light) available. Straight single sections are 8-3/4" long. Although O-27 technically refers
     only to 27" diameter track it is commonly used to designate all radii of this lighter duty track style. 

     Super O: Made by Lionel 1957 to 1966. Featured realistic molded plastic ties and plates. 36" curve diameter.
     Sections snap together. Hard to find today. The flat center rail is frequently accused of 'eating' rollers. Most
     Super-O users disagree, though the center rail connectors do tend to work lose enough to catch sliding center
     rail contacts. 

     Tru-Trak: Made by Lionel about 1976 and was similar to K-Line O. It was around 30" diameter and very little
     was produced. 

     K-Line O: A semi-realistic plastic tied track included with some better K-Line sets. 

     Gar-Graves: Realistic trackage that comes in 3' sections to be custom bent to layout specs. Wood ties and a
     center rail chemically blackened to be hidden. Tricky to bend without kinks. Available in stainless for outdoors.
     Available in O, S, and Standard. 

     Sectional Gar-Graves: O Gauge available in 32" 42", 54"and 72" diameter, 8 sections per circle and , 80", 88",
     96" and 106" diameter, 12 sections per circle; plastic ties, blackened center rail or stainless steel
     S Gauge available in 42", 54", 63" and 72" diameter, 8 sections per circle. 

     S American Flyer: Flyer was the only major postwar S producer. 

     K-line S: includes Flyer type straights and curves as well as 3 foot straights and wide radius curves. Pins are
     slightly wider than Flyer and require some filing to mate properly 

     American Models S: currently produces track switches. 

     Antique Trains Standard: Essentially identical to original Prewar. 
     1 lantern Lane
     Turnersville, NJ 08012

Why are three rails often used?

     The principal problem with two rail track is that the two rails contain opposite polarity voltage. When the track
     loops back on itself the opposite rails will meet and a short will occur: 

                           \                                  \
           _________________\______________________________    \
              A         \    \                 A           \    \
                         \    \                             \    \
                         B\    \A                            |    |
                           \    \                            |    |
                            \    \                         A/    /B
                             \    \___________A____________/    /
                              \                                /

     In three rail the outer two rails carry the same polarity with the inner rail opposite. Shorting is not a problem: 

           ___B_________\_____________________B_____________  \
           ___________\__\________________________________  \  \
              A     \  \  \                   A           \  \  \
                     \  \  \                               \  \  \
                     A\ B\  \A                              |  |  |
                       \  \  \                              |  |  |
                        \  \  \                           A/  /B /A
                         \  \  \_______A__________________/  /  /
                          \  \_________B____________________/  /

     This allows the construction of much more complicated layouts without electrical shorts. It also allows the
     insulation of one outer rail for the purposes of powering signaling accessories without disrupting current flow to
     the train and without the use of clumsy pressure plates. 

Where can I get Hi-Rail track supplies for tinplate?

     Ross Custom Switches
     PO Box 110
     North Stonington, CT 06359 

     Gar-Graves Trackage Corporation
     Department O, RR #1
     PO Box 255-A
     North Rase, NY 14516
     Phone: 315-483-6577
     Fax: 315-483-1415 

     Rydin Industries Inc
     28W215 Warrenville Road
     Warrenville, IL 60555 

How can I make my three tie track look more realistic?

     The time honored way is to use balsa wood and stain and make them by hand. The more modern approaches
     include rubber tie inserts from: 

     Moondog Express
     located at Mikes Trains and Hobbies
     (see parts supplier listing)
     Phone: (800) 772-4407 

     Snap in plastic roadbed is available from: 

     Dutch Country Hobby Products
     PO Box 209
     Terre Hill, PA 17581 

     "Track-Bed System"
     Tinplate and Scale Models
     110 S. Seventh St., Dept 115
     North Wales, PA 19454-2817 

     Hobby Inovations
     Rt 3 Box 226
     Mountain City, TN 37683 Phone: 423-727-8000 

     "Molded Rubber Roadbed"
     Rick Johnson
     19333 Sturgrass Drive
     Torrance, CA 90503
     Phone: 310-371-3887 

     Lionel Trains
     Address in MANUFACTURERS section 

What track systems are compatible?

