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

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Tinplate FAQ Part 2

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Archive-name: model-railroad-faq/tinplate/part2
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Last-modified: 01-05-02
URL: http://www.spikesys.com/Modelrr/faq2.html

  ------------------------------------------------------------------------
rec.models.railroad
TINPLATE TRAIN FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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:

tinplate@spikesys.com
(Christopher D. Coleman)
TCA #88-26999
LRRC #0032070

This FAQ contains the following topics:

Part 1, Information

   * WHAT'S NEW IN THE FAQ?
   * COLLECTABLE/TINPLATE TRAINS
   * GRADING STANDARDS AND OTHER JARGON
   * MANUFACTURERS
   * THOMAS THE TANK ENGINE
   * RAILSCOPE
   * LOCOMOTIVE TYPES

Part 2, Equipment

   * CARS
   * TRANSFORMERS
   * TRACK
   * SWITCHES

Part 3, Maintenance

   * TOOLS
   * MAINTENANCE TIPS
   * MODIFICATIONS
   * PARTS SUPPLIERS
   * MOTOR DESIGN

Part 4, The Hobby

   * LAYOUTS
   * OPERATING TRAINS
   * DISPLAYING TRAINS
   * COLLECTING TRAINS
   * INVENTORYING
   * MEETS
   * GROUPS
   * OTHER SOURCES

CARS

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 couplers. 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 knuckle
     replaced the previous design with one which used a spring loaded pin
     beneath the coupler head. This worked 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 through the head to a weight on the bottom. 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, an 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
          RCS
          near rail                supply              ground
          far rail                 supply              supply

          UCS
          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

                  ______O___________O______
                 |  *-----------+-------@  |
                 |  *----------+|-------@  |
                 |  *---------+||-------#  |   front view
                 |  ---------+|||-------#  |
                 |___________||||__________|
                             ||||
                             ||||____4
                             |||_____3
                             ||______2
                             |_______1

                       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
                                 |____________1

                               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
                                 |____________1

                                UCS TRACK SECTION

               =============================================== ground rail
                                 __--~~~--__  +-------------   right rear control
               ==================     O     =/=+============== power rail
                 --------------+ ~~--/__--~~/  |               left front control
               ===============+=\===/======/===|============== ground rail
                              |  \ /      |    |
                              |   |       |    |__4
                              |   |       |_______3
                              |   |_______________2
                              |___________________1

                               6019 TRACK SECTION

               =============================================== ground rail
                                 __--~~~--__
               ==================     O     ==+=============== power rail
                                 ~~--/__--~~  |
               =====================/=========|=============== ground rail
                                   /          |
                                  |           |____4
                                  |________________3

                              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 has
     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 activator
     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.

TRANSFORMERS

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)

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

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

        o J: ?? 40-133Hz ??

          TrainMaster (circuit breaker)

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

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

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

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

        o 6-4690 see MW
        o MW: ??? 60Hz 1986-89 dual control - self contained unit
        o 6-12780 see RS-1
        o RS-1: 50W 60Hz 1990-93 dual control, railsounds, replaced MW -
          self contained unit
        o 6-12849 40W 60Hz 1994-95 - base model - includes separate
          controller and wall transformer
        o 6-12885 40W 60Hz 1995-present - base model - includes separate
          controller and in-line transformer
        o 6-14004 80W 60Hz 1999-present - includes separate controller and
          powerhouse transformer
        o TrainMaster System: see below description

          Misc (direction only)

        o 6-4751 - This and its cousins in red or black ribbed plastic
          cases were the mainstay of beginner sets from the early 70's to
          1994. Good reliability and solid construction.
        o 6-64060 (6-4060)- 1987-90 - same case as the 6-4751 but with two
          sets of posts, one for DC and one for AC.

