The online magazine on the history and operation of vintage scale model trains in American OO gauge

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Interesting 1938 Lionel OO Track Sections--Possible Factory Prototypes

Dick Kuehnemund forwarded these interesting photos of three-rail Lionel track he purchased a while back. Included in a purchase were 2 odd-ball sections which I will let him describe.

1 - A piece of straight "terminal" track in which the actual terminal piece from a regular curved section has been adapted to fit very neatly into the #0062 straight section. Also: 1 outer rail has 2 small gaps, possibly to activate an accessory?? And:

2 - A 1/2 curve, formed by cutting & splicing a regular section back together. The rails on the 1/2 section are ONE piece.

On both, the workmanship is too neat to have been done at home over a 12 pack of Sam Adams!
These are the spring clip type pieces, 1938 style. I have an overview of Lionel and Scale-Craft OO sectional track in this article with more photos. Also Dick notes that "Good old Lionel cleverly(?) required odd-lengths of the 1939 - 42 style of 3-rail track to make such layouts as a simple Figure "8": they offered 1/2 curves, 1/2 straights & 5/6 straights. Naturally, they're VERY rare!!!! In 20+ yrs. I think I've only gotten about 4 of each."

These are extremely interesting pieces--well crafted by someone with some real skill to fit their needs.

Dick noted also that "The workmanship is  professional, making me think they could be prototypes." Looking at them I would certainly agree with that.

They don't at all have the look like some guy at a hardware store selling Lionel trains worked these up for a customer. These really could be engineering samples done by Lionel of track types that were not produced. Click on any of the photos for a better view.

Dick also has a question:
Have you ever seen or heard of Lionel making 3-rail "adapter" or "transition" tracks: sections with the 1938- style of connectors w / the spring clip under the center rail on 1 end & the regular "later" version as sold from 1939 - 42 on the other end? A friend asked me about them & I drew a blank.
For me I have not heard of this but the question is one that has been pondered for years by many collectors. Certainly a real craftsman could have put such a piece together in those hard economic times. But I have never seen one and I think someone at that time had cheaper track options if they were really building a layout. And if they had the funds to build a large Lionel OO layout they could have simply just used the later track.

The rails would be a special challenge when splicing any of these sections and that is what makes these sections of track so interesting and what makes them look so professionally done. Thank you again Dick for these interesting photos!

UPDATED 2014. And also see this article comparing Trix Twin HO track from 1935 to Lionel 1938 and 1939-41 track.

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