     Adapter pins are available to connect Gargraves to O or O-27 trackage. O and O-27 pins are different sizes
     and I have heard of no adapterbetween them. They can be coaxed together, but the difference in track height
     causes additional problems. Adapters were also made for Super-O to O or O- 27. They are hard to find and a
     Gargraves connector can be used for the outer rails if it is flattened a bit, but originals must be used for the
     center rail. K-Line O uses O-27 pins. From Gargraves to Super-O you can make one by filing a Gargraves
     connector narrower on one side to fit into Super-O. 

     TOO MANY such connections IS BAD! They are usually not smooth and can cause wheel wear and
     derailments, especially on curves and trestles. 

     As to clearances for engines and rolling stock, anything will run on a larger track curvature but not always a
     smaller one. Rail height is rarely a problem. The semi-scale locomotives and cars are the most restrictive on
     curves and switches. Most other "compressed" equipment will run on O-27 or larger diameter, but there are
     exceptions. The classifications of O and O-27 in the Lionel catalogs has little to do with what track is right for
     piece. Instead they are used to define different price levels in the line. For example the O-27 2020 steam
     turbine and the O 671 steam turbine are identical other than the number. The 671 just came with fancier sets.
     For more details on switch clearances see the SWITCHES section. 

What track system is right for me?

     Most starter sets come with O-27 track as a purely economical measure. It is expected that you will buy better
     track if you more than double the size of your layout. Here's some deciding factors: 


     O-27 - the physically weakest of the systems. Stepping on a section will seriously damage it. About 50 pounds
     of pressure will throw it out of alignment.
     O - Much stronger, takes a lickin and keeps on trackin. Joint to not wear as fast as O-27.
     Super-O - Pretty strong, but does not tolerate constant dissassembly and reassembly well. Snap together
     fingers and pins are more likely to snap.
     GarGraves - Moderately strong. Ties will crack and rail will fold under 100 punds or so. Rails are attached to
     ties by tention of the rail against the pocket in the tie.


     O-27 - Low. More realsitic than O. Since 1971 has had brown ties rather than black. More realistic rail height.
     Will accept only flat additional ties. Curves range from absurdly tight to plausible.
     O - Low. Least realistic, large, wide black ties and very tall rail. Will accept more 'squarish' additional ties than
     O-27. Curves range from absurdly tight to plausible.
     Super-O - Excelent. Very relistic plastic molded details including spike heads and tie plates, but ties are
     unrealisticly sloped. Flat copper center rail is less visible. No need for additional ties. Curves are semi-absurd
     Gar-Graves - Excellent. Quite realistc, stained real wood ties. Blackened center rail is much less visible. Curves
     can be to scale.


     O-27 - Cheap. About a buck per new section.
     O - Inexpensive. About $1.50 per section.
     Super O - Expensive. Has not been produced for many years and pieces are collectable.
     Gargraves - Intermediate. About $4 for 3' section.


     O-27 - Lots. Comes in several curve diamaters and all forms of special track sections.
     O - Much. Comes in several curve diameters and most forms of special track sections.
     Super-O - Few. Singe curve diameter and moderate number of special track sections.
     GarGraves - Infinite. Curves down to 36" are possible. Switches avalable but most other special sections must
     be customized.


     O-27 - 27" curves and switches will not accomodate larger "O Scale" equipment. Older Marx is incampatible
     with Lionel switches and vice versa.
     O - 31" curves and switches will not accomodate larger "O Scale" equipment. Older Marx is incampatible with
     Lionel switches and vice versa.
     Super-O - Will accomodate up to medium-large equipment.
     GarGraves - Can accomodate nearly any equipment.

     Kid Play Value

     O-27 - Good. Easily changed into varied and complex layouts.
     O - Excelent. Easily changed into varied and complex layouts. Strong.
     Super-O - Moderate. Less flexibility in design, less resistance to play.
     GarGraves - Low. Once flexed, cannot be flexed again.

How many sections does it take to make a circle?

        O-27 Style
          O-27 - 8 per circle
          O-42 - 12 per circle
          O-54 - 16 per circle
        O-31 Style
          O-31 - 8 per circle
          O-54 - 16 per circle
          O-72 - 16 per circle
        Super O
          12 per circle

How many sections does it take to make a circle?


How do those Lionel "non-derailing" switches work?