     AMERICAN FLYER POSTWAR

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

     MTH (all include direction and function controls)

        o Z-500: 50 Watt, single control, separate controller and power
          pack
        o Z-750: 75 Watt, single control, separate controller and power
          pack
        o Z-4000: 4000 Watt, dual control, integrated unit, digital V and A
          readouts

     OTHER MAKERS

        o MRC Trainpower O-27: single control, direction and whistle, power
          switch, solid state
        o MRC Dualpower O-27: 80VA, dual control, dual direction and
          whistle, power switch, solid state
        o 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 project.

What is Lionel's Trainmaster System?

     The "TrainMaster System" (TMS), introduced in late 1994, is made up of
     several separate units each inside their own plastic housing. The
     system allows remote control of track voltage for vintage or non TMS
     equipped locomotives, indirect control of vintage or non TMS equipped
     accessories and switches, and direct control of TMS equipped
     locomotives and accessories. Billed since 1999 as TrainMaster Command
     Control (TMCC), it seems to be proprietary and not compatable with
     other systems, like DCC used by scale model railroaders on their DC
     layouts or DCS by MTH trains.

     PowerHouse (PH-1), introduced in 1994, 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. Starting in 1999 a larger 190 Watt unit was
     made available in addition to the 135 Watt unit. An 80 Watt unit began
     selling as part of the standaline 80 Watt tranformer set in 1999 and
     is not available separately.

     PowerMaster (PM-1), introduced in 1994 (6-12897, 6-12867 starting in
     1997), 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. The PM-1 unit is intended for
     use with non command control equipped locomotives that cannot be
     controlled by the Command Base.

     Command Base, introduced in 1996 (6-12911). It receives RF signals
     from CAB-1 and transmits encoded digital commands through the
     electrical system to specially equipped locomotives, to SC-1 units
     (described later) and accessories or cars with built in TMCC support.
     It can be used on track without varying track voltage, thus lighted
     rolling stock stays lighted even when the train is stopped. The unit
     only sends signals and does not provide power. Power is controlled by
     another means (a PM-1 or conventional transformer). Only one Command
     Base is required for a layout. Command Base requires it's own power
     supply which is provided.

     Switch and Accessory Controller SC-1 (6-12914, 6-12868 starting in
     1997), introduced in 1996, is controlled by the digital commands
     relayed from CAB-1 by Command Base. SC-1 has screw terminal on it for
     the control of four switches and two on-off style accessories.
     Switches and accessories cannot mix and match on one another's
     terminals. Not all accessories are compatable with SC-1 as they could
     overload and damage it. In 1999 the SC-2 (6-22980) replaced the SC-1.
     The SC-2 is more flexible and durable than the SC-1, including fuses
     and a 15 amp rating. It can control any combination of 6 accessories
     or switches or 12 accessories only (apparently there are 6 three
     terminal outputs and you can use each for one switch or two
     accessories.) It can handle enough power to control small sections of
     track like sidings.

     CAB-1 is the remote controller which contains all controls and sends
     signals to PM-1 and/or Command Base. It operates on radio frequencies
     similar to those of RC cars using a telescoping antenna. It requires a
     single 9 Volt battery and has a 1/4" jack in the top for connecting
     The Big Red Button (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 smooth).

     Also available is "The Big Red Button", 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 have existed with the system. For one the RF frequency is
     the same as CB Channel 23, so you may experience rogue commands near
     main highways. Also compatibility with other command control systems
     is limited. MTH whistles/horns are reported to blow continuously when
     connected to any part of the system and QSI control units are reported
     to be totally confused by it. New QSI offerings are compatible with
     TrainMaster, but no conversion is available for older ones. A
     workaround for MTH locomotive has been found, involving setting the
     stall speed. Contact a Lionel Authorized Dealer for details. On the
     whole it is an excellent system with a few bad spots.

     Other independent power control units (not utilizing the remote
     control features of the TrainMaster System) are available. In 1997 the
     PowerStation controller was introduced. It is shipped with a 135 watt
     Powerhouse unit. It has a single controller and includes direction,
     whistle and bell buttons (6-12938). In late 2000 the power station was
     phased out and an 80 watt unit was phased in. It uses an included 80
     watt PowerStation which is not available for separate sale.

     Starting in 1998 a redesigned ZW (not to be confused with the ill
     fated ZWII) was introduced. Rather than having an internal coil like
     the original ZW and ZWII, it is essentially a control box into which
     multiple TrainMaster System PowerHouse units can be connected. Two 135
     Watt PH-1s were provided with the unit (6-22982) but were replaced
     with two 190 Watt PowerHouses in 1999 (6-32930). In 2000 the dual 135
     watt unit was reintroduced in addition to the dual 190 watt unit
     (6-14124). Like the original it features four separate controllers,
     two intended for trains and two intended for accessories. Also the
     whistle and direction controller is there, but a new bell controller
     for railsounds has been added.

DC? AC? What do I need? Aren't the motors "Universal"?

     As a rule of thumb tinplate trains run on AC. Although the motors
     (universal or rectified can) and e-units will run on DC, there are two
     problems with using it. First, any loco with a horn or whistle uses DC
     added to the AC current to trigger the horn or whistle. Using DC power
     will confuse such locos. Second, most DC power packs are designed for
     use with lower draw HO or N scale trains or the smallest O gauge
     trains which have a low current draw. They will usually not have the
     power to operate universal motors.

     The very cheapest tinplate sets use DC power packs and unrectified DC
     motors in the locomotives and rely on reversing polarity to change
     direction (like N, HO and G scale trains do). Better locos use DC
     motors but rectify AC current before the motor and use an e-unit to
     control direction. This is more expensive, but provides compatability
     with the better locos and with whistles. The better locos use
     universal motors with e-units.

     If you have a set that you have to throw a switch to reverse it, you
     are already using DC and cannot use AC. If you have a loco with an
     e-unit (power cycle to change direction), no horn or whistle and it
     runs on can motors, you should be able to use DC, but remember there
     is no future in it if you upgrade to better locomotives. See the MOTOR
     DESIGN section for details.

What is MTH's Digital Command System?

     MTH's Digital Command System (DCS) is a competitor to Lionel's
     TrainMaster System. It allows track control for conventional
     locomotives, indirect control of accessories and switches and direct
     control of Proto-Sounds 2.0 locomotives. It can control Lionel TMCC
     locomotives with the addition of a TMCC CommandBase to the DCS system.
     This is a feature Lionel has not recipricated yet.

     Unlike TMCC, DCS does not use individual power packs but relies on
     their line of standalone and two piece transformers to provide power.
     Lionel units could likely be used for the DCS system and MTH units for
     the TMCC system.

     The Track Interface Unit (TIU) (50-1003) is the heart of the system
     and compares with the PowerMaster and CommandBase combination from the
     TMCC system. Unlike those, it can control four track blocks and
     requires four power inputs. From the TIU, interface cables can connect
     up to five AIUs, one Lionel CommandBase and an Internet connected PC
     for download of updates software.

     The DCS Remote Control unit (50-1002) is the hand held unit that sends
     commands to the TIU. It has an LCD screen which Lionel's CAB-1 lacks,
     but does not have Lionel's rotary speed control knob.

     The Accessory Interface Unit (AIU) (50-1004) can be cascaded with up
     to four other AIUs from the TIU.

     The DCS system has come out more recently than the TMCC system, but
     seems to be as robust. I will not presume to recommend one system over
     the other here. More information on this system will be included in a
     future revision of this FAQ.

TRACK

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:

          G [see below]  1:20.3 (1:24 for Bachmann)
          II (two)       1:22.5
          Standard/Wide: none defined but would be about 1:27
          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
     it 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 1:20.3 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
     misunderstood 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 practice.

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.

     G-gauge track systems are not covered here. Refer to USA Trains,
     Aristo-Craft or LGB.

     General Systems

     O: The standard type of O gauge 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, past production by American
     Flyer and others, current production by Lionel and MTH.

     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, current
     production by Lionel.

     S Gauge: Metal ties, two nickel-silver rails, tubular with flat pin
     connectors, special sections available, produced by American Flyer
     postwar.