     Lionel switches equipped with the non derailing feature (three rail) have an insulated rail at the end of each track
     on the split end of the switch. The switch operates by means of two electromagnetic coils wired oppositely,
     surrounding a plunger. The plunger is mechanically connected to the moving mechanism of the switch. One coil
     supply is permanently connected to the center power rail, except in the #022 O gauge switch where a constant
     power plug can replace it. The other supply of each coil is connected to the controller where either can be
     connected trough the third wire to ground to energize that coil and move the plunger in that direction. In
     non-derailing the insulated rails are also connected to the appropriate coil to clear trains coming from that
     direction. When the train axles bridges that rail to the ground rail, the switch will move to pass it automatically
     and thus avoid derailments in an open switch. Since the insulated rail is at the end of the switch, an insulated
     track pin is needed to prevent a permanent connection to ground. The length of the insulated can be increased
     by connecting an insulated rail track to the switch insulated rail. One problem is that when power is supplied
     and a train is stopped on the switch, the coil will remain energized as long as the rail is bridged. The #022
     switch avoids this with a series of contacts inside that deactivate the coil when it is already in the proper

What about Marx switches?

     Marx switches are wired to the opposite polarity so the permanent connection is to ground and the switched
     supply is the power connection. This makes the insulated rail method impossible, but it also makes the use of
     constant supply voltage possible without the need of special plugs. Otherwise the switch design is the same. 

I'm having power conduction trouble beyond my non derailing switches.

     99 times of 100 power conduction problems are in the center rail which has nothing to do with the
     non-derailing feature. On the 1122 the non derailing insulated rails are surrounded by non-insulated rails
     providing two connections to each connected track. With two rails to each track this usually is not a problem.
     _BUT_ on the 1122E the insulated rails are NOT so surrounded!!! They are the two closest rails in the Y part
     of the switch. 

             --------------===    -----------
             -----------\   \    \----------  <--this one
                          \   \    \
                            \   \    \  <--this one

     They must have insulating pins at their ends to insulate them from the track ground or else they will be energized
     ALL THE TIME. This will eventually burn up your switch machine and also drain power from the locomotive. 

     If this in not the problem there may be an internal contact problem. Because of the arrangement of the insulated
     rails on your switch, there is only one outer rail connected into to each track on the split end of the switch. This
     makes the probability of a bad connection trough the base plate more likely than on the regular 1122. The three
     center rails are connected through a buss bar separated from the base plate by a paper insulator. The insulator
     can fail and cause a short (rare) and more likely the connection to the rail may have worked loose. 

     A simple test to find a bad connection is to take a foot of wire and touching it to each rail on either side of the
     switch while the train is running thorough the "slow" section. By doing this to each switch and observing if the
     loco speeds up, you can tell which rail is at fault on which switch. 

     Of course the fail-proof solution to a bad connection is to add another transformer connection to the other side
     of the switches. 

Are different brand switches compatible?

     Essentially all switches with a long pivoting rail are compatible. Older style switches are of this type. 

            ----------------------          ------------*---------
            -----************-----          ------   *    *  -----
                                                      *    *
            -----************-----          ------\    *    *-----
                   \    \    \                     \    \    \
                    \    \    \                     \    \    \

     The entire center two rails within the switch rotates around a central pivot. This creates a solid path through the
     switch for the wheel flange. 

     The newer type has only half the two sections move. 

            ----------------------           -----***-------------
                  *****___                           **___
            -------       \ ------           ------       \ ------
                           \                      ***      \
            ------*****----- -----           -----\  **----- -----  {
                   \    \    \                     \    \    \       |
                    \ (  \    \                     \ (  \    \      |
                                                           switch point

     At the switch point where the two inner side rails meet there is a flat spot without a rail that allows flanges from
     both directions to pass through. The result is that the wheel flanges tend to work out momentarily and catch the
     rail when it starts again. To solve this problem a flange catch "(" is installed on the other rail to hold that wheel
     and hence the whole axle on the tracks and resist that drift. This works well enough for Lionel and Flyer, but
     most Marx loco wheels have their gearing extend all the way to the edge of the wheel flange. As a result the
     gear teeth catch the flange catch causing a derailment. This also occurs on Lionel control rails on RCS, UCS
     and other sections. 

     Marx switches of this type do not have the flange catches. Their loco wheels have fatter (and less prototypical)
     wheel flanges with a less steep angle which eliminates the catching of thinner Lionel flanges. Lionel's flange
     catchers are the same solution used on real railroads as is the entire later switch design (relatively). 

End of the Tinplate Train FAQ, Part 2 of 4
On to part 3 of 4 

Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4

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Last Update July 26 2003 @ 00:26 AM