     Standard Gauge/Wide Gauge: Metal ties, three nickel-silver rails,
     tubular with pin connectors, special sections available, produced by
     Lionel, Ives, American Flyer and others prewar.

     Make-Specific Systems

     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. A modified Super O is being worked up as a new track system
     for Lionel.

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

     Super K: by K-Line; Available in S, O (30", 42" and 72") and O-27;
     plastic ties and built in balast, three nickel-silver tubular rails,
     pin connectors, special sections available, current production.

     Gar-Graves: Available in O, S, G and Standard. Comes in 3' sections to
     be custom bent to layout specs (tricky to bend without kinks); Wood
     ties; blackened center rail and nickel-silver outer rails or all three
     stainless steel, tubular with pin connectors, current production.

     Sectional Gar-Graves: O Gauge available in 32" 42", 54", 63" and 72"
     diameter (8 sections per circle), 80", 89", 96" and 106" diameter (12
     sections per circle) and 138" (16 sections per circle); S Gauge
     available in 42", 54", 63" and 72" diameter (8 sections per circle); G
     Gauge available in 72", 80", 89", 96", 106" and 138" diameter; plastic
     ties, blackened center tubular rail or stainless steel tubular rail,
     pin connectors, special sections available, current production.

     RealTrax: by MTH; O gauge available in 31" diameter (8 sections per
     circle), 42" and 54" (12 sections per circle), and 72" (16 sections
     per circle); plastic ties and built-in balast, blackened center solid
     rail and nickel-silver outer solid rails, snap together with slot-car
     style contacts, special sections available, current production.

     ScaleTrax: by MTH; O gauge available in 31" diameter (8 sections per
     circle), 54", 72" and 80" (16 sections per circle); from MTH; plastic
     ties, blackened center solid rail and nickel-silver outer solid rails,
     snap together with slot-car style contacts, special sections
     available, current production.

     21st Century Track System: by Atlas O; O gauge available in 36", 45"
     (in '99), 54" and 72" diameters; plastic ties, blackened center rail
     and nickel-silver outer rails, solid with slip-on connectors, special
     sections available, current production.

     Misc. Systems

     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:

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

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

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

     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
     URL: http://www.rossswitches.com/

     Gar-Graves Trackage Corporation
     Department O, RR #1
     PO Box 255-A
     North Rose, NY 14516
     Phone: 315-483-6577
     Fax: 315-483-1415
     URL: http://www.gargraves.com

     Rydin Industries Inc
     28W215 Warrenville Road
     Warrenville, IL 60555

     Curtis Custom Switches

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)(reported to be out of business)
     Phone: (800) 772-4407

     Snap in plastic roadbed is available from:

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

     "Trackbed"
     Woodland Scenics
     PO Box 98
     Linn Creek, MO 65052
     Phone: (573) 346-5555
     Fax: (573) 346-3768
     URL: http://www.woodlandscenics.com/

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

     "VinylBed"
     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 adapter
     between 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 adapter 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. MTH molded systems and Atlas O are
     sufficiently different so they are not adaptable without a special
     section designed for the purpose.

     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 than specified, 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 labeled as either O or O-27 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 a 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:

     Reliability

     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. Joints do not
     wear as fast as O-27.
     Super-O - Pretty strong, but does not tolerate constant disassembly
     and reassembly well. Snap together fingers and pins are more likely to
     snap. Harder to find.
     GarGraves Flex - Moderately strong. Ties will crack and rail will fold
     under 100 pounds or so. Rails are attached to ties by tension of the
     rail against the pocket in the tie. Can only be bent once.
     GarGraves Sectional - Stronger than bendable GarGraves.
     21st Century Track System - unknown, too new
     RealTrax - Unknown, too new.
     ScaleTrax - Unknown, too new.

     Realism

     O-27 - Low. More realistic 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 - Excellent. Very realistic plastic molded details including
     spike heads and tie plates, but ties are unrealistically sloped. Flat
     copper center rail is less visible. No need for additional ties.
     Curves are semi-absurd tightness.
     GarGraves Flex - Excellent. Quite realistic, stained real wood ties.
     Blackened center rail is much less visible. Lacking tie detail. Curves
     can be to scale.
     Gargraves Sectional - Excellent. Quite realistic, molded ties.
     Blackened center rail is much less visible. Tie detail.
     Super K - Moderate. Molded ballast limits landscaping options, but
     ties are vast improvement.
     21st Century Track System - Excellent. Very realistic plastic molded
     details including spike heads and tie plates. More cost effective than
     GarGraves sectional but less variety. Molded ties.
     RealTrax - Moderate. Molded ballast limits landscaping options, but
     ties are vast improvement. Molded ties.
     ScaleTrax - Excellent. Ties are a bit far apart. Excellent rail
     profile. Molded ties.

     Economy

     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 Flex - Intermediate. About $4 for 3' section.
     Gargraves Sectional - Expensive. $5-10 per section.
     Super K - Moderately inexpensive. $2-4 per section.
     21st Century Track System - Intermediate. $3-5 per section.
     RealTrax - Intermediate. $3.50-5.00 per section.
     ScaleTrax - Unknown.

     Variety

     O-27 - Moderately Large. Variety of curve diameters and all forms of
     special track sections.
     O - Moderately Large. Variety of curve diameters and most forms of
     special track sections.
     Super-O - Limited. Single curve diameter and moderate number of
     special track sections.
     GarGraves Flex - Large. Curves down to 36" are possible. Switches and
     many special sections available.
     GarGraves Sectional - Large. Wide variety of curve diameters and most
     forms of special track sections.
     Super K - Moderately Small. Few special sections and moderate
     diameters.
     21st Century Track System - Intermediate. Variety of curve diameters
     and most forms of special track sections.
     RealTrax - Intermediate. Variety of curve diameters and most forms of
     special track sections.
     ScaleTrax - Intermediate. Variety of curve diameters and most forms of
     special track sections.

     Equipment Compatibility

     O-27 - 27" curves and switches will not accomodate larger "O Scale"
     equipment. Older Marx is incompatible with Lionel switches and vice
     versa. Switch clearance issues.
     O - 31" curves and switches will not accomodate larger "O Scale"
     equipment. Older Marx is incompatible with Lionel switches and vice
     versa.
     Super-O - Will accomodate up to medium-large equipment. Switch
     clearance issues.
     GarGraves Flex - Can accomodate nearly any equipment.
     GarGraves Sectional - Can accomodate nearly any equipment.
     21st Century Track System - Can accomodate nearly any equipment.
     Super K - Unknown, likely comparable to O
     21st Century Track System - Unknown.
     RealTrax - Unknown.
     ScaleTrax - Unknown.

     Kid Play Value

     O-27 - Good. Easily changed into varied and complex layouts.
     O - Excellent. Easily changed into varied and complex layouts. Strong.
     Super-O - Moderate. Less flexibility in design, less resistance to
     play.
     GarGraves Flex - Low. Easily crimped.
     GarGraves Sectional - Moderately Low. Harder to connect than other
     systems.
     Super K - Excellent. Similar to that of O.
     21st Century Track System - Excellent. Easily changed into varied and
     complex layouts. Seems strong.
     RealTrax - Excellent. Easily changed into varied and complex layouts.
     Seems strong.
     ScaleTrax - Moderate. More intended for permanent installation.

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
        Others
          varies

SWITCHES

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 through the third controller wire to ground. That will
     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 bridge 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 rail 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 direction.

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 out 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 each track on the split
     end of the switch. This makes the probability of a bad connection
     through 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 through 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 moves only half of each of the two sections.

            ----------------------           -----***-------------
                  *****___                           **___
            -------       \ ------           ------       \ ------
                           \                      ***      \
            ------*****----- -----           -----\  **----- -----  {
                   \    \    \                     \    \    \       |
                    \ (  \    \                     \ (  \    \      |
                                                                     |
                                                            ^--------
                                                           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
HAPPY MODELING!
On to part 3 of 4